Some Forgettable Names

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Have you ever wondered why the Bible contains so many lists of names? Admittedly, all of those “begats” get a little tedious at times; especially when it is difficult to determine exactly what all of those names have to do with the lineage of our Lord, the history of Israel, or some other subject we may find to be fascinating or important.

Who Are These Guys?

While one reads Genesis 36, a list like this is found. In verses 31 through 39 of that chapter, there is a list of eight different kings of Edom. If you want extra credit on some Bible exam, here are their names: Bela, Jobab, Husham, Hadad, Samlah, Shaul, Ball-hanan, and Hadar.

While I don’t expect that most of us will remember those names very long, I do hope that all of us will remember an important lesson contained in these verses. Each time there is a change in rulers, we read that “________ died, and ________ reigned in his place.”

It is likely that, as each of these men served as a king, he could have thought that he was really making a name for himself. Surely, his name and his accomplishments would be remembered for as long as the world stood. Instead, their names are forgotten except by those may have very, very good memories of Bible facts, names, and places. 

Life is Like a Mist

What the brief biblical record of their reigns can remind us of is the brevity of life. Long before James reminded us that our life is “…a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes” (James 4:17), the brief record of these kings suggests very strongly to us that there are things much more important that titles, power, prestige, and notoriety.

Someday (maybe sooner than we think) somebody else will be doing the job we are now doing; somebody else will be occupying the house in which we now live. In short, somebody else will “in our place.”

You may not know the name Amy Carmichael any better than you know the names of those kings of Edom. Even if you don’t know her name, you might have read or heard the following words that are attributed to her:

Only one life, ‘twill soon be past,

only what’s done for God will last.

That’s worth remembering!

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Episode 50: Myths on Managing Media in the Home [Podcast]

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Being a parent is difficult, and the ever-connected worlds of mass and social media make it even more difficult. On today’s podcast, Adam shares some myths about managing media in the home when there are kids around.

The myths are taken from Bob Waliszewski’s book Plugged-In Parenting.

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Home, Sweet Home

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The sign that hangs on the wall in our sunroom says, “Home Sweet Home.” I bought it because I loved the colors and the sentiment (and because it looked like something Joanna Gaines would have hanging in her house). As I look at that sign every day, I wonder what it takes to make that sign true about my home.

Here are some thoughts I would like to share with you, even though I run the risk of making some readers angry with me.

  • The attitudes of the people living in this home are sweet. 

I know that every home has its bad moments when sweetness just doesn’t seem to be available, but if the right attitudes are the foundation, that sweetness will rise to the surface sooner or later.

  • Every member of the family feels like part of the family, and is willing to share in the responsibilities of the home.

Sometimes wives/mothers feel overwhelmed with all of the tasks in the home. While it is her responsibility to be the “keeper at home” (Titus 2), it is not hers alone to see that the home runs smoothly. She is the manager of the home which implies she hands out responsibilities to others which will train them in the care and keeping of a home. Husbands/fathers also have responsibilities which need to be shared with the children so that they learn to help carry the load.

  • A home that is sweet will also be orderly.

Clutter is a problem in many homes. Sometimes we don’t have enough places to put all of our stuff, but we continue to buy even more stuff until our rooms and attics and garages and storage buildings are all full of stuff. It is difficult to keep an orderly home when it is too full of clutter. 

  • A home that is sweet will have a well-used kitchen/dining room table. 

Families who gather around a table to share a meal and talk with one another are bound to be more in tuned to each other’s feelings. Games will be played around this table, as well as deep conversations concerning many different topics. This place in our homes should be an “electronic free zone;” – no TV, cell phones, electronic games, etc.

  • Love is plentiful in that home and expressing that love for others is seen often.

The kind of love I’m talking about here is the kind that thinks of others first and only wants what is best for them. Hugs and kisses are handed out on a regular basis and smiles and laughter are seen and heard often.

  • This home is a shelter in the storms of life.

The world and often those in it will hand out plenty of grief and life will often be full of storms, but our homes should always be a place of comfort and peace.

  • God lives in this home and His word is honored there.

Nothing could be more important–or make your home sweeter–than to know that God dwells in the hearts of each person living there. This makes our homes a taste of heaven on earth.

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Photo background credit: essie on Creative Commons

Marriage is More than a Commitment; Marriage is a Covenant

Marriage Is a Covenant

By virtually every metric, statistic, and anecdotal observation, the Biblical view of marriage in our society is declining. While there are still many who hold strongly and passionately to God’s view of marriage in the western world, that hold is becoming looser at a rapid rate.

There is no way to list all the reasons for that in one blog post, but today I want to share one reason that I think undergirds much of this struggle. It is a straightforward misunderstanding of how powerful marriage is meant to be.

Commitment vs. Covenant

We often hear marriage described as a commitment. (Sometimes, tragically in my view, it is even reduced to nothing more than a “contract.”) Certainly, commitment is necessary in marriage. People are committed to one another, and marriage will not survive if that commitment is not there.

But marriage is deeper than that. It is not simply a commitment. It is a covenant. While you may think I am just playing with semantics, consider the definition of the word “covenant.” The simple definition is, “An agreement, usually formal, between two or more persons to do or not do something specified.”

However, reading further through definitions, there is a reminder that the picture of a covenant is rooted in God’s very nature. Another definition of the word “covenant” is this: “The agreement between God and the ancient Israelites, in which God promised to protect them if they kept His law and were faithful to Him.”

God is a Covenant God

God made a covenant with Israel in the Old Testament. He always kept His part of the covenant. He was regularly warning His people to stay true to their part of it. Sadly, though, they did not.

If we learn nothing else from the Old Testament, however, we should be struck deep within ourselves that our God is a covenant-making and covenant-keeping God.

Marriage was God’s Idea

Further tying these ideas together, we must keep in mind that marriage was not man’s idea. It is not some social construct. While cultures may differ about traditions within marriage, or concerning a wedding ceremony itself, marriage as a union of one man and one woman for life was God’s idea.

It was not, however, just God’s “plan.” It was God’s design. The Lord designed marriage to be a powerful picture of what true covenant should look like. The whole “leaving, cleaving, and one flesh” concept of Genesis 2:24 is not just a nice picture. It is a covenental picture.

How the Sexual Union Portrays Covenant

One of the more uncomfortable pictures used over and over again in the Old Testament was that of God’s people “whoring after” other things. Sometimes it was the practices of other nations, sometimes it was pagan worship. But often, God pictured these desires of the people as “whoring” against Him (e.g., Deuteronomy 31:16; Judges 2:17; Psalm 106:39).

Why would the Lord use such a strong image? Because the sexual union between a husband and wife is the most powerful, intimate picture of what a covenantal relationship is supposed to be. It is difficult to imagine anything that more closely ties together husband and wife than that relationship.

So, when one decides to have that same union with someone to whom they are not married, they are rebelling as powerfully as possible against the covenant of marriage. God was trying, through the imagery of sexual promiscuity, to show His people just how serious it was to break a covenant. To go after a prostitute for such a relationship is as far from dedication to a spouse as one can imagine. God was saying, in effect, that sin against Him is just as far from fulfilling a covenant.

What Does It Matter?

Marriage is treated flippantly in our society. Some suggest that marriage is a good idea, but not necessary. Others say it is good for some, but there’s no need to really be dedicated to it. A widely-held view states that marriage is just a social construct that we can define (or redefine) in any fashion we wish. Too many live as if it is a good option in life, but if I don’t like it, I can end it, or even try another.

Those attitudes, which are prevalent in our society are the result of many things. But may I suggest that they are the result, in major part, to a lack of Biblical understanding. And that includes a lack of understanding about the picture of a covenant.

When it comes to marriage, be committed to your spouse. Commitment is necessary; of that, there can be no doubt. But do not treat marriage as just a commitment.

Remember that marriage is a covenant, and is the idea and design of a covenant-making and covenant-keeping God. That one concept might just make your marriage better than you could have ever dreamed.

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AUTHOR: Adam Faughn

Spiritual Identity Theft

Spiritual Identity Theft

One can hardly turn on the television or radio without receiving some information from some company wanting to help us protect ourselves from what has become a growing problem: identity theft. These companies promise us that, for a few dollars a month, they will protect us from individuals whose plans are sinister (to say the least).

As difficult as it is for most of us to imagine, there are people who have dedicated their lives to destroying another person’s finances, relationships, reputation, and peace of mind. Every waking minute is spent in trying to steal the identity of an unsuspecting victim. It seems that all they need is a little information in order to ruin a life. They do not need the cooperation of their victims; they only need some sort of “opening.”

The First Identity Theft

Come to think of it, identity theft is nothing new. Satan started a type of identity theft on Adam and Eve, who, it needs to be remembered, were created “…in the image of God…” (Gen. 1:27). When he won that battle, the identities of that first couple were changed from what they were intended to be. In a sense, Adam and Eve were the first victims of identity theft.

Identity Theft Continues throughout Scripture

As we read through the Bible, we continue to read of Satan’s attacks on individuals, families, and nations. At times, Satan’s attacks were very successful. On one occasion, Jesus could say to some individuals, “You are of your father the devil…” (John 8:44). No longer were these people recognizable as having any relationship with God, even though the Bible teaches that He is the Father of all of us (cf. Eccl. 12:7, Heb. 12:9).  Now, their “identity” was that of children of the devil.

Satan Keeps His Work Going Today

Is that kind of “identity theft” still possible? Can it still be true that people made in God’s image can lose their identity and be no longer recognizable as His child?

It is still true that a being exists who has, as his goal, more than the destruction of our finances, lifestyle, etc. His goal is to totally destroy us (cf. 1 Peter 5:8). It is little wonder that we are instructed to “be sober-minded, be watchful…” (ibid., ESV). 

The battle still rages. God created us in His image and desires fellowship with us. Satan wants only to destroy us. 

Some, unfortunately, make a conscious decision to follow the ways of Satan instead of God. Some allow themselves to be in situations that are not at all good for one’s spiritual well-being. Others just let their guard down and fail to “…lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us… (Heb. 12:1, NKJV).

What to Realize and What to Do

We can be sure of at least three things. 

  1. First, Satan will exploit any opportunity he can find. He is much more determined than those who try to steal our identity by going through our trash, hacking into information on our computers, and so forth.
  2. Second, every sin mars our image. The more we give in to sin, the less we are like the person God intended us to be. Some corollaries to this are that we will also find less fulfillment, contentment, and sense of purpose in life.
  3. Third, the good news is that the damage that we do to ourselves and/or allow to be done to ourselves does not have to be permanent.  Please consider the following passages from the mind God and the pen of the apostle John:

[Jesus] has freed us from out sins by His blood and made us a kingdom, priests to His God and Father… (Rev. 1:5, ESV).

…[I]f we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin (1 John 1:7, ESV).

You are the only one who can decide about the wisdom of spending some money each month in order to protect your earthly assets and identity. You are also the only person who can make the decision about your spiritual identity and your most valuable asset; your soul. 

Have your sins been washed away by the blood of Jesus? Is there a continuous washing as you walk in the light? 

Are you the person God intends for you to be?

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Video: Stop Comparing Yourself to Everyone Else’s SportsCenter Highlight Reel

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For this week’s Friday post, here is a short Periscope devotional from Adam about how we need to be okay with ordinary days and seasons in life, and just be faithful to God throughout each day. Hope this encourages you today.

How Beautiful Heaven Must Be

How Beautiful Heaven Must Be

Last week, several snow days afforded me the opportunity to go home. Not to Paducah and my parents’ home and not to Dexter where I grew up, but home to Freed-Hardeman University. It was Lectureship week and all of my family was there except for me and my kids who were supposed to have school. So, when the snow started to fall in earnest on Monday evening, the kids and I loaded up and set out. About halfway to Jackson, I got the call I was gambling on: “No school for Putnam County Tuesday.” The kids and I crashed Jeremiah’s bachelor room at the hotel and headed for campus the next morning.

Many Blessings

My children were blessed to hear some of the church’s great speakers. They were able to spend time with grandparents and cousins and uncles and an aunt. They saw the result of training started through the Lads to Leaders program when the student speaker in chapel delivered a masterful lesson. They saw the beauty of God’s design for the church universal where people from all over the country and world came together to study His word and greeted each other with hugs and handshakes and smiles. They got to hear beautiful a cappella singing of praise for our Maker. Our daughter even got to experience a night in the dorm and a “free” Gano meal.

The Highest Blessing

But what I got to experience was a glimpse of how beautiful heaven must be. I saw and heard all of those same things that my children did. I relished in hugs of beloved former professors and classmates. I enjoyed being surrounded by my physical family and spiritual family. But what I truly saw was what all people should see when they see a group of Christians: the light of God reflected toward those around them.

It was with that realization that I began to understand how very beautiful heaven must be! Because what I was seeing was spectacular and yet it was only a reflection of the glory that shines forth from God Almighty and His Son. I felt like I got a tiny glimpse (marred by human imperfection, but beautiful nonetheless) of the splendor of the throne room of God.

I am so thankful for Freed-Hardeman–for my memories there, my education from there and, now, for the reminder of just how glorious heaven will truly be someday.

Revelation 21:23 “And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb.”

Philippians 4:15b “among whom you shine as lights in the world”

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What Being “Poor in Spirit” Looks Like

 

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“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:3).

I don’t know the young man who asked a question about that verse last week, but I know I like his heart.

Open Forum at the Freed-Hardemen University Bible Lectures is an intimidating setting. It is certainly not meant to be, but the nature of it leads to a certain intimidation factor. But that did not stop one young man from teaching us all a lesson recently.

He had to wait his turn at one of the floor microphones, because quite a number of people had questions. I believe he had to wait through six other people’s questions, which took around 20 minutes. Patiently, he waited.

A Fantastic Question

Finally, when his turn came, the young man stepped up and said something to this effect:

I have been studying the book of Matthew, and I have a question about Matthew 5:3, which says, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” I would like to know how someone whose spirit is poor can be in heaven.

My heart melted at the innocence of that question! And it was truly a good question. After all, if one has a spirit that is poor by the standards of God’s Word–in other words, ethically poor–that person will not be in heaven.

So, how can that person enter heaven?

A Fantastic Answer

The three men on stage for Open Forum are brilliant men, but they are also men who love such hearts. One of them, gently and kindly, said: “The phrase poor in spirit simply means a teachable spirit.”

He gave some further direction to show that this phrase simply meant a spirit that saw itself as in need of molding and shaping.  Being poor in spirit is not ethically poor; it is seeing oneself as always in need from God.

After that brief, but wonderful, answer, another of the men on stage looked kindly at this young boy and simply said, “That’s exactly right.”

I Learned a Lesson that Day

As I reflected on the question, I thought more about the one who asked it. Here was a young boy, who I would guess to be about 9 or 10 years of age. He had been looking at Matthew’s account of the Gospel and thinking about this foundational statement from our Lord. After all, this is the first thing stated in the Sermon on the Mount, and provides the beginning of the framework for all that this tremendous sermon contains.

In the hours and days since, I have wondered if I am truly poor in spirit. Is my heart teachable? Am I willing to know and express my absolute dependence upon God?

This young boy could not have known it, but he gave a preacher a valuable lesson that day. By his unknowingly being poor in spirit, he reminded me of my own need to be poor in spirit.

If I am not, the kingdom of heaven is not mine.

“Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.” (Mark 10:15)

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AUTHOR: Adam Faughn

Photo credit: Joey Ferrell [Facebook]. Used with permission.

Preachy Preachers

Preachy Preachers

I admit it. I have a problem. The good news is that I am praying about it and I hope you will pray for me. This preacher sometimes tends to get a little too preachy.

Preachers understand the importance of being spiritually minded. It is a matter of occupational awareness. This is because people hold us to a higher standard than others. If we do not live spiritual lives, then our ministry is not effective. This awareness leads to spiritual intensity. I can assure you that doing the right thing is always on our mind.

Then there is the pulpit. Unless you take your place there two or three times a week, you don’t know how it changes your life. The responsibility is great. People depend on you to help them work out their salvation. When that type of role is placed in your lap it is often hard to leave it behind when you step down from the podium. This leaves the preacher with the potential for being very preachy.

Occupational awareness + pulpit exposure = preachy preachers

It just happens. I can’t tell you how often I have been told to “lighten up” or to “stop being a spiritual policeman.” We need to be reminded that we are called to holiness, not professional, eye-speck investigation.

People who are perceived to be spiritual leaders just need to be regular people, too. While we don’t seek to display weakness, people still need to see it in us so they will see strength in Christ. We must be patient. We must be humble. We must cut the common man a little slack.

The “Room” People Need

I am learning that one thing people want even more than instruction, is room. Not room for sin, but room to move and learn and reform. Preachers will have greater influence when they stop trying to force changed behavior and give the power back to God and His word to transform lives. No matter how badly we want people to be saved, or to mature in Christ, they are going to have to want it themselves. In the meantime, those we strive to help need space for emotions, faults, and even doctrinal immaturity.  If we love others and care for them and build relationships with them the time will likely arrive when they will flee to us for help. Our preaching day will come.

We still need to preach the word in season and out of season (2 Tim. 4:2). But may we never forget to respect the ears of those who hear.

“And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient” – 2 Timothy 2:24

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Church Leadership is Not About a Title

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I listen regularly to the “Preachers in Training” podcast. I recommend it to all who preach. In fact, this podcast always has some good information for all Christians, regardless of where we find ourselves in the Lord’s body. 

Brother Robert Hatfield hosts this podcast. He also serves as the director/administrator of The Light Network. If you would like more information about any of the podcasts on The Light Network, you can find that at www.thelightnetwork.tv.

Recently, Stephen Sutton was the guest on “Preachers in Training.” Primarily, he was talking about something he does in addition to, and in conjunction with, his work as a local preacher. Brother Sutton serves as a chaplain with his local law enforcement and fire department personnel. It was readily apparent that this work is very close to his heart.

During the podcast, brother Sutton made a comment (three times, I think) that I hope will challenge all of us who wear the name “Christian.” Specifically, I’m hoping that all who are looked upon as leaders in any way will consider seriously what he said.

What Leadership is About

As he spoke of his work as a chaplain, he tried to get the point across that:

Serving as a chaplain is not a title or a position. It is about relationships.

As I listened to brother Sutton, one thing became very clear. As he interacts with law enforcement officials and fire department personnel, his “calling card” is not a badge or any form of official credentials. When these people see him, they see a friend. He has demonstrated love, concern, and compassion for them. He has done that even when he was not on duty.

As many who will be reading these words know, I try to serve as both an elder and a preacher in our local congregation. As I type the words to follow, I am not pointing a finger at anybody other than myself. At the same time, I’m hoping that this will serve as food for thought for my brethren who may also serve in one or both of these capacities.

When my brothers and sisters think of me as an elder, do they think of my title and/or position? Do they see me like they would see me if I happened to be a member of the local school board or the board of directors of some corporation? Am I, to them, some anonymous member of some group that really has little or no impact on their daily lives? 

Do they even know that I am supposed to be serving as one of their shepherds? Sadly, I’ve been in situations in which members of a local congregation did not even know the names of their elders; much less have any idea of what they are supposed to do.

Hopefully, my brothers and sisters will see me as having shared in their lives (during good times, bad times, and “average” times). When I am with members of my church family, I pray that they see things in that light. I hope I come across as a brother who loves them and cares about them. I hope that they do not see my presence as an intimidating visit from “one of the bosses.”

Similarly, my goal is that I am seen as more–much more–than merely the preacher. I am the first to admit that it takes time to present something from God’s Word that is biblical and helpful. 

However, I never want what I have to say to be viewed at some sort of “pronouncement from the ivory tower.” I do not want people thinking that, because I may (or may not) have some training or time to study that somebody else does not have, I’m somehow a little above my fellow Christians. It seems to me that the man in the pulpit should also be the man in the hospital room, the man in the funeral home, the man in the living room, etc.

People Don’t Care How Much You Know…

I once heard a man present a lecture in which he was very critical of the old saying, “People do not care how much you know until they know how much you care.” In my opinion, he could not possibly have been more mistaken

A statement that was made quite a while ago was funny to the people who heard it. As I reflect on it over a quarter of a century later, I think it may have been one of the better compliments I’ve ever received. It was made by a little guy who was all over the floors and pews playing with toys while I preached. According to his family and others who were sitting close by, one Sunday morning that changed for one brief moment. While I was preaching, he suddenly stopped playing, looked toward the pulpit area and said, “There’s old Jim.”

“Old Jim” is a lot older now. My goal is the same now as it was then. I want to help others and I want others to help me as we face life’s challenges and make our way toward heaven. I think I can do that better as a friend, rather than as a professional. 

I believe brother Sutton was exactly right. It is about relationships.

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