While Reading the Bible, Did We See Jesus?

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He was talking to God’s people. But they did not understand who He was. This must have been frustrating to Jesus. John put it this way, “He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him” (John 1:10-11). They did not understand what He was saying. But Jesus kept talking to them anyway.

One thing in particular He said to the Jews is very intriguing. In John 5:39 He explained, “You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me.” The spiritual leaders of Israel read God’s book and yet they missed Jesus. It made me wonder if you and I ever do the same?

While trying to find out from the Bible how to obey God do we forget we are saved by the grace and power of the cross?

While searching the Scriptures for the will of God do we forget how much He loves us?

When reading about the church of the New Testament, do we understand that it was because these early disciples wanted to suffer like Jesus suffered that they were even willing to die for their faith?

Whenever we read the Bible, are we looking at it as a self-help book, or are we instead simply in awe of the scheme of redemption that included the death, burial and resurrection of the Son of God?

Have we, through our study and practice, ritualized worship and Bible study and prayer and thus trivialized Jesus?

He was the Son of God. He was right there in front of them. He was talking to God’s people about God’s love and eternal plan. But they had their noses so deep in the Law and their hearts so steeped in their human traditions, that they missed out on Jesus!

May God help us, that when we open up His word we never fail to see the Word who became flesh and dwelt among us! If we miss Jesus, we miss everything.

“But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, for the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, that He, by the grace of God, might taste death for everyone.” – Hebrews 2:9

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The Church What Helps People

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If you were alive and at least somewhat acquainted with the church of Christ prior to 1984, you probably remember a man by the name of Ira North. Brother North was probably best known as the preacher for the Madison (TN) church of Christ. During his thirty-two years there, it grew from about 400 to over 5,000. 

Along with his normal preaching duties, he also was the speaker for a weekly television program called The Amazing Grace Bible Class. He was also a faculty member at what was then David Lipscomb College (now Lipscomb University). He was an author and served for a time as editor of the Gospel Advocate

While actually doing some research for something else, I came across something written by brother North after his death by his wife of forty-three years. Along with other things, she wrote:

Ira frequently related the incident about the “Church What Helps People.” One afternoon he was in the office after everyone else was gone. There was a timid knock at his outside door. He went to the door and there stood two frightened little girls.

“Mister, is this the church what helps people.” they asked.

“Well, I’ll declare!” Ira quickly replied. “There are 750 churches in this town and you have found the right one! What can I do for you?”

“Our daddy’s sick and we are hungry,” they said.

“Well, we’ll fix that. Come with me.”

He took them to the food room and found the door locked.

“Well, what do you know – somebody forgot and locked the door.”

He picked up a hammer and broke the lock and sent the little girls home with their arms filled with sacks of food. Before leaving them he invited them to Bible school the next Sunday.

It has been observed by people who are much more in tune with things than I am that, over time, every congregation of God’s people develops an identity and/or a reputation. It is my observation that this is rarely limited to one description. For example; a congregation can (and should) be known as both “sound” and “evangelistic.”

Wouldn’t it be great to be known (among other things) as “the church what helps people?”  What are you doing to make that a reality?

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5 Things Every Congregation CAN Do to Encourage Families

[Editor’s note: Today’s post comes to us from Dan Jenkins. Dan is a great gospel preacher, and we appreciate him taking the time to write for us. To find out more about Dan, read his information following today’s article.]

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It is obvious that the strength of the church is found in the homes of those who make up the local congregation. However, we tend to often limit our consideration to those homes and families where there are Christian parents and young children. The reality is this: because of our changing world this is only one kind of family. Remember that there are families in the church where there are single parents. Then there are families in the church where there is only one parent who is a Christian. There are also families with empty nests where the children who were once part of that family no longer are there. The church must not overlook these kinds of families and their needs. Finally there are single people, widows, widowers and others people in the congregation. This final group is not overlooked in the Bible for the psalmist said, “God sets the solitary in families” (Psa. 68:6). The church must realize that congregations are used by God to help these individuals be part of a family. However, our emphasis in this study will focus on “regular” families.

Congregations CAN Remind Parents of Their Role in the Spirituality of the Family

As the church has focused on children there has developed a tendency for our homes to rely on the church for the spiritual welfare of the home. Years ago, homes were places which reflected the instruction of Moses, “You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise it” (Deut. 6:7). Congregations need to remind parents that it is impossible for the local congregation to develop deeply spiritual young people without the assistance of the home. There is perhaps no greater help congregations can give to families than to regularly emphasize this truth.

Think about this. Sometimes we tend to say that the church is losing its young people, but such is not the case. The church was never given young people, they were given to parents. The primary blame for the lack of spiritual development of the family lies with the family. It is vital that families be reminded of this truth.

Congregations CAN Provide Tracts, Books, Blogs, Classes and Seminars About the Family

This point might seem unnecessary, but the average Christian family likely does not have a reliable source to find materials that would enhance the spirituality of the family. Church leaders would be wise in using the assembly to provide information and help create homes that are closer to God. There are devotional tracts and booklets, and entire books which could help in this area. In this technological age there are blogs written by godly men and women which most homes are not aware even exist. In view of the demise of spirituality in the home, congregations should regularly have sermons, Bible classes and special workshops to make our homes different from those in the world. In the absence of these truths based on His word, our homes are being shaped by the ungodly and often seem no different from those homes where God is not honored.

Congregations CAN Help Families Become Part of the Church and its Worship

The presence of children in worship and their behavior have created a situation in the church where some families may feel they are not welcomed in the assembly. Those of us who grew up in the church, sitting beside our both of our parents in the pews, forget that the world has changed and so has the membership of those in the church. Many young parents were raised by parents who rarely took them to worship and what we have known by our own experiences are unknown to them. One congregation surveyed its membership to discover how many young parents actually grew up sitting in the assembly every week and 60% of young parents never had this blessing.

Because of this, congregations would be wise to provide instructions and encouragement to those who are struggling with their children. We should praise those parents when they are doing things right (such praise simply reinforces the right way to train children), instead of staring down parents when their children create awkward situations which disturb the worship. Older Christian women can become “grandmothers” to such children in worship to show by example how it should be done.

Some Christians also contribute to the negative behavior of children by playing with children who sit around them or in front of them. Such not only disturbs the attention of others in the assembly, but also makes children view worship as a “fun” time and not a worship time.

Congregations CAN Help New Families Feel a Part of the Local Congregation

The church is an ever-changing and growing congregation of God’s people. New families are moving into the area. There are also newlyweds who have created a new family and often struggle to find their place. There are families with new children and the presence of these children changes their place in the makeup of the congregation. There are newly baptized husbands/wives whose mates were already part of the church, but now there is a family united in Christ. Each of these new situations should be addressed by older Christians.

Congregations CAN Be Part of God’s Plan to Put the Solitary into Families

It is in this area where the church is often the weakest. In far too many places activities primarily involve couples; thus, single, divorced, widows, and other lonely people need to know what family is all about. The Lord describes the church as a family (1Tim. 3:15), and God expects His people to be the family for solitary people. God knew there would be widows and described pure and undefiled religion as being shown by how we help widows and orphans.

So look around the congregation where you worship. Then as part of that congregation do all you can to help the families in that congregation. It can make an eternal difference in the lives of those around you.

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Dan Jenkins has preached for over fifty years around the world and for the past thirty-five years has preached in West Palm Beach, Florida. He and his wife have four children, thirteen grandchildren and four great-grandchildren. There is an abundance of material found on the website of the Palm Beach Lakes congregation:  www.pblcoc.org

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5 Service Projects for Your Kids This Summer

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“Yeah, school’s out!”

…wait three days…

“I’m bored!”

First of all, I do not have a problem with kids being bored. It forces them to stretch themselves and use their imaginations to find ways to fill in the time. Not every moment of every day should be go-go-go for any of us.

That said, summertime does afford good opportunities for children to give back to others. Because they have a little extra time, it is good for them to use some of that time to serve other people in ways that may take a little time.

While there are countless ways kids can do this, today we share 5 that are simple, but that take a little time.

1. Read to nursing home residents. Visiting a local nursing home or assisted living home is always a good thing, but often we do not have the time to make extended visits. Using a little extra time in the summer, young people can sit and read to a resident, or maybe even start a little reading group. They could read the Bible, or even work through a novel over the course of the summer.

2. Clean up a local park. This, obviously, takes permission, but what local government is going to turn down volunteer work to do such a good thing? If your children use a local park, this is a great way to teach them the value of giving back. They can rake, clean up trash, or even paint where necessary. Some organizations might even provide materials to add more mulch, sand, or other materials that need to be replenished.

3. Bake and take. We try to take our kids visiting from time-to-time, but during the school year, the visit is often all we have time to do. In the summer, though, your kids can spend part of their day baking something simple (cookies, brownies from a mix, etc.) to take to those you visit that evening. If they can add a little homemade card, or make a tag to put on it on the computer, that just adds to the personal touch!

4. Help the youth minister. Summertime for youth ministers (or, in congregations that do not have a youth minister, the parents and volunteers) is insane. The calendar is virtually busting at the seams. If your children are responsible, why not see if there is an activity they can coordinate or even host, with the permission of the youth minister? Maybe it’s a one-day service project or a weeknight devotional. They could even advertize it as “the night/day the youth minister is free.”

5. Sew fall/winter clothes. With the extra time kids have in the summer, it is a great time to ask if there are any kids in the community who might not have enough fall or winter clothes. What a great blessing, to either make new clothes, or fix/patch some that just need a little TLC. For a young person who doesn’t have much, this would be a blessing when school starts back and the temps start dropping again.

Of course, there are thousands of other ways to serve others, but these five are meant to get your creative juices flowing. Help your children see summer (and all times) as a time with opportunities to help and serve other people!

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Author: Adam Faughn

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Because I Said So

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I read articles from time-to-time that talk about how parents should avoid saying the phrase “because I said so” as a reason for asking their children to do something.

The usual line of reasoning is quite simple. It is that children need to be instructed as to why something is necessary, or right, or wrong. The argument then goes that just saying “because I said so” is not instructing children. Some even go so far as to say that using that line is almost dictatorial.

To be fair, if “because I said so” is the only reason we ever give to our children for anything we tell them to do, that isn’t right. This does not need to be the only response we ever give our children because it does not expand their thinking to only be given one reason over and over again. There is a lack of instruction, especially if “because I said so” is all our kids ever hear.

However, I believe “because I said so” has merit as one response parents should give their children at various times.

Why? Because it teaches them that, sometimes you follow an authority figure simply because they are the authority figure.

When the blue lights flash behind your car, you may not like that you are getting pulled over, but you still move your car to the side. For what reason do you do such a thing? Because an authority figure has said so. We do not ask the police officer for his/her credentials when those lights come on. The lights themselves prove any credential we might need!

Children need to be taught to respect authority. Sometimes, that means you just do what you are told because someone in authority has spoken. It does not mean you always understand it. It doesn’t mean you always enjoy it. It means you are showing respect to a position of authority.

Over time, parents should instruct their children more often than they just say “because I said so.” But a decent dose of “because I said so” instills in children a respect for the position of a parent. The children should do as they are told–over time, and mixed with instruction–simply because their parents, who are in that position of authority, have said so.

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“Will You Still be My Daddy in Heaven?”

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One of the best things about spending time with your kids is being present for their inquisitive moments. The other day my seven-year-old daughter asked me if I would still be her daddy in heaven. This is a pretty good question. It is similar to other questions about eternity that people often have. These questions usually have something to do with comprehending how different is going to be better. We are creatures of habit and therefore norms are safe and comfortable to us. One of the greatest difficulties in understanding the grandeur of heaven involves accepting the fact that the unknowns are superior to the knowns.

When your children ask you hard questions it is pretty easy to just say, “I don’t know.” If such is the true answer you need never be afraid to say so. Fortunately on this occasion I felt quite comfortable telling my daughter what I knew from my personal study of God’s word. When it comes to eternity, the Bible is the only volume we could consult in order to get the correct answers. So, yes, I responded to her questioned by pointing out the following Biblical truths:

1. I will always be me and you will always be you. Moses and Elijah were still Moses and Elijah centuries after they left their earthly existence. At the mount of transfiguration they appeared to and talked with Jesus (Matt. 17:1-5). Jesus also said in Mark 12:26-27 that God was still the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. We are going to be given a different body to go with our spirit (cf. 1 Cor. 15), but we will never lose our identity.

2. Relationships, in some fashion, will be different in heaven (Matt. 22:23-33). When Jesus was challenged by the Sadducees to explain a question about marriage in heaven, Jesus plainly told them that there would be no marriage there (Matt. 22:30). We should understand that earthly relationships were created in part for carrying on earthly responsibilities. We will no longer need to reproduce in heaven. We won’t need to raise infants or support each other as brethren in order to get through life. Earthly relationships, though necessary and full of blessings, will be inferior to the perfection of heavenly ones.

3. We will never forget our family members (Luke 16:19-31). When the rich man died, Jesus said he remembered his brothers, still living on the earth. Because the rich man was in torments, he wanted someone to preach to them so they would not be lost like he was. As a side note, we should mention that your departed loved ones are fully aware of their eternal destination. If they had one wish it would be for you to be obedient to the gospel, whether they have done so or not. I do not fully understand how this works, but I do know for those who will be in heaven, what God allows them to remember will not matter, for he has promised, “And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away” (Rev. 21:3). I am fully confident that I will always remember and know my people, and I will know where they have gone. And when by God’s grace and according to my obedience I make it to heaven, God will somehow make everything I know about that okay.

I am thankful my daughter asked me such a great question. It lets me know she always wants me to be her daddy. Believe me, I always want to be. I am thankful God’s word tells me that we will always know each other. I am thankful that I can be assured that what we have waiting for us is even better than what we have here. And I am especially thankful that He has promised it will last forever.

“Do not marvel at this; for the hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear His voice…” – John 5:28

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It Was Kind of Short

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Recently, I watched what I thought was an enlightening video. It only lasted about ninety seconds. That is a very short time.

However, the title for this article did not come from the fact that the video was short. It came from a quote in the video.

The video showed part of a birthday celebration. You may have never heard of the person whose birthday was being celebrated. Her name was Misao Okawa. I am using the past tense because she passed from this life on April 1st of this year. Prior to her passing, she was recognized as the world’s oldest living person. 

The video I watched was recorded last year as she celebrated her 116th birthday (she lived to the age of 117 before her passing). She was shown eating cake and said (in the English subtitles), “It’s good.” 

As flowers were presented to her, she was informed or reminded that she had lived 116 years. She was asked if that seemed long or short.

Her answer was the title to this article:

“It was kind of short.”

Really? 

Over a century of life seems kind of short? Is it really true that somebody who was born in the 1800’s and lived until the middle of the second decade of the 21st century can see her life as “kind of short?”

I have no idea about the ages of those who will be reading these words. I have no idea about how many years you can recall. I do know about the one who is typing these words. The years and decades have seemingly flown by. They seem to fly by faster every day.

It may be that this lady who passed away recently in Japan left us a reminder that will outlive her.  In an “inspired reminder,” we read these words:

What is your life?  For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes (James 4:14, ESV).

So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom (Psalm 90:12, KJV).

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When a Loved One Leaves the Faith

[Editor’s Note: Today’s post is a guest article from Kathy Pollard, who recently published the book Return to Me. You can learn more about Kathy and this great book after today’s post. We thank her for sharing today’s article.]

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“…Fight the good fight, keeping faith and a good conscience, which some have rejected and suffered shipwreck in regard to their faith” (1 Timothy 1:18,19).

Some have rejected the faith and suffered shipwreck. How many? I don’t know. But I do know that for every wayward Christian, there is a bewildered family floundering in the wake. If you have a loved one who has turned away from God, you are not alone. The next time you go to worship, look down the pew on either side of you, the pew in front of you, and the pew behind you. You will most likely find that you are surrounded by Christians who are praying for wayward family members.   

Paul gave Timothy some inspired, helpful advice for how to conduct himself in the house of God (1 Tim. 3:15). Timothy was laboring among the Christians at Ephesus, some of whom had strayed from the faith (1 Tim. 1:5,6). Notice three ways in which Paul encouraged Timothy in 1 Tim. 1:18:

First, fight the good fight. When a loved one leaves the faith, you must continue to stand for the Truth. You may be tempted to adapt your beliefs to the wayward’s situation, but you would not be doing your loved one any favors. Only the Truth saves. Paul told Timothy that some would “depart from the faith by giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons” (1 Tim. 4:1). To stay strong and clear-minded, Timothy would need to “give attention to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine” (1 Tim. 4:13). The Scripture is what has the power to equip you for every good work (2 Tim. 3:16, 17).

Paul also told Timothy how to fight the good fight. “Preach the word!  Be ready in season and out of season.  Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all long-suffering and teaching” (2 Tim. 4:2). Prepare yourself to share the Word with your loved one. Patiently convince and teach and then convince and teach some more.

Second, keep the faith. “But you must continue in the things which you have learned and been assured of, knowing from whom you have learned them, and that from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Jesus Christ” (2 Tim. 3:14,15). Paul told Timothy to make sure his own faith remained strong even though others had “turned their ears away from the truth” (2 Tim. 4:4). 

Some really struggle spiritually when a loved one falls away. Make sure your faith is tied to your Lord and not to your loved one. Anchor yourself by continuing to study and grow so you won’t find yourself beginning to sink.

Third, keep a good conscience. Your own conduct will be under greater scrutiny as you reach out to a wayward loved one. Any unrighteous behavior or attitude on your part will only be used against you or as an excuse for the wayward to continue their lifestyle. Paul told Timothy, “Exercise yourself toward godliness” (1 Tim. 4:7), and “Take heed to yourself and to the doctrine. Continue in them, for in doing this you will save both yourself and those who hear you” (1 Tim. 4:16).

You may be frustrated with your loved one for their foolish choices. You may be hurt by their selfishness. But keep a good conscience by choosing your words carefully, watching your tone, and controlling your temper. Make sure your own conduct is righteous as you reach out to the one whose conduct isn’t. Paul told Timothy to be an example “in word, in conduct, in love, in spirit, in faith, in purity” (1 Tim 4:12).

Even though your loved one is the one who has fallen away, why should you have to be the one to work so hard fighting the good fight, keeping the faith, and keeping a good conscience? Because you “trust in the living God, who is the Savior of all men” (1 Tim. 4:10). May God be with you and strengthen you as you reach out to those you love.

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Kathy Pollard lives in Denver, Colorado. She is married to Neal, and they have three sons. She is the author of the recently-released book Return to Me: What to Do When Loved Ones Fall Away. You can find out more about the book, and order a copy from ReturnToMeBook.com.

Also, you will want to frequent, or subscribe to, Kathy’s blog, Life and Favor. You can check that out here.

“We Turned Off the TV and Studied the Bible”

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I will not reveal the name of the person who spoke those words to me recently, but they made a powerful impact. They were spoken by a man–a husband and father–who is just trying.

He came up to me and had a question about a particularly difficult statement in the Bible. At first, I thought he was asking just for his own information, or maybe because it was something being discussed in a Bible class. I tried to help him understand the passage as best I could (off the top of my head), and he thanked me.

But then he came right out and said that he and his little family had been studying that passage the night before. And that’s when he said, “Last night, we turned off the TV and studied the Bible.”

In my eyes, that is courage!

It may not seem like a major step to some people, but to be the real leader in the home, it takes steps like that one. How many of us who would think that isn’t a major step in faith won’t even make that step?

Dads, how many of us need to get our families back into the Bible?

How many of us need to say “no” to something like TV, or another sport, or a night out with the guys in order to do just that?

How many of us simply need to make family Bible study a priority?

It is a step of courage…and you can do it!

Will you?

To help you make that step of courage, check out these two resources:

1. “Training for Worship” resource packet [pdf]. These are meant for worship, but some are home devotional ideas to help you prepare your children for worship. They are a free printable pdf.

2. How to Lead Your Family in Home Devotionals {blog post}

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AUTHOR: Adam Faughn

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When Someone Responds

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As a preacher, I pray often for people to respond to the invitation. I do not pray that for some ego trip, but because people need to come to the Lord, and the invitation is a wonderful time for someone to respond. Others are present and can encourage, and it is also an encouragement to them to see these responses.

However, what should do when someone responds, either to be baptized or in need of prayers? I want to give a few practical suggestions. These are not “book, chapter, and verse” commands; rather, they are practical principles that will help this be a joyful time.

1. Go Get Them! This one is for those who stand down front during the invitation song. By this I mean, do not wait for someone to come all the way down the aisle before shaking their hand or giving a hug. As soon as you see someone heading down, go up the aisle and put your arm around them. It takes courage to step out and come forward. Walk with that person to help encourage them and put them at ease.

2. Take Your Time. I know that for some, it can seem a bit awkward while the preacher or an elder talks with someone. The room is silent, and we can wonder if it is taking “too long.” It isn’t! This is the most important thing someone will ever do. Take your time listening if you are the one with them. If you are in the crowd, pray. Pray for this person, and pray words of gratitude and praise to God for this moment.

3. Act Like You’ve Been There Before. Sometimes, it may have been awhile since there was a public response, but we should not act like it has never happened! Know the policy for helping someone to the baptistry. Where are the clothes? Who will assist in changing? Will someone lead songs or a prayer? If you must, have a written out policy, but this should be done with complete excellence! If someone is seeking prayers, know who will lead the prayer. Will it be you? An elder? This should be organized and done with excellence.

4. Encourage People to Stay. A few weeks ago, I pleaded with our folks at 9th Avenue not to leave as soon as the “amen” was said after someone had responded. In fact, I changed my own personal policy of going to the back doors, choosing instead to stay down front as a visual way of encouraging more people to stay around. This moment is worth a few extra minutes to encourage. It is wonderful to see streams of people waiting for a moment to give a hug or a word of encouragement.

5. Celebrate. There should still be dignity, but this is not a funeral (except to the old person of sin!). This is a resurrection! It is a reunion! It is a joyful time! Smiles, songs, prayers…whatever is still “decent and in order” should be used to celebrate this moment. Further, let it be known through the bulletin as well as on social media. Spread this wonderful news.

These are just a few suggestions. We need to remember the importance and the joy of this moment, and treasure when it occurs.

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Author: Adam Faughn

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