Faith of Our Fathers

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When I was 16 my father and I climbed a mountain. We were in Yosemite National Park. We used to live just a few hours from there and to this day it is my favorite place on earth. In the past we had hiked up into Tuolumne Meadows to various mountain lakes. But on this occasion we were headed towards Half Dome. We were not planning on going to the summit, but only to some of the falls along the way. I knew what we were doing and why we were doing it. I knew I was going enjoy sharing the day with my dad.

Isaac once climbed a mountain with his father, Abraham. It was not a recreational journey. They were going to worship (Gen. 22:5). Still, as a teenage boy, you can imagine that Isaac anticipated the moments he was going to spend with his father. Isaac carried the wood and Abraham carried the fire and the knife. As they ascended Mount Moriah, Isaac began to wonder why they did not have an animal with them for the sacrifice.

Abraham explained to his son that God was going to provide it. What Isaac did not know is that God had decided that Isaac was to be the offering. Yes, Isaac–God’s gift to Abraham and Sarah. So when they had come to the place of sacrifice, Abraham built an altar, laid the wood on it, and tied Isaac up on top of it and stretched out his knife to slay his son (Gen. 22:10).

It brings into one’s mind to consider what Isaac was thinking. When his father began to tie him up, was he afraid? Did he ask his father why? Did he fight any? The Bible does not say. What is revealed is that Abraham drew the knife back. He was going to do it. He was going to obey God no matter what.

The rest of the story is well known to the Bible reader. God stopped Abraham from killing Isaac, and a ram was provided instead. But that still leaves us with the question – What did Isaac learn?

I have climbed some mountains with my father, and I imagine you have climbed a few with yours. Some mountains are not located on maps, and cannot be scaled on foot. But life brings us tests and struggles. Our will is challenged. Our obedience is demanded. Our faith is proven. It is in the faith that we display on these mountains that we learn the greatest lessons in life.

I am certain that Isaac never forgot that trip with his father. I am certain that he learned about faithful and willing obedience. I am certain that he learned to fear God. In fact, later in Genesis, God is literally called “the Fear of Isaac” (Gen. 22:42, 53). Faith from a father was thus given to a son forever.

 If you have had a father that respected and feared God, be thankful. The faith of our fathers is living still.

Faith of our fathers, living still, in spite of dungeon, fire and sword;

O how our hearts beat high with joy, whenever we hear that glorious Word!

Faith of our fathers, holy faith! We will be true to thee till death.

~ Frederick Faber and James G. Walton


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Please Leave a (Positive) Message

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Remember answering machines? 

For many of our younger people, it may be difficult to relate to anything other than voice mail. It may surprise them to learn that there was, in fact, a way to leave a message with somebody before the invention of cell phones and voice mail. However, answering machines have not quite yet gone the way of the horse and buggy. It is still possible to call something we now call a landline and leave a message on one of those devices. 

I was reminded recently of an experience I had a number of years ago with an answering machine. I dialed the telephone number of a woman who had lost her husband several months earlier. At least I thought it was her number that I had dialed. I began to wonder, though, because of the message I heard on the machine. I was listening to a man’s voice. At first, that surprised me, but it only took me a couple of seconds to realize that I had, indeed, dialed the correct number. 

I was listening to the voice of her late husband.

As technology continues to develop, newer ways of preserving voices and images are available. Those who have the “know-how” can even put images and voices of those who are no longer living together with those who are. They can produce something that makes it appear that the dead and the living are working together, performing together, or having a conversation with one another. Families are often comforted by hearing the voices and/or seeing images of departed loved ones. 

However, the ability to communicate past the time of our earthly demise has existed for a long, long time. Consider what is said about Abel in Hebrews 11:4: “By faith Abel offered to God a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain, through which he was commended as righteous, God commending him by accepting his gifts. And through his faith, though he died, he still speaks” (ESV, emphasis added).

I suppose we could call it our legacy, our influence, our impact, or any number of other things, but what we do now can continue to “speak” long after we are gone. In Abel’s case, he was “speaking” thousands of years after his death.

I wonder what message I’m leaving on my machine. How about you?


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5 Questions Elders Should Regularly Ask Deacons and Preachers [Video]

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F.R.O.G.

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My friend Sonnie passed from this life recently. I have been blessed with many friends as a minister’s wife, and they are like sisters to me because I never had any earthly sisters. Sonnie was not only my sister in Christ but also the closest (along with a few others) I have ever come to feeling like I had an earthly sister. She was a few years older than me, and I looked up to her like you would an older sister.

There were so many things that made her special and I would like to share a few of those things with you. They are attributes I believe would help all of us as we journey through this life.

  • She was fun. She almost always had a smile on her face and could lighten up any dark moment. She never worried about looking silly to others, but she would put on a funny hat and parade around at a ladies’ devo and fellowship if she thought it would bring a smile to some otherwise sad faces.
  • She was a hard worker. Anything she made up her mind to tackle would be done – and done well. If she wanted a goldfish pond in her back yard (which she did), she dug it and made it into a beautiful spot to relax and enjoy watching those fish. When the pantry, or a storage closet, or anything else needed cleaning in the annex at the church building, she would tackle it alone at a time when no one would know who had done the work. And it was done to perfection.
  • She was compassionate. Her father came to live with her in her little house when he became a widower for the second time. She referred to him as her “live-in man.” (I told you she was fun). She would hurry on to tell those who didn’t know her that she was blessed to have her “daddy” living with her. She treated him like a king. She took the upstairs bedroom and gave him the one downstairs. She talked about what a blessing that was to her because at night in her little upstairs room, which was above his, she could hear her father praying by name for each one of his grown children.

She treated all of her neighbors well, often taking food to them and helping them with problems they may have had. Many of our older ladies looked forward to a visit from Sonnie because she cared so deeply for them and brought her happy disposition to them when she visited or cared for them.

  • She was a planner. She could organize and carry out tasks in her family or at church like no one I have ever seen. She “headed up“ things like Ladies’ Day, Ladies’ Devo and Fellowship, refreshments for our annual Singing, and many other activities. When her brothers and sisters would come to visit – you guessed it – they gathered at her little home. Every activity she undertook was planned well and carried out to perfection.
  • She loved frogs. She collected frogs of any type. She wore clothes that had frogs on them. She had frog jewelry of every type. She signed any announcement she had put in the bulletin with these letters — F.R.O.G. – and added a small picture of a frog. She had frogs sitting on her porch and frog wind chimes hanging around her porch. These were all reminders to her and to those of us who knew her to Fully Rely On God. She did. She taught us often that frogs only move forward, and never backward. What a needed reminder for every Christian facing a struggle!
  • She was a faithful Christian. Some of the last words I heard her say following her relatively short illness were, “I’ve had a good life. I’m ready to go home.” She had “fought the good fight, finished the race, and kept the faith.” (2 Tim. 4:7) I could depend on her to always be doing what was right. I could depend on her to be at every service of the church and every activity she could. I could depend on her because I knew she depended on God.

Her memorial service was held last week and many people attended: family, members at Central, members from other congregations, friends from her years in high school, neighbors, co-workers, etc.  Many tears were shed.  Much laughter was heard. Some of her favorite gospel songs were sung. A niece told of the things she had taught her, and Jim spoke about her great qualities and how happy she would be if each person there would make sure they are in a right relationship with God. The theme for the evening was her theme for life – F.R.O.G. – Fully Rely On God. 

Help me, Father, to follow her example.

“Now there was in Joppa a disciple named Tabitha, which translated means Dorcas. She was full of good works and acts of charity.”  Acts 9:36


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Studying Matthew with Your Children [Free Printable]

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Need a resource to help with your family Bible study? Then today’s post is for you!

At the 2016 Lads to Leaders convention, the book to study for the Bible Bowl event was Matthew. Knowing that, we decided to study that book in our Family Bible Time at night. Matthew is a fairly lengthy book (28 chapters), so to help our kids study, we made little worksheets for each of the chapters.

Today, we are pleased to share them with you…for free!

For each of the chapters, there are four things on the worksheet:

1. A box with the two or three major events or stories found in that chapter,

2. Fill in the black or short-answer questions straight from the text (based on the New King James Version),

3. A handful of discussion questions (meanings of words, “how would you feel,” etc.), and

4. A memory verse or two from that chapter.

If you click on the picture below, you will be redirected to a page with the document in pdf format. It is 55 pages in length, and you are welcome to print it out and use it for Bible school, homeschool, family Bible time, or any other purpose you would like.

All we ask in return is this: if you take the time to download or print the pdf, would you please share this post on Facebook, Twitter, and/or Pinterest? That way, others can find out about this resource as well. Thank you!

We hope this resource helps you. I’m sure you’ll find a typo or two, but we pray this is something that will help your family learn this wonderful book that opens our New Testament.

To view or download, click on the following image.

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AUTHOR: Adam Faughn

Romans 11

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A heavenly gardener once planted a tree and called it Israel. The seed of the tree was a man named Abraham, and through him came the roots. The roots gave way to a trunk and limbs and branches. The limbs and branches came to be known as the Jews. The limbs and branches grew and became spectacular and glorious.

But there was a problem. The limbs and branches themselves thought they were the life of the tree. But they were mistaken. They were only limbs and branches. What made the tree special and alive could only be found in the very center of the trunk of the tree. It was what started with Abraham and it was located inside the contents of his seed. It was called faith.

Eventually, some of the branches and the limbs of the tree died and were cut off. The tree was in disarray and barely alive. But the gardener was not worried. This was actually the gardener’s plan. He had a design for his tree. It was planted to become more lovely and different than all the other trees ever created.

The gardener found healthy limbs from a wild olive tree and grafted them in. He filled the holes left behind by the dead limbs and branches. This made the tree more beautiful and fruitful. It gave honor and glory to the gardener. These grafted in limbs and branches were the Gentiles. These new branches would often set their eyes upon the dead limbs and branches. They were humbled and amazed that at the loss of a dead pile of once fruitful limbs they themselves had become a part of the tree. They understood the gracious and loving nature of the gardener.

The healthy tree continued to be healthy and grow for one simple reason. The remaining branches, both original and grafted, lived by faith. The seed that had begun with Abraham was also their source of life and strength. Every day the limbs and branches of the tree knew they were totally dependent upon the faith that constantly resonated from the center of the tree. This source of Abrahamic faith matured into the true Seed that had actually existed from the foundation of the world. That Seed was Christ. Christ was the true Seed of Abraham. Every living component of the tree was in essence living by faith in Jesus Christ. The mystery of the power of the tree had finally been revealed.

As the tree continued to grow, something amazing began to happen with the dead limbs and branches, the ones that had once been a part of the tree. They began to look at the new tree with its beautiful original style and also its wild olive branches. They saw its increasing fruitfulness. They saw the gardener watering it daily. They began to realize that they had been foolish. They learned that they had never been the source of the life of the tree, but rather it was the gardener and the power of the seed. They wanted to be part of the tree again. They began to beg the gardener to pluck them from the pile of dead branches and graft them back into the tree like the wild olive branches.

One by one the gardener rejoiced as he responded to each individual branch that begged to be a part of the tree. This time, they were not added because of Abraham, but grafted in by faith in Jesus. And it was easy to graft in branches that had already once been a part of the tree. As time went on the tree grew with such beauty and strength that even more olive branches and original limbs desired to be a part of the tree. The bigger the tree became, and the more fruit it bore, the more the gardener was glorified. Abraham’s Seed was also magnified and praised and honored by the growth and beauty of the tree.

God once planted a tree and called it Israel. It was Israel when it was only made up of branches and limbs that were Jews. It was Israel when some of the branches were lost and it became a tree of Jews and Gentiles. It remained Israel when old Jewish branches were grafted back in and more wild Gentile branches were also added. As the years went by that tree grew and grew and filled the whole earth. It is still called Israel. But it has another name. It is also called the church.

On a Friday, mankind once erected a tree of its own. Hanging from the center of that tree there was also a source of life. The men who raised that tree intended it to be an instrument of death. But the gardener knew better. There was a power source flowing from the man-made tree that was taken and added to the tree that the gardener had been watering for centuries. It was the key ingredient that made grafting possible. This made both trees beautiful. This made both trees come to life. This glorified the gardener and magnified the Seed.

The gardener is still adding branches to his tree. Have you been grafted in?

“And they also, if they do not continue in unbelief, will be grafted in, for God is able to graft them in again.” – Romans 11:23

“For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but a new creation. And as many as walk according to this rule, peace and mercy be upon them, and upon the Israel of God.” – Galatians 6:15-16


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I Believe He’d Go for You

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He was a good husband. He loved his wife. He was loyal to her and provided for her. He was not only a good husband; he was a good man. 

However, he was not a Christian. He made sure that his wife got to church regularly, but he had no interest in attending with her.

A son was born. The father shared his name with his son. He shared his entire name with his son, not merely the last name. From the time “junior” was born until the day that “senior” died, their relationship was, in the best sense of the term, a mutual admiration society. 

The father now made sure that both his wife and his namesake were able to attend worship services and Bible classes regularly. Still, he, himself, exhibited no desire to do so.

His wife had been sowing seeds all along the way. Her words and her actions demonstrated a love for him–and for his soul. Now, there was something else she could do. She could make sure that her husband “overheard” the discussions she and their son had about the Bible classes and sermons they heard. He didn’t act all that interested, but he couldn’t help “overhearing.” She made sure of that.

One day, when the son was still very young, his mother made a suggestion. She told her son of her inability to get his father to go to church. She then suggested that the son ask his father. She added these words:

“I believe he’d go for you.”

He did and he did! The son asked the father and the father did start going!

Sometime later, something else happened. Both the father and the son were baptized on the same day!

A good man became a good Christian man. 

Many of us who only got to know him during his later years knew of his work at a Christian youth camp; his “fill-in preaching” (for which he refused to accept any pay); his involvement in teaching people in jails and prisons about God and His Word; and for so many other things he did for the cause of Christ.

We (at least I) had no idea that he had not been brought up in a Christian environment and had, in earlier years, shown no interest in being a Christian. We had no idea that all of that changed because somebody for whom he cared deeply and who cared deeply about him asked him to start going to church. 

Who is that person in your life? Who is the next person who could be a valuable servant in the kingdom?

Could you at least ask him or her to attend church with you? Is that too much to ask?

I do not know who all of your closest relationships are. I do believe, though, that there is at least one person who cares enough about you to honor that simple request.

I believe he (or she) would go for you!


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Episode 52: Taking “The Lunch Ladies” Congregation-Wide (Guest: Philip Jenkins) [Podcast]

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The Lunch Ladies was written in 2015 to tell the story of how one youth group began to share the love of Christ in a clear, unmistakable way. Philip Jenkins, the writer of the book, joins Adam on this week’s podcast to talk about the program, but also how this can be done by anyone in any congregation.

If you want your congregation to be more loving and to grow, this is a program you’ll want to hear!

LOFpodcast

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The Lunch Ladies: Cultivating an Actsmosphere by Philip Jenkins [Amazon]

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The Flu!

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How does someone who works in a germ factory (AKA an elementary school) get sick on spring break when away from the germ makers? I’m not sure, but I managed to do so last week. The first part of the week saw me spending more than my fair share of quality time with both my bed and my recliner. While much of that time was spent sound asleep, I was awake enough to think about two things I thought worthy of consideration:

1. Don’t wish for things without carefully considering the possible ramifications. When caught in the whirlwind of our “normal” life, I sometimes find myself wishing for some down time at home to rest and relax with no responsibilities. While those things can come in the form of a vacation or retreat, even then you are responsible for certain things – feeding yourself and family, making sure clothes are ready to wear, et cetera. If you truly wish for no responsibilities, be careful. I truly had no responsibilities earlier this week (thanks to my loving husband!), but it was not a carefree time. I hurt! It’s not normal for healthy adults to have no concerns! God created us to be active and useful (Ephesians 2:10) so be careful in your wishing!

2. Consider the fruits of your days. As I was nearing the end of Day 4 with very little to show for my life, I realized I do not like that feeling! I am used to being able to give a fairly lengthy list of things that I have accomplished that day. My list for Saturday through Tuesday was very short. What made me sadder was the quality (or lack thereof) of my list instead of the quantity. How often do I blame my lack of prayer or Bible reading on a lack of time and yet, with 4 days of nothing but time, what fruits could I show? It has made me think about not just filling my days with activities, but making sure they are activities that really matter: time in God’s Word, talking to Him, and serving His children (Ephesians 5:16).

So, the flu is terrible, but, in my constant effort to find good even in the bad, it can teach you some lessons. After all, you are slowed down to where you have to pay attention!

Luke 12:35-40  “Stay dressed for action and keep your lamps burning,  and be like men who are waiting for their master to come home from the wedding feast, so that they may open the door to him at once when he comes and knocks.  Blessed are those servants whom the master finds awake when he comes. Truly, I say to you, he will dress himself for service and have them recline at table, and he will come and serve them.  If he comes in the second watch, or in the third, and finds them awake, blessed are those servants!  But know this, that if the master of the house had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would not have left his house to be broken into.  You also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.”

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What Romans 8:28 Does–and Does Not–Say

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There is no way for me to know how many times I have heard Romans 8:28 quoted or read. It simply has to be one of the most well-known and beloved verses in the New Testament. In that great verse, Paul wrote, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose” (ESV).

That verse is packed with meaning, and there is no way in a short post to unpack it all. However, for some people, that verse has turned into something that turns them off of following Christ and trusting in God.

The reason is simple: they have taken this great promise and, in their minds, twisted it to say something it does not state.

An Easy Life?

Too many people feel that, when one becomes a Christian, God will remove all their problems. They may not state it that strongly, but some feel that, if they are striving to be faithful, they will face a fairly easy life.

They are much like the Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar, the three friends who came to comfort the Old Testament patriarch Job. If you are familiar with that 42-chapter book, you remember how, for chapter after chapter, these “friends” attempted to get Job to admit to whatever wrongdoing he had committed to “earn” or “deserve” the severe punishment he was going through.

Implied in their statements, then, is the opposite: if one is faithful to the Lord, everything goes well. Life is quite easy because we are faithful and God makes everything work out well.

That’s Not Romans 8:28

That concept, however, it not what Romans 8:28 teaches. Not at all!

Paul did not write that everything that happens in the life of a faithful Christian is good. Christians face bad and difficult things throughout their days.

Sickness is bad.

A child dying is bad.

Bankruptcy is bad.

Job loss is bad.

Divorce is bad

And, virtually every day, Christians face these things, along with countless other negative situations.

It is then that people look at verses like Romans 8:28 and can get angry with God. In their minds, they think that God has promised that everything in life will be good.

It Works for God’s Ultimate Good

Instead, we need to see Romans 8:28 for what it says, both itself as well as in its context. When we do, it really gives an even deeper and greater meaning to this concept.

Earlier in the context, Paul famously wrote, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed in us” (Romans 8:18). Paul is admitting that even faithful people suffer. That is the context; the foundation of this section!

In fact, creation itself suffers at times (verses 20 and 22), so we see suffering and difficulty all about us.

However, we have hope because God adopts us into His family (verse 23), and “In this hope we are saved” (v.24).

In that state of salvation, we can make it through sufferings because the “Spirit helps us in our weakness” (v.25). Again, we are weak at times. Not everything is good, but God provides help through struggles.

It is with that as the background that Paul writes the great promise of Romans 8:28: “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose.”

Paul is not saying that everything is good. He is saying that our Lord is powerful enough to work everything–even every struggle–to weave together a grander good, one that is to God’s ultimate glory.

“When I Am Weak…”

It brings to mind something else Paul wrote. To the church at Corinth, he said that he pleaded with the Lord to remove a “thorn in the flesh,” but the Lord did not take it away. Why? Because Christ said, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9).

And Paul got it. He understood. Reacting to that, he ended that section with some of the most powerful words found in the New Testament: “For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong” (emphasis added, 2 Corinthians 12:10).

Look to the Ultimate Glory

You may not see the good in every situation; at least, not right away. Not every situation is good. That’s not what Romans 8:28 says.

But we serve a God who is in control of it all. We serve a God who is powerful enough to weave together a bigger and grander story than we could ever imagine. And, yes, even our weaknesses and struggles can play a part in that bigger story.

So trust Him, that He will work it all out for His ultimate good…

…and for your soul’s eternal good, as well.

“What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.” (Romans 8:31, 37)

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AUTHOR: Adam Faughn