Thursday, December 27, 2012

Atheists Don't Have No Songs by Dale Robinson

Atheists Don’t Have No Songs

Dale Robinson

Christmas in Lexington. It’s only the third time in thirty-three years that we haven’t spent the holidays in Albuquerque.  We didn’t romance Sadie’s, our favorite Mexican restaurant. Nor did we spend a day skiing just outside Santa Fe. But we did spend quality time with our sons Keith (and girlfriend, Jasmine) and Bryce (and wife, Christina), Mike (my brother), and Dana’s dad, two brothers and their families. Eighteen adults, one child and three dogs in one house—let’s just say there was never a dull moment.


Besides lots of eating (and all the tasks that requires), we enjoyed a myriad of activities, most of which revolved around stories.  Our meals were spent sharing stories (usually humorous).   We attended a Christmas Eve service, which told the story of Jesus’ birth from the perspective of the shepherds and how God sought those who were not seeking him. On Christmas Day, we went to see Les Misérables.  Victor Hugo’s tale is a personal favorite, and despite the context of misery and pain, it tells a remarkable message of love and redemption.


Later that evening, many of us played Phase Ten while Dana’s brother entertained us with some tunes he has recently purchased. He had a particular song that he wanted to play for me, Atheists Don’t Have No Songs, from Steve Martin’s “Rare Bird Alert” album. Martin is an accomplished banjo player, but on this song, he reverts to his comedic nature. The first two stanzas go like this: 


Christians have their hymns and pages.
Hava Nagila's for the Jews.
Baptists have the rock of ages.
Atheists just sing the blues.

Romantics play Claire de Lune.
Born agains sing He is risen.
But no one ever wrote a tune.
For godless existentialism.

As I reflect on the past few days, I am thankful for the stories of family, faith and unconditional love that give us a reason to sing, despite life’s difficulties. Christmas in Lexington was our first Christmas without either of our mothers, and the beginning of a new chapter in our lives. We’re continuing to write our story, and I can’t wait to see how it turns out.



Thursday, December 20, 2012

Story of Sacrifice by Frank Black

Story of Sacrifice


You often hear perhaps too much about giving – your money, that is.  You might be thinking, “Enough already”; I’ve heard enough about giving my money.  Ok, ok.  But please don’t stop reading this now.  Let me just share with you what I recently heard from  missionaries that Southeastern helps to support.  What I received was NOT a request for more money from us; it was just a true report of the condition of their finances.


·                          While their financial support has decreased over the last couple years, the cost of living index in their African country has increased by about 50% !  


[To continue their missionary service they have had to adapt.  And I’m talking about adapting ‘big time’. The following are just some of the ways they have cut back in order to live on the funds they receive.]


·                          Vacation:  Everyone needs to get away from their place of living at least once per year – even missionaries.  And speaking as a former full-time missionary, you are on- call all the time unless you are physically away from your home and compound. Due to money and other factors they have not been able to get away recently. 


·                          Furlough:  [Visiting the USA]  With two young daughters it is especially important for them to visit their home country at least every couple years.  [You parents and grandparents; think about how important this is to you.]   Initially they tried to put aside money for a yearly trip.  Due to the lack of funds this changed to every eighteen months, then to every two years; and now there are no funds for visiting the USA!  [I can assure you this is indeed quite a sacrifice in today’s world.]


·                          Retirement Funds and savings:  They have not been able to contribute any funds for the last two years.  I should remind you that in the Churches of Christ there are usually no funds put aside for our missionaries’ retirement. 

·                          Household workers:  When serving in Africa and with both spouses working full-time, it is usual to hire local people to cook, clean, wash clothes, etc.  I should remind you that these tasks are much more difficult in such a culture.  [Lou Ann and I had three Tanzanian workers when we served there - Zebron was our cook; Rehema cleaned and washed clothes; John took care of the yard and various other outside jobs in addition to helping Lou Ann on her market and other trips.].  This couple started with some workers but now have to do without additional help. 


·                          Health Insurance:  I don’t have to tell you how important this is.  They have had to get the “bare bones” minimum insurance, which is still quite expensive because of where they live.  One family member has had to go uninsured because of some health problems.


·                          “Smaller Items”:  They have had to decrease ‘eating out’; spending on gifts, birthdays, etc.; and other “smaller items.”  These items are sometimes the hardest things to give up.  Children especially have difficulty in understanding this. 


I don’t know about you, but this makes me feel terrible and sad. I feel badly that such dedicated, hard working missionaries have to make such sacrifices.  Yet they remain so dedicated that they have imposed all these restrictions on themselves.  Now I’m not just trying to raise money for these missionaries; I want you to think bigger than that.

I would really appreciate it if you would sincerely think about this one question:


 What changes and financial sacrifices have you made to continue your financial support of Southeastern Church and other charitable causes?                          - F. Black

Thursday, December 13, 2012

"Happy Birthday" to Me! by Chris Kirby

“Happy Birthday” to Me!

I had a birthday this week.  But, it’s not overly exciting.  You know what I mean right?  When you’re a little kid it is a real toss-up between birthday and Christmas as to which is more exciting.  Birthday cake is fantastic and at 6 years old it burns off in 15 seconds of playing.  Even when you get a little older certain birthdays are exciting.  At 16 you get your license.  18 is when you can start voting, go to war, and smoke legally (I’ve only done one of those things).  At 21 you are officially into adulthood.  Even at 25 you get the amazing experience of renting vehicles without paying the extra “young dumb driver” insurance.  But, this year I get to turn the exciting age of 35.  Whew-who! 

So, what does 35 bring with it?  A higher number of “when I was a boy” stories for Jack, the recognition that fewer and fewer of the teens in our youth group were even alive when I graduated high school, and this year, something that’s even worse- a trip to the ophthalmologist!  When I was younger I had GREAT vision.  I could spot things from further away than any of my friends.  I always found my exit or store in plenty of time when I was driving.  If there was something tiny to read across the room, I was the man for the job.  I never had to squint, guess what time it was in the middle of the night while looking at the red blur of letters on the clock, worry about glasses in sports, or fiddle with contacts.  But, over the last year or so I’ve noticed that words on the TV are harder to read, road signs have to get closer to follow, and so on.  So, literally the first thing on my “to do list” for my actual birthday morning is the first visit to the eye doctor in over six years!   

Now, here’s the thing; as much as I hate the thought of wearing glasses, I hate the thought of squinting and getting headaches worse.  As much as I don’t want to have put on the specs first thing the morning to see the clock (which I still won’t for a while hopefully), I would rather do that than be late for an appointment because I don’t know what time it is.  As much as I’d rather be able to wear the sunglasses of my choice when I’ve driving down the road, I think it would be much more frustrating to miss a turn because I couldn’t read a sign or run into something.  In the end, as much as I don’t like the thought of having something else set my focus, the end result of clear vision will be a huge benefit to my everyday life. 

When I think about this new addition to my life (by the way, I’ve finished my appointment and will be sporting glasses soon….), it gives me a thought about faith.  It’s a thought that is shared in Hebrews 12:1-3.  Here, you have the author of Hebrews laying out a challenge for faithful living to Jewish Christians after reminding them of their forefather’s commitment to faith in chapter 11. 

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles.  And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.  For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart..”

You notice how the author calls his audience to faithful living?  The heart of the message of faithfulness is right in the middle of this call to action.   There is a calling to focus on what really matters to our faith- Jesus Christ.  There are so many things that vie for our attention and cause a lack of focus.  But, at the end of the day, the point of our faith is to look like Jesus.  Whether it is the destructiveness of sin in our life or even some things that can seem godly in nature, such as religious traditions and preferences, we need to start living life that has the clear lens of Jesus to give us focus and clarity.  In other words, we are called to approach this world with sacrificial love and mercy for the hurting, justice for those without a voice, and humility to live in such a way that honors God by putting him above everything else.  We are called to strive for holiness and live on mission to the world around us as we worship God with our lives.

Sometime toward the end of next week I will see this computer screen a lot clearer because I’ll have my new specs.  I’m not looking forward to wearing them.  I wish I could go back to the good ole’ days of 20/10 vision.  But, that’s not happening.  However, at least my glasses will help me regain some focus to see things more clearly.  The same is true for us in our spiritual journey.  Don’t miss out on seeing all that God has for you in life because you refuse to look through the lens of Christ! 

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Home by Terry Gardner


By Terry Gardner


“There’s no place like home,”  Home is where the heart is,”  “Be it ever so humble there’s no place like home.”  The dictionary defines home as, “the place in which one’s domestic affections are centered.”  Synonyms include: abode, dwelling, habitation, domicile, residence.


We sing many songs about home.  We sing, “This world is not my home,”  “Anywhere is home,”  “There is a Habitation, built by the living God,”  Home of the Soul.”  Consider with me what the word home means, the fact that we often spend our entire life looking for home and what God teaches us about the concept of home.


What does the word “home” mean to each of us?  When we think of home do we think of peace, protection, warmth, love, parents?


We often spend our entire life searching for home.  Many Jews have moved back to Israel so that they would have a home.  My grandfather’s family began life in Stratford, Oklahoma and he ultimately returned there to live out his last days.  Jesus had no home and said, “Foxes have holes, birds of the heaven have nests, but the son of man has nowhere to lay his head.”  When I was child we moved frequently.  I attended six different elementary schools and I hated moving in part because I longed for a place I could call home.


Paul helps us understand God’s view of home.  Paul wrote, “Therefore, being always of good courage, and knowing that while we are at home in the body, we are absent from the Lord— for we walk by faith, not by sight— we are of good courage, I say, and prefer rather to be absent from the body and to be at home with the Lord.  Therefore we also have as our ambition, whether at home or absent, to be pleasing to Him.  For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.”  2 Cor. 5:6.  Paul also wrote, “For we know that if the earthly tent which is our house is torn down, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.  2 Cor. 5:1


Our heavenly home is with God.  Therefore it is a mistake to invest ourselves in this world, which we know is passing away.  Our affections are to be centered on that home of the soul where is the lamp and Lamb of God.  Abraham understood that real home is not a physical place and by faith Abraham left his physical home with no idea where he was being called by God.  “By faith” Abraham “lived as an alien in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob fellow heirs of the same promise; for he was looking for the city which has foundations, whose architect and builder is God.”  Heb. 11:9-10.


This subject makes me reflect on my own life and my priorities.  Do I spend more time worried about job, retirement, house payments, cars and the things of this world or am I looking for the same city Abraham sought?  Abraham was looking for a home where God is and where “He shall wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there shall no longer be any death; there shall no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain.”  Am I looking for the same home Abraham sought or am I invested in this world which is passing away?  The choice belongs to each of us.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

We're "Children" of Some King by Greg York

We’re “Children” of Some King


Recently, I’ve been reading a book about England’s King Henry VIII and life during his reign.  “Everyone knows” that Henry VIII was just a lecherous, bloated, self-indulgent, over-aged frat boy.  But that’s more caricature than fact.  The truth is that he was a far more complex person.


For instance, he was, particularly early in his life, a very devout person.  He practiced his faith as he understood it with great regularity and apparent deep conviction.  At the beginning of what came to be the Protestant Reformation, one of the best-selling books in all of Europe intended to refute Luther’s arguments and defend the Catholic Church was a tightly argued little work written by (get ready for it…) Henry VIII.  And, we’re not talking about something ghost-written; all indications are that Henry himself did the research and writing.  And it wasn’t a “best seller” because he bought up a lot of copies himself.  It was legitimate.  It was such a popular work that Luther himself felt compelled to respond publicly to Henry’s arguments.  The Pope of the day granted Henry the honorific title, “Defender of the Faith,” in appreciation for Henry’s efforts to defend his (the Pope’s) authority.


And yet…


Only a very few years later, when Henry needed an “out” from his marriage to his first wife so that he could marry the object of his affections, Anne Boleyn, Henry ended up turning against “the Church of Rome,” saying the Pope did not in fact have authority over him.  Henry ultimately had Parliament declare him the head of the “Church of England.”



It’s easy to see the problem in someone else:  Henry’s faith “shapes” his life in many ways…but then he can turn on a dime when the moral demands of his faith stand in the way of what he wants.


What he did in that “moment” revealed that his real commitment, when it came down to it, was to himself.  In other words, the ultimate authority in his life was himself.



I’m not trying to argue that Henry was right to defend late medieval Catholicism or that he was right in the direction he took the English church.  I’m not trying to argue that his particular religious practices were Biblical.  My point is that he was “faithful” to what he believed was right until that came into conflict with what he wanted.


Are we so different?  Or, are there times we are “children of King Henry VIII,” completely committed to Christ’s ways…until it’s just not convenient.


“I’m all for sexual purity”…until the right opportunity presents itself, that is.


“I’m definitely against drunkenness”…but life’s so hard right now and I just need to forget some things for a while.  Besides, it’s just so hard to draw that line between being well buzzed and being drunk…


“I’m all for being a good steward of my finances, giving liberally to the church, and spending wisely”…but what’s a little debt when I can get the kids all the things they want now so that we can enjoy them until the next upgrade?  Anyway, God’ll understand that I’m strapped when the collection tray comes by.


“I’m all for making sure that my words build up my brothers and sisters”…but sometimes it just feels good to get in a good jab or two.


“I’m definitely against gossip and talking badly about my brothers and sisters”…but some things are just too juicy to keep to myself.


“I’m all for sharing my faith with people who don’t yet know Jesus and his ways”…just don’t ask me to do anything about that; isn’t that why we have ministers?


“I’m definitely against pornography”…but if I know I’m not going to get caught…and “nobody gets hurt,” right?


“I’m all for regularly meeting with fellow Christ-followers to worship or study together and encourage each other”…just don’t go over an hour on Sunday and do not even try to “guilt” me into a class or small group, for pity’s sake!


“I’m definitely against gluttony, especially in a world of indulgence for some and utter poverty for others”…but have you tried that new Chinese buffet place?


“I’m all for being a unified church, serving under the leadership God has called forth in our church”…just not this group of leaders.  Oh, and not until they start doing everything just the way I like it.


Maybe those scenarios are caricatures in their own way.  Maybe none of them comes close to the reality of your life or mine.  But here’s the point:  We’re the “children” of some king.


Our moral choices will show we’re “children” (of a sort) of Henry VIII if we are only faithful to Christ’s ways as long as they don’t conflict with what we want.


Or, our moral choices will show we’re “children” of God if we are faithful to his ways even when they do conflict with what we want.


Jesus calls us to be children of God, and he doesn’t mince words when it comes to the meaning of our choices:


No good tree bears bad fruit, nor again does a bad tree bear good fruit; for each tree is known by its own fruit.  Figs are not gathered from thorns, nor are grapes picked from a bramble bush.  The good person out of the good treasure of the heart produces good, and the evil person out of evil treasure produces evil… (Luke 6.43-45a).


Learn the good.  Choose the good.  Treasure the good.  Keep on choosing the good.

Be a “child” of the right King.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Jesus the Great Physician by John Wright

John Wright

            The old hymn asks the question “why did my Savior come to earth and to the lowly go?"  And then answers with a chorus of ”Because he loved me so."  Jesus lived and died to demonstrate how much God the Father loves us.  The Bible reveals that we were created to be in relationship with God for all eternity but we blew it, and sin put a barrier between man and God.  Man-kind was lost!  Even though man was made in God’s image, the relationship was damaged seemingly irreparably.  The wonderful story of love begins to unfold in Genesis.  God tells an ordinary man to leave everything and go to a land that God would show him and that all the peoples of the earth will be blessed through this one man named Abraham.  The love story unfolds throughout the Old Testament where God pursues his people and they continually reject him.  God is persistent and forgiving and faithful.  Psalm 100 reads: “Shout for joy to the Lord all the earth.  Worship the Lord with gladness; come before him with joyful songs.  Know that the Lord is God.  It is he who made us and we are his; we are his people the sheep of his pasture.  Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name.  For the Lord is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations.  God loves us with a love that will endure for eternity!  What a remarkable thing that is.  1John 4:10: This is love; not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.

When Jesus came into the world it was not what people expected.  Jn. 1:10: “He was in the world and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him."  Jesus' ministry was spent teaching the ordinary people, who were poor, sick, and outcast.  The rulers and the religious class rejected and opposed him because they were confident in themselves and their traditions; they didn’t believe they needed a savior.  In Matthew chapter 9 the Pharisees asked Jesus disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?”  On hearing this Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick.  But go and learn what this means: I desire mercy not sacrifice, for I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”  Romans 3:10 declares: There is no one righteous, not even one.  In the story of Sodom and Gomorrah if just ten righteous could have been found, those cities would have been saved from destruction, but in Gods eyes we are all guilty of sin.  The Pharisees were sick too, and they needed the Great Physician; unfortunately their spiritual blindness would not let them see.

I have reminded you of these things because we Christians need to remember who we are.  We are sinners under the care of the Great Physician, whose blood heals and cleanses us from our sin.  Jesus wants us to invite everyone to come to him for healing.  As the Lord's Church, we must do what Jesus did; seeking the poor, sick, and outcast.  When I ask myself do I look more like Jesus or more like the Pharisees?, I don’t like my answer very much because I have a long way to go.  Jesus’ advice to the Pharisees was to go and read Hosea 6:6, perhaps it would do us well too.  The 6th chapter of Hosea reads come let us return to the Lord, because Israel had been very unfaithful.  The people of the Northern Kingdom had more confidence in themselves and their religious traditions than their covenant with God.  The Lord laments: “for I desire mercy not sacrifice, and acknowledgement of God rather then burnt offerings.  Like Adam they have broken the covenant.”  We need to be a people committed to mercy and not committed to “looking religious” because our mission is to do as Jesus did and said.  "Come unto me all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light."  We have so much to offer this world, our arms are open wide, and our Lord's yoke is so much lighter and easier then the trappings of sin and death.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Don't Despair by Craig Hill

Don’t Despair

By Craig Hill

Last week I got dehydrated on the second night of our duck hunting trip and woke up shaking uncontrollably in my sleeping bag in our tent on an island on a river. We paddled our canoes out the next afternoon. Then we came down with salmonella poisoning and lay around recovering instead of going back out and completing what was supposed to be 6 days of uninterrupted hunting. We’d planned that hunt for a year. But it was not to be.

Yesterday I got a call from two consultants who work for my new business. They just started last week and were supposed to be on the project generating some nice professional fees for us for about a year. But the call came that said they were dismissed from the project because they didn’t fit in with the rest of the team. That’s about $160,000 of gross profit gone in one phone call.

Last Saturday night there was a neighborhood called Richmond Hill in Indianapolis where people expected a calm end to their day and maybe a good night’s sleep. Instead a huge explosion erased 3 homes, killed two people, and literally knocked a number of homes off their foundations. That makes my setbacks minor in comparison. (Read the book of Job if you want more on this.)

Are we to despair when life doesn’t meet our expectations? King Solomon said the following in Ecclesiastes Chapter 3, verses 9 to 14:

What do workers gain from their toil? I have seen the burden God has laid on the human race.1He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end. I know that there is nothing better for people than to be happy and to do good while they live. That each of them may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all their toil—this is the gift of God. I know that everything God does will endure forever; nothing can be added to it and nothing taken from it. God does it so that people will fear him.

And in Romans 8:28 Paul wrote:

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.

We must trust in the Lord. We must take the bad with the good. We must have faith and hope in God who loves us so much that He sacrificed His only Son so that we might have the hope of life everlasting. If you don’t have this peace which passes all understanding, talk to someone who does. Seek the Lord, repent from your sins, and confess that Jesus is the Christ.

As Solomon says in the end of Ecclesiastes:

Of making many books there is no end, and much study wearies the body. Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter:

Fear God and keep his commandments,

for this is the duty of all mankind.

For God will bring every deed into judgment,

including every hidden thing,

whether it is good or evil.

Friday, November 9, 2012

The Walking Dead by Mike DeCamp

If you’ve been paying attention to popular television these days, you probably recognize the title of this article.  After all, “The Walking Dead” is one of…if not THE…most popular of the TV shows currently in production.  (Sunday nights, 9pm, AMC)  The story follows the terrifying attempts of survival by a group of people living in a world populated primarily by zombies…or the walking dead.  While gory and often gross with the special effects, the show really works because of the interpersonal relationships and the difficult, often heart-wrenching decisions that have to be made by the characters simply to stay alive.  (Warning—the scenes are graphic, so if you are sensitive to that kind of thing, you might not want to watch it.)

A little over a week ago, I attended a Bible class with my daughter at Harding University and the professor used this show to make a point.  I’m going to borrow his example and make the show an illustration to highlight a couple of things on my mind.

First, I think that we as Christians ARE in fact surrounded by the walking dead….the spiritually dead.

As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient.  Ephesians 2: 1-2

All around us are people who are walking through their lives...going to work…going to school…eating dinner…raking their leaves…and they are spiritually dead.  They seem fine.  They seem alive, and we are lulled into believing that everything is okay.  But, the truth is that inside there is no real spark of God, no relationship with their creator.  No hope.  No future.  Their lives are futility leading to futility.

In the TV show, the idea is to avoid the walking dead, and if you can’t avoid them, you hit them in the head in order to make them fully dead.  In our world, we must not avoid them.  In fact, we are commissioned to seek them out.  We are their only chance…because God has given US the role of making new life available to them….making them truly alive. 

We don’t hit them in the head…we hit them in the heart!

When was the last time YOU revived a spiritual zombie and gave them a new spark of life directly from the handiwork of your Lord?

Second, I think that sometimes we Christians can find ourselves in danger of becoming the Sitting Dead.

Consider this passage from Revelation…

To the angel of the church in Sardis write:

These are the words of him who holds the seven spirits of God and the seven stars.  I know your deeds; you have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead.  Wake up!  Strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have found your deeds unfinished in the sight of my God.  Remember, therefore, what you have received and heard; hold it fast, and repent.  But if you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what time I will come to you.  Revelation 3: 1-3

If this happened to be us, then…We did some good things.  We had some good effect.  We got a great reputation.  People think we’ve got it together.  But, the truth is that we have lost that spark of life.  We sit complacently by while the work of God goes unfinished.  We come in and check off our attendance box on Sunday morning, but have no passion for our Lord.  We know what we need to know.  We know the good we ought to do.  We understand the sacrifice of the Lord.  Somehow, though, we have gone to sleep in our spirits!  We exist in our church as the spiritually dead, dressed up and sitting in rows.

Is that you?  Is that me?  Is that us?  It happened to our brothers and sisters in Sardis, could it be that it has happened to some of us in our congregation?  Do WE need to WAKE UP and REPENT?

I sure hope it’s not us.  But, I think that passage isn’t in the Book just for its entertainment value.  It is there as a warning.  We can build up a reputation and then simply fall off into complacency.  We can fall asleep.  We can let our spark of spiritual life wane into a dying ember.  May it not be us, but how about we consider some questions together…how about we do a little introspection…how about we take our spiritual pulse and see if our hearts are pumping?

A.       Who gets more enthusiasm from you on Sunday… Andrew Luck or Jesus Christ?

B.      Can people around you sense the music flowing from your heart as you sing?

C.      Or, maybe we should just ask if you actually sing?

D.      When was the last time you confessed a sin…a specific sin…to another brother or sister?

E.       When was the last time YOU invited someone to come to church with you?

Those are just a few questions that we could ask.  All I’m really saying, though, is that we need to be aware of two things: 

1. Are we concerned about the spiritually dead in the community around us and sharing that spark of life with them? 

2.  Are we in danger of letting our reputation mask our reality; of becoming a spiritual zombie in the pews?

In that Television show, sometimes the decisions are hard.  Uncomfortable choices have to be made to survive.  The same is true in our own spiritual lives.  It is always easier and more comfortable to ignore the needs of the lost, go through the motions of checking off the church activity boxes, and take a very long spiritual nap.  However, if we want to survive…if we want to please our Lord…we need to be awake!  We need to be vigilant!  We need to strengthen what we have and finish our work.

We need to bring life to the walking dead and rekindle the spark of life in the sitting dead….

So that:

They will walk with me, dressed in white, for they are worthy.  The one who is victorious will, like them, be dressed in white.  I will never blot out the name of that person from the book of LIFE, but will acknowledge that name before my Father and his angels.  Revelation 3: 4b-5

Thursday, November 1, 2012

"Are You Persecuted?" by Frank Black



What’s the first thing you think about in answer to the above question?  Don’t you think of some type of physical punishment, torture, or imprisonment?  Besides physical persecution, there are other ways to be persecuted.  In short, I feel persecuted!  Allow me to present my case and tell you what I mean. 

          First let me just remind you how history is replete with many, many extreme examples of physical suppression, torture, and death enacted in the name of religion.  All these are still going on in various parts of our world as I am writing.  I have a book entitled, “On This Day In Christian History” by Robert Morgan.  It has 365 short summaries of various Christian martyrs over the years.   [Just a few examples]

-      In 1536 William Tyndale was burned at the stake for his working on the first translation of the Bible into English.

-      Thomas Bilney preached and spread Tyndale’s Bible all over England.  He was arrested for heresy and tortured in the Tower of London.  His friends encouraged him to recant his beliefs, so that he could continue to lead and preach when released.  Bilney did recant but always regretted it.  Later he was again arrested, but this time he did not recant and adamantly expressed his faith.  He was tortured and burned at the stake.

-      Anne Askew became a Christian; and as a result, her husband cast her out and would not let her see her two children.  She was arrested for heresy and tortured on the ‘rack’ [she was so injured that she never walked again]. Still she refused to recant her Christian belief and was burned at the stake.  [1546].

-      The Crusades from Europe to the “Holy Land” brought about suffering and death to countless people – in the name of religion.  

-      Just yesterday [Sunday - October 28, 2012] a bomb was detonated in a church in Kaduna, Nigeria – causing injuries and deaths.


I’d be remiss if I didn’t first quickly remind you of Jesus’ punishment and killing by religious people of His day.  And also the fact that historically [or traditionally] all Jesus’ apostles, except John, were killed because of their Christian teaching.

Of course there are many current examples of people being tortured and killed because of their Christian beliefs. What would you do if you were tortured and threatened with your life?   Would you confirm or deny your Faith?  What would I do?  Have you ever thought about it?  In truth, in our USA, this is not going to happen.  I can’t say the same about some other parts of the world.

Okay, so why and how am I persecuted?  I am definitely persecuted spiritually and psychologically!  What do I mean? I mean that it is emotionally painful to see anti-Christian behavior, laws, and changes in our country – a country that was absolutely founded on Christian principles.  You might still be thinking, “What are you talking about?”  I’ll list several specific areas that cause me spiritual and psychological pain.  [You can add areas that cause you pain].


·                            Christianity being excluded from many universities, most public places and public life  [Christian speech and representation in public as being not “politically correct”]

·                            The very essence of our being a Christian nation being questioned and abandoned

·                            Basically all religions being deemed as ‘acceptable’  [“As long as it ‘works’ for you”]

·                            Christians being branded as intolerant bigots and called by many  “names” because of our Biblical stance on issues 

·                            Abortion

·                            The national push [by the minority] to accept homosexuality and same sex marriage as “normal”  

·                            The high percentage of single parent homes

·                            Divorce

·                            The horrors of HIV/AIDS [especially in the Third World] because of not adhering to God’s laws of sexual behavior

·                            ** My list could continue.  Also add your areas of persecution. **


Am I totally surprised by this persecution? No! Why is that?  We are promised [yes, promised] persecution in the Bible. [Jesus tells us this in John 15:18ff  -  Paul tells us the same in 2 Timothy 3:12].  Of course they are referring to physical persecution [but are they referring to the physical only?].  My contention in this article is that our persecution is also severe and comes in the realm of spiritual and psychological persecution.  What do you think?  I’ll deal with this further in a future article.  I’ll deal with the “What now”? – “What can I do”? - Etc.          -- Frank Black, Oct. 2012

Friday, October 26, 2012

Can You Hear Me Now? by Dale Robinson

Can You Hear Me Now?

Dale Robinson

Your approach matters. *

Remember when, as a child, you wanted something?  Over time you learned by trial and error which parent to ask, when to ask, how to ask, and how much to ask for.  

As an adult, isn’t it much the same? Whether you are talking to your child, your spouse, your boss or your neighbor, you still have to consider how best to approach them with a delicate subject. Being right isn’t enough.  The approach often makes all the difference. Choose the wrong approach, and you create unnecessary resistance. Choose the right approach, and your audience will be more receptive to the message.

“Your approach is as important as the message itself.” This point was hammered repeatedly last week during a one-day preaching conference I attended in Nashville.  The “Preach Better Sermons” conference was focused on helping ministers better connect with and engage our audiences. 

Of course, content matters. God working through the message of the gospel is the power that transforms lives (Romans 1:16-17). But as his representatives, we have an obligation to consider also our approach to those we are trying to reach for Christ.

Notice the interplay between Paul’s goal of reaching as many people as possible (“win”), with his willingness to adjust his approach (“became”):  

For though I am free with respect to all, I have made myself a slave to all, so that I might win more of them.  To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though I myself am not under the law) so that I might win those under the law.  To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (though I am not free from God's law but am under Christ's law) so that I might win those outside the law. To the weak I became weak, so that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that I might by all means save some. (1 Corinthians 9:19-22, emphasis mine) 

We were challenged at the conference with a number of tough questions: 

“Does your current approach support your goal of preaching, or work against it?”

“Would you be willing to change, or even abandon, your approach in order to win all possible?”

“Who is helping you become a better preacher?”

Yikes! That’s a lot to think about.  But I have come to realize that the message I heard last week isn’t as much about preaching as it is about living.  After all, we’re all ministers, aren’t we? So, even as I wrestle with the implications of the conference as a public speaker, allow me to reframe the questions for your consideration: 

“Does your current approach support your goal of living (for Christ), or work against it?”

“Would you be willing to change, or even abandon, your approach, in order to win all possible?”

“Who is the person helping you become a better minister?”

You see, approach really does matter. That’s why Christians must be concerned with living in such a way that “no one will malign the word of God,” but “so that in every way they will make the teaching about God our Savior attractive.” (Titus 2:5, 10)

What’s stopping you from making the necessary adjustments to capture the attention of those around you? There’s only one answer. It’s the third word in the question: 


*Andy Stanley shared this principle (and illustration) at the conference, taken from his latest book, Deep & Wide: Creating Churches Unchurched People Love to Attend.