Category Archives: Church Life

What Season Is It?

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How many different ways is the word “seasonal” used? I’m not sure I will exhaust the ways, but here are a few:

  • The various seasons of the year
  • Various holiday seasons
  • Certain times of the year are known for certain sports: baseball season; football season; basketball season; etc.
  • Hunting seasons
  • Periods of our lives
  • Seasons when various types of clothing are fashionable

Again, I’m sure that the list could go on and on, but there is one thing that is not–or at least it should not be–seasonal.

Our relationship with Christ and our commitment to Him is to be both constant and growing. The Lord never intended for us to be committed to Him only during those times when it is convenient for us; when the calendar says it is a “holy day” or “holy season;” or only on certain occasions (like when I’m around other Christians).

His challenge to me is to “…take up [my] cross daily, and follow [Him]” (Luke 9:23, KJV, emphasis added). Maybe that is why the Holy Spirit inspired Paul to write to a young preacher that he was to “preach the word, be ready in season and out of season…” (2 Tim. 4:2, ESV). 

As we recognize the change from winter to spring; as some people celebrate a special “holy day;” as one athletic season comes to a close and another begins; as we put away some of our winter clothes in favor of a more “seasonable” wardrobe; it is my prayer that all of us who wear the name of Christ will conduct ourselves in such a way that sends a strong message.

On second thought, my life is sending one of two messages every day. 

Hopefully, my life is saying, “My relationship with my Lord is the most important thing in my life–all the time. It never changes.”

Unfortunately, the message my life could be sending is something like: “Jesus is Somebody I pay lip service to and Christianity is the lifestyle I profess to follow, but I can take it or leave it. It all depends on a variety of circumstances.”

Which message is your life sending?

Is your commitment to Jesus seasonal or constant?

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A Letter to Satan

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Satan,

Let me begin by saying that we are not friends. We are enemies. It is important for me to admit that right at the outset because, let’s be honest (if you can be honest), you want me to think you are my friend.

You aren’t. You are my enemy…my worst enemy.

But I am still writing you today because I have some things I need to get off my chest. It’s time I finally said some things about you that I have kept to myself for too long.

I hate what you do to people. People I know and love. I hate what you have done to me before. I hate how you draw people in, making them think they are getting something great, but leaving them with nothing but guilt and destruction.

I hate every broken home.

I hate every time a child is hurt.

I hate every time a congregation of the church goes astray.

I hate every addiction.

I hate every prison sentence.

But that’s not what I bring, you say. Liar! You are nothing more than a liar. That is what you bring. It may take awhile to get to that point, but that’s what you bring to people’s lives.

Now, I know what you are thinking (after all, I’m not ignorant of your devices). You are remembering ways you have tempted me and won in time’s past. In fact, you are probably already scheming the next temptation you are going to put in my path, since I am being so bold as to call you out.

Yes, you’ve won some battles. I do not deny that. I have fallen for your schemes, and it was always my fault. No one else made me do it. You didn’t even make me fall. I did, and I’m sure that there will be a time in the future when I will fall for some temptation again.

After all, you know me very well. You know what tempts me, and you have really good timing of knowing when to place temptations in front of me.

But Satan, I want you to know that I am going to win. Well, that’s not exactly true. What I should say is WE are going to win.

Oh, me and who else? you ask.

Did you forget that I contacted the blood of Jesus through baptism a few years ago? Did you forget that I have a Christian family all around me, helping me to fight against you? Did you forget that I have God on my side?

There’s no doubt that you have won a few battles against me, and I’m sure you’ll win a few more in the future. But Satan, I want you to know: Christ has already won the war over you, and I’m on His side. Firmly and totally on His side.

So, today, I am calling you out. Today, I am posting this letter so people will see the real you. You aren’t some fun-loving gift-giver. You are a terrible, evil, lying loser, and I am going to submit to God and resist you.

With that said, go away.

Adam

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While We Can

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James wrote, “For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away” (James 4:14). As we age we realize the truth of this statement. It reminds us there are certain things we must do while we can.

1. We must love our parents while we can. The lyrics to a song with this sentiment say it best:

They tied our shoes, took us to school, patched our worn-out jeans. They soothed our tears and calmed our fears, and listened to our dreams. Somewhere along their golden years, their hair has lost its sheen. The notes to hymn one-hundred-ten crackle when they sing. And now they are alone, no children’s voices fill their empty homes. We must love them while we can, we must love them while we can. For time just seems to hurry by, and the days slip into years. And the moments that we have will disappear. So love them while we can.

Those who care for aging parents deal with frustration, challenges, and loss that no one else can understand. It often leaves them feeling that they just can’t take anymore. But the time will soon come when their parents will be gone and they will miss them. They deserve love today. We will regret not showing them the love they have shown for us. We must love them while we can.

2. We must teach our children about God while we can. Other lyrics to the song go as follows:

“The folks who taught us our first words, still have much to say. The silver secrets of the world, lie beneath those crowns of gray. As they approach the end, we change our role from children to best friend.”

The relationship we have with our children constantly changes. One minute they take first steps and the next minute those steps are leading them right out the door. Ball games and school projects, sleepovers and birthday parties, family vacations and back-to-school nights…they all fill this precious time we have with our children. But our pinnacle task is to use the moments we have been given with our young children to help them to know the Lord and His word.

Proverbs 22:6 – “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.” It is not in the leaving but rather in the lack of training wherein we lose our children to the world. We must teach our children about God while we can.

3. We must obey the gospel while we can. 2 Thessalonians 1:7-8 describes the coming of Christ and His judgment on the lost: “…when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with His mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.” What does it mean to obey the gospel? The gospel is the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ (1 Cor. 15:1-3). Paul wrote, “Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death?” (Rom. 6:3). The Bible teaches that we contact the saving blood of Christ through immersion in water, because of our repentant faith and confession that Jesus is the Son of God.

We can shuffle our feet all we want to. We can debate about our lack of our perfection, doubt our commitment, or argue about the plan. But if we do not obey the gospel, we will lose our eternal souls. Death will come in a moment, and it is unlikely that we will know the hour of its arrival. We must obey the gospel while we can.

“Redeeming the time, because the days are evil.” – Ephesians 5:16

“For man also does not know his time…” – Ecclesiastes 9:12

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“Missing the Mark” (Another Look)

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Recently one of our deacons presented a devotional at a men’s breakfast we have each month where I preach. According to him, it was his first time to present a devotional of any kind in any setting. Along with all of the other men there, I thought he did an outstanding job.

One part of his presentation really made me do some thinking. Part of that was due to the material he presented. Part of my thinking was also because of what I know about the man presenting the material.

He was doing a great job talking about different aspects of sin. Much of what he said has been said by others on various occasions, but repetition is not a bad thing. In fact, Peter informs his readers that he would consider it to be a part of his duty to remind us of things we already know (cf. 2 Peter 1:12-13). 

It was then he started talking about the fact that one of the words in the Greek language that is translated as “sin” in the New Testament literally means “to miss the mark.” I am always challenged when I am reminded of that.

I was especially challenged this time because I knew that the man reminding me of that is a very accomplished skeet shooter. He has won numerous awards for his ability in that field.

As I listened to him and thought of “missing the mark,” I thought of how good he is as hitting a moving target. I also thought about how difficult that must be and how much practice it has taken him to be as proficient as he is.

I then thought of how frustrating it is for any of us to try to “hit a moving target” in other areas of our lives. When parents keep changing their expectations for their children, the children become very frustrated. Many give up on trying to hit a moving target as children and  end up doing their own thing. 

Could it be that the reason morals are on the decline in our nation is that the standards keep changing? When what is accepted today becomes unacceptable tomorrow or when the reverse is true, it is difficult to “hit a target” like that.

On one level, it is encouraging to know that God’s standard–His “target”–is constant. Since the time when the last inspired writer, John, passed from this life, the Divine Standard has been God’s will for us as it is revealed in His Holy Book. 

On another level, it is discouraging for me when I “miss the mark” in the most important area of my life. Some may become so discouraged that they just quit trying. Others may foolishly think they can actually become so proficient that they hit the target all of the time.

Still others will see their weaknesses as evidence of their need for a Savior. They will, as the song says, “trust and obey, for there’s no other way…”  I hope that all who read these words are in this last group. 

None of us can be sinless (cf, Rom. 3:10, 23; 1 John 1:8, 10, etc.). We can, however, allow the blood of Jesus to cleanse us from sin as we “walk in the light” and receive forgiveness as we, with a penitent heart, confess our sins to Him (cf. 1 John 1:7, 9).

I have no idea how many awards our deacon may have won over the years. I do know, though, that all of them together do not compare with that “crown of life” all of us hope to receive someday. 

I’m thankful that he reminded us to “keep shooting.”

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A Different Take on Being the Salt of the Earth

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As Jesus began the Sermon the Mount, He gave that great list of beatitudes. In many ways, those short statements would be the foundation not only for this sermon, but for the types of people who would truly hear Him and follow.

After that list, the Lord gave one of the most famous word pictures in Scripture: “You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored?” (Matthew 5:13)

That word picture has been written about, preached about, and examined from nearly every possible angle. Seemingly every use and application of salt in the ancient world has been spoken of, to show why Jesus would speak of these people as the salt of the earth.

But I want to take a different look at this comparison. At least, it’s one that is different for me. You may have thought of this before and may think I am as far behind in my Bible study as possible. Still, when this crossed my mind and I studied some more, it was eye-opening to me, and I hope it will be to you, as well.

Notice that Jesus did not tell those gathered that day “you will be the salt of the earth” or “you have the potential to be the salt of the earth.” Instead, the Lord emphatically stated, “You are the salt of the earth” (emphasis added).

Also, keep in mind that much of the teaching Jesus did was done with a Hebrew “structure” in place. By that I mean, we need to remember the cultural context in which Jesus was living, and the people to whom He was speaking. While this was not always the case, quite often Hebrew rabbis would write or speak using a structure that began and ended with the same concept. It may have been worded differently, but the same idea was emphasized at (or near) the beginning of a lesson and then again at (or near) the end.

With that in mind, consider the final words of this great sermon:

Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who builds his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it. (Matthew 7:24-27)

If we are to consider the beginning and ending of this sermon to have the same emphasis, does that not add something to Jesus saying that those who were present were the “salt of the earth?”

They were the salt of the earth by the mere fact they were coming out to hear Jesus. They were the salt of the earth because they were willing to leave their regular life for a time to go out and listen to this Master Teacher share His message.

But, to remain the salt of the earth–to not lose their saltiness–they had to follow the teachings they were hearing.

Today, we are the salt of the earth when we open our Bibles or come to worship and hear what Christ would have us to do. We are the salt of the earth when we take time out of our lives to put Him first and to hear from Him through His Word.

But we become foolish; in fact, we lose our saltiness when we fail to do what we hear.

Be–and remain–salty!

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Singing in the Dents

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Several years ago on a Wednesday evening after Bible class, I was sitting with my young son Luke over in the wing of the church building. We were singing, and as we sang (he was still learning to read) we kept our fingers in the songbook in order to follow the words. I remember that he was picking the words up so quickly and I can recall feeling that there was no other thing that could please me more than to hear my child sing to the Lord.

Later that evening when we went to bed, I was reading a Bible story to him. (This had become our custom every night right before he went to sleep). In the middle of reading Luke interrupted me and said, “Daddy, when I am big like you I am going to sing in the dents.” It took me just a few seconds, but I realized he was talking about the notes that follow the melody down in the bass clef when the sopranos aren’t singing. It takes a deeper voice that knows those particular parts of the song to “sing in the dents.”

As I get older, I think more and more about what legacy I may be leaving to my children. Trials of life and the uncertainty of the future keeps these thoughts ever nearer to my mind and heart. And even if it is something as simple as “singing in the dents,” it brings me great joy that when Luke wants to be anything like his father, it has do to with spiritual things. Incidentally, now that is he is fourteen he is doing a pretty good job down there in the dents.

Parents, please, please teach your children about God. Turn off your electronics and put away your phones for a while and open His word. Sing about Him and pray to Him with your children. Sing aloud in the assembly, whether you think your voice is good or not. Leave a legacy to your children that will reach into eternity in a positive way. Your decisions, though seemingly small, are the difference makers in your children’s future in the Lord.

The time that our children will be in our home is very short. Ask an empty nester. They could tell younger parents a great deal about the things that really matter. They know that the church of the future is counting on families to do a better job in emphasizing the spiritual aspects of our lives in Christ than what we have done in the past. Somebody once observed – “The reason why the church loses 50% of its young people to the world is because it has never had 50% to lose in the first place.” The point is simply that 50% of the parents have never been truly converted to Christ! If this is the case, what are we supposed to expect from the kids?

My heart is full when I see young people who desire to know the Lord. I am excited to see their parents bring them to Bible class, Lads to Leaders, Bible Bowl, and other events with the brethren. I understand what this can mean for them on earth and in heaven. And I look forward to the time when all the saints will praise God for eternity in everlasting peace with God the Father, Son, and Spirit. It is my earnest and fervent prayer, that others yet unreached by the gospel will also be there – where my son and I, by the grace of God, and according to our obedience, will be forever, “singing in the dents.”

“Time is filled with swift transition. Naught of earth unmoved can stand.

Build your hopes on things eternal. Hold to God’s unchanging hand.”

~ Jennie Wilson

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Who Are These People?

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Do you remember at all a man in the Bible named Bezalel? Have you already “cheated” and looked him up in a Bible concordance or some other source? Some translations render his name as Bezaleel. Does that help? Do you know who he is yet?

While you are at it, do you recognize the names of Oholiab (or again, depending on the translation, Aholiab)? Are any of these names beginning to sound somewhat familiar to you?

Whether or not we remember their names, without these men and apparently many others, the following words would not have been written in Exodus 40:33:

So Moses finished the work.”

The work under consideration was the constructing of the tabernacle, all of its furnishings, and the clothing which was to be worn by Aaron. It could easily be argued that, had it not been for “Bezalel and Oholiab and every craftsman in whom the Lord has put skill and intelligence to know how to do any work in the construction of the sanctuary” (Exodus 36:1), the tabernacle would not have been completed.

Did you read that carefully?

Did you noticed that, along with the two men we’ve already mentioned (and who are probably unknown or little known to a lot of people), there are also some unnamed men who helped in this work? Isn’t it interesting that, without two “minor people” and a number of unnamed people, we probably would never read about Moses finishing the work?

Please do not misunderstand. I am not at all trying to minimize the importance of Moses. All of this work took place under his oversight. He was, indeed, the one who would answer directly to God and would receive instruction from Him. It was his responsibility to pass God’s directives along to the people and to make sure they were carried out as God had intended.

Is this beginning to sound familiar? Am I the only one who sees a present-day application for this?

Is it not true that elders in the Lord’s Church operate under “…the chief Shepherd…(1 Peter 5:4)? Is it not true that, while they are the overseers of the local congregation, that congregation is not theirs? Doesn’t it actually belong to Deity (cf. Acts 20:28)?

Is it also not true that anybody who preaches and/or in any other way attempts to proclaim God’s word is also under a sobering obligation? It was Peter who was inspired to write: “If anyone speaks, let him speak as the oracles of God…” (1 Peter 4:11, NKJV).

Anybody who knows me knows that I firmly believe that the health, strength, soundness, and vitality of a local congregation does not depend solely on who the elders happen to be or the identity of the preacher(s).

In my opinion, it cannot be stressed enough that the real “backbone” of any congregation are those who may be overlooked by some and unknown by others. They are the ones who quietly, humbly, and sacrificially serve, often in the background and out of the spotlight.

While they may be unknown or little known to some of us, they can rest assured that the One who really counts knows them, sees their service, and is preparing a special place for them. 

I am more thankful to God than I can express for the “Bezalels,” “Oholiabs,” and every other unnamed “craftsman” of our day. 

Who are these people? 

They are special. They are the ones who deserve much more praise than they receive. While they may or may not receive that praise in this life, they can look forward to this promise being fulfilled in their lives: 

Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on!'” “Yes,” says the Spirit, “so that they may rest from their labors, for their deeds follow with them.” (Revelation14:13, NASU)

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Leading from the Front

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I’m one of those weird people who like “talk television.” I like to at least hear interviews, press conferences, etc. from time to time. I may not watch all that closely, but I do enjoy what I hear.

I recently ran across something I wrote about one of those experiences several years ago. I think what I wrote then still has some application today.

After all this time, I do not remember his name, but I do remember that he had served as a Major General in what we now know as Operation Desert Storm. As I remember it, he was describing with a sense of pride how those under his command had performed. 

When the conversation turned to his role, he was asked an interesting question. The interviewer wanted to know why this Major General flew dangerous missions himself, instead of merely giving the orders and sending others into harm’s way.

I thought his answer was classic. He just simply said,

“You lead from the front.”

He went on to say that those under his command needed to see that he was willing to do what he was ordering them to do. He thought they needed to see that he was willing to risk his own life if he was going to order them to risk theirs. 

I believe that leaders in every walk of life could learn a lesson from this man. Even (maybe especially) in the church people need to see that effective leadership is not a matter of assigning tasks and receiving reports. Effective leadership is a matter of encouraging others to follow the one(s) who are getting the work done. Hopefully, those leading the way are, in fact, those who actually have the God-given responsibility to lead.

An effective leader will not say, “You go get the work done.” Instead, he will say, “Follow me and we will get the work done.”

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How to View a Crisis

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There are a lot of reasons why I am glad that I was not born in China. Among those reasons would be that, according to what I’ve read, the Chinese language has about 50,000 characters or ideographs. I have enough trouble with our twenty-six letters!

I have read also that the character for crisis is really a combination of two other ideographs. The Chinese put the character for danger and the one for opportunities together to form the word crisis.

I think that is an interesting way to view a crisis. Sometimes all we seem to be able to see is the danger in a crisis. Maybe we need to also look for the opportunities that crises present to us. 

A couple of those opportunities come to my mind readily. There are many, many more than two, but for our space here we will mention only two.

First, if we will practice that way of looking at things, we will have a positive impact on others. We may, in fact, “preach” a better sermon by our actions during a crisis than any actual sermon delivered by a talented and knowledgeable preacher.

Second (and probably most importantly for us), a crisis gives us to learn by experience our dependence upon the Lord. We will be much better people for having done so.

I am thinking of one person about whom we read in the Old Testament. It is obvious that Joseph faced a great number of crises in his life. Hopefully, as I look back on the ones in my life, I can say what he said to his brothers:

…you meant it for evil against me, but God meant it for good… (Gen. 50:20, NASV)

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The Problem with Comfortable Churches

I am thankful for a comfortable place in which to worship. Throughout the years, I have been blessed to worship with people who kept the building clean, nice, and comfortable. That is a wonderful blessing.

But sometimes, our churches can be a bit too comfortable.

No, I am not talking about the church building. I am talking about how many of our congregations can become places where we use the guise of worshiping God as a cover for really worshiping our own comfort.

Think about it. How many of us decide where to worship based more on “what this congregation can give me” than “does this congregation glorify God?” How many families leave a congregation over nothing more than deciding the church did not offer just the right programming or have just the right “feel” for them?

Several times, I have heard Thom Rainer (on this podcast) talk about how the Baby Boomer generation treated church as something where we come to “get” something. That mindset grows into our programming, as most of what we do is inward focused. We think more of the comfort of our own than about reaching the lost.

Additionally, we sometimes wonder why those from without will say they are uncomfortable coming in. After all, we are comfortable; why shouldn’t they be?

Maybe it is because we can be too comfortable with nothing more than being comfortable!

I still believe there are people who are wanting to connect with God and with other people. In fact, Generation X started a movement that the Millennials are taking to new heights. That is making sure the horizontal of a congregation (how they treat other people) matches up with what they say the vertical is (how they praise God and preach).

We preach forgiveness, but when someone responds to the invitation, are we more concerned about the extra 5 minutes it is going to keep us away from our noon meal?

We preach unity, but do we just head out the door with no conversation as soon as the “amen” is said?

We preach evangelism, but when someone from the “outside” comes in–as obvious of an evangelistic opportunity as there is–do we just walk by silently?

We praise God that He is no respecter or persons, but when someone comes in dressed in something we do not consider the “Sunday best,” do we look at them as if they are out of place?

It can be easy, if we are not careful, to make the church more about my comfort than about truly glorifying God. Such is nothing more than idolatry, and I become the idol.

Be thankful that you have a comfortable building. Be grateful that you can feel comfortable being around your brothers and sisters in Christ.

But may we never make our comfort the highest aim of the Church. There will be many in hell who were very comfortable for a couple of hours each Sunday, but who never deeply sought the will of God at any other time.