Leah’s Easy Eggplant Parmesan

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In our garden this summer, for the first time, we have grown eggplant. I had eaten eggplant before coated in cornmeal and fried like summer squash, but today I wanted to share with you an easy way to make something different: Eggplant Parmesan. This is a very easy and healthy meal!

The first thing I do is mix up an Italian tomato sauce. It is really easy, and I don’t even have real measurements for this, so just fix it to your personal taste. For mine, I use one 15 ounce can of tomato sauce. Then I add garlic powder, onion powder, basil, salt, pepper, and just a little sugar. To be honest, I just add the spices until I like the way it tastes!

The next thing I do is prepare the eggplant slices. First, go ahead and beat one or two eggs in a shallow bowl. Then, mix bread crumbs and grated parmesan cheese in another bowl. Next, slice your eggplant. I didn’t even peel mine the first time I made this, but I think you’re supposed to. 

Then, dip the slices of eggplant into the egg and then coat the slices with the bread crumbs and parmesan cheese mixture. Now you are ready to fry them. I cook mine in an iron skillet with vegetable oil (that has been heated up). Let them cook for about two minutes on each side. [Note: You must cook eggplant through. It cannot be eaten raw!]

To serve, I put the eggplant slices on angel hair pasta. Then, I spoon the Italian tomato sauce over that. Sprinkle some mozzarella cheese on top.

Serve this with a green salad and some garlic bread, and you have a yummy meal.

Utilizing Deacons to the Health of a Church

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I love deacons!

Truth be told, I think deacons are some of the most underappreciated people in the church. Maybe that is because they “aren’t leaders” (which is a myth) or because they are often viewed as “junior elders” (which is another myth). For whatever reason, though, deacons are often marginalized in the structure of the congregation.

However, when deacons are fulfilling their God-given role, the church flourishes. These special servants help free the elders up to properly oversee the work, shepherd the flock, and make certain that truth is being upheld.

But often, deacons are frustrated because they are not sure what–if anything–they are to be doing. To that end, I want to offer some suggestions for a congregation to consider as it pertains to deacons. While these are mostly directed to elders, it is good for a whole congregation to have the same view of deacons and their role.

1. Have a Need before You Have a Deacon

Too often, we appoint a man a deacon, but give him nothing to do. Or, we appoint him to some nebulous position (“deacon of youth”) but we have not identified a specific need.

In Acts 6, I believe we see the framework for the appointment of deacons. Have you ever noticed that these seven men were not appointed to some nebulous task? Instead, there was a specific need that needed to be addressed (the Hellenistic “widows were being neglected in the daily distribution,” v.1). Then, and only then, were the men sought and appointed.

It is wise for a congregation to make a true evaluation of her current status. What are some needs that must be met where a deacon (or a plurality of deacons) could be of help? What are some areas in which improvement needs to be made and a deacon could lead that charge?

Then, when the evaluation is made, find men who are passionate about helping the church in that way.

2. Give Clear Expectations

Many deacons are given a title (such as “deacon of education”) but are never told what is expected of them!

Elders are wise to write a short but clear list of expectations so the deacon can know if he is fulfilling the role to which he is being assigned. For example, if he is the deacon of education, will he recruit teachers? Train them? Preview curriculum? Select curriculum? Schedule and plan special seminars? The list could go on and on of possible areas. And each congregation needs to decide what is needed. In other words, what a deacon of education does at this congregation may not look exactly like what the deacon of education does elsewhere.

When these areas are clearly defined, a deacon can know if he is on track with what is needed. This does not need to be a never-ending novel, but a clear and concise list of bullet points of expectations.

3. Let the Deacons Work!

If you do not trust a man to lead a ministry, do not appoint him as a deacon!!!

But if you trust him with a ministry, let him work!

If elders would clearly assign expectations, then let the deacons lead, they would be amazed at the creativity, drive, and passion that would fill these roles. Micromanagement only stiffles the wonderful work of these special servants.

4. Meet Regularly with Deacons…Individually

Too many elderships call regular “elders and deacons meetings.” While these can be helpful at times (maybe once or twice each year), meeting with each deacon individually will bear much more fruit.

Why? Because the elders can simply look at the expectations and ask the deacon how he is doing and what the elders can do to help him succeed in his role.

If I am the deacon of building and grounds, I do not need to know the nuts and bolts of what the deacon of widows is doing! But I do need the elders to know what is going on in my ministry. Meet with each deacon. Ask loving questions. Praise their work. Pray with them.

5. Consider Some Non-Lifetime Appointments

This is something I have never seen done in places where I have preached, but I believe it is Biblical. If a congregation decides to do this, however, it must be clearly communicated. Not every ministry is a lifetime ministry, so why do we make men deacons for life?

For example, if your congregation is considering a major mission trip in the future, why not appoint a deacon to lead the planning of that trip? Instead of an “add on” for the deacon of missions (or one of the preachers), this man can focus his whole attention on this one-time task, and will most likely do a better job than someone who is having to do this in addition to his regular duties.

I know of congregations that have (for example) a deacon of Vacation Bible School. Though this is an annual event, when VBS is done, it is clearly communicated that he has the right to step away and not lead VBS the next year, or he can agree to do so. Whichever he chooses, he is not letting anyone down, because that was part of his agreement in taking on the role.

Going back to the example of Acts 6, have you ever wondered what the seven appointed men did once the daily distribution to the Hellenistic widows was taken care of? We know that one of the men, Stephen, performed miracles and gave a great defense of the gospel (Acts 6:8-7:60). Another, Philip became a great evangelist (Acts 8:4-40). Were the widows forgotten? No, the role was taken care of, so they could move on to other tasks.

Conclusion

We preach the organization of the church properly. Christ is the only Head. Elders oversee a congregation. Deacons serve. Members are involved in the work.

But do we live it out practically? If it is God’s design–and it is–then we must do our best to make certain that we are letting each part supply nourishment to the body of Christ. That includes deacons, special servants in the life of the church.

Recommended Resource

Dynamic Deacons: Champions of Christ’s Church by Aubrey Johnson


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AUTHOR: Adam Faughn

“Into What Then Were You Baptized?”

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If I were walking along the beach and found a lamp and rubbed it and a genie popped out and gave me three wishes, I know for certain what one of them would be. Oh, how I wish that there were no denominations, varying doctrines, and differing baptisms within our current day religious world!
I am always very excited when a person wants to discuss the plan of salvation. I would rather talk about this topic than anything else. As these opportunities arrive I often find that an individual’s exposure to inaccurate teachings has become a hindrance to their proper, Biblical view of baptism.
But I should not feel discouraged, because even the apostle Paul encountered such challenges. In Acts 19, while in the city of Ephesus, he had a discussion with several men who had not been baptized into Jesus Christ for the remission of their sins. They had been baptized, just not with the proper teaching and understanding – therefore, the question Paul asked them in Acts 19:3 was very timely – “Into what then were you baptized?”
Perhaps we need to ask people this very same question as we discuss what the Bible actually does teach about baptism. There are so many people who have submitted to some form of baptism, who have NOT been Biblically baptized. The Bible simply teaches:
•Baptism makes one a disciple of Jesus Christ (Matt. 28:19-20).
•Baptism is for the remission of sins (Acts 2:38).
•Baptism brings a person into the body of Christ (1 Cor. 12:13).
•Baptism entitles a person to wear the name, “Christian”, for it clothes us with Christ (Gal. 3:27).
•Baptism is one of the things we do in order to be saved (Mark 16:16).
•Baptism is something that no believing person should delay (Acts 22:16).
The Bible does NOT teach that we are to be baptized into a denomination. It does NOT teach that baptism is non-essential, or simply just a good idea. The Bible does NOT teach that it is an outward sign of an inward grace. The Bible does NOT teach that baptism is something you do in order to show others what you already have received.
Friend, I want you to go to heaven. And just like the men in Acts 19, you may have submitted to some form of baptism in the past. I recognize that to this point, you have probably done all that you have known to do in order to be right with God. God bless you, for your willingness to do all that you have ever known to do may be the very thing that will save you now. Please, let me ask, “Have you been baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of your sins, to be added by God to the church that Jesus built, in order to be a “Christian” and to receive the blessing of salvation?”
If not, into what then were you baptized?
“When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.” – Acts 19:5
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Questions to Ask Before You Ask, “How Do We Connect?”

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It is a question that is being asked by educators. It is being asked by politicians. The corporate world spends untold amounts of money trying to answer the question. 

Religious leaders are also involved in this discussion. At least those who are really leading and not merely “keeping house” are asking the question.

What’s the question?

How do we connect?

Educators wonder how to best connect with students.  Politicians want to connect with voters. Those who have a product to sell or a service to offer want to connect with consumers and those who would benefit from what they have to offer.

What about those of us who preach and teach God’s Word? Increasingly, I am hearing of changes that need to be made in wardrobe, facilities, worship styles, communication methods, etc. in an effort to connect with some nebulous group called “the unchurched.”

As kindly as I know how, I would like to suggest that we have already minimized our responsibility by using that term. People outside of Christ are not merely unchurched. They are lost

It seems to me that the seriousness of that condition means that there are some questions we need to ask and have answered before we ask how we make a connection. These questions are not difficult to understand, but they may be uncomfortable to answer.

Here are some of those questions:

  • What or who needs to be connected? 

Are we trying to connect the church with society in a way that would make the church “fit in” better with the world? Are we trying to connect people with us? Are we trying to change the message of the gospel (not the methods of presenting the gospel) to connect with modern cultural norms? Who/what needs to be connected? With whom or with what do they need that connection?

  • Why does a connection need to be made?

Is our goal “church growth?” Is it really all about numbers? Is it acceptance in the community? Do we want people bragging on us? Exactly why are we so interested in connecting?

Can we truthfully say that our goal is to connect people who are lost with the only hope of eternal salvation available to them? If so, then we need to work on the methods that will best accomplish that. Then, and only then, does the “how” question become relevant. 

I’m thinking that we need to get our answers to the “what,” “who,” and “why” questions correct before we tackle the “how” question.


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[Quote] The Top Priority in Your Home

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Donna’s Summer Garden Salad

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I have seen so many great pictures of beautiful produce many of you have grown and harvested from your gardens. I love this time of year and the blessings that come along with it. The colors of the many vegetables and the wonderful taste they have are just two of those blessings. I love to see the work many of you put into canning and freezing your vegetables so that during the long winter months you can be reminded of the blessings that come from the garden.

I thought I would lighten up my post this week and simply share with you one of my favorite summer salads. I have combined two recipes and turned it into “summer garden salad.” I hope you will enjoy it as much as we do. (At least it will help you use some of the bounty from the garden.)

Summer Garden Salad

3 medium yellow summer squash, sliced ¼ inch thick

1 each sweet red, yellow, orange and green pepper, chopped

1 small red onion thinly sliced and separated into rings (any onion works)

1 can shoe peg corn (white corn) drained

1 jar pimento (drained)

Dressing:

1 cup sugar *

½ cup Canola oil

¾ cup apple cider vinegar

1 tsp. salt

Pepper

Place vegetables in a large bowl.

Combine dressing ingredients and boil together.  Let cool and pour over vegetables.  Mix well.  Refrigerate and enjoy for several days.

  • Note:  Splenda may be used and there is no need to boil – just whisk the dressing ingredients together and pour over the vegetables.  Refrigerate and enjoy.

“You cause the grass to grow for the livestock and plants for man to cultivate, that he may bring forth food from the earth…”  Psalm 104:14


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How to be Balanced in What We Sing in Worship

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As a preacher, I am reminded often of the need for balance in preaching. We need to preach “hard” sermons and encouraging sermons. Preach from the Old Testament and the New Testament. Preach first principles and theologically rich concepts.

Certainly, it is a challenge, but it also ensures that there is never a lack of material!

But preaching is not the only part of our worship in which balance is needed. In the songs we sing in worship, we also need a balance.

As you read this article, consider the last few Sunday worship services. Don’t just think of one week, but consider a few. Over time, a congregation should sing several different types of songs, but it is easy to fall into a rut of singing not just the same songs, but the same types of songs over and over.

Instead, there needs to be a balance. Here are a few to consider.

Praise AND Practice. How many songs do we sing about the work we have to do here on the earth? If all we get is a steady diet of “practice” songs, we are missing the number one priority of our singing: praising the Lord! One test of this is to see how many songs we sing that speak of “I,” “me,” “us,” and “we” versus how many we sing that speak of “You,” “Your,” “Thee,” and “Thine.” Both are necessary to our growth as Christians. So, sing both “Lord, We Come Before Thee Now,” and “Each day I’ll do a golden deed…”

Comfort Songs AND Challenging Songs. I don’t mean the musical nature of the songs. What I mean is that we sing a lot of songs about God loving us and, basically, the comfort we feel due to His grace and mercy. We should never stop singing those, but we also need to sing songs teaching each other that there is work to do, and sometimes that work is challenging. So, sing both “Christ’s Love Is All I Need” and “Go Into the Field.”

Heaven Songs AND Everyday Songs. I think every Christian loves singing about heaven, but we must live in this life to prepare for that eternal home! Conversely, this life can be a struggle, so songs about heaven can spur us on in hope what something far better. So, sing both “That Heavenly Home” and “To Christ Be Loyal and Be True.”

Simple Messages AND Theologically Rich Messages. Too many songs, even of some length, do not really say much of anything. That is okay at times, but a steady diet of that is not healthy to the theological depth of the worshipers. On the other hand, if all we ever sing are dense songs with deep lyrics, we may lose younger people or those still new in the faith. So, sing both “God is So Good” and “In Christ Alone.”

Contemplative Songs AND Toe-Tappers. There are certain songs that just get your foot tapping and that people just belt out. There are other songs that are a bit slower and cause our minds to focus, almost prayerfully, on what we are singing. A mix of both types of songs helps worshipers with different frames of mind. So, sing both “Lamb of God” and “We’re Marching to Zion.”

And, yes, Old Songs AND New Songs. Yes, I went there! Just because a song is 250 years old does not make it better than something new. However, if we fail to sing the old standards, we are missing a chance to connect generations through one of the most powerful tools possible: music. Learn new songs (including some older songs that are so old they are new again!) and continue to use rich and powerful hymns of the past. So, sing both “Amazing Grace” and “Amazing Grace (My Chains are Gone).”

Conclusion

As is true with what we want in our preaching, the same should be true in our singing. Balance is the key. Most song books have 800 songs or more, but most congregations sing less than 75 of them (and some far less). A tool like Paperless Hymnal and/or ePraise adds even hundreds more.

However, it is not just about singing a bunch of different songs. It is about balance. It is about making certain that, even in our singing, we do not ride a hobby horse, or get in a rut. Singing, as an act of worship, should be done to the very best of our ability. Our Lord deserves no less than the best we can offer.

“Praise the Lord! Sing to the Lord a new song,

His praise in the assembly of the godly!” (Psalm 149:1)


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AUTHOR: Adam Faughn

“If You Touch It, You Will Die”

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King David presumptuously wanted to move the ark of the covenant without God’s permission. He was ready to bring it into his city and let it be the symbol of the power of the Almighty God. While transporting it on a new cart David and all of Israel played music and celebrated before the ark. But when the oxen stumbled at Nachon’s threshing floor a man named Uzzah tried to stabilize the ark by putting out his hand to steady it. Immediately upon contact, the Lord was angered at Uzzah’s disobedience and the Bible says, “God struck him there for his error, and he died there by the ark of God” (2 Samuel 6:7).
That’s when it all got interesting. David was angry because of God’s outbreak against Uzzah. Instead of continuing to transport the ark to his city he determined to leave it at a man’s house. He reckoned that the ark might be a curse rather than a blessing. So he decided to test it at another man’s dwelling rather than his own. The man’s name was Obed-Edom. Again the Bible says that David left the ark of the covenant at this man’s house because he was afraid of the Lord that day (2 Samuel 6:9).
Now let’s imagine the conversation between David (the king), and Obed-Edom (a common man):
“I am David, king of Israel. I am leaving the ark of God in your care. This ark contains manna, the Ten Commandments, and Aaron’s miraculous rod. It is overlaid with pure gold and belongs in the most holy place. Between the wings of the Cherubim is the mercy seat, and God dwells there. I need you to keep this ark in your house for a while. Oh, and by the way, if you touch it, you will die. I have a dead body we are carrying home to prove it.”
What would you do if you were Obed-Edom? How careful would you be if the ark of God was living in your home? How would you walk around the house? How far would you stay from it to make sure you didn’t bump it or trip into it? How would you behave in your house if it was there? What would you think about? What would you say? What kind of music would you listen to? What would you read or watch on TV? What would you do in your house every day if the presence of God dwelt in your house all day long?
We live and breathe by the grace of God. He is omnipresent; that is, He is everywhere all of the time. It is not that He doesn’t see and hear and know everything we do and say and think, it is just that we tend to forget or ignore His presence. If we would stop and remember a loving God who is always near to us, perhaps we would live better and holier lives in reverence and fear before His holiness.
The Bible concludes with this statement about the time that the ark of the covenant once stayed in a man’s house – “The ark of the Lord remained in the house of Obed-Edom the Gittite for three months. And the Lord blessed Obed-Edom and all of his household” (2 Samuel 6:11).
Jesus, the King by the precious sacrifice of His own blood, has invited the presence of God into the lives and homes of common, everyday people. We should not run away from a God who wants to dwell so closely to us that He actually desires to dwell in us. Instead, we should see that His presence is a blessing that will purify us from sin and give us peace in our lives and in our homes. David determined that the ark could, in fact, be brought into his city after 3 months of success at another man’s house. Perhaps we, like David, should embrace God’s presence as well.
“Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence?” – Psalm 139:7
(special thanks to Steve Higginbotham for the idea behind this article)
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If Appearances are Not Important

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Have you ever noticed the difference between photos taken of a person when or before they are arrested and those taken when the same person has his or her day in court? Have you ever noticed that, in many instances, they almost do not look like the same person?

In many of the “pre” or “day of” photos, the person is unkempt and has an interesting (to say the least) hair style. Often the individual is seen proudly showing off all of the “art” and metal that they think makes them look cool, attractive, or something. He or she may be making sure that all of this is visible by exposing as much of the body as possible. Sometimes, a lot of skin is showing just to show off the skin.

However, when that same person appears in court, the metal is no longer there and the “art” and the “canvass” used for art has been covered up as much as possible. As he or she walks into court, it looks like the last stop before the entrance into the courtroom was at a barber shop or beauty shop.

Why? What accounts for the difference? If appearances are not important, why has there been such a drastic change?

Could it be that a lawyer has gotten the attention of his/her client? In more high profile cases, could it be that some sort of expert has been employed to prepare the defendant as well as possible for the trial?

I wonder if the message from the lawyer or advisor could be something like this:

“If I am going to represent you, you need to realize that you cannot walk into a courtroom in front of a judge and a jury looking like you normally look. You can argue all you want that your appearance should make no difference and that you have the right to look any way you want to look. You are exactly right about that. 

I admire the fact that you are willing to make what you think is a courageous stand based upon your principles and your rights. Many people would not make that kind of decision when they are facing incarceration – or worse.”

At the same time, I have some news for you. Unless you straighten up, clean up, and cover up, you will be sending a message you do not want to send. I will also tell you that, unless you do those things, you can find another lawyer. I will not represent somebody looking like you normally look.

Would you like for me to show up in court looking like you did before you were arrested?”

Those who know me should know that I’m not one of those old-fogey preachers who thinks that I have to wear a suit and tie when I mow the lawn or work in the garden. (Yes, I’ve heard of men who have done that.) 

At the same time, I realize that all Christians, whether they are preachers or not, represent at all times the One whose name we wear. Every choice I make should be based on that. 

What do others think of Jesus when they see and hear me? 

What do they think of Him when they see and hear you?


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[Quote] Balance in Parenting

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SOURCE: Be the Dad She Needs You to Be: The Indelible Imprint a Father Leaves on His Daughter’s Life by Kevin Leman (page 162)