Living Outside the Camp — Hebrews 13:3, 12-16

 Hebrews 13:3 (NIV) Remember those in prison as if you were their fellow prisoners, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering.

 Hebrews 13:12-16 (NIV)  And so Jesus also suffered outside the city gate to make the people holy through his own blood.
13  Let us, then, go to him outside the camp, bearing the disgrace he bore.
14  For here we do not have an enduring city, but we are looking for the city that is to come.
15  Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise–the fruit of lips that confess his name.
16  And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.

       “What Would Jesus Do?” bracelets…discuss what those did for our conversations and actions a few years back when someone made a lot of money on this neat idea. Today, we’ll ask and answer the question: “Where Did Jesus Go?”

There are alarm­ing signs in our fellowship which raise questions about our ability to survive as a community of faith. Congrega­tions should be disturbed at the attrition rate of young people. We should also be concerned with the long-range effects of the diminishing influence of Christianity in our society on the survival of the church.

The seriousness of these problems became especially are apparent when we look at small churches in the nation’s largest cities. Many of the adult members were transplanted from smaller cities which were far less secularized than their new home. They were never really “at home” in the city, but the church was one place where they felt comfortable.

Their children, however, had quite a different experi­ence. They had few memories of life anywhere else. They had grown up in this very secular environment. And by the time they became teen­agers, they recognized that their religious life made them very different from their peers. They held beliefs that were largely unintelligible to their friends, and they were expected to main­tain a lifestyle and a set of moral standards that were radically different from others. This sense of being different—of belonging to this “strange sect”—threatened their Christian identity.

I do not recall seeing anyone give up the faith because intellectual problems became too un­bearable. They did not drop out because they had examined the evidence for Christianity and found it unbelievable.

I mention this not because it demonstrates the hopeless spiritual condition of some Ameri­can cities. I mention it because it describes a con­dition in which we may all find ourselves. Many of us recall when it was easier to keep the faith because religion was more popular than it is today. The people in our neighborhood went to church on Sunday morning as we did. Christian moral standards were understood and appreci­ated. References to the importance of religious faith were often made in school and by govern­ment officials. This popularity of religious com­mitment served as a prop to help us survive. Survival was never very difficult where religion was socially acceptable.

AN ASSAULT ON CHRISTIAN VALUES  — But most of these props have been removed, and secularization characterizes major Ameri­can cities. The media consistently undermine Christian values. We wonder whether the wave of bizarre sexual relationships portrayed in the movies is creating a new set of values or simply reflecting the prevailing standards of our soci­ety. At any rate, it portrays a style of life that is an assault on Christian values.

One of the gravest threats to the survival of the church, I believe, is not that some new piece of scientific evidence will shatter our convic­tions. It is the experience of holding to a set of views that are unacceptable to the majority of the people. Like the psalmist, we may be asking, “How do you sing the Lord’s song in a foreign land?”

We can learn from another minority group which faced these same problems centuries ago. The early church never enjoyed the props of respectability and social acceptability. The proc­lamation of a crucified Savior was “folly” to the majority of the people of that time. Early Chris­tianity took its shape at a time when the Chris­tians were not to be “conformed to this world” (Romans 12:2).

JESUS DIED OUTSIDE THE CAMP  — People trained in the Jewish tradition recall that the remains of the animals which had been sacrificed were burned outside the camp (Leviticus 16:27), and that those who burned them also became unclean. “Every­one knew” that Jesus had died a shameful death.

An important verse in Heb. 13:12 reminds us that Christianity didn’t begin with the protective arm of public acceptance:

  • Jesus never received any medals as “outstanding young man of the year” in Jerusalem
  • There is no “eternal flame” for Jesus in the Jerusalem National Cemetery
  • There was no state funeral, not any kind words from a chief of state
  • Jesus died outside the camp!

(John 19:20)  Many of the Jews read this sign, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city, and the sign was written in Aramaic, Latin and Greek.

People trained in the Jewish tradition recall that the remains of the animals which had been sacrificed were burned “outside the camp:”

(Lev 16:27)  The bull and the goat for the sin offerings, whose blood was brought into the Most Holy Place to make atonement, must be taken outside the camp; their hides, flesh and offal are to be burned up.

Early Christians were probably uneasy about declaring their Savior had died on a cross because of the likely response:

 (1 Cor 1:22-23)  Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks look for wisdom, {23} but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles,

When our lifestyle weds us too closely to prevailing standards, we have not accompanied our “pioneer” outside the camp!

  • The demands that are placed on us are no different from the demands that have been placed on Christians in every generation.
  • A church that chooses to be “inside the camp” of public acceptance will not survive…and it has no right to expect to survive!

George McDonald wrote in Only One Way Left: “I am recovering the claim that Jesus was not crucified in a cathedral between two candles, but on a cross between two thieves, on the town garbage heap . . . at the kind of place where cynics talk smut, and thieves curse, and soldiers gamble. Because that is where he died and that is what he died about. And that is where churchmen should be and what churchmanship is about.”

 “LET US GO OUT TO HIM, BEARING HIS REPROACH”  — If Jesus died “outside the camp” of respect­ability, it would be absurd to imagine that the Christian would be spared the experience of sharing His fate. The life of faith has always involved bearing reproach (11:26) for the sake of Christ. Jesus said that each of us must “take up his cross” (Mark 8:34).

There is no other strategy but to follow Jesus “outside the camp.” If we were to decide that the appropriate thing to do is reflect the values of our society, we would discover that the church would be offering nothing which could not be found elsewhere. A church that chose always to be “inside the camp” of public acceptance will not survive. It would have no word to offer.

Viktor Frankl, a physician who spent years in a Nazi concentration camp, said, “We can bear almost any ‘how’ if only we have a ‘why.’” We need to know that something lies beyond our suffering. Frankl describes his own battle for survival in Man’s Search for Meaning. The hope that the concentration camp was not the end gave him the will to survive.

The glimmer of hope that he might outlive the terror and con­tinue his research helped him survive. If a goal is at the end of our struggles, we can endure almost anything. If we are sacrificing for a lost cause, though, we will not endure long.

The world’s values might lead us to believe that the things of life are within our culture and the standards of the day. But we can go outside the camp of this culture because we know that the really “abiding city” is not here at all. The lost cause is the standard of our society that looks inviting. Thus Christians share the loneliness of Jesus because His cause is not lost.

We do have a strategy for survival. It does not include accepting the lifestyle and values that are constantly placed before our eyes. We will be able to survive by being “outside the camp.” And by going “outside the camp” to­gether we can support each other along the way.

(Luke 18:8 NIV)  “…when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?”  This is the concluding sentence in one of the parables of Jesus. He pictured the church as a defenseless widow who called for vindication to a heartless judge.

 Her one weapon, in the presence of frustration, was her persistence, and it finally worked.

 Jesus was likely suggesting that God at times seems silent and foreign to us – even as heartless as an unprincipled judge.

 But just the opposite is true: God is faithful to his people who believe! The essential question of the parable confronts believers in every age: will they persist in believing in times of frustration and hopelessness?

The survival of the church depends upon God! But it also depends on those people who go on providing encouragement to others, teaching classes, and helping with a variety of ministries of the church.

When Pliny the Younger reported on the Christians to the Roman emperor Trajan in the first century, he wrote, “They bind themselves by an oath not to any criminal end, but to avoid theft or robbery or adultery, never to break their word or repudiate a deposit when called on to refund it.” Although he was looking for a charge against them, he was forced to characterize them as a people who did not commit crimes and who paid their debts.

 Early Christians were a rebuke to the pagan and immoral societies in which they lived, and those societies often sought to condemn them. But the more they examined the lives of believers, the more it became obvious that Christians lived up to the high moral standards of their doctrine.  

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Posted by on September 24, 2018 in Church


Lack of Spiritual Health

We are always looking for someone else to blame for our lack of spiritual health.

A woman’s husband had been slipping in and out of a coma for several months, yet she’d stayed by his bedside every single day. One day, when he came to, he motioned for her to come nearer

As she sat by him, he whispered, eyes full of tears, “You know what? You have been with me all through the bad times. When I got fired, you were there to support me. When my business failed, you were there. When I got shot, you were by my side. When we lost the house, you stayed right here. When my health started failing, you were still by my side ….You know what?”

“What dear?” She gently asked, smiling as her heart began to fill with warmth.

His reply: “I think you’re bad luck.”



























Some Illustrations and Types of Accountability That Are Helpful As We Fellowship One Another

We often have ask members of our congregations to spend prayer time asking God to provide direction in regard to a new ministry effort, etc.  Within the church, the body of Christ, there are a number of illustrations of the form in which accountability may take shape in the process of making disciples.

(1) Paul with Timothy and Titus.  If we each had a Timothy or a Titus, someone we are giving ourselves to, someone we are helping to grow, someone we are responsible for and who is responsible to us, certainly we would see a great deal more spiritual maturity and obedience.

1 John 4:21 (43 kb)

(2) Paul and Barnabus. Paul had a Barnabus (a son of encouragement) with whom he could identify. Paul could go to him with problems and discouragement. He was someone with whom he could pray, or from whom he could get counsel, guidance, and encouragement. He was someone to give another viewpoint or perspective. As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.

(3) A team or small group. This is not just a prayer group or a Bible study, but a small group of men or women with whom to interact, share ideas, pain, burdens, and victories. It is a small group like the disciples of the Lord, those with whom we can pray and discuss the Word together without fear of rejection.

(4) Marriage illustrates another place where accountability takes place.  If we are married we need to develop our relationship with our spouses so we can share our problems and concerns with each other, discuss them, and get honest input without fear of rejection.

(5) The local church. The local church consists of overseers/leaders, those who are to be responsible for and accountable to the flock, and there is the flock, those who are to be accountable and responsible to their leaders as Hebrews 13:17 teaches.

(6) The Godhead. Finally, The Son Himself, though God of very God, is subject to or accountable to the Father (1 Cor. 11:3; 3:23; 15:24-28).

With this in mind, it would be good to think about how one can implement this more in one’s own ministry. Items like small groups provide an opportunity and team training another, but surely we need more accountability. One method is the buddy system where believers divide up into smaller groups of two or three who regularly meet for fellowship and input together.

Biblical Ways to Promote Accountability   — An important question is what happens (or should happen) when a small group meets together?  Goals and objectives to promote Christ-like growth in measurable ways: Meeting together is not just a time when good old boys meet to talk about fishing, football, or chew the fat. Here are some suggestions.

(1) Study: Part of the time should be spent around a portion of the Word, thinking together about what it means and how it applies.

(2) Prayer: This means it will be a time when the team shares needs and concerns. Pray together when you meet and covenant to pray for each other during the week.

(3) A schedule: Develop a schedule to give guidance in the use of time with the Lord, family, church, the team, etc.

(4) Report: Part of the team’s time should be spent sharing how each member has been doing—the battles, victories, problems, temptations, etc. How each one has been able or not been able to keep to their schedule, prayer time, study, etc.

Some guidelines and warnings:

(1) Be honest and humble about struggles. Watch the tendency to protect those comfort zones and layers of self-protection.

(2) Be patient, and understanding. Don’t come across as condemning. Maintain a spirit of acceptance of the other person. This does not mean there can’t be challenge, exhortation, and even rebuke, but it must be done in love and with patience and acceptance.

(3) Guard your tongue. In keeping with the biblical goal, guard against gossip and being critical. What is shared must be kept in strict confidence. Each person needs to know they can trust the others. (Prov. 16:27; 17:4, 27).

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Posted by on September 17, 2018 in Church


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


Habits and Attitudes of Highly Effective Churches – Lives Are Changed

The “acid test” for a church’s effectiveness is the transforming work of the Holy Spirit among its members.  And what is the proof that the Spirit of God is present and active in a body of people? Lives are being changed daily!

While all Christians recall and marvel at the mighty works of Christ, some of us seem to have forgotten the power of words. The truth He communicated to men and women contained the power of God to transform and
empower their lives.

The power of words is explained this way in Scripture: “The word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart” (Heb. 4:12).

We must cling to the joyous truth that the Word of God is powerful. When we teach it with authority and expectation, it will achieve the result God has ordained.

1. Are non-Christian therapists as effective in saving marriages as Christian therapists — working in a context of a church’s faith, prayers, and ministry?
2. Are humanistic 12-step programs as good for breaking alcohol and cocaine addiction as ones where the name of Jesus is invoked reverently and frequently?
3. What about eating disorders? Cancer? Problems with children? Sexual addiction? Depression? Personality disorders?

I am one of a growing number of non-charismatics who believes in supernatural answers to our prayers. Yes, God sometimes allows situations to remain unaltered so he can teach us the sufficiency of grace in our weakness:

2 Corinthians 12:7-10: “Because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, for this reason, to keep me from exalting myself, there was given me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me—to keep me from exalting myself! {8} Concerning this I implored the Lord three times that it might leave me. {9} And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. {10} Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.”

So believers are not exempt from cancer, bankruptcy, or divorce. And, yes, we should use all the natural and ordinary resources such as education and medication, therapy and discipline, Alcoholics Anonymous and surgery that can help people.

But we must become bolder in prayer and spiritual ministry. God’s Holy Spirit lives among and within people, and we must believe that power at work in those who believe can bring about dramatic outcomes. Here is a clear call from God to all believers about some things that cannot be tolerated in our personal and corporate lives as people:

Colossians 3:5-10: “Therefore consider the members of your earthly body as dead to immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed, which amounts to idolatry. {6} For it is because of these things that the wrath
of God will come upon the sons of disobedience, {7} and in them you also once walked, when you were living in them. {8} But now you also, put them all aside: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive speech from your
mouth. {9} Do not lie to one another, since you laid aside the old self with its evil practices, {10} and have put on the new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him-”

In Paul’s theology, the key to this marvelous transformation lies in the fact that we have been “raised with Christ” and have set our “minds on things above” (Col. 3:1-2).

There is something about our connection with God and the truth that Christ has revealed to us that can bring about so wonderful a result. It is not by human means, but by the power of God.

“I can do everything through [Christ] who gives me strength” (Phil. 4:13).

Christians look to Him with the expectation that He will respond to our needs. Specifically, He will not refuse a plea for moral and spiritual power to overcome sin.

A church is highly effective for God’s purposes only if it believes that divine power is at work among its members. But there is more. It must go beyond merely affirming and teaching the truth of God’s power to change lives.

Our prayer, counseling, benevolence, and teaching must assume the ability of God to work in our midst to do things we could not bring about through our own devices.

We must have the same confident attitude toward God’s power at work in today’s churches that Paul had toward it in the first century.


“Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever!” (Eph. 3:20-21).


Real Religion Requires Revelation
A simple truth, verified by man’s story, is stated thus by the prophet of old: “The way of man is not in himself…it is not in man that walketh to direct steps” (Jer. 10:23). Religion forces man to look beyond himself for guidance.

Obedience to the admonition to “know the Lord” (Heb. 8:11) is made possible because God reveals Himself to us.

God reveals Himself to us “in words” which are called “scripture.” Without such revelation from God, none of us could know the character and will of God. Real religion requires revelation.

Real Religion Requires a Redeemer
Man’s basic need is not to improve himself, to be a better person. Yes, religion will accomplish that. But the primary purpose of religion is found in man’s deepest need: “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God… The wages of sin is death” (Rom. 3:23; 6:23).

That means we all sin. And that means we all must be under the penalty of death. Because we have all sinned, and because sin has separated us from God, we all must perish without God. That is a bleak picture, if the story ended there. But it doesn’t end there: “For God so loved the world that he gave only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth on him should not perish, but have eternal life” (John 3:16).

Christ is our Redeemer, and there can be no other. And real religion requires a redeemer.

Real Religion Requires Repentance
Because we have all sinned, a change in the way we live is required. The determination to change, to live differently than we have, is called “repentance.” In that city of Jerusalem, the apostles began the proclamation of the gospel of Christ (Acts 2:1-36).

Jesus did not come to save people in their sins; He came to save them FROM their sins. Unless people are willing  o repent, and thus determine to leave sin, they can never be saved.

He died to save us from the guilt of sin, and death motivates us to leave sin and “live for him.” A new life results when one comes to Christ, and repentance is the turning point that brings that about.

“Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid. We who died to sin, how shall we any longer live therein?” (Rom. 6:1-2).

Real Religion Requires Regeneration
The apostle Paul wrote of our salvation, our redemption, in these words: “Not by works done in righteousness, which we did ourselves, but according to own mercy he saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit” (Titus 3:5).

To “regenerate” simply means to give new life or to give life again.

Note carefully the process of regeneration. The word, given by the Spirit, is preached, people receive it (Acts 2:41) and are baptized in water (Acts 8:36; 10:47). Because of that “washing of regeneration” (Titus 3:5), they are now “in Christ” (Rom. 6:3). And note the result of that: “If any man is in Christ, he is a new creature: the old things are
passed away, behold, they are become new” (2 Cor. 5:17).

Real Religion Requires Righteousness
Many try to belittle the need for living right, claiming that such means we are trying to earn salvation. But the truth is simple: Unless religion makes us righteous in our lives, it is vain and worthless.

Paul wrote that the “gospel is the power of God unto salvation,” then  added, “Therein is revealed a righteousness of God, from faith unto faith, for it is written, But the righteous shall live by faith” (Rom. 1:16-17).

God expects us to be righteous, to work righteousness in our daily living. The apostle Paul shows the result of our being born again by being baptized into Christ — into death, burial and resurrection (Rom. 6:3-6).

He then states, “Thanks be to God, that whereas ye were the servants of sin, ye became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching whereunto ye were delivered; and being made free from sin, ye became servants of righteousness” (Rom. 6:17-18).

Community Transformation
Although it is God who does this work, the plan is to bring about the “putting together again” of our lives within the community of faith called a church. And the church through which He wills to bring about salvation and change is not a vague “church universal” but the concrete local churches of which you and I are members.

The Stafford Church of Christ is intended by our Heavenly Father to be a reconciling place.  Not only are we reconciled to God in the church but with our fellow human beings as well.

“All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation” (2 Cor. 5:18-19).

The Stafford Church of Christ is also meant by God to be a nurturingplace. Because we embrace kingdom values rather than worldly values, we both affirm the life-style of Christ (i.e., holiness) and work to equip ourselves for service (i.e., ministry).

A little girl whose malformed leg had undergone another in a series of corrective surgeries became discouraged with her physical therapy. She insisted she wanted to give up and accept the consequences. When her father insisted that she keep trying to walk through her pain, she fell into arms and said, “Daddy, why can’t you love me just the way I am?”

Trying to understand her situation, a father whose eyes were filled with tears hugged little girl and said, “Honey, I do love you just the way you are. But I love you too much to let you stay that way when you can get well and walk!”

That is the way God loves each of us. He loves us fully and unreservedly just the way we are — limitations, imperfections, a story of failure.

Even though you are struggling with some sin today, he loves you just the way you are and cannot love you more than he does. He has forgiven you, accepted you, and receive you into family for Jesus’ sake. But he loves you too much to let you remain as weak, handicapped, and limited as you are. He wants to transform you into the image of Holy Son Jesus.

Because God has such passion for you and me, more of our churches must become places where he is free to work miracle of changing lives. When that happens in your church, heaven touches earth again. Christ is seen. Hearts are captured. And the redemptive purposes of God through the church are continued.

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Posted by on September 13, 2018 in Church


Habits and Attitudes of Highly Effective Churches: Responds to Its Time and Place

The changes in my parents’ lifetimes from simple Model-T carburetors to computerized fuel-injection systems or from crude medical treatment without antibiotics to organ-replacement surgeries will seem incredibly slow when compared to what is ahead for us in the next ten years.

Do you remember the “Calvin and Hobbs” strip? It usually consisted of conversations between a little boy named Calvin and his stuffed tiger, Hobbs. As they were barreling down a hill in one frame, Calvin told his imaginary playmate, “Nothing is permanent. Everything changes. That the one thing we know for sure in this world.” Then, with their backs to us in the second frame, he continued, “But I’m still going to gripe about it.”

The church that survives, thrives, and changes lives will be the church that knows how to respond to its time and place. It will understand its culture and respond appropriately to it:
1. It will not adopt its culture, but it will comprehend it and engage it.
2. It will not conform to its culture, but it will enable its members to respond to it with the compassionate heart and   perceptive mind of Jesus Christ.

A plausible case could be made for the following thesis: To the degree that Christians allow ourselves to be out of touch with the books, magazines, movies, music, videos, Internet, and other media of our time:
1. we are either too timid with the gospel (i.e., afraid it cannot withstand and answer the spirit of our age)
2. or blatantly unfaithful with it (i.e., unaware of the issues that must be confronted by the message of Jesus Christ).

Perhaps the truth is not so severe, however, and we have just thoughtlessly cocooned ourselves from the world to the degree that we have assumed that the old methods of communicating the gospel are sufficient for this time and place.

Whether the true analysis is positively sinister or carelessly naive, we have to wake up quickly to the biblical mandate about engaging our world. God did not tell us to build edifices and wait for lost people to come to us. He told us to figure out ways and means of going to the lost in order to establish credibility, teach the gospel, and offer them the opportunity of eternal life.

The clearest place in Scripture where this mandate is articulated is in the writings of Paul. He is a living model of the process in which we must be engaged.

“Though I am free and belong to no man, I make myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though
I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law. To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some. I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings” (1 Cor. 9:19-23).

It is unfortunate that the phrase “all things to all men” has been used and abused by the world and made to mean what Paul did not intend for it to mean. Paul was not a chameleon who changed his message and methods with each new situation. Nor was Paul a compromiser who adjusted his message to please his audience. He was an ambassador, not a politician!

Paul was a Jew who had a great burden for his own people: Romans 9:1-3: “I am telling the truth in Christ, I am not lying, my conscience testifies with me in the Holy Spirit, {2} that I have great sorrow and unceasing grief in my heart. {3} For I could wish that I myself were accursed, separated from Christ for the sake of my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh,”

Romans 10:1: “Brethren, my heart’s desire and my prayer to God for them is for their salvation.”

But his special calling was to minister to the Gentiles. Whenever he went into a new city, he headed straight for the synagogue, if there was one, and boldly shared the Gospel. If he was rejected by the Jews, then he turned to the Gentiles.

What separated Jews and Gentiles in that day? The Law and the covenants. In his personal life, Paul so lived that he did not offend either the Jews or the Gentiles. He did not parade his liberty before the Jews, nor did he impose the Law on the Gentiles.

Was Paul behaving in an inconsistent manner? Of course not. He simply adapted his approach to different groups. Paul’s going along with the opinions and customs of others does not mean he was compromising his convictions nor being two-faced. It means that he was getting ‘next to men,’ gaining their confidence and trust so they would pay attention to
his witness for Christ.

This point is illustrated by Paul’s dealing with Timothy and Titus:

Acts 16:1-3: “Paul came also to Derbe and to Lystra. And a disciple was there, named Timothy, the son of a Jewish woman who was a believer, but his father was a Greek, {2} and he was well spoken of by the brethren who were in Lystra and Iconium. {3} Paul wanted this man to go with him; and he took him and circumcised him because of the Jews who were in those parts, for they all knew that his father was a Greek.”

Timothy’s mother was a Jew, but his father was a Greek
1. Paul knew Timothy would be limited in his access to the Jews and to the opportunities to teach in the synagogue if uncircumcised
2. He knew circumcision had nothing to do with salvation and was no longer required even of Jews!

Galatians 2:1-5: “Then after an interval of fourteen years I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, taking Titus along also. {2} It was because of a revelation that I went up; and I submitted to them the gospel which I preach among the Gentiles, but I did so in private to those who were of reputation, for fear that I might be running, or had run, in vain. {3} But not even Titus, who was with me, though he was a Greek, was compelled to be circumcised. {4} But it was because of the false brethren secretly brought in, who had sneaked in to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, in order to bring us into bondage. {5} But we did not yield in subjection to them for even an hour, so that the truth of the gospel would remain with you.”

1. Paul refused to let Titus be circumcised
2. As a Gentile, he had never been under the law of circumcision
3. Judaizers taught one had to be circumcised and keep the law of Moses in order to be saved…one had to become a Jew  before he could become a Christian
4. They wanted Titus as a ‘test case’ and Paul would have nothing to do with it!
5. Those who bound circumcision were guilty of adding to God’s Word

It takes tact to have contact.  To immature people, Paul’s lifestyle probably looked inconsistent. In  reality, he was very consistent, for his overriding purpose was to win people to Jesus Christ.

1. Paul had the right to eat whatever pleased him, but he gave up that right so that he might win the Jews.
2. Paul revered the Law (see Rom. 7:12), but set that aside so that he might reach the lost Gentiles.
3. He even identified himself with the legalistic weak Christians so that he might help them to grow.

Paul never compromised or watered down the demands of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Yet this text makes it clear that he was committed to the removal of every unnecessary obstacle to its communication.

1. And he saw his most likely “unnecessary obstacle” as himself.
2. He was bright enough to know that his tendency would be to so insulate himself from cultures that were foreign to him that he would be completely ineffective in breaking through to them with the gospel.

A Time to Be Like Other People
First, Paul wanted people to know Christ so badly that he took the initiative to know and be like others as much as possible.
He didn’t set up shop and wait for them to come to him. He went where they were and talked to them in language they could understand.

Paul was Jewish by birth but cosmopolitan in lifestyle by virtue of education and travel. As he moved freely in the Mediterranean world and contacted Jews and Gentiles, men and women, rich and poor, educated and uneducated, he respected and acknowledged everything he encountered that was either holy or redeemable to the Lord.

Things that might not have been to his taste or liking, he nevertheless affirmed for the sake of having something in common with them in order to reach them with the gospel.

A Time to Be Different from Others
Second, Paul knew where to draw the line and would do so when necessary.
Granting that he moved among and lived like “those not having the law,” Paul always knew that he was “under Christ’s law.”

His first loyalty was always to Christ, and he never forgot that he was “not free from God’s law.”

  1. Some believers let their backgrounds, tastes, and personal experiences keep them from going far enough — far enough to reach the lost on their own turf.
    2. But the danger of going too far is also real — so far that one’s commitment to Christ is compromised.
    3. The challenge is to be relevant without being unfaithful, germane without becoming untrue.

It must be possible to become all things to all men without compromising our faith. Otherwise God would not hold out that ideal to us. But how  deliberately are we moving toward that goal?

What mattered in life was not him and his rights, but the gospel. The gospel was the consuming passion of his life. Why? That he might partake of the gospel with other believers. By being faithful to the gospel he would share in the redemption of the gospel with other believers.

The church exists in visible, incarnational form to exhibit God’s glory, power, and righteousness to the world and to reach beyond itself to carry the knowledge of salvation to people facing eternity without Christ. This doesn’t change.

But the means and methods by which we accomplish that goal have changed repeatedly and drastically. They continue to change before our very eyes.

Our most effective form of outreach for the coming century might not be VBS and a gospel meeting every year but a systematic plan of compassionate outreach that lets people experience the love of God at our hands and opens their hearts to our telling of the gospel story.

It’s time for us to get past griping about the change that has gone on in our world while we slept and to begin addressing it in the mighty power of Jesus Christ.

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Posted by on September 10, 2018 in Church


Five Characteristics of a Leader

John W. Gardner, former Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health, Education, and Welfare, who also directed a leadership study project in Washington, D.C., has pinpointed five characteristics that set “leader” managers apart from run-of-the-mill managers:

1. They are long-term thinkers who see beyond the day’s crisis and the quarterly report.

2. Their interest in the company does not stop with the unit they are heading. They want to know how all of the company’s departments affect one another, and they are constantly reaching beyond their specific area of influence.

3. They put heavy emphasis on vision, values, and motivation.

4. They have strong people skills.

5. They don’t accept the status quo.

Lead Others

Actually, a manager needs the ability not only to make good decisions himself, but also to lead others to make good decisions. Charles Moore, after four years of research at the United Parcel Service reached the following conclusions:

1. Good decisions take a lot of time.

2. Good decisions combine the efforts of a number of people.

3. Good decisions give individuals the freedom to dissent.

4. Good decisions are reached without any pressure from the top to reach an artificial consensus.

5. Good decisions are based on the participation of those responsible for implementing them.*

One Man

Wherever anything is to be done, either in the Church or in the world, you may depend upon it, it is done by one man. The whole history of the Church, from the earliest ages, teaches the same lesson. A Moses, a Gideon, an Isaiah, and a Paul are from time to time raised up to do an appointed work; and when they pass away, their work appears to cease. Nor is it given to everyone, as it was to Moses, to see the Joshua who is destined to carry on his work to completion.

God can raise up a successor to each man, but the man himself is not to worry about that matter, or he may do harm. One great object of every religious teacher should be to prevent the creation of external appliances to make his teaching appear to live when it is dead.

Charles Spurgeon, in Wycliffe Handbook of Preaching & Preachers, W. Wiersbe, p. 223

Position of Leadership

Don’t take a position of leadership in church unless you are prepared to be honest, pure, and loving in your lifestyle. Leadership is a privilege, and with privilege comes responsibility. God holds teachers of His truth doubly responsible because we who lead are in a position where we can either draw people toward Christ or drive them away from Him.

This is illustrated in the life of the famous author Mark Twain. Church leaders were largely to blame for his becoming hostile to the Bible and the Christian faith. As he grew up, he knew elders and deacons who owned slaves and abused them. He heard men using foul language and saw them practice dishonesty during the week after speaking piously in church on Sunday. He listened to ministers use the Bible to justify slavery. Although he saw genuine love for the Lord Jesus in some people, including his mother and his wife, he was so disturbed by the bad teaching and poor example of church leaders that he became bitter toward the things of God.

Indeed, it is a privilege to be an elder, a deacon, a Sunday school teacher, or a Bible club leader. But it is also an awesome responsibility. Let’s make sure we attract people to the Savior rather than turn them away.


  • Dwight Eisenhower described leadership as “The act of getting somebody else to do what you want done because he wants to      do it.”
  • Give your decision, never your reasons; your decisions may be right, your reasons are sure to be wrong. – Lord Mansfield
  • When it is not necessary to make a decision, it is necessary not to make a decision. – Lucius, Second Lord Falkland
  • Leadership is the ability to hide your panic from others. – Quoted in MSC Newsletter
  • Look over your shoulder now and then to be sure someone’s following you. – Henry Gilmer
  • Effective leadership is the willingness to sacrifice for the sake of predetermined objectives. – Ted Engstrom
  • When a general gets too far ahead of his troops, he’s often mistaken for the enemy. – Anon
  • Leadership is the discipline of deliberately exerting special influence within a group to move it towards goals of beneficial permanence that fulfills the group’s real needs. – Dr. John      Haggai, Lead On!
  • Experts know what should be done; leaders know what should be done and how to get people to do it. – Quoted in C. Barber,      Nehemiah and the Dynamics of Leadership, p. 72.
  • You can judge leaders by the size of the problems they tackle—people nearly always pick a problem their own size, and ignore      or leave to others the bigger or smaller ones. – Anthony Jay, in Bits and Pieces, Sept., 1989
  • Effective leadership is the willingness to sacrifice for the sake of predetermined objectives. – Ted Engstrom, in Erwin Lutzer, Pastor to Pastor, p. 117.
  • A leader who keeps his ear to the ground allows his rear end to become a target. – Angie Papadakis
  • You cannot paint the “Mona Lisa” by assigning one dab each to a thousand painters. – William F. Buckley, Jr.
  • Do not follow where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail. – Anon
  • A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way and shows the way. – John Maxwell
  • A leader is a person with a magnet in his heart and a compass in his head. – Vance Havner
  • Leadership in the local church should be determined by spirituality, not notoriety. – Tony Evans
  • The hardest thing to learn in life is which bridge to cross and which to burn. – David Russell
  • It is small wonder where the shepherds hesitate and stumble, that the sheep draw back affrighted. – Scott Nearing.
  • The captain of a floundering ship does little good by criticizing the crew to the passengers.
  • In order to give the illusion of authority, one must make immediate changes. – loose paraphrase of Douglas McArthur
  • The trouble with being a leader today is that you can’t be sure whether people are following you or chasing you.
  • One of the tests of leadership is the ability to recognize a problem before it becomes an emergency.
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Posted by on September 6, 2018 in Sermon

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