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Teacher’s Workshop

Monday, November 16th, 2009

Saturday Ashville Road hosted a Teacher’s Workshop. Our guest speaker for those teaching teen and adult classes was Dennis Lloyd, an elder at the Granny White congregation in Nashville and associate editor of the Gospel Advocate. Here are some excerpts from his informative presentations.

“Teacher and learner alike must find joy in their roles.”

“Two warnings for teachers are: 1) don’t pass up an opportunity to teach; and 2) we should never teach for the wrong reasons.”

“There are three kinds of teachers: those you remember, those you forget, and those you forgive.”

“Avoid irreverent, silly myths (1 Tim. 4:7). Too many teachers waste time on spiritual junk food.”

“The learning process requires prepared, enthusiastic teachers, but it also requires good learners.”

“Teachers should share with their students what’s right, what’s not right, how to get right, and how to stay right.”

Bon Voyage

Thursday, October 29th, 2009

Cusco TeamEarlier this week I said farewell to my brother Barton and his family as they boarded a plane headed for Peru where they plan to do mission work for the next several years of their life.  It will be a long time before I see them again.

I must admit that I have mixed feelings.  For the last several years Barton has been more than a brother to me.  He was my coworker.  We worked together at Ashville Road, where I preach, for five years.  I saw him almost every day.  He was someone I came to depend on, and it was a joy to work together with him.  I am really going to miss seeing him on a regular basis.

At the same time, Barton and his wife Allison are realizing a dream they have been chasing for many years.  Since they were students at Freed-Hardeman University, they have been making plans to do mission work in a foreign country.  For the last year they have been engaged in intense language and cultural studies, getting ready to live in Peru.  I’m happy that they are being given a chance to do what makes them happy.  More than that, I am thrilled that they are doing the Lord’s work in a place that really needs it.

Cusco is a large metropolitan area in Peru that, as far as we know, has fewer than 100 New Testament Christians.  Barton and his team have already met the Christians there, who greeted them with much enthusiasm.  On their first visit, one of the brethren told them they were the answer to years of fervent prayer.  The Cusco Mission Team will start a new work in another part of the city, but the feedback they have received from the Peruvian brethren tells them they can expect to have a good working relationship with the other Christians in the area.

Barton and Allison have raised their monthly support, but they are still in need of one-time gifts.  If you would like to contribute to their work, learn how to do so here.  Also, you can keep track of their progress at the Cusco Chronicles.  Please keep them in your prayers.  I believe that God will do great things through them and the rest of their team.

David Lipe on Marriage

Tuesday, July 21st, 2009

This morning I was able to attend a lecture given by one of my instructors from my days at Freed-Hardeman, David Lipe.  I thought I’d share a quote for those of you that are familiar with his wisdom and wit:

Getting married is like dying–once you do it, you’re supposed to stay that way.

Although it may not be original with him, another saying that Dr. Lipe is fond of is,

When your outgo exceeds your income, your upkeep will be your downfall!

Brings back memories.

Important Debate

Wednesday, February 11th, 2009

Tomorrow evening at 6 p.m. Kyle Butt of Apologetics Press will debate Dan Barker of the Freedom From Religion Foundation. Mr. Barker is a popular author and has conducted over 60 debates.

To watch the live Webcast of the debate, go to the AP website (www.apologeticspress.org) and click on the link immediately beneath the Darwin Day Debate box.

Pray for Kyle. His is an important and formidable task. Who knows who might be watching? His arguments just might turn some struggling soul from the dark dead end of atheism to the light of Christ.


FHU 2009 Lectures Review

Tuesday, February 10th, 2009

fhulecturesMy review of the Freed-Hardeman University 2009 lectures is a little late.  I know that several bloggers were posting their reflections from Henderson as the lectures were going on (my favorite has been Adam Faughn’s picture and audio essay on Faughnblog).  Alas, I do not own an iPhone or even a laptop with a working battery, so I must deign to publish my review several days after the fact the old-fashioned way: on a desktop computer, a dinosaur by today’s technological standards.

Any review of a multi-faceted lectureship is going to be subjective, as it will have to depend on what lectures the author chose to attend.  Sometimes these choices were arbitrary.  So what follows is my experience of the lectures.  Another person’s review would, no doubt, present a different perspective based on lectures I may not have had opportunity to attend.

From Tuesday morning to Thursday about lunchtime, I attended eighteen lectures in all.  Here are some of the highlights.

I got up early Tuesday morning to catch David Lipe’s treatment of Psalm 27: “Salvation in the Lord.”  It was a somewhat scholarly discussion of the psalm, but it still contained Lipe’s characteristic wit and undying devotion to evangelism.  From the time I was a student at FHU, I have listened to Lipe every time I have had the opportunity.

Dan Winkler conducted his usual series on preaching the New Testament.  This year his subject was Hebrews.  It was obvious that this man has spent a lot of time in Hebrews, and, as always, he shed new light on a text I have studied for many years.  Winkler had practical points for preachers to go along with his textual exposition.  One statement that has stuck with me is:

The preacher’s purpose is preaching; his goal is salvation; his message is Christ; his product is hope.

One of my classmates, David Sproule, gave an interesting lecture on “Great Hymns in the Psalms” in which he pointed out connections between the hymns in our songbooks and the psalms of the Bible.  I can’t imagine how long it took him to find all of these allusions.  More research went into this lesson than any other that I heard that week.  David also gave me a good idea for a song service.

A few years ago FHU invited Marlin Connelly to give a series on preaching through the Old Testament to balance out what Dan Winkler was doing in the New Testament.  I really enjoy Connelly’s exposition of the scripture.  In addition to his ability to organize difficult passages like Deuteronomy and Ecclesiastes, he is also deft at illustrating his points with unusual and relevant stories.  Connelly also couches his points in memorable language.  To wit: “unfair denouement” and “folly’s fragrance.”

Nathan Segars had an interesting take on Psalm 19.  I appreciated the fact that he did something original with a passage that has been a favorite of preachers for centuries.  Nathan pointed out the disconnect between the psalmist’s praise of God’s law and our attitude towards God’s law as burdensome commandments.  A rabbinic phrase was mentioned: “the joy of the commandment.”  Following God’s commandments without joy is not really fulfilling the commandment.  This was probably the most important lesson I learned all week.

Wednesday night another one of my former professors, Earl Edwards, preached on Psalm 51.  Edwards has a knack for preaching the gospel with a scholarly approach.  He dissected this psalm, one of the best known poems of David, so that everyone could understand its message.  I’ve heard people speak critically of FHU and her Bible teachers, saying they do not preach grace.  These folks aren’t paying attention.  Edwards extolled God’s mercy, quoting Spurgeon who said, “There is no measure of God’s grace…it is like a great flood that covers the highest mountain of our sins!”

There were many other good lectures that I attended and many that I missed.  These are just a few of the highlights for me.

As a new feature, FHU has added 72 of the lectures to iTunes.  These can be downloaded for free.  If you didn’t get to attend, check them out.

What Is More Important to Obama than the Economy?

Monday, January 26th, 2009

ObamaAbortion, it seems.

In a move signaling more to come in the Obama presidency, the President signed legislation lifting a ban dating back to the Reagan era on federal funding of international abortions.  The Wall Street Journal reports:

President Barack Obama quietly overturned the “global gag rule” Friday, allowing U.S. foreign-aid dollars to flow again to international family-planning programs that offer abortion or advocate for abortion rights.

He also said he would work to restore funding for the United Nations Population Fund, which pays for similar family-planning programs in a wider range of countries. And he vowed to search for common ground between people on both sides of the issue.

In related news, Obama’s $825 billion-dollar economic stimulus package includes “hundreds of millions of dollars” for contraceptives, according to Senator John Boehner.

So America’s in a recession, and instead of talking about cuts in spending, President Obama is making it a priority to fund abortions in other countries and buy contraceptives to encourage young people to have “safe sex.”  All of this is paid for with our tax dollars.

God help us.

My Brave Brother

Monday, January 5th, 2009

Last weekend I said goodbye to my brother Barton and his wife Allison as bartonallison2they departed Birmingham in a moving truck, headed for Dallas, Texas, to start the first phase of a mission effort that will culminate in Cusco, Peru.  I knew this day would be coming and did everything I could to prepare myself for how hard it would be to say goodbye, but the sting is still pretty strong.

For the last five years Barton and I have worked shoulder to shoulder as the ministers of the Ashville Road Church of Christ.  I never dreamed that it would be possible for me to work alongside my brother for so long, doing what I love.  I feel blessed to have been given this opportunity.

Over the years, visitors to our congregation have been surprised that two brothers could work together as Barton and I have.  But it hasn’t been difficult.  There hasn’t been any sibling rivalry.  Much of that is due to Barton’s humility and the spirit of cooperation that we have shared.  We made a pretty good team.

Barton and Allison have joined their mission team in Dallas to receive specialized training for doing evangelism on the South American continent.  They will remain there for six months, studying Spanish, discussing mission strategies in foreign lands, and getting their affairs in order, before they move to Huntsville, Alabama, where the church that sponsors their work is located.  After three months in Huntsville, they will fly to Peru, where they have made a five year commitment.

Barton and Allison are expecting a son who will be born sometime next spring.  Keep their family in your prayers as they make all these exciting but challenging adjustments.

If you would like to learn more about the Cusco Mission Team, go to http://cuscomission.wordpress.com.  Barton manages an informative blog there that will keep you up to date on the team’s progress.  They are still raising funds.  In particular, they are short on their “one-time fund,” which finances the initial costs of getting to the target site.  You can make donations online here.

I am proud of Barton and Allison for dreaming and pursuing a challenge.  What they are doing is unusual and extremely important.  I don’t know where the church would be without people like them, without the brave.

The tendency for most of us to become average.  We are like Solomon’s Middleman in Ecclesiastes–neither overly righteous nor overly wicked, just safe (Ecc. 7:16-17).  So many of us live our entire lives without ever doing anything great for God.

I am fortunate to have not one, but three younger brothers who reject the average life.  And I am impressed by their love for God and the way they all, in their own ways, courageously pursue Christ’s mission on earth.  God has placed me, the oldest and the least of four, in the presence of great men.

Our Noise

Tuesday, December 2nd, 2008

CoffinAs I write these words, the news of the death of another great gospel preacher has just arrived in my inbox.  Don McWhorter, who preached for many years in Fayette, Alabama, and has spoken on the television program, “Bible Talk,” died just a little over two hours ago in a hospital in Tuscaloosa.  I’m told that the visitation will be Thursday evening at Nelson Funeral Home in Fayette and the funeral will be held on Friday at the Fayette Church of Christ. (I don’t know the times.)

I’ve been preaching a lot of funerals lately, a morbid task, some might think, but if it is a bit morbid, funerals are a rewarding experience all the same.  People are shocked when I tell them I would rather preach a funeral than a wedding, but it’s true.  In weddings, preachers are just part of the decorations.  We are there as a part of the bride’s overall vision.  Our role is to do what we’re told.  Once a bride-to-be gave very specific instructions regarding the content of my message: “Don’t say the ring is a circle symbolizing undying love or any of the other traditional things preachers usually say.”  Needless to say, that wedding was not high on my list of life-affirming experiences.

At funerals, we speak the language that matters.  We rarely do this on other occasions.  Most of life is a distraction from the inevitable, but at funerals we are forced to deal with the sobering reality of human mortality.  It may be grim, but it’s instructive.

In “The Seekonk Woods,” Galway Kinnell writes, “So what if we groan. / That’s our noise. Laughter is our stuttering /in a language we can’t speak yet.”  Laughter is fine for distraction, and God means for us to enjoy life, but groaning is needful.  That’s our noise.  And if we don’t learn to speak our essential language, we will never come to terms with the truth about the human condition.

Solomon puzzles his readers in Ecclesiastes with the following words.

A good name is better than precious ointment, and the day of death than the day of birth.  It is better to go to the house of mourning than to go to the house of feasting, for this is the end of all mankind, and the living will lay it to heart.  Sorrow is better than laughter, for by sadness of face the heart is made glad.  The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning, but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth (Ecc. 7:1-4).

In this passage we find three comparisons that challenge our normal response to death:

1.  Death-days are better than Birthdays. Birthdays start a process of aging and decay.  From the day of our birth, we begin to perish.  Every Birthday is a reminder that it is appointed for man to die (Heb. 9:27).  However, for the Christian, the day of one’s death is the point at which he is set free from this decay and made new.  In Christ, death is “gain” (Phil. 1:21-23).

2.  Funeral homes are better than banquet halls. When we get to verse 2 in Ecclesiastes 7, we would have an easier time interpreting Solomon’s words if we remind ourselves of his overall objective of wisdom.  Solomon’s not against having a little fun from time to time.  Earlier he said there is a time to weep and a time to laugh (3:4).  But jokes are superficial.  When we are confronted with death, we are taught more wisdom than we could get in a hundred jokes.

3.  Sorrow is better than laughter.  Again, this needs to be put in perspective–Solomon is talking about a particular kind of wisdom here.  Without sorrow there can be no real joy.  Take salvation, for instance.  Forgiveness is impossible without tears of repentance.  That is why James recommended sorrow to his readers: “Be wretched and mourn and weep.  Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom” (Jas. 4:9).

All of this is not to say life should be bleak and morose.  The point is, without those sobering moments in life, true joy is impossible.  Those who are spiritual see funerals as needed reminders that we are on a journey, and earth is not the final destination point.  Through tears and repentance we prepare to receive rich blessings and unimaginable joy.

Jesus told his disciples, “You will be sorrowful, but you sorrow will turn into joy” (Jn. 16:20).  So let us groan.  That is our noise.

Election Day

Tuesday, November 4th, 2008

By tonight we will know which presidential candidate will be leading our nation for the next four years.  Every presidential election is a pivotal moment in American history, and this one is no exception.  No matter who wins, we will be breaking new ground, either with America’s first black president or her first female vice president.  On top of that, America is facing multiple crises–a bad economy and a global war against terrorism to name two of them.

I have been talking to Christians about the election for several months now, and what I have learned has been surprising.  Not everybody is voting based on the candidates’ positions on abortion and homosexuality.  Many Christians, several of them young voters, feel that war, poverty, immigration, and discrimination are moral issues on an equal level with abortion and homosexuality.  In the past, Christians have voted Republican for the most part, but this year a number of Christians will be pulling the lever for Barack Obama.

I’m not shy about my opposition to Obama.  I have some serious ideological problems with him on a number of issues like abortion and homosexuality.  John McCain, on the other hand, is a staunch advocate for the unborn.  When that is included with his long years of service to our country, his courage in the face of grave challenges, and his proven leadership, he emerges as the better candidate in my opinion.

Not everybody agrees.  In fact, the polls say that most people disagree with me.  As a Christian, what should I do if my candidate does not win, and a new man moves into the Oval Office with extremely liberal positions on social and political issues?  Here are some suggestions:

1.  I should be thankful for the privilege of casting my vote. I’ve been shocked by the number of Christians who have told me, “Neither candidate impresses me, so I’m staying home.”  Many people have become disillusioned by politics and have taken their freedoms for granted.

I wonder what the people of Burma would say about that attitude.  Burma was a democracy until 1962, when a coup de etat turned the government into a military junta.  Any protests since then have been met with violent governmental force.  In September of 2007, hundreds of Buddhist monks staged a protest and were confronted by a vicious military crackdown that led to several deaths.  Internet access was cut off, and journalists were warned not to report on the protests.  The following month the military forced the people to march in a government rally.  Factories were told to produce at least 50 marchers for the rally or suffer a fine.

Voting is a privilege and a duty.  I may only have one voice, but at least I have that.  America is still an amazing place.  No other nation enjoys such radical and yet peaceful transfers of power.  This is possible because it is in the hands of the people.

2.  I should respect the President, whoever he may be.  Throughout the Bible, we find examples of God’s people submitting to cruel tyrants in leadership positions.  As Esther prepared to confront King Ahasuerus about Haman’s plot to kill the Jews, she was ready to accept whatever fate he decided: “If I perish, I perish” (Est. 4:16).  Nebuchadnezzar was a vilent, bloodthirsty ruler who was filled with pride and worshiped idols.  Yet before Daniel interpreted a dream to the king which foretold a certain disaster that would befall him, Daniel said, “My lord, may the dream be for those who hate you and its interpretation for your enemies” (Dan. 4:19).  Over and above all these examples, we see the picture of Jesus standing silent in the halls of Pilate.

Paul tells us to make supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings “for kings and all who are in high positions” (1 Tim. 2:1-2).  His reason for this is “that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.”  Anarchy is good for nobody.  Peace and order are impossible without a civilized government in charge.

In another place, Paul urged submission to the government, calling it an institution appointed by God that bears the sword to punish evildoers and reward those who do good (Rom. 13:1-4).

Peter also gave this advice, telling his readers to “honor the emperor” (1 Pet. 2:13-17).  The emperor at this time was the insane demagogue Nero, who was especially notorious for his wickedness and his cruelty to Christians.  Nero would send Christians to fight the lions in the coliseum or use them for fuel to light his gardens.  Yet Peter said to honor him.  His reasoning is clear: “For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people.”  When he wrote those words, many unfair rumors circulated around Rome about Christians.  Peter’s point was the Christians should not invite criticism but dispel it with their good behavior.

Of course, there is a biblical principle that says Christians must rebel when the government interferes with their religion and seeks to destroy their faith (Acts 5:29).  But we live in a country that allows us to do that while maintaining our respect for the highest office.

3.  I should know that politics will not change the world. Many Christians get worked up about an election and give into despair if their candidate does not win.  They needn’t worry.  Politics do not change the world.

The gospel is God’s power to change the world (Rom. 1:16).  Christians are the salt of the earth (Mt. 5:13), the light of the world (Mt. 5:14-16), and the leaven in the lump (Mt. 13:33).  The gospel is change we can believe in because it transforms people from the inside.

In the words of Charles Swindoll, “The believer was not put on earth to overthrow governments but to establish in the human heart a kingdom not of this world.”

It is not certain who will be our next president.  What is certain is that the next president will be someone that a lot of Americans did not vote for.  Christians will support, pray for, and respect him, whoever he is.

Lonnie Jones on Selfishness

Tuesday, August 26th, 2008

This week we’re having a gospel meeting with Lonnie Jones. Below there is an excerpt from one of his lessons where he is addressing the problem of selfishness. It will give you a taste of the good preaching we’re hearing this week.

The common denominator behind all sin is selfishness. Regardless of what your sin is—and we talk about big sins and little sins and we talk about public sins and private sins—but the bottom line is your sin, whatever it is that you do, whatever it is that I do, is the manifestation of selfishness in my life. John 3:16—“For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son”—that’s the ultimate selfless verse. James 3:16 says, “For where you have selfish ambition, you have every evil thing”—the ultimate verse on selfishness.

If you want a formula for creating any kind of evil, all you got to do is come up with a good dose of selfishness, because selfishness is the opposite of Christianity. You can’t be a Christian until you do what? “If anyone will come after me let him deny self, take up his cross, and follow me.” You can’t pick up a cross until you get rid of self. The opposite of love is not hate, the opposite of love is selfishness. Xavier Anton LaVey, who was the minister for the Church of Satan, said the ultimate practice of Satanism is the worship of self.