We Are Not Paying Attention

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I once heard a basketball coach make a statement that might be good for some of the rest of us to remember. Specifically, he was talking about various strategies that might be employed against him and his team by their opponents.

In the process of discussing this, he said:

“You can’t trick us because we are not paying attention.”

As he went on, what he was talking about became apparent. His quote meant that he had convinced his players that his style of play would win against anybody. The players were then trained to concentrate on perfecting that style of play in each game. His thinking was that this single-minded, focused effort would overcome any obstacle.

How does this apply to the non-athlete? More importantly, how does it apply to a Christian? I’m thinking that Paul might give us some insight into this.

I am well aware of the fact that Paul had a concern “…that we would not be outwitted by Satan…” (2 Cor. 2:11, ESV). I am also aware that this same verse states that “…we are not ignorant of his designs/schemes/designs” (various translations).

I am also aware of the fact that the New Testament teaches us in many places to have a single-minded, focused determination to love and serve the Lord. One such example comes also from the pen of Paul: “…I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified” (1 Cor. 2:2. ESV).

Was Paul aware of what Satan tried to do to him and the cause of Christ? Indeed, he was.

Did Paul focus on what Satan was trying to do? Indeed, he did not.

The inspired penman of the book of Hebrews encourages his readers to…

…lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith… (Heb. 12:1-2, ESV).

That seems to me to be another way to say to anybody and anything that would hinder our commitment to Christ,

You can’t trick us because we are not paying attention.


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[Quote] Proper Perspective on Work and Family

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SOURCE: When Work and Family Collide by Andy Stanley. (Pages 88-89)

When is God Good?

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Scrolling through Facebook, Instagram, and other social media outlets, I see statements like the following on a regular basis.

“Getting ready to watch Wicked with my husband. God is good.”

“Here’s our new van. God is good.”

“Enjoying a hamburger with my little girl. Just the two of us. God is good.”

These are not actual quotations, but very well could be. From dates to new houses and cars to big vacations, we are quick to throw the little tagline at the end of our updates: “God is good.”

But there seems to be something missing, and I think it speaks to a very troubling issue about how we view God.

Intellectually, we know that what I’m getting ready to say is true, but I just wonder if we ever show it to the world. That is this: God is always good.

God is not just good when you can afford a new car.

He is not just good when you are able to spend a romantic evening with your spouse.

The Lord is not just good when you can finally afford to take that once-in-a-lifetime vacation.

When I was studying for the sermons that eventually became the book Hymns of the Heart, I spend a lot of time in Psalms that I was not quite as familiar with. That was part of the reason for studying for those lessons and the book. It “forced” me to dig into some of those wonderful poems that I did not know as well.

I was blown away by how many of the poems speak to the goodness of God, but are set in times of extreme struggle.

For example:

Psalm 28 contains the words near the beginning, “If You be silent to me, I become like those who go down to the pit” (verse 1). However, it also contains this great line: “The Lord is the strength of His people” (verse 8).

The 56th Psalm has as its setting, “My enemies trample on me all day long, for many attack me proudly” (verse 2), but also contains the powerful words of praise, “in God I trust; I shall not be afraid. What can man do to me?” (verse 11)

Psalm 69 opens in perilous terms: “Save me, O God! For the waters have come up to my neck. I sink in deep mire, where there is no foothold; I have come into deep waters, and the flood sweeps over me. I am weary with my crying out; my throat is parched. My eyes grow dim with waiting for my God” (verses 1-3). But near the end, David wrote, “I will praise the name of God with a song; I will magnify Him with thanksgiving. This will please the Lord more than an ox or a bull with horns and hoofs. When the humble see it they will be glad; you who seek God, let your hearts revive. For the Lord hears the needy and does not despise His own people who are prisoners” (verses 30-33).

Many other examples from just the book of Psalms could be given, but these suffice. In times of extreme trouble and despair, the poets were basically saying, “God is good!”

Yes, God is good when you buy a new car or go on that vacation.

But God is also good when the doctor utters the dreaded word “cancer.”

God is still good when you wonder if this month’s light bill can be paid because you’ve been laid off.

God is still good when the one you’ve loved for a lifetime passes suddenly and unexpectedly to the next life.

God is still good when you hear the words, “You’ll never have children.”

God is still good when drought comes. When disease comes. When distress comes. When disaster strikes.

So, please, keep giving God the credit for the good times in life. But may I ask us all to also display to the world–even on social media–that God is good at all times.

As the most famous Psalm of them all says it, “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me” (Psalm 23:4).

Even when our life may not be worthy of Instagram, our Shepherd is good.


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AUTHOR: Adam Faughn

Episode 59: Why Your Whole Family Should Attend Polishing the Pulpit [Podcast]

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In our final program of this season, Adam takes just a few minutes to tell you a little about Polishing the Pulpit and why you and your whole family can be greatly encouraged by this wonderful event.

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For More Information

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One Small Decision, A Family Tradition, and Saving Almost $500 Each Year

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A few years ago when our family moved to Nashville we made a very hard decision. You see, we were barely 30 years old. We had realized early on in our marriage that living in perpetual debt was not for us. We had paid off a relatively small student loan and we had paid off our car. Then we did this little thing called adoption and found ourselves in debt again, along with another car payment.

We were tired. We had two children under the age of 3, with their futures in our very hands and we were determined to put an end to paycheck-to-paycheck living. We wanted to start saving some money.

We finally began to understand that if we wanted our lives to look different, we had to start living differently. What a concept.

A Couple of Big Changes

We made some big changes. One was to refrain from car payments. This is no small thing, because we had one car at the time, in Nashville, and we lived 15 minutes from the church building where Adam worked. We knew we needed another car. It would have been easy to go buy a car and have a “small” $200 car payment. We were serious, though, and decided that one good car was enough. We bought an old car that Adam could use traveling back and forth from work. I love my husband for many reasons. One of which is that he was willing to drive a car without heat, air, and a radio during that time.

This was also about the time we decided to turn off our cable. That decision wasn’t only about money, but the $70 monthly bill sure wasn’t winning us over. That decision truly transformed our family. We were forced to think of other things to do. As our children grew older, they also were forced to think of other things to do. Television shows and movies became a treat and a decision; not a default. These were some big changes we made, but there was also a small decision that really made an impact on our family.

The Small Change with Big Impact

We found out that controlling our spending was a lot harder in Nashville where there were approximately 30 billion restaurants (and it seemed that about 10 billion of them were on our drive home from worship).

We noticed a pattern every Sunday morning. After worship, all of our friends would start making plans about where to eat lunch. Inevitably, our friends would invite us along. We would go along for a couple of reasons. First, we didn’t want to be impolite. Second, I didn’t have anything already prepared back at home.

We knew this would be a problem. After all, even as young as our kids were then, we were spending at least $80 each month for Sunday lunch. That may not seem like a lot to you, but to us at that time that was a lot of money.

So, we made a plan. We decided to start making our own Sunday lunch. I knew myself well enough to know that in order for this plan to work, Sunday lunch needed to be “in the oven” before we headed to worship. It was during this time that I learned how to roast a chicken, which, by the way, is very easy. I also got pretty good at cooking a roast. We figured that all told, we could eat for around $10 at home, when you consider the leftover meat and broth. In addition, we almost always had Sunday night sandwiches taken care of from the leftovers.

We began inviting other families over to eat with us because we knew that Sunday dinner is a great time to visit with other young families who would otherwise be too busy during the week.

I know that others say that the expense of eating out is worth it because they are visiting with other families. Well, we were visiting with other families too, and in addition, we were building a wonderful tradition of a nice Sunday dinner every week.

Plus…we had around $40 dollars extra a month!

What $40 Each Month Could Mean

Now, I know that saving $40 a month might not seem worth it to some people, but I want to encourage you to look at what $40 dollars could do for your family.

For that same $40, you could order a subscription to “Discovery” magazine for your child and order every Apologetics Press “Learn to Read” or “Advanced Reader” series of books and still have at least $12 left over.

Or you could order a one-year subscription to Gospel Advocate and Christian Woman magazines with a couple of dollars still in your pocket.

If you are not in the buying mood, you could give $40 more dollars to the work of the Lord or you could pay off S40 of your debt that month. Do the math and that little change adds up to almost $500 in one year’s time.

Conclusion

You see, a small change in your life can have big effects. The obvious is financial, but as you can see, we got much more than a financial benefit from this small change in our life.


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AUTHOR: Leah Faughn

Resource: Advanced Bible Reader from Apologetics Press

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It is now the middle of summer. The heat is causing your kids to want to stay indoors all the time, and it feels like the beginning of school is never going to get here.

You want your children to still be kids, but at the same time you don’t want them to just waste all summer on the couch watching television.

What can you do?

Today, I want to share a great resource we recently signed our kids up for that we are already loving….and it’s free!

It’s called Advanced Bible Reader (or “ABR” for short), and it is a great faith-building resource from our friends at Apologetics Press.

What Is ABR?

Advanced Bible Reader’s own website starts with these simple words: “The purpose of this program is to encourage young people ages 5-13 to read the Bible and learn what it says.” While those may be simple words, I hope that, as a Christian parent, you see the eternal value in them!

ABR simply asks young people to read the Bible (or related books and materials by Apologetics Press), then take a short quiz on what they have read. As your kids take and pass these tests, they earn “points” to track their progress. The homepage for ABR then displays the top performers over time.

Further, if you or your congregation is involved in Lads to Leaders, ABR can help your child earn a gold award in the “Year-Round Bible Reading” category. While it takes a lot of work to earn that award, it is great motivation to keep them going.

What Do They Read?

Here is what I love the most. When I first heard of ABR, I thought it was only based upon books and other materials designed for young people from Apologetics Press. Certainly, that is a major component. From books for very young children like Fish, Flies, and Fleas to more advanced materials like Dinosaurs Unleashed, children read and then take tests on these faith-building materials. Also, back issues of “Discovery” magazine can be used for the tests.

However, there are also readings and tests on every book of the Bible! Of course, longer books (Genesis, Isaiah, etc.) are broken down into a few chapters at a time, so the student does not have to try to remember everything from these lengthy books for the quiz. Shorter books (Ruth, for example) are all contained in one test. Again, this is a wonderful way to encourage Bible reading. And further, if you are involved in Lads to Leaders, this is a good supplement for several events: Bible Bowl, Year-Round Bible Reading, Parade of Winners, and Centurion of Scripture.

Three Things We Like

As I said, we are very new to signing up for ABR (as in, less than a week in!). Already, though, our kids are really loving it. Here are three reasons why I wanted our children to be involved.

  1. Personal Reading/Study. If my son wants to read a book about dinosaurs, while my daughter wants to be studying a book for her Lads to Leaders Bible Bowl, that’s fine. They can each be reading Biblical material, then seeing how much they are actually retaining that material through the tests. This fosters in them an understanding of personal Bible study.
  2. Sound material. Obviously, the Bible is sound! However, we are big fans of the work that Apologetics Press does, especially for children and young people. Having my kids desire to read these materials over and over again is a major plus. We have many of the books, but plan to order others as our children need them for this program.
  3. Outstanding Use of Time. As I began this post, I noted how here in mid-summer, kids can get a bit of the “blahs” and just want to veg out. Using ABR, they are motivated to spend some time reading and growing in their faith, and they are motivated to do so on their own, with very little prompting from mom or dad!

Conclusion and Resources

How much did signing up our kids for ABR motivate them? My son–the very first night–went into his room (and his sister’s room, too!) and pulled out all their books and materials from Apologetics Press and put them on a desk right in our living room. He wanted to stay up late reading another book, as did our daughter.

Parents, this is a great resource and–again–it’s free! Of course, you have to purchase Apologetics Press materials for your kids to read, but the ABR resource itself is a free website. To get started for free, simply concentrate on the tests on Scripture, then purchase Apologetics Press materials for your children as you are able. Who knows? You might even start a trend at your congregation of ordering these types of materials!

To sign up or to learn more, visit the Advanced Bible Reader website here.

[Also, on our podcast, Eric Lyons from AP did a program with me about the need to teach apologetics to our children. To hear that interview, click here.]


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AUTHOR: Adam Faughn

The Last Will and Testament of Jesus Christ

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Because it is a fact that the God of the universe actually presented Himself to His creation in the flesh (John 1:14), it seems that His time here on earth would be most significant. And since He exited this realm after only about 33 years, it seems even more important that if He left something behind that mankind would be even more obliged to listen. This is, of course, where the value of the New Testament comes in.

When do men write their wills? They write them during their lifetime. In fact, they basically live their will until the time comes to draft the document that will continue their wishes long after they are gone. So Jesus Christ, the Son of God, wrote the initial remarks of His will during His lifetime. We can see this in the work of the four gospels. We can see how the preliminary teachings of Christ set the precedent for the complete will that would be presented afterward to the human family.

When are the terms of the will articulated to the beneficiaries? They are communicated after the benefactor’s death. This explains the time and the content of the rest of the New Testament. It makes perfect sense that the complete terms of Christ’s will would only be disclosed after His death, burial, and resurrection. Jesus left the Holy Spirit behind to continue to unveil the terms of His will until the reading of such will was completed. These terms are now documented in the pages of the New Testament.

What is different about Christ’s will that separates it from all others? Most wills deliver physical blessings to those who are qualified and who will meet the terms and conditions that are found therein. The inheritance is only temporary, and eventually whatever one receives will either decay or be given to someone else. But Christ’s last will and testament delivers to each person an incorruptible inheritance, reserved in heaven, which will never fade away. There is not another will; past, present, or future, that can bless men eternally.

The New Testament is much more than an historical document. It is more than a guidebook for Christian living. It is more than an ethical foundation for a peaceful society. The New Testament is the last will and testament of the one and only Son of God. It makes sense, then, that we would make sure to be present when the terms and blessings of His will are being publicly disclosed.

Weekly public readings and explanations of the terms of the last will and testament of Jesus Christ are happening regularly at a church near you. You would be blessed to attend.

“For where a will is involved, the death of the one who made it must be established. For a will takes effect only at death, since it is not in force as long as the one who made it is alive.” ~ Hebrews 9:16-17

“And by that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.” ~ Hebrews 10:10


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Some Thoughts about Freedom

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As we prepare to celebrate the fact that thirteen colonies declared, and then fought to win, their independence from the most powerful country in the world at that time, I thought it might be appropriate to share a few thoughts about freedom. There seems to me to be a connection between the freedom which was so dear to them and the freedom we have in Christ (cf. John 8:36).

Freedom is not free. Those who signed the document declaring those colonies to be free from the domination of England pledged their “…Lives…Fortunes…and…Sacred Honor.” While there was recognition of, and appreciation for, “…the protection of Divine Providence…”, it is of interest to notice that that pledge was made to “…each other…” 

History records that many of those who signed that document lost a great deal in subsequent years. History also informs us that, in the war to actually gain the independence that had been declared, freedom came at a terrific cost.

Nothing can compare with the price paid for our freedom in Christ. It cost the Father his Son; it cost the Son his life; and it demands that those who would have this freedom would have to “…deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow [Jesus]” (Luke 9:23).

The price is high, but freedom is worth it.

Liberty is not license. Some may find it amazing that those original colonies did not throw off all law. They just rejected British law. They soon set about drafting constitutions, laws, and other means by which behavior could be regulated. They knew the difference between liberty and license.

This is also the case with regard to spiritual matters. In fact, it is specifically stated in Galatians 5:13 that, “…ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another.”

Rhetoric is not reality. What the 4th of July celebrates is the Declaration of Independence, not the reality of independence. As alluded to earlier, the reality was not realized until many battles had been fought.

Jesus asked on one occasion, “Why do you call me Lord, Lord, and not do what I tell you?” (Luke 6:46). In that statement, there is recognition of the fact that the words of many will not match reality. The claim may be that they are Christians; that they are followers of Christ; that they experience the freedom He promises. The fact may be that none of this is true.

“Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free…” (Gal 5:1)


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Episode 58: 20 Things I Want My Children to Know, part 4 [Podcast]

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This week, we finish our four-part series, in which Adam has been sharing his list of 20 things he wants his children to know.

To listen to part 1, click here.

To listen to part 2, click here.

To listen to part 3, click here.

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The Five Things Discussed in This Week’s Program:

16. I want them to know that God has a plan for their life.

17. I want them to know how to think through the world Biblically.

18. I want them to know that every person is made in the image of God.

19. I want them to know humility.

20. I want them to know that I will always be their daddy.

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When Sister Goes Against Sister

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We call them differences, arguments, differing opinions, fusses…all meaning the same thing. There are times in the Lord’s church when women (and men) just can’t seem to get along. It might be a committee working toward some event and the lady in charge rules with an iron hand. It may be generational and the older women think they know more about rearing children (or any number of other things) than this younger generation does. It might have to do with modest dress, or songs, or activities, or tattoos, or teaching methods or carpet colors, or food to serve for refreshments, or… 

Suffice it to say that there are times when sister goes against sister in the church.

The apostle Paul begins the fourth chapter of Philippians in an unusual way for a letter written mostly about joy and love. In verse 2 he calls out the names of two Christian women who apparently aren’t getting along for some reason. That reason isn’t given, but we do know that they were not “agreeing in the Lord.” He further calls for the Christians around them to help them. How? He doesn’t really say, unless reminding them that at one time they “labored side by side with me in the gospel…” would help get them back on track.

I would like to share a few suggestions to hopefully help lessen the damage done when “fusses” between Christian sisters come about.

  • Tame your tongue. As is often the case, when there are differences of opinion concerning any matter, our tongues go to work. We feel the need to talk to others about “our opinion” and win as many as we can to “our side” of the dispute. We need to learn to work constantly on being in control of our tongues. James describes it as “…a restless evil, full of deadly poison.” (James 3:8)
  • Taste your talk. If we placed a taste on the words that come from our mouths, what would they taste like? Would they be bitter, salty, sweet, sour? Spend some time thinking about what comes out of your mouth. I know when I’m angry, not much sweetness is likely to come out of my mouth! (Col. 4:6)
  • Tame your tone. How you say what you say matters! I could say “I disagree with that” in several different ways just by changing the tone of my voice and the look on my face. Knowing this and remembering it when differences come up will go a long way toward stopping fusses.
  • It is ok to have differences of opinion concerning non-doctrinal matters. The problem develops when I think that my opinion is the only one that counts; that my way of doing things is the only right way! It hurts me when other sisters don’t agree with me! Do you see the selfishness in these statements? When I lose “self” in order to maintain harmony in the body of Christ I will be helping to keep peace? (Phil. 2:3)
  • Unity is important. Paul gives us a formula to maintain unity in the body of Christ.  “…Walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” (Eph. 4: 1-3)  I certainly can’t improve on that formula.
  • Don’t give Satan a victory. When sister goes against sister, disrupting the peace in the congregation, Satan wins a victory. He moves us off-course. We lose our true focus. We forget what Jesus did for us. We begin focusing upon “our rights,” and forget that we have no rights because we have “been crucified with Christ.” (Gal. 2:20)

To paraphrase David the psalmist:

“Behold, how good and pleasant it is when [sisters] dwell in unity!” Psalm 133:1


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