Kingdom Hearts

I did it!

Well, we did it. We survived another year of church camp. For some, the word “survived” may seem a bit melodramatic, but for those of us more inclined to the finer things in life – grit-free bathroom floors, mattresses not made of plastic, bug-less meals and devos – camp is something to survive. For all the years I laughed at Mom for taking her bedside rug and packing in drawers, I now fully repent and am paying my penance.

For all of the bugs, sweat, and dirt, there is a greater good that comes from attending church camp. I’m not sure I can fully explain it to you if you haven’t experienced it yourself, but something happens at church camp. You laugh together … at everything. You see kids, who barely know each other, work together to loft a water balloon over a volleyball net using a bed sheet. You witness “city” kids riding horses for the first time and overcoming fears. You watch cabins come together to clean the mess hall and perform a skit that includes everyone, even those who shy away from the spotlight.

Now, some of those things might happen at other camps, but there are things at church camp that make those experiences unique. One of the elementary teachers made sure to make the point to our youngest campers that when you attend basketball camp, you spend your time in basketball. Volleyball camp, volleyball. He made the point that we were attending Short Mountain Bible Camp, so we were involved in … Bible.

I want to take that one step farther for those of you not blessed to attend camp on the mountain where the water runs up. If you notice, I have been referring to my week at church camp. We certainly were not in a church building (I would have been more physically comfortable if we were). But we were with the church. The church is the people. God’s people. And our theme was “Kingdom Hearts,” learning to have a heart more like Jesus. The church focused on living more like Jesus. It doesn’t get much better than that!

If we could learn to live like we were at church camp (while at school, or our job, or even the grocery store) we could gain some of the blessings I mentioned earlier wherever we are: laughter, teamwork, overcoming fear, sharing the load and the rewards. We can do that anywhere there are kingdom hearts.

Romans 15:5 “May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus …”

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AUTHOR: Amber Tatum

Some Thoughts on Elders Overseeing the Work of Deacons

Right off the bat, two disclaimers:

(1) I am not an elder nor a deacon and never have been, and

(2) I know that the title of this post is boring!

With that said, I love studying and trying to help with church leadership. If we are going to restore New Testament Christianity we need to be certain we know on an intellectual level and follow on a practical level what God has said concerning the organization of the church.

One of the stated roles of elders is that of “overseer” (Acts 20:28). I have heard that described–and I think well–as meaning that elders set and see to the general direction of a congregation. Elders are not meant to be micromanagers, nor are they to do everything, but they must have their finger on the pulse and direction of various programs and ministries, as well as they overall thrust of the congregation.

However, when it comes to their oversight of various programs, works, and ministries led by deacons, there can be a level of frustration. Sometimes, there is frustration on the part of the elders, because they feel as if deacons are not doing the assigned work or that there is no feedback.

Sometimes, the deacons are frustrated because they feel the elders are micromanaging, or that the elders are so “hands off” that it is as if they don’t care.

And, let’s be honest, when either elders or deacons are frustrated, both end up frustrated!

How can this be worked on? [Notice: I did not say “fixed.” The reason is that this is not something that will always remain fixed. It is a continual process to work on and improve.]

Here are some principles that might help. Some will take serious time on the front end, but could yield powerful long-term benefits if continually evaluated.

Set Clear, Definable Objectives. Elders do not need to put a man in place as a deacon and not have any objectives for him to reach toward. “Look after youth program” is not a clear nor definable objective. “Meet at least once each month with the youth minister and monitor any expenses over $1000” is. A man cannot know if he is doing what is expected unless he knows what is expected! (By the way, if a man is already serving as a deacon, I believe it would be best if he was included in coming up with these objectives instead of the elders suddenly “dumping” them on him.)

Have a Report Schedule. How often is a deacon supposed to share information with the elders? Is it always just “as needed?” Is it monthly? Also, how is he to report? Will it be in person? Through email? On the phone? This accomplishes a couple of things. First, it obviously helps deacons realize that the elders are interested in the progress and success of their work. But it also helps elders oversee the work! This may seem obvious, but elders cannot oversee what they never see!

Encourage Two-Way Communication. So far, everything has been dictated by the elders, but deacons need to be able to speak into their areas of service, too. Are the expectations realistic? Are there victories they would like to share? Are there challenges that need wisdom and prayer? These things may not take a “formal meeting,” but elders need to make it clear that they want to hear from deacons and that the deacons can be open and transparent.

Be Involved (without Being Overbearing). One of the coolest things that can happen is when a deacon actually incorporates an elder in the ministry or program, and it is not to head it up, but simply to get a feel for what is going on. What better way to oversee than to get your hands a little dirty!

This is not meant to be a full and complete list, but my prayer is that these simple suggestions help elders and deacons avoid those times of frustration that can paralyze much of the leadership of the church.

When elders are eldering and deacons are deacon-ing…great things happen!

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AUTHOR: Adam Faughn

Honoring the Dead

It is customary for the human race to honor those who pass from this life. Early in the Biblical record, Abraham purchased the cave of Machpelah in order to give a proper burial to his beloved wife Sarah. Today in almost every town, if you are in the right place at the right time, you may have to pull over to allow a funeral procession to pass by. This is done out of respect and honor for the life represented as well as personal sorrow. This is done because it is the right thing to do.

The death of a president serves as another example of how Americans honor their dead. Our 40th president, Ronald Reagan, was honored in death in a manner few on the earth will ever experience. He was honored for his position, service, and character. He was honored because the presidency of the United States has been held as an honorable occupation since its inception. Reagan had weaknesses as any man. He was imperfect as were the 39 before him and every president to follow. But honoring his death was both appropriate and acceptable.

It is amazing to consider the humility of the Son of God when you compare His funeral with the funeral of other men. Almost all His followers had forsaken Him. A few of them stood at a distance (Luke 23:49). Only Joseph of Arimathea, with the help of Nicodemus, made arrangements to prepare His body and lay it in a tomb (John 19:38-42). On the first day of the week, some of the women who had been following Him during His ministry came with spices to the place where He was laying (Matt. 28:1ff.). But still, none of His apostles had come to honor Him, and the Jewish and Roman leaders were hoping that the world would forget about the man called “Jesus.”

It was a far cry from the commandment Jesus had instituted only a few days prior to His crucifixion – “Do this in remembrance of Me” (Luke 22:19). Jesus had required His followers to honor His death. Once He rose from the grave they began to understand and practice the commandment. The New Testament teaches that they honored the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus every first day of the week (Acts 20:7). Their salvation depended upon them doing so in a worthy manner (1 Cor. 11:27-30). In partaking, the Lord’s death would be proclaimed to the world until He returned (1 Cor. 11:26).

It is unthinkable that people who know Jesus would ever dishonor His death. Or is it? Do we respect work and social events in dress and attitude more than we do Lord’s day worship? Do we honor the death of Jesus in worship as we partake of His supper, or do we talk to our neighbor, become preoccupied with other things, or decide not to partake or even attend at all? Would we miss the assembly that served as the remembrance of a loved one for our child’s soccer game? For vacation? What would we be willing to put in second place in order to honor the death of someone we loved – although imperfect, sinful and weak?

This is not really all about the clothes we wear, the activities we engage in, and the honor we give to others as much as it is about the identity of Jesus Christ. He was the perfect example. He is the perfect Redeemer. He will be the blameless Judge. God help us to honor the death of Jesus Christ. His death was unlike all others, because – “He is not here; for He is risen (Matt. 28:6)!”

“He who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords!” ~ (1 Tim. 6:15)

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AUTHOR: Jeremiah Tatum

What to Do with Older Members of Your Congregation

As I rapidly approach my seventies (a little over a year away), I am finally beginning to realize that I am no longer a young man. There are certain things that serve as (not so subtle) reminders of that.

The mirror is one of those things. As hard as I try and as much I would like for it to be the case, I no longer see the reflection of a man with smooth skin and brown hair. I’m actually seeing wrinkles, age spots, sagging skin, and white hair. When did that happen?

My muscles and bones are also informing me that I am not as young as I used to be.  Whatever happened to that boy who could run and play without having to worry about aching muscles and joints? I used to not understand what people were talking about when they said they were hurting in places where they didn’t even know they had places.  I’m understanding that a little better as the years go by.

When I look at our adult children and our growing grandchildren, I am once again reminded of my age – and my mortality. One set of our grandchildren has already lost one of their grandfathers.  I realize that, if things “run the usual course,” they will someday lose all of us.

At times, there are events and/or references to events that remind me of my age. I almost could not believe it when I read that Memorial Day of this year was also the one-hundredth anniversary of the birth of President John F. Kennedy. I still remember him as he looked when he made that fateful trip to Dallas. I was reminded, though, that I was a sophomore in high school on that day. I now have a grandson who is about to start his junior year in high school.

One of my concerns about my age is that I am now part of a group of people that, in some ways, create challenges for many churches.  Many younger Christians don’t know exactly what to do with those of us who are older.

From my observations and from some personal experience, it seems that “the elderly” are dealt with in one or more of the following ways. Those ways can be summarized with three words: put, pushed, pedestal.

Some are Put on a Shelf

All too often (at least in my opinion), older members of congregations are put on a shelf. Either they figure that they have reached some sort of spiritual retirement age and/or the other members have come to that conclusion. It seems to be the case that either those who are older or those who are younger believe that the older members no longer have anything useful to offer. Their ideas, talents, etc. may have been useful at one time, but that time is long gone. 

Like some sort of family heirloom that may be displayed as a reminder of “what once was,” these older members are there, but no longer used. As time goes by, some other items may be placed on the shelf with them. The effect of that could be that they are rarely seen, considered, or appreciated.

Some are Pushed Out of the Way

It is sometimes the case that older members are pushed out of the way. Younger, energetic, and (do I dare type this?) rude members will care nothing for the devotion, the willingness to continue to serve, or the feelings of those who are older. Passages in God’s Word about the respect that Christians are to demonstrate to one another are ignored when there is an agenda to promote, a program that needs to be implemented, and/or method that needs to be employed. 

Those who push the elderly out of the way fail to consider a lot of things. Among those things is the fact that the congregation they are in the process of tearing apart with their attitudes and by their behavior would not even exist without the efforts, dedication, and financial support of those who are being pushed out.

By the way, in case you think that I am overstating the case on this point, I am aware of an incident that hits pretty close to home in which a somewhat older Christian lady was literally pushed out of the way by somebody who was younger as she tried to help serve food to a group of young people who were visiting a local congregation. It was not the case that older lady was too slow or was not doing a good job. It was merely the case that the younger person had somebody else in mind and unceremoniously and physically “dismissed” her sister in Christ.

Some are Put on a Pedestal

It is not healthy for older people (or any people for that matter) to be on a pedestal. Our loyalty is to be to Christ.  Our loyalty is not to be to a brother or sister who has, in the mind of some, “earned” that loyalty by virtue of years of service. How many congregations are held hostage by the opinions (or the supposed opinions) of “old brother _____” or “old sister _____?”

How often have you heard such things as these?

“When he was an elder here…”

“When they were in charge of that…”

“They are ‘founding members’ here.”

“They provided the land (or finances) for our church building.”

“Nobody can teach/preach/lead singing like…”

Sometimes the pedestal is so tall that one wonders of the name on the church sign should be the name of the brother or sister who is held in such high esteem.

Conclusion: The Proper View

I am a “card-carrying member of the ‘never trust anybody over thirty’” generation. I didn’t understand that mindset then. I certainly do not understand it now. I would like to think that the way over thirty crowd still has something to offer.

As we all know, as our Lord prepared for the cross, he prayed for unity among all believers (cf. John 17:20-21). The New Testament makes it abundantly clear that doctrinal unity is vitally important. Multiple passages could be cited here as evidence of that.

Multiple passages could also be cited that practical unity is also important. Christians of all ethnicities, geographical areas, backgrounds, economic and educational levels, and generations need to be –

eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace (Eph. 4:3, ESV).

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AUTHOR: Jim Faughn

[Quote] Chip Ingram on Faithful Prayer

SOURCE: Good to Great in God’s Eyes by Chip Ingram. (Page 108)

Legacy Recipe: Chocolate Peanut Butter Pops [Free Printable]

Retirement has not been that time in life for me when you sit down and relax a lot! Jim and I have been on the go constantly since the first of the year. That is good! Neither one of us is very good at sitting for long periods of time and doing nothing.

I say all of that to say this: it was my turn to post something today and I didn’t have anything ready!
I decided I would share another recipe with you all that has given us a boost in our eating plan. It is a little treat and really hits the spot on a hot summer night. I saw the recipe somewhere (but for the life of me I can’t remember where), and I have “tweaked” it just a little to make it more low carb friendly. I sure hope you will enjoy it as much as we do. I call it:

Chocolate Peanut Butter Pops
8 oz. cream cheese (softened)
¾ cup creamy natural peanut butter (find the lowest carb count you can)
½ cup Stevia sweetener (I use a little less)
½ tsp. vanilla
Mix this all together with your mixer and add:
¾ cup heavy cream
¼ cup mini dark chocolate chips
Mix until smooth
Use your mini muffin tin and put a paper liner in each cup. Add a dollop (is that a word?) of the chocolate peanut butter mixture to each cup.
Freeze for 4 hours and then place the cups in a plastic bag and keep in the freezer.

Eat one or two on a hot evening and it takes care of that ice cream craving (at least for me it does – Jim isn’t so sure about that!)

I hope you will enjoy this little treat.

[To download or print the recipe, click on the image below.]

Ashamed of the Words of Jesus

If you were to read Luke 9:23-27 carefully, you would notice that there are a number of the more well-known teachings of our Lord packed into that one short passage. When there is such a dense section of Scripture, it can be quite easy to overlook certain words or phrases, but we do so to our own detriment.

Included in that passage is this statement from Jesus: “For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words, of him will the Son of Man be ashamed when He comes in His glory and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels” (verse 26).

I don’t know how many times I have heard people talk about how we do not need to be ashamed of Jesus. Without doubt, that is taught there and is necessary if we are to be considered faithful to Christ.

But that is not all Jesus said there. He did not speak only of being ashamed of Him, but also of His words.

And I have to wonder: how many people–many of whom wear the name “Christian”–are ashamed of at least some of the words of our Lord.

For example,

Jesus spoke clearly of one church (Matthew 16:16-18), but many Christians are ashamed of that close-minded view, so they espouse the idea of many churches.

Jesus gave clear teaching about divorce and remarriage (Matthew 19:9), but many Christians think that is out-dated and so do not speak about such “controversial” passages.

Jesus tied the essentiality of baptism to salvation (Mark 16:16; cf. Acts 2:38), but many have friends and loved ones who are devout, but who have never been baptized. So, we just soft-shoe around that issue and act like it isn’t there.

Even in this same passage, Jesus spoke of the fact that, by following Him, it is not all easy, but that we have to “deny” ourselves and “take up [a] cross daily” in order to follow Him (Luke 9:23). But we would far rather present Christianity as some easy walk, so we can overlook such passages as that.

The fact of that matter is that we may not be ashamed of Jesus, but we can easily be ashamed of His words when they don’t fit a narrative we wish to present to the world. It is far easier to present Jesus as just love and acceptance and helpfulness, and leave off the controversial parts.

When we do that, however, we are ashamed of His words, because we cannot take part of Jesus without taking all of what He said. If I am ashamed of either Him or of His words, Jesus makes it clear that He will be ashamed of me.

And no one should ever want that to be true.

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AUTHOR: Adam Faughn

What the Church Needs Most

I recently held a meeting in another congregation where at the end of one of the services several people responded to the invitation. Some were restored while others were baptized. When the local preacher was expressing to the church the spiritual decisions that were being made by those who responded, he got very emotional. This was a natural reaction to a very important moment in the lives of those who had been touched by God’s Word. Watching this preacher in action reminded me of what the church needs most.

The church needs preachers who cry. A man who speaks the message must also be moved by it inwardly. This involves an awareness of his own sinfulness as well as an appreciation for God’s love and grace. The preacher needs to cry over people who are hurting physically or spiritually. The preacher needs to cry for joy when others are motivated to obey the gospel or make spiritual changes that will result in eternal rewards.

The church needs elders who shepherd. Unfortunately, most churches don’t really follow the shepherding model of leadership. Elders were not put in place by God to do what most of them do – which is make business meeting decisions. They were not given their position to run the church like a factory. Souls need counsel and support and spiritual guidance. The church needs elders who primarily function over the spiritual direction of the flock.

The church needs members who work. One of the reasons the preachers and elders and their families are discouraged is because the members sometimes hire out church work. The contribution, though supportive of ministry, is not to be treated as a collection that takes responsibility away from individual members. We don’t give into the treasury in order to not have to give in other areas. Growing churches that are pleasing to God are churches in which each one of the members is constantly ministering. Who wouldn’t want to be a part of a congregation with dedicated members who love the Lord and want to serve?

The church needs a God who is patient and forgives. There may be preachers out there who have lost their way and who have forgotten why they preach. There may be elders out there who have turned into rule makers and lords over the flock. There may be members out there who have simply become bench warmers who bear no fruit for Christ. But one thing is for certain, the church ALWAYS has what it needs when it comes to a loving and longsuffering Father. We have a long way to go as people. Churches will always go through strong and weak periods because of the inconsistencies and sins of people. We can be thankful that God is patient with us when we as Christians sometimes forget our roles and responsibilities. The church may be lacking in human areas, but it is never short of what it needs when it comes to God.

What the church needs most is pretty simple. It needs most to be more like One who created it.

“…leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps” – 1 Peter 2:21

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AUTHOR: Jeremiah Tatum

The Best Translation of God’s Word

It seems to me that life was much more simple and uncomplicated as I was growing up. I realize that I revealed a great deal about my age as I typed those words, but I believe that most people of almost any mature age can look back on their childhood and make a similar assessment.

I’ve been doing some thinking lately about one way in which my life was much simpler than it is now. I’ve also been in conversations with people lately that have caused me to think about this. Some of those conversations have been face-to-face and some have been written exchanges.

You see, when I was growing up, I was only aware of one translation of the Bible. From time to time, there was some mention made of “certain religious groups” who had “their own Bibles.” Those groups and those Bibles were not held in very high esteem among people I was around.

Over the years, I became personally aware of more than one translation of God’s Word. I learned that some of these translations were not at all used exclusively by some particular religious group that may have had some “pet doctrines” to promote. 

To the contrary, I learned that some of these other translations were products of the work of multiple scholars of the original languages and that, in many cases, these scholars came from differing religious backgrounds. While it is very easy to let one’s individual tastes or prejudices influence how a passage is translated, the people who produced at least some of these translations had a stated goal of being impartial.

During the years since my childhood, even more translations of God’s Word than the ones available then have been produced. In fact, I recently listened to a podcast during which there was a discussion of the supposed benefits of one that is just now “hitting the market.”

I found the following information on the website of the American Bible Society. Since it was posted on December 2, 2009, it is already out of date, but I still find it informative and interesting:

I am afraid no one can give you an exact number for the English translations and paraphrases of the Bible printed since Tyndale’s New Testament of 1526. In part this is due to the difficulty of determining what should be defined as a new translation as opposed to a correction or a revision of an existing translation. There is the additional question of how we should count translations that include not a complete Bible or Testament, but just a group of books or even a single book. And then, of course, there is the difficulty of sheer numbers. With all these caveats in mind, the number of printed English translations and paraphrases of the Bible, whether complete or not, is about 900.

I don’t know about you, but my mind starts to get sort of numb as I consider all of the translations, the theories of translations, the methods of translations, the arguments for and against certain translations, manuscripts, etc. I long for that simpler time when things were much easier to understand.

I realize that it is impossible for me to go back to my childhood or to the time when the translation of the Bible with which I was familiar was almost universally accepted. It is not, however, impossible for me to offer my opinion about the best translation of God’s word. It may not be smart for me to do so, but it is possible.

In my opinion, the best “translation” of God’s message is seen in people. How does God’s message “translate” into my life and into the lives of others around me?

Whenever I see myself or others as being contentious for the faith instead of “…contend(ing) for the faith…” (Jude 3), I really do not believe I am seeing a good translation of God’s Word. Truth and love are not mutually exclusive. In fact, Paul was inspired to write that we are to supposed to be “…speaking the truth in love…” (Eph. 4:15). Whenever I see an individual whose understanding of “truth” causes him or her to be mean, sarcastic, and argumentative, I think I am seeing a very poor translation of God’s Word.

At what might be considered the other end of the spectrum there is also the possibility of rejecting God’s written revelation to us in favor of feelings, the opinion of some so-called expert, our family heritage, “church tradition,” the current culture, etc. Any one (or all) of these things can stand in the way of allowing God’s Word to be accurately “translated” in my life. Since I will be judged by the words of Jesus (cf. John 12:48), I must read, heed, and practice what He authorizes.

I think that most of us have probably heard something like the following statement:

Your life may be the only sermon that many people will ever hear.

I do not believe it is beyond the realm of possibility to suggest that our Lord had something like this in mind when He said:

Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven (Matt. 5:16, KJV).

Not only do I believe that it is accurate to suggest that my life may be the only sermon some will hear, I also believe that my life may be the only Bible some people will ever read. Instead of spending an inordinate amount of time in studying, discussing, and debating which volume to hand people to read, I might be more well-advised to consider something else.

I may want to do some serious self-examination and ask myself if the people who know me are observing a good translation of God’s Word in my life.

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AUTHOR: Jim Faughn

Episode 83: We’re Raising Adults, Social…Not Social Media…for Kids, and More! [Podcast]

(Player not displaying or working? Click here to listen.)

On this week’s podcast, Adam and Leah look back at Maywood Christian Camp, forward to the Summer Gospel Meeting at 9th Avenue, then share great parenting links. There is a discussion about what a Stanford dean thinks every 18-year-old should be able to do, and some thoughts on why children should not be involved in social media.

Enjoy the podcast. Resources are below.


A Stanford dean on adult skills every 18-year-old should have” [Quartz]

Why My Kids Don’t Have Social Media” [CC + Mike]

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