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Pressing on toward the goal: Happy New Year, 2023 – Philippians 3:12-21

What if you had $1,440 in the bank that you had to spend every day? None of it could be carried over to the next day. It would not be easy to use that money wisely!

The fact is, each of us does have 1,440 minutes every day to use for some purpose. If you live through next year, you’ll have 8,760 hours to spend. Allowing eight hours per day for sleep and eight more for work, meals, and commuting time (we’re not figuring in days off), it only leaves 2,920 hours.

New Year’s Day inherently brings with it the proverbial “clean slate”- a chance to start over, a chance to review, refresh and begin again – 365 new days. Looking back in order to move forward is a reasonable way to begin this New Year.

So, before rushing fast lane mode into 2023, let’s take a deep breath, set aside a few moments to review and to determine. Notice both God and His hand in your life in 2022. Determine – how do you want to move forward? What soul-nourishing practices will you continue or add? What is God inviting you into in this New Year 2023?

To our text: Paul changed from accounting language to athletic language, saying that his goal was to know Christ, to be like Christ, and to be all Christ had in mind for him.

This goal absorbed all Paul’s energy. This provides a helpful example. We should not let anything take our eyes off our goal—knowing Christ. With the single-mindedness of an athlete in training, we must lay aside everything harmful and forsake anything that may distract us from being effective Christians. What is holding you back?

3:12 Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.NIV Obtain can mean to take hold of, to receive, to make one’s own, to apprehend in the moral or spiritual sense. So Paul may have been saying that he had not fully grasped all the meaning of Christ in his life. There is more to receive by pressing on. The power of Christ in Paul’s life aroused him to want to know Christ better, and this would take a lifetime.

Paul saw the Christian life as a process. While believers are considered righteous when they accept salvation, their entire lives are marked by growth toward Christlikeness. Complete perfection will not be obtained until Christ’s second coming, when he will take his people with him. While Paul may have seemed like a nearly perfect Christian to his Philippian friends, he emphasized that he had not obtained perfect knowledge of Christ, the power of his resurrection, the fellowship of his suffering, and conformity to his death (3:10). All of these were part of the process of sanctification—of getting to know Christ better and better as he lived the Christian life. And even Paul, despite all his sufferings and victories for Christ, still had much to learn. He had not yet been made perfect. He knew that only upon Christ’s return would all believers be made perfect in knowledge and experience, but he was willing to press on to take hold of the goal—living and working for Christ—because of what Christ had done for him. “Pressing on” is a hunting term meaning to chase or hunt down. Christ Jesus took hold of Paul almost thirty years earlier when Paul was converted on the road to Damascus. Christ laid hold of Paul so that Paul could lay hold of the prize—knowing Christ completely.


True Christian faith is often called a “personal relationship” with Jesus Christ, and no verse describes it better than this. A relationship requires two persons, each actively searching, seeking, and building a bond between them.
In your spiritual life, God takes the initiative (Christ takes hold of us), then we enter into it (pressing on) to pursue all that our new friendship offers. We are truly relating to each other, together pursuing God’s goal for all creation—eternal life free of all pain, all death, all sin. Are you pressing on, taking responsibility for your progress in faith and character? What steps are you taking to know Christ better?

3:13 Beloved, I do not consider that I have made it my own; but this one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead.NRSV Paul had not yet attained perfection or complete knowledge of Christ. Unlike the Judaizers, Paul did not consider that he had achieved spiritual maturity; he was not perfect, but he lived in absolute confidence of his ultimate salvation. Christians know they will be saved, yet they must have perfection as their goal (Matthew 5:48) while not pretending that sin does not exist (1 John 1:8). Like Paul, they should not dwell on the past. The past should not be used as a barrier to the future, as an excuse for dropping out, or for avoiding proper spiritual conduct in their relationship with God. Believers should be devoted to God whatever their present circumstances (Luke 9:62; 17:31-32) and should strain forward to what lies ahead. Paul would forget his past with all its credentials and accomplishments (and sins) and, like a runner in a race with his whole body reaching for the finish line, would press on toward the goal (3:14).


We have all done things for which we are ashamed, and we live in the tension of what we have been and what we want to be. Because our hope is in Christ, however, we can let go of past guilt and look forward to what God will help us become. Don’t dwell on your past. Instead, grow in the knowledge of God by concentrating on your relationship with him now. Realize that you are forgiven, and then move on to a life of faith and obedience. Look forward to a fuller and more meaningful life because of your hope in Christ.


3:14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus.NRSV As a runner straining every effort toward the finish line, Paul pressed on toward the goal. In Greek athletic games, the winner’s prize was a garland or palm branch. While Paul didn’t identify the prize, it seems from his writing above that the prize refers to gaining full knowledge of Jesus Christ (see also 1 Corinthians 9:24; 2 Timothy 4:7-8). Paul aimed to win the prize, but all who finish the race win it as well. The full knowledge of Christ is the final prize for which believers gladly lay aside all else.

  • Yet because of Paul’s use of the metaphor of athletic games, it seems more natural to understand the “call” as the calling of athletes up to the winner’s stand. Thus, the heavenly call is the summons to win the victor’s prize of salvation.


Like a dedicated athlete, Paul wanted to run the race and gain full knowledge of Christ. The first-time marathon runner has periodic thoughts about quitting, especially during the last six miles. By then, the novelty of the experience has faded to the dull regularity of the pace; early adrenaline has given way to soreness and fatigue. Others around him or her are limping along, and some have dropped out entirely.
But dedicated runners must keep going. Somewhere out there is a finish line. Ask yourself these questions:
What kind of race are you running for Christ?
What prize do you seek?
What kind of opposition do you face in your struggle to live as a Christian?
How can Christ help you stay on track and reach the goal?
What spiritual workout or training this week will help you run your Christian marathon?
In what way can you renew your commitment to press on toward the goal of being like Christ?

3:15 All of us who are mature should take such a view of things.NIV After Paul described his spiritual goals, he explained to the Philippians that all mature believers should take such a view. That is, they too ought to be pressing on toward the goal. Mature believers would understand that they could not, in their own humanity, gain perfection and acceptance by God (as opposed to the teachings of the Judaizers). Yet because of their love for Christ, they willingly pressed on to follow his example in order to become more like him in life, all the while knowing that they were promised to know him fully upon their death (or his return).

And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you.NIV This verse betrays some of the problems that faced the Philippian church. Spiritual pride had found its way into some of the believers; apparently a few felt that they had reached a holier status than their fellow believers, causing them to look down on those whom they thought less “mature.” Yet Paul made clear that those who were truly mature were those who realized their dependence on God. They pressed on, not to make themselves good enough or to gain credentials by their accomplishments; rather, they pressed on to know their Savior better. Whatever problem of pride threatened to divide the Philippian church, Paul stopped it. This was the final word on the matter; Paul invoked the illumination of God himself to clarify the truth of his words to those who thought differently. Those who were mature were to be committed to what Paul had said. And to anyone who thought differently about minor points, God would clarify the truth. God would lead them to the truth if they would keep their minds open.


Sometimes trying to live a perfect Christian life can be so difficult that it leaves us drained and discouraged. We may feel so far from perfect that we can never please God with our lives. Paul used “perfect” (3:12) to mean mature or complete, not flawless in every detail. Those who are mature should press on in the Holy Spirit’s power, knowing that Christ will reveal and fill in any discrepancy between what we are and what we should be. Christ’s provision is no excuse for lagging devotion, but it provides relief and assurance for those who feel driven.

3:16 Only let us live up to what we have already attained.NIV Christian maturity involves acting on the guidance that we have already received. Live up (stochein) is a military term meaning “to keep in line” or “to keep step.” Paul knew the believers were in different stages, but everyone needed to be faithful to what they understood. The Christian community needed to march forward together. Paul did not want the believers in Philippi to fail to live up to what they already had been taught. As they pressed on toward the goal, they should not use their lack of complete knowledge as an excuse for taking lightly what they knew or for getting sidetracked. They should continue to learn and grow, while at the same time govern their lives by the light they had already received. Believers must live up to what they already know before they can expect to learn more.

3:17 Brothers and sisters, join in imitating me, and observe those who live according to the example you have in us.NRSV Paul used these two key words for discipleship: “imitate” and “example.” “Imitate” means not only to become like but also to obey. “Example” means a model or blueprint to use as a pattern for your life. Paul challenged the Philippians to pursue Christlikeness by imitating Paul’s own example and the examples of others whose lives were based on his (those “mature” believers in 3:15). This was not egotism on Paul’s part, for Paul always focused on Jesus Christ and urged the believers to also follow the example of others who followed Christ. They should not follow false teachers or the enemies of the cross (3:18). Instead, as Paul focused his life on being like Christ, so should they. Paul wrote to the Corinthians, “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ” (1 Corinthians 11:1 niv). The Gospels may not yet have been in circulation, so Paul could not tell them to read the Bible to see what Christ was like. Therefore, he urged them to imitate him as a practical guide for conduct. That Paul could tell people to follow his example is a testimony to his character. Can you do the same? What kind of follower would a new Christian become if he or she imitated you?

William James Sidis was a well-known child prodigy who taught university mathematics at age 16, but his adult years were spent collecting and memorizing streetcar schedules. He died alone in a ragged apartment, destitute and broken. His rare talents only briefly helped anyone.

As Christians, we must be responsible to use what we have been given. We must guard against dropping out—quitting—and squandering talents. We must not worry about all that we don’t know. We’ve got plenty to do using what we have.


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Posted by on January 1, 2023 in Article


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
United Kingdom 10
Canada 10
Bahamas 8
Norway 8
European Union 7
Brazil 7
India 7
Australia 6
Russia 5
Rwanda 5
Nigeria 5
Ghana 5
Singapore 4
France 4
Thailand 4
Taiwan 4
Hungary 3
Italy 3
Romania 3
New Zealand 2
South Africa 2
Hong Kong SAR China 2
Tanzania 2
Netherlands 2
Nepal 1
Saudi Arabia 1
Denmark 1
South Korea 1
Puerto Rico 1
Montserrat 1
Kuwait 1
Germany 1
Malaysia 1
Ireland 1
Belgium 1
Peru 1
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Posted by on December 19, 2015 in Article

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