Sneaky Idols

I think it was the great “philosopher” Yogi Berra who said, “You can observe a lot just by watching.” In his unique way, he said something that is really true.

The following thought may not be quite as profound as that, but I think that it is also true. I think one can hear a lot just be listening. It might be a bit more accurate to suggest that a person can learn a lot just by listening.

It seems that real listening is happening less and less. All you have to do is to watch and listen to some of the “talking heads” on cable news channels. They all talk at the same time. Nobody seems to be really listening to anybody else’s point of view. Each person seems to be intent on presenting his or her own point of view as loudly and as forcefully (and sometimes as rudely) as they can. 

Fortunately, I was listening to one of my fellow elders a little while back. I’m glad I was not trying to talk while he was talking. I’m also glad I wasn’t distracted to the point that I did not catch something he said.

He was talking about the sin of idolatry. Specifically, he was talking about people in the Bible who made their own idols and worshiped them. 

He then said this (and I’m pretty sure this is word-for-word):

“Their idols were intentional. Ours just kind of sneak up on us.”

I believe that he is right about that. 

I know he was right about the first part. We do, in fact, read in the Bible about people and nations who built “gods” and foolishly worshiped them. 

Sadly, there are people and places today where exactly the same thing is done. Years ago, I made two mission trips to India. Unless you have been there yourself, you cannot fully comprehend how many idols, temples, altars, etc. there are in that nation.

I think that most of us know that India is only one nation where this is a normal and accepted way of life. It would be impossible to know for sure how many millions of people live and worship lifeless idols.

However, as sad as that it, it was the second part of his statement that I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about recently. I’m wondering if it would also be impossible to know how many people worship idols that “sneak up on us.” Those “idols” and those people are the ones that concern me the most. I even wonder if I might see one of those people when I look in the mirror.

I recently was asked to speak on priorities. While working on that lesson, I came across a quote that is both simple and profound at the same time. 

Our priorities are best reflected by how we spend our time.

I think that the quote could be “tweaked” a little to reflect what my brother had in mind when he made his statement. Here are some “tweaks” that come to mind.

Our idols are those things (and people) with which (whom) we spend the greatest amount of time.

Our idols are those things (and people) which (who) consume the bulk of our resources.

Our idols are those things (and people) about which (whom) we are most excited.

Our idols are those things (and people) to which (whom) we are the most loyal.

I suppose the list could go on and on, but I think that those statements are enough to prompt some self-examination. I know it has caused me to do some of that. 

My brother’s statement helped to make me a little more alert to some real dangers. I’ve always known that God will not accept any place other than first place in my life. I’ve been reminded that I need to be alert to those “sneaky idols” that could cost me my soul.

I love my wife, my children, their spouses, and my grandchildren. I have some very good friends with whom I enjoy spending time. I am very thankful to live in the society in which I live and the freedoms and rights I have merely because I am a citizen of the United States of America. I am thankful for those who have defended those freedoms and rights in the past and those who continue to do so today. I am grateful to have so many modern conveniences and opportunities for both employment and recreation. I am grateful for my education and the financial resources with which I have been blessed. 

However, I need to be careful to not let any or all of that come between my Father and me. If I do, I might as well build an altar on which to offer a sacrifice or erect a statue and bow down to it. 

How about you? Have any idols “sneaked up” on you?

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AUTHOR: Jim Faughn

Photo background credit: pavan on Creative Commons

Episode 87: Polishing the Pulpit Preview, “Is Satan Stealing Our Families?” and More! [Podcast]

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On this week’s podcast, Adam and Leah talk about the beginning of the homeschool year. Then, they preview Polishing the Pulpit, both in general and some of the lessons they are presenting. Finally, they discuss a great article about how things that are not sinful can begin to eat away at our families and become idols. Resources below.


Polishing the Pulpit [Homepage]

Polishing the Pulpit Schedule [pdf]

Is Satan Stealing Our Families?” [Brie Gowen]

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Satan Doesn’t Care

In our Bible class last Sunday morning we were discussing the “whole armor of God,” detailed in Ephesians 6. We spent some time talking about the spiritual realm, which is beyond my comprehension. How, exactly, does Satan roam the earth? Who all, exactly, make up the “cosmic powers over this present darkness” from verse 12?

We also spent time with the specifics of the pieces of armor: The belt of truth, which holds all things together. The breastplate of righteousness, which protects from the kill shot to the heart. The helmet of salvation, which guards our minds by giving us an assurance of eventual victory in Christ.

It was at some point during this military focus that I realized something about the foe on the other side. We were talking about ammunition in the realm of military usage. That’s when it hit me: Satan doesn’t care if he hits you with scatter shot or a sniper bullet as long as he hits to kill.

Here is my take away from that: that’s why God, in His wisdom, armed every part of our body. He knows that Satan will use scatter shot to take out wide swaths of people. This may be in the form of cultural beliefs and norms that are contrary to God’s truths. It might be the birdshot of disappointment in people, laziness, or just being apathetic.

And then there are those times when Satan takes dead aim at you. He knows your weak areas, and like a sniper with laser focus, he centers his shot. It may be a physical temptation that has long been a struggle for you. It may be the loss of a job that shakes your faith. It might even be good intentions that are executed without the love of Christ in your heart.

And he doesn’t care! Satan doesn’t care how he gets you as long as he pulls you away from the loving God who wants to save you. So don’t let him get you! If you read all of those pieces of armor God gives us, you read that they can “extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one” (verse 16) and are designed to help you “withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm” (verse 13).

“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil.” Ephesians 6:10-11

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AUTHOR: Amber Tatum

2 Responses for Those Who Say, “If We Only Had Miracles Today”

Every so often, I will hear or read the thoughts of someone who wants there to be miracles in our modern times. Of course, the New Testament clearly teaches that miracles served their purpose of confirming the Word, and they were done away with once the written Word was complete (study 1 Corinthians 12-14 carefully, along with other passages).

However, as we strive to reach others with the Gospel, we can begin to pine for the days when some amazing miracle drew a crowd. So, people then begin to think, “If we only had miracles today, people would believe.”

Trust me, I get where they are coming from. It can be frustrating to preach and teach and, seemingly, never make any headway in reaching people with the truth. But wanting a miracle just to short-circuit the process is not the answer.

Here are two ways to respond when someone says, “If we only had a miracle.”

Miracles Didn’t Always Convince People, Either. Jesus was not some circus sideshow, performing miracles all the time. Still, the New Testament makes it clear that our Lord did many miracles (cf. John 20:30-31). Yet, the very people who saw Him do these amazing signs and wonders put Him on the cross!

Yes, the miracles drew a crowd, but Jesus only did these miracles to prove who He claimed to be, not to be the end-all-be-all “argument” for people to believe. And Jesus, at least once, had to chastise people for only seeing the physical side of what He had done; not the spiritual reality right before them (John 6:26-27).

Would the same not be true today? Even if we had miracles, how many would only come for the “show,” or for the physical satisfaction, and never truly be convicted of the Scriptures?

You Do Have a Miracle Today…If You Will Use It. Now, before you write me up, let me explain. It is true that miracles have ceased (as we said in the opening of this post), but there is still a miracle you have access to at all times.

What is it? The Bible.

The inspiration of Scripture was miraculous, and each time we open God’s Word, we are getting a glimpse into that miracle of inspiration. When we see the unity of Scripture, the fulfilled prophecies, the scientific foreknowledge, and so forth, we are getting a glimpse into the miraculous inspiration of this amazing volume.

The difference is that we must be willing to do our part and actually open the Bible and study it to find this reminder of the miracle. It is not a quick and easy fix, but it is what will save us.

Yes, I’ll admit, there are times when I might pine for a miracle just to make things easier. But then, each time I open and consider the words of Scripture, I am confronted with the miracle that brought me those words in the first place.

And that should always be enough.

“For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.” (Romans 1:16)

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AUTHOR: Adam Faughn

Do We Really Want to be With God?

The words of a particular song often sung by the church go like this – “I just want to be where You are, in Your dwelling place forever. I don’t want to worship from afar, draw me near to where You are. I want to be where You are, dwelling in Your presence, feasting at Your table, surrounded by Your glory. In Your presence, that’s where I always want to be. I just want to be, I just want to be with You.”

The obvious message in this song is the desire we have to be in heaven with God forever. We don’t want to be separated from Him at any moment, and we recognize that to be present with God and absent from the world is glory (2 Cor. 5:8).

There is also a sense in which we realize God is always with us. Romans chapter 8 teaches that Christians are never separated from and cannot be separated from the love of God. This, of course, leaves us with one single alternative. If we choose to leave God of our own accord, then we can leave fellowship with God and be lost eternally.

So what is holding us back from being forever in the presence of God? S-I-N!

If not for sin there would never have been death (Rom. 6:23). There would never have been the expulsion of mankind from the Garden of Eden, from the tree of life and from the presence of Almighty God (Genesis 3:22-24). If not for sin, the Son of God would not have needed to leave heaven. Sin comes in many forms, but ultimately it is defined as the breaking of the law that God has set forth for His creation (1 John 3:4). If we are to come back to God, the provision for our sin is Jesus Christ (John 14:6; 1 John 2:1-2).

But, the words of the song beg this question – Do we really want to be in God’s presence at all times? Are there things we do and say that make us hope God is not around when we do and say them? Would we rather be at a secular gathering than at worship? Would we rather study for school than study the Bible? Would we rather be in the company of the people of the world than with fellow Christians? Would we rather talk to a human being than talk to God?

We seriously need to consider making some changes if we have said “Yes” to some of these questions. Heaven is God’s eternal home, meaning the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit will be there forever. The redeemed of all the ages and the innumerable angelic host will be there as well. If we want to be where He is then we better start living as if we were with God all of the time.

God has made the offer of eternal fellowship with the human race, and we are the ones who have been blessed with love beyond our imagination. With these things in mind, let us continually praise our God together, and let each heart make a sweet sacrifice to His name, saying, “I just want to be where You are…”

“Thou wilt shew me the path of life: in thy presence is fullness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore” ~ Psalm 16:11

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AUTHOR: Jeremiah Tatum

Photo background credit: Matthew Wilkinson on Creative Commons

Me and _______

In 1972, a singer by the name of Billy Paul recorded and released Me and Mrs. Jones. Even if you have not heard the song, you might guess that, in the words of the song, “We got a thing going on.”

I’m sure that, when that song was released, both preachers and English teachers were disturbed. Preachers (and anybody else concerned about biblical morality) were probably and justifiably concerned about the open way in which two people who had no right to be meeting were, in fact, doing just that at a designated place and time every day.

English teachers probably pulled their hair out because of at least two phrases in the song. After all, would it have been all that difficult to say “We’ve got a thing going on” instead of We?

There is another phrase in the song, however, that English teachers today might not even notice. It is used a lot. It is used so often that it “sounds right” to many people. 

It is still wrong!

I really try not to be a grammar Nazi. I make enough of my own mistakes to keep me from being overly critical of others.

At the same time, I cringe every time I hear “Me and _____” instead of “_____ and I.”

I am afraid that more is being communicated than a lack of understanding of, and appreciation for, the English language. For one thing, I am wondering if there is a subtle indictment of our entire educational system since I have heard college graduates routinely use that phrase. 

It seems that I’m hearing that phrase almost everywhere I go. I even hear it when I stay home and turn on my television or radio. I’ve heard educators use that phrase. I’ve heard politicians use it. I’ve heard it from pulpits.   

It really doesn’t matter where I hear it; where it is said; or who says it. What bothers me the most is that there seems to be a (probably unintended) elevation of the person using that phrase over any other person in the discussion. If that is the case, it would be just the opposite of the biblical injunction to “…in humility count others more significant than yourselves” (Phil. 2:3, ESV). 

I realize that I make more than my share of mistakes and that each mistake has the potential of hindering my effectiveness as I try to represent Christ and win others to Him. I also know that other subjects are much more import than this one. I just thought I’d weigh in on this particular one at this time.

I’ll save other concerns for a whole nother discussion.

See! I told you I wasn’t perfect either!!

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AUTHOR: Jim Faughn

Photo background credit: Wesley Fryer on Creative Commons

“I Can’t Take a Whole Week Off Work!” : 4 Reasons You Should Attend Polishing the Pulpit’s Spiritual Renewal Weekend

One of the common responses I get when I try to encourage people to attend Polishing the Pulpit is that it is a week long and people say that they just cannot take a week off of work.

However, did you know that Polishing the Pulpit (PtP) actually begins with “Spiritual Renewal Weekend?” This part of PtP starts on Friday evening and concludes with worship on Sunday morning.

If you have never attended PtP, let me encourage you to dip your toe in the water by attending Spiritual Renewal Weekend. I always tell people that, if you will do that, you’ll be finding ways to attend the whole week as soon as you possibly can.

Here are four reasons you should attend Spiritual Renewal Weekend.

You Will be More Encouraged than You Can Imagine. Are you even slightly discouraged? Why not take a weekend to let the Word of God and the fellowship of about 4000 Christians lift your spirits! You will be deeply encouraged, both through Scripture and through friendships.

Your “Idea File” will be Overflowing. If you are a preacher, Bible class teacher, elder, or deacon, it can feel at times as if your well of good ideas is running dry. Just one weekend of study and practical lessons can change that. I come back each year with more ideas than I know what to do with! If you will listen with your ministry or area of service in mind, you will not run dry again for a long time.

Your Kids Will be Spiritually On Fire. If you will bring your children, you will be blown away by what PtP does for them. The classes, games, singing, and more are absolutely top-notch. While there is a ton of fun, it is remarkable how much learning of the Scriptures goes on in such a short amount of time. My kids ask about it all year long!

There’s No Better Way to Spend a Weekend. Many people take weekends to float on a lake or go hiking. Those are fine, and there is nothing wrong with that. But what better way can you spend a weekend than growing in faith, being built up and encouraged by fellow Christians, and enjoying God’s creation in the Smokey Mountains?

Spiritual Renewal Weekend is fast approaching, and I cannot emphasize it enough: it is worth your time! The dates are August 18-20, 2017 in Sevierville, Tennessee. If you will come, you will be uplifted and–as the title emplies–renewed.

For more information, follow this link.

Oh, and as a bonus, if you stay through Sunday morning worship, you are given a flash drive with all the lessons from the whole weekend, so you can learn and grow even more throughout the year! Just add that as a 5th reason we hope to see you in a couple of weeks!

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AUTHOR: Adam Faughn

Why Being Popular is Overrated

It’s no fun to be hated. It’s no fun to be disliked. It’s no fun to have things said about you that are demeaning. It’s no fun to be thought of in a negative light.

We all want to be well thought of. We might not need to be the center of attention, but we would probably all at least desire to be liked. And since the 21st-century culture is now screaming, “Tolerance!” – nobody wants to be considered the intolerant one. We don’t prefer isolation and rejection. We all need some sense of acceptance by the public in order to feel like we are worthy or good.

Well, guess what? Being popular is overrated! Listen to what Jesus said, “Woe to you when all men speak well of you, for so did their fathers to the false prophets” (Luke 6:26). Jesus spoke plainly about overrated things. Riches are overrated (Luke 6:24). Being full is overrated (Luke 6:25). Good times are overrated (Luke 6:25). Being spoken of well by all men is overrated (Luke 6:26).

There are several reasons why being popular is overrated:

1. Not all men have faith (2 Thess. 3:2). It really doesn’t matter what men think since men are fallible. While it may matter to some degree how we are perceived because of our influence for Christ, since the majority of the world is lost (Matt. 7:13-14), being popular is probably not the way to go.

2. Popularity is a snare that leads to watered down principles (2 Tim. 4:3). I have seen many once-influential men lose their soundness when given the spotlight. Not wanting to offend anyone we often are tempted to stop standing for what God says is morally and doctrinally pure and right. It is unfortunate but often people don’t want to listen to the truth. Popularity can influence a person’s stance on things that must never be compromised.

3. Popularity seeks to please the wrong audience. Paul spoke all over the world to every kind of crowd. What was he trying to accomplish in those opportunities? He said in Galatians 1:10 – “For do I now persuade men, or God? Or do I seek to please men? For if I still pleased men, I would not be a bondservant of Christ.” In the end, it is really only going to matter what God thinks of us. This means whatever we say or do needs to be for His glory (Col. 3:17) – not to our own glory and certainly not to please everybody else.

If there was ever a person who knew that popularity is overrated it was Jesus. In one week, He went from being the grand marshal of a parade to being enemy number one. He went from Rabbi to reject. He went from Messiah to misfit. The same Man who was followed by the mob was also crucified by it. Because men are fickle, and their hearts are evil, and their opinions are mostly incorrect.

The Day of Judgment is going to shine on the unpopular.

“But Peter and John answered and said to them, ‘Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you more than to God, you judge. For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard’” (Acts 4:19-20).

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AUTHOR: Jeremiah Tatum

A Television Commercial, A Phone Call, & A Public Service Announcement

Since I don’t pay much attention to television commercials for alcoholic beverages, I almost missed something I think is important. You may not agree that it is important, but maybe you will agree that it is at least interesting and thought-provoking.

The commercial was for Jack Daniels whiskey. Did I really hear what I thought I’d heard? Were they really saying that the town in which this beverage is distilled is “dry?” 

I did some checking on the internet and found out that this was, indeed, what they were saying. The sale of alcoholic beverages is against the law in Lynchburg, Tennessee. I found out more than that. I discovered that the entire county (Moore County) is “dry!” 

When I found that out, my mind went back to an incident that took place possibly a quarter of a century ago. I was working on some material about the dangers involved in drinking alcoholic beverages. I decided to make an unusual phone call.

At that time, we lived about twenty miles or so from a distributor for a major beer company. I decided to place a call to this business and do a little “unusual research.”

I did everything I could to keep them from thinking that I was trying to “ambush” them. I identified myself as a preacher and explained what I was doing to the person with whom I was talking. I then asked what I thought was a fairly simple question: “Do you allow the drivers of your trucks to drink?”

The person on the other end of the call seemed to be incredulous. As I remember it, the question was: “Do you mean while they are working?” 

When I answered that this was what I was asking, you would have thought from the reaction on the other end of the line that the person knew she was dealing with a real nut case. Her answer was emphatic: “Of course not!” 

I had a follow-up question: “Not at all?” The other person in the conversation quickly and firmly assured me that this was the policy. Once again, I thought I could tell from the tone of her voice that she thought I needed to “get some help.”

Here is where we are so far. The entire county in which a famous whiskey is distilled is dry. Also, the policy of a distributor for what is probably the largest beer company in the world is that they will not allow their drivers to use their product while they are “on the clock.” 

What does all of this have to do with a public service announcement? Unless you’ve been under a rock somewhere for quite some time, you’ve probably both seen and heard it.

Buzzed driving is drunk driving.

Since I am a preacher (at least part-time now), I might be expected to approach everything from a biblical perspective. I decided to approach this slightly differently this time. Instead of questioning and/or arguing about exactly what the Bible teaches about the use of alcoholic beverages, I thought it might be good to let different sources weigh in on the discussion.

It seems to me that, even if I had never seen a Bible, I would have a pretty good reason to avoid alcohol altogether. After all; what other product can you think about that never wants you to see their best customers?

Since I do have a Bible, I understand that my purpose in life is to do my best to glorify God in all that I do. I, for one, would find that very difficult to do with a can of beer, a glass of wine, or a shot of whiskey in my hand.

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AUTHOR: Jim Faughn

Episode 86: A Powerful Phrase for Moms, Phases in Parenting, and More! [Podcast]

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On this week’s podcast, Adam and Leah share an article with a great phrase for mothers to connect with other mothers, a post about the phrases of parenting, a good Bible reading resource, and some fun banter.

(But no music, due to a wild internet week.)

Enjoy it all–except the music–and find the resources below.


The Most Powerful Thing You Can Say to Another Mom” (PopSugar)

There’s More to Life Than This Temporary Phase” (Your Mom Has a Blog)

Bible Reading “Time” Chart (Facebook)

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