Monday, October 31, 2011

Directing Your Paths

“And He Shall Direct Your Paths”

Written by Dr. Bill Bagents

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths.” Proverbs 3:5-6

Does God still direct our paths? In this non-miraculous age, does God still guide His people? If He does, how does He guide us?

Some believers disavow any form of divine guidance. In their view, divine guidance is an illogical concept. In the first place, they ask, “If God guides, then what about free will? How can we consistently affirm the personal responsibility and accountability of each individual?” Others add, “If God guides, then why do bad things happen to good people? Why doesn’t God keep them out of harm’s way?” Others query, “If God guides, how does He guide? If you can’t tell me how, then I can’t believe it.”

If God guides, how does He guide? He guides through His word (Psalm 119:105-106). He guides through the advice or assistance of others (Acts 9:23-25 and 23:11-22). He guides through providence, opening and closing “doors” that may not even be visible to us (Romans 1:13). Only by looking back through the eyes of faith do we come to see that God must have had a hand in directing events. Admittedly, this is an attribution made in faith, and it is certainly not a claim that we know all the mechanisms that God uses to bless and protect us.

If God guides, then why do bad things happen to good people? Why doesn’t God keep them out of harm’s way? We have no idea why God allowed James to be executed, but rescued Peter (Acts 12). We have no idea why God allowed righteous Uriah to be killed while adulterous David was spared. We don’t know why their first child died, but David and Bathsheba lived. We have no idea why God allowed a lie to kill his servant in 1 Kings 13, while the prophet who told the lie was allowed to live. We don’t know because God did not choose to reveal that information. He doesn’t owe us an explanation. Some mysteries are beyond us. Perhaps they serve to remind us of our limitations. Dwelling on the mysteries rather than the facts of revelation seems futile.

If God guides, then what about free will? How can we consistently affirm the personal responsibility and accountability of each individual? The fact that God guides those who are willing to be guided does not imply that His guidance is overwhelming or irresistible. Obviously, it is possible to reject the will of God (Luke 7:30). It is possible to “quench the Spirit” (1 Thessalonians 5:19). It is possible to reject the gospel and to fail to love the truth (2 Thessalonians 1:8 and 2:11). It’s possible, but it’s deadly. God wants to direct our paths, but He does so only with our consent and cooperation.

Friday, October 28, 2011

For the Asking . . . .


Written by Dr. Bill Bagents

Are good people happier when they see me coming or see me going?

Do I make life more complicated or more interesting for those who love me?

Have I learned to enjoy listening more than talking and serving more than being served?

Does God’s word speak to me, or do I try to tell it what I want to hear?

When I learn that I’ve been wrong, do I work to save face or do I work to get right?

When I find myself angry, do I pause to pray or proceed to punish?

When I find myself sad, do I first look upward or inward?

When things go right, is my first action a prayer of gratitude to God?

When things go wrong, do I remember that it might be my doing?

Have I learned to let going last be OK? Do I trust God to keep count of whatever needs to be counted?

When slighted, do I remember that God will exalt the humble in due time?

When rescued, do I remember to see God’s gracious hand?

When others are honored, do I choose to feel great joy? Do I show them that joy?

When others hurt, do I choose to share in their pain? If so, how will they know that?

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The Book of Philippians

Introduction to the
Book of Philippians


Written by George Goldman

The background for this letter is found in the book of Acts (Acts 16). Paul received a vision of a Macedonian man saying, “Come over and help us.” (Acts 16:9). Three households became the nucleus of a new congregation. There was the aristocratic family of Lydis (Acts 16:11-15), the middle-class family of the jailor (Acts 16:25-34), and the lower class slave girl (Acts 16:16-18). In about a ten-year period this nucleus had become a full-fledged congregation with “bishops and deacons” (Phil. 1:1).

This ten-year period (53 – 63 A.D.) between Paul’s first visit and the writing of this letter shows quite a change in Paul’s ministry. While in Philippi Paul was performing miraculous feats such as casting out demons, but ten years later he simply trusts in God for the recovery of the sick (Phil. 2:25-27 cf. 2 Tim. 4:20). This should tell us something about the purpose and duration of miracles in the first Christian century.

If I could have been a member of one of the New Testament congregations, I would have chosen Philippi. This group seemed to embody more of the spirit of Christ than any other group. Paul has only praise for them. The terms “joy” and “rejoice” appear sixteen times in this letter. In it he evaluated his life (Phil. 3:12-16) and tells his secret of contentment (Phil. 4:10-13). Paul had not been perfect, but he did not retire to live on his reputation. His Christian life had not been free from problems, but he was a man who could turn things over to God (Phil. 2:1-11).

Monday, October 24, 2011

Campaign in Texas

Observations in Texas

Written by Hannah Burleson
Student at Heritage Christian University

Editor’s Note: Students at Heritage Christian University participate in evangelistic campaigns every semester. Hannah, having just returned from such an endeavor in Texas, gives her observations

When we arrived in Texas, I began to notice some of the differences there are compared to Alabama. After making a mental note of several, I thought I better start jotting them down before I started to forget them.

  1. The traffic lights in Texas are all horizontal. What's the deal? Do they have something against the vertical traffic lights everywhere else?
  2. The Mexican food we had in Texas was good. But given the choice, I'd still go with Buena Vista in Cullman, Alabama :)
  3. Texans are serious about getting where they are going. Some of the roads in Texas are 70 MPH. In Alabama, the same roads would be 55 MPH, at best. Additionally, their medians are really wide. And if someone is driving slower than you, they kindly get in the median long enough for you to pass them. It's a great system.
  4. People in Texas are amazing cooks. I daresay, better than cooks in Alabama. The food these wonderful brothers and sisters made for us was phenomenal.
  5. Apparently, the favorite fast food places were Jack in the Box and Whataburger. They were everywhere. Neither of which I have seen around here.
  6. You know you're an HCU student when you hear someone mention Waco, Texas and your mind automatically thinks, "I've cited a publisher there in some of my research papers."
  7. Don't worry. The vehicles are not all driving in reverse. It's just that in Texas, you are required to have a tag on both the front AND the back of the vehicle.
  8. "Hard" water is a blessing which shouldn't be taken for granted. After trying to rinse my hands for double the time it normally takes and they still felt soapy, I realized that they won't. And neither will my hair when I wash it. Because the water here feels soapy in and of itself--that's how "soft" it is.
  9. Never trust a GPS in Texas. It confused Fairfield church of Christ with a ranch in the middle of nowhere.
  10. I've had plenty of sawmill gravy and my fair share of chocolate gravy. But did you know that tomato gravy existed? It does. And it's pretty good.

These are just a few of the surface observations that I took the time to write down on our trip to Texas.

On a more serious note, it was, as it always is, such a joy and a blessing to be able to meet, know, and love more brothers and sisters in Christ. It is always an encouragement to know more of our family members in the Lord.

This trip was a blessing to us for several reasons. First, it was a blessing to meet, love, and know the church in Fairfield. Second, it was a blessing to get to know our fellow students on a deeper level. Finally, it was a blessing to be able to meet lost people and to be able to show them Christ and the salvation that He offers.

First, the church at Fairfield blew me away. They welcomed us like no church I've ever met before. This was my fifth campaign with HCU and I've never seen a church so willing to work. I've never seen a church that steps up in every way and that truly wraps her arms around us in the way that this one did. Jason and Jill and their beautiful family are a clear blessing to the church there and it was such a privilege to be able to work with and know them. I will never forget the church in Fairfield and the wonderful family that I know and love there. I pray that the Lord will bless them and keep them, til we meet again.

Second, I've realized just how blessed Heritage Christian University is to have such amazing students. There are some real men of God at HCU and I have no doubt that great things will come as a result. These men are willing to be used in whatever way God chooses. After the meetings each night, Matt and I had the privilege of hanging out together and getting to know each other better. We were able to have some really great discussions about Christianity and about the Lord's church. We got a glimpse into the hearts of these guys and we were truly amazed at the things we saw in each one.

Finally, it was a blessing to meet lost people who are searching and to be able to show them Christ. After knocking several hundred doors and getting less than desirable responses (just ask Kyle--he knocked a door and the response was, "Well you can just gospel yourselves on down the road) it is nice to finally come to that door where you meet the soul that may be the very reason that the campaign took place. We met a young lady named Tiffany who was searching for a church to become involved with. She took a great interest in Fairfield and Jason and Jill are going to follow up. The Lord willing, she will learn about salvation and be able to experience the many blessings that come with it. Out of 800 doors, 1 door that results in a saved soul makes the entire campaign worth it all.

I think I've made it abundantly clear how blessed I've been by this campaign on several levels. I am thankful to be a part of a school who tries to live out its mission on a practical level. Thank you to the school for making these kinds of experiences and blessings possible. And thank you to churches like the one in Fairfield who are willing to partner with HCU and live out what they preach on a regular basis.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Thinking About Preaching

Thinking Soberly About Teaching and Preaching

Written by Dr. Bill Bagents

“For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith” (Romans 12:3).

Sometimes preachers and teachers are blessed to present a homerun sermon or class. Everything clicks. Hearers visibly engage. The illustrations energize. Memory functions perfectly. The hearers connect, the lesson flows, and it feels great.

When that happens, we’re blessed to enjoy the moment. And we’re blessed to remember that this moment was a blessing from God. If the sermon was faithful, it flowed from His life-changing word (Romans 10:14-17, 2 Timothy 3:14-17). If the class was powerful, the power flowed from the gospel (Romans 1:16-17). If the lesson was beneficial, God was the true source of the blessing (James 1:17). And we were blessed by God to be an instrument of His grace.

If we’re not careful, the devil will rob us of such moments. He will tempt us to pride. He will ask us to think, “I did well. I thought well. I created something special. I made this work.” He will help us avoid thinking of Luke 12:16-21 and Romans 12:3). He will insist that we forget Acts 12:20-24. He will invite us to put ourselves ahead of God.

If that doesn’t work, the devil will try the opposite. He will tempt us to fear or to false humility. He will ask us to think, “I can’t enjoy this moment. If I enjoy it, then I’m claiming to be something special. If I enjoy it, I’m thinking too highly of myself.” He will help us avoid thinking of Acts 18:27-28 and 1 Thessalonians 1:13. He will insist that we forget 2 Thessalonians 2:13-14. He will invite us to declare ourselves unfit to serve the Lord.

I love homerun lessons whenever they come. But I want to remember the following:

  • What I think to be a homerun may not be. While we want to do our best for God, God often does much with little. I should be grateful for the opportunity to try.
  • No one does homerun lessons every time. There’s virtually no limit to human frailty. We need to pray for God’s wisdom, strength, and guidance.
  • What’s a homerun sermon to some hearers may be of far less benefit to others. It’s not that the word is weak, but our hearing—like our teaching—is far from perfect. No lesson connects equally well for every hearer.
  • We’re blessed to learn from failures and successes. If a lesson didn’t work, why not? How could it be improved? Was it a failure of prayer? Of study? Of attitude? If it worked, how can that lead us to even more effective service to the Lord?

Thursday, October 20, 2011


To Hurt You, I’ll Hurt Me. So There!

Written by Cory Collins

To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. Rom 12:20-21

How strange it was to learn recently that Terry Thompson, the owner of the Muskingum County Animal Farm in Zanesville, Ohio, had released 56 exotic, wild beasts from their cages, and that he had then taken his own life. Sheriff's deputies, armed with high-powered rifles, shot nearly 50 of them — including 18 rare Bengal tigers and 17 lions — in a big-game hunt across the state's countryside, as homeowners nervously hid indoors.

After an all-night effort that extended into Wednesday afternoon, 48 animals were killed. Six others — three leopards, a grizzly bear and two monkeys — were captured and taken to the Columbus Zoo. A wolf was later found dead, leaving a monkey as the only animal still on the loose. Those destroyed included six black bears, two grizzlies, a wolf, a baboon and three mountain lions. Dead animals were being buried on Thompson's farm.

The 62-year-old Thompson had reportedly had repeated run-ins with neighbors and with the police. In fact, just three weeks earlier, he had been freed from jail for possessing unregistered guns. Apparently he thought he had a score to settle. The Associated Press report said that Thompson threw the cages open and shot himself to death “in what may have been one last act of spite against his neighbors and police.”

Spite is defined as, “A desire to hurt, annoy, or offend someone; malicious ill will prompting an urge to hurt or humiliate.” Like the word “despite,” It is derived from the Old French despit, from the Latin dÄ“spectus for contempt. Whoever Thompson thought he was spiting, whether the authorities or his neighbors, it was he who suffered most. He’s dead.

When I decide that I will strike back at someone who has wronged me by feeding myself anger, hatred, and vengeance, I am the one who suffers. I’m doing it to myself. He or she may be happy, peaceful, and even unaware of the pain I am trying to inflict.

When I cut back my church involvement, worship, or giving, because of what someone said or did to me, I am cheating myself of opportunities to grow and serve. I’m hurting my own faith. I’m depriving myself of joy. The only one truly happy as a result is the devil.

I can hurt my boss by complaining, gossiping, and wasting time on the job. I can hurt my spouse by bickering, leaving a mess on the floor, or yelling at the kids. I can hurt people that do not like me by being rude, arrogant, and mean. I can hurt drivers who cut me off by honking, screaming, and tailgating. When I do I inflict scars and wounds on my own soul.

The flip side is just as true. When I help others, I actually help myself. I’ll try it!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

The Book of Ephesians

Introduction to the Book of Ephesians

Written by George Goldman

To many, Ephesians is one of Paul’s most moving letters and yet to others it is only a reproduction of Pauline themes by another mind. Ephesians explicitly claims that Paul wrote it (Eph. 1:1; 3:1). The early church unanimously accepted it as from Paul.

In modern times liberal critics have raised doubts as to the authorship of Ephesians. These doubts are based on subjective arguments drawn from are inconclusive when compared to objective statements of the text itself (Eph. 1:1; 3:1). If Paul’s authorship is rejected the letter was written by someone equal to Paul.

Concerning the audience being address there is legitimate differences in scholarly opinion. Objective textual evidence is lacking concerning to whom Paul was writing. The words “in Ephesus” (Eph. 1:1) are missing in our three oldest existing copies of this letter (Chester Beatty papyrus, Codex Sinaiticus, and Codex Vaticanus). This accounts for the different ways the first verse is translated (cf. KJV and RSV). This omission allows scholars to speculate on “to whom” the letter was written. The title, “to the Ephesians” was not part of the original letter, as is true to of all titles of New Testament books. These titles simply represent the uninspired thinking of the early Christians.

No book in the Bible exalts Christ and the church more than the book of Ephesians (Eph. 3:21). There is a close connection between Ephesians and Colossians. The same themes are dealt with though the exact words are different. Any good reference Bible will show the close relationship between these two books.

God’s seven-fold plan for unity is found in this book (Eph. 4:1-7). In view of the 300 denominations in America and 800 world religions, it would be well to memorize this plan. There is but one body, one spirit, one hope, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, and one God.

Monday, October 17, 2011

The King James Version

Four Hundred Years of the King James Version

The King James Version has had a profound impact on the English language since that translation was first published in 1611. Heritage Christian University recently commemorated the KJV’s four hundredth anniversary. In today’s blog post, we offer several resources from our weeklong celebration.

The King James Version as Literature by Dr. Larry Adams

Audio The History of the English Bible Up to 1611

Restoration Leaders on Bible Translation by Dr. Jack P. Lewis

Friday, October 14, 2011

Real-World Ministry

Real-World Ministry: October Campaigns

Written by Brad McKinnon,
Director of Christian Service

Historian and educator Henry Adams once suggested, “An education may be the wider and the richer for a large experience of the world.” Real-World Ministry. At Heritage Christian University, real-world ministry is more than a slogan; it is a fundamental component of the University’s mission to prepare effective communicators of the gospel. The Christian Service Department provides practical field experience for our students, including regular weekly service to the church and community, as well as targeted evangelistic activities each semester in various locations. During the week of October 16-22, our students will serve the communities of Fairfield, Texas and Florence, Alabama.

Jason Schick, HCU alumnus and the preaching minister with the Fairfield Church of Christ, has designed an organized and professional experience by which our students can grow spiritually, as they share the gospel with others. HCU’s Director of University Advancement, Philip Goad, has been invited to present a series of lessons focused on the grace and mercy offered by the Lord to all. In coordination with the gospel meeting, our students will meet with local residents, setting up and leading personal Bible studies. Recognizing Jesus’ command to “go and do likewise” in response to the needs of others, Thursday will be dedicated to various service projects throughout Fairfield. Brandon Beard, one of our most experienced student campaigners, will provide exceptional leadership for the students during this campaign.

The Florence campaign will focus on doing simple things in service to others that we believe will have a lasting impact. Work will consist of mowing yards, raking leaves, and making minor repairs for those who are not able to do these things for themselves. Senior HCU student, Derrick Sumerel, has planned and organized this effort in an outstanding way.

In both campaigns, our students will be guided by the principle of responsibility outlined by Paul in Galatians 6:10 – “So then, whenever we have opportunity, let us work for the good of all, and especially for those of the family of faith” (NRSV).

May God be glorified through our efforts!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Does Your Life Matter?

Will My Life Matter?

Satan’s cruelty is stunning! Even though he knows that selfishness destroys, he tempted even Jesus to act selfishly (Matthew 4:3). Even though he knows that God is utterly good, he tempted even Jesus to presume upon the goodness of the Father (Matthew 4:5-7). Even though he knows that “the law of the Lord is perfect...the testimony of the Lord is sure, the statutes of the Lord are right, and the commandment of the Lord is pure,” he tempted even Jesus to misunderstand and misapply God’s law (Psalm 19:7-11). Even though he knows that “the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up,” he tempted even Jesus to choose fame and fortune over loyalty to God (2 Peter 3:10, Matthew 4:8-9).

The devil loves to offer shortcuts to significance. He loves to offer substitutes that have the appearance of value, but hold no worth at all. He offers hollow dreams to hurting people, hoping that they’ll trust their wishes more than they trust God’s truth.

The devil loves to whisper lies. Through one means or another, he says to God’s people, “You don’t count. What’s one among six billion? Does anybody who matters even know who you are? Are you so arrogant as to think that your life really matters?”

The Lord loves to shout truth. We matter enough that He sent His Son to redeem us (John 3:16). We matter enough that Jesus Christ lets us wear His name (Acts 11:26). We matter enough that no power, whether physical, social, economic, political, or spiritual, “shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:35-39). Unless we rebel, we stand secure in Christ. We matter enough that God has entrusted the gospel to our care, as “God’s fellow workers” (Matthew 28:18-20, 1 Corinthians 3:9). We matter enough that God Himself intends to dwell with us forever (Revelation 21:1-3).

Will my life matter? It will if it is lived in Christ. Not a single deed done to the glory of God will be forgotten (Matthew 10:42, Hebrews 6:10). God will be glorified by every good work that we do in His name (Matthew 5:16). God will be pleased by both our good deeds and our worship (Hebrews 13:15-16).

Will my life matter? It will if I help even one other person obey the gospel of Christ or return to truth (James 5:19-20). To seek and save the lost is to step into the very mission of Jesus (Luke 19:10). Nothing, not even the whole material world, matters more than a soul (Matthew 16:25-27).

Tuesday, October 11, 2011


Introduction to the Book of Galatians

Written by George Goldman

The term Galatia in the New Testament designates both a territory in north-central Turkey and a Roman province in the south. In 25 B.C. this Celtic territory was converted into a Roman province called Galatia. This province included parts of Phrygia, Pisidia, and Lycaonia. Therefore the term Galatia can geographically describe the territory inhabited by the Celtic tribes from Gaul, or politically describe the entire Roman province.

Around A.D. 200 the Roman province was reduced to include only the ethnic Galatians (Celtics) and the double use of the term disappeared. The traditional view became that Paul, on the second missionary journey, established churches in northern Galatia (Acts 16:6) and wrote the letter to the Galatians from Ephesus on the third missionary journey about A.D. 56.

In the nineteenth century Sir Williams Ramsey popularized the “South-Galatian theory.” This view is almost universally accepted today. This theory maintains that while Luke uses ethnic-geographic designations (Acts 16:6; 18:23), Paul’s general practice was to use political designations (Gal. 1:1; 1 Cor. 16:1). Therefore, the letter to the Galatians was addressed to Christians in southern Galatia, or churches established on the first missionary journey (Acts 13 – 14).

Galatians is the only Pauline letter addressed to a group of congregations. They were all established by Paul (Gal. 1:8, 11; 4:19f), and were affected by the same disturbance (Gal. 1:6, 9; 5:7-9). This disturbance was the age-old problem of prejudice. Jewish teachers were trying to convince Gentile converts that they had to become Jews before they could become Christians. That is, they had to pass through the channel of Judaism, circumcision, before they could obey the gospel. This makes up the doctrinal section of the letter (Gal. 1 – 4).

The gospel has always been hindered by prejudice and bias. Peter and Barnabas were even affected when it came to eating with Gentiles (Gal. 2). Today we hinder the gospel when we prejudice ourselves against rich or poor, educated or uneducated, black or brown, yellow or white. Souls will be lost on Judgment Day because of prejudice. The gospel is for all (Heb. 2:9). We sing it, why do we not practice it?

In the ethical section of his letter (Gal. 5 – 6), Paul points out the vast difference between Christianity and worldliness. There is a tremendous difference following fleshly appetites (Gal. 5:19-21) and spiritual guidelines (Gal. 5:22-26). Therefore, let us bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. Realizing that we reap what we sow, let us not grow weary in well doing but as we have opportunity, let us to good to all men, especially members of the church (Gal. 6:2, 7-10).

Monday, October 10, 2011

Biblical Leadership

Leadership Lessons from Joshua 1

Written by Dr. Bill Bagents

Wise men don’t readily choose to succeed great leaders. Beloved leaders earn tremendous trust and respect. They engender tremendous loyalty. And when they die, their stature elevates astronomically! Some suggest that this is the reason God buried Moses in a secret place. He knew people’s tendency to enshrine dead leaders.

Joshua didn’t ask to succeed Moses. He effectively led God’s army (Exodus 17). He served as Moses’ assistant (Exodus 24:13). He fulfilled his duties with faithfulness and zeal (Numbers 14:6-10). God Himself elevated Joshua and chose him to step into Moses’ shoes (Numbers 27:15-23). God blessed Joshua with many opportunities to learn and with a gradual transition into leadership.

God blessed Joshua in another crucial way. In Joshua 1, God spoke His personal word of encouragement to Israel’s new leader. That encouragement contains so many lessons for us today.

  • Joshua 1:2, “Moses My servant is dead.” Human leaders don’t live forever. There is a time to lament and mourn losses, but life must go on.
  • Joshua 1:2-4, “I am giving” you and the nation this land. Faithful leaders and faithful followers are part of God’s ongoing work. We step up to that challenge.
  • Joshua 1:5, “As I was with Moses, so I will be with you.” There is no greater assurance than knowing that God is with us. Whether Matthew 28:20 or Romans 8, no promise is more precious than the assurance of God’s abiding presence.
  • Joshua 1:6-9, “Only be strong and very courageous, that you may observe to do according to all the law...” God’s abiding presence is conditional. He links His presence to our faithfulness. His will is to be our meditation and our guide. We don’t pick and choose; we respect God by respecting all His law.
  • Joshua 1:16-18, “Just as we heeded Moses in all things, so we will heed you.” Leaders who trust and obey God should be respected and followed. Following the leadership that God ordains shows respect for God. We all need to show that respect.

Friday, October 7, 2011

A Bad Check

The Check’s in the Mail, but You Dare Not Cash It!

Written by Cory Collins

Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. And he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.” Matt 4:8-9

Early one September morning my cell phone rang. I took the call, from the 202 area code (Washington, DC). The man said he was a Postal Service agent, and he asked, “Is this Cory Collins?” “Yes.” “Did you use your Discover Card ending in xxxx to open a Click-N-Ship account this morning?” I was suspicious. I said, “No!” and ended the conversation. The fact is, I don’t even have a Discover Card. What was going on?

I phoned the USPS fraud office later and confirmed that the agent was legitimate. I called Discover to be sure no one had opened an account there in my name. I checked my credit report for the same reason. All was clear. Whew! I let it go. I hoped it was over. I knew, however, that someone had obtained my name, cell number, and (likely) home address.

Then, about ten days later, a large Priority Mail envelope arrived at the house. It was “returned to sender,” and it came to me as if I had sent it! Someone had used my name and address, pretending to be me, and had mailed this envelope to a “Bill Roach” in Ventura, CA. The crook (the real sender) had entered Mr. Roach’s address incorrectly. The envelope could not be delivered, so it was sent back to the designated sender – me.

Inside was a cashier’s check, drawn on the Mountain West Bank in Coeur d’Alene, ID, in the amount of $2,850. The remitter was named as Mathew Anderson, and the payee was Bill Roach (as above). It looked perfect, even including the watermark and other top security features. I phoned that bank and described the story and the check. The officer asked for the remitter’s name and then said, “We know about other checks just like this one, with this same fake remitter’s name. They are bogus.”

Some scam artists will offer such fake cashier’s checks in large amounts. They only ask you to send them a genuine check from your account to cover “taxes” or “shipping and handling fees.” They then cash your check and pocket your money. When you cash their bad check it costs them nothing. You may have to pay an additional “bad check” bank fee.

Satan is the ultimate con man. Whatever he promises is appealing, pleasurable, and apparently free. It’s only after you agree to do business with him that you realize you have lost everything. You’re broke. Bankrupt. And he’s laughing all the way to the bank.

Ask Eve (Gen 3:1ff). The serpent’s deal sounded too good to be true. And it was. Lost souls in hell would tell you the same. Scripture says, “Don’t give the devil a foothold” (Eph 4:26-27). Don’t cash Satan’s check. He’ll rob you blind.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Sexual Harassment and the Preacher

Sexual Harassment in Ministry

Written by Dr. Justin Imel


  1. Sexual misconduct in ministry is a constant problem.
    1. In a 1984 survey, 38.6 percent of ministers reported sexual contact with a church member, and 76 percent knew of another minister who had had sexual intercourse with a member of the congregation.
    2. In 1992, Leadership magazine conducted a survey and found that 37 percent of ministers engaged in "inappropriate sexual behavior" with a church member.
  2. Today, I have the difficult assignment of speaking concerning "Sexual Harassment in Ministry."
    1. I say it's a "difficult assignment" because sexual harassment in ministry isn't something we typically discuss.
      1. I can't help but wonder if that isn't a large part of the problem.
      2. If we were to discuss the real problems of ministry - as we're trying to do with the "Spiritual Formation" chapels - I firmly believe some of the pitfalls would disappear.
    2. Sexual harassment: "Any unwanted sexual comment, advance or demand, either verbal or physical, that is reasonably perceived by the recipient as demeaning, intimidating, or coercive."


  1. Sexuality drastically changed with the Fall.
    1. Before the Fall: "The man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed" (Gen 2:25, ESV).
    2. After the Fall: "They knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths" (Gen 3:7, ESV).
    3. It's essential to understand:
      1. God made sexuality.
        1. Nothing inherently evil about our sexuality.
        2. Instead, when sexuality remains where God properly placed it, sexuality is a beautiful expression of love between two connected individuals.
      2. But, the misuse of sexuality belongs to our fallenness. Because we are fallen individuals, we need to think about the misuse of sexuality.
  2. Many think of sexual harassment as something only women suffer.
    1. In most cases, it is women who are victims of sexual harassment.
      1. But, because of the intimate nature of ministry, many ministers face sexual harassment.
      2. We are the ones who are with people at the most vulnerable times of their lives: births, baptism, marriage, death.
        1. We are the ones to whom people turn when life turns upside down. People often come to us when they need counseling.
        2. Therefore, it's not terribly uncommon for us to become the object of some people's sexual fantasies.
    2. In Scripture we see that some men were the object of women's sexual desire:
      1. Gen 39:6b-12.
      2. Lot and his daughters could be another example:
        1. Gen 19:30-38.
        2. You'd be right to point out that it's not sexual desire that drove Lot's daughters to do what they did, but Lot's daughters abused him sexually.
  3. Scripture would also speak to us about keeping relationships healthy.
    1. I've always liked Job's statement:
      1. "I have made a covenant with my eyes; how then could I gaze at a virgin?" (Job 31:1).
      2. While he isn't talking about sexual harassment, Job is making a declaration about the intent of his heart.
    2. Matt 5:27-30.
      1. Important thing about what Jesus says is that he goes directly to intent.
      2. Much of sexual harassment begins with intent, and we'll be talking a good bit about intent.
    3. Timothy was to encourage "younger women as sisters, in all purity" (1 Tim 5:2).


  1. How do we handle sexual harassment in ministry?
  2. These suggestions are largely taken from Preventing Sexual Abuse in Congregations by Karen A. McClintock.
  3. When someone makes an unwanted sexual advance toward you:
    1. Keep silent.
      1. Breathe deeply and keep silent for a while - This gives you time to formulate your response.
      2. Picture God sitting in the room with you.
    2. Accept the other person's feelings.
      1. This does not mean that you approve.
      2. It took courage for the individual to express his/her feelings.
      3. "Thank you for telling me that. I'm sure it wasn't easy to do."
      4. Validate the relationship: "I'm honored to be your preacher."
      5. Clarify the professional/moral boundary: "I'm honored to be your preacher, but we're not going where that thought would lead."
    3. Pause for a response.
      1. Ask how the person is responding to what you have said.
      2. Listen for clues that he or she really understands what you have said.
    4. Sometimes, it's important to get out of the situation immediately just like Joseph did - the person removes clothing, attempts physical contact, or uses overt sexual language.
      1. Tell the person directly the behavior has to stop and leave the room.
      2. Tell the individual that for all parties involved, you must break the confidentiality of what's transpiring.
      3. Bring back in secretary or spouse to witness a clarification of what's just occurred.
      4. Refuse to see the person again in any type of personal, private setting.
  4. Yet, it's not always that people make advances toward the preacher - Sometimes the preacher makes unwanted advances toward others.
    1. Pay attention to your intuitive discomfort.
      1. If you doing something that makes you uncomfortable, STOP!
      2. That is a very biblical response.
        1. Our boast is this, the testimony of our conscience, that we behaved in the world with simplicity and godly sincerity, not by earthly wisdom but by the grace of God, and supremely so toward you" (2 Cor 1:12).
        2. "Pray for us, for we are sure that we have a clear conscience, desiring to act honorably in all things" (Heb 13:18).
    2. Stay tuned to your body.
      1. Notice your physiological responses and determine the source of them.
      2. Were you flirting, or was someone flirting with you?
    3. Notice whom you touch and why.
      1. Do you touch one gender more than another?
      2. Do your hugs linger for a longer time with some people?
    4. Avoid commenting on appearance.
    5. Ask before you hug.
    6. Ask yourself, "Who needs this hug?"
      1. Is the hug really for the recipient?
      2. Is the hug really for your own benefit?
    7. Notice the feedback.
      1. Pay close attention to the verbal and nonverbal feedback you receive.
      2. Does the person respond in kind?
      3. Does he/she attempt to get out of the situation?
    8. Take the risk of being called a "cold fish."
      1. Reduce the amount of touching in which you engage.
      2. We can minister effectively without a constant need to touch.
    9. Learn and practice safer alternatives.
      1. Men can learn to listen more empathetically and reduce the need to touch.
      2. Give lots of empathetic head nods and verbal comments like "uh huh."

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Divine Blessings

"Ordinary" Blessings

Written by Dr. Bill Bagents

I can’t remember where I read the quote. I’m not sure that I remember the exact words, but I love the message. “God is always speaking. How often do we listen? God is always teaching. How often do we learn?” There’s so much to learn from the ordinary events of life.

The cell phone rang so I answered. No one was there. After the third hello, I was preparing to be ill. Finally, Laura responded. She hadn’t called me—her back pocket had. We enjoyed a pleasant four-minute conversation. What I almost found to be a bother was really a blessing. That happens more often than we might think.

A friend whom I’ve never met in person calls from California. Our conversations are stunningly diverse. Recently he began with questions about faith and how we help faith grow. I offered suggestions from Luke 17:5 (pray, ask God to help), Romans 10:17 (listen to the word), and Hebrews 5:14 with Luke 17:5-10 (use what you have, do what you know to do). I suggested that God is for us and will help us. Then my friend responded, “That’s grace, and grace is too good to be true.” He wasn’t expressing doubt. Rather, he was emphasizing the stunningly amazing nature of grace.

Wondrous grace. Marvelous grace. Matchless grace. Too good to be true, but God has made it true through Jesus Christ. And we won’t grasp the full power of grace until we see our Lord in all His holiness and majesty (Titus 2:11-14, Ephesians 2:1-10, Revelation 1:12-18). We need to think of that often. Such thoughts will always bless. They’ll pull us toward heaven. They’ll cause us to hate sin. They’ll pull us toward God.

I picked up Laura for lunch. At the restaurant we saw one of the sweetest, most pleasant ladies we know. Every time we see her, we’re reminded of how much she has blessed our family. Seeing her made the meal better. Seeing her made the day better. I hope we had something of the same effect on her. God means for us to be and to bring blessings to others. It’s one of the ways that we are made in His image. It’s one of the ways that we preach the gospel (Matthew 5:13-16, 1 Peter 2:11-12 and 3:1-3). It’s one of the ways that we “stir up love and good works” (Hebrews 10:24).

Monday, October 3, 2011

The Corinthian Epistles

Introduction to 1 and 2 Corinthians

Written by George Goldman

“The Corinthian Correspondence,
A Church with Problems”

Paul visited Corinth for the first time on his second missionary journey (Acts 18). He remained there eighteen months and made his home with two exiled Jews from Rome, Priscilla and Aquilla. After being forbidden to preach in the synagogue, Paul made use of the house of Titus Justus. Many of the Corinthians, Jew and Gentile, believed and were baptized. Paul himself baptized Crispus, the ruler of the synagogue; Gaius; and the household of Stephanus (1 Cor. 1:14-16).

Often a city influences the church more than the church influences the city. This was certainly the case in Corinth. Corinth was about the size of Memphis, Tennessee, in population. It had a very bad reputation. In the stage plays people from Corinth were always depicted as drunkards. To live like a Corinthian was to live a life of fornication and drunkenness. The Corinthians worshiped Poseidon, the god of the sea, and Aphrodite, the goddess of love. In Aphrodite’s temple there were more than a thousand priestesses of vice. Paul spoke out against this sin again and again (1 Cor. 5:10; 6:9; 10:7, 8; 2 Cor. 6:14; 7:1; 12:21). He wrote the book of Romans from this city that probably contributed to his terrible description of heathenism (Rom. 1:21-32).

First Corinthians was written to a church with problems. In the first four chapters the problem of divisiveness is discussed. In 97 A.D. Clement of Rome wrote another letter, which still survives today, and shows that divisions still existed at Corinth. In 1 Corinthians (5 – 6) Paul deals with the problem of moral lapses. Chapter 7 begins with “Now concerning the things whereof ye wrote.” This formula denotes the questions the Corinthians had written to Paul. These questions concerned: marriage (1 Cor. 7), meats sacrificed to idols (1 Cor. 8 – 10); disorders in public worship (1 Cor. 11); spiritual gifts (1 Cor. 12 – 14); the resurrection (1 Cor. 15); and the contribution for the poor saints at Jerusalem (1 Cor. 16).

In 2 Corinthians Paul elaborates further on the collection scheme (2 Cor. 8 – 9) and defends his apostleship.

Today if you visited ancient Corinth you could see the ruins of the ancient market place (1 Cor. 10:25) with its refrigeration system of cold water. Also you could touch the starting marks for the runners in the Isthmain games, which consisted of melted copper poured into stone. Among the ruins of the temple of Apollo you could drink from a foundation of running water. You could climb the 2,000-foot Arco-Corinthies where the temple of Aphrodite once stood. You could also visit the ruins of two ancient Greek theaters. At the entrance of one was found in inscription, “Erastus, city treasurer” (Acts 18:22; 2 Tim. 4:20).