How to Select the Right Church

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Make no mistake, in the midst of a culture where fewer and fewer people are desirous of organized religion, there are still people searching for the right church. Several times in the last week, whether in conversation, social media, or otherwise, I have come into contact with people who are trying to make a decision about where they will worship and abide in a local body of believers.

We need to be careful about calling “church-shopping” self-centered. After all, we have all been looking at one time or another. Perhaps we moved to a new city. Maybe we had to leave an unresolvable spiritual problem in the congregation in which we had been serving. Maybe Bible study helped us to reject human traditions and simply follow the pattern of Biblical teaching. Let’s face it, if the only reason we are worshiping where we are is because of our ancestors we may not possess our own personal faith. We cannot be afraid to challenge our thinking. If we believe the Bible is the word of God then we need to trust it enough to take us where God wants us to go. And none of us would be so bold as to think we have nothing to learn!

So here are some God-given, Biblical principles for how to make the right decision about church:

1. Does it use the Bible as its only guide over spiritual matters? The standard by which true faith is to be measured is divine. It is found in the word of God (Romans 10:17). The true church teaches that the word has all authority and is inerrant. This will lead the individual to absolute truth (John 8:31-32). In reality, it is not the church that chooses the Bible, but the Bible that chooses the church. The Bible is the mind of God in human language. The only way we can know we are pleasing God in the church is through a study of what God has on His mind (1 Corinthians 2:9-13).

2. Does it teach the plan of salvation correctly? This is where it all begins. We cannot go to heaven and have salvation wrong. God is the one who adds people to His church in the universal sense (Acts 2:47). He is the one who has called us into fellowship (1 Corinthians 1:9). He is not adding people by different methods. In our confused postmodern world, a person could visit 50 churches, ask what to do to be saved, and get 50 different answers! So we must get back to the book. There is a pattern for salvation in the New Testament. The true church of Jesus Christ will not walk away from the plan.

3. Is Jesus the only and ultimate head of the church? Jesus said He was going to build His church (Matthew 16:16-18). And yet we have so many churches that glorify men and not God. They have human founders and modern-day “prophets.” They have human creeds and man-made rules and traditions. Some even have earthly headquarters or governing bodies made up of fallible humans. They have fathers and reverends and exalted mediators. But the true church has no Father but Jehovah, no Lord and Mediator but Jesus Christ, and no Spirit except the Holy Spirit who has once and for all delivered the faith to the saints (Jude 3; 2 Peter 1:20-21). There can be no Head over the church other than the Christ who purchased it (Acts 20:28; Ephesians 1:22-23; Colossians 1:18).

4. Does it worship according to the New Testament? This is so important! The church that Jesus built worshiped differently than the Israelites (Hebrews 8:6, 13). Just as there is an exclusive way to be saved (John 14:6; Acts 2:38), there is an exclusive way to worship Jehovah. Worship is for God. While mankind benefits from worship, true worship is not about talent, or aesthetics, or anything that is derived from the human perspective of what we may deem acceptable. Just because we attempt worship doesn’t mean God has to accept it. He is God. We are not. The true church will worship God according to His commandments and with the right attitude (John 4:24; 14:15).

5. Is it loving? Jesus said others would know we are His disciples by our love for one another (John 13:34-35). He commanded His followers to love each other the way that He loved mankind. What a task! And yet, what an opportunity! Even if a local body teaches the doctrine correctly, and checks all the Christianity boxes, if there is no love, they are nothing (1 Corinthians 13:1-3). The church should love God supremely, and love others as they love themselves (Matthew 22:37-39). Jesus said that the entirety of the law and prophets rested upon these two principles. The true church will find a balance between a love for doctrine and a love that extends the grace and favor of God in spite of human weakness and sin. It will not be selective in its love, but will extend the same love to all people, no matter their spiritual or physical condition.

Jesus is the Savior of the body (Ephesians 5:23). The body is the church (Ephesians 1:22-23; Colossians 1:18). When Jesus returns He is only going to take people to heaven who are in the body, His church. So yes, you not only need to select the right church, you need to be a part of it. It is absolutely and eternally necessary. May God be with you in your search!

“Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen.” – Ephesians 3:21

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What Would Your Name Be?

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Some of us “of a certain age” remember a particular movie that was made years ago in which the title of the movie and the name of the main character were the same: Dances With Wolves. The main character in the movie was given that name by some Indians. They observed his actions with a particular wolf that he befriended (and that had befriended him). It appeared to the Indians that the man and the wolf were dancing, so the man “earned” the name Dances with Wolves.

I’m wondering what our names would be if people just observed my actions and gave me what they considered to be an appropriate name.

As a teacher calls the roll in class, I’m wondering if some of the students have “earned’ one or more of the following names: Cheats On Tests; Welcomes New Students; Copies Everybody’s Homework; Tells On Classmates; Polite To Teachers: Helpful With Others; Dresses Immodestly; Tells Dirty Jokes; etc.

The man in the film was an adult, so maybe we could wait until adulthood to “assign” a name. What would yours be? Here are some possibilities: Faithful To Spouse; Curses When Angry; Encouraging To Everybody; Gossips With Friends; Loyal To Employer; Asset To Community; Sleeps Through Sermons; Puts Self First; Cheats On Taxes; etc.

I guess this would not be the best idea. After all, we could be wrong in our perceptions about others. The Indians were wrong about the man in the movie. What looked to them like dancing was not dancing at all.

On the other hand, we should remember that our actions will determine something more important than our name. The One whose perception is totally accurate will announce our eternal destiny based on what He has observed as we have lived our lives on earth.

It seems to me that I should live so as to be known by something like: Prays Without Ceasing; Ready To Every Good Work; Worships In Spirit and Truth; Faithful Unto Death; or some other similar “name.”

What about you?

What would your name be?

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How Lads to Leaders Can Help Families

[Editors note: This week’s guest post comes to us from Ben Giselbach. You can learn more about Ben at the conclusion of today’s article.]

The oldest and most important institution is the home, and the biggest responsibility of parents is to raise their children right (Deuteronomy 6:20-25). Ever since God charged parents to instill in them a love for God and His Word (cf. Ephesians 6:4), parents have asked, “What is the best way to do this?”

Well, do you know the best way to teach your children to love God and His Word? I suppose we could spend hours combing the web for advice on how to teach our children. And we would find as much a diversity of opinions as we would blog posts on the subject. I’m not offering a ‘magic pill’ on how to raise Godly children, but I do want to share with you how Lads to Leaders can be an effective tool in helping parents in their responsibility to raise children in the Lord. There are no gimmicks to the program – it simply provides a structured way of teaching God’s Word to our young people.

What Is Lads to Leaders?

Lads to Leaders is the oldest and largest training program used by churches of Christ. Just as publications like the Gospel Advocate provide books and articles, and evangelism tools like House to House provide sound materials for teaching, Lads to Leaders provides curriculum and a teaching framework that elderships can adapt for their respective congregations.

With a modest beginning in 1968, Lads to Leaders has grown into a program that offers up to 38 events in which churches can participate. From teaching boys how to lead songs and prepare sermons, to teaching girls how to teach Bible classes and to be loving keepers at home, L2L has a wide range of activities in which parents and churches can elect to participate.

Here are some ways L2L can specifically benefit your own home:

Material For Family Bible Time

We know it is our primary responsibility as parents, not the church, to teach our children God’s Word. Yet parents often feel challenged by their own knowledge of the Bible to regularly teach every day in their homes. L2L offers a wide range of curriculum that can offer plenty of material to help keep your family Bible studies fresh. Most importantly, L2L goes out its way to ensure only sound, doctrinally pure resources are offered.

Training Boys And Girls How To Be Better Providers And Keepers

It is important that boys and girls learn basic practical skills that will help them be better mothers and fathers in the future. Proverbs 31, for example, lists several qualities of the godly keeper of the home; she knows how to cook (v. 15), sew (v. 13), set the table (v. 27), manage money (v. 16), and be hospitable (v. 20). These skills, along with many others, are developed by girls participating in the Keepers event. Boys, in the Providers event, are taught important skills like child discipline, car maintenance, home security, and how to be spiritual leaders in their [future] families.

The Keepers and Providers events in Lads to Leaders are unique. Not only do other leadership programs lack something similar, but Keepers and Providers build relationships among members at church. Your child is taught by older members at your congregation how to develop these skills, creating a mentoring environment with older Christians.

Further, the Keepers and Providers events offer both young men and young ladies the ability to choose one category each year from the complimentary event. For instance, a young man can choose to learn cooking and a young lady can learn car maintenance.

Spiritual Extra-Curricular Activities

Parents are often willing to spend hundreds of dollars every year for their children to participate in athletics and other extra-curricular activities. While these are often beneficial to your children, the most important thing you can offer your children is the ability to grow spiritually. With soccer and football, the best that can happen is that your child becomes a professional sports player later in life. But with Lads to Leaders, the best that can happen is that you prepare your children to be leaders in the home, leaders in the church, and ultimately faithful Christians. In view of eternity, which scenario matters the most to you?

Bridging The Gap Between The Physical Family And The Spiritual Family

Christians make the best fathers, mothers, husbands, and wives. Why? Because they are seeking first the Kingdom (Matthew 6:33). Therefore, raising our children to be leaders in the church strengthens their faith, and in turn makes them better leaders in the home.

Young people need to understand that they are not the church of tomorrow – they are the church of today. Show me a church without young people, and I will show you a dead church. Just as young Timothy played an important role in the 1st century church (cf. 1 Timothy 4:11-13), your children play an important role in the 21st century church. Lads to Leaders teaches young people how to be leaders in the church now, so they will be leaders in the church tomorrow. When your boy is actively learning how to publicly lead a song, give a devotional – and when your girl is actively learning how to speak at ladies’ Bible studies and teach children – the Lord’s church becomes part of their identity at an early age.

Conclusion

After studying congregations that use L2L, we discovered that there is a retention rate of at least 85% among those who participated in the program for ten years. That means nearly nine out of ten kids, by the time they become independent of their parents, remain faithful to the Lord. Lads to Leaders strengthens churches, which in turn strengthens families.

Time did not allow us to talk about all of the events Lads to Leaders has to offer, such as Bible Bowl, Debate, GIFTS, GUARD, Centurion of Scripture, Art Says It, and Good Samaritan (to name only a few). If you want to know more about L2L, contact me, Ben, by sending an email to ben@lads2leaders.com.

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Ben Giselbach began working for Lads to Leaders in 2014 and is doing a tremendous job helping to grow this already-great program. He is married to the former Hannah Colley, and they are the proud parents of a newborn son, Ezra. Ben also maintains a blog, Plain Simple Faith.

Today

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Today.

Is all we are assured of.

Today.

Is full of opportunities.

Today.

Is a chance to correct the hurts of yesterday.

Today.

Is your chance to forgive.

Today.

Is your chance to be forgiven.

Today.

Is the day to say “I love you”…and prove it.

Today.

Is your chance to be ready for the eternal tomorrow.

Today.

How will you spend it?

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Author: Adam Faughn

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One of the Most Frustrating Things about Being the Head of the House

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God has stated that the man is to be the head of the household. In a home where God’s plan is followed, every person has a vital role, but the final decisions rest with the husband. Of course, a godly husband understands that he is under the ultimate authority of Christ, so he dare not be a cruel dictator in the home.

With that headship, though, comes dramatic responsibility. The weight of all those decisions rests on his shoulders. A godly husband understands that he will give account to God Almighty for how he has led his home. It is, without a doubt, a daunting task.

And there are frustrations with it. He wants to do well, but he knows he cannot be perfect. He wants his home to be godly, peaceful, kind, welcoming, nurturing, and so many other good and positive things.

…and some days just stink.

There are days when he just does not think he can do it anymore. No, he isn’t thinking of leaving, but he just thinks about sitting on the couch and doing nothing; about mentally and emotionally checking out. After all, that’s easier than trying to carry the weight of responsibility.

When does he feel this way? It is when the problems are ones that are deeper than surface-level.

He sees his wife frustrated.

He knows his children are struggling emotionally.

He feels that his daughter’s heart is broken.

He understands there is stress abounding in his teenage son.

And what is the reaction of this godly head of the household? He is frustrated. In fact, he is frustrated not just because these things are present in the home, but he is frustrated in a way that those who are not the head of a household simply cannot fully understand.

His frustration is this: as a man, he is, by nature, a problem solver and a fixer…and he knows he can’t easily fix this.

There is no tool at Lowe’s that will mend a broken heart.

There isn’t a piece of machinery from Home Depot that will help calm his wife’s heart.

He has found easy fixes for things before, but these issues have no easy solution. It isn’t that he is against hard work. In fact, as a man of God, he works very hard. It is simply that, when it comes to trying to help in this area, he does not know how to most easily and efficiently fix things. He is out of his comfort zone, and he is frustrated because he loves these people so much, and he so much wants to help, but he is not even sure of the first step to take.

(After all, there’s not even an instruction manual for all this!)

So, the next time your husband seems to have eyes glazed over as if he isn’t listening; the next time your dad seems to be in a distant place and you think he isn’t hearing you; when you think he is just not connecting; remember this: if he is a man of God, he is having a fight with himself.

He is so desperately wanting to help fix the problem, but he knows it will take a great deal of work in an area in which he is not naturally equipped.

He is trying to see the end result of fixing the problem, but he cannot figure out what step one is.

He is hurting for you…because you are part of him, and he can’t stand it that those under his care are hurting.

In other words, he is doing his human-level best to be a man of God, and he is realizing–again–that he is woefully inadequate…

…but as a man of God, he is going to try.

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AUTHOR: Adam Faughn

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What Jesus Said about Homosexuality

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There was a young man who grew up in the youth group in a congregation where I used to preach. I was present at his baptism. It was a joy to be around him. He was charismatic and funny, and very talented. Before long he was arguably our congregation’s best song leader. But he left the church. He went into the homosexual community and “came out.” Our church loved him and his parents loved him. We never left him alone, or treated him as an outcast, or gave up on him. In fact, we went the extra mile to try to understand and help him with his struggle. And so it broke our hearts when he went on national television and told the world that his parents rejected him because he was gay. On his Facebook notes, his explanation for his chosen lifestyle includes the statement, “Jesus never said anything about homosexuality.”

That Jesus never said anything about homosexuality is a common claim. It is also a terrible lie. Jesus spoke freely about the sin of “fornication” (Matthew 5:32; 19:9). This term in some versions is rendered “sexual immorality.” We all know what the word, “immorality,” means. The concession Christ extended to remarry when such a sin has been committed against you in your marriage is clearly understood from these passages. And Jude, the earthly brother of Jesus and one of the eight known writers of the New Testament included this observation, “Even as Sodom and Gomorrah, and the cities about them in like manner, giving themselves over to fornication, and going after strange flesh, are set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire” (Jude 7).

The same word Jesus used for “fornication” is used also by Jude in his contribution. In fact, in describing the homosexual practices of these two evil cities, Jude includes a preposition that explains they were completely “given over” to fornication. They had basically defined sexual sin at the core. You could not do worse than these men were doing. This is why God sent fire from heaven and consumed the beautiful and fertile plain that Lot had chosen – such that to this very day nothing will even grow there.

What an egregious mistake to try to legitimize any practice based on what is considered silence! But should we be surprised when people abuse the Bible in the attempt to justify a sin that has become culturally acceptable? This is nothing new.  

And while the Bible is not at all silent about homosexuality, for the sake of the argument let’s step aside and consider the correct way to look at the divine text. Do we need Jesus to say more than He has already said about anything to know right from wrong? Jesus never spoke directly about bestiality, or pedophilia, but would we argue it is alright to participate in these practices? Is it not enough that He said, “Have you not read that He who made them at the beginning ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So then, they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate” (Matt. 19:4-6)?

Jesus said marriage is for one man and one woman (Matt. 19:5-6). Jesus said it would be better to have a millstone hung around one’s neck and to be thrown into the sea than to hurt an innocent child (Matt. 18:6). Jesus said that it would better to not have been born than to betray Him (Matt. 26:24). Rightly dividing the word of truth involves having enough respect for what Scripture has said to infer that which does not require further explanation (2 Tim. 2:15).

Most scholars calculate that we have less than two weeks of Jesus’ life represented in the contents of the New Testament. This is why John explained at the end of his gospel that no library could contain all that the Son of God said and did, but the things that are recorded are for the purpose of faith that would lead to salvation (John 20:30-31; 21:25). What Jesus did say and do are enough for us to understand the rest of what the Holy Spirit expressed in order to lead us into all truth (John 16:13). Jesus condemned sexual immorality. The practice of homosexuality not only falls in such a category, it exemplifies the depth to which sexual sins can plummet. Let’s not be mistaken. Those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God (1 Cor. 6:9-10).

“And the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error.” – Romans 1:27

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A Smile, A Thought, and a Tear

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As many of you know, I love humor. I enjoy a good, clean joke. I enjoy being around people who can share humorous experiences. I just love to laugh and be around people who laugh.

It seems to me that, sometimes, the most effective humor is that which contains a kernel of truth. There are times when there is much more than merely that kernel. There are times when humor can make a person stop and think.

I was recently going through some fairly old material and found what I think is one example of that. The December, 1990 issue of Readers Digest contained a story that appeared in its “Campus Comedy” section. 

It made me smile and it made me think. Maybe it will do the same for you. Here is what was in that issue:

Astronomy class at the University of Toledo in Ohio seemed easy at first, but, as the quarter progressed, the material got more complicated. One day, our professor was discussing nebular condensation accretion theory, which explains the formation of our solar system.

After an hour of note-taking, a classmate put down his pencil with a sigh, “You know,” he said, “this topic was a lot easier back in Sunday school.”

(contributed by Thomas Oakley)

As I read that once again, I smiled again, I thought again, and I almost wanted to cry. Things have regressed since 1990 to the point that, in many cases, that student would be kicked out of that class (and maybe school) for making any reference about anything religious. 

That is no laughing matter.

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3 Ways to Porn Proof Your House This Weekend

[Editors Note: This week’s guest post is from Chad Landman. Find out more about Chad, and many of his good works, at the end of today’s article.]

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According to the Huffington Post, porn sites get more visitors each month than Netflix, Amazon and Twitter…*combined.* While numbers have been misleading saying exactly how much of the internet is pornography (numbers fluctuate erratically based upon different sources between 18 and 80 percent), the traffic to these sites can be measured with some accuracy, and most sources say that it’s around 30% of all internet traffic that visits porn sites. People are visiting these sites – of that there is no doubt.

Every 1 in 5 searches made on a mobile device are for porn. The average age of the first internet exposure to pornography has dropped dramatically in the last 15 years, from 14 in 2000, 11 in 2009, to just 8 years old in 2014.

Does that scare you? It should.

According to Richard L. Bready of Saint Anselem College, “Porn use is a greater threat to our national well-being than our economy.”

So what are you doing about it?

Today I’d like to present you with three ways to porn-proof your home this weekend.

1) Make a list of all devices that connect to the internet. Think about all of them. Your son’s iPod Touch, your daughter’s Kindle Fire, your own mobile phones and your laptop in the living room. Are you even aware of what devices are in your own home? Most aren’t. The first step in porn-proofing is to identify what devices access the internet in your home, and then you’ll have a better idea of how to attack this problem. Get out a legal pad and make two columns: “Device” and “Security.” The device could be anything – your DVR, your Smart TV, a tablet, even your refrigerator these days. For Security, write down whatever passwords access the device, and note what parental controls you have set on those devices. I can’t speak for most other devices, but iOS has some pretty comprehensive parental controls built right in to the operating system, as does Windows. You can check out my How-To guides for iOS and PC’s here.

2) Keep all devices in a public place and set limits. Ten years ago, this wasn’t as difficult because you had one desktop or laptop computer – there were hardly any tablets or smartphones to speak of. One of the things that parents always tell me when I go to congregations to speak about internet safety is that they wish they would have not allowed devices in their kids’ bedrooms. Before it was televisions, now it’s tablets and smartphones. It won’t be a popular decision with your family, but if you can keep them in eyesight while they’re home and set parental controls and time limits while you’re not home, it will go a long way to porn-proofing your home.

If you have a PC laptop or desktop at home, Microsoft has some excellent built-in parental controls to set timers on what your child or even your spouse can use. For iOS devices, I recommend the excellent app called Curbi. Curbi lets you set time limits and parental controls on your device when it’s connected with your child’s device. It has a small fee per month, but ask this question: would you pay the price of a latte to help protect your family in the digital space?

3) Talk to your family. This sounds simple to say, but it’s also hard to do. How many times have you talked to your kids this month about sex, drugs, or alcohol? If you’re a good parent, these subjects come up regularly. How about the internet? When was the last time you checked the browsing history on your daughter’s tablet? Or the Youtube videos your son has been watching on his iPhone? Studies have shown that kids that know if their parents are watching and actively talking to them about their internet use (and this goes for spouses too) are much less likely to seek out the bad things on the internet and are more cautious where they tread. Make sure your family knows where you stand. Have them sign a Parent-Child Device Contract. Explain to them the consequences of their behavior online. But most importantly, keep it in the conversation as much as you can.

These are three very simple and basic ideas to porn-proof your home, and these are just the start. Porn-proofing your home and keeping your family safe online is a full-time job. My prayer today is for you to have the faith maintain vigilance in the seemingly insurmountable task of keeping your family safe online.

We must always remember that we must build every facet of our homes with God in mind, and this includes internet safety. Psalm 127.1 – Unless the LORD builds the house, those who build it labor in vain.

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Chad Landman is the Education Minister at the Graymere Church of Christ in Columbia, Tennessee. He writes on his personal blog at chadl.co, on the Active Digital Parenting blog on Start2Finish, and talks about technology in ministry on his podcast Ministry Bits

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7 Ways to Have a Great Summer at Your Church (Without Going Crazy by Labor Day)

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Summertime can be one of the most rewarding times of the year for a congregation. It can also be one of the most frustrating. As many school calendars stretch further into the summer, our calendars at church often get bunched up, and when it is all over, we are left wondering if we accomplished anything lasting.

Of course, anything done to God’s glory is a good thing, but are there ways we can make the summer have a great impact? I want to share 7 for you to consider, even for this upcoming summer.

1. Think outward service first. A lot of times, we tend to fill out the church calendar with things that are more inward focused. Those make us feel good for awhile, but how much better would it be to serve others this summer? The memories and the motivation would last longer, for both the church members and those who received the kind service.

2. Remove an event. I know, that’s almost blasphemous! But with summers getting shorter, why do we still feel the need to fit in every traditional event, other than it is tradition. VBS, a Gospel Meeting, a mission trip, summer camp, and a fun outing…all in 7 or 8 weeks? Could you do without one of those this summer?

Or…

3. Move an event. Why says all those things have to be done in June and July? Could you move the mission trip to fall break? What about making VBS part of winter vacation instead of summer vacation? These are some ways to maintain traditional events, but not bunch them all together over a handful of weeks.

Or…

4. Combine events. I know a lot of people balk at this idea, but what about having a VBS in the day, and Gospel Meeting at night? A lot of mission areas do similar things with great results, and it might work where you are, too.

5. Make full use of Sunday afternoons. How many weekday or weeknight activities (that take time from families) could be completed, and done well, on Sunday afternoons? Service projects, fun outings, and other shorter activities are perfect for those “dog day” Sunday afternoons, and then the calendar during the week is not so full.

6. Utilize technology. If there is any part of the year where people need to be kept up to speed, it is the summer. Use whatever means you possibly are able to get news to people, and to let them stay connected to Bible classes and worship, especially if you preach through series during the summer.

Speaking of that…

7. Rethink “series” in the summer. I have had to force myself to rethink how I teach Bible classes during the summer. It is nearly impossible to teach verse-by-verse, simply because so many people in the class are in and out…including me! It is not impossible, but it hard to preach a series that “builds on itself” during the summer, and that includes Wednesday night summer series. I think it is good to have themes for various things (sermons, summer series, and of course Bible classes), but think in terms of lessons that stand alone. If someone misses a lesson, they are not playing catch up the next week. They can simply jump in and still feel part of the class or the lesson series.

There are many other ways to handle the summer months, but they key is to always be looking for ways to improve to the glory of God. Let’s avoid sticking stuff on the calendar and doing the status quo “just because we’ve always done it;” instead, focusing on how we can do all things with excellence to His glory.

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Salvation Issues

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“Well, it’s not a salvation issue.” I have heard this statement many times over the course of my life and honestly I am hearing it now more than ever. The point – there is a difference between matters of faith and matters of opinion. On some level, this notion is well taken. There are certain God-given traditions that are binding (2 Thessalonians 2:15), and then there are human traditions that many people may tie to their faith which in reality are nothing more than an expediency or an accepted norm (Matthew 15:3).

But we need to be very careful with how far we are willing to go with Christian liberty. This past week in our local paper a self-proclaimed “man of the cloth” wrote an article entitled, “Worship God, not a Book.” The entire diatribe was an effort to discredit the Bible. The writer actually had the arrogance to proclaim that we can understand what God wants in the 21st century world of human advancement better than writers of the Bible themselves, who had been directed by the Holy Spirit (2 Peter 1:21). This is another example of the exaltation of human wisdom over the wisdom of God (1 Corinthians 1:21). This attitude is the common and yet ancient recipe for how to teach a generation to walk away from the Creator of the universe.

Whenever we begin to take a lower view of the Bible we are headed for spiritual disaster. That’s why on some level we must consider every matter a matter of salvation. “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Romans 10:17). Faith originates with God’s holy standard. It is not subjective. It is not open to human whims or emotions or feelings of what individuals may prefer. The only true and Biblical faith is derived from an understanding of God’s divine revelation. As the Bible becomes a part of us, we submit to God’s greater will, and every thought and action is filtered by our knowledge of the will of God (2 Corinthians 10:5). This is the very same will which He has once for all delivered to the church (Jude 3).

God from the beginning ordained that two entities be the primary guides for human spirituality. The first is what God has spoken. The second is the human conscience, which rightly should be shaped by what God has said. In this context, Paul pointed out that, “Whatever is not of faith is sin” (Romans 14:23). In other words, do not engage in any activity that would violate your conscience, for your conscience has been shaped by the higher will of God. Therefore for every Christian, if one cannot in word and deed do something in the name of the Lord (Colossians 3:17), then there exists no God-given authority for its practice.

If there is a problem with where our world is heading spiritually, the problem lies with a lack of respect for what the Scriptures teach. It goes far beyond a lack of knowing WHAT the Bible says. It involves not caring what it says, and feeling that we have a right to insert human opinion. This is where we are as a people, no longer being shaped by the will of God, but deciding for God that we know better than He does. And since so many believe that everything is open to private interpretation, then the argument continues to be made that what each person does, in actuality, does not matter.

The end of this type of thinking leads to a place where no absolute truth exists. There is no right or wrong in such a land. There is no blame or shame for what any person decides or does (Jeremiah 6:15). There is no hell or consequence for sin. Everybody just does what they want to do (Judges 21:25). In the meantime, “tolerance” is shouted from the mountaintops while “peace” is heard in the valley (Jeremiah 6:14).

While there are always going to be matters of faith and matters of opinion, we need to remember that if we truly love God we will allow every thought to be shaped by His divine will. If we take a relaxed attitude concerning the eternal word that saves, judges, and binds us to God, we will find that we have orphaned ourselves from the very instrument God delivered through His Holy Spirit for the sake of our adoption.

For the saved, every matter is a matter of salvation. Once we have been bought, we are owned. And if God in reality owns us, He owns us all the time.

“Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ, and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith.” – Philippians 3:8-9

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