An Odd Reminder of Mortality

It was a bookkeeping error, and it led to a good laugh, but it was also eye-opening.

A man strode into my office recently with a big grin on his face. He handed me a piece of paper and told me I had to see it. It was a form letter from a life insurance company, but it might as well have been right out of a stand-up comedian’s stage show.

After the official mumbo-jumbo at the top of the letter, the first line stated, “We express our condolences for the loss of [person’s name].”

What made it funny? The man who handed me the letter was the one named on the piece of paper!

That’s right, the insurance company addressed a letter to a man expressing their regret that the same man was now dead!

Stories like this happen at times. I suppose one of the more famous in world history is that of Alfred Nobel, after whom the Nobel Peace Prize is named. Recently, the Academy Awards put the name and face of a film worker in their “in memoriam” piece, and she later tweeted that she was, in fact, alive and doing quite well.

We laugh at instances like these but they also serve as fair warning that Hebrews 9:27 continues to be true. The writer stated that “it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment.”

As the old hymn states, “Earthly life is only one short day when compared with eternity.” At times, it seems that life is crawling along, but James was right when he said that our life is as a mist (or vapor), in that it “appears for a little time and then vanishes” (James 4:14).

Still, it is rare to come face-to-face with that reality like receiving a life insurance letter about your own death.

But, may I ask, what would the realization that we are mortal and that our life is brief do to us if we would keep it ever before us?

While some might want to go “skydiving, Rocky Mountain climbing” or ride a bull named Fu-Manchu (sorry, couldn’t resist), that is not what Scripture would have us focus on. Those things are not wrong, but may I suggest even more important things?

Tell someone about Jesus.

Invest time in your family.

Run away from sin and toward the cross.

Bask in the majesty of God’s grace.

Those sound like ways to live when we realize that we are mortal and time is fleeting. In fact, that sounds like a good way to live each day.

Because one day, that letter will come with your name on it and it won’t be an error.


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AUTHOR: Adam Faughn

The Real Reason Your Child Might Leave the Church

Nobody knows what is going to happen to their kids. We don’t know how they will perform in the world. We don’t know who they will marry, what friends they will choose, or what kind of career they will have. We don’t know if they will always be healthy and happy and safe like we want them to be. And so we raise them as best we can and give them to the Lord.
Christian parents who currently have children at home have one thing in particular that they are worried about. They are concerned that their children might leave the church. I have seen several studies over the years that have provided statistics concerning the faithfulness of children who leave home. They usually agree that half of the kids who are raised in the church leave the church after the age of 18. The studies also find that marrying a Christian is essential to their faithfulness to God and to the marriage – although every situation is individual, and there are no guarantees. Yes, you could literally do everything correctly and your child might still leave the church.
But I think there is a deeper reason why kids who are raised in the church tend to leave the faith. It is because we take them to worship without every converting them to Christ – and that is because many of us have never been fully converted ourselves! I have been in the church all of my life and I have seen the culture change. I have seen the generational divide develop between baby-boomers, gen-Xers, and millennials. I have seen the fall-out that comes from “inherited faith.” I have seen the different paths young people have followed that have led them away from the Lord. But I believe the biggest problem is really a matter of the heart.
Why is it that our children grow up thinking worship is optional? Why is it that they bend to the beliefs of their denominational friends? Why is it that they are more self-aware and less others-aware when it comes to what they see as the purpose of their Christianity? Why is it that they are more involved in college and career and sports and entertainment and travel and everything else than they are the church?
The reason is that for too many Sundays we have merely brought them. We have falsely convinced ourselves that just by exposing them to Christ somehow all of the principals they need to know that will guide them to a life fully dedicated to the Lord will just happen to be there and they will magically latch on.
We volunteer to coach their ball teams, do scouts with them, and are more than willing to commit with them to every commercial and community activity that is available. But it was always someone else who taught their Bible class. It was always some other family that hosted the teen devotional. It was always the youth minister or the preacher that they talked to about spiritual matters. It was always the secular event that took precedence over the spiritual event and therefore they have learned what is really important to us. We did not teach them to love Jesus. We did not get Christ and the church so deeply into them that there was no possible way that those things would ever get out of them.
The real reason MANY, but not ALL of our children might leave the faith is because of US! You can’t just bring them to church and hope for the best. God has held us accountable to so much more as parents! If God isn’t in your home every single day, then eventually for your kids He is not going to be there at all.
“And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.” – Deuteronomy 6:6-9
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Swift Transition

Many are familiar with a song that begins with these words:

Time is filled with swift transition –
Naught of earth unmoved shall stand.

The past few weeks or so have demonstrated the truth of those words on so many levels. Globally, the transition was from one year to the next. While we all could prepare for and plan for the end of 2016 and the beginning of 2017, the actual transition took place in a second (or maybe a fraction of a second).

After a seemingly endless “election cycle,” our national government made the transition from one presidential administration to another. While there was so much preparation and anticipation, it seemed sudden to me when the Chief Justice of The United States Supreme Court administered the oath of office to Mr. Trump and then said simply, “Congratulations, Mr. President.” One man was no longer our president and another man now held that office – again in almost the blink of an eye (or less).

What was true on that level was also true in other branches of our federal government and in a variety of state and local governments. Various elections and appointments on a variety of levels caused “swift transitions.”

On a personal level, when the clock struck midnight on December 31, 2016, I was no longer one of the preachers for the Central church of Christ in Paducah KY. In fact, after over thirty-eight years of preaching, I am now no longer preaching “full-time.” As I type these words, I am still trying to come up with an answer to a question that I’m being asked repeatedly: “How is retirement?” My “stock answer” is that I’m still trying to figure that out.

Again, there was prayer, conversation, planning, anticipation, etc. involved in this decision. Even with all of that being true, from the perspective of looking back on how the events transpired, my “retirement” was/is, indeed, a swift transition.

It seems to me that so many things in life are swift transitions. There is a moment in time when a child is no longer in the mother’s womb to somebody who needs our attention in order to survive. A moment in time is really all it takes for that child to transition to not being formally educated to becoming a student in a public school system or in a home school environment.

Years later, that same child makes the swift transition from being a student to a graduate. He or she may change from being single to being a spouse in what seems like a split second.

The transitions that happen in life involve relationships, geography, employment, age, and a host of other factors. They all seem to be swift.

I have been with members of my own family as they made the transition from time to eternity. I have been with members of other families as they have had the experience of making that transition. I have received those phone calls that inform me of a sudden and unexpected departure from this life. Whenever and however death comes, that last heartbeat and/or breath is a signal to those left behind that there is a transition for which we all need to be prepared.

The Bible speaks of an event that will take place “in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye…” (1 Cor. 15:52). Contrary to the teaching of some, this event will take place without warning and without any subsequent opportunities to change our eternal destiny.

Knowing that, the rest of the first verse of the hymn referred to above contains some valuable, practical, and much-needed admonition:

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


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AUTHOR: Jim Faughn

[Quote] For All You Busy Parents Who are Struggling

SOURCE: For Better or For Kids by Patrick & Ruth Schwenk. (Page 220)

Love, Joy, and Peace

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about these three words – love, joy, and peace. They’ve been on my mind for several different reasons, but at the top of the list is the negativity that I see around me. When you turn on the TV, it’s there. When you shop in Wal-Mart (or any other store), it’s there. When you scroll through Facebook or Twitter or your email, it’s there. When you go to a meeting of any kind, it is often there. Sometimes, even in our homes and in our congregations, it is there. I’m wondering…where is the love, joy, and peace?

If you asked almost anyone around you if they want to have love, joy, and peace in their lives, the answer would undoubtedly be “yes!” And yet, it often doesn’t seem to be displayed in their facial expression or their actions or their speech. What could the problem be?????

I think the Apostle Paul, who was inspired by the Holy Spirit to write the letter to the Galatians, might have addressed this problem for us. In chapter 5 he gives two lists. 

That first list deals with the desires of the flesh which are: “sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity (hatred), strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these” (Gal. 5:19-21 emphasis added). 

Some of those negative people I am often surrounded by, and by whom I’m sometimes influenced, are found in this list. Sometimes we want to pick and choose and make some of those sins worse than others. However, sin is sin, and some of those words describe them (and sometimes me). 

Those words come with a warning attached: “…those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God” (vs. 21).

Thanks be to God that Paul gives another list that begins with those three words I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about – love, joy, peace. It is called the fruit of the Spirit. 

That list begins with love (agape) which is a quality I must have inside of myself if I am going to face a negative and hateful world. I must have a sacrificial love for God and for others if I am to survive.

When that kind of love exists in me, I can’t help but have joy in my life. I remember the words in James 1:2, “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds…” Don’t you think that dealing with negativity on every side could be considered one of those trials we are called upon to endure? Tests and trials in life have a purpose and James goes on to explain that purpose, but I can view those trials in a different way because the love of God dwelling inside of me creates a joy like no other.

But, can we be at peace in a world that seems so full of turmoil? I truly believe we can, when love and joy are dwelling within us. Paul describes it this way, “…the peace of God which surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:7).

So, the next time you are surrounded by negative people or thoughts or words or actions, stop and think about the wonderful fruit the Spirit offers us – love, joy, and peace.


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AUTHOR: Donna Faughn

How to Flood Your Community with the Gospel … for Free

Evangelism takes money. Taking the Gospel to “all creation” (Mark 16:15) simply cannot be done without monetary funds. From supporting preachers to providing materials to helping with benevolent needs, money is needed if we are going to win the world for Christ.

However, not every aspect of taking the Gospel to others costs money. Often, when we think of evangelizing the world, we only see the overwhelming numbers (over 7billion people; costs that could be very high) and we shy away.

May I suggest to you, though, that there are several ways you can flood your community, and even much of the world, with the Gospel without spending a dime? This is not meant to be an exhaustive list, but let me help build your excitement and give you some ideas of ways to reach others for free.

Create and Share Spiritual Content Online. Too many Christians share everything on Facebook or Twitter except the soul-saving message of Christ. They are afraid they will offend someone, so they just share recipes, news from the local school, or silly memes. Considering it is free to share articles, pictures, infographics, podcasts, and other materials online, we should be flooding the Internet with the message of Christ!

Use Facebook Live. I have written before about Periscope, but it seems to me that this medium has been surpassed by Facebook Live. Here’s the thing: Facebook Live is also free and about two billion people log into Facebook every week. Broadcast your sermons at church. Create short devotional videos. Make invitations to special events. It’s all free, and Christians need to be using it! (Trust me, you will be amazed at how many people watch your videos, and it will humble you as you seek to use it for the good of the gospel.)

Never Stop Talking about Jesus. Here’s the thing: the main reason our communities are not flooded with the message of Christ is because His own people are not talking about Him enough! The main way to evangelize the world is to talk up Jesus all the time!!! Never stop asking people to come to services. Never stop asking if someone would like to study the Bible with you (which is also free). Never stop asking if you can pray with someone. Just never stop talking about Jesus!

This post may seem overly simplistic, but it comes from my heart. We live in a time where we have so many things we enjoy. I am so grateful for that!

But, too often, we let these other things take priority in what we share with others and what we talk about with others. We are being too easily distracted from our mission in life, which is to be “ambassadors for Christ” (2 Corinthians 5:20).

We will not win the world for Christ if we are not talking Him up. Yes, it will take money to win the world, but it starts with a motivation that the absolute number one thing I am going to talk about and share with this world is the message of Christ, and nothing is going to distract me from that.

Let’s flood our communities with the saving message of Christ. After all, what could possibly be a better message to share?


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AUTHOR: Adam Faughn

Why Believing in Jesus is Not Enough

Jesus said near the end of the Sermon on the Mount:
“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven.  Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’” (Matthew 7:21-23)
Jesus went on to finish His sermon by telling the parable of the wise and foolish builders. The moral explained in the parable is plain. It is not alone enough to hear what Jesus says. It is necessary both to hear His words and do them. What Jesus had just stated previously about calling on His name at the judgment scene was basically addressing this same point. It is simply not enough to merely believe in Jesus.
It has always been very hard for me to understand why many in the religious world have taught that the affirmation of Christ’s identity could alone save the sinner. John 7 reveals that many of the Jewish leaders believed in Jesus but did not obey Him, and were thus not His disciples. James 2 also points out that the demons believe in God and tremble, but their works are the works of the devil. During Jesus’ earthly ministry the devil’s angles regularly recognized that Jesus was the Son of God. But this did not ever imply that they were following Him.
Christ’s words about those who call on His name are quite the show stopper. Jesus is saying that many people accept His identity as Lord, but few personally make Him Lord. The only way we can prove that Jesus is the Master of our lives is through humble obedience – hence Jesus’ other statement at the end of this same sermon – “Why do you call Me, ‘Lord, Lord’ and do not do the things which I say?” (Luke 6:46).
For some reason, when the church today preaches what Jesus preached about obedience we are labeled as those who believe in “works salvation.” Such could not be further from the case. We are saved by grace, through faith, and that not of ourselves it is the gift of God (Eph. 2:8). Doing the will of God does not mean that we don’t believe in grace. It means we DO believe in grace. In doing the will of God we prove our love to God for His grace by submitting to His better and higher will for us. In obeying the words of Jesus we are simply being faithful disciples and by our actions He knows and we know that He is truly the Lord of our lives.
It makes absolutely no sense for anyone to think that the can call Jesus, “Lord” – and then live as they want, worship as they want, or do anything else for that matter the way that they individually want to do them. If we are not willing to submit to Jesus and obey Him – then the Bible has no true purpose, and the death, burial, and resurrection of God’s only Son hasn’t taught us a thing.
Christianity is not that complicated. Love Jesus. Listen to Jesus. Believe in Jesus. Know Jesus. Obey Jesus. Live like Jesus. Don’t do certain things. Do all of these things. And when you are done at the end of each day doing all of these to the very best of your feeble human ability, give glory to God.
“His lord said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant; you were faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.’” – Matthew 25:21
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__________ Where They Are

Most who read this will be very familiar with the account of the conversion of the man who has come to be known as “the Ethiopian eunuch.” If you are not familiar with that material, you may want to read it in Acts 8:26-40.

I was sitting in a Bible class recently in which a very good point was made about these events. The observation was made that Philip began his conversation with the eunuch by asking him whether or not he understood what he was reading (v. 30). This passage was compared to other cases of conversion recorded in Acts. It was also compared to people who have been brought to Christ in our present day. 

The point which was made was this: in order to teach somebody what they need to know in order to become a Christian, we need to –

begin where they are.

The “where they are” in this case refers to a person’s understanding. 

What good would it do to point out some biblical truth to somebody who has never heard of a Bible or who does not believe the Bible to be the inspired word of God? With such a person, it would be wise to establish the existence and validity of the Bible before any further study could be done.

What if a person did not know or understand the significance of the Bible having two major divisions? Would it not be wise to begin to try to establish that?

What about some basic biblical words? Wouldn’t it be a good idea to take the time to try to help a person understand such words as church, baptism, redemption, remission, and others?

There are many ways that this principle can be applied. Indeed, it is very important to try to establish where a person is in his or her understanding and to begin there.

As I listened to that discussion, another thought came to my mind. Philip was told this by an angel: “Rise and go toward the south to the road that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza. This is a desert place” (v. 26).

That verse is not about understanding. It is about location or geography. It informs and challenges me. It tells me that, in order for me to teach somebody what they need to know in order to become a Christian, I also need to –

be where they are.

As I reflect on my nearly four decades of “full-time preaching,” I have a few memories of people “walking the aisle” at the conclusion of one of my sermons. I have a lot fewer memories of somebody showing up in my office and expressing a desire to become a Christian.

I have more – many more – memories of relationships that were formed and/or strengthened in family rooms, hospital rooms, funeral homes, restaurants, and other such places. Yes, some of those other places might be considered to be a “desert place,” but they were places that had the same result as the result about which we read in Acts 8:

“… they both went down into the water,

Philip and the eunuch, and he baptized him” (v. 38).

It seems to me that “bottom line” is this:

We need to be where they are in order to begin where they are.


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AUTHOR: Jim Faughn

Episode 75: Leah Goes to Louisville, 3 Things We Put on Every Month’s Calendar, Parents: Don’t be Fearful, and More! [Podcast]

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In episode 75 of the podcast, Adam and Leah talk about an upcoming homeschool retreat Leah will be speaking at. They also talk about three things they put on every month’s calendar. For quite awhile, they talk about a great article (link below) that helps parents see that do not need to fear; they just need to parent.

Oh, and both Adam and Leah forget what the capital of Kentucky is. We hope you enjoy this week’s episode.

Resource

Print-A-Calendar (for March 2017)

Dear Younger Me: About All Those Things You Fear [Hip Homeschool Moms]

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Legacy Recipe: Festive Chicken and Rice [Free Printable]

I was going through some old file folders of recipes the other day and came across one of my favorites that my mother used to make. I love the feeling that I get when that happens because it takes me back in time and I can remember how the dish looked on the table as we gathered to eat supper.

I hope you will enjoy it as well. It’s delish!

FESTIVE CHICKEN AND RICE

1 box long grain and wild rice

3 pounds of chicken pieces (I use 1 whole chicken cut up, but a pkg. of legs and thighs would work)

1 can whole berry cranberry sauce

3 Tbs. butter

2 Tbs. soy sauce

1 Tbs. lemon juice

½ cup sliced blanched almonds

Heat oven to 325 degrees.

Sprinkle rice evenly in a buttered baking dish (9×13)

Sprinkle contents of seasoning packet over rice.

Arrange chicken pieces on rice.

Combine cranberry sauce, butter, soy sauce and lemon juice in a medium sauce pan, and heat over medium heat, stirring constantly until cranberry sauce and butter are melted.

Pour over chicken.

Cover with foil and bake for 1 hour and 10 minutes.

Uncover and sprinkle with almonds.

Bake uncovered another 10 minutes or until rice and chicken are tender and almonds are lightly browned.

Makes 6 servings.

To view or print a FREE recipe card, just click on the image below. We hope you enjoy!