You Don’t Have to be Famous to Have True Influence

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In the past 9 days, I have spoken at two funerals. The two services were for two ladies who meant a lot to me. One was in Nashville, and the other in Haleyville. It was a high honor to be asked to speak at each of the services, and in reflecting on the lives of these ladies, I was reminded of a powerful principle that every Christian needs to have in mind throughout our life.

See, unless you were near to these ladies, you probably would not have known of their passing. Their deaths did not make national news. No radio talk show is going to talk for hours about the impact on the world or on the national scene caused by their deaths.

No, they weren’t famous. But their influence will be felt for a long time to come.

We live in a time where people think you have to be famous to have influence. Certainly, those with a large platform (celebrities, politicians, and so forth) have influence. But when a celebrity dies or a politician is voted out of office, how many people really are touched by that change? Typically, it is not too many.

But when someone like these two sweet ladies leave this life and enter their eternal reward, their influence lives on. People are deeply hurt because there is a void. Their home is not the same. Their churches are not the same. Their daily routine is not the same. For a long time to come, even mundane decisions and actions seem different, because that person is not there.

Christians, I beg all of us to not worry about how large our platform is. We need to quit buying into the celebrity culture. (You know, the one that says, “If only *this* celebrity would become a Christian. That would change everything!”)

Instead, we need to shine our light and be the salt of the earth that Jesus said we are. More than likely, you are who you are today because of people who are not famous, but because someone simply took the time to love and encourage you.

These two sweet sisters did that, person by person, for years. So, they are missed, and will be for a long time to come.

But their influence will live on, too. It’s not the kind of power or fame that the world says we all need to seek. Instead, it is true influence, because it leads people closer to things that are eternal. In the end, that’s what really matters, and it is what we all need to seek.

“You are the salt of the earth…You are the light of the world.”

(Matthew 5:13, 14)


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AUTHOR: Adam Faughn

Photo background credit: Don LaVange on Creative Commons

Have You Said That You Were Sorry?

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This past weekend I received a random text from a number that my phone did not recognize. Here’s what it said, “I’m sorry for everything that happened. I just wanted to wish you and your family a happy holiday season.”
This text message literally took my breath away. Who was it from? To what were they referring? I immediately tried to think about anything that had happened that was bad over the last several years. Fortunately, I could not come up with anything I personally had done to hurt someone that was so significant that I would have to have a conversation about it.
As I learned of who had texted and the reason for the comment, I was reminded of several truths about life:
1. Sometimes we struggle in relationships. Feelings get hurt. People get mistreated. We can be the giver or the receiver of these troubles. We don’t enter into any kind of friendship or relationship because we plan on making mistakes along the way. But we will make mistakes. We will need to forgive and to be forgiven.
2. Decisions we make have long-term consequences. This person was contacting me over something they were sorry about that happened a long time ago and over a period of years. The fact that I did not have their number saved in my phone would indicate that we no longer had a close personal relationship. Sometimes when we have conflicts there is no easy resolution and it may lead to someone we care about just not being as close to us as we would have liked for them to be.
3. It’s never too late to ask for forgiveness. This person sent me this message because they had a burden they were carrying they needed to lay down. Jesus taught his disciples to forgive every single time a person asks for forgiveness. This is what God does for us. We should be thankful whenever someone asks for our forgiveness. I was thankful that when I received the message, I couldn’t think of anyone I was in conflict with. I couldn’t think of anyone I had not already forgiven.
4. We should be sad that wounds happen. Whether we are the one who has caused the wound or not, what overwhelmed me about this text was the very idea that I could ever have a conflict in my life that might cause another person pain and heartache. It should be our aim to love everyone and to get along with them as much as depends on us.
What at first was a random text out of the blue turned into a blessing, because somebody expressed something that they believe needed to be said. Life is short. So tell people what’s on your heart. Repent of anything that you may have done to disobey God or to hurt someone else. You will find that there is peace in finding the strength to say you are sorry. Pride solves nothing. A humble and contrite heart is what God is seeking in each and every one of us.
“The Lord is near to those who have a broken heart, and saves such as have a contrite spirit.”
 – Psalms 34:18
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Thanksgiving…For the Wrong Reasons

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It is not an original idea to suggest that thanksgiving should be much more than a holiday. All people would be much better off and the world would be a much better place if an “attitude of gratitude” would be the norm. This should especially be true of a person who wears the name of Christ and is truly trying to follow Him. 

As I was thinking about the upcoming holiday and, more importantly, about the mindset that should be ours, my mind went to a passage where gratitude was expressed. It was even expressed to God. Sadly, however, it was expressed for all of the wrong reasons.

The passage that came to mind is Luke 18:9-14. No doubt you are familiar with this account that begins this way: “Two men went up to the temple to pray…” (v. 10).

As you recall, the Pharisee began his prayer with these words: “…God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector” (v. 11). At this point in his prayer, he began telling God about some of his good qualities. 

I’m wondering how many of us have expressed gratitude for similar things. Our gratitude may focus on what we have accomplished, how we are thought of, and so on. 

This “misfocused gratitude” may be a problem for an individual, a family, a nation, or even a congregation of people who claim to be loyal to and follow the Savior. Our focus cannot be on us (either individually or collectively). Our focus must be on our Lord and the wonderful salvation that is available in Him.

If we ever fall into the trap of thinking that we can be good enough, moral enough, or productive enough to “earn” our salvation and spend eternity with Jesus, we might want to consider the following passage (and many others like it):

But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, He saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to His own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by His grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life (Titus 3:4-7, ESV).

Then, we have thanksgiving, for the right reason.


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Episode 67: Our 2016 “Thankful List” [Podcast]

(Player not displaying or working? Click here.)

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With Thanksgiving right around the corner, our little family sat around and counted our blessings. There is no way we could share a full list of all the ways in which God blesses us, so instead, we made a list of 16 blessings from 2016.

Below is the list, or you can listen along as Leah, Mary Carol, and Turner all join me for this podcast.

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Our 16 Things

  1. Getting Spot
  2. Time with our cousins (including cousin’s camp)
  3. Vacation to Chattanooga
  4. Painting the living room
  5. Pumpkin patch trip (with covered bridge)
  6. A good school year
  7. Time with grandparents
  8. Doing better going on dates
  9. Getting a new Bible
  10. Getting to know friends better
  11. Our new car
  12. Working on Lads to Leaders (finishing 100 verses)
  13. Our garden
  14. Learning about canning
  15. Junior camper awards at Maywood
  16. Mary Carol becoming a Christian

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Thanksgiving Ribbons: A 5-Minute Project to Help Make Thanksgiving Memorable

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Next week, we will celebrate a national day of Thanksgiving. So today, to help you prepare, I would like to share a simple idea that our family did a few years ago that really made Thanksgiving more meaningful. And it only takes about five minutes!

Ours looked something like this, only with questions written on the ribbon.

The ribbon we chose looked something like this burlap.

Before Thanksgiving, we bought some wide ribbon and wrote various questions on the ribbon with a Sharpie. (Make sure the ribbon is wide enough to write on, and thick enough so the Sharpie doesn’t bleed through.) Some questions were fairly simple and some were more contemplative. We then tied the ribbon around napkins and placed them at each plate. By the way, we were careful to place the simple questions at the kids’ places at the table.

After the meal, we simply went around the table and everyone answered his or her question. Some of the questions included:

Who is one person you are thankful for this year?

What is one event you were thankful for this year?

What is one event this year where you saw God’s providence in your life?

This is a great way to generate some meaningful conversation. In fact, some family members wanted a chance to answer someone else’s question even after answering their own!

Now I am not a crafty person, but this is one of those projects that even I can do. It’s also one that could be made to be really pretty, too, and add a lot to your Thanksgiving table. It is my hope that this will help you and your family have a wonderful holiday, one that is full of true thanksgiving.

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AUTHOR: Leah Faughn

Make Baptisms Special Moments

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[Disclaimer: The “idea credit” for this post goes to David Shannon. At Polishing the Pulpit 2016, he spoke on a very similar topic as this post, and the concepts have been rolling around in my mind ever since.]

Someone steps out into the aisle during the invitation song. This is the moment of their decision to put Christ on in baptism.

Eternity is changed for that person. The old passes away in those waters, and a new creation comes forth, cleansed by the blood of Jesus.

And, as they go to a small room to dry off, someone gets up into the pulpit and announces, “Don’t forget to bring some canned peaches for the pantry tonight.”

Really?

Have we forgotten the glorious moment it is when someone decides to put Christ on in baptism? Absolutely nothing should detract from that moment. Church leaders should act like it has happened before, not like we have no idea how to handle it.

More than that, though, it should be a time of celebration. The whole congregation should be moved to praise and joy.

How can we do that? Here are a few suggestions.

Sing Appropriate Songs While You Wait (Before and After)

As the person is getting changed into proper garments, what better way to prepare than to sing “In Christ Alone,” “Victory in Jesus,” “The River,” or “O Happy Day”?

It might be a good idea for a congregation to have a list of song titles and song book numbers listed somewhere on/in the pulpit, so the song leader does not have to go searching. Other congregations have a certain “set” of songs, ready at the press of a button, to display on PowerPoint, so there is no waiting.

As soon as the person comes up out of the water, what better way to honor that moment than to burst forth in a similar song, such as “A New Creature” or “God’s Family”?

God’s people are known as singing people and if anything should cause us to sing, it is when one becomes a Christian.

Pause for a Special Prayer

I especially like to do this when someone is baptized and it is not at a worship service. Maybe there are only a handful of people in the building (or at the poolside at camp, or wherever). How special it is to that new Christian for an elder or a preacher to lead everyone in a focused, special prayer on their behalf!

Pray thanking God for His goodness and the plan He put in place through His Son. Praise God for His mercy, forgiveness, and loving kindness. Pray for this new Christian’s zeal. Pray for them as they now face a world that will not stand with them in their faith.

Spread the Word

We take lots of pictures of baptisms and post them to Facebook. In an idea I have adapted from a friend of mine, we “hashtag” all of them with #OneMore. The reason is because this is what the Church exists to do! If someone becoming a Christian is not worth sharing with the world, then what is?

Further, make sure that, if you have a weekly bulletin, the front page news is that person’s conversion. It truly is “front page worthy!”

Continue the Good News

At 9th Avenue, we present each new Christian with a new Bible as soon as we can get the Bible imprinted with that person’s name. Typically, it is the next Sunday, but sometimes it takes two weeks. Whoever is preaching (myself or our youth minister) presents these at the beginning of our sermon, because we want this to be at a “focused” time of our assembly.

Other congregations have regular dinners for new converts or other ways to continue the celebration in subsequent weeks or months. Whatever it takes, use this person’s decision as a powerful motivator, both for them, as well as for the congregation.

Conclusion

The point to this whole article is this: we must make sure that, when someone becomes a Christian, it is not a “run-of-the-mill” moment. It is time to celebrate. It is time to spread the Word.

After all, that person has allowed Christ to save them and change their eternal destiny. How can we ever treat that as common? Let’s vow to honor and celebrate these eternity-changing moments.


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AUTHOR: Adam Faughn

Photo credit: Stevan Sheets on Creative Commons

Investing for Evangelism and Edification

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At about this time of year or earlier, leaders in various congregations are involved in working on a budget for the next year. What “line items” would you include for us? How much should be budgeted for each one? What about your own individual or family budget?

It seems to me that there is a tendency to begin thinking that evangelism and/or edification is merely a matter of making the right purchases (or as good salespeople like to say – “investments”). A particular speaker, book, seminar, DVD series, etc. would be just what is needed. If we just “invest” wisely, we will experience tremendous growth in numbers and in our individual and collective spirituality – or so we think.

To be sure, all of us want to make wise purchases. As we peruse a variety of catalogues, exhibits, or online resources, none of us would want to spend money on anything that would violate the scriptures. We would want something that would meet God’s approval and, at the same time, meet our needs in these areas.

I would like to suggest a couple of investments that are absolutely vital. Without them, there will be no evangelism. Without them, there will be no edification. Without them, we will not be doing the Lord’s will, regardless of whatever else we do.

Unless we make an investment of time, we are wasting money with all of the other things on which we may be spending money. Why would we spend money on a good tool for evangelism and never use that tool to convert anybody? Why invest in a library, a course, etc. that is intended to help me or somebody else grow as a Christian and leave that resource in the packaging or on a shelf?

That suggestion is closely related to a second suggestion. That investment of time, needs to be coupled with an investment in the lives of others. It should go without saying that evangelism requires interaction with other people. While it is important for me to be concerned about my own edification, I am being more than a little selfish if I am not concerned about the edification of others as well. 

Without all of the modern resources we have at our disposal, the early church grew. It grew in numbers and in devotion as individual members (not merely the apostles) spent time in prayer and in proclamation of the Word of God.

They made some very wise investments. It is my prayer that we will follow their example.


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[Quote] Thomas B. Warren on the Value of Suffering

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SOURCE: Our Loving God: Our Sun and Shield by Thomas B. Warren. (page 44)

How Great Thou Art!

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O Lord My God!

When I in awesome wonder

Consider all the worlds Thy hands have made,

I see the stars, I hear the rolling thunder,

Thy power throughout the universe displayed,

When through the woods and forest glades I wander

And hear the birds sing sweetly in the trees;

When I look down from lofty mountain grandeur

And hear the brook and feel the gentle breeze;

Jim and I have recently come back from what we considered to be a dream vacation. We traveled to the West into states we had flown over, but never really seen. We had seen pictures of the Rocky Mountains, Mt. Rushmore, the Badlands, and Pikes’ Peak, but we had not seen them with our own eyes…until a short time ago.

I can’t tell you how many times the words to the song I have shared above came to my mind while touring some of these destinations. The beauty that surrounded us was almost overwhelming. The majestic snowcapped mountain peaks, the beautiful waterfalls, the stark rock formations, the clear lakes surrounded by pine trees, and even the small homesteads we saw surrounded by trees to block the wind all made me think of my Creator.

When I thought about my Creator, I was reminded of the rest of that beautiful song:

And when I think that God, His Son not sparing,

Sent Him to die, I scarce can take it in;

That on the cross, my burden gladly bearing,

He bled and died to take away my sin.

When Christ shall come with shout of acclamation

And take me home, what joy shall fill my heart!

Then I shall bow in humble adoration

And there proclaim, my God, how great Thou art!

Does the beauty of creation ever cause you to recognize the majesty of God and wonder how such a powerful Father could at the same time extend His love for you in such an intimate, loving way? If so, maybe your soul would join my soul in singing the beautiful chorus:

Then sings my soul, my Savior God to Thee;

How great Thou art, how great Thou art!

Then sings my soul, my Savior God to Thee; 

How great Thou art, how great Thou art!


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Counting Everything but Loss

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One of my favorite hymns is “There’s a Royal Banner.” It is a wonderful song, meant to instill in Christians a reminder that Christ has already won the victory, so we must go out and do our work to win others, and to do so at all cost.

In the chorus of the song, though, some sing the wrong lyrics. Recently, I have sung the song a few times, and noticed that–with the lyrics to one line correct or incorrect–there is a powerful message.

Incorrect Lyric, but a Powerful Truth

Some sing, “For Christ counts everything but loss.”

Now, we’ll get to what the actual words are in a moment, but isn’t that “mis-singing” still true? My Lord did count all things but loss, and did so for my sake!

“The Word became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:14). Of course, “the Word was God” (1:1). That God became flesh is powerful enough to show us His love.

Beyond that, though, Jesus gave up so much when He came to this earth. In a passage that I simply cannot read to often, Paul reminded Christians to be humble, and to do so, used Jesus as the ultimate and perfect example:

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though He was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made Himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. (Philippians 2:5-8)

Jesus gave up equality with God in order to not just come to earth, but to become a servant! It is right to say that our Lord counted everything but loss. If that doesn’t make you love Him even more, I’m not sure what would!

Correct Lyrics, and a Powerful Reminder

What the chorus of the song actually says is, “For Christ count everything but loss.”

In other words, when we give ourselves to the Lord, we need to count everything else as secondary. Following the Lord becomes our focus.

Interestingly, we find the same teaching in the same letter from Paul, the book of Philippians. In chapter 3, he wrote about his heritage as a Jew and how he stood out in that religion. After listing all those past accomplishments, he penned these powerful words:

But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For His sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ. (3:7-8)

Everything else–our accomplishments and accolades–pale in comparison to what we have in Jesus. We should count them as loss for His sake.

Conclusion

It is an humbling thought that Jesus counted all things but loss, and that He did so for my sake. He gave up heaven in order to save my soul.

If that is true, can I not count all things for loss for His sake? I am giving up so little in comparison to what He gave up for me.

Over land and sea, wherever man may dwell,

Make the glorious tidings known;

Of the crimson banner now the story tell,

While the Lord shall claim His own.

Marching on and on! Marching on and on!

For Christ count everything but loss,

And to crown Him King, we’ll toil and sing

Beneath the banner of the cross.


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AUTHOR: Adam Faughn