With One Voice

And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.” (Col. 3:14)

In high school, my favorite English teacher was Mrs. Dowdy. She has some pretty good stories she could tell you about my class, including one concerning a viewing of Romeo and Juliet our freshman year. I was blessed to have her again for College Prep English my senior year, and several assignments from that year made a lasting impression on me. There is one that I remember because of my failure.

We were to pick a single word and write a paper detailing that word’s history and usage, including if it was used in the Bible. Being the very clever and creative teenager that I was, I tried to pick an original word that no one else would even consider. My word was “harmony.” While I don’t recall the exact wording, I may never forget Mrs. Dowdy’s ingenious review of my paper, referencing its ironic lack of harmony.

Harmony is precious to me. Few things bring me more deep-seated joy than a well-rounded, full chord of beautiful music, particularly vocal music. From the deepest bass to the highest soprano, the chord is only complete with all of the intervals in between represented.

Perhaps that is why a recent explanation of 2 Peter 1:5-7 was so satisfying to me. Many people refer to this as the “add to” passage. I have heard many discussions about whether these aspects of character are stepping stones, or maybe links in a chain, or even sequential qualities, reaching its fullness in love. None of those have ever “rung true” with me but a recent explanation did.

I know I am biased about the speaker and the source she revealed (my mom, who referenced my dad) but when she said this, 2 Peter 1:5-7 finally made the most sense to me. She said these qualities – faith, virtue, knowledge, self-control, steadfastness, godliness, brotherly kindness, and love – are to harmonize together, much like the notes of a well-developed chord of music. I immediately got a picture of a skilled maestro gesturing to each section of the orchestra to swell and fill in the chord in perfect harmony. All are equally important and yet unique. Each fills the precise need of the whole in order for it to be at its best.

With that in mind, read the following words from Romans 15:5-6: “May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” [emphasis added]

May we all live in harmony – with God, with each other, and with ourselves – to the glory of God.

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AUTHOR: Amber Tatum

Photo background credit: Southern Arkansas University on Creative Commons

The Unspoken Rule about Church Programs (That People Want Spoken!)

Call them “programs.” Call them “ministries.” Call them “opportunities to serve.”

Whatever you call them, every congregation has them. They are necessary to organize the work, so that people can serve in various capacities and use their talents to the glory of God under the oversight of the local eldership.

However, there is one problem with the myriad of programs and ministries that most congregations struggle with. Either they struggle in the planning phrase, or they struggle in the communication phase.

What is it?

People do not know which programs are for the whole congregation and which are for certain groups.

I can already hear the pushback. “We said this was just for those who were able to come.” Or, “We announced that this was for our senior saints.”

You may have, but here’s the deal: did you act like it?

In other words, you may have announced that this work night was just for those who could come, but when only a handful showed up, did you talk about how few came?

You may have announced that this event was for the senior saints, but when some of a certain age did not come, were you upset (even though you never defined what a “senior saint” was)?

Do you see?

Congregations need to be clear! There are certain events that should be, as much as possible, congregation-wide. And it should be clearly communicated that all members are expected to be present. Personally, I would advise that this not be every single event, but that there should be a few of these scattered throughout the year.

On the other hand, if an event is for a certain age group, or only for those who signed up, or for those who agreed to be on a ministry team, then encourage those people to come and make it clear that they are encouraged to come. And then? Do not hammer away at the whole congregation for not “supporting” some event! It wasn’t for everyone, after all.

But all this must be fleshed out ahead of time and then must be communicated clearly. In the planning stages of an event, ministry, or program, who is this really for? Is this a congregation-wide activity? If so, how are we going to make that known? Or, is this just for a certain group? If so, who? How are we going to make that clearly known?

And, once the event has happened, how are we going to evaluate? Are we going to remember who this was for and be consistent, or are we going to make it seem–after the fact–that everything is really for everyone?

Let’s just state the obvious: one of those is a good idea and the other is not!

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AUTHOR: Adam Faughn

The National Anthem and the Unpardonable Sin

Every human being is a free moral agent. God made us this way. From the Garden of Eden until now, people have had the right to make choices. Some of the choices we make are simply matters of opinion. Other choices we make will determine where we spend eternity.

One choice made this week that does not affect eternity was made by several NFL players. They knelt during the national anthem. This was their choice. Unfortunately, the whole issue over what to do at the playing of the anthem has gotten totally out of control. Some people want to make it about race, others politics, and still others, nationalism. As Americans, our flag stands for freedom, and it has been defended and fought for by men and women for a few centuries now. It has been established with the price of blood. I am thankful for those who have given us the right to be free.

The one thing that puzzles me about those who choose to kneel at the anthem is that they are in essence rejecting the very source of their freedom. Oh sure, you can kneel if you want to kneel. You don’t have to sing if you don’t want. You don’t have to put your hand over your heart and you don’t have to take your cap off. But in reality, those who disrespect the anthem and who want to make a statement in some kind of protest are being completely inconsistent with the reality we should all understand: If you live in this country and are a citizen and you have been given certain rights as a citizen – it is because of the flag, and the sentiments of the anthem, and because people have fought and died.

Jesus once said that there was a sin that could not be forgiven. “Therefore I say to you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven men. Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man, it will be forgiven him; but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit, it will not be forgiven him, either in this age or in the age to come” (Matthew 12:31-32). Now if you read the rest of the Bible, it consistently teaches that there is no sin that the blood of Christ cannot pardon. So what makes the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit not fit into that category?

The Holy Spirit brought the message of truth and salvation though preaching and revelation. The gospel is the power of God unto salvation (Rom. 1:16). Every person who does not know God and who does not obey the gospel will be lost eternally (2 Thess. 1:7). The blasphemy of the Holy Spirit is an unpardonable sin because in rejecting the Spirit of God and what He delivers to man we are rejecting the very source of our forgiveness. Thankfully, as long as there is breath in us, we can change our hearts from rejecting the Spirit to accepting and obeying what the Spirit says through the word and thus receive forgiveness.

As I was thinking about the choices people often make to disrespect the source of their freedom, it occurred to me that the foolishness of it all was a lack of appreciation for what has been done on their behalf. Some would say that people have died so that they could have the right to protest the flag. Maybe they should ask the people who actually died if that is what they were hoping to accomplish when they defended it.

I do know one thing for sure. Jesus didn’t die so we could have the right to reject the cross. We need not protest against what the Holy Spirit teaches. We can kneel at the anthem because the United States is simply a nation made up of people. And this nation is passing away. We do have the right to reject it and there will be no eternal consequences for that.  I think the problem is the attitude. It’s disrespectful and it does not understand the sacrifice. And the only people who can really understand that are the people who actually bled and died to establish it.

Some choices are just opinion, based on physical things. But other choices affect eternity, and they are based on spiritual things. There is a sin that cannot be pardoned. If we reject the very source of our spiritual freedom there is coming a day when we will be hitting our knees again. And there will be no protest on that occasion.

“He who rejects Me, and does not receive My words, has that which judges him—the word that I have spoken will judge him in the last day.” – John 12:48

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AUTHOR: Jeremiah Tatum

A Backwards Word Study

The August 2017 issue of Old Paths contained an article by brother Danny Tunnell. Although I have never met brother Tunnell, I am indebted to him for some interesting and challenging insights. I wanted to give him the credit he deserves because what I am writing here has been heavily influenced by his article. It is tempting to merely reproduce what he wrote, but I would like to “put my own spin” on the information he provided.

Brother Tunnell dealt in some detail the Greek word dunamis. That Greek word is often translated as “power” in the New Testament. Even if you did not read his article and/or if you’ve never seen the word dunamis, it might not surprise you to learn that our word dynamite is based on that word. 

According to Thayer’s Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, the word dunamis has the following meanings:

1. strength, power, ability

a. inherent power, power residing in a thing by virtue of its nature, or which a person or thing exerts and puts forth

b. power for performing miracles

c. moral power and excellence of soul

d. the power and influence which belong to riches and wealth

e. power and resources arising from numbers

f. power consisting in or resting upon armies, forces, hosts

Do you see the word “dynamite” anywhere in all of that? Do you see any indication that dunamis must always refer to something dynamic, earth-shaking, and/or spectacular?

One of the more familiar passages in which we find dunamis is in Romans 1:16. The King James Version of that verse reads as follows:

For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.

Here’s the rub. Here’s where we may have been guilty of what I am choosing to call a backwards word study. Please allow me to explain.

Dynamite was invented and patented by Alfred Nobel in 1867. It was originally called “Nobel’s Blasting Powder.” The New Testament was completed before the end of the first century A.D. All of this means that a nineteenth-century product got its name from the meaning of a Greek word used in the first century. To be more specific; dynamite gets its name from one of the meanings of dunamis.

So, instead of considering all of the ways in which dunamis is used, we choose the only one that was used for one specific reason in the nineteenth century and assume that is what the Holy Spirit had in mind when He inspired Paul to write Romans 1:16. Besides being unwise, that can lead to all kinds of problems.

It seems that, if we see “dynamite” every time we find a reference to the gospel, we would expect a spectacular messenger to deliver a spectacular message and get spectacular results every time the gospel is preached. In short, the thinking must be that every Bible class, sermon, and/or time of personal study must be a time when I am “blown away” by the message of God.

It might even be tempting (and, sadly, many have yielded to this temptation) to “help” the power of the message and/or messenger with special lighting, “over the top” musical productions, etc. Some preachers have even adopted a style that I would call “affected drama” to appeal to emotions or to try to make sure that people are “blown away” by their presentations. Seemingly, the primary (if not only) purpose of preaching is to elicit strong emotions. 

To be sure, the gospel should have an emotional effect on both the messenger and those who listen to the message, but “fake emotionalism” should (in my opinion) have no place in the presentation of the Truth of God. While I have never known any of these men personally, I have heard of men who would include in their sermon notes a notation that read: “cry here” and/or other notations that might be appropriate for a dramatic presentation (a “dynamite” performance). 

As I was typing these words, another thought came to my mind. The “active agent” in dynamite is nitroglycerin. It would not surprise me to learn that some who are reading these words may be carrying a bottle of nitroglycerin pills in a pocket or purse. These people do not intend to blow something up. They hope to save their own lives. They find some comfort in the knowledge that, in the event of severe chest pains, one of these tiny little pills might prevent a fatal heart attack.

That, it seems to me, may help us to see what I consider to be a healthy way to view God’s message and how it is to be presented. The Bible and its effects are, in fact, often spectacular. Nothing I am typing here is meant to deny or denigrate that.

At the same time, it needs to be remembered that, in the “Parable of the Sower,” our Lord said that “…the seed is the word of God” (Luke 8:11). When I plant a seed, I do not expect a flower, a tree, some fruit, or a vegetable to explode out of the ground in some dramatic and spectacular way. I expect the seed to produce what God intended for it to produce in the manner in which God intended for the process to happen and according to His timetable.

Similarly, there will be times when something spectacular will happen when the gospel is preached if that is God’s desire on that occasion. At other times, the gospel may convert, convict, correct, comfort, and do a lot of other things. The bottom line is that the gospel is able to fulfill God’s purpose for it in any and all occasions and at any and all times

The focus of a preacher needs to be to present the gospel faithfully, not necessarily dramatically. Those who hear the gospel would do well to focus on what is often the long, slow, challenging process of becoming more Christlike instead of waiting for something spectacular to happen.   

We should have figured out a long time ago that God has a plan for His word that does not have to include the spectacular. Consider what he said even before His Son left heaven to come to earth:

For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven
and do not return there but water the earth,
making it bring forth and sprout,
giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater,
so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth;
it shall not return to me empty,
but it shall accomplish that which I purpose,
and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.

(Isaiah 55:10-11, ESV)

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AUTHOR: Jim Faughn

Photo background credit: Sean MacEntee on Creative Commons

[Quote] A Great Thought on Constant Prayer from Gary Hampton

Source: Rejoicing in the Lord: A Study of Philippians by Gary C. Hampton

Give Me the Bible

I am part of a ladies’ Bible class that I love. If you are around me for very long and in our area, I will be inviting you to be part of that class. It has enriched my life in so many ways because we really study the Bible. I mean, we really study the Bible. We don’t use any class book, not because we don’t believe in them or can’t find a good one (I know there are lots of good ones out there), but because we see a need to just study God’s word in depth.

I was thinking about a song we sometimes sing at our congregation. The title of the song is “Give Me the Bible.” I was wondering if we really mean it when we sing that song. One of the verses has these words:

Give me the Bible all my steps enlighten,

Teach me the danger of these realms below;

That lamp of safety o’er the gloom shall brighten,

That light alone the path of peace can show.

The reason I’m wondering about whether or not we really believe what we’re singing is because when certain subjects are taught from the Bible – God’s inspired words to man – some people become very upset and begin to try to justify their actions.

Some of those topics that seem to cause grief among some members are:

  • God’s plan for the home. 

The teaching of Genesis 2:24 concerning one man for one woman for life and the leaving of parents and cleaving to each other in the formation of your own home often goes ignored. How many young men and women go back to their parents when the first disagreement takes place? 

God’s plan for the husband to be the head of the home often causes grief in a marriage. Some have said that in our culture that just isn’t realistic. You might want to take that up with God then since His word says, “For the husband is the head of the wife…” (Eph. 5:23).

  • Submission.

If you really want to get some women stirred up, just talk about wives being in submission to their husbands! Now they don’t seem to have a problem with being in submission to a boss, a school superintendent, or a department head, but when you say that they are to be in submission to their husband you have just crossed the line. However, Paul told the Ephesians that wives were to submit to their own husbands, as to the Lord (Eph. 5:22).

  • Modest dress.

Oh, how difficult it is to talk about modest clothing in this day and age. It isn’t just difficult to teach to girls at a youth rally, but it is often very difficult to convince mothers and fathers that they should be teaching this to their sons and their daughters. However, Paul wrote to Timothy in his first letter that “…women should adorn (beautify) themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control…” (1 Tim. 2:9).

  • Attendance at worship.

I read a great deal now about it not mattering where we go to worship. As long as the people there believe in God any church will do, and several have posted and boasted about their attendance at different places. This is not a statement of judgment on anyone, but my Bible teaches me that in order for my worship to be acceptable to God, I must come before Him with a pure heart and offer my worship to Him (John 4:24). If I come together to worship with others just to see what I can get out of it – feelings or entertainment or happiness – I have attended worship for the wrong reason.

  • Commitment to God.

When Jesus was asked the question concerning what the greatest commandment was in the law, He answered with these words, “…you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” (Matt. 22:37, emphasis added). How many of us can teach today that God wants all of our being, and not be considered a radical in their thinking?

These are but a few of the topics that came to my mind when thinking about teaching others the whole truth.

Do I really want to know what the Bible says?

When I know what it says, do I recognize it as the inspiration of God? (2 Timothy 3:16)

When I recognize it as “breathed out by God” am I willing to apply it to my life no matter what anyone else says?

Can we truly sing the words to the song “Give Me the Bible?”

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AUTHOR: Donna Faughn

Some Thoughts on “Equipping the Saints”

The older I get, the more time I have found myself spending in Ephesians 4. Not only have the first several verses of that chapter become a favorite part of the Bible for me, but I continue to see how their practical application would solve so many issues congregations face.

In verse 11 of that chapter, Paul writes that there are different leadership roles in the congregation. Following up on that, he writes the purpose of these roles: “To equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ.” If you continue reading (verses 13-16), you will see the result, and it is nothing short of breathtaking!

I think many congregations are missing it when it comes to “equipping the saints.” Church leaders, here are some random, but hopefully helpful, thoughts on that phrase.

It Does Not Merely Mean Having a “Program of Work.” A congregation can have ministries and org charts, and still not have equipped anyone to actually do the work!

It Takes Time. Members need to know what is expected, so it takes time to come up with expectations. They need the necessary training, tools, and opportunities. These take time. Coming up with an idea for a ministry is one thing. Equipping people to do it is quite another.

It Doesn’t Absolve You from Working. Too many leaders see their role as equipping the saints, and by that, they mean, they get to plan something and let everyone else do it. Read this carefully: one of the best ways to equip members for ministry is to let them see you get your hands dirty, too! Lead by word, but also lead by example.

Deacons Play a Major Role. While deacons are not listed in Ephesians 4, their role is inferred by simple deduction of God’s plan for the organization of the church. Elders and preachers can help train and equip deacons, who can, in turn, equip far more people to get a task of ministry done.

It Reinforces What “Ministry” Really Means. The term “ministry” (diakonia in Greek) simply means “service.” When people are equipped to really serve, they feel like they can serve and help anyone. It reinforces what that idea should mean to the strength of the church and the winning of the lost.

It Will Reduce Disunity. We often say that people just need something to do and they will stop complaining. That may be true, but if we do not show them (1) what to do and (2) how to do it, we are actually adding fuel to the fires of disunity! (Remember, Ephesians 4:3 had spoken of the “unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace”? This is one way to help with that!)

Each and every congregation, no matter how large or small, can follow this command. Yes, it takes time and effort, but it will result in a more flourishing and more unified group of people who trust their leaders even more. Let’s equip the saints!

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AUTHOR: Adam Faughn

Casting the First Stone

Perhaps one of the most well-known events in the life of Christ is recorded by John the apostle in the eighth chapter of his gospel account. Though this passage is questioned by some textual critics regarding its inclusion, we read of a woman who was caught in adultery and brought before Jesus. The mob was ready to stone her, but the question about what should be done was posed to our Savior as a test. You can just see in your mind the image of this woman pushed down into the dust at the feet of the Lord. Perhaps that is why he stooped down and wrote something on the ground. Maybe he was trying to place himself there with this hurting woman so she wouldn’t have to be alone in the dirt.

In the midst of this tragic moment, we recall Jesus’ incredible reply – “Let him who is without sin among you cast the first stone.” Nobody did. Every individual present was convicted in their own conscience of their personal sin and one by one they walked away from the troubling scene. Only Jesus and the woman remained. There were many stone holders but no stone throwers on that day. Praise God! This event in the life of the Messiah still testifies today of the mercy and forgiveness of the Creator. And then, on top of all of it, we have the final, beautiful, resounding words from Christ to this struggling woman, “Neither do I condemn you. Go and sin no more.”

As we consider what Jesus said to the mob we are reminded that the conscience is a powerful thing. It constitutes one’s spiritual mind. Our conscience is to be active and pure and good and clean (1 Tim. 1:5, 19). It needs not to be seared (1 Tim. 4:2). We should hold the mystery of the faith with a good conscience (1 Tim. 3:19). Our conscience is the genuine representation of the heart which lies within us. Our conscience, if spiritually healthy, can either condemn us to or deliver us from the wrath of God (Rom. 2:12-14).

Our hypocrisy is often revealed by the way we view people and events. We tend to read this passage and we say, “What a terrible, hateful, deplorable mob!” It is probably hard to imagine yourself being one of the people with a stone in hand, ready to punish – ready to kill! But it occurs to me that there is something much worse than gathering stones for throwing. After all, God approved and even commanded stoning for certain occasions.

But then Jesus came, and that changed everything. His coming taught that there was something worse than picking up stones to throw at others. You see, it would be better to hold a stone in your hand than a stone in your heart! At least the mob was convicted! At least they still had a conscience! They dropped the stones and walked away. They weren’t as bad as we are when our sins no longer bother us.

It’s not enough to drop the stone. That should be a given. There’s also a stone within us, deep in our cold, sinful hearts – that at times, must indeed,  be cast.

“Therefore circumcise the foreskin of your heart, and be stiff-necked no longer.” – Deut. 10:16

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AUTHOR: Jeremiah Tatum

What Else Went Up in 1964

1964 was an election year. For those of us who lived at that time, we probably remember the victory that Lyndon Johnson achieved over Barry Goldwater in the presidential election that year.  It was decidedly one-sided (486-52 electoral votes; 61.1%-38.5% popular votes). When the dust settled, the Democratic Party had sixty-eight of the one hundred Senate seats and 295 of the 435 seats in the House of Representatives.   

Many factors played into all of that. I will leave it to the historians and experts on presidential elections to discuss and debate those things. 

Other than the fact that there was an election in 1964, that year was probably a fairly typical one in some ways. One exception to that is that the Beatles came to the United States for their first tour that year, but that is a subject for another time.

One of the ways that 1964 was probably a fairly typical year is that most likely, a number of things went up during the year. I haven’t done the research on all of this but I suspect that the prices of such things as houses, automobiles, food, and a host of other things increased in 1964. That seems to always (or at least typically) be the case. I’m also fairly confident that, along with these things, wages and salaries probably went up somewhat also in 1964.

Something else also went up in 1964. I have done the research on this. I heard a brother make a statement at Polishing the Pulpit that I thought I would check out. I was not surprised to learn that he was right. 

He just mentioned some trends and something that happened in the “fashion world.” I did a little digging and found some more information to add to his. What I found was alarming. 

Combining what he said with what I found, the facts show that, for the first time in the history of our nation, the number of forcible rapes that were reported exceeded twenty thousand in 1964. That number has never been below twenty thousand since then. In fact, that number has exceeded one hundred thousand in some years since 1964.

So – what else went up in 1964 – and is there any connection? 

Are you familiar with the name Mary Quant? Do you know what role she played in 1964?

If not, you might find the following information helpful. I found it on stylecaster.com. It was entitled:

A History of the Miniskirt: How Fashion’s Most Daring Hemline Came To Be

The information was presented in a “timeline” format. Here what was presented for 1964:

1964: If anyone should be credited with pioneering the miniskirt it is British designer Mary Quant. Quant opened what became the iconic boutique Bazaar in 1955 on King’s Road in London’s Chelsea neighborhood. Inspired by the fashions she saw on the streets, Quant raised the hemline of her skirts in 1964 to several inches above the knee, and the iconic miniskirt was born. She named the skirt after her favorite car, the Mini.

So; the number of rapes in our nation went up during the same year that hemlines went up. Could there possibly be any connection?

Maybe Mary Quant, herself, could help to provide an answer to that question. With a little more digging on my part, I found some interesting quotes. For example, she is quoted as saying:

“Good taste is death; vulgarity is life.”

Here is another one of her quotes that should give us an idea about “where she is coming from:”

“Pornography is great if it’s good.”

Those two quotes should be enough to tell us all we need to know about the “worldview” that prompted her to popularize the mini skirt. 

Another quote I found was:

“People call things ‘vulgar’ when they are new to them. When they have become old, they become ‘good taste.’”

I invite you to reread that last quote. Could that help to explain the behavior and attitudes of so many today? Could that be at least one reason why so many accept the fact that women (young and not so young) can wear the name of Christ while also choosing to wear clothing that is very revealing – even as they assemble to worship?

I am very concerned about physical violence done to anybody. I am also convinced that many women who are victims of rape are entirely innocent and are, in every sense of the word, victims. 

Revealing attire may not always lead to physical assault. Revealing attire can and does lead to sins in which a person may be a willing participant.

Thanks, in part, to Mary Quant I am now concerned about the message being sent by women who choose fashion and popularity over godliness. I am especially concerned when I see a sister in the Lord dressing in a manner that is honestly not appropriate for one who wears His name. 

A lot of things went up in 1964. Sadly, one of them has led to a trend downward in morality and decency. Even more sadly, this downward trend may be one of the reasons that those in the world see no difference between them and some of us who call ourselves “Christians.”

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AUTHOR: Jim Faughn

Episode 89: The “Profit” of Biblical Parenting, Pew Packers Resources…and More! [Podcast]

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In this week’s podcast, Adam and Leah share a fantastic quote from Gregory Tidwell about the need to focus on Biblical parenting. Then, to help families do just that, they share a free resource from the blog to help children memorize basic Bible facts, memory verses, and more.

Links below!


Quote from Gregory Tidwell on parenting [Facebook]

Pew Packers Resource homepage [A Legacy of Faith]

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