Category Archives: Church Life

On Disruptive Children in Worship

on disruptive children in worship

As a preacher, I get asked a lot of interesting questions. Often, people are just seeking my opinion on a matter, while at other times, they are questions about how certain things affect (or don’t) my work.

One of the more common questions I get asked is along these lines: Do crying babies bother you when you are preaching?

My immediate answer is “No!” I can honestly say that, probably only once or twice, has a child’s “disruption” disrupted me while preaching. Thankfully, I have been told that it wasn’t noticed by those listening. Instead, it was all in just my train of thought and trying to keep my thinking straight.

So, if you are a parent with a baby who cries in worship, this post is not written to complain. You are bringing your baby or small child to worship. Those cries are music to my ears, because a parent has that child right where that little one needs to be!

That said, are there times when a child needs to be taken out of a worship service? Sure. A baby, toddler, or small child can get disruptive, especially to those who are sitting nearby and doing their best to worship the Lord. Let me say, they are doing their best to focus on the Lord, not your child. They may have “a look” on their face, but if that person has the heart of a Christian, it is not because they are angry with you. They might be frustrated, but if they have ever been a parent, they understand what you are going through.

So what can a parent do when a child gets disruptive? Here are 5 suggestions for dealing with a disruptive child in worship.

1. Have quiet things for the child to do. One way to help some children is to distract their minds. But, please, have these distractions be quiet things, like Bible books or puzzles. I have known of parents who let their baby play with a cell phone during worship, and we can all guess how that turned out!

2. Have “related” things for the child to do. This is similar, but I believe it is best to make sure what the child is doing is still related to the Bible and worship. Please do not think that letting a child play Temple Run or Minecraft on your iPad is going to help. The child will learn to act up to get to play a favorite game!

3. Do not be embarrassed in taking your child out. I know this is easier said than done (I’ve taken my children out when someone else was preaching), but you are doing your job as a parent. There is no shame in that.

4. Take them out, but do not reward them. Parents, please do not take your child out if you are going to give that child candy or just let them play around on the floor! When you must take a child out for disrupting worship, calm the child by singing or just letting the child rest. If the child has been intentionally disruptive…well…let’s just say it this way: do not make the trip out a pleasant experience. If you reward the negative behavior, guess what you will get more of next Sunday?

5. Make the trips out as brief as possible. Yes, sometimes the sermon is boring, but take the child out, get your point across, and come back in. A child needs to learn to be in the worship service by actually being in the worship service, not taking 30 minute trips to the cry room. Every child is different, but just a few minutes is usually sufficient, unless a child is physically ill.

As I said before, this post is not written to pick on parents who have children when their children cry. Mine have done it, and I’m sure they will probably have to be taken out again sometime for discipline.

Even if they cry, parents please bring those children to worship! They are learning about worship, and you are doing a great job in having them present.

[NOTE: Tomorrow, we will release the first of our "Training Your Children for Worship" posts with a free printable! To learn more about this series of posts, check out this podcast.]

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An Important Lesson from an Unexpected Source

an important lesson from an unexpected source

I’ve been reading a book our son gave me for my birthday. The name of the book is When Pride Still Mattered:  A Life of Vince Lombardi. The author of the book is David Maraniss. Even the most casual observer of “the sports world” probably recognizes that Vince Lombardi coached the Green Bay Packers and led them to a number of NFL championships (five world championships in nine years, to be exact).

This is not a book from which I would expect to find much about God, religion, etc. I thought I would only learn about a man who is legendary as a football coach. I thought I’d learn some interesting things about his family, his coaching career, some of his philosophy of life and coaching, etc. I am not too far into the book and I have, in fact, already learned some of that.

One of the things I learned was that, as a youth, Vince Lombardi had a desire to become a priest in the Roman Catholic Church. In fact, he even began some training with that goal in mind.

It was in that context and about that period in Lombardi’s life that Mr. Maraniss wrote these words:

Daily mass became a lifelong practice, often cited as evidence of his extraordinary faith.   True enough, but as Lombardi himself explained in later years, he was expected to worship every day when he was growing up, so it had become a habit; his religion was as much a matter of discipline and routine as devotion (p. 25).

I don’t know about you, but, to me, those words are striking and challenging. In these few words, there is a contrast between a concept of Christianity that is characterized by practice, habit, discipline and routine on the one hand and faith and devotion on the other.

It seems to me that this contrast is seen in the New Testament. The Jewish religious leaders who were so opposed to Jesus could be said to have habitual, disciplined, and routine practices. For them, this could have been the “sum total” of their commitment to God.

Jesus would challenge them and us with statements such as:

You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and the greatest commandment. And the second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets (Matt. 22:37-39, NKJV).

When the “record book” of my life is opened (cf. 2 Cor. 5:10, Rev. 20:121-13), what will be revealed? Will my life be seen as one based only on obligation and duty or will I be seen as one who lived his life based on faith and devotion.

The “Lombardi Trophy” will not be handed out on that day. That temporal trophy is now given each year to the winner of the Super Bowl.

What will be given on that day will be “the crown of life.” The recipients of that high and eternal honor will be those whose lives are characterized by love for Jesus (cf. James 1:12) and faithfulness to Him (Rev. 2:10).

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What If Satan Subpoenaed Your Sermons?

The backlash over a recent subpoena of sermons in Houston, Texas has been loud and it has been clear. When the mayor’s office asked for all records pertaining to a particular order, including sermons preached by several local church leaders, even some who are very liberal stated that she had overstepped her bounds. While Mayor Annise Parker has since backed down (a bit), many were very concerned about how “Big Brother” this all sounds.

But I have a bigger question for those of us who preach: What if Satan was to subpoena your sermons?

Far too much of what passes as Christian preaching is nothing more than self-help talk or glorified after-dinner material. Tell a few jokes. Give everyone a pep talk. Throw in some Song of Solomon for spice, and viola! you’ve got 15 minutes or so that will fill some time on Sunday and make people feel better.

I wonder how that preaching compares with that of Jesus Christ? How does it match up with what we see in the life of men like Paul?

When Paul met with the Ephesian elders, knowing it would likely be the last time he would see them face-to-face, he gave a powerful and heartfelt speech. Included in those words, he said, “I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:27). Instead of preaching feel good sermons each time he stood before people, Paul was able–by inspiration–to state that he had declared all that God wanted said.

Preaching does not just involve exhortation, though that is certainly included. Yes, we who preach need to fill people with hope, because that is the “product” of walking with Jesus.

But Paul, writing to a younger preacher, shared that preaching the Word includes exhortation, but also reproving and rebuking (2 Timothy 4:2). No preacher should enjoy times when he must speak a word that is hard to hear–one that rebukes–but no Gospel preacher should ever shy away from it, either.

You see, Satan does not mind in the least if people come to a church building, so long as they are not being fed the full counsel of God. When people are told that “they” have all the answers and that God will just give them whatever they want, Satan is fine with that. After all, it’s not Biblical.

But preachers, I challenge us all to look back over what we have preached lately. In the last 1-2 years, have you been bold enough to preach…

…that the one who aborts a baby is shedding innocent blood, and the Lord hates such (Proverbs 6:16-17)?

…that one who practices homosexuality cannot enter heaven, but must be washed clean of that sin by the blood of Jesus (1 Corinthians 6:9-11)?

…that worshiping only as we prefer, and not as God commands, is idolatrous and selfish (John 4:24)?

…that immodesty, though culturally acceptable, is sinful and shameful (1 Timothy 2:9-10)?

…that we are responsible for our entertainment choices, and will be judged if we choose to entertain ourselves with sinful actions like blasphemy and adultery (Romans 1:32)?

…that there is just one Church and not many ways to God (John 14:6; Matthew 16:16; Ephesians 4:4)?

If Satan were to get into your files, or seek them by subpoena, would he have enough evidence to put you on the witness stand?

And would it be for his side, or for the Lord’s?

“Preach the Word!”

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Why the “Right Side of History” Argument Works, but Shouldn’t

why the right side of history argument is working

I have seen it and heard it more times than I care to consider. With the continuing push for homosexual rights, and now the growth of the movement for transgender rights, it is a phrase that has been uttered so much that it has become commonplace.

Especially in the movement for the legalization of homosexual “marriage” (here is why I put that in quotes), this phrase is trumpeted in media, both traditional and social. It is used in court orders and common conversation. It has, in many ways, become the calling card of the movement.

It is that gay marriage (and related issues) are for those on the “right side of history.”

Of course, sometimes you will hear the other side, that those who stand opposed are on the “wrong side of history.”

Some examples:

Former Vice-President Dick Cheyne’s daughter Mary said in late 2013 that her own sister, Liz, who opposes gay “marriage,” was on “the wrong side of history.”

Shepherd Smith of Fox News has said that the Republican Party, in standing against this issue, is on “the wrong side of history.”

Just last week, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker said that the fight against gay “marriage” was over, due to the Supreme Court of the United States not hearing cases on the issue. Still, he spoke for a ban, and his opponent, Mary Burke, said that he was on “the wrong side of history.”

To say I am tired of this argument would be a grand understatement. Now, to be clear, it has worked. Whether you are for, against, or don’t care about this issue, the “right side of history” argument has, without question, been effective.

Why? In a word, Fear.

If we can tell them that a person is born gay, despite scientific evidence that such is not true (does anyone in the media actually remember the Human Genome Project?), then the comparisons to the civil rights movement become easy. If you are born this way, then who are we to deny you basic rights? History moves toward freedom, so we certainly don’t want to be on the “wrong side” of that, do we?

If we show growing support for an issue, and that support crosses political party lines, then it is just obvious that it is inevitable. Do you want to be the “only one” who doesn’t see this movement in history and end up on the “wrong side?”

Ultimately, if we can get enough people to believe that tolerance means I cannot disagree with anyone about anything (except when they actually stand for something), then we raise a generation–and a society–of wimps. We don’t want to be wrong, and we are too weak to speak out, so we just go along for the tidal-wave-like change, even if we don’t really agree with it. After all, our little psyches might be hurt if we were on “the wrong side.”

Here is what is truly sad, though. It is that this “argument” for gay “marriage” (and related issues) is not really an argument at all. At least, it shouldn’t be.

The same people who are telling us that we are on the “wrong” side of history if we stand opposed to gay “marriage” and they are on the “right” side…

…are the same people who go to our high schools, colleges, universities, and other places touting relative, postmodern truth. In other words, the belief that there is no such thing as “right” and “wrong,” objectively speaking.

So, here you have “experts” (and Twitter trolls) coming out of the woodwork to tell us that we are on the “wrong side of history.” Yet, if you ask them if something is objectively “right” or “wrong,” they would have to answer “no one can know” to stay true to their worldview.

And these are the ones we are listening to?

Now, is it inevitable that gay “marriage” will be legal across our nation, and that in fairly short order? While I cannot know for certain, last week’s cowardly “pass” by the US Supreme Court certainly made it seem that way. Do opinion polls show that I’m probably going to be hated more for writing this post and continually putting “marriage” in quotation marks in reference to those who would want homosexual unions? No doubt that is true.

In other words, is the pro-gay “marriage” agenda winning the day in our culture? There is no way to miss that they are.

But all Christians need to remember: it is not about winning the day. It is not about winning an argument on one issue (though issues are important). The Christian religion has, certainly, never been about being on top of the polls or making sure the celebrity or political culture is at our beck and call.

It also is not about being on the “right side of history.”

Instead, it has always been about being in the right hand of Jesus in judgment.

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The Purpose of God’s Mercy

the purpose of gods mercy

Jonah did not want to go to Nineveh because the Assyrians were wicked. They persecuted the Israelites on a regular basis. They had a godless mindset that included a reputation for torturing the innocent, including children. Jonah was tired of seeing his people suffer. Even after being swallowed by the big fish and having a change of heart about obeying God’s command to preach, he was hoping Nineveh would be destroyed. When God responded mercifully to their repentance, Jonah was upset and said, “…Ah, Lord, was not this what I said when I was still in my country? Therefore I fled previously to Tarshish; for I know that You are a gracious and merciful God, slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness, One who relents from doing harm” (Jonah 4:2).

Jonah knew something that every person who learns about God eventually understands. It is in God’s loving nature to be merciful. And aren’t we thankful? When we stand before our Creator in judgment we will desire mercy and grace and not what we deserve. The thoughts of Lamentations 3:22-24 are so beautiful and encouraging to our sinful souls, “Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness. ‘The LORD is my portion,’ says my soul, ‘Therefore I hope in Him!’” Each day we live is another example of the patience and mercy of God. We account that His longsuffering is our salvation (2 Pet. 3:15).

But while we are in appreciation of the grace of God, let us not forget that mercy has been extended for a reason. It has been given to us because God loves us too much to leave us in a state of sin. He desires our holiness (1 Pet. 1:15-16). God’s Son visited earth to create abundant life (John 10:10). He commands all men everywhere to repent (Acts 17:30). He wants us not to be conformed to the world but rather transformed by the renewing of our minds (Rom. 12:1-2). Jesus, “gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works” (Titus 2:14).

God attached a purpose to His abundant mercy. Mercy was meant for more than just dealing with our sin problem. It has been given so we can have an opportunity, motivated by the power of perfect love, to be like Jesus. Saul of Tarsus remains the perfect example of the purpose of God’s mercy. He said so himself: “And I thank Christ Jesus our Lord who has enabled me, because He counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry, although I was formerly a blasphemer, a persecutor, and an insolent man; but I obtained mercy…And the grace of our Lord was exceedingly abundant, with faith and love which are in Christ Jesus…However, for this reason I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might show all longsuffering, as a pattern to those who are going to believe on Him for everlasting life” (1 Timothy 1:12-13a, 14, 16).

Paul realized that God had chosen to bless his life with grace in order to shape him into a vessel of honor and service to the church. He knew that if he, in spite of his terrible past, was chosen by God as qualified to save the lost, then any person could become a fruitful worker for Christ. How sad that Christians leave mercy and grace hanging with their dripping baptismal garments! How tragic that so many view mercy and grace as completely disassociated with the resulting works of faith! Grace came that we should no longer be enslaved by sin (Romans 6). Mercy came that we might be motivated to be merciful to others and choose a life a sacrifice for our Savior who sacrificed for us!

If you are a Christian, you ought to know better than anyone about the internal impacts of mercy and grace, “If indeed you have tasted that the Lord is gracious” (1 Peter 2:3). The results should be love for God and men, and forgiveness, and dedication, and joyful labor in the kingdom of God.

It will be sad indeed in judgment for the one who never chooses to respond to the grace of God in obedience to the gospel. But just as sad on that day will be the state of the Christian who was never so changed by God’s mercy so as to allow that same mercy through the power of a changed life to change the lives of others.

“…and God’s mercy has come to you so that they, too, will share in God’s mercy.” – Romans 11:31

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Is This Progress?

is this progress

The New York Gazette of June 3, 1752 contained the following information in an advertisement. The ad was for an educational institution. Here is the wording of that advertisement:

The chief thing aimed at in this college is to know God in Jesus Christ, and to love and serve Him in all sobriety, godliness and righteousness of life, with a perfect heart and a willing mind.

The institution placing that ad was then known as King’s College. We now know it as Columbia University.

When people of my generation (and generations younger than mine) think of Columbia University, one of the last things thought of is religion. Riots and protests of years ago come to mind. Things such as experimentation with drugs and “sexual freedom” also would join that list. Does it seem strange somehow that our institutions of higher learning used to uphold and defend the Bible?  Does that now seem “quaint” to you as most of these same institutions lead the fight against God and His Word?

Twenty-four years before we declared our freedom from England, educators were using whatever freedom they had to promote a belief in the Bible and the God of the Bible. Now, over two centuries later, educators (and others) are telling us that we should have freedom from religion, not freedom of religion.

Is this progress?

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Can We Choose When We Die?

Brittany Maynard, age 29, has terminal brain cancer. She says she does not want to die. But she has chosen when. You can read and watch here: http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2014/10/08/terminally-ill-brittany-maynard-29-has-scheduled-her-death-for-nov-1/. This link will make you sad. You will empathize with this family. Cancer is a terrible disease. I was diagnosed 10 years ago. I have had many friends and family die from cancer. As a preacher I have been there until the last breath was taken numerous times. I have seen the worst it has to offer. But consider for a minute with me the moral issue at stake with euthanasia. Excuse me, in 2014 the political world prefers to call it, “Dying with dignity.”

I am not going to pretend to tell you that I think I have all of the answers to such a sensitive subject. One of my best friends and mentors in ministry took his life several years ago. He had suffered from bipolar disorder and chronic depression for years. He had been suicidal on occasions that caused periods of hospitalization. Suicide is not a black and white issue. There are people who take their lives who are so fragile mentally and emotionally that it would be difficult for any human being to say what was happening in the moment they chose to kill themselves.

For any person who is reading this article that has been affected by cancer, or some other terminal disease, or for any person out there who has had someone close to them choose to end their life, I want you to know that I love you. I could never understand how much you have suffered and how difficult it has been to go through such a terrible experience. Please understand that what you are about to read is being expressed for the purpose of pleasing God and promoting mental and physical and spiritual health for all people. Life is very precious. It is God’s greatest gift to man both now and eternally. This is why the issue of ending life is so important. Do we have the right to choose what day we die?

Arguments and discussions about specific situations can go on and on concerning this topic. Without a doubt, I would never think it was morally right to force someone to try to keep themselves alive by unnatural means. But I want to simply address the particular case at hand. Brittany Maynard has chosen doctor-assisted death for November 1, 2014. She moved to Oregon because it is one of 5 states that allow it. She has rejected other forms of medication and treatment. In the meantime she has been traveling and spending the last few months and weeks with the people she loves.

The scenario in which one chooses early termination of life has been thrust upon us recently through the tragic death of actor Robin Williams. So many things were written about that episode, that I chose to write absolutely nothing. In his case, nobody would say he died heroically. Rather, he was a victim of mental illness and he needed help. For many his iconic superstardom swept the morality of the issue aside while people celebrated his achievements. I enjoyed many of the things he brought to the entertainment world, but I also realize that putting people on a pedestal is dangerous and can be spiritually unhealthy. Our determination should be that of allegiance to the one Man who ever lived perfectly. Jesus Christ is not only Lord, but our only ideal example, role model, and hero.

There are several moral questions that trouble my mind in Maynard’s case. Is it ok to be euthanized while refusing forms of treatment, even if we have been told there is no cure? Is it ok to accept defeat and not battle for earthly life as much as is within us when we know this world is not our home anyway? Is it ok to refuse to suffer any pain that may come to us in life or death? Is there a difference between what Maynard is doing and people who choose not to be resuscitated, or cancer patients who accept a morphine-induced coma at the last stages of their illness? I believe so.

The difference is faith. Faith believes in unseen things (Heb. 11:1). Without faith, pleasing God is impossible (Heb. 11:6). What if even though no one has ever survived this disease, Brittany Maynard was the first? What if November 1 rolls around and on that particular day she is feeling healthy and strong? What if the experience of suffering caused her to rely on spiritual things over physical things, and helped her to change her mind about what she really wants to do? What if this suffering changed her future eternally? I have some current relationships with a few very close friends who I love dearly who are dying at this moment from terminal illnesses. They do not know how long they have. Some have days, maybe weeks to live. But they have not chosen the day of their death. Are they not also, “dying with dignity”? I would like to tell you that I believe beyond all others they are. You see, they believe in God, but they will not play God. They trust in God, and they know that we are not supposed to “die on our terms.” After all, are we even supposed to live on our terms (1 Cor. 6:19-20)?

I am afraid that we are living in a world that is progressively devaluing life. I have heard no mention of God in this case at hand. My heart goes out to this young lady and her family. On some level, but admittedly not completely, I understand their dilemma. I was 31 when I found out about my cancer. I had a wife and two small children. I did not know what was going to happen to me. But I chose life, not death. By the grace of God ten years later I am still here. But if I had not lived, I would not have chosen euthanasia. Because God is the giver of life, and God alone has power over death. And whether I live or die, I am the Lord’s. And I accept His will for my life, and also for my death, no matter the suffering.

“For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.” – Romans 8:18

“Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.” – 2 Corinthians 4:16-18

“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing.” – 2 Timothy 4:7-8

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Abraham’s Day of Rejoicing

abrahams day of rejoicing

John’s gospel was written “…that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name” (John 20:31). He begins by presenting Jesus as the eternal Word (John 1:1-14). In fact he writes, “In the beginning was the Word. And the Word was with God. And the Word was God” (John 1:1). In the Greek the verb “was” is in the imperfect tense, so that the first verse literally reads this way – “In the beginning the Word always was, and the Word always was with God. And the Word always was God.” John wants the reader to know that Jesus has always been and He has always been divine. He did not attain deity. In every way the Father and the Holy Spirit have always been God, so Jesus has always been God (Phil. 2:6; Col. 2:9).

Later on in the gospel, John includes some connecting information in a conversation between Jesus and the Jews. They were rejecting Him. They said Abraham was their father, and they refused to accept the identity of Jesus. Jesus responded that they really had Satan as a father, because they were untruthful and they were following the devil and doing his works (John 8:44). In reference to Abraham our Lord simply said, “Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was glad” (John 8:56). They scornfully replied, “You are not yet fifty years old, and have You seen Abraham?” (John 8:57). “Jesus said to them, ‘Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM’” (John 8:58).

To what was Jesus referring? How did Abraham see the day of Jesus and rejoice? When did they meet? What happened? The Jews thought it laughable that Jesus could say He had been with Abraham. They thought it was so blasphemous they picked up stones to throw at Him. But a little examination of the Biblical record gives us the answer to the day Abraham saw “My day” and rejoiced.

Travel back to Genesis chapter 22. Abraham had been commanded by God to offer up Isaac, the promised seed. Isaac was the one through whom Christ was to come into the world. God demanded that Abraham prove his total allegiance through the sacrifice of his son. As Abraham drew back the knife to slay Isaac, God stopped him. Specifically the text says that the voice that called was, “…the angel of the Lord” (Genesis 22:11-12). In the Old Testament, angels are often referenced when God is showing His activity in the affairs of men. But only on a few occasions does the Bible say that it was not just an angel, but rather, “the angel of the Lord.” Why?

Another example of the angel of the Lord speaking to someone is found in Exodus 3:2. In the burning bush episode where Moses is called, it was “the angel of the Lord” who spoke. On this occasion when Moses had a conversation with God about his mission, at one point Moses asked God what he should say to this Israelites when he attempted to tell them he had been sent by God to lead them. The angel of the Lord replied, “I AM WHO I AM. Thus you shall say to the children of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you’ ” (Exodus 3:14). In John 8, Jesus in effect said exactly the same thing. The original language for Exodus 3:14 is identical to that of John 8:58 – when Jesus replied, “…before Abraham was, I AM.” When Jesus told the Jews He was the “I AM,” it was not the first time He had said this to someone.

If there was a specific day in Abraham’s life when he rejoiced to see the day of Jesus, it was when our Lord said, “Do not lay your hand on the lad!” (Gen. 22:12). In that moment God provided the sacrifice through a ram caught in a thicket. Years later God provided the sacrifice again, but this time a Lamb was caught in Jerusalem. This Lamb was the great “I AM.” He has always been. He is now. He always will be.

The Bible is full of exciting truths to be discovered about the great and glorious God of heaven! For those who believe, a time is coming again when they will rejoice to see His day – and they will see it, and be glad.

“Worthy is the Lamb who was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom, and strength and honor and glory and blessing!” – Revelation 5:12

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Political Correctness Gone to Seed

political correctness gone to seed

Recently, while preparing for a Bible class I’m teaching, I read the words below. While I might not agree with everything in this particular book, this rather lengthy paragraph may serve to illustrate how far some have moved in their concepts of such things as God, obedience, punishment, and a host of other things.

It is my opinion that those who may have moved in the direction suggested by the author have moved in the wrong direction. While Jonathan Edwards might be a little harsh (to say the least) for today’s tastes, his preaching and the preaching of others was a part of what history knows as “The Great Awakening.”

The other type of preaching alluded to in the paragraph below might be labeled as a great delusion. At least that’s my opinion.

I invite you to read the author’s words and see if you agree.

Jim Faughn

***

The story goes that in the 1960s a man decided to re-preach Jonathan Edwards’s famous sermon, “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.” However, the preacher modified the sermon to better fit with the era. He entitled the sermon, “Seekers Who Lack Self-Esteem in the Hands of a Full-Esteem God.” In the original, Edwards preached to those who did not trust God: “You have offended him infinitely more than ever a stubborn rebel did his prince; and yet it is nothing but his hand that holds you from falling into the fire every moment.” Edwards described those who do not trust God as being like a spider hanging by a thread over a pit. Such preaching has always offended some and been misunderstood by others. It is said that the 1960s preacher decided that the spider analogy was too strong medicine for modern people and switched it to a butterfly: “Somewhere in the forest a butterfly was beautifying a rose by posing atop its petals. Her wings flapping to an unheard tune the trees seemed to be swaying to. A bee was humming to the melody of nature’s symphony as he dipped inside a wonderfully painted forest flower that seemed delighted to have such a distinguished visitor. Bluebirds were singing, crickets chirping and a possum was laughing in the gentle breeze. Heaven seemed to be saying, ‘You’re the most important creature in the woodlands . . . yes, you . . . and you . . . and you with the compound eyes.’”

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Josh Moody. Journey to Joy: The Psalms of Ascent [Kindle version can be downloaded for just 99 cents here]

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A Great Resource for Serious Bible Students

I am always on the lookout for new ways to get good material, especially to help with my study of the Bible. Today, I want to share one that is both biblical and techie (but you don’t have to be techie to enjoy it).

The 66 Podcast

The resource is called “The 66 Podcast,” and it is a production of the Ashville Road church of Christ in Leeds, Alabama. Currently, just 13 episodes of the program have been produced, so you are not “too far behind” to catch up and enjoy the new material.

The idea behind The 66 Podcast is that the cohosts, Drew Kizer and Andrew Kingsley, walk through a particular book of the Bible over the course of three or four episodes. In each program, they do three things:

1. Read. While they do not actually “read” the text aloud, they provide a helpful outline with the overall picture of the text.

2. Think. In this–my favorite section–the two share insights into the text. Sometimes, these are word studies, while at other times they are historical connections. Often, there are points of reference to other sections of Scripture, too. This section lives up to its name, and makes you think.

3. Apply. Usually brief, this section gives 2 or 3 practical, modern-day applications that can be gained from the text under consideration for that program.

The show is about an hour in length, but it is produced only when Kizer and Kingsley are able do it; thus, it is not an hour every week. Currently, the 13 episodes available cover Ezra, Nehemiah, and Esther. I have listened to the programs on Ezra and look forward to starting Nehemiah in the coming days.

My favorite thing about this program is that these are not just rehashed sermons. The co-hosts are able to share solid, in-depth Bible study in a very casual way that you can enjoy while running, driving, or doing something else. The goal of the co-hosts is to eventually cover all 66 books of the Bible, no matter how long it might take. I hope they do, because the material is outstanding!

While The 66 is a podcast, you do not have to be a tech-geek to get this information from the programs. Simply visit the website, choose an episode, and click play. However, if you are a podcast person, jump over to iTunes or another “podcatcher” and subscribe. You will not regret it.

The 66 Podcast Website

The 66 Podcast iTunes link