Thursday, December 31, 2009
Maybe today, you are sort of down and out, then you need to start over again. I am going to list four areas that are most common and that need a new beginning this coming year. If any of these speak to you or seem to challenge you, then let God make a new beginning in that area of your life.
I. SOME OF YOU NEED A NEW BEGINNING IN BIBLE READING AND STUDY
When I was younger I thought only preachers read The Bible rhrough. I remember thinking how impossible it would be in my life to accomplish that. But over time and practice, I learned that it really isn't very hard. The 1189 chapters can be read in one year by reading a little more than three chapters a day.
II. SOME OF YOU NEED A NEW BEGINNING IN YOUR MARRIAGE
There are many marriages that are just holding on. Reconstruct your marriage around the Bible, the Church, the people Of God. Most couples won’t argue and fight when they are around other Christians. Keep yourself involved with Christian fellowship.
III. SOME OF YOU NEED A NEW BEGINNING IS HELPING OTHERS
Each of us should be involved in a ministry of helping others.
A ministry of giving to others. Of giving self, money, time, kindness and our talents to God. Our congregations will never go on to the next level of growth until we each begin to giving ourselves to others.
IV. SOME OF YOU NEED A NEW BEGINNING IN YOUR LIFE
“"3Or don't you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. (Romans 6:3-4)
"If any man be in Christ Jesus he is a new creature.” (2 Cor. 5:17) Your live has been made over again. A new life exists.
Some Are Saying, “If only I could start over again." You can. Trust Christ.
Now is your opportunity. You can start over again today. Forgiveness is not rationed. Forgiveness is not short supply. Forgiveness is not limited. You can be forgiven of any and all sin. If you're a Christian who has fallen, confess and repent and come back to God. (1 John 1:9) If your not a Christian, give your life to Christ through faith, repentance and baptism. (Acts 2:37-28; Gal. 3:26-27)
Don’t let this year end and you still be in the same place you are right now. Do something about it. Start over again today.
Let me say finally, that you are all dear to me. I appreciate yoru reading, your comments, your emails, your encouragement more than I can say and if you will - keep coming back in 2010!!
Wednesday, December 16, 2009
While it is true that we do not know exactly when Jesus was born, December 25 is the date that our culture long ago began to honor our Lord and Savior for His birth. For that reason, this is the time of year that the vast majority of Americans give thought to Him. Now the secular forces of our culture want to take even that away from the people.
As Christians, we are to remember the Lord every first day of the week as we participate in the Lord's Supper. (cf. Acts 20:7; 1 Cor. 11:17-32) There we commemorate His death for our sins, we proclaim our faith in Him as we wait for His return, and we examine our hearts in relationship to His body, the church. Yet, long before there was a cross, there was a manger. Though we are not commanded to formally celebrate His birth, that does not mean that we should forget it, even at Christmas time. The cross would not have taken place apart from the so-called "first Christmas."
So, if indeed you remember Christ this Christmas, remember that He was not born to remain a child wrapped in swaddling clothes laying in a manger. He was born to become our Savior by dying on a cross and to be the Lord of our lives (Luke 2:11). The message of the manger must always point people to the cross – the death, burial and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. The important thing is that He was born and that He died for our sins. We’re not worshiping a helpless infant lying in a manger. We’re worshiping a risen and exalted Christ who has all power in heaven and in earth (Matthew 28:18).
May we never forget that no matter how the world may treat us, we know who is Lord.
Merry Christmas to all of you and God bless.
Thursday, December 3, 2009
Does this describe you? Perhaps you should ask yourself a few questions to see if you are in danger of falling from grace. First, are you as active in the Lord’s work as you once were? Second, do you read the Scriptures and pray to God as much as you did in the past? Third, do you attend less than you did in previous years? Fourth, do you feel closer to the Lord today than you did in the past?
Now keep in mind the overall purpose of Hebrews is described as a “word of exhortation.” (Hebrews 13:22) The writer of Hebrews was encouraging them like a coach, pressing them to press on. Yes they needed to be warned about the danger of falling away, but they also needed to be encouraged. Because these Jewish Christians had been very faithful and zealous at one point in the past (6:10; 10:32-34). He was confident they could do better spiritually than they were doing (6:9).
Their perseverance is one of the things that accompany salvation.
Friend, if you are not where you once were.... then you have moved in the wrong direction like the ancient Hebrew Christians. The warning of the Hebrew’s writer still holds true. When we are discouraged as the Hebrew Christians were discouraged we can easily become sluggish. Yet don’t be discouraged into giving up on Jesus! Remain in faithful service to the Lord. God hasn’t forgotten about you! Be passionate about hanging on to your faith.
Tuesday, November 24, 2009
“Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thess. 5:16-18 NIV) Yikes! "In all circumstances"? Don't skip the prepositions here — "in everything" or "in all circumstances"......"with thanksgiving…" — what we don't see is "be thankful for everything." The difference is profound. Can we learn to give thanks in every thing and for everything?
While we may never be grateful for certain painful experiences and circumstances in life, we can still be grateful during them. We can still pray with a thankful heart. Why? Because our hope is not in the potential answers to our prayers. Our hope is in the God to whom we pray! In Him we trust. He has given us life itself — freedom, salvation, grace, mercy. He chose us to be His children. "How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God" (1 John 3:1). Who can't be thankful for that?
The bottom line is that thankfulness is an attitude that we can and must develop. Why are so many not thankful? Many reasons. Perhaps because we think of what we want and do not know how to evaluate or continue to be thankful for what we have received and currently have. We compare themselves with others and feel slighted. It might be good to be thankful that we do NOT have some things we do not want! We should count our own blessings, not those of others. Oh let's be more thankful for how God has blessed us!
My dear friends, I hope everyone has a wonderful Thanksgiving weekend. I hope you enjoy the time spent with family and friends
Tuesday, November 17, 2009
We as the church of Jesus Christ should always desire to bring the good news of Jesus to our community, but not only the message of His love, but also we need a great passion to show His love. We must always remember that people will not care how much we know, until they know how much we care. I know that sound doctrine is important. I believe we should earnestly contend for the faith. I believe we must enter the straight gate and walk the narrow path, and that we should count the cost. But none of those things will amount to anything if there is no love. (cf. 1 Corinthians 13:1-3) Love is the key that opens the hearts of the most hardened sinners. Love is the key to evangelism and outreach.
We must desire as the body of Christ to be known as a church that not only says "God loves you", but one that actually shows it by our actions. We need to do this on a personal level, but also on a church level through our various outreach efforts. I'm thankful for Central's upcoming “Warmth from the Heart” coat giveaway this Saturday. We seek to bring God's love to our community in real ways, opening the door to share the wonderful message of Christ. They may not be impressed with our Savior at first, but they will remember who really cared and who had the courage to get involved in the difficulties of their lives. Then, they become more interested in the One who motivates us to act, and we have an opportunity to tell them of His saving message.
The story is told about during a time of combat, a young soldier asked his commanding officer if he could rescue one of his comrades who was severely wounded. The officer narrowed his eyes and stood a while in thought, and then said, "I´ll give you permission, but it´s not worth it. Your friend is probably dead, and you´ll be putting your own life at risk."
Feeling the responsibility for his friend, the young soldier saluted and then proceeded on his way, dodging bullets as he ran, and managing to get to his friend. He hoisted him over his shoulder, and quickly brought him back to the trench.
The officer inspected the wounded soldier and then shook his head with grief. "Your friend´s dead." He looked at the young man and saw a red spot on his shirt and added, "And you´re wounded. I told you it wouldn´t be worth it."
The young soldier looked into his officer´s eyes with confidence and answered, "It was worth it, Sir." "What do you mean worth it? You´re wounded and it was all for nothing." "No, sir. It was worth it because when I knelt down beside him he said to me, ´I knew you´d come.´
Friends let’s be known as a Christian community of people who care and come to those in need. We have no agenda other than showing and sharing the love of Christ. Does service call us to help our neighbor, yes! Service is calling us. We need only to open our eyes and ears and then just maybe we might hear those around us in this community calling out to us: “I knew you’d come.”
Monday, November 9, 2009
What do you think Jesus would like today? Maybe the question is all wrong. Perhaps instead of focusing on what Jesus would look like, we should be asking who Jesus would look like. After all, the song above isn’t praying to know the material things of Jesus; rather, it’s a prayer to know the person of Jesus.
In scripture, the idea of knowing God or knowing Jesus has to do with being in a personal, intimate relationship with Him. So, if we are going to pray to know Jesus, we are praying to know a who, not a what. In Matthew 25:31-46, Jesus tells a story of two kinds of people. The first group are the ones who fed the hungry, gave drink to the thirsty, invited in strangers, clothed the naked, looked after the sick and visited the prisoners, while the second group did none of this. To the former, Jesus blesses them with eternal salvation, while the latter are sent to eternal punishment. Both of these groups had no idea who they were helping or not helping when it came to the hungry, thirsty, naked, strangers, sick, and imprisoned, and they especially didn’t realize that they would see Jesus in people like this, as they both ask, “When did we see you?” However, the fate of these groups was determined by what they did for them because, as Jesus said, “Whatever you did (or did not do) for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.”
I believe that, for our prayer to know Jesus, we must be able to see Jesus in the “least of these,” fully realizing that when we look into the eyes of these people, we are looking into the eyes of Jesus. He may be the person holding the “Will work for food” sign on the side of the road, or the family who needs a bag of groceries or a tank of gas, or the sick person laying in the hospital bed, or just maybe the lonely widow down the street in need. Whoever it is or whatever the circumstance may be, let’s not allow our preconceived notions of what Jesus would look like keep us from seeing Him in the “least of these” because, after all, whatever we do or don’t do for “one of the least of these”, we are doing for Jesus.
May we pray to know Jesus, but realize that we may find Him in people we would least expect.
Tuesday, October 27, 2009
Let me briefly give a report and summary on my recent mission trip to Ukraine (October 12-22). The primary focus of this trip was a three day seminar conducted and hosted by the church in Kramatorsk from Thursday through Saturday. There were around 60 Ukrainians in regular attendance over the course of this three day event. Some preachers traveled great distances. Two men had train trips of nearly 24 hours. The theme for the seminar was The Gospel of John. I had the privilege of teaching four classes during the seminar, as well as preaching on Sunday (the 18th) at the Artemovsk congregation. At the end of each day, there was an open forum where attendants were encouraged to write out Bible questions to be answered each day. The question and answer sessions were lively and thoughtful. I enjoyed them immensely.
Now, this particular mission effort in the Ukraine is a work supported and overseen by the South College Church of Christ in Tahlequah, and coordinated and lead by David Deffenbaugh, who has been associated with mission work in the Ukraine since 1994. Trip was special for the Tahlequah congregation and these Christians in Ukraine because they celebrated the 10th anniversary of the congregations at Artemovsk and Konstantinovka. From those beginning ten years ago, additional congregations have been planted in Soledar, Chasov-Yar, and Minkovka. These years have not always been smooth sailing, but these congregations all are doing well and are stable and are growing numerically.
Now before the seminar began, on Wednesday morning (the 14th) we were able to visit an orphanage and boarding school in Konstantinovka which is supported by the congregation there. Later that afternoon en route to Kramatorsk, we enjoyed a wonderful visit with the Konstantinovka congregation for their mid-week Bible studies. The Sunday following the seminar we enjoyed a joint worship service of the Artemovsk, Chasov-Yar, and Soledar congregations. What a great encouragement to be with all these brethren and share in our praise of God in song, communion, giving, prayer and the word. I was privileged to be one of three preachers who spoke that day! Later that afternoon we were able to have a very eye-opening experience and visit of a “Mission of Mercy” rehab house that one of the local Ukrainian preachers has undertaken for service and outreach in a town near Artemovsk.
On Monday the next day, we were able to visit the church in the village of Minkovka where we also visited a hospital and nursing home. We conducted a devotional service and visited and encouraged those who live at this facility. Also during these few days we were able to enjoy some extended visits with the local preachers from these Ukrainian congregations which are supported by the Tahlequah congregation. These were meaningful and enjoyable discussions. I was truly inspired and encouraged at the continued commitment and devotion of these men.
Finally, on Tuesday afternoon and Wednesday before we came home, we were able to do some incredible sightseeing and visit some very beautiful historical locations in Donetsk (city of one million near Kramatorsk) and Kiev (the capital city of Ukraine with a population of over four million).
It is my hope and prayer that much good was done during this trip, many seeds were sown, brethren were encouraged and strengthened. Again, I want to thank the Central congregation for their support and prayers, and especially the elders for allowing me to be away. I want to thank all those who taught classes and preached during my absence. I plan to give a more extensision report on Wednesday evening, November 4.
Thursday, October 8, 2009
For those of you who are not familiar with the Ukraine, it was once a part of the USSR, and is bordered by Russia, Poland, Slovakia, and Hungary. Until about 1986, it was almost impossible to spread the Gospel throughout the country without some type of persecution. Over time, the Iron Curtain was brought down and slowly but surely the Gospel of Jesus Christ began to spread throughout it. There have been over 60 congregations of the Lord’s church established in this country.
The seminar will focus on the Gospel of John and will be especially helpful for preachers, teachers, and church leaders as well as evangelistic in nature. I will be teaching four classes. In addition, we will be working to provide support, encouragement and training to native preachers and church leaders at congregations in Konstantinovka and Artemovsk. We will also have the opportunity to visit an orphanage and kindergarten center and a public school in Minkovka. This will be a packed ten days.
Needless to say, I am very excited, nervous and anxious about this trip. I am obviously apprehensive about leaving my wife and three children during this time. This will be my first time to cross the Atlantic. It will be my first experience working with a translator. The only other time I’ve been out of the US was on campaign while I was at Harding over nine years ago. I was only a very small “role player” in that mission trip. No speaking or anything like that. But I am very excited about sharing lessons from the gospel of John with these brethren and also ministering to children in the orphanage.
I solicit your prayers while I’m on the trip not only for my safety and for my family while I’m away from them, but for success in the efforts that have been planned, and for God to use while we are there to His greatest glory. My scheduled return is late Thursday evening, October 22. I will very much look forward to giving you a report of this mission trip.
Wednesday, September 30, 2009
Maria knew what would happen to such a beautiful girl in the city and often warned Christina about the cruelty there, but one morning she found Christina's bed empty. Maria gathered some clothes and all the money she had and headed for the city. On the way she stopped at a photo booth and took as many pictures of herself as she could afford. When she reached the city, she looked for Christina in various hotels known to be used by prostitutes.
She never found her, but at each location she left one of her pictures behind in a conspicuous place. When her money and pictures ran out, she returned home. Weeks later, Christina, who had in fact become a prostitute, was using one of the hotels her mother had visited. She noticed one of the pictures her mother had left behind and in tears pulled it off the bulletin board. When she turned it over she found this message on the back: "Whatever you have done, whatever you have become, it doesn't matter –please come home."
God wrote that same message for us in blood on a cross nearly two thousand years ago. Whatever ungodliness we may have fallen into, have wallowed in it, God longs for us to come home and rejoices when we arrive.
Ashby Camp has well written: “It is true that we must never trivialize sin or make one casual about it. Sin must be portrayed as the horror and danger that it is. It also is true, however, that we must not mute the glory of God's grace out of fear it will be twisted into a license to sin. Paul was accused of promoting sin by his doctrine of grace (cf. Rom. 3:8; 6:1), but he never allowed that possible distortion to discourage him from proclaiming the depth of God's mercy.”
May all who turn to God grasp in their hearts the reality of the Lord’s forgiveness, experience the blessing of liberation from all guilt, and know the hope of the glorious eternity that has been purchased for them. And when they do, may they, together with us, tell the world what a marvelous God we serve.
Monday, September 21, 2009
The following video is from a group of professional actors have put together some great fun skits that make you think about your relationship with Jesus. These can be great to use to begin a Bible class or small group study. DVD's come with discussion guides.
You can find these on God Tube, or if you want to order them to show at your church the website is onetimeblind.com.
Hope you enjoy,
Wednesday, September 16, 2009
Our world is desperate for grace, for at just about every turn in life, all you and I meet is “ungrace.” How often in a given week do we feel we don’t measure up, either at school, at home, or at work? How many times has someone put us down and made us feel small? How often are we reminded that we are not as pretty, not as smart, not as well off, or not as good an athlete as someone else?
Grace is one of the core convictions of the Christian faith which sets it apart from all other religions of the world. In the Bible Jesus is said to have been full of two things. Do you know what they are? Grace and truth (John 1:14). Grace without truth is permissive and fuzzy, and truth without grace is harsh and legalistic. But grace and truth held together in love is a winning combination, and Jesus was able to stand for truth while extending grace to everyone with whom He came in contact.
Philip Yancey wrote that several years ago Bill Moyers made a documentary on the hymn "Amazing Grace" that included a scene filmed in Wembley Stadium in London. Various musical groups, mostly rock bands, had gathered together in celebration of the changes in South Africa. For some reason the promoters had scheduled the opera singer, Jesse Norman, as the closing act. The film cut back and forth between scenes of the unruly crowd in the stadium and Jesse Norman being interviewed about the meaning of the song for her. Finally, the time came for her to sing. A single circle of light follows Norman, a beautiful African-American woman wearing a flowing African dashiki, as she walked across the stage. No backup band, no musical instruments, just Jesse.
The crowd stirred. Few people recognized the opera star. One person yelled for more Guns 'n' Roses. Others took up the cry, and the scene began to get ugly. Suddenly, Jesse began to sing a Capella the words of "Amazing Grace," and a remarkable thing happened in Wembley Stadium. Several thousand raucous fans fell silent before her aria of grace. By the time she reached the second verse, the singer had the crowd in her hands. And by the time she reached the third verse, several thousand people in the crowd began to sing along, reaching back into nearly lost memories for the words they had heard long ago. Later, Jesse confessed she had no idea what power had descended on Wembley Stadium that night. I think I know.
The world hungers for grace, and when grace descends, the world falls silent before it. May the body of Christ desperately be known throughout our communities and the world as a family of God growing in His grace.
Grace and peace,
Tuesday, September 15, 2009
I’ve been doing more "facebooking", than blogging, resting from the busy summer season, reading and working on my Master's degree, church, family life, and getting ready for an upcoming mission trip to Ukraine next month. I’ll blog more about this in a later entry.
For now just excited to be back!
More to come soon!
Tuesday, June 16, 2009
Recently I went on a school field trip with my oldest daughter Megan’s class. We visited a museum in downtown OKC about the history of Oklahoma. One section of the museum had some very fascinating “oddities” by Oklahoma artists. One I saw was some intricate drawings of landscapes on paper the size of postage stamps. One man had actually painted a detailed picture of a ship on the head of a pin! I marveled as I thought about how much information could be contained on such a small medium.
Psalm 117 is a thumbnail sketch of the Bible. It is the shortest chapter (two verses) in Scripture, and in part because of that distinction, it is often overlooked as nothing more than a Biblical curiosity. The Psalmist is inspired to burst forth in praise: “Praise the Lord, all you nations! Praise Him, all you peoples! For His merciful kindness is great toward us, and the truth of the Lord endures forever. Praise the Lord!” (Psalm 117). Let’s look closely at this thumbnail sketch and see that God intended us to have more than just a curiosity in Psalm 117:
A thumbnail sketch of the Gospel — The words, “nations” and “peoples” in verse 1 are very significant. At a time when most Jews believed that salvation was their exclusive privilege, God inspired one of their own to pen this Psalm. The fact that “all” nations and peoples are exhorted to praise God rebukes an attitude of exclusivism on the part of the Jews. Indeed, Jesus preached and brought salvation not just to Jews, but Gentiles as well (Matt. 4:25, Eph. 2:14-16). Psalm 117 reminded the Jews that salvation was intended for all: “a great multitude which no one could number, of all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues were standing before the throne and before the Lamb… saying, ‘Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!’” (Rev. 7:9-10). Psalm 117 is the gospel in miniature. It pointed Jews to the Christian era, when God’s grace and love would be made available to all men in His kingdom (cf. Titus 2:11-14). Because of this, Paul quotes Psalm 117:1 in Romans 15:11 as he explains the gospel system of justification. There’s more to Psalm 117 than often meets the eye!
A thumbnail sketch of God’s love — God’s grace is shown in both His mercy and His kindness (Psalm 117:2). The Psalmist tells us that God’s love in this regard is GREAT toward us. Ancient Jews loved to recite Exodus 34:6, “The Lord God is merciful and gracious, longsuffering and abounding in truth...” In this world, people may or may not love us. Friends may betray us, and loved ones may be unkind. God will never waver in the greatness of His love for us, however! We serve a God who would go to the cross before He would sell us out (cf. Matt. 4:8-10). His merciful kindness is indeed great toward us!
A thumbnail sketch of our responsibility — The overarching theme of Psalm 117 is our obligation to praise God. We were created and redeemed, “to the praise of His glory” (Eph. 1:3-14). Therefore Scripture says, “whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Cor. 10:31). When Psalm 117 tells us to, “Praise the Lord,” it is declaring His sovereign will in our lives, for, “His truth endures forever.” God created man, and because we are His creation, we are obligated to worship Him. More than that, however, Psalm 117 declares that our motive in praising God is more than just obligation; we are also motivated by His love. No wonder Paul would say, “the love of Christ constrains us!” (2 Cor. 5:14). How could someone who understands the lengths to which God has gone in His love for us say anything other than, “Praise ye the Lord!” Thank God for the shortest chapter in the Bible!
Tuesday, May 19, 2009
However, while Paul remembered these things, he did not morbidly dwell on them to the point that they precluded him from any spiritual progress. Paul remembered how he had, at one time, been involved in things that were important to him and probably important to a lot of other people (Phil. 3:5-6). Yet Paul had changed and these things, though in his memory, were considered as unimportant to him now (Phil. 3:7).
Paul might use them as learning experiences, but they served little else. He proceeds to say later, “Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead” (Phil. 3:13).
Paul had to do that because if he did not leave his past in the past, he would not be able to “…press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 3:14). That was clearly Paul’s goal in all that he did. If he were to try to live in the past he would be hindered in the present and lose the future! There is the lesson we all need to learn.
Yes, the past has happened. It is history (and I mean that in the clinical, not cynical sense). Christians who repent of their former conduct and continue to dwell on it and live in it will never become what they could be spiritually. What advantage is there in allowing what has been forgiven to constantly be the obstacle we trip over every day? I cannot think of one single advantage. Then why do we do it? Why beat ourselves up over these things.
Let me say that I would gladly put my name down on a list of those who wish for a time machine where we could go back in time and relive certain days or change bad things in the past. Unfortunately, such a machine does not exist. We all live in the present. We all have a future. I think that all of us, as individuals and as a church, need to have the attitude of Paul and build ourselves up from our past and be straining for the finish line. When we do that we will become what we should be spiritually. No one ever won a race by stopping halfway to sit down and ponder the race he lost last week.
Let us learn from them. Let us be resolute in not repeating them again. Let us use them to make us stronger and be determined to prevent them from making us weaker.
Wednesday, May 6, 2009
Penn Jillette is the “talkative” half of Penn and Teller, the Las Vegas comedy-illusion team, now with their own program on Showtime. Penn has been an outspoken atheist. But he posted a video blog on his personal website about a man who gave him a Bible, which has much, I believe, to teach Christians:
This video shows how crucial that it is that all true Christians be involved in evangelism. This statement comes from a self-professed atheist. However, even he was moved by the genuineness and sincerity of a man who tried to share his faith by giving him a Bible. We can have an impact if we are courageous enough to be authentic, compassionate disciples of Christ. The man (an atheist) in this video makes a great point. He says that if you really believe that there is a heaven and a hell and you don't try and share your faith with everyone you meet, you are among the most cruel people on the planet. Something to think about. Watch the video below and prepare to be challenged.
Tuesday, April 28, 2009
Kinnaman discovered that the view of Christians is, in general, quite negative. Christians are seen as hypocritical, too focused on getting converts, anti-homosexual, sheltered, too political and judgmental.
Whether these things are true about Christians or not, these are the perceptions people have of us. And what I thought was extremely interesting and profoundly sad is that the people polled were not getting the majority of their negative feelings from the "liberal media." They were getting them from Christians themselves:
Being hurt by Christianity is far more common among the young than among older outsiders. Three out of every ten young outsiders said they have undergone negative experiences in churches and with Christians. Such hurtful experiences are part of the stories of nearly one out of every two young people who are atheists, agnostics, or of some other faith.
Kinnaman says: "[Y]oung people said they formed their views of Christians based on conversations with others, often with Christians. This is significant because not only does it mean we have a great deal of responsibility in developing many of the perceptions that people hold, but it also suggests the possibility that our words and our lives can change these negative images."
Kinnaman notes that Christians have become "famous for what we oppose, rather than who we are for." He points out that people in this generation are naturally skeptical of everything -- not just Christians. They are looking for genuine people, and they see Christians as people who pretend as though we are perfect, when, in fact, we live very similar lives to non-Christians.
Kinnaman said that the automatic reaction of some Christians to this research is to say, "whelp, we expect the world to hate us. Satan has blinded the minds of unbelievers." This sentiment is true to an extent. Christians receive push back because they are promoting biblical truths and values in a relativistic society. Many people don't want to hear that they're wrong.
However, this does not give us license to avoid the truth in this research. Christians have a bad reputation, and we've apparently done something to get it. Kinnaman points out that we are to represent God's holiness and His grace in our interactions with non-believers.
I've heard some things like this before, but after reading through this research, it is quite sobering to realize how non-Christians view me and my friends. And although Kinnaman is sure to note that in order to fix this problem we should not go around watering down the gospel, he does give suggestions for how we should show Christ to others. Young people today are looking for people who live out what they say they believe, which is good. If Christians, as a whole, try to be more Christlike in our everyday lives, we have the opportunity to change these perceptions.
The apostle Paul advises Christians to 'live wisely among those who are not Christians' and to 'let your conversation be gracious and effective,' (Col. 4:5-6, NLT) Eph. 4:15 still says, “speaking the truth in love.” Paul challenged the Corinthian church that they were to be "the aroma of Christ" to the world. One writer has said: “If people would taste the "Bread of Life," they must be made hungry through the fragrant lives of those who are feeding on it. Sometimes people stay away from the banquet table, not because of the food, but because of the aroma of those on the inside.”
The real possibility exists of having our rhetoric against culture comes across as hatred or dislike of the lost and unconverted, only driving them further away from the good news of Jesus Christ. God sent Jesus to show the world His love, not condemn the world (John 3:16-17). Jesus is our model on how to deal with people in our culture. We are His Body, His presence, in the world today. Just as the Father sent Jesus, we have now been sent by Jesus to be the agents of His redemptive love (John 20:21). We can't be content to become enemies of our times, our culture, or our world. Instead, we must learn how to better love them, attempt to have genuine dialogue and understanding of them. We must learn how to better cultivate relationships and environments where others can be deeply transformed by God.
So let's be more careful with our rhetoric and more genuine with our service to those in our communities who are unbelievers!
What do you all think? Is there validity to this research? If so, how can those of us who are Christians do a better job of showing Christ to those around us?
Saturday, April 25, 2009
The above picture was a group demonstration of waterboarding
Christians are hardly in agreement on the question of “harsh interrogation techniques” including the controversial waterboarding on terror suspects. Particular right now the water boarding debate is raging. And it should I guess. However, the “politicizing” and “witch hunt” that some want to pursue on the previous Bush administration is ridiculous.
Every administration has greatly differed on the policies of the previous presidential administration. And when a new administratation comes in, there is the moment to change and differ on the policy issues. And President Obama clearly has done that. Right or wrong. I agree with Senator John McCain who on Thursday warned that any attempt by the Obama administration to prosecute the Bush-era officials who wrote memos signing off on water boarding would start a "witch hunt." I thought change meant moving forward and not looking back and focusing on the past mistakes.
I mean even Democrats like Bill Clinton and other leading Republicans who oppose torture like Sen. John McCain say it is acceptable to torture someone in a "ticking bomb" scenario. Real life doesn't produce the kind of a-nuke-is-about-to-go-off scenarios featured on the television drama "24." The closest we are likely to get is the capture of high-level al-Qaida operatives like Khalid Sheikh Mohammed with knowledge of ongoing plots. Should we have tortured KSM? Well, we did and reportedly helped roll up al-Qaida terrorists around the world.
Circumstances matter. If we were water boarding political dissidents, then it would be right to compare us to Saddam Hussein. If interrogators were water boarding KSM every morning for their own amusement that would shock the conscience. But not many consciences will be shocked at subjecting him to 90 seconds of uncontrollable panic to get information that might save lives.
If the Senate disagrees, Congress and the President should put itself clearly on record forbidding water boarding. And I think they are probably going to. Enough already with the Bush witch hunts though!
Now, what should a Christian’s perspective and view be concerning all this current watering board controversy? Well, quite frankly, I think you’ll find all kinds of opinions and views from across the broad “Christian perspective.” I think good people, good, sincere, devote, loving Christian people can and will differ over this issue.
I mean, what would Jesus do? Difficult to say the least. .
Well, here’s my Christian view on it.
Many Christians and some leading evangelicals say that water boarding is torture, and that the Christian response has been “shameful.” One writer said in a nutshell: “As Christians we must never condone the use of methods that threaten to undermine the inherent dignity of the person created in the image of God.”
Well, that is not wrong. But it is also not completely right. Water boarding is a form of duress applied during an interrogation. It is not fatal, but it is extreme duress, if the waterboardee doesn’t know if he will live or die.
There are two questions: first, is this an effective means for getting a suspected terrorist to reveal information that might save innocent lives. Second, does the means by which we would obtain this potentially life-saving information undermine our claim to be Christian?
First answer: the effectiveness of the technique is conditional. Those who serve in the military combat arms are waterboarded as part of their training. But virtually all pass through this, knowing that it isn’t for real. Knowing that the service doesn’t want to drown them, only to toughen us up. So it isn’t “torture” when used as a training tool.
For a captured terror suspect, different matter. He doesn’t know he isn’t going to die heinously. It is torture. To which I would add, “so what?” — if, and only if, this is a last resort to protect innocent lives. And, please, terror suspects don’t tend to be innocent. As for whether the technique works, sometimes it does; sometimes it doesn’t.
Second answer is no. The Bible may be silent on this particular matter, but it does reserve the right for lawfully constituted governments to use the sword (Romans 13). To claim that waterboarding that does not lead to death (or even to permanent injury) is worse than killing is to lose sight of the big picture.
More importantly, we have a duty as Christians to protect those unable to protect themselves. This goes as much for unborn children and the sick and elderly as it does for innocent civilians who are the usual target of cowardly terrorists.
Under the right, and we hope, extraordinarily rare circumstances, waterboarding of a suspected terrorist can be a necessary thing to do and I don’t believe “unChristian”— if there is some potential to protect innocent life.
What do you think?
Friday, April 10, 2009
This is a powerful remake of Acapella’s classic song “Abba Father” (Take me Home). It touches my heart and convicts me of my need to better show the love of Christ to those who are hurting. This video also has a dual meaning. First, that those suffering simply DO want 'outta here"; and secondly, is a cry to be set free, to be saved, a cry of helplessness and hopelessness.
May God help us to show them the way to Christ that will lead all of us home to the Father.
"For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, 'Abba, Father.' The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God's children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs--heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory." (Romans 8:15-17)
Tuesday, March 31, 2009
The most extreme act of a “loser” I've ever witnessed. The scoreboard at the end even makes it worse! (he wasn’t celebrating a win, but a point!) The song that has been added in the video is perfect!
Even though I've never done a dance like that in that arena, I know there are times when, in my heart, I arrogantly strut as if I have accomplished some great task. In reality, any boasting that wells up in me should be completely consumed by the cross of Jesus Christ.
Now, on a lighter note and to be a little honest, I’ll admit, there’s been a time or two maybe when I felt like doing such a dance (in my heart) after a good sermon (which doesn’t come around often Lol!):)!!
“May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.” (Galatians 6:14)
In the Cross,
Friday, March 27, 2009
From the creative mind and imagination of Tim Andrews, animator and cartoonist. This short film made for the 2008 Ignite Film Festival. It took home the award for Best Animation. Some of his other notable works include The Great Feast, a cartoon retelling of The Parable of the Great Banquet from the book of Luke.
My oldest daughter Megan loved this video!!
Tuesday, March 24, 2009
I ran across this great sermon series promo a few weeks back. It comes from the creative minds at Southern Hills Church of Christ, Abilene, Texas. Man finds a stethoscope with unusual powers. He discovers what soundtrack is playing inside him.
Honestly, what song do you think is playing inside of you and I?
Monday, March 16, 2009
Honestly, it is just very hard to watch these types of programs and see the callous disregard most people in this country now seem to have for people. Everyone is so busy with their own life, or too worried about being “politically correct” or “unoffensive” to either stand up for truth, righteousness, or even basic human dignity.
One of the first scenarios involved “hazing”. Hazing is a deplorable activity practiced by many fraternities, sororities, and similar kinds of “societies” which have secret initiations. The idea is for the person attempting to join the group to prove how far they will go to be “in the group”. Many of these hazing incidents are sexual in nature, humiliating, involve alcohol, etc. Sadly it proves that as Americans we have become desensitized to the idea of humiliating others and in particular women. It’s somehow “funny” or “entertaining” to watch other people being tortured, forced to do things, etc.
To me, however, the saddest and most moving story and one that provides a sad commentary on our culture was when the show set up the scenario of a well dressed woman “fainting” on a busy sidewalk. On average, some one responded to her need within six seconds. However, when that person was changed to a homeless man…it took over ten minutes for any person to respond. Most people hurried by. When the man was holding a beer, it was over forty minutes before even one person attempted to help.
I’m sure there could be many arguments and ideas brought to the fore to explain the lack of compassion or caring we as individuals seem to collectively now hold.
However, the most emotionally moving part of this story was when an extraordinary, small, African-American, crippled walking with a arm kane, and policed told abc she is sometimes homeless herself stopped to help. She pleads for help for someone to call the man an ambulance. 26 more people walk by ignoring her. She even gave the man a name, called him "Billy." She brought tears to my ears.
My question is this…how many of those people who ignored or even assisted in those “hazing” incidents claim to be followers of Jesus? Go to worship on Sunday?
What about the folks who couldn't’t be bothered to stop and see if a homeless man needed to go to the hospital?
In the parable of the good Samaritan, Jesus gave us an example of how we are supposed to react when we see another human being…regardless of who they are or their status in life...who has been hurt, or is being harassed, wrongly accused, or mistreated. As Christians we are the ones who are called by our Lord to make every effort to help those in need, stand up for those who are oppressed or abused, be a voice for the ignored or voiceless.
If we see an injustice being done, do we simply walk by or do we stop and say “Hey! What your doing isn’t funny, it’s wrong and dangerous”. Do we at least attempt to call in an authority such as the police if it would be dangerous to intervene in the situation on our own?
And what of the homeless person, lying helpless in the street? Do we ignore them, or do we at least check to make sure they are okay? Do we ask them their name and try to help them by calling 911 if they are ill, or at least treating them like a human being and showing compassion by acknowledging their existence? I know I'm guilty so many times in my life of showing such indifference and apathy toward such.
What would you do if faced with one of those situations? What would Jesus do, is truly the question we should be asking. Sadly it is something that has been downgraded to nothing more than a quip, a wrist band, or a joke. It should, however, always be the first question we ask ourselves if we have truly asked Him to be the Lord of our life…and then we act on the answer.
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long suffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such things there is now law.” (Gal. 5:22-23)
Would do you think?
Thursday, March 5, 2009
There are more than 100 world known personalities on this painting. If you can name a minimum of 25, you may consider yourself a cultivated person
Monday, February 23, 2009
Forgiveness is truly one of the most difficult things God commands His people to do. How many people have difficulty forgiving when they’ve been wronged or hurt? When there is no forgiveness, there can be no fellowship like God intended Christians to enjoy (Eph. 4:31-32). Worse, when there is no forgiveness, the work of the Lord is hindered and souls are at stake. (Matt. 6:12ff) Oh, how Christians need to be willing to have a heart that truly forgives!
Biblically speaking, forgiveness involves two parties. There is to be an acknowledgement of sin for true forgiveness to take place. (cf. Psalm 51:3, 16-17) However, it is also Biblical and right to say that the will to forgive must be present, even when sin is not acknowledged. Our Lord showed a will to forgive even while His enemies nailed Him to the cross (Luke 23:34), but true forgiveness (the condition in which the relationship between Jesus and His executioners was finally mended) did not take place until their sin was acknowledged (cf. Acts 2:36-38).
Kindness – Even if sin is not acknowledged, Christians are to have the will to forgive, and this will expresses itself in kindness. God’s kindness is seen in the fact that while we were sinners, Christ died for us (Eph. 2:7; Rom. 5:8). God didn’t wait to be kind until you and I acknowledged our sin before Him. He showed kindness when He blessed us with His only Son (John 3:16). When Christians have been wronged, we are not to wait until sin is acknowledged to be kind. Kindness is evidence of a heart that knows true forgiveness!
Tenderheartedness – Not only is the forgiving heart kind, but it is tender and sympathetic to the needs of others. Especially is this true when forgiveness must take place. It is humbling to forgive, but it is more humbling to ask for forgiveness from someone we’ve wronged. When someone asks for forgiveness, they are making themselves extremely vulnerable, and a tender heart is needed to respond properly. What a blessing when Christians truly possess a tender heart.
Covering of sin – Paul concludes these two verses by telling Christians to forgive, “even as God in Christ forgave you.” But how does God forgive? God forgives completely, freely, and quickly. Most of all, He promises NOT to dwell on our forgiven sins: “I will remember them no more” (Heb. 8:12). Thus, when Christians possess a forgiving heart, they will choose not to dwell on sin. Forgiveness “covers up” sin so that what has been forgiven is not continually brought back to our remembrance (Psalm 32:1-2). A heart that truly forgives will not go about mentioning the offense in the presence of others, nor will it continually bring up that offense before the offender. If God chooses not dwell on our past sins, how much more should we choose to cover those offenses that have been forgiven?
I wonder truly how many pews in the Lord’s church are often filled with bitter, angry people who stubbornly declare, “I’ll never forgive…” or, “I’ll forgive, but I’ll never forget.” All the while the words of Jesus clamor for our attention: “By this shall all men know that you are My disciples, that you love one another” (John 13:34-35). One writer has so beautifully said, “An unforgiving heart is worse than any cancer because it eats away our very souls.” Conversely, a forgiving heart is better than any balm of healing because it restores in kindness and tenderness with a will to cover a multitude of sins.” Brethren, let’s pray for more forgiving hearts in the church of Jesus Christ!
Tuesday, February 17, 2009
What does it really mean to forgive? Forgiveness may be one of the least understood topics in Scripture, and yet God says our willingness to forgive others will have a direct impact on where we spend eternity (cf. Matt. 6:12-15). It’s one thing to talk about forgiveness, but really practicing it is a humbling, maturing, difficult experience. When we are hurt by someone else, how difficult it can be to truly forgive!
What happens to Christian fellowship when the will to forgive is not present? Paul answers this question in Ephesians 4:31-32. He first lists six evidences of a failure to forgive, and then he shows how true blessings result from a will to forgive.
1. Bitterness – Someone has well said that hurt is what others do to you, but bitterness is what you do to yourself. People who lack the will to forgive frequently revisit past hurts. These people are miserable, dwelling on the wrongs of others sometimes to the point that they actually begin to enjoy the misfortunes of other people! Christians had better be careful of taking frequent “mental trips” to revisit their pain – that’s likely evidence of an unforgiving heart.
2. Wrath – The Greek word translated “wrath” in Ephesians 4:31 carries the idea of a seething desire for revenge. This person may seem calm on the surface, but inside they are like a pressure cooker about to explode. When we are full of this kind of rage, it is impossible to truly forgive someone else; worse yet, it is impossible for God to forgive us! (Mark 11:25-26; cf. James 1:19-20)
3. Anger – “Anger” differs from wrath because it involves a sudden outburst of rage. Rather than a heart that tries to hold rage inside, anger seeks every opportunity to show itself. Like a lightning bolt out of a cloud, the angry man unleashes his fury upon everyone he thinks has wronged him. Christians beware: our tempers might well keep us from heaven.
4. Clamor – This word describes a brawling, argumentative, adversarial spirit. One who is full of clamor will seek every opportunity to air their grievances with offending parties and anyone else in the vicinity. Loving confrontation when we have been wronged is commanded (Matt. 18:15ff), but clamor is a contentious attitude that confronts others solely for the purpose of “getting even” or “winning.”
5. Evil Speaking – When an unforgiving heart is present, so often is the desire to speak evil of others. Some people really seem to enjoy taking every opportunity to say unkind and ungodly things about those who have wronged them. One common temptation when we’ve been hurt is to gather a circle of friends around us and to “justify” ourselves while condemning those who have done wrong. Jesus said that we will give an account for every idle word we speak (Matt. 12:36), just as we will give account for having a heart that refuses to forgive.
6. Malice – The Greek word behind “malice” indicates one who possesses a “bad heart.” One who is full of malice harbors a general feeling of ill will toward the one who has wronged him. How can we claim to be followers of the One who said, “Father, forgive them,” when our every thought and wish is for our enemies to get exactly what they deserve? Woe to those who will stand before God with unforgiving hearts!
Thursday, January 29, 2009
New technologies present vast opportunities for good and evil. How we use them will determine whether they are advantageous in our lives or not. However, human ingenuity coupled with Satan’s insatiable desire for deception creates a perfect storm that has destroyed legions of people’s lives and souls (John 8:44; 1 Peter 5:8).
Camera phones are one of the latest examples. They can be wonderful, if used properly. Priceless moments captured for all to see can warm hearts and preserve memories. The Internet allows the preservation of these memories for many years to come. For example, the antics of beloved pets and precocious children can enliven families for generations.
Sin, though, takes everything and utilizes it to destroy souls and the cause of Christ. Teens, especially, are fulfilling Satan’s mission by allowing him to destroy their purity and reputations. And they are making it far too easy on him.
Experts are reporting that teens are commonly using raunchy Cell Phone photos in dating.
Forget about passing notes in study hall; some teens are now using their cell phones to flirt and send nude pictures of themselves.
The instant text, picture and video messages have become part of some teens’ courtship behavior, police and school officials said. The messages often spread quickly and sometimes find their way to public Web sites.
“I’ve seen everything from your basic striptease to sexual acts being performed,” said Reynoldsburg police Detective Brian Marvin, a member of the FBI Cyber Crime Task Force of Central Ohio. “You name it, they will do it at their home under this perceived anonymity.
Stories proliferate of teens engaging in such behavior that is now being called by some Sexting.
They take photos of themselves and send them to their boyfriend and within seconds their nude photograph is on the phones of hundreds of people. Then the photos are uploaded to the Internet and everything degenerates from there. When photos get on the Internet, they never go away. Dozens of sites exist for the sole purpose of uploading nude photos from camera phones.
These cell phone photos can also be ways to punish people. the The threat of taking clandestine photos and spreading them to everyone in school can be a way to intimidate someone into doing anything they desire.
They also continue to reinforce the model of sexually aggressive women in our society.
Westerville Central High School senior Jerome Ray said he’s received such unsolicited messages, including one from a classmate while he was sitting with his girlfriend.
“A lot more girls are aggressive,” said Ray, 18. “Some girls are crazy and they are putting themselves out there.”
Candice Kelsey, a teacher from California, said some teenage girls think they have to be provocative to get boys’ attention. As a result, they will send photos they hope their parents never see.
“This happens a lot,” said Kelsey, author of Generation MySpace: Helping Your Teen Survive Online Adolescence. “It crosses every racial socio-economic group. Christian kids are doing it. Jewish kids are doing it.”
Parents must monitor what is on the cell phones of their teenagers.
The situation is even more dire because criminal behavior is involved. Sending out nude photos of an underage teen is legally child pornography. A simple action soon becomes a devastating event. They can forever be listed as sex offenders or go to prison.
People are losing jobs and careers are being destroyed for what people have online. Beware! Teens don’t often think of the long term consequences of their actions. That is why we have to do it for them! The best thing you can do is talk to your kids about it and teach, teach, teach. (Eph. 6:4)
May God help us all in raising our children in this ungodly world,
*** Credit goes to Richard Mansel, preacher for the Church of Christ at Allenhurst in South Georgia for this article. He studies the culture and serves as the Managing Editor and weekly columnist for Forthright. Richard is the author of “The Most Important Question: What Must I Do to Be Saved.
Tuesday, January 20, 2009
Tuesday, January 13, 2009
There is no way I would be able to pursue and work towards this goal without the wonderful support and encouragement from the Central elders, my family, and most especially, my wife, Maggie. It is my determination and commitment to not allow these graduate studies to interfere with my local teaching and preaching, visitation, and other ministry responsibilities at Central. Really, I see this hopefully as being an investment and enhancement in the quality of my ministry and service for the Lord’s kingdom at Central.
Just for your curiosity and information, I am taking 6 hours this semester which includes a preaching class from Genesis and Exodus with Dr. Harold Shank and a course on Biblical and Contemporary evangelism with Dr. Stafford North. I have been working on book reviews, assignments and sermons series. So far, I’ve been a little busier on that than I had anticipated, but the classes have been great with a great deal of new ideas and thoughts. Very invigorating
Kent Hughes, widely respected Bible scholar, author, and preacher says that there is a myth that would suggest that too much knowledge of the Bible is not good because it tends to, “cool the heart and stunt devotion.” In essence that too much learning will “spoil faith.” And he does have a point, when you closely examine how many destructive liberal theologians and modern Bible professors you find in the halls of so many secular Universities and Colleges who do more to undermine and even destroy faith in God and His Word.
But, sadly, too often, Hughes says what they discourage is “the rigorous study of the scriptures, which then delimits their knowledge of God.” Author and publisher Frank Sheed describes the folly of such thinking in his book, “Theology and Sanity”, saying:
“A virtuous man may be ignorant, but ignorance is not a virtue. It would be a
strange God who would be loved better by being known less. Love of God is not
the same thing as knowledge of God; love of God is immeasurably more important
than knowledge of God; but if a man loves God knowing a little about Him, he
should love God more from knowing more about Him; for every new thing known
about God is a new reason for loving Him.”
That’s why the Scriptures contain so many admonitions for us to “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18 ), to “increase in the knowledge of God” (Colossians 1:10 ), and to “abound in everything – in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in all diligence, and in love” (2 Corinthians 8:7). Our study of the Bible, which is our primary and infallible source of knowledge about God, is everything to the makeup of our spiritual health and life.
It is my goal and desire to increase my knowledge of God’s Word and to become a more effective servant for the Lord. In the meantime, I would greatly appreciate your encouragement, patience and most important prayers for me as I continue my journey in learning.