What 3000 People Taught Me, 2000 Years Ago

what 3000 taught me

“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever” (Hebrews 13:8). God’s message for us in the pages of the Bible has not changed for nearly 2,000 years. It was completed at the end of the first century, A.D., and is the all-sufficient and final will of God for the human race. That is why I can have great confidence in reading about an event that took place on the day the Lord’s church was established.

On the day of Pentecost, approximately 33 A.D., the gospel was preached for the first time by the 12 apostles. On that day 3,000 received the message and were baptized. Through that obedient decision, God added them to the church (Acts 2:38-47). Their decision to become Christians has been a great encouragement to me over the years as both an obedient believer and a preacher of the gospel. We can all learn a lesson or two concerning their immediate decision to put on Christ in baptism.

1. They did not know very much, but they knew enough. Many people delay their obedience to Christ because they are afraid they are not well-studied in the Scriptures. What did these people know? They knew they had killed the Son of God (Acts 2:36). They knew that they were lost and needed to do something about it (Acts 2:37). They knew nothing of the church or of the expectations of Christianity. Peter told them what they needed to do to get right with God and they did it.

2. They had a heart problem that was fixable. While their hard hearts had caused them to reject Christ and His teachings, their hearts were not beyond repair. They heard the message and their hearts were pricked (Acts 2:37). Being “cut to the heart” is a necessary experience. Something has to happen in order for our heart to be affected before Jesus can fit inside. Sometimes my heart has issues. But I know that God is greater than my heart (1 John 3:20). The Great Physician came to operate on hearts. He came to break hearts. He came to heal hearts. He came to live in hearts.

3. Obedience is contagious. I can only imagine what it would have been like to witness 3,000 people repent of their sins and be baptized. This would have taken all day! When others make a decision to commit their lives to the Lord, their decision can encourage others. This is why confessing Christ as Lord is a part of the process (Romans 10:9-10). God wants to be seen in people who are willing to live out His purpose for their lives. Our obedience is powerful and it is meant to be replicated by witnesses.

4. There is no reason to delay becoming a Christian. If 3,000 people could simultaneously submit to the will of God, then nothing should keep any person who has heard the gospel message from doing the same. I know as a preacher that if I present the plan effectively and correctly, one sermon can be enough to change a person’s eternity. An individual should be able to walk into the building where I am preaching and be able–through just one lesson–to become a child of God, even if they have never heard anything about God before. We must remember to preach the plan. After all, tomorrow may be too late.

What a blessing to know that when a person does what 3,000 people did 2,000 years ago they will receive the very same things they received: Remission of sins (Acts 2:38; 22:16); the name of Christ (Christian) – having been clothed with Christ (Galatians 3:27); addition to the church by the Lord (Acts 2:47); an answer of a good conscience before God (1 Peter 3:21); the perpetual cleansing of the blood of Christ upon repentance and prayer (1 John 1:9); joy within and peace of mind and heart (Acts 8:38-39; Philippians 4:6-7); and the hope of eternal salvation according to a faithful life (Mark 16:15-16; Revelation 2:10).

Everything I ever needed to know about God happened almost 2,000 years ago. God has been patient and loving and merciful to me. He waited long enough to let me learn it and live it. What an amazing God we serve!

“Thus says the Lord: ‘Stand in the ways and see, and ask for the old paths, where the good way is, and walk in it; Then you will find rest for your souls…’” (Jeremiah 6:16).

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Satisfied with the Leftovers (from a Different Perspective)

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Last Monday, I wrote about the woman who expressed to Jesus that she would be satisfied with any “crumbs” that He might allow her to have. At that time, I suggested that her attitude was one which would be pleasing to our Lord. It would demonstrate humility on our part and would result in a very grateful attitude for what He has done, and continues to do, for us.

However, there is another way to look at this concept of being satisfied with the leftovers. The difference is perspective. It is about who is–or is not–being satisfied.

God never has been, is not now, and will never be satisfied with the leftovers.

You may remember that, on one occasion, our Lord was asked, “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law? Hopefully, you also remember His answer: “…You shall love the Lord your God will all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.  This is the first and great commandment (Matt. 22:36-37).

It seems to me that, if I love God with all my being, there does not appear to be any justification for giving Him the leftovers of my affection, my time, my energy, my money…my all. It has been said by many (because it is true) that God will accept no position other than first place in our lives.

This principle is clearly seen in the Old Testament as God’s people were instructed to bring only the very best to offer as a sacrifice to Him. It carries over into the New Testament wherein we read these words:

I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God (Romans 12:1-2, NKJV).

One of the songs we sometimes sing has a title that is repeated four times in the song itself — Give of Your Best to the Master.

That’s very sound advice, because He will accept no less.

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Friday’s Family Friendly Finds {August 1, 2014 edition}

Welcome to August! Or, if you are going to Polishing the Pulpit, welcome to PtP month!

It is hard to believe, but we start our year of homeschool next Monday. Also, we will start our Legacy of Faith podcast next Thursday. So, there is a lot going on around here.

Did you know that we keep an updated list of where A Legacy of Faith writers will be speaking? Click here to find out when we will be in your area! We would love to meet you.

On to this week’s family links.

Family Friendly Finds

This Week’s Finds

Dear Daughter, Please Believe Me That You’re Beautiful {Matt Walsh blog}

Not Just Behavior Chance {National Center for Biblical Parenting}

15 Sites and Apps Kids are Heading to Beyond Facebook {Common Sense Media}

Feed Your Little Sheep {for the family}

The Problem with 50 Shades of Grey {Haley Morgan Smith}

And, for you tech geeks, if you have trouble remembering to mute your phone during church, just use THIS link for Android and THIS for iPhone. Oh, and to unmute your Android when you leave church, use THIS link. {If This, Then That; you’ll need the ifttt app, but it’s free and way cool!}

Our Week in Review

The following were our five most-viewed posts in the last week. These were not necessarily published in the last week, they just drew the most views. (Original publication date in parentheses.) 

#5: James 1:22 Steps on My Toes (July 23, 2014)

#4: Being the Bad Guy (July 22, 2014)

#3: The Universal Family (July 29, 2014)

#2: Satisfied with the Leftovers (July 28, 2014)

#1: Michael Sam & ESPN’s Definition of Courage (July 30, 2014)

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A Legacy of Faith Podcast Starts in One Week

Since we launched of A Legacy of Faith, we have centered our efforts on producing written content. Each week since our start, we have produced five new posts each week, and the reception you have given us has been tremendous. We enjoy these posts, but we want to do as much as we can to inform and encourage you and your family.

With that in mind, from the very start, we have also stated that there have been additional “outlets” in the works. One that we specifically mentioned from our launch was a podcast. The launch date for A Legacy of Faith: The Podcast is now just one week away, and we are thrilled.

LOFpodcast

Our first episode will be released next Thursday, August 7, and we pray it starts a long series of programs that greatly encourage you! The tagline for the program is, “The podcast designed to help your family survive the day, prepare for tomorrow, and always keep an eye on eternity.” Our goal is simply to bring you and your family information and encouragement on a variety of topics.

Some of you remember that Leah and I started a podcast about a year ago, recording five episodes. While the program was very successful, we simply had not done enough “pre-preparation,” and as such, we were not good at staying on top of the recording schedule. We have learned from our mistakes, and have done a much better job–together–at planning well into the future this time around.

In fact, as of this writing, two episodes are already fully recorded and edited, and another will be completed within a couple of days. Additionally, we have mapped out a plan for the first 10 episodes, and have a much better grasp on what we want to do with the program. Each episode will be about 30 minutes in length, and we are doing our best to keep them informative and upbeat (even the intro music is fun!).

We are thrilled to be entering the podcast world again, and we hope you are looking forward to it, too. If you don’t know what a podcast is, think of it as an online radio program that you can listen to whenever you’d like (sort of like DVR for audio content). You can listen on a computer, tablet, or smartphone, and you can listen to any episode you want, anytime you want.

To learn more about A Legacy of Faith’s podcast and what we have planned for the first 10 episodes, here is a link to the information page.

Also, we want to ask that, if you are one who enjoys podcasts, please spread the word about this new work. Once the program begins, every download, comment on iTunes, and rating, will help us get the word out through the iTunes search engine. If you like what you hear when the podcast is released, take just a moment to give us a little “iTunes love.” It will be appreciated!

As always, we pray that this effort guides you closer to the Lord and helps your family. Please pray for us as we continue to work on the podcast, and please know that we will not forget the written content! You’ll still get 5 posts every week, and we pray they continue to encourage you, as well.

One Week Away! Can you tell we are excited?

Michael Sam & ESPN’s Definition of Courage

michael sam espn

Recently, ESPN held their annual ESPY awards. Like most major awards shows, it was simply a place for people in an entertainment industry to pat themselves on the back for how great they are. I used to rather enjoy these shows; now, I find them boring.

Each year at the ESPYs, an award is given for courage in sports. Named the Arthur Ashe Courage Award, this trophy is presented to just one person each year, and is meant to honor someone associated (even loosely) with the world of sports who has overcome a great obstacle in life. Former winners of this award include Jim Valvano, Pat and Kevin Tillman, Pat Summitt, and the hero who made “let’s roll” famous in the wake of 9/11: Todd Beamer.

 

Then came the 2014 ESPY awards, in which this same award was given to St. Louis Rams rookie defensive end, Michael Sam. Drafted recently in the 7th round of the NFL Draft by the Rams, Sam was the 2013 SEC Defensive Player of the Year, winning that award for his outstanding play with the Missouri Tigers.

So, here is a gifted athlete, who is good enough to win a very prominent award in the Southeastern Conference and who is now working in a career that thousands of boys wish they could attain: a spot with an NFL team. And he is given an award for courage.

For what? Did Sam overcome cancer to get here? No. Did he survive a major accident and need to learn to walk again? No. Did he fight for our country and survive the horrors of combat? No.

So how did the “World Wide Leader” define courage for this year’s Arthur Ashe Courage Award?

Michael Sam is gay.

In the United States of America.

In 2014.

Let’s think about that definition of “courage” for a moment.

We live in a time and culture where to speak out against homosexuality is considered bigotry. To do so in many settings will lead to suspension from a job, court-ordered sensitivity training, or a no-questions-asked firing.

We live in a culture where the mainstream media celebrates homosexuality by making sure it is a major part of nearly every major TV show and movie, and they are certain that the homosexual character is kind, good looking, and heroic.

Ours is a time when our Supreme Court has made homosexual marriage something that is coming quickly to nearly every part of our nation, and we are told by most in the media to welcome that without any argument. To not celebrate gay marriage is to be out of step with the modern tide of history.

Even when Michael Sam himself was drafted by the Rams, cameras were present to witness his reaction (which included kissing his boyfriend) and share that moment with the world. When is the last time any other last-round pick got such treatment?

In other words, to be courageous in the eyes of ESPN, you need to live a lifestyle that everyone celebrates and no one is allowed to speak out against. You must be able to play a game for a living and have the celebrity that is attached with being a star athlete.

That’s how we define courage now?

Please tell that to police officers and military personnel, who put their own personal safety on the line on a daily basis, and do so without a second thought, and with very few words of thanks.

Please tell that to the elderly man who refuses to leave his ailing wife’s bedside, though his own health is not good.

Please tell that to the single mom who works all day and gives her children moral direction with ounce of energy she has left each evening.

Oh, I forgot. They can’t rush a quarterback, throw a 12-6 curve, or hit a game-winning 3-pointer. So the new, inclusive, politically-correct ESPN will never know about them and be able to figure out what real courage looks like.

One of these days, I may face jail, a fine, or having to leave the ministry for speaking out against the type of lifestyle that Michael Sam has chosen. He’ll be making money playing a game and I may be sitting in a cell or going through a financial struggle, all due to a deep conviction in Scripture.

Yet ESPN tells us that he’s the one with courage. Welcome to America in 2014, where to be awarded for being courageous no longer requires courage.

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The Universal Family

universal family

The very last time the word “family” is used in the Bible this is what is said, “For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named…” (Ephesians 3:14-15). This is the opening statement of a longer thought the apostle Paul was having. He was praying for the church to have everything God intended for it to have: Love for God and Christ, a full understanding of Christianity and its blessings, strength in the inner man, and that Christ might dwell in individual hearts by faith. Truly he is expressing in this text the countless virtues and incomprehensible rewards that come with being a part of the church, the spiritual family of God.

It is my purpose in writing this brief article to get the reader to come away with one thought they will not soon forget: When you are a part of God’s family, you are a part of a universal family. I have lived in several states and in even more cities in my 41 years. Having been raised in the church from the first day, I have learned about my universal family. Everywhere I have ever lived and everywhere I have even briefly visited, my spiritual family has been there for me. In mission work both state-side and abroad, I have been blessed with food and lodging, love, friendship, hospitality, comfort, support, laughter, sympathy – you name it! Everything a family does I have been able to do with the church wherever I have gone. How wonderful it is to have experienced the true church of God’s superior design and foreknowledge!

Every single day, the church of God’s choice is involved in family activities. This week I am in a meeting in Lawrence County, Tennessee. We are worshiping together, eating together, and enjoying fellowship together. They are taking care of my daily physical needs, while I am trying to encourage them spiritually with the Word. In the middle of the week, I will drive home to preach a funeral with my local spiritual family. As soon as I am done I will be heading back to the Gandy church of Christ in Lawrenceburg to preach again.

I received a call this week from a lady and her two children who were moving to Cookeville. They needed help moving in. So I spent this morning along with our other ministers unloading their moving van. Why? Because they are family. I have never met them before, but they have been a part of my universal spiritual family my whole life. I hope they will see that they have a local family of God’s people who are ready to move them in to the Willow Avenue church as well.

The Bible says that the primitive church had all things in common. They shared all of their material possessions. No person lacked anything. They did this with cheerfulness and simplicity of heart. I am sure they were not all wealthy, not all healthy, not all popular, not all sophisticated, and not all perfect. But there was a reason they were all happy to be family. This reason motivated them to do incredible things for each other.

Their motivation was simply that God had invited them into His family! They had crucified His Son, but the inexpressible extension of God’s grace had adopted them into the family that Jesus Christ came into the world to establish. They knew they didn’t deserve a place in God’s house, so it was easy for them to accept and encourage others to come in after them.

It has been my experience that in God’s family, no matter how hard you work, you are blessed beyond your ability to be a blessing. This should give us great consolation. God cares for us and He will take care of us. He has meaning and a purpose for us in His church. He has authored a place for us in the universal family. The church is that temporary earthly place. Heaven is that eternal heavenly place.

“For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named…”

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Satisfied with the Leftovers

satisfied with leftovers

I once knew a family that got a lot of free pies. The reason was that there was an elderly gentleman who had an unusual “tradition.”

This man wanted his wife to fix a fresh pie for their noon meal. As I remember it, if this was not a daily occurrence, it was an almost daily occurrence.

The man and his wife each enjoyed a piece of freshly baked pie at lunch and then gave the rest of the pie to the people I knew.

They weren’t merely trying to be nice, however. Instead, if you can believe it, the elderly gentleman absolutely refused to eat leftover pie.

It seems to me that many people approach all of life this way. We believe that they deserve the best and that they have every right to demand the best. The “leftovers of life” are of no interest to them. Something that has been used by somebody else or that comes from a surplus of supplies from somewhere is seen by many as being way below their dignity.

Amazingly, some seem to even approach God that way. The attitude they display is one of making demands on God and expecting Him to satisfy every desire and cater to every whim. Of course, those desires and expectations must be met with nothing but the best. “Leftovers” would never do!

It might be that a quick reading of Matthew 15:21-28 would be in order here. The woman in this account had a very real need. Every time I read this account, I am amazed at how much pride she swallowed. In verse twenty-seven, she indicates she would be perfectly satisfied with the Lord’s “leftovers” if it would help her daughter. To be specific, she told Jesus that “crumbs” would be all right (v. 27). As you are no doubt aware, when Jesus saw that attitude demonstrated by her, He commended her for having great faith (v. 28).

It logically follows that the attitude expressed and demonstrated by this woman would still be most pleasing to our Lord. This is the attitude that puts Him, not me, on the throne. It puts me in the position of humility and obedience.

That is not a position which is very appealing to many. It is, however, the only position we can occupy which will allow us to be truly blessed.

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Friday’s Family Friendly Finds {July 25, 2014 edition}

Can you believe that some of our schools in this area are getting ready to start back already? While we are not starting our year of homeschool for a few more days, several schools will begin a new year this coming week. It’s still July!

We rarely put a link above the picture, but we wanted to share this one early in the post, because it is special. Not only does it deal with adoption (a “failed” one), but it has a Polishing the Pulpit connection. Amy Clevenger writes a post that will speak to your heart entitled “One Reason Why I Don’t Want to Go to PTP This Year (…and 3,000 Reasons Why I DO).” What a powerful post.

We hope you enjoy the rest of our family links for this week. We have several good ones to encourage you as you go throughout your weekend.

Family Friendly Finds

This Week’s Finds

One Flesh: 5 Questions for Your Marriage {for the family}

How to Talk to Your Daughter about Her Body {Huffington Post: Parents}

Some Kids Drain Energy Out of Family Life {National Center for Biblical Parenting}

Strong, Long-Lasting Marriages {The Morning Drive}

The Weekly Hug Project {Life in the Kingdom}

…and just for you organizing nerds (like me): Christmas in July: Christmas Planning Printables {Of the Hearth}

Our Week in Review

The following were our five most-viewed posts in the last week. These were not necessarily published in the last week, they just drew the most views. (Original publication date in parentheses.)

#5: Choose (July 17, 2014)

#4: Home is People {Quote for Pinterest} (July 24, 2014)

#3: Seeing, but Not Seeing (July 21, 2014)

#2: James 1:22 Steps on My Toes (July 23, 2014)

#1: Being the Bad Guy (July 22, 2014)

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Home is People {Quote for Pinterest}

Today, we have a great quote for you. It shares the age-old idea that home is not a building, but it is the people.

We have made this quote where you can pin it on Pinterest, to share the encouragement with others. Enjoy!

home is people quote

 

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James 1:22 Steps On My Toes

james 1 22 toes

The half-brother of our Lord wrote what is often considered the most practical book of the New Testament. The five chapters of James are filled with teachings that are needed in the day-to-day walk of Christian living.

One of the more well-known passages in that book is James 1:22, where we are told in a straightforward manner:

But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. (ESV)

Don’t fool yourself into thinking that you are a listener when you are anything but, letting the Word go in one ear and out the other. Act on what you hear! (MSG)

I dare say that nearly 100% of those who would take the time to read this blog know that verse, and most of us have it committed to memory.

But James 1:22 steps on my toes far more often than I’d like to admit. Here’s why.

I like to learn. I read a lot, mostly books dealing with the Bible and Christian living. I listen to a number of podcasts, and most of them are educational. Many of them are religious in nature and help me understand and make application of God’s Word. I read Christian blogs and websites on a daily basis, gaining from the insights of others. Regularly, we attend some great lectureships and other programs that help us learn more about what God would have us to do.

While you may not do all of these, likely you do at least some of them. (After all, you are reading a Christian blog!)

But do we do what we learn?

It is one thing to quote the Great Commission, go to a Bible class on personal work, and even attend a seminar that encourages teaching others. It’s another thing to actually speak to someone about eternity and salvation.

It is one thing to know that “God loves a cheerful giver,” read books by V.P. Black and others, and put “giving” at the top of our budget. It is another thing to really be sacrificial and cheerful.

It is one thing to gain insight into being a godly spouse from podcasts, books, and seminars. It is quite another to actually treat my spouse the way I should.

It was a few years ago when I first heard my dad talk about this problem. We were talking about how many opportunities to learn and grow were popping up, seemingly constantly. We do not begrudge these things in the least. We learn and grow from them on a regular basis, and love the opportunity to do so.

However, dad said something along these lines: “The Church may be putting together so many programs to avoid actually doing the work.”

That’s insight, and it is James 1:22 applied in a modern setting.

You can attend all the “right” lectures and read all the right books. You can quote from wonderful leaders and even be in all the best Facebook groups. You are hearing the truth, no doubt.

But don’t fail to do what you have heard!

Today, what lesson that you’ve heard recently do you need to apply and actually do? Don’t let James 1:22 step on your toes; instead, let it motivate you to be that faithful doer of the work!

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