What If I Am Wrong?

I may be wrong about my religion. It’s hard to grasp or even fathom seeing as how I pray every day. I read the Bible. I worship faithfully. I’ve been raised to know Jesus. I have always wanted to please God. I believe I love Him with all of my heart. Yet, at the end of the day, it is possible that I might be wrong about some things.
Now if you ask my friends they will all say that as long as I mean well and I am trying my best that is all that God requires. The preacher on television keeps telling me that as long as I am a good person and I believe in Jesus and I give to charity and I am kind to my fellow man that God will bless me. I read the paper and watch the news and I am involved in social media and they are all saying that really nothing anybody does is wrong: It’s just up to personal choices. So maybe my concern about my wrongness has no merit…maybe it’s just something I’ve concocted in my brain.
But here is the problem. I have been wrong before. I know so much more now than I once knew. In studying God’s word I have seen where I have been wrong about doctrine. In studying church history I have learned about the origins of some Christian groups and their teachings. In looking at what I have been exposed to, I have seen inconsistencies in what I have been taught. I have discovered that some of what I have been doing is more human tradition than holy commandment. I have also learned that on some very core issues different teachings exist and everyone cannot be right.
And then there are the examples I read about from some of the most outstanding people in the Bible. Moses, David, Peter, Paul – all at times were wrong. Moses let pride get the best of him. David allowed a temptation to nearly ruin his life. Peter, as an apostle, was a hypocrite in front of the Gentiles. And Paul, well before he became an apostle his religion was just completely wrong altogether! But I know these men loved God. They were just mistaken and needed to change. They learned the hard way until they learned the right way. I am confident that I am no better than these great men.
So here is where I find myself: Determined to have an open mind every day about my relationship with God. Determined to know God’s word and obey it, even if it is in conflict with my current beliefs and practices. Determined to listen to others concerning what they understand and practice themselves and why so that I might learn from them. Determined not to allow my family’s religious tradition and practice define who I am and what I believe. Determined to have a heart for God that is equally balanced with a knowledge and adherence to the truth. Determined not to be troubled by a new discovery of God’s will that conflicts with the one I am currently following. Determined that this journey will be not one of fear but of power and love and of a sound mind. Determined to please God and God alone.
I am learning because of God’s grace that everyone is wrong, and regularly so. We are human. We are weak. Therefore we are all wrong at times. God has allowed for it because He knows our frame. But God has also overcome it through the cross. The cross is what reminds me that I am often wrong. But it also reminds me that I don’t have to stay that way.
It is only when I see the cross that I truly see Jesus. I see Him hanging there. I see the consequences of my wrongness. And I am ready now to change.
“And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” – Romans 12:2
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Encouraging Or Hindering

It is very rare to find an individual who does not appreciate the prayers of others for them. There have been a few times over the years when I have run into people like that, but those occasions are very rare.

As one who has, in the past, preached full-time and as one who continues to try to serve as an elder in a local congregation, I can assure you that men who serve in either one or both of those capacities appreciate the prayers of their brothers and sisters more than they might be able to express. I have been encouraged over the years by people who will let me know that they include me and my work in their daily, personal prayers. It is humbling to know that people think enough of a local congregation and of those who serve in various capacities in that congregation to include them (us) as they address the Father. 

It is also encouraging when men lead a public prayer and include in that prayer a petition for the elders of a local congregation. I am blessed to be a part of a congregation in which this happens on a regular basis.

Recently, one of our men led a prayer that expressed a thought I’m not sure I’d ever heard before in a public or a private prayer. As soon as he finished leading us in prayer, I took out my phone and typed in that thought so that I wouldn’t forget it. As he prayed for the elders, he expressed the desire that:

“…we (the congregation) will be an encouragement and not a hindrance to them (the elders).”

That thought has been on my mind ever since our brother first expressed it. I have thought of countless ways by which members of a local church can (and many do) encourage elders. Those who live godly, dedicated, productive Christian lives can be (and are) a source of encouragement to those who serve as shepherds of God’s people. 

Sadly, “the other side of the coin” is also true. There are those who are sporadic in their attendance at worship services and other opportunities for spiritual growth; who are, at best, half-hearted in their dedication; and whose only “contribution” to the local congregation may be that they see themselves as the self-appointed church critic.

It should be obvious that elders would be discouraged about and disappointed with somebody who may not be truly converted; who is apathetic about serving the Lord; and whose only “contribution” to a congregation is negative. It should also be obvious that such people would discourage and disappoint many others; including those who may not be in a “leadership position.”

While all of that is true, our brother did not use “discouragement” or “disappointment” as he led us in prayer. Rather, the word he chose was “hindrance.”

It is of interest to me that the prayer was not primarily about the hindrance of the local congregation and/or of the cause of Christ throughout the world. Our brother’s concern as expressed in the prayer was that the elders might not be hindered.

It would be tempting at this point to begin a list of all of the possible ways that an individual elder or an entire eldership could be hindered by members of a local congregation. I suppose that the extreme of this would be the occasions when and elder’s own spirituality is hindered to the point that he “throws in the towel.” Sadly, some good men have given up on serving as shepherds because their own faith and growth was severely hindered. 

It is tragic that, in some communities, it is even possible to find men who were “drastically hindered.” At one time, these men were faithful to the Lord. They served His people by being one of the shepherds of a local congregation. 

Now, neither of those statements is true. They are no longer serving as elders. The pressure was too much. Along with that, they are also no longer faithful to the Lord. Not only have they lost interest in the souls of others, they’ve lost interest in their own souls.

I fully understand that each of us must give an account for our own actions (cf. 2 Cor. 5:10). I also fully understand that a valid argument could be made that something must be lacking in men who would abandon the Lord because of the behavior of others. 

At the same time, I would not want to be in the position of a person who would hinder, in any way, anybody who is trying to serve the Lord in any capacity. I would hope that I would be seen as one who encourages and who does not hinder.

Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you (Heb. 13:17, ESV, emphasis added).


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AUTHOR: Jim Faughn

Episode 76: Reflections on Louisville, Dealing with Entertainment Choices, You Can Get Your Family to Worship on Time, and More! [Podcast]

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On this week’s podcast, Adam and Leah talk about some recent goings-on, they discuss how Christians can deal with entertainment choices, and encourage families with tips to get ready for worship.

Plus, they talk a little college basketball. It is March, after all!

Resources below.

Links

Is Genesis History? [Homepage]

To Go or Not to Go…” [Amber Tatum; A Legacy of Faith]

6 Tips for Getting to Church On Time” [Of the Hearth]

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To Go or Not to Go…

To go or not to go?

That seems to be the question of the day lately. There are two movies causing quite a stir on my Facebook newsfeed so I would assume some of the rest of you are seeing the discussions as well.

This article is not going to address whether or not I am planning to see either movie. It is not going to address anything that will help you decide whether or not to see either movie. In fact, despite the name of the article, it is not about whether anyone attends either movie.

What I would like for us to consider here is the image we, as Christians, are portraying as we have these discussions about to go or not to go. Some feel very strongly about not supporting one or the other of these films. Others feel just as strongly that there is nothing wrong with one or both of the films. I am afraid that, as people try to argue for a viewpoint where they are trying to make a stand for truth or morality, they are actually damaging the bride of Christ simply by not tempering their words and attitudes.

I am pleading with brothers and sisters in Christ to be aware that the world is watching us as we have these discussions. They are watching for hypocrisy in the viewpoints expressed. They are watching for the attitude being displayed.

Remember, that we are to be the “light of the world” (Matthew 5:14). Paul told Timothy to remember to “…set … an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity” (1 Timothy 4:12). Paul also warned the Corinthian church against such things as “quarreling, jealousy, anger, hostility, slander, gossip, conceit, and disorder” (2 Corinthians 12:20, emphasis added).

Beyond those warnings, we have the admonition of Christ in John 13:35 that “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” By all means, stay true to your convictions and don’t compromise your conscience, but be careful that as you are speaking the truth, you are doing so “in love” (Ephesians 4:15).


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AUTHOR: Amber Tatum

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