Some Thoughts about Freedom

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As we prepare to celebrate the fact that thirteen colonies declared, and then fought to win, their independence from the most powerful country in the world at that time, I thought it might be appropriate to share a few thoughts about freedom. There seems to me to be a connection between the freedom which was so dear to them and the freedom we have in Christ (cf. John 8:36).

Freedom is not free. Those who signed the document declaring those colonies to be free from the domination of England pledged their “…Lives…Fortunes…and…Sacred Honor.” While there was recognition of, and appreciation for, “…the protection of Divine Providence…”, it is of interest to notice that that pledge was made to “…each other…” 

History records that many of those who signed that document lost a great deal in subsequent years. History also informs us that, in the war to actually gain the independence that had been declared, freedom came at a terrific cost.

Nothing can compare with the price paid for our freedom in Christ. It cost the Father his Son; it cost the Son his life; and it demands that those who would have this freedom would have to “…deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow [Jesus]” (Luke 9:23).

The price is high, but freedom is worth it.

Liberty is not license. Some may find it amazing that those original colonies did not throw off all law. They just rejected British law. They soon set about drafting constitutions, laws, and other means by which behavior could be regulated. They knew the difference between liberty and license.

This is also the case with regard to spiritual matters. In fact, it is specifically stated in Galatians 5:13 that, “…ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another.”

Rhetoric is not reality. What the 4th of July celebrates is the Declaration of Independence, not the reality of independence. As alluded to earlier, the reality was not realized until many battles had been fought.

Jesus asked on one occasion, “Why do you call me Lord, Lord, and not do what I tell you?” (Luke 6:46). In that statement, there is recognition of the fact that the words of many will not match reality. The claim may be that they are Christians; that they are followers of Christ; that they experience the freedom He promises. The fact may be that none of this is true.

“Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free…” (Gal 5:1)


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Episode 58: 20 Things I Want My Children to Know, part 4 [Podcast]

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This week, we finish our four-part series, in which Adam has been sharing his list of 20 things he wants his children to know.

To listen to part 1, click here.

To listen to part 2, click here.

To listen to part 3, click here.

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The Five Things Discussed in This Week’s Program:

16. I want them to know that God has a plan for their life.

17. I want them to know how to think through the world Biblically.

18. I want them to know that every person is made in the image of God.

19. I want them to know humility.

20. I want them to know that I will always be their daddy.

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When Sister Goes Against Sister

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We call them differences, arguments, differing opinions, fusses…all meaning the same thing. There are times in the Lord’s church when women (and men) just can’t seem to get along. It might be a committee working toward some event and the lady in charge rules with an iron hand. It may be generational and the older women think they know more about rearing children (or any number of other things) than this younger generation does. It might have to do with modest dress, or songs, or activities, or tattoos, or teaching methods or carpet colors, or food to serve for refreshments, or… 

Suffice it to say that there are times when sister goes against sister in the church.

The apostle Paul begins the fourth chapter of Philippians in an unusual way for a letter written mostly about joy and love. In verse 2 he calls out the names of two Christian women who apparently aren’t getting along for some reason. That reason isn’t given, but we do know that they were not “agreeing in the Lord.” He further calls for the Christians around them to help them. How? He doesn’t really say, unless reminding them that at one time they “labored side by side with me in the gospel…” would help get them back on track.

I would like to share a few suggestions to hopefully help lessen the damage done when “fusses” between Christian sisters come about.

  • Tame your tongue. As is often the case, when there are differences of opinion concerning any matter, our tongues go to work. We feel the need to talk to others about “our opinion” and win as many as we can to “our side” of the dispute. We need to learn to work constantly on being in control of our tongues. James describes it as “…a restless evil, full of deadly poison.” (James 3:8)
  • Taste your talk. If we placed a taste on the words that come from our mouths, what would they taste like? Would they be bitter, salty, sweet, sour? Spend some time thinking about what comes out of your mouth. I know when I’m angry, not much sweetness is likely to come out of my mouth! (Col. 4:6)
  • Tame your tone. How you say what you say matters! I could say “I disagree with that” in several different ways just by changing the tone of my voice and the look on my face. Knowing this and remembering it when differences come up will go a long way toward stopping fusses.
  • It is ok to have differences of opinion concerning non-doctrinal matters. The problem develops when I think that my opinion is the only one that counts; that my way of doing things is the only right way! It hurts me when other sisters don’t agree with me! Do you see the selfishness in these statements? When I lose “self” in order to maintain harmony in the body of Christ I will be helping to keep peace? (Phil. 2:3)
  • Unity is important. Paul gives us a formula to maintain unity in the body of Christ.  “…Walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” (Eph. 4: 1-3)  I certainly can’t improve on that formula.
  • Don’t give Satan a victory. When sister goes against sister, disrupting the peace in the congregation, Satan wins a victory. He moves us off-course. We lose our true focus. We forget what Jesus did for us. We begin focusing upon “our rights,” and forget that we have no rights because we have “been crucified with Christ.” (Gal. 2:20)

To paraphrase David the psalmist:

“Behold, how good and pleasant it is when [sisters] dwell in unity!” Psalm 133:1


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Can Your Mate become Your Idol?

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Recently, a wonderful young Christian lady asked me the following question in a private Facebook message:

How are you and Leah able to keep Christ at the front of your relationship and not let each other become an idol?

I asked her if I could use that question to develop a blog article, and she agreed. While I’m certain this is not a perfect response, I pray it causes all of us to think about our marriages in a truly Biblical and God-honoring way.

First of all, her question is outstanding and insightful. It shows that this young lady realizes that Christ must always be our top priority. It also shows that she realizes the responsibility of husbands and wives to love and respect each other.

However, it also shows insight into something most people rarely consider: it is possible for my mate to take the place of God; to become an idol. We may not want to consider that, but anyone or anything can push God from first place in our lives if we allow it. That, by its very definition, is idolatry. God, however, must always be primary, including even above my spouse.

It is a Struggle

We need to admit, first of all, that this is a real struggle. What is interesting to me, though, is that the Bible admits that it would be! In 1 Corinthians 7:32-35, Paul wrote the following words by inspiration:

I want you to be free from anxieties. The unmarried man is anxious about the things of the Lord, how to please the Lord. But the married man is anxious about worldly things, how to please his wife, and his interests are divided. And the unmarried or betrothed woman is anxious about the things of the Lord, how to be holy in body and spirit. But the married woman is anxious about worldly things, how to please her husband. I say this for your own benefit, not to lay any restraint upon you, but to promote good order and to secure your undivided devotion to the Lord. (emphasis added)

Paul writes that, for the one who is married, interests are “divided” (literally, “split into factions”). Without going deeply into the context, notice his purpose in writing these words. He said at the end of that paragraph that he wanted “to promote good order and to secure your undivided devotion to the Lord.”

In other words, God needs to be first, but it is understandable that this is a struggle when we are married.

A married Christian loves the Lord but also has his wife or her husband to consider. Then, there are those things that naturally come with marriage (finances, sexuality, and so forth) that weigh on the mind. It is easy to put the marriage–and even our mate–in the place of God as far as our mental energy and our efforts are concerned.

Remember the “Picture”

So, what is the solution? I am not sure there is a “three-step” or “five things” list I could share to keep this from happening. We love our mate and we desire to show that love and respect constantly.

I believe the key, however, is to emphasize and remember what is really pictured in a Christian marriage. Ephesians 5:22-32 is, I suppose, the most commonly used passage concerning Christian marriage in the Bible. Paul speaks to wives and husbands in a beautiful but straightforward fashion. Often, we emphasize the husband-wife relationship from this passage, as is right, but we fail to see the parallel that underlies it all.

Near the end of that beautiful passage, Paul writes, “This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church” (Ephesians 5:32).

How is that the key? Husbands and wives, when they enter the covenant of marriage, carry the vast responsibility of picturing the beauty of Christ’s relationship with His Church through their marriage.

Burton Coffman said it very well as he commented on this verse:

The exalted view, both of marriage and of the church of Jesus Christ, shines forth in this text. The sacredness of marriage is seen in God’s design of it, from the very beginning, to be a figure of the union of Christ and his church… (Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, and Colossians, page 214)

The way I keep my mate from becoming an idol is to always keep in mind that, through every aspect of our marriage, we are picturing to the world the relationship between Christ and His church!

That displays itself in financial decisions, because a husband and wife will make decisions that honor each other, but God will always be first in each decision. “Giving” will be first on the family budget (not last), but money will also be spent to show love and respect to the spouse, so the marriage remains strong in order to picture Christ and His Church.

It displays itself in the sexual relationship of marriage. Of all belief systems, only Christianity teaches that the body of a wife belongs to her husband and the body of a husband belongs to his wife (1 Corinthians 7:4). The coming together of a husband and wife in the conjugal relationship should be joyful, regular, and selfless, because that act alone can demonstrate the true intimacy of Christ and His church.

It displays itself throughout time. Not only do husband and wife simply remain together “’til death separates” them, but they stay devoted to one another throughout life, as well. The reason is because Christ is devoted to His bride (the church), and the church strives to remain faithful throughout time to the Lord.

Conclusion

Again, is this always easy? Of course not! We love our spouse, and we desire to show that spouse honor and love. However, if we will remember that, as believers, the primary reason we do so is to show the glorious picture of Christ and His church to the world, we can keep Christ as the central point of our lives.

And, when we do that, as the husband and the wife pursue Christ first and foremost, it is amazing how truly close, devoted, and intimate their marriage will be for a lifetime. Nothing else could ever compare to that closeness.


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AUTHOR: Adam Faughn

Will You Lead?

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Recently, I came across some material I have had for years. In that material, I was reminded of a book written years ago by brother Norman Hogan. The book was entitled Leadership in the Local Church.

Contrary to what you might imagine from the book’s title, it is not at all merely for elders, deacons, preachers, and others in “leadership positions” in a congregation. The book contains material that, if taken to heart and put into practice, could benefit every member of every congregation of God’s people.

The very first sentence in the very first chapter of the book should serve as a “wake-up call” for all of us. Please carefully and prayerfully read, reread, and consider the implications of these words:

“If the members of a local church refuse to lead for Christ, it is certain that others, whose philosophy of life is alien that that of Christians, will lead people away from Christ.”

Did you not see in that statement what I did not see? 

I did not see in that sentence any of the following words: elders, deacons, preachers, Bible class teachers. The word I saw was members.

How do you react to brother Hogan’s statement? How do you react to the word “members?”

Do you believe that he is accurate in what he wrote? If so, what are you doing about it?

As you (and I) consider that, let me suggest something else I did not see in his statement. I did not read that he was discussing leading people to Christ. 

Please do not misunderstand. I am, in no way, meaning to leave the impression that leading people to Christ is not important. It is vitally important. It is eternally important.

However, what is under consideration here is leading for Christ. It seems to me that what is called for here would be individuals who will do more than lament the deterioration and decline of what some have called the “moral fabric” of our society – and other societies in the world.

What brother Hogan thought was desperately needed were people who would take a stand based on firm convictions. They would do more than merely take a stand. They would move forward in the right direction and encourage others to follow.

Leaders lead. They do not merely stand.

Leaders act. They do not merely complain.

Is our society all that you want it to be? What about your community? What about your workplace? What about your school? What about your congregation? What about your family?

Are you leading for Christ?


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Episode 57: 20 Things I Want My Children to Know, part 3 [Podcast]

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Continuing our four-part series, on this week’s podcast, Adam shares 5 more things on his list of 20 things he wants his children to know.

To listen to part 1, click here.

To listen to part 2, click here.

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The Five Things Discussed on This Week’s Program

11. I want them to know manners.

12. I want them to know what it means to be a true gentleman/lady.

13. I want them to know how to handle rejection and failure.

14. I want them to love the New Testament Church

15. I want them to know that it is okay to have and express emotions.

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A Piece of My Mind

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I have been in the unique position recently to spend time talking with some dedicated Christian servants who happen to be older than me. I feel the need to share some of what they have been sharing with me:

  • They care about younger people, both children and their parents. This care has led them to expend amazing amounts of energy and creativity working on summer activities that are geared mostly toward these young families. And they are pleased that the young families turn out for these events. However, they are hurt and/or discouraged that some of those families only turn out for these events that are catered to the young families.
  • While they seem to work tirelessly, they are tired … but they won’t quit. One dear sister I know spent her days taking care of grandchildren and taking her mother to the doctor in another city before coming to teach her class each night of VBS. You see, to her, teaching children is just something that must be done even if you are tired. It is not an optional service. Another lady, eyes worn out from studying her Bible, is worried that there are some who think her “too old fashioned” with her teaching, but notice from where that teaching comes!
  • More than one respected Christian sister has talked to me about younger mothers coming to them for advice and when Biblical advice is given – such as “if they live in your home, they follow your rules” (Proverbs 15:24, 19:18. 22:15, 29:17) – the advice is shunned. That hurts. Why ask? Proverbs 19:20 still reads: “Listen to advice and accept instruction, that you may gain wisdom in the future.”

While my natural inclination is to give people a piece of my mind for hurting these loving servants of God, I’m trying to learn from their example, and that of my Savior, to instead offer a piece of my heart. Young ones – myself included – please don’t disrespect the advice of those who have walked this path before you. They are the very ones who got you to the place where you now stand. They taught you in Bible classes, listened to your teenage woes, supported your young dreams and continue to love and serve your young family. They have a strong and unique combination of having your best interest at heart and the experience and wisdom of years to see things you (we) cannot yet see.

The Bible is quite clear about which group of people in this world is most likely to have wisdom:

Job 12:12: “Wisdom is with the aged, and understanding in length of days.”

1 Corinthians 2:6-7: “Yet among the mature we do impart wisdom, although it is not a wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are doomed to pass away. But we impart a secret and hidden wisdom of God, which God decreed before the ages for our glory.”

It is up to us to understand and respect that and to follow the advice of the old preacher to his son in Proverbs 4:5 “Get wisdom; get insight; do not forget, and do not turn away from the words of my mouth.”

Oh … and don’t forget to say thank you! (That part is the piece of my mind! )


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What’s Missing from Too Many Vacation Bible Schools

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“I love Vacation Bible School.”

So begins a short little song that is often sung this time of year. Those words, though, also share my heart. I think VBS is a wonderful event. I have attended Vacation Bible Schools since I was a baby, I suppose. I have taught at a number of them and have directed (I think) 14 years’ worth of VBS.

Here at 9th Avenue, we are still a few week away from our Vacation Bible School for 2016, but I am encouraged by many of the conversations we have been having in preparing. The reason is that we are not leaving out what too many places forget when planning a VBS.

The Bible.

That “B” in VBS stands for it. Everyone knows that the “B” is for “Bible.” We have Bible stories as the basis for classes and so forth, but we really need to take stock of our Vacation Bible Schools.

As I look around and see much of what passes for Vacation Bible School, I have to ask if our children are getting much Bible at all when they attend.

Don’t get me wrong. I totally agree that VBS offers a chance for congregations to teach in ways that they may not normally be able to. Many do a great job of trying to reach out to the community and bring in children who might not usually attend services. Knowing that, we strive to make the Bible “come alive” in our Vacation Bible Schools. That’s all well and good.

Here is what we all need to consider, however: are we thinking of our creativity first, or are we thinking of the Bible first?

That might just be a sobering question to ask!

Our creativity is a gift from God, but it can be far too easy to think of the creative side as our primary goal, then just try to find a few Bible stories that fit the “image” we have already chosen.

(By the way, we can fall into this trap in Sunday school, sermon series, or any number of other things.)

Instead, we need to be certain that, when the children leave a VBS, they remember the Bible story in addition to the creative element. Too often, we think about them remembering some creative side and then we just hope they “get a little Bible” while they are with us.

To truly put on a Vacation Bible School, teachers need time to study the text, not just the decorations. They need to think about the glory of the Bible, and then let their creative juices flow as to how to present that lesson to each student who might be present.

Let us all be careful not just to have an event. Let’s all strive to have a Vacation Bible School.


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AUTHOR: Adam Faughn

How Orlando is No Different than Sandy Hook

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It is a tragic act of absolute violence. It is cold-blooded murder. And it is happening more and more every day. The recent Orlando massacre is the latest shooting where innocent people became victims of terror. To try and figure out why these things are happening and what the motivation is behind them is really probably not going to solve the current situation in our world. And without being insensitive to any person affected by any of the mass shootings on our soil or abroad, let’s go ahead and state one thing that all of these terrible acts of violence have in common: A God who is very sad.
Whether it is a hate crime, a terrorist plot, or a person who is mentally ill who goes on a rampage, in the end, the result is the same. Innocent people have been violently murdered. For a moment can we pause and simply consider what is going on in the mind and heart of God? Let’s not try to spin each situation. Let’s not make it political. Let’s not make it about the presidency, or gun control or international terrorism, or the need for awareness concerning people who suffer from mental illness.
From Orlando to Sandy Hook, Blacksburg to San Ysidro, San Bernardino to Columbine, or any other location where innocent people are being killed, do we think that the why of it all makes any difference to God? It could be the Oklahoma City bombing or 9/11 or the incident at the Boston Marathon.  To God, it is all the same. God is the giver of life. Satan and his work in the world through weak humanity is the author of death. The chapters may be different and the writers may be new. But people are dying, innocent people who don’t deserve to be killed.
I am growing weary of anyone making it about race or sexually immoral activity, or bad parenting, or whatever. God has no pleasure in the death of the wicked. He has no pleasure in sin and death at all. We created sin and death. We keep recreating it in different ways for different reasons. The real problem is sin. It is the darkness that is typical of a world that is getting farther and farther away from God.
In Genesis 6 we read of a time in human history where every intent of the thoughts of man’s heart was only evil continually. What else does it say? It says that God was sorry that He had made man on the earth. He repented in His heart that He had made man.  So God chose to start over through a man named Noah who found grace in the eyes of the Lord.
I am not suggesting that our world today is anywhere as bad as the Genesis 6 world. But I am suggesting a few things. I am suggesting that God is devastated when humans are wicked. I am suggesting that wicked people wax worse and worse and human morality (or lack of it) always trends in a particular direction from generation to generation. And I am suggesting that, no matter how bad it gets, there is still a God who is gracious and offers mercy for the people who will shun such evil and turn to Him in humility and repentance.
I see no signs of these mass killings coming to an end anytime soon. There is no safe place foreign or domestic except one. There is safety in the arms of Jesus. And God be thanked that if we are His there is nothing that Satan or man can do to us. Because He still has the whole world in the palms of His hands.
“So we may boldly say: ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not fear. What can man do to me?’” – Hebrews 13:6
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“You Know What to Do”

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I remember a conversation I had a few years ago with a preacher friend of mine. He was telling me about a lady who had been baptized a few days earlier.

He had only been at the church where he was preaching for a short time. The lady, however, had been attending worship services there for about ten years.

Her conversion to Christ was the result of a simple question:

“Are you a Christian?”

Isn’t it amazing that, in ten years, nobody had ever asked her that question? Had they totally ignored her? Apparently not. She did remember what had been said to her by some members of that congregation. They had “encouraged” her by saying:

“You know what to do.”

I’m sure they meant well. I’m sure that they sincerely hoped that she would obey the gospel. I’m also sure they really thought they were encouraging her.

However, it took a simple, but sincere, question to open the door for a Bible study which led to her salvation. 

Do you know somebody who apparently “knows what to do?” What if they don’t? What if nobody ever demonstrates sincere, genuine concern for him or her?

What if you were the one to ask that one simple question? 

You might be surprised at the answer you get. You might be surprised at the results of that one conversation. You might be instrumental in leading an eternal soul to the Lord.


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