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Uncommon Things We Believe Series #3 It Does Matter …what one believes, where one worships… I Cor. 1:10-15

 One of the main reasons that cults in our day have had such an impact on the world is their unity. Disharmony is not tolerated. Though misguided, misused, and often totalitarian, such unity is attractive to many people who are tired of religious uncertainty, ambiguity, and confusion.

Few of us who have attended church for a number of years have not been in or known of a congregation where there was a split or at least serious quarreling. The problem has existed in the church from New Testament times. The Corinthian believers fell short of the Lord’s standards in many ways, and the first thing for which Paul called them to task was quarreling.

Quarrels are a part of life. We grow up in them and around them. Infants are quick to express displeasure when they are not given something they want or when something they like is taken away. Little children cry, fight, and throw tantrums because they cannot have their own ways.

We argue and fight over a rattle, then a toy, then a football, then a position on the football team or in the cheerleading squad, then in business, the PTA, or politics. Friends fight, husbands and wives fight, businesses fight, cities fight, even nations fight—sometimes to the point of war. And the source of all the fighting is the same: man’s egotistic, selfish nature.

Scripture teaches nothing more clearly than the truth that man sinful, and that the heart of his sinfulness is self-will. From birth to death the natural inclination of every person is to look out for “number one”—to be, to do, and to have what he wants.

Even believers are continually tempted to fall back into lives of self-will, Self-interest, and general self-centeredness. At the heart of sin is the ego, the “I.” Even Christians are still sinners—justified, but still sinful in themselves. And when that sin is allowed to have its way in our flesh, conflict is inevitable.

When two or more people are bent on having their own ways, they will soon be quarreling and arguing, because their interests, concerns, and priorities sooner or later will conflict. There cannot possibly be harmony in a group, even a group of believers, whose desires, goals, purposes, and ideals are generated by their egos.

(James 4:1-2)  What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? {2} You want something but don’t get it. You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want. You quarrel and fight. You do not have, because you do not ask God.).

What the Lord laments and opposes, Satan applauds and fosters. Few things demoralize, discourage, and weaken a church as much as bickering, backbiting, and fighting among its members. And few things so effectively undermine its testimony before the world.

One of the common features of the modern religious world is denominationalism. There are currently over 2000 generally recognized denominations and over 20,000 smaller, distinct divisions in the church.

The spirit of the age looks at such with acceptance as is evidenced by the often heard, “attend the church of your choice.” They proceed to statements like “…it really doesn’t matter…what you believe…how you worship…as long as you believe in God….we worship the same God.”

Nevertheless, and despite the many contemporary appearances of acceptability, Jesus did not intend for His church to be divided.

Some make an effort to discount the significance of religious division, suggesting…That the differences are not all that great; Or that religious division is good, for it enables people to find a church that suits them personally; But there are several reasons why I believe these answers are wrong and do a disservice to the cause of Christ.

Most denominational members would be surprised to discover that their chosen religious affiliation is less than 500+ years old. Many people assume that the church of which they are members is ancient in origin, divinely ordained, and a part of the church  revealed in the New Testament.

It has never occurred to them that there were no denominations in New Testament days. When the church was established in Acts 2 on the day of Pentecost, there was one church with Christ as the head and the apostles as pillars of faith as they did exactly what Jesus had trained them to do.

That church was planned (Eph. 3:10-11), prophesied (Isaiah 2:2-3), prepared (Matt. 3:1-2), and promised (Matt. 16:18) before it existence. The kingdom came with power (Mark 9:1) when the Holy Spirit came (Acts 1:8). The gospel was preached, sinners responded to that resurrected Savior, they repented, they were immersed in water for remission of sins, and they began the Christian walk.

How simple! And how tragic today that so many have changed that simple beginning with their own ideas and teachings. How thrilling it is to find people in the Ukraine (for instance) who were given Bibles in years past and began reading it and with little or no help from outside teachers, became New Testament Christian and began worshipping in ways God approved through the apostles and first century Christians.

At Pentecost, every person obeyed the same gospel, became members of the same body, and ultimately wore the same name.


Jesus prayed that His followers would be united (Jn. 17:21-23).

(John 17:20-23)  “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, {21} that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. {22} I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one: {23} I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.

The Bible teaches that division is contrary to God’s will (I Cor. 1:10-15).

Among the Corinthian church’s many sins and shortcomings, quarreling is the one that Paul chose to deal with first. In unity lies the joy of Christian ministry and the credibility of Christian testimony.

 (1 Corinthians 1:10-15)  I appeal to you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another so that there may be no divisions among you and that you may be perfectly united in mind and thought. {11} My brothers, some from Chloe’s household have informed me that there are quarrels among you. {12} What I mean is this: One of you says, “I follow Paul”; another, “I follow Apollos”; another, “I follow Cephas “; still another, “I follow Christ.” {13} Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptized into the name of Paul? {14} I am thankful that I did not baptize any of you except Crispus and Gaius, {15} so no one can say that you were baptized into my name.

The traditions of men have no biblical authority, they divide those who believe that Jesus is the Christ—they are vain (Matt. 15:7-9).

(Matthew 15:7-9)  You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you: {8} “‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. {9} They worship me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men.'”

Those who cause factions are to be rejected

(Titus 3:10)  Warn a divisive person once, and then warn him a second time. After that, have nothing to do with him.

Men who cause dissensions are to be avoided

(Romans 16:17)  I urge you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned. Keep away from them.).

Neither can we just choose to ignore certain differences of belief and simply agree to disagree.

(Matthew 5:17-20)  “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. {18} I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. {19} Anyone who breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. {20} For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.

(Matthew 23:23)  “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices–mint, dill and cummin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law–justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former.

(1 Timothy 4:1-3)  The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons. {2} Such teachings come through hypocritical liars, whose consciences have been seared as with a hot iron. {3} They forbid people to marry and order them to abstain from certain foods, which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and who know the truth.


  1. Martin Luther, the leader of the Reformation Movement:

“I ask that men make no reference to my name, and call themselves not Lutherans, but Christians. What is Luther? My doctrine, I am sure, is not mine, nor have I been crucified for any one. St. Paul, in 1 Cor. 3, would not allow Christians to call themselves Pauline or Petrine, but Christian. How then should I, poor, foul carcass that I am, come to have men give to the children of Christ a name derived from my worthless name? No, no, my dear friends; let us abolish all party names, and call ourselves Christians after Him Whose doctrine we have.” – Hugh Thomason Kerr, A Compend of Luther’s Theology (Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1943, p. 135)

  1. John Wesley, another great reformation leader, among whose followers are Methodists, Wesleyans, etc.:

“Would to God that all party names, and unscriptural phrases and forms which have divided the Christian world, were forgot and that the very name [Methodist] might never be mentioned more, but be buried in eternal oblivion.” – John Wesley, Universal Knowledge, A Dictionary and Encyclopedia of Arts, Science, History, Biography, Law, Literature, Religions, Nations, Races, Customs, and Institutions, Vol. 9, Edward A. Pace, Editor (New York: Universal Knowledge Foundation, 1927, p. 540)

  1. Charles Spurgeon, one of the most recognized Baptist preachers who ever lived:

“I look forward with pleasure to the day when there will not be a Baptist living! I hope that the Baptist name will soon perish, but let Christ’s name last forever.” – Spurgeon Memorial Library, Vol. I., p. 168


God is much more desirous of people being saved, than of their being condemned

(Ezekiel 18:23)  Do I take any pleasure in the death of the wicked? declares the Sovereign LORD. Rather, am I not pleased when they turn from their ways and live?

(John 3:17)  For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.

(1 Timothy 2:4)  who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.

(2 Peter 3:9)  The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.

Jesus feels compassion for those who wander astray (Matt. 9:36-38; 18:6-7).

(Matthew 9:36-38)  When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. {37} Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. {38} Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.”

(Matthew 18:6-7)  But if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a large millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea. {7} “Woe to the world because of the things that cause people to sin! Such things must come, but woe to the man through whom they come!

We are to use wisdom and grace in building people up and bringing people into the “way of the Lord more perfectly” (Acts 18:24-28; Col. 4:5-6; Eph. 4:29).

(Acts 18:24-28)  Meanwhile a Jew named Apollos, a native of Alexandria, came to Ephesus. He was a learned man, with a thorough knowledge of the Scriptures. {25} He had been instructed in the way of the Lord, and he spoke with great fervor and taught about Jesus accurately, though he knew only the baptism of John. {26} He began to speak boldly in the synagogue. When Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they invited him to their home and explained to him the way of God more adequately. {27} When Apollos wanted to go to Achaia, the brothers encouraged him and wrote to the disciples there to welcome him. On arriving, he was a great help to those who by grace had believed. {28} For he vigorously refuted the Jews in public debate, proving from the Scriptures that Jesus was the Christ.

(Ephesians 4:29)  Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.

(Colossians 4:5-6)  Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. {6} Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.

Kindness, patience, and gentleness, are to be used in correcting the mistaken and misguided

(2 Timothy 2:24)  And the Lord’s servant must not quarrel; instead, he must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful.).

Denominationalism presents us with a great challenge. We must both oppose without compromise its practice, yet assist with all compassion its sincerely mistaken practitioners.

Many of us here today are no longer within a denominational context because someone, without compromise, showed us kindness, patience, and compassion. The ways of the Lord are right, and consequently they also work!

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Posted by on April 8, 2021 in Article


The Anatomy of a Backslider: Learning From One Who Knows By Experience

In 2 Peter 2:20-22 we read of the real possibility and serious
consequences of backsliding:
“If they have escaped the corruption of the world by knowing our Lord and
Savior Jesus Christ and are again entangled in it and overcome, they are
worse off at the end than they were at the beginning. {21} It would have
been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than to
have known it and then to turn their backs on the sacred command that was
passed on to them. {22} Of them the proverbs are true: “A dog returns to
its vomit,” and, “A sow that is washed goes back to her wallowing in the

It is interesting that we find this passage coming from the inspired pen
of Peter…for if anyone knew “firsthand” the reality and dangers of
backsliding, it was Peter! He discovered these truths the night he denied

The process of backsliding is a gradual one, often overtaking a person by
surprise; and lest we fall from our own steadfastness…we shall
carefully examine the process that led to Peter’s denial of Christ.
Notice how Peter’s own words in his epistles are designed to prevent the
same from happening to us!

A. PRIDE – Mark 14:27-31: “You will all fall away,” Jesus told them, “for
it is written: “‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be
scattered.’ {28} But after I have risen, I will go ahead of you into
Galilee.” {29} Peter declared, “Even if all fall away, I will not.” {30}
“I tell you the truth,” Jesus answered, “today–yes, tonight–before the
rooster crows twice you yourself will disown me three times.” {31} But
Peter insisted emphatically, “Even if I have to die with you, I will
never disown you.” And all the others said the same.”

1. In a boastful manner, Peter claims he will not fall away or deny
2. In doing so, Peter takes the first step in backsliding: “pride”!
– cf. _Pr 16:18
3. Why is this the “first” step?
a. Because the first step in entering the kingdom is humility –
Mt 18:3-4
b. So if we lose “humility”, we take that first step backward
4. Paul’s advice to the Corinthians is very apropos in this regard
– cf. _1 Co 10:11

B. LAZINESS – Mark 14:32-42: “They went to a place called Gethsemane, and
Jesus said to his disciples, “Sit here while I pray.” {33} He took Peter,
James and John along with him, and he began to be deeply distressed and
troubled. {34} “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of
death,” he said to them. “Stay here and keep watch.” {35} Going a little
farther, he fell to the ground and prayed that if possible the hour might
pass from him. {36} “Abba, Father,” he said, “everything is possible for
you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.” {37}
Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. “Simon,” he
said to Peter, “are you asleep? Could you not keep watch for one hour?
{38} Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit
is willing, but the body is weak.” {39} Once more he went away and prayed
the same thing. {40} When he came back, he again found them sleeping,
because their eyes were heavy. They did not know what to say to him. {41}
Returning the third time, he said to them, “Are you still sleeping and
resting? Enough! The hour has come. Look, the Son of Man is betrayed into
the hands of sinners. {42} Rise! Let us go! Here comes my betrayer!””

1. Told to keep watch, Peter kept falling asleep
2. It was therefore lack of diligent preparation which caused him
to be caught off guard for what was to follow
3. The same thing can happen to us!
a. Without diligence, we too can be found unprepared – Lk
b. More often than not, it is a “gradual drifting” that catches
us off guard – Heb. 2:1-3
c. But when we are proud of ourselves, we become lazy, and
that easily leads to the next step…

C. COWARDICE – Mark 14:54: “Peter followed him at a distance, right into
the courtyard of the high priest. There he sat with the guards and warmed
himself at the fire.”

1. Note that it says “…Peter followed Him at a distance”
2. Now that Jesus had become unpopular…
a. Peter stays far enough away so as not to be identified with
b. Peter was unprepared for the challenge of facing ridicule and
3. Without diligent preparation, we too can become guilty of
a. Ashamed to be seen carrying a Bible
b. Ashamed to be seen giving thanks
c. Ashamed to be seen with other Christians
d. Perhaps even ashamed to let others know that we are
4. And yet, Jesus has made it clear what He thinks of “cowardice”
Mark 8:38; Rev. 21:8
5. When we are ashamed of Christ, it is natural for to fall into
the next step of backsliding…

D. WORLDLINESS – Mark 14:54: “Peter followed him at a distance, right
into the courtyard of the high priest. There he sat with the guards and
warmed himself at the fire.”

1. We now find Peter sitting with the servants of the High Priest
and warming himself by the fire
2. Ashamed to be seen with Christ, it becomes easy to mingle with
those of the world and enjoy their comforts
3. But one cannot be “comforted by the fire” of the world, and not
be “burned”!
a. Close contact with that which can harm has its effects! –
Prov. 6:27-29
b. So it is we cannot “flirt with the world” and walk away
untouched! – 1 Cor. 15:33
4. By the time we become “friends with the world”, it is only a
short time before we take the next and final step of backsliding…

E. DENIAL – Mark 14:66-71: “While Peter was below in the courtyard, one
of the servant girls of the high priest came by. {67} When she saw Peter
warming himself, she looked closely at him. “You also were with that
Nazarene, Jesus,” she said. {68} But he denied it. “I don’t know or
understand what you’re talking about,” he said, and went out into the
entryway. {69} When the servant girl saw him there, she said again to
those standing around, “This fellow is one of them.” {70} Again he denied
it. After a little while, those standing near said to Peter, “Surely you
are one of them, for you are a Galilean.” {71} He began to call down
curses on himself, and he swore to them, “I don’t know this man you’re
talking about.””

1. Away from Christ, at comfort with those in the world, Peter
finds himself denying His Lord and Savior!
2. In so doing, he has put himself in grave danger – Matt. 10:32-33
3. Though we may never actually deny Jesus in “words”, we can
easily backslide to the point of denying Him in “action”…
a. We are called to worship Him…but make excuses why we cannot
b. We are called to serve Him…but render little or no service
c. We are called to stand by His side and suffer for His
name…but stand afar off in the safety of the world’s comfort

[When we deny the Lord, our backsliding is complete; unless we repent,
the only thing left is to one day face the Lord, where we will fully
realize the error of our ways!

For Peter, he fully realized his sin when the Lord turned and looked at
him there in the courtyard:
Luke 22:60-62: “Peter replied, “Man, I don’t know what you’re talking
about!” Just as he was speaking, the rooster crowed. {61} The Lord turned
and looked straight at Peter. Then Peter remembered the word the Lord had
spoken to him: “Before the rooster crows today, you will disown me three
times.” {62} And he went outside and wept bitterly.”

Imagine the feeling in Peter’s heart as those eyes of His Savior pierced
his soul! Like
Judas, Peter wept bitterly over his sin.

Unlike Judas, Peter had “godly sorrow” that results in true repentance (2
Cor. 7:10-11). And years later, we find Peter writing the sort of things
that would prevent us from making the same mistake he did…]

1. Peter enjoins “humility” – 1 Peter 5:5-6
2. Indeed, “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble”

1. Peter commands “diligence” – 1 Peter 5:8-9
2. Note especially his words in his second epistle – 2 Peter
1:5,10; 3:14

1. Peter charges us to “glorify God” – 1 Peter 4:16
2. Think not of what it means to you, but what it means to God!

1. Peter tells us to “abstain” – 1 Peter 2:11-12
2. Remember that we are “sojourners and pilgrims”, destined for a
better place than the things of this world have to offer!

1. Peter exhorts us to ever be ready to “give a defense” – 1 Peter
2. By careful preparation, we will “defend” Christ, and not “deny”

1. From one who learned by the hard road of experience, let’s heed his
advice lest we one day backslide ourselves, and in so doing deny the
Lord! – 2 Peter 3:17-18

2. Remember too that when Peter saw the eyes of his Lord, he realized the
error of his way…
a. Fortunately for him, there was still time to repent
b. But for us, when we see Jesus “face to face”, the time to repent
will be gone…it will be the time for judgment!

3. If we realize that we are guilty of backsliding…
a. Repent now, do not wait until you stand before Jesus
b. Do it now, so that your “face to face” encounter with Jesus will be
terrific, not terrifying!

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Posted by on July 9, 2020 in Article


Anniversary of ‘Stepping out of the Boat”

On May 13, 1979, Terry and I ‘stepped out of the boat” and entered full-time ministry. I had been a sports writer since graduating from MTSU for over seven years, but took the opportunity to return to our alma-mater to be the campus minister at the Middle Tennessee Christian Center.

Even though there have been many ‘ups and downs,’ it is a decision I have never regretted, and I now enter my 42nd year.

Certainly the blessings of ministry far outweigh the realities below, yet ministry is definitely not easy. That is why ministry must be a calling and not simply a “job”. If you can’t reconcile with these 10 difficult realities and challenges concerning ministry, then perhaps you should avoid it all together.

My dad told me plenty of things as we discussed this crucial decision, but both he and Mom were full of encouragement, though Mom acknowledged after a few years that she felt I should have followed my dad’s example and kept my “full-time job” and been a part-time minister/teacher.

He did say one thing that I have always laughed about: “Gary, Sundays come around really fast when you are preparing two lessons and two Bible class studies per week.”

I find these timely reminders to be useful when one decides to enter ministry…wishing I had learned some of these sooner in my life:

  1. You will probably begin by ministering to a church that is barely growing (if at all), is opposed to change, doesn’t pay well, has seen ministers come and go, doesn’t respect the position as Biblically as they should, doesn’t understand what the Bible says a minister’s or a church’s jobs are, and will only follow you when they agree with you (thus, they’ll really only follow themselves).
  2. You will feel very lonely on a consistent basis, feeling like no one truly knows you or cares how you feel, because you do not want to burden your family, and trust-worthy peers are few and far between. Because of the ”super-Christian” myth accredited to ministers literally, you will find it extremely difficult to disclose your deep thoughts and feelings to others. Thus, you will struggle with loneliness.
  3. You will be persecuted for preaching the truth, mostly from your brothers and sisters in the pews. You shouldn’t be surprised by the sight of your own blood. You’re a Christian, after all (Matt. 16:24).
  4. You will think about quitting yearly or monthly, if not weekly or even daily.
  5. You will be criticized, rarely to your face, and frequently behind your back. This criticism will come from those that love you, those that obviously do not like you, and shepherds and Christians that barely know you.
  6. Not everyone will respond positively to your preaching, teaching, or leadership. You will bring people to tears with the same sermon: one in joy, another in anger (I have done this).
  7. You will fight legalism and liberalism, along with laziness, ignorance, tradition, and opposition. Yet, your greatest enemy will be your own heart (Jere. 17:9).
  8. You will feel like a failure often, and when you do appear to succeed, the fruit that is produced cannot be accredited to you. God alone gives the increase (1 Cor. 3:7). Thus, there is little “sense of accomplishment in ministry” that you may be accustomed to in other vocations.
  9. You will make people angry regardless how godly you handle yourself; it comes with the position.
  10. Not everyone will like you.

I have discovered all of the 10 items to be absolutely correct.

Do not get me wrong. I find great joy in this life effort! My nature is to be an optimistic realist, thus the ability to see things as they are but to find joy and a sense of accomplishment. I have long said that I have the benefit of doing something I enjoy and can still be a big sports fan without the late nights and early hours…and stress to make a deadline.

I also find great satisfaction in mowing a yard…getting to start and finish something in a single moment of time.

I have learned much from some special people in my life, Lately, one of those dear friends asked me “why would you accept criticism from someone you would never go to for advise?” Amen!

And often people find it ‘convenient’ to agree with you only when you follow their advise, when, in actuality, they are accepting you only for what they see in you that duplicates/mirrors them. Impossible!

A most recent lesson? I try daily not to micro-manage someone else’s personality…wishing that others would follow that idea in regard to me.

I was both a preacher’s kid (PK) and an elder’s kid (EK), so I’ve felt ‘eyes on me’ throughout most of my life. I also was concerned that my three children must have ‘felt those eyes on them’ as well. It is a shame that has to be the case, and I understand some of the reasoning…but others should have no right to expect a higher standard for me or Terry and my children/grandchildren than the one they have for themselves. Jesus Christ puts a high standard on ALL of us.

On my desk are two statements: (1) To err is human; to blame it on the other guy is even more human. And, (2) thank you for not minding my business.

I am still negotiating this thing we call ‘ministry.’

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Posted by on May 13, 2020 in Article, Encouragement


What’s Your Number? The Vietnam War Selective Service Lottery

(Selective Service Archive)
During the Vietnam War, young men gathered in college dorms and friends’ homes to listen to live TV and radio broadcasts of the U.S. Selective Service System drawing lottery numbers to determine who would and would not be drafted. This serves as a short, yet painful reminded of that stressful time. (The 2010 issue of Vietnam magazine revisits those days in the article, “Live from Washington, It’s Lottery Night 1969!!”) Approximately 850,000 men were affected by the 1969 draft lottery. For the lottery, 366 blue plastic capsules, each containing one date of the calendar year, were dumped in a large glass container. The capsules were then drawn out and opened, one by one, and assigned sequentially rising numbers. Congressman Alexander Pirnie (R-NY) drew the first capsule, which contained the date September 14. Thus, all men born on that date, from 1944 through 1950, received the first priority for call to duty. The remaining capsules were drawn by youth delegates who had been selected for that purpose from around the country. The last date drawn was June 8, which was assigned draft number 366. This initial Vietnam draft lottery drawing was on December 1, 1969. The first birth date drawn that night, assigned the lowest number, “001,” was September 14. As I sat with about 20 people in the living room of the Middle Tennessee Christian Center in Murfreesboro, I remember that at least three of us had numbers well below 100…mine was 38, which meant that when my college deferment ended I would be guaranteed to report for service. Some of those that day graduated at the end of the spring semester (1970) and joined the service, to keep it to only two years. Some served as medics. I began service in the fall of 1972 as a conscientious objector at a non-profit organization. The war was very unpopular and beginning to end, so the draft board was much more willing to allow some to serve in this way. “Conscientious objector” status was granted to those who could demonstrate “sincerity of belief in religious teachings combined with a profound moral aversion to war and killing.” Find your birthday in the chart below to see what order you would have been called to service. 
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Posted by on September 14, 2018 in Article


What Preaching is All About?

By Wes McAdams

Preaching is the proclamation and explanation of God’s word. Both the Old and New Testaments are full of men who stood before God’s people and explained, “This is what God says, this is what it means, and this is how it applies to us today.”

The church needs to hear the proclamation and explanation of God’s word. We need to hear what it says, what it means, and how it applies to our lives today. When God’s word is proclaimed and explained:

  • it brings glory to God.
  • it unites God’s people of the present with His people of the past.
  • it makes us into a knowledgeable and disciplined community, by encouraging us to stretch our attention spans and develop an ability to hear the word of the Lord.

How We Turn Preaching Into a Competitive Performance

With singing, we often misplace our focus. We focus on the tune and the tempo, when the focus should be on the words of praise. With preaching, we focus on the preacher’s style and delivery, when the focus should be on accurately proclaiming and explaining the word of God.

But think about it, when we sit in the pew and make the sermon about the preacher’s performance – rather than our own walk with Jesus – it takes the pressure off us and puts it on the preacher.

When we have the luxury of sitting and measuring the length and style of the sermon, comparing it with other sermons we’ve heard, our job in the pew is easy. It’s much more difficult for us to accept our God-given responsibility to look beyond the flaws, shortcomings, and human limitations of the preacher in order to discern and apply God’s holy word to our lives.

Pride, Ego, and Self-Esteem

It’s easy to see the harm we do to those we criticize. It’s easy to see how it hurts a preacher’s feelings when we criticize his style; but we might actually be doing more harm to those on whom we constantly brag. When we constantly brag on a preacher’s style and performance, we might very well be stroking his ego.

 How To Encourage a Preacher

So how can we show appreciation to our preachers, without being stumbling blocks? Here are a few of my favorite kinds of encouragement:

  • “That message really made me think. I’m going to have to go home and study some more.”
  • “I’m convicted. I’m going to make some big changes in my life.”
  • “God’s word is so powerful.”
  • “Thank you for telling us the truth.”


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Posted by on July 7, 2018 in Article


Christianity or Islam?

cropped-bible_study-1-960x480.jpgBy Brent Hickey

This week we want to broaden our study by comparing Christianity and Islam.  When I lived in Nashville, I was able to carry on a series of Bible studies and Bible discussions with a thirty year old Muslim who was the son of an Imam from Nigeria, and, later, the Director of Education at the Nashville mosque named Yasser Arafat (no relation).  An Imam is the prayer leader at a Muslim mosque and recognized Islamic spiritual leader.

I met with my new Muslim acquaintance several times and learned that although Muslims claim to believe the Bible, when they say “Bible” they refer only to the Old Testament and the Gospels. They believe Paul is the ringleader of what they consider the “errors (and corruptions) of Christianity.” Muslims claim that the problem with our Bible is that the Jews corrupted the Old Testament to shore up their beliefs, and that Christians likewise manipulated the New Testament text to promote Christianity. When I pressed him that surely all of God’s word would be preserved and available, he disagreed saying that the Qur’an has all man needed.

My friend Muhammad later said that Allah did preserve the Old Testament and the Gospels, but that it is very difficult to obtain a copy of this “genuine” Bible. Muhammad spoke with great admiration of what he called “the people of the book” who purportedly possess and live by the original message. I expressed great interest in meeting some of these mysterious individuals, but learned they are difficult to track down. There was never a good answer given for the abundance of accurate copies of the Qur’an and the scarcity of “accurate” copies of the Bible.

Muslims say there are true Christians who have the true text, but that it is very hard to find them anymore. I now realize they were likely referring to the Ebionites that were related to Muhammad. The Ebionites (“poor ones”) likely claimed to be Christians while attempting to reestablish Jewish law. They regarded Jesus as the Messiah, but not the Son of God. We want to take a closer look at Islam and draw some comparisons between Christianity and Islam. First, we have a song…

Whereas Jesus teaches the twelve (who became apostles) to call God, “Our Father,” (Matthew 6:9; Luke 11:2) Muslims say that such talk is blasphemy. While the New Testament teaches that we can know God and become close to God (James 4:8: “Draw near to God and he will draw near to you.”), Islam teaches that God is unknowable and unapproachable. In contrast, the apostle Paul tells the crowd on Mars’ Hill (Acts 17:23), “the one whom you worship without knowing, Him I proclaim to you…” Paul goes so far as to write that God will execute judgment on those who do not know God (2 Thessalonians 1:8).

Muslims most despise Christianity because Muslims worship one God (Allah) and maintain Christians worship three gods. Where do they get that? Well, Muslims equate Roman Catholicism with Christianity and are taught that we worship the “trinity of God, Jesus and Mary.” This misunderstanding is apparently rooted in the Roman Catholic’s teaching that Mary is the mother of God, Co-Redemptrix, Mediatrix and Advocate. Of course, the Scriptures do not teach that, but teach that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are God. The Bible says in John 1:1, 14: “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God…and the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us.” Nevertheless, Muslims claim that calling Jesus the Son of God insulted the holy nature of God. To Muslims, Deity is incompatible with the weakness and filthiness of human flesh.

Where the gospels present Jesus’ teaching that God will send another Comforter (John 16:7),

Muslims say this is actually a prophecy of Muhammad coming instead of the Holy Spirit. There is nothing to support this connection in any New Testament manuscript.

Another important difference between Islam and Christianity is the Qur’an teaching that Abraham offered up Ishmael—not Isaac—on the altar. Muslims commemorate this on Eid al-Adha (Festival of the Sacrifice) by sacrificing a sheep, camel, or goat. They give one third of the meat to friends and donate one third to the poor. The sacrifice symbolizes a willingness to give up things to follow Allah’s commands. Muslims visit friends and family and exchange gifts during this holy day. They observed Eid-al-Adha on September 23 and 24 this year (2015). These sacrifices are not offered to forgive sins.

While Jesus said, “the truth shall make you free” (John 8:32) and Paul writes in Galatians 5:1, “Stand fast in the liberty by which Christ has made us free and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage,” the Qur’an teaches that a Muslim can never rise above slaves.

At the age of six, boys in devout Muslim families begin to go with their father to pray at the mosque five times a day beginning at 3:30 a.m. These prayers include scripted words and physical movements. This activity certainly sounds like that of a slave. Consider the following regulations:

First of all, anyone who has become impure (by using the bathroom, touching a woman or an animal, et cetera) must cleanse himself before prayers. Before he washes he says, “I put my face to the true creator and I begin my washing.”

• He washes his right hand and then left hand three times.

• He rinses his mouth with water – rubbing his teeth with his right finger three times.

• He cleanses his nose with water three times.

• He washes his face from the hairline, around the ear and under the chin three times.

• He washes his arms from the wrist to the elbow, right hand first, three times.

• He washes his hair by dipping his hand in water and smoothing it over his hair three times.

• He washes his ears with a wet finger in a specific direction and with a particular motion.

• He washes his feet up to his ankles; right foot first, three times.

Because this is how Muhammad prayed, so must all Muslims.   Muslims must be grateful to Muhammad that they only have to pray five times a day.   Initially, they claim, Allah demanded fifty prayers a day until Muhammad negotiated with him until he got it down to five.   When Muslims pray, they line up in straight rows facing Mecca and the prayer leader cups his hands behind his ears and proclaims, “Allah is great.” Everyone repeats these words.   Then, in unison, they cross their hands over their stomachs, right hand on top and recite the first chapter of the Qur’an in Arabic.   Then everyone is given a few seconds to quote additional verses of their choosing.   Next, the leader cups his hands behind his ears and calls out again, “Allah is great.”   The assembly echoes his words. Again in unison, they bow at the waist with hands on their knees and respond, “I praise my great Lord. This completes the first half of the first unit of prayer called a raka’ah. At 4 a.m. Muslims must pray two raka’ah’s; at noon, they must pray four raka’ah’s; at 3 p.m., four raka’ah’s; three raka’ah’s at 5 p.m. and four raka’ah’s at 8:30 p.m.

Muhammad taught that prayers at the mosque were twenty-seven times better than private prayers.

Of course, Jesus taught differently. He taught in Matthew 6:5-7, “And when you pray, you shall not be like the hypocrites. For they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the corners of the streets, that they may be seen by men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly. And when you pray, do not use vain repetitions as the heathen do. For they think that they will be heard for their many words.” Jesus taught His disciples to pray as children to a loving Father, whereas Muhammad taught men to pray as slaves to avoid Allah’s wrath. What a vast difference!

Christianity and Islam can be contrasted in many areas, but, as you may have anticipated from our message last week, the most startling difference between Christianity and Islam is their attitude toward women. One, obviously, emanates from God—the other from man.

• Muhammad claimed to visit hell and found that there were more women there than men.

• Muhammad said, “If there is evil omen in anything, it is in the house, the woman and the horse.”

• Muhammad said, “Prayer is annulled by a dog, a donkey and a woman.” Aisha, the nine year old Muhammad married, later complained, “You have made us dogs.”

• Muhammad said, “Women are ungrateful to their husbands…(and) deficient in intelligence and religion…the witness of two women is equal to that of one man.”

• Islam teaches women could be taken as spoils of war.

• Muhammad had twelve wives and twenty-three slave women. The Qur’an allows a man to have up to four wives, if he can support them financially.

• The Qur’an teaches that husbands could beat their wives lightly to get them in line.

• A divorce was final, if a man simply said three times, “I divorce you,” but a woman could not initiate a divorce at all.

Meanwhile, in the gospels we learn Mary and Martha were two of Jesus closest friends. A number of women, in fact, traveled with him from place to place according to Luke 8:1-3. These women, we find in Matthew 27:55-56, were loyal to Jesus, following him all the way to the cross.

Women were witnesses after his resurrection and reported it to the twelve. Jesus praised a number of women for their great faith (Matthew15:28), generosity (Luke 21) and love (Luke 7:36-50). In John 4 and John 8, Jesus offered hope and forgiveness to women who had lost their way. Jesus taught in Matthew 19 that a man could only divorce his wife in the case of unfaithfulness. The Holy Spirit writes in Galatians 3:28, “There…is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” The New Testament shows genuine respect for women.

The Qur’an’s most creative departure from the truth concerns the crucifixion. They contend that

Judas Iscariot led the authorities to Gethsemane to seize Jesus, but that God took Jesus up to heaven. Meanwhile as the authorities searched for Jesus, Judas disappeared behind a tree. Then God miraculously gave Judas the appearance of Jesus, so when Judas reappeared, Jesus’ would-be captors, seized Judas, thinking they had Jesus. So, Muslims explain, the crucifixion and the cruelties surrounding it were actually the meting out of a well-deserved punishment on Judas. Of course, a major flaw in this story is that it was Judas himself who went to the garden to positively identify Jesus. The Muslim explanation misses this point altogether.

Perhaps the greatest disparity between Christianity and Islam exists in the place of love in the teaching of the Bible and the Qur’an. When I asked my friend Mohammad what his favorite scripture on love in the Qur’an, he wanted instead to talk about the mercy of God. Christianity extols both the love and the mercy of God. It was surprising to learn that the Qur’an provides ninety-nine names for God, but the one conspicuously absent is the one considered most significant in the New Testament. John writes in 1 John 4:8, “He who does not love does not know God, for God is love.” In 1 John alone (a book of only three or four pages), the word “love” is found thirty-five times and over two hundred twenty times in the New Testament. Meanwhile, the entire Qur’an only speaks of God’s love for man twenty times. The spirit of these teachings is distinct from what you find in the New Testament.

Five times the Qur’an teaches God loves those who do good. Two times the Qur’an says God loves the pure. Seven times the Qur’an says God loves the righteous or just. One verse each in the Qur’an expresses God’s love for Moses, those who trust Him, those who are patient, those who love him and follow the prophet, those who will love him and, of course, those who fight in battle for Him.

So, how should Christians interact with Muslims? Burning copies of the Qur’an will not bring the desired effect. Consider some of the following suggestions:

Become familiar with the basics of Islam (as we have begun to do today) to demonstrate openness to investigating the merits of Islam. The devotion of Muslims to their faith is impressive as can be seen with their steadfast adherence to multiple daily prayers, their devotion to religious fasting, their abstaining from alcohol, their commitment to charitable giving, their zeal that leads them to die for their faith and their dedication to what they consider is the word of God. Thousands of Muslims are admitted to the most prestigious Muslim university, Al-Azhar University in Egypt every year. More impressive is that to be admitted one must be able to recite the entire Qur’an from memory.

It is also beneficial to recognize common ground between Christianity and Islam. Islam is opposed to polytheism, believes in a final judgment, and believes in many of the prophets recorded in the Bible. They look to Abraham as a great father of the faithful. Although they deny Jesus is the Son of God, they do believe in Jesus as a sinless Messiah and great miracle worker.

When discussing religion with a Muslim, be sure to practice the Golden Rule of Matthew 7:12.

The most effective way to win them over or at least gain a listener is to disarm them with respect and kindness. The Holy Spirit puts it this way in 1 Peter 3:15, “Sanctify the Lord God in your hearts and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asks you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear.” This last phrase, “with meekness and fear” has also been translated “with gentleness and respect.” (NIV) Ask questions respectfully to learn where they are coming from and to clear up possible misunderstandings of their beliefs.

Demonstrate a willingness to listen. Christians are taught in James 1:19 to be “slow to speak” and “swift to hear.” The importance of this truth is further highlighted in 2 Timothy 2:24-26. Interestingly, even though Jesus was one hundred percent right and the Samaritan woman at the well was in error and comparatively ignorant, Jesus allowed her (John 4) to speak the same amount of words that he spoke. By allowing another to talk, we earn the right to be heard also.

Ask what the greatest blessing they receive from being a Muslim and then tell them about the blessing of forgiveness of sins and the confidence of salvation. The Bible teaches in 1 John 5:13, “These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life…” This confidence and assurance is one of the great blessings of Christianity that Islam fails to deliver. Muslims never know if they will go to heaven until judgment.

Ask if the Qur’an teaches love. Then ask them to share their three favorite passages on love from the Qur’an. Next, share three scriptures on love that are meaningful to you. This will intrigue them, and create the greatest likelihood of stimulating openness in the future.

Confirm their belief in the Bible. When they tell you the Jews corrupted the Old Testament and Christians corrupted the New Testament to promote their teachings, ask them to read aloud prophecies of Christ in the Old Testament. I prefer Isaiah 53 because there are so many consecutive prophecies that point clearly to Jesus. Then, ask if they know who Isaiah is speaking about. If they do not see or admit that they are prophecies about Jesus, explain it to them. Remind them that this is the Jewish Bible. Then ask, “If Jews were going to corrupt Old Testament, wouldn’t they have removed such lengthy, lucid prophecies about Jesus?” Most likely they will have never seen these and will be struck by them.

Then, ask if the Old Testament has any prophecies of Muhammad as detailed and striking as the ones you shared about Jesus from David and Isaiah.   They cannot help but see how full the Bible is of prophecies about Jesus and how none can be found of Muhammad.

Finally, avoid anger and frustration if you cannot answer one of their arguments. Write it down and research it further. 

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Posted by on October 24, 2016 in Article


Satan’s Beatitudes

the_devil_s_workshopThey said if the devil were to write his beatitudes they would probably go something like this:
Blessed are they who are too tired and busy to go to worship on Sunday and Wednesday nights, for they are my best workers.

Blessed are they who are bored with the minister’s mannerism and mistakes, for they get
nothing out of his sermon.

Blessed is the church member who expects to be invited to his own church, for he is part of
the problem instead of the solution.

Blessed are they who gossip, for they cause strife and divisions that please me.

Blessed are they who are easily offended, for they soon get angry and quit.

Blessed are they who do not give their tithes and offerings to carry on God’s work, for they
are my best workers.

Blessed are they who profess to love God, but hates his brother, for he shall be with me forever.

Blessed are the trouble-makers, for they shall be called the children of Satan.

Blessed are the complainers, for I am all ears to them.

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Posted by on June 10, 2016 in Article


Heaven in the Home Series – Where Do We Begin?

Christ In The Home seriesA question asked by many people in this 21st century is a complex and deeply felt one: is it possible to have a Christ centered home in today’s world of trouble and sin?

If you are a Christian, you are concerned about this problem. Recent studies have listed many issues with which parents must cope today:

— finances (the cost of bearing, clothing, feeding, entertaining and educating children is the greatest in our history)
— working mothers (a majority of American mothers hold jobs out-side the home, many out of necessity)

– drugs, divorce, alcohol, crime, runaways, and abuse.

More than 1.5 million couples were divorced last year. Drugs and alcohol are on the rise among youngsters. The second leading cause of death between ages 14-24 is now suicide, and one child in eight can expect to appear in juvenile court before he turns 18.

It might be of comfort to realize that the world has always been a difficult place in which Christians must live. It has always been opposed to God’s values and God’s will.

Satan longs for the soul of any age person who will reject good, right, and truth and turn to his way of thinking. Christians must daily remind themselves of the clear, simple words of Jesus, from Matthew 7:13-14: “”Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.”

We might also be encouraged to remember a story recorded in 2 Chronicles 20, which shows a situation similar to the one we face today. Jehoshaphat had some men before him reporting the approach of a vast army, one the size of which his army could not defeat.

He inquired of the Lord his future and God’s answer is recorded for us in 2 Chronicles 20:15-17: “He said: “Listen, King Jehoshaphat and all who live in Judah and Jerusalem! This is what the LORD says to you: ‘Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours, but God’s. Tomorrow march down against them. They will be climbing up by the Pass of Ziz, and you will find them at the end of the gorge in the Desert of Jeruel. You will not have to fight this battle. Take up your positions; stand firm and see the deliverance the LORD will give you, O Judah and Jerusalem. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. Go out to face them tomorrow, and the LORD will be with you.'””

That message is an eternal one! It remains for Christians today who feel the odds against them in this sin-filled world.   

Man’s domestic problems begin when he departs from God’s counsel regarding the home. And this study is vital because our understanding of Christ’s relationship to the church is dependent upon his conception of the home. God is interested in our homes because our spiritual understanding is at stake.

Home Means Different Things To Different People

There are many reasons why people look upon the home in different lights. In the first place, we have all had different backgrounds. Our home training has been varied, the emphases have been placed in many different spots as we have been reared through the years of childhood and adolescence.

It is no wonder that the word “home” means something different to one than to another:

  • we may look upon the home as a place for protection where our simple needs are met
  • it might be a place where we have been taught respect and obedience, where character and service have been taught
  • young married couples view the home as the ideal situation, anticipating their life with optimism and ambition
  • older people define home in terms of memories, and because of their mature minds, they certainly describe it with reality…it takes on a sense of reward and meaning

A truly Christian home is a place where sinners live; but it is also a place where the members of that home admit the fact and understand the problem, know what to do about it, and as a result grow by grace.

It is important that this environment be in place so all members of the family will have a loving, graceful, safe, and warm place in which to grow. It’s vital that we treat each other in the same way Jesus treated His 12 apostles.

As they stumbled and fell and made mistakes, he was patient with them because of one simple point: He knew they were not yet what they would become. We need to “be patient, God’s not finished with me yet!”

Strong Church Families– Case Examples (from actual minister from a large Southern congregation):

ITEM: A sixteen year old boy with this startling confession: “I can’t stand my parents. I hate my dad, I wish he was dead. “

ITEM: A seventeen year old youth With this pleading request: “Can I please talk with you. My parents won’t listen. My dad is an elder. He has time for everyone else, but he doesn’t have time for me. He thinks I don’t have anything worthwhile to say.”

ITEM: A nineteen year old coed on a Christian college campus asks for help. Her problem? For the past six years her father has been involved with her sexually. Her father is supposedly a leader in the Lord’s church.

ITEM: An adolescent, between the ages of 9 and 14, a resident in a children’s home in California, writes a night time prayer for sinners, wherein she prays: “I admit I am very sinful. I had a hard time with the family. Now I have no family. I was starved when I was little.”

ITEM: A college junior relays a sad message: “My parents have just informed me that I can never come home again. I am no longer their daughter. They never want to see me again.”

ITEM: On the afternoon prior to the concluding service of a gospel meeting that evening, a seventeen year old girl that has been attending the meeting, calls with this message and plea: “My mother has just kicked me out of the house. I have no place to go. I wish I were dead. In fact, about a year ago I tried to kill myself. I have been under psychiatric care. Can you help me?”

ITEM: An early morning emergency phone call, an urgent Saturday morning visit to the office and a desperate plea for help from a hurting and frustrated mother is a nearby congregation. Her problem? The night before she had discovered that her husband had been going to their daughter’s bed before coming to hers.

Each of these case examples have a least three major things in common.

  1. They are true . . . they actually happened.
  2. They each suggest some serious problems in the area of parent/child relationships in some homes.
  3. Are you ready for #3 . . . They each involve a supposedly Christian home or environment

They are not the strong families of which strong congregations are built. I am not plowing new ground when I tell you that today many homes and families, in the church and outside the church, are in serious trouble.

  1. No doubt, you know some.
  2. No doubt you have shed tears over some.
  3. No doubt, you will again.

Tragic things are happening in and to homes and families today.

  1. 53% of all marriages end in divorce.
  2. One-half of all children now live with one parent.
  3. 700,000 young people drop out of school annually.
  4. 5,000 to 6,000 young people commit suicide annually.
  5. 40% of all teenage girls become pregnant one or more times before reaching the age of 20.
  6. 52% or youth fatalities are alcohol related.
  7. Child abuse and abandonment are on the rise. In the past several years, there has been a 300% increase in placement of children outside the home.
  8. Homosexual marriages (men marrying men, women marrying women) then wanting to adopt and rear children in such an unscriptural and unwholesome environment.
  9. Abuses (sexual, physical, parental, etc.) running rampant through our society.

Let’s look in detail for a moment at three significant items that make all the difference in the world; (as they are discussed, think of the atmosphere or environment which these will create in the home):

  1. Christians admit their sins.

Because they know the Bible says that no Christian is ever perfect in this life, they are free to admit their sins.

1 John 1:8-10: “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us, if we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives.”

What does it mean to you to know that your boss, parents, etc., can admit when they make a mistake and acknowledge sin? What response do you give to this kind of person? What kind of response is given to the person who thinks they are perfect, who acts like they never do wrong?

Christians are able to acknowledge the fact and, in time, learn to anticipate and prepare for sin. Christians, of all persons, should never rely upon rationalizations, excuses or blame-shifting to try to euphemize their sins.

Because they can admit their sins, there can also be a certain amount of openness, honesty, and relaxation about the relationships that Christians sustain to one another, especially at home. Christians can pour their time and energies into the endeavor to replace sinful patterns with Biblical patterns of life.

Rather than wasting time minimizing or denying the fact of sin, Christians can concentrate on dealing with sin.

  1. Christians know what to do about their sins.

Because they have the Bible as the standard of faith and practice, Christians not only know why problems occur in the home, but they know what to do about them!

Is any sin too big for God? Can any sin be overcome in a loving, forgiving environment? We need to realize that each person in the Bible who stands before us a “great men and women of faith” are average people with sin in their life, which God helped remove.

  1. Christians progress out of their sins.

Where there is spiritual life, there also will be spiritual growth. No Christian may remain the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow.

A fundamental presupposition of the Christian faith is that there will be growth out of sin into righteousness. Where there is Bible study, prayer and the fellowship of the saints, the Spirit of God will be at work to produce His fruit.

The Christian home, then, is a place where sinful persons face the problems of a sinful world. Yet, they face them together with God and His resources, which are all centered in Christ. Sinners live in the Christian home, but the sinless Savior lives there too! “That is what makes the difference!

What purposes shall we try to achieve in our homes?
The first purpose is the personal development of each family member. This is not to say that one should view his home selfishly and think only in terms of what he can get out of it himself. Each family member experiences personal growth and receives a sense of genuine fulfillment by giving of himself in order to build a happy home.

The second purpose involves the accomplishment of certain social functions of the home. The primary social function is to provide a special companionship for each member of the family. To feel alone and unloved is one of the emptiest feelings on earth. But we must also prepare each member to be part of the larger group of society.

But the third purpose reaches into eternity: we must work toward achieving the spiritual development of the family members. We must never forget that marriage and the home is primarily a spiritual relationship.

We should daily be reminded of the question asked by Jesus in one of his most penetrating sermons, recorded for us in Matthew 16:26-27: “What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul? For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father’s glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what he has done.”

What qualities of character do we need to possess and demonstrate in our homes in order to fulfill these purposes?

Generally speaking, the development of Christian character is the single most important factor in achieving a successful home. The two marriage partners must desire success in their home, and genuine love is absolutely necessary! Each member of the family must take their differences into account and strive to communicate their feelings to each other.

This also relates to the church family

Paul Tournier once said there are two things one cannot do alone – be married and be a Christian.

The essence of being a Christian is not an extended set of correct doctrinal beliefs or even well-formed personal character. To be a Christian is to be connected to Christ in such a unique and special way that all other relationships are defined by that union. The perfect triune fellowship of God as Father, Son, and Spirit from eternity past has been opened to me by the blood of Jesus at Calvary. But I cannot experience their fellowship in isolation from all others who have been called into it.

Having others around is not a nuisance but a necessity for families. These interactions shape us. We sing and read, stand and bow, laugh and cry. And, yes, we certainly eat and drink together. But we do all these things as a network of friends. A gathering of family members. A church whose identity is not contained in itself but is found in the God who has formed it.

We are the community of the children of God! We carry his spiritual DNA. We bear his name. We have a great inheritance. Awareness of these things makes a difference in how we see ourselves and function in this world.

Perhaps if more of us saw ourselves as children of God rather than members of the church, we would claim a nobler inheritance. If we understood church as persons in relationship rather than names on the roll, we would function differently as the church. If we saw sin as the breaking of relationships rather than the breaking of rules, we would both live better and deal with one another more gracefully.

If we really love God the Father, we will create churches that are communities of love, accountability, and nurture where gradual spiritual transformation takes place over time. We will live gently with one another. Listen to one another’s stories. Teach and learn from one another.


     We pray for the children who …… sneak popsicles before supper… erase holes in their math workbooks and can never find their shoes.

    We pray for the children who …… don’t know how to run down the street in a new pair of sneakers… are born in places where we wouldn’t be caught dead… and, have never been to the circus.

    We pray for the children who …… bring us sticky kisses and fistfuls of dandelions… hug us in a hurry and forget their lunch money.

    We pray for the children who …… never get dessert or have a “safe” blanket to drag behind them… watch their parents watch them die… can’t find bread to steal… don’t have any rooms to clean up… don’t have pictures on anybody’s dresser and… whose monsters are real.

    We pray for the children who …… spend all their allowance before Tuesday… throw tantrums in the store and pick at their food… like ghost stories and shove dirty clothes under the bed… never rinse out the tub and get visits from the tooth fairy, and… whose tears we sometimes laugh at and smiles can make us cry.

    We pray for the children who …… whose nightmares come in the daytime… will eat anything and have never seen a dentist… aren’t spoiled by anybody, and… go to bed hungry and cry themselves to sleep.

     We pray for the children who …… want to be carried and for those who must, and… we never give up on and for those who don’t get a second chance.

    We pray for the children who …… we smother with love and affection and… will grab the hand of anybody kind enough to offer it.

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Posted by on May 22, 2016 in Article


Countries that have visited this site in 2015

2015 in reviewEric/Wendy’s December 2015 newsletter from Rwanda


United States



China 38
Philippines 23
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Posted by on December 19, 2015 in Article


God’s Person in an Upside-Down World” — The Be-attitudes Series #2 “How Sadness Becomes Happiness”

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As we said last week that if you really look at them as a whole, what Jesus is trying to get across in the Beatitudes is this, that our happiness is not a product of circumstances, it’s a product of our attitudes.

beatitudes-list-right-alignedAnd while most of the world buys into the “when and then” philosophy, you know, “When I get this…” or “When that changes…” or “When this happens, then I’ll be happy.” Jesus says, “No, it doesn’t work that way.” Your happiness is not a product of circumstances. Your happiness does not depend upon what’s happening around you, it depends upon what’s happening in you. It’s a series of attitudes.

Let’s look at the second beatitude. Found in verse 4 of Matthew 5, it simply said, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.”

Mourning is hateful and irksome to poor human nature. From suffering and sadness our spirits instinctively shrink. By nature we seek the society of the cheerful and joyous.

 The Greek word for to mourn, used here, is the strongest word for mourning in the Greek language. It is the word which is used for mourning for the dead, for the passionate lament for one who was loved.  

In the Septuagint, the Greek version of the Old Testament, it is the word which is used of Jacob’s grief when he believed that Joseph, his son, was dead (Genesis 37:34).

It is defined as the kind of grief which takes such a hold on a man that it cannot be hid. It is not only the sorrow which brings an ache to the heart; it is the sorrow which brings an ache to the heart; it is the sorrow which brings the unrestrainable tears to the eyes.

Now the first part of that really makes no sense. Happy are those who mourn? Happy are those who grieve? Happy are those who are expressing sorrow? That’s nonsensical, until you read the last part of the verse, “for they will be comforted.”

How can I be happy when I’m mourning? How can I be happy when I’m grieving? How can I be happy when I’ve experienced a great pain or loss? By receiving the comfort of God.

Now before we look at that comfort and how you receive it, I’ve got to give you a warning that’s straight from Scripture. Not all mourning is going to receive the comfort of God.

In II Corinthians 7:10, Paul says this. “Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death.”

Did you hear that? There’s a godly sorrow and there’s a worldly sorrow, and the worldly sorrow we need not expect any comfort for that. You say, well what are you talking about? What do you mean worldly sorrow?

  1. Pessimism.

The world is full of people who can’t see the good in anything. They can’t see the good in anybody. They live in kind of a state of perpetual mourning. Somebody said, “You can’t have rosy thoughts about your future when your mind is filled with blues from the past.” That’s a pessimist. And that person, he or she just mourns all the time. God promises no comfort for that. That is contrary to his will.  

  1. There’s a second kind of worldly sorrow caused by discontentment.

Our society is geared for constant competitiveness and the urge to keep up with the Joneses. Madison Avenue advertising companies specialize in making us feel disenchanted. They create itches that we need to scratch and yet their real job is to create an itch that we never can adequately scratch.

There’s a kind of mourning that goes with discontentment and our Lord won’t comfort that kind of mourning. Instead, he warns against it. Luke 12:15, Jesus said, “‘Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.'”

I Timothy 6:7: “We brought nothing into this world, and we can take nothing out of it. And he says in verse 8, “But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that.”

  1. Punishment and the consequences of wrongdoing.

A thief may mourn over time that he’s spending in jail, only to be planning his next theft. Do you see what I’m getting at? He’s not grieving over his sin, he’s grieving over getting caught. Now that’s a worldly grief. And all of those things, God says, “Look, those things lead to death. Don’t think I’m going to come down and just take that kind of mourning away. I will not.”

But that same verse says, “There is a godly sorrow which God will comfort.” And this is a mourning that we experience when we hurt and when we have heartaches from the suffering that floods this world.

Suffering that brings pain and that brings death, suffering we have no control over, that we didn’t bring about, but we’re all victims of it.

There are three ways in which this beatitude can be taken.

(i) It can be taken quite literally: Blessed is the man who has endured the bitterest sorrow that life can bring. The Arabs have a proverb: “All sunshine makes a desert.” The land on which the sun always shines will soon become an arid place in which no fruit will grow. There are certain things which only the rains will produce; and certain experiences which only sorrow can beget.

Sorrow can do two things for us. it can show us, as nothing else can, the essential kindness of our fellow-men; and it can show us as nothing else can the comfort and the compassion of God. Many and many a man in the hour of his sorrow has discovered his fellow-men and his God as he never did before. When things go well it is possible to live for years on the surface of things; but when sorrow comes a man is driven to the deep things of life, and, if he accepts it aright, a new strength and beauty enter into his soul.

“I walked a mile with Pleasure, She chattered all the way,

But left me none the wiser For all she had to say.

I walked a mile with Sorrow, And ne’er a word said she,

But, oh, the things I learned from her When Sorrow walked with me!”

(ii) Some people have taken this beatitude to mean:

Blessed are those who are desperately sorry for the sorrow and the suffering of this world.

When we were thinking of the first beatitude we saw that is it always right to be detached from things, but it is never right to be detached from people. This world would have been a very much poorer place, if there had not been those who cared intensely about the sorrows and the sufferings of others.

Christianity is caring. This beatitude does mean: Blessed is the man who cares intensely for the sufferings, and for the sorrows, and for the needs of others.

(iii) No doubt both these thoughts are in this beatitude, but its main thought undoubtedly is: Blessed is the man who is desperately sorry for his own sin and his own unworthiness.

“It is mourning over the felt destitution of our spiritual state, and over the iniquities that have separated us and God; mourning over the very morality in which we have boasted, and the self-righteousness in which we have trusted; sorrow for rebellion against God, and hostility to His will; and such mourning always goes side by side with conscious poverty of spirit.”

As we have seen, the very first word of the message of Jesus was, “Repent!” No man can repent unless he is sorry for his sins. The thing which really changes men is when they suddenly come up against something which opens their eyes to what sin is and to what sin does.

A boy or a girl may go his or her own way, and may never think of effects and consequences; and then some day something happens and that boy or girl sees the stricken look in a father’’ or a mother’s eye’s; and suddenly sin is seen for what it is.

That is what the Cross does for us. As we look at the Cross, we are bound to say, “That is what sin can do. Sin can take the loveliest life in all the world and smash it on a Cross.”

One of the great functions of the Cross is to open the eyes of men and women to the horror of sin. And when a man sees sin in all its horror he cannot do anything else but experience intense sorrow for his sin.

Christianity begins with a sense of sin. Blessed is the man who is intensely sorry for his sin, the man who is heart-broken for what his sin has done to God and to Jesus Christ, the man who sees the Cross and who is appalled by the havoc wrought by sin.

It is the man who has that experience who will indeed be comforted; for the experience is what we call penitence, and the broken and the contrite heart God will never despise (Psalm 51:17). The way to the joy of forgiveness is through the desperate sorrow of the broken heart.

God is going to comfort people who go through that and that’s all of us. Godly grief is also the mourning that we do over our own sins, not the getting caught, but the sin itself.

God says, “If you’ll mourn over your own sin, I’ll come and comfort your heart.” And godly grief is also the sadness that we share for others in their loss. He said, “I’ll bless that if you hurt with other people. I’ll come and take that sorrow away.”

Here, then, are the first birthmarks of the children of God. He who has never come to be poor in spirit and has never known what it is to really mourn for sin has neither seen nor entered the Kingdom of God. How thankful the Christian reader ought to be that the great God condescends to dwell in the humble and contrite heart!

Now today and tomorrow, when you experience that kind of grief and that kind of mourning, sorrow that is left unattended will literally rob you of your happiness, how do you apply this beatitude? And how do you claim this promise?

If you really want to be happy in this world, you’ll not be happy by just avoiding sadness because you can’t. We’re all going to mourn, we’re all going to grieve, how do I get through that by the power of God so that I’m happy way yonder more than I’m sad?

Three simple steps, write them down.

  1. Number one, realize God is with you.

You know when we’re hurting, we tend to forget where God is. We think he’s distant that he is far away. Look at Psalm 34:18, “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” When you’re mourning, when you’re in pain, remember three simple things: God is aware, God cares, and God is there. Just those three simple things. God is aware, he cares, and he’s there.

God is aware. Job said, “You keep a close watch on all my paths. There are many, many of you who have come today and you’re in pain, but I want you to know something, God is watching over you. Nothing escapes his eyes. The Bible says, not just the number of hairs on your hair are numbered, the Bible says, even your tears are numbered. I’ve heard people say hundreds of times, nobody knows what I’m going through. That may be right if you’re talking about somebody else in the flesh, but somebody knows what you’re going through. God is keenly aware of everything you’re going through.

  1. He is not only aware, number two, he cares.

Look at the little book of Nahum 1:7, “The Lord is good, a refuge in times of trouble. He cares for those who trust in him,” God’s not only aware, he cares, your pain matters to God.

  1. Number three, he’s there.

That’s the best thing of all. Hebrews 4:16 says, “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

I thank God that he doesn’t just offer awareness and sympathy, he offers help when you hurt. He’s not powerless like you and I feel in times of mourning. He doesn’t just write a note like I do that says, “I’m thinking about you in this time of need.” God says, “I’m not just thinking about you, I’m right there and my hand is reaching down to help you.”

Isaiah 43:2, our God says, “‘Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. And when you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the Lord, your God,…'”

God says when you’re mourning, I want to come and build you up with my strength. I want to fortify you. I want to stand beside you.

  1. So the first step in being comforted, being happy when you’re sad, is to realize God’s presence.

Now having said that, have you ever noticed there are some people who grow in their pain and there are other people who get stuck there? Why is that? I think more than any other reason, it’s because they fail to apply step two.

  1. Release the hurt.

Somebody says, “I’m in pain.” Let it go. How do you let it go? Here’s the key thing, you stop focusing on what’s lost and start focusing on what’s left. After your loss, after your tragedy, after your pain, start focusing on what’s lost and start focusing on what’s left.

The whole idea here is to quit looking backward and start looking forward.

Isaiah 43:18 says, “‘Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past.'”

Philippians 3:13, Paul says, “But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal…” And it goes on to say the goal is the prize of the heavenward call of Christ Jesus.

The Bible says your past is your past, let it go. It doesn’t need to hurt you anymore. Some of you are letting memories of people who have hurt you in the past, hurt you right now. I don’t want to be cruel, but I want to be honest. That’s dumb.

If they’ve hurt you in the past, and you’re letting the memory hurt you now, all you are doing is letting them hurt you twice. Don’t let the pains of the past control you. Don’t let the guilt of your past strangle you. If you want the comfort of God, release your hurt. That power is within you.

See there are choices about what to do with the hurts and the pains and the grief sources of the past. Here are some things different folks do at different times, they are on your outline.

You can repress those hurts.

You know you can just push them down. You can swallow them, try to keep them way down deep inside. But I’ve said many times, if you swallow your feelings, your stomach keeps score. There are so many thousands and thousands of Christians right now who are walking wounded, and they are walking wounded because they have repressed their hurt. They’ve never dealt with them, they’ve never even admitted them, they just keep them deep.

You can rehearse them.

Just keep rehearsing the pain. Have you ever seen somebody who just won’t let it go? They keep bringing it up in their mind and going over and over and over. And some of them they do it verbally. That’s all they’ll tell you about. “Oh, I’ll never get over this…” “Oh, I’ll never…” They torture themselves by rethinking about it over and over. But God says don’t dwell on the past.

Folks, there is a big difference between mourning and moaning. A big difference—A big difference between mourning and moaning. Mourning is legitimate grief. There are times for bona fide sadness. And when you go through that, God wants to comfort that; but moaning is self pity. And if you’re moaning, you’re doing it honestly because you want to. You just kind of want to hold on to that hurt because that’s your attention-getter. That may be the only way you think you’re getting self esteem that’s tearing you up.

Resent those things.

I guess that’s the greatest tendency of all. We tend to resent what we believe to be the cause of our pain. If that’s another person, we tend to resent them. If it’s our job, we tend to resent it. If we can’t blame it on a specific person, place, or thing, then often God is resented for just letting it happen. The problem with resentment is, it hurts you more than the person you resent.

If you really want to handle your hurt, rightly, then the fourth choice is the best, re-channel them.

Don’t repress them, don’t rehearse them, don’t resent them—re-channel them. Use the energy that you would use repressing, rehearsing, resenting, turn it constructively outward instead of destructively inward.

Do you know who my model is for this—straight from the Bible? The apostle Paul. You talk about, can you imagine the pain and the guilt of knowing if you were Paul that you were the most destructive force on the early church. Read Acts 8:1, it says Paul was the ringleader. He was the one that was seeking to destroy it. And yet he was the very man who wrote what I read to a moment ago from Philippians, “Forgetting what lies behind, I press on…”

Do you know what he did? He didn’t repress his guilt, he didn’t rehearse his guilt, he didn’t resent his guilt, he re-channeled it. He said, “I could lie around all day on the couch and feel guilty, guilty, guilty, then I could do nothing or I could take that and say, “No God, I’ve learned and I’m going to re-channel this for your glory.” People, that’s not hypocrisy, God honors that. He honors that, and he blesses that, and he comforts you when you do that.

  1. The way God will comfort me is by relying on God’s resources.

When you’re mourning and when you’re hurting, people try all kinds of things. Some get drunk, some pop pills, some watch t.v. all day long, some escape in novels, or just 1,001 things, all trying to dull the pain. God says, “No, no, those don’t work.” There are escapes, diversions, but they’re all dead-ends, they bring you right back to where you were. But God has got some resources you can tap into that really will bring you the comfort and lead you through your mourning. Here they are.

The first resource: God’s word.

Look at Psalm 119:25, here’s what that verse says, “I am laid low in the dust; preserve my life according to your word.” A few verses later, verse 62, David says, “I remember your ancient laws O Lord, and I find comfort in them.”

But the second resource God wants to use to comfort you is his people. That’s why he designed his church. See we weren’t made to be individually isolated or islands unto ourselves. There’s no such thing as a “lone ranger” Christian. We need each other. We’re supposed to be a family. We’re a God-given resource to provide comfort.

I love II Corinthians 1:3,4, here’s what it says, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort,” look at this, “who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.”

I mean that says just in black and white, the function of comforting and encouraging one another is just as important a function of the church as worship is. That’s the reason God comforts us. One of the keys, he said, “I comfort you so you can be conduit, so that you’ll go out and comfort other people who are also hurting.”

One minister tells this story:

Years ago, I talked to a man who had been worshipping for two years at a congregation, a big church. And after worshipping for two years, he became ill with cancer, went through a couple of hospital stays and was diagnosed as being terminal. Then going to see him on one occasion, he was bitter. He said it just seems like nobody cares, nobody cared at all. And I wasn’t trying to trap him, it was just an honest question. I said, “Well tell me, who are some of your closest friends in church?” Do you realize that after being there for two years, he couldn’t name the name of one person, not one person that he would have listed as a dear friend.

Folks, the Bible says that we are to comfort one another. That’s why small groups, support groups, care groups, whatever it takes are beneficial so that we can pass along the comfort of God. It’s not that you have to give advice, it’s not that you have to have all the answers, it’s just by saying I’ve been there and I hurt with you.

And then finally, God uses his Spirit to comfort us. When Jesus was here physically, knowing he was going to a cross, he made a promise, John 14:26, he said, “But the Counselor,” (the King James Version says the Comforter) “the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.”

Then he said, “My peace I leave with you;…” That was a promise to the apostles, but the Bible says that promise of the comfort from the Spirit is still applicable.

Romans 15:13 says, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”

Mourners comforted—destroyers condemned (v. 14; 5:4).

While this verse is not in some manuscripts of Matthew, it is found in Mark 12:40 and Luke 20:47. Instead of mourning over their own sins, and mourning with needy widows, the Pharisees took advantage of people in order to rob them. They used their religion as a “cloak of covetousness” (1 Thes. 2:5).

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Posted by on October 6, 2015 in Article

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