Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The Role of the Minister in the Church and the Community

The Role of the Minister in the Community and the Congregation

Written by Dr. Bill Bagents

1 Corinthians 9:19-23

The truth of God is solid and changeless.

  1. Psalm 119:89, “Forever, O Lord, Your word is settled in heaven.”
  2. Jude 3 speaks of “the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints.”

Our application of God’s word must be both faithful and flexible.

  1. We see that in 1 Corinthians 9:19-23.
    1. Paul could speak Greek to Greeks. He could speak Aramaic to Hebrews. He could speak philosophically to philosophers. He could speak the language of athletes, farmers, or soldiers as the situation demanded.
    2. Paul could start a sermon in a synagogue with Genesis 1 or Genesis 12.
    3. But in Athens (Acts 17), he could read and use the inscription from the nearest idol and quote the relevant poet.
  2. As a minister of the gospel and an apostle of Christ, Paul could preach the word with power.
    1. He could also write by inspiration of the Holy Spirit.
    2. And He could make tents to support himself and his companions when that was needed.
  3. The same has to be true of us.
    1. Like every other minister, that is every other Christian, those of us who are blessed be designated or recognized as preachers, wear many hats and fill many roles.
    2. We marry and bury.
    3. We preach and teach.
    4. We counsel and care.
    5. We serve and lead.
    6. And if we do it right, we do it in balance to the glory of God.
  4. The devil loves to get us out of balance. He will even use Scripture to do so.
    1. For example, some read from Acts 6:2, “Then the twelve summoned the multitude of the disciples and said, ‘ It is not desirable that we should leave the word of God to serve tables.’”
    2. It’s backed up by Acts 6:3-4, “Therefore, brethren, seek out from among you seven men of good reputation, full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business; but we will give ourselves continually to prayer and the ministry of the word.”
    3. That settles it! Preachers ought to preach. Others ought to serve in the more ordinary ways.
    4. It’s clear this was best in the time and situation of Acts 6.
    5. But, this isn’t the only example in Scripture.
    6. In John 6, the feeding of the 5,000, Jesus distributed the food to His disciples (apostles) and they distributed it to the seated crowd.
    7. In Acts 28:3, the apostle Paul was gathering sticks to put on the fire when the viper bit him. He wasn’t too good or too important to work.
  5. My assignment is to talk about the role of the minister in the congregation and the community.
    1. The congregation is a subset of the community. If you’re involved with the congregation, you’re involved with the community.
    2. The people of God aren’t selfish. The congregation should never want the preacher to serve only the congregation. That would be contrary to the example of Christ.
    3. It’s next to impossible to influence and evangelize people who don’t know you. Working in and with the community is pro-evangelism. It offers opportunity to adorn the gospel with good works. It’s in keeping with Matthew 5:16 and 1 Timothy 2:1-7.
  6. It’s not whether you have a role in both church and community. Rather, it’s what roles do we fill in church and community, and how do we keep those in balance.
    1. We’ve already rejected one extreme. “My job is to preach, and that’s all I do.”
    2. The other extreme is just as bad. It’s a misapplication of 1 Peter 3:1-2, “I won’t even need to preach if I live well enough before them.”
      1. Need both the word and the life that the word produces (1 Thes. 2:8).
      2. Ultimately, faith still comes by hearing the word (Romans 10:17).
  7. OK, tell me how to keep these roles in balance. Can’t give a checklist, but I can offer some principles.
    1. Since you can’t do everything, choices must be made. Make them wisely.
    2. Acts 6:2-4 offers much wisdom. We can’t rightly neglect prayer and the ministry of the word.
    3. We’re blessed to double-dip as much as is possible.
      1. Being involved with the community will give you sermon ideas and illustrations.
      2. Being involved with the community will give you all the more reason to pray. Joys, thanksgiving, supplication, prayer for patience and wisdom. “People are something.” “There ain’t nothing people won’t do.” Bad grammar, excellent theology.
      3. God built us so that we need variety. We can rest from study while we serve, play, and interact. And we may have different levels of need for variety and rest. RESIST judgmentalism. We’re not carbon copies.
      4. All of life is about relationships. John 13:34-34. 1st and 2nd commands. Loving people isn’t wasting time. Building relationships can be among our greatest works for God. Most of us aren’t blessed to have too much time with just ourselves.
      5. Find good, stout, brave, wise brethren who will watch your back. Tell me if you see me losing my balance. Wake me up! Ask me! Help me keep myself in the love of God.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Drug Talk

Top Ten Reasons for Doing Drugs

Written by Dr. Bill Bagents

About the only thing I like about Letterman are his top ten lists. It’s been my experience that most kids (and many adults) tend to turn us off as soon as they realize that our subject is drugs. They’ve already heard everything that we could possibly say. Maybe it would help us to repackage. Put it in a form that’s easier to hear. You heard our reading from 1 Corinthians 9. Paul worked at connecting with people. He talked to people in the language they could hear. I want to give you my Top Ten Reasons for Doing Drugs.

Ten: It’s only beer. It’s not grass. It’s not speed. It’s not coke. It’s certainly not heroin. It’s even legal. You can buy it at the grocery. Never mind Proverbs 20:1, “Wine is a mocker. Intoxicating drink arouses brawling. And whoever is led astray by it is not wise.” Never mind Proverbs 23:29-35. Never mind how many of the works of the flesh in Galatians 5 are commonly associated with drinking. It’s only beer. It’s not really a gateway into the world of drugs. Never mind that alcohol is the most abused drug in the world.

Nine: No one will ever know. You know how easy it is to keep things secret. Your friends won’t tell anybody. Never mind that God sees everything. Never mind Numbers 32:23. I mean that’s obviously too strong. “Be sure your sin will find you out” sounds like some kind of threat. You’ve never been hurt by a secret that got out, have you?

Eight: Even if people do know, that won’t matter. After all, everybody’s doing it. You’ve seen the statistics. Even the religious conservatives admit that two-thirds of all teens have had a drink. At least a quarter of all teens have tried other drugs in one form or another, and that’s “everybody,” right? And Exodus 23:2 just asks too much when it says, “You shall not follow a crowd to do evil...” You wouldn’t want to be known as an independent thinker.

Seven: And speaking of evil, maybe drugs aren’t great. But, that’s where religion comes in. Even if it is a sin, you can always get forgiven. 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 talks about people being forgiven for worse things and when you’re forgiven, that automatically erases all the consequences that you might have faced – whether physical, legal, and spiritual; right? Think of a friend who got high and wrecked his car. As soon as he was forgiven, the car fixed itself, the insurance rates went back down, and his family forgot all about the wreck -- right?

Six: If you never try drugs, you won’t know how they feel. You’ll never know how cool it is to get high. You’ll never know what it’s like to take a trip to an alternate reality. Sure, some trips are bad. Sure, some of the major drugs do flashbacks. But, it’s worth the risk. I mean all these people who talk about “natural highs” are just kidding, aren’t they? Everybody knows you have to have chemicals to really feel great.

Five: Just once won’t hurt. There are people who use and never get caught. There are people who use and never get addicted. Situations like that Len Bias thing are rare. You remember him, the Maryland basketball star who was drafted by the Celtics. Cocaine interrupted the electrical impulses to his heart and he died. But that only made the news because it was rare. It’s not like drugs ever have any unintended consequences.

Four: You gotta remember: it’s your body. What you do with it or put into it is your business. Never mind what you owe your parents. Never mind what you owe God. Never mind 1 Corinthians 6:19-20, “Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own. For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s.” After all, it’s not like you’re a Christian or anything.

Three: When it comes to trying drugs, I can promise you this: you’ll lose your friends if you don’t. You know how important friends are. You can’t have fun without them. They’re your best buds. They’ll never let you down. That stuff about “evil companions corrupting good morals” (1 Corinthians 15:33) is probably something parents invented. Get real. You don’t really know anybody who ever got hurt by having the wrong friends, do you?

Two: It never hurts to try drugs. Everybody knows you can quit any time you want. Most top insurance companies will even pay for your first two trips through detox and treatment. After that, you’re on your own. But that’s OK. It’s only a few thousand dollars per program. And some of the very best programs claim five-year success rates of better than 50%. One out of two puts the odds in your favor. And, it’s a sure thing that you’ll want to keep changing.

One: You know you’ll never be an addict. Just keep telling yourself, “I can handle it.” Forget all those studies claiming that some people have a genetic propensity for addiction. Even if that’s true of some people, you’re unique. You’re individual. You’re special. It’ll take more than drugs to hurt you. We wouldn’t want to over-apply 1 Corinthians 10:12, “Therefore, let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall.” That couldn’t happen to you. You’re indestructible. Drugs can’t hurt anybody who’s indestructible.

It’s only beer. No one will ever know. Everybody’s doing it. You can always get forgiven. If you never try, you’ll never know how it feels. Just once won’t hurt. It’s your body – what you put into it is your business. You’ll lose your friends if you don’t. You can quit any time you want. And, just keep telling yourself, “I can handle it.” If you believe these lies, you need to see me later. We need to talk about this swampland in Arizona that’s for sale.

Monday, August 29, 2011

The Gospel of Mark

Introduction to the Gospel of Mark

Written by George Goldman

John Mark is mentioned ten times in the New Testament. John was his Jewish name, Marcus his Roman. His gospel is the shortest of the four and was the least popular in the early church. However, it was probably written first and used by Matthew and Luke. Ninety-five percent of Mark is found in Matthew and/or Luke. The language and details of Mark suggest it was written first. All four gospel writers record the miraculous feeding of the 5,000 (Mt. 14:13-21; Mk. 6:30-44; Lk. 9:10-17; Jn. 6:1-13). Mark is the only one to mention the details that the grass was green and the people sat down in ranks or literally looked liked flowerbeds on the green grass.

Mark wrote to the Roman mind. He uses ten Latin words, some of which do not occur elsewhere in the New Testament. He explains Jewish customs and omits the genealogy and infancy narratives.

Mark presents the military might of Jesus. We see power, splendor, and majesty on every page. Casting out demons was a new thing that only Jesus and the apostles could do. Demon possession is basically a New Testament phenomenon frequently occurring during the ministry of Christ. Demon possession produced harmful effects in their victims, deranging them mentally, morally, physically, and spiritually. They produced physical defects and deformities (Lk. 13:11-17; Mk. 3; Mt. 12:22; 9:23f). They also caused emotional disturbances such as insanity and suicidal mania (Lk. 8:26-36; Mk. 9:22). Jesus treated all the people as sick folk. The demons knew Him; bowed to Him; described Him as “the Son of the Most High God;” and entreated Him; and obeyed Him (Mk. 1:24; 5:6f; Lk. 8:31; Mt. 8:16). Demons comprehended their inevitable doom (Mt. 8:29). This picture is, of course, what the Biblical writers wanted us to see.

Friday, August 26, 2011


What Does the Bible Say About Divorce?

Written by Dr. Bill Bagents

God never commanded every person to marry. He leaves that choice to us. But Holy Scripture takes a very high view of marriage.

Genesis 2:21-25. This is such a beautiful story. Woman created from man. Man and woman as comparable beings, both made in the image of God (Genesis 1:16-27). Just imagine Adam’s joy. A one-verse description of how a new home is created. And here we find the description of intimacy without shame.

Proverbs 18:22, “He who finds a wife finds a good thing, and obtains favor from the Lord.”

Proverbs 19:14, “Houses and riches are an inheritance from fathers, but a prudent wife is from the Lord.”

Proverbs 31:10-31, “Who can find a virtuous wife? For her worth is far above rubies?”

There are many Old Testament passages which speak of Israel as God’s bride.

Ephesians 5 is a great description of Christ and the church as groom and bride.

Hebrews 13:4, “Marriage is honorable among all, and the bed undefiled, but fornicators and adulterers God will judge.”

Jesus’ first miracle, John 2, performed at a wedding in Cana of Galilee.

Scripture takes a very high view of marriage. On the opposite end of the spectrum, it takes just as low a view of divorce. Disclaimer: Please note what I did NOT just say. I did NOT say that God hates the divorced. I did NOT say that those who have been through a divorce are without hope. I realize that while it takes two to get married, it only takes one to get a divorce. Sometimes fine people get “done wrong.” Please know that I have no desire to add to their burden.

At the same time, we’re here tonight to speak God’s truth. I’m simple. I need to do this step-wise. The first step is to document God’s attitude toward divorce.

At the very end of the Old Testament, the prophet Malachi made a list of sins which were separating God’s people from Him. Malachi 2:13 begins item # 2 on his list. Malachi 2:13-16.

  • What was covering the altar with tears?
  • What was causing God to reject the worship of His people?

In a word, DIVORCE. Divorce, which God describes as dealing treacherously with the wife of your youth. And, did you notice verse 14? Divorce, which God says that He does not recognize. Despite the treacherous dealings, “Yet she is your companion and your wife by covenant.”

Why does God hate divorce? Malachi 3:16 tells us. Divorce is a horribly violent act. Because He loves people, it must break God’s heart to see two people who have pledged their faith before him go back on their word. Divorce tears a family apart. There is no way to describe the pain that a divorce can cause the couple who experiences it. And we know we can’t say enough about children who may be involved. There is a popular myth that divorce only hurts really young children. Popular wisdom says that it’s better to divorce than to live together in an unhappy marriage. I wish people would realize that there is another choice. Unhappy marriages can change.

This book bears a 2000 copyright. Its title is The Unexpected Legacy of Divorce: A 25 Year Landmark Study. Judith Wallerstein and associates surveyed adult children of divorce, people whom they had first interviewed 25 years ago. Their goal was to learn about the long-term effects of divorce. Popular wisdom says that divorce is hardest on young children, it’s less hard on teens, and its effects diminish as children of divorce move into young adulthood. Wallerstein’s study indicated that the effects of divorce are hard on young children, even harder on teens, and that the negative effects of divorce crescendo in young adulthood. How do you choose a spouse and make a lifelong commitment when you saw your parents’ marriage come apart?

Two cautions: (1) This study doesn’t make the Bible more true. The Bible doesn’t need scientific verification. (2) This study is neither prophetic nor prescriptive. It does NOT say that children of divorce are ruined for life. It does document that nearly all of life is more difficult for children whose parents divorce.

What does the Bible say about divorce? First, that God hates it. Second, don’t do it. Matthew 19:3. Background: ongoing debate between disciples of two prominent teachers. One: If you find your wife unpleasing in any way, divorce her and try again. The other: You can divorce your wife and marry again, only if you find some serious fault in her. Who was right? Neither.

In answer to this question, Jesus goes back to the beginning, back to God’s will and God’s plan. In a word, Jesus’ answer to the question of divorce is DON’T.

So the Pharisees ask their follow-up question (19:7). If you say divorce is not God’s will, they why did Moses command it? Jesus, again, gives the perfect answer. Moses did not command divorce. Rather, God permitted divorce and regulated divorce under the Mosaic covenant because of the hardness of their hearts. I can’t prove this, but it is my honest belief that some of those ruthless men would have killed their wives had that been the only way out of marriage.

You will note that Jesus, again, returns to God’s will and God’s purpose. “…But from the beginning it was not so.”

Then, Jesus gives clear, plain teaching on what God allows today (19:9). Implications of this passage?

  1. Don’t divorce. What God has joined together, let not man separate.
  2. If one party breaks a marriage through fornication, through any type of sexual relations outside the marriage, then that person loses the privilege of marrying any other person.
  3. The party who did not break the marriage through fornication, may divorce the unfaithful spouse and marry another without sin.

That is stout! That is restrictive! That’s strong! That is just what the disciples thought (19:10). If this is the case, if this is God’s word concerning the permanence of marriage, then it is better not to marry! In verses 11 and 12 Jesus agrees in part. The apostles’ saying is, “If such is the case of the man with his wife, it is better not to marry.” Jesus answer is, “All cannot accept this saying, but only those to whom it has been given.” In other words, Jesus is reminding the apostles that that they have said too much. Yes, for some it is better not to marry. For others this is not the case.

What does the Bible say about divorce? (1) God hates it. (2) Don’t do it. (3) If you do divorce – unless you divorce your mate because of his or her fornication – do not remarry. Serial monogamy is not a biblical option.

Preventing Divorce

  1. Strong teaching on the permanence of marriage.
  2. Marriage preparation by parents, church, preachers, elders.
  3. Proactive support of marriage. M-F classes. M-F workshops. M-F mentoring.
  4. Active intervention at the first sign of trouble.

Caring for the Divorced

  1. Don’t devalue, insult, and/or drive away.
  2. Help with childcare
  3. Single-parenting classes.
  4. Prayer.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

In the Twinkling of an Eye

In the Twinkling of an Eye

Written by HCU Alumnus Colin R. Vine

There was hardly time for my right eye to twinkle. The pain was piercing, instant, and totally unexpected. Jennie and I had stopped for lunch and I was hurrying towards the restaurant, heading for the restroom. One of the diners told me later that he had seen the bee fly under my spectacles and into my eye. Fortunately, there is no lasting damage, but it got me thinking about the unexpected.

We had been visiting Alabama and had witnessed the devastation in the small town of Hackleburg, AL, which had been flattened by a tornado in April, with many people losing their lives. Later, on our way back south, we had to leave the Natchez Trace Parkway since a section of that highway had disappeared due to the same round of tornadoes. It was during that diversion that we arrived at that small restaurant in a small town in Mississippi, with me anxious to find the quickest route to the restroom, and a bee anxious to find the quickest route to my eye.

Someone once said that the unexpected rarely happens, but when it does, it usually happens when you least expect it. Hurricanes, tornadoes, even insects in the eye? We might survive any of those, but what if we do not?

Are you ready right now if the unexpected should happen to you? Paul describes the arrival of the end, thus, “In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye ...” (1 Cor 15:52 ESV). Just like my encounter with the bee, there is no time to prepare once it happens. Each one of us needs to be ready beforehand. The twinkling of an eye is just that, a twinkle -- no time at all.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The Gospel of Matthew

Introduction to the Gospel of Matthew

Written by George Goldman

Matthew the son of Alphaeaus was a tax collector. He is also called Levi. Double names were common among the Jews; e.g., Simon called Peter (Jn. 1:42), Thomas called Didymus (Jn. 20:24), and Saul called Paul (Acts 13:9).

The Gospel according to Matthew is named first in most ancient lists of scripture. It was the most quoted gospel in Christian literature before 180 A.D.

This gospel emphasizes what Jesus taught. There are five great discourses in the book (Mt. 5 – 7, 10, 13, 18, 24 – 25). Each of these end with the phrase “when Jesus had ended these sayings” (Mt. 7:28; 11:1; 13:53; 19:1; 26:1). In between these five discourses are narrative sections leading up to each discourse.

Matthew makes things easy to memorize. There are 38 groups of three in his book; e.g., 3 divisions in the genealogy (Mt. 1:17), 3 messages to Joseph, 3 temptations, 3 illustrations of righteousness (giving, praying, fasting, Mt. 6:18), 3 prohibitions (Mt. 6:19, 25; 7:1), and 3 commands (Mt. 7:7, 13, 15). There is a grouping of three types of miracles with three examples of each (Mt. 8:1 – 9:34). There are miracles of healings: leprosy, paralysis, and fever (Mt. 8:1-17). There are miracles of power: storm, demons, and forgiveness (8:23 – 9:8). There are miracles of restoration: of life, of sight, of speech (Mt. 9:23-34). These groupings are not accidental. Matthew wanted the Jews to know that the evidence was established at the mouth of two or three witnesses (Deut. 17:6). There are also groups of fives and sevens; e.g., the five great discourses of Jesus, seven parables (Mt. 13), and seven woes (Mt. 23).

Matthew is a gospel of fulfillments. There are around fifty quotations from the Greek Old Testament (LXX) and sixteen from the Hebrew Old Testament. Those from the Hebrew Bible are introduced with the formula “that it might be fulfilled.” Some of these “fulfillments” seem forced (Mt. 2:15 cf., Hos. 11:1). Matthew’s point is that Jesus’ experience is similar to Israel’s. The Hosea passage was used just because of the wording. Matthew’s favorite prophet was Isaiah. His favorite Psalm was Psalm 22.

Matthew is a gospel of a king. Christ’s lineage is traced back to King David. The wise men come to worship a king (Mt. 2:2); Jesus is called “Son of David” eight times. Pilate asks, “Are you a king? (Mt. 27:10f). Over the cross the words were written, “This is Jesus the king of the Jews” (Mt. 27:37).

Matthew is the gospel of the church. He is the only writer to attribute the word “church” to the sayings of Jesus. However, the word “kingdom” is used many times by Jesus. The first occurrence of Jesus’ use of “church” is in Peter’s confession (Mt. 16:16-19). Here its use is clearly being spoken of as in the future. Church occurs again in the context of discipline and seems to indicate not only its existence but also problems within it (Mt. 18:15-20). Matthew was writing these sayings of Jesus after the church had been established.

The gospel writers do not identify themselves by name. Luke writes in the first person but gives not hint of who is the author (Lk. 1:1-4). The titles of the books are not to be considered as part of the text. Ancient tradition names Matthew as the writer.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

No Good Deed . . . . Part Two

No Good Deed Goes . . . Part 2

Written by Dr. Bill Bagents

“For God is not unjust to forget your work and labor of love which you have shown to-ward His name, in that you have ministered to the saints and do minister. And we desire that each one of you show the same diligence to the full assurance of hope until the end” (Hebrews 6:10-11).

No good deed done righteously to the glory of God goes unnoticed, unappreciated, or unrewarded. But that doesn’t mean that the reward will always be obvious, immediate, or earthly. And upon reflection, that’s amazingly encouraging.

God rewards better than we have any right to expect. Scripture offers many exam-ples.

  • In return for helping the spies escape, Rahab asked that her family be spared (Joshua 2:8-14). Not only was her family spared, but she became the great-grandmother of King David (Matthew 1:5-6). On top of that, she’s listed in the Honor Roll of Faith (Hebrews 11:31).
  • In return for great faithfulness, Caleb asked for the portion of Canaan where the giants lived (Joshua 15:6-15). Joshua 15:11 tells us that his strength and eyesight were unabated by age.
  • David wanted to build a house for God (2 Samuel 7). Though God didn’t allow that, He rewarded David with these words, “Your throne shall be established forever” (2 Samuel 7:16). What an acknowledgement of a good intention!
  • Solomon chose wisdom when offered opportunity to request a gift from God (1 Kings 3). Because his request pleased the Lord and showed humility, God also gave him wisdom, riches, and honor above everyone on earth (1 Kings 3:13).
  • An unnamed widow chose to give her all, two tiny coins, to God (Mark 12:41-44). For her act of faith, she lives forever as a shining example of trust and good will.
  • A woman anointed Jesus with costly fragrant oil (Mark 14:3-9). For her act of faith, “Wherever the gospel is preached in the whole world, what this woman has done will also be told as a memorial to her.” What amazing return on an investment!
  • In the earliest days of the church, Barnabas sold land and brought the money to the apostles for the common good (Acts 4:36-37). God rewarded him with a role in helping Saul “plug into” the church in both Jerusalem and Antioch (Acts 9:26-27, 11:25-26). The Holy Spirit chose Barnabas to lead the first divinely called mission team (Acts 13:1-3).

Monday, August 22, 2011

No Good Deed

No Good Deed Goes . . .

Written by Dr. Bill Bagents

You know how the devil completes that line. He and those deceived by him consis-tently repeat, “No good deed goes unpunished.” And sometimes it seems like the devil is right.

  • A godly wife does all she can to live the truth of 1 Peter 3:1-6, but her husband doesn’t respond with love. He intensifies his cruelty and rebellion to God.
  • Godly parents do all they can to live the truth of Proverbs 22:6 and Ephesians 6:4, but their children neither appreciate nor internalize godly training.
  • Godly elders attempt to live up to the truth of Hebrews 13:17, but some brethren see them as meddlesome and overbearing.
  • Godly Christians do their best to apply Matthew 18:15-17 and Galatians 6:1-2, but they are accused of being self-righteous and judgmental.
  • Faithful Christians take to heart the Great Commission of Matthew 28:18-20, but they are accused of trying to force their religion on others.

Sadly, all this happens. Even stouter examples could be added. And Satan gloats when he persuades some that righteousness costs far more than it pays.

Happily, Scripture countermands each of the devil’s lies. It’s just not true that “no good deed goes unpunished.” Rather, in this sin-damaged world, it’s more accurate to say that “few good deeds go unchallenged.” Satan opposes good, especially good that’s done in the name of Christ. Why? Because the devil knows the power of good deeds! Because the devil knows that good deeds honor God, help people, and mold Christian character.

What the devil opposes, God commends. In God’s divine grace and mercy, for the faithful we can say, “No good deed goes unnoticed,” “No good deed goes unappreciated,” and “No good deed goes unrewarded.” We have God’s word on these truths.

Remember Matthew 25:31-46? Those who fed the hungry, gave drink to the thirsty, took in the stranger, clothed the naked, cared for the sick, and visited the prisoner heard these words from the King: “Assuredly, I say to you inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me” (25:40). Remember Titus 3:8, “…Those who have believed in God should be careful to maintain good works. These things are good and profitable to men.” Remember Hebrews 6:10, “For God is not unjust to forget your work and labor of love which you have shown toward His name, in that you have ministered to the saints and do minister.”

We have God’s word on it. Love the Lord and no good deed goes unrewarded!

Friday, August 19, 2011

Sticks and Stones

When Words Become Weapons

Written by Cory Collins

Death and life are in the power of the tongue … Proverbs 18:21 (NKJV)

“Sticks and stones may break my bones,” but words can crush my spirit, devastate my sense of self-worth, and destroy my dignity. Verbal abuse, unlike physical abuse, leaves no outward scars. It cannot be proven by photographs or other evidence. No one but the victim will ever fully know the pain and distress that it causes. Jesus understands. He discussed verbal abuse in connection with murder and anger (Matt. 5:22). We must take it as seriously as He did.

What does verbal abuse involve? Dr. Jay Grady provides this partial list:

Yelling - Accusing - Using sarcasm - Threatening - Insulting - Treating another with scorn – Intimidating - Humiliating - Putting another down - Ridiculing - Blaming - Disparaging another’s ideas - Name-calling - Belittling - Rejecting another’s opinion - Criticizing - Mocking – Trivializing another’s desires.

You and I could use this checklist on ourselves. We could ask our spouses, children, and others, “Does my language or tone ever leave you feeling that I am accusing, using sarcasm, humiliating, etc.?” Regardless of our professed intentions, if our words have these perceived effects, we have no business using them! Parents, employers, church leaders, and others in leadership positions must be especially cautious, lest we appear to misuse our authority to take advantage of those under our direction. We must correct our children, for example, without derogatory, demeaning words that leave them emotionally crippled.

If my spouse, child, or another person answers, “Yes, I do feel that way (intimidated, etc.),” as a Christian I know I should say, “Please forgive me. I genuinely love and respect you. Tell me whenever you feel this way again.” According to Grady, “The underlying premise of verbal abuse is control, which is a means of holding power over another.” When I sincerely ask your forgiveness, I make it clear that I am not about control or manipulation. I set both of us free.

Because I am a sinner, I can so easily justify my words, insisting I have done no wrong. I can say, “I was just joking!” See Prov. 26:18-19. I can say, “You’re too sensitive!” I can say, “I didn’t mean that the way you heard it!” But, because I truly want you to be blessed, I’ll just say, “If it does not edify, help, and encourage you, I won’t say it or do it. Period.”

Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers. Ephesians 4:29 (NKJV)

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Information Literacy

Information Literacy

Written by Dr. Bill Bagents

  1. God supports the concept of information literacy.
    1. We could read about that from Deuteronomy 13, how that a prophet who gives a sign and the sign comes true, must be rejected if he tries to lead people away from God.
    2. We could read about that from 1 Kings 13, where God gave a young prophet explicit instructions, but an older prophet lied to the young man. And the young man died for believing and acting on a lie.
    3. We could read about that from 1 John 4:1, “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world.”
    4. We could read about that from Acts 17:11, “These were more fair-minded than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the world with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so.”
  2. Don’t believe everything you hear. Don’t believe everything you read. Even if you hear it from a great, trusted, bright well-educated, passionate, and gifted speaker.
    1. Have you ever seen that bulletin article telling us that NASA scientists discovered a missing day way back in history? Then, someone remembered the day that God made the sun stand still (Joshua 10:13) and the day the shadow on the sundial ran backwards 10 degrees for Hezekiah (2 Kings 20:10-11), thus proving that the Bible is true. The Bible is true, but NASA hasn’t proven that.
      1. Scientists and historians can’t even agree on the year that the Lord was born.
      2. They have no reference point from which to identify a missing day centuries before the birth of Christ.
      3. Hoax. Used by some to demonstrate the gullibility of believers.
    2. Have you read the Internet article about the lesson behind the folded burial cloth in the tomb of Jesus? Claims that it was Jewish custom for the master to fold the napkin when he was done with his meal. That told servants he was done so they could clean up. Folded burial cloth tells us that Jesus was done with death.
      1. There was no such dinner custom with the Jews.
      2. Even if there was, it’s quite a leap from a dinner napkin to a burial cloth.
    3. Have you ever heard a preacher speak from John 21 and tell us that Jesus twice used “agape/agapeo” when he asked Peter, “Do you love me?” Peter twice answered with, “Lord, You know I phileo/love you.” Peter wouldn’t dare use the word agape because it’s the highest form of love. Text says otherwise, “Peter was grieved because He said to him the third time, Do you love Me?”
      1. In the NT there’s far more overlap between agape and phileo than some realize.
      2. 1 John 2:15, “Do not love (agapeo) the world or the things in the world…”
      3. 2 Timothy 4:10, “Demos has forsaken me, having loved this present world…”
    4. The buzzard, the bat, and the bumblebee email. Put buzzard in a 6x8 box with no top and he’ll be trapped because buzzards have to have a 10-12 step running start to fly. Wrong! Buzzards have not read the email.

Information literacy is the ability to know when there is a need for information and the ability to identify, locate, evaluate, and effectively use that information.

No one is as ignorant as the one who does not know that he does not know. No one is as dishonest as the one who selectively sorts information and keeps only the parts that agrees with him.

Philosophically and practically, we can’t teach you all that you will need to know to serve and lead effectively for the rest of your life. We can’t give you that many facts. Even if we could, truth must be applied lovingly and faithfully every day that we live.

Rather than pretending that we can do more than is possible. We take a different approach. We teach God’s truth. We’re happy to teach facts. But we know that we must also teach you how to learn. God forbid that you complete your education here. We want you to enhance your education. We want you to learn how to learn more broadly and more effectively.

Visit the HCU website. Visit the library section. Read about information literacy. Great stuff there.

  • Definitions of terms.
  • “Hierarchy of Research Resources.” At the base, Broad, General info like Wikipedia. OK place to start for general ideas and an overview. Moves up to essays in popular publications, popular books, specialized dictionaries, scholarly books, referenced/peer reviewed journal articles, to Scripture.

    All information sources are not created equal.

    Some are purposefully biased and misleading.

    Some think they telling the truth when they don’t have a clue.
  • Guidelines in researching, first steps in researching, tips for finding information.

No substitute for critical thinking. Critical thinking is not negative. It’s “lights on.” It’s evaluating, weighing and measuring. It’s testing and exploring. It’s identifying inconsistencies as well as strengths. It’s not being afraid to say, “Those dots don’t connect. This author just made a leap that makes no sense.”

I don’t mean to be rude, but you can read on the internet from people with major academic credentials that Jesus of Nazareth never lived, that he was John’s gay lover, that he was mentally ill, that his death was faked, that his resurrection was faked, that the gospels offer contradictory fictionalized accounts of his life, and more.

Maddog Adams story. “Half of what I’ll teach you in this course will one day be proven untrue. Trouble is, I don’t know which half.” I love the fundamental humility toward the human side of knowledge. As we learn better, we do better. We need to be correctable.

On the other hand, we have complete confidence in the divine side of knowledge. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, the beginning of wisdom (Proverbs 1:7 and 9:10).

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Helping Hurting Families

Family Matters

A Cause for Concern

Our culture as a whole is no longer “pro-family.” Our culture loves self and money too much to give family the high standing that it once held. Our culture has chosen to distance itself from God and from Scripture. Our culture no longer thinks that marriage is the only way to create a new family. Even thinking that marriage is the best way to create a family is considered narrow, old-fashioned, and prejudicial.

Our culture is sick. The last days are here. The perilous times have come. Men are lovers of themselves, lovers of money, disobedient to parents, unloving, unforgiving, without self-control, headstrong, haughty, and lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God. You recognize that limited paraphrase of 2 Timothy 3. That’s our world.

That’s the bad news. Our culture is sick. Here’s the good news. An ever-increasing number of people have hurt until they’re tired of hurting. Good people are sick of seeing families fall apart. God’s people are beginning to wake up to our tremendous opportunity. So many people want better families that they’re willing to let us help them. God has used the anti-family bias of our culture to open a great door of evangelism and healing.


  1. We can give our neighbors something to shoot for. We can model the love described in 1 Corinthians 13 and Ephesians 5. We can model the parental responsibility taught in the Proverbs and Ephesians 6. We can show them what healthy, happy homes look like.

    We must do this first. Otherwise, they won’t care about our words. Hollow words fall to the ground with no effect.

  2. We can restore the concept of the church as the household, as the family of God. We live in the most mobile society ever. Folks marry and move across the country. Extended flesh-and-blood family is left behind. But, children need grandparents and parents need the support and counsel of those who’ve been there before. Titus 2 gives older ladies permission to teach younger ladies to love their husbands and their children. 1 Timothy 4:12 calls on Timothy to be an example to the believers in every aspect of life. The Golden Rule of Matthew 7:12 and the command to love in Ephesians 5:1-2 gives every Christian permission to act like family. My kids have more adopted grandmothers than they can count.

  3. Elders can get more involved in the daily lives of church members. The biblical model describes elders as shepherds. You remember that from 1 Peter 5:4. Elders shepherd under the authority of Christ the Chief Shepherd. When they do it right, they shepherd following the example of Christ the Chief Shepherd. You know John 10. Read John 10:1-3. Elders can’t shepherd people whom they don’t know. And they can’t know people whom they see only in the church building. “You can’t oversee what you never see.”

    DISCLAIMER: Of course, we need to help elders in this vital role. We need to help them know us and welcome their guidance.

  4. Preachers can preach from the heart about family. The Bible is a treasure of family values. The Bible knows family conflict. The first kid born killed his own brother. The Bible knows parental favoritism and sibling rivalry – remember Isaac, Rebekah, Jacob, and Esau. The Bible knew dysfunctional families before that term was coined – remember Joseph and his brothers.

    “Preach from the heart.” Not just telling folks what’s wrong with families, but focusing on solutions. Not just telling folks what’s wrong with families, but holding up God’s dream of happy, healthy, loving homes. Not presenting a façade of perfection, but letting people know us, letting people know that we struggle, too.

  5. Churches can teach family skills in a way that connects to people’s hearts. Classes on Sunday and Wednesday are an example. Special teachers with special skills – put our money where our mouths are. Actually create classes where older women teach younger women. Offer premarital counseling, marriage enrichment, parenting classes, divorce recovery, single parenting classes and support groups.

    We can back off the old myth that such classes encourage divorce. That’s the devil’s own lie. Divorced people know better than anyone how much divorce hurts.

  6. We can start using our buildings on the other 5 days of the week.
    1. Mother’s Day Out. Moms who make the sacrifice and stay home with their kids can use a break.
    2. Christian Day Care. I’m the most anti-day care person you know. The greatest blessing in our children’s lives was their mother’s desire to be home with them during their preschool years. But, when mom must work outside the home, we need to help minimize the cost to children. It’s also a wonderful outreach to the un-churched.
    3. After School Care. Tap our senior members for homework help.
    4. Those seminars and support groups we mentioned above.

    DISCLAIMER: It’s not about the building. It’s about doing God’s work. It’s about helping families. It’s about reaching out to others in love.

  7. We can buy and share pro-family resources. Church library. Books. Videos. Create a family resource center. Better yet, do a marriage resource center and a parenting resource center.

  8. We can educate ourselves in helping skills. I often say that most of counseling is “grandma stuff.” It’s stuff that good grandmas do by nature. Such as listening, not giving “pat answers” and quick cures, asking good questions, and speaking the occasional wise word. What statement would it make if an entire eldership told the congregation, “We’re all going back to school. Next semester, we’re all taking a course in people-helping skills so that we can better lead this church.” That course wouldn’t hurt most preachers, either.

    Counseling is too important to be left to the “experts.” When it’s done biblically, counseling is just a one-word summary of Galatians 6:2, “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.”

  9. We can identify resources for families who have deeper needs than we’re able to address. Counseling centers like our own Alpha Center. Not the answer, but part of the answer.

  10. We can pray. What if a congregation announced a special hour of family prayer every Monday morning at 8? Send your request by mail. Fax it. Call us. Email. You can use full names, first names, no names, or fake names (pseudonyms). Just give us the opportunity to pray for your family.

  11. We can love. We can embrace the hurting, even those who’ve caused their own hurt. Love heals. Love is the environment of healing.

  12. We can try. I often try without any visible positive result. I sometimes try and actually feel like I make things worse. I can live with that. I can also tell you what I can’t live with. I can’t live with not trying. Not trying is not Christian. Not trying is not caring. Nobody can go to heaven that way.

People are tired of the mess that most families are in. If we can show them a better way, many of them will take it. It won’t be clean, neat, and easy; dealing with hurting people never is. It won’t be clean, neat, and easy. But, it will be powerful, loving, and effective. “…The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve and to give His life a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:28). It’s time we stepped up to the challenge.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

It's in Our DNA

What is Heritage Christian University’s DNA

Prepared by Dennis Jones,
President of Heritage Christian University

HCU’s DNA is summarized by one word: Christlikeness

  • Romans 8:29
  • Philippians 2:5
  • 1 Peter 2:21

We are COMMITTED to doing God’s will.

  • John 6:38

We are CONVINCED by the power of the Gospel.

  • Romans 1:16

We are DRIVEN to fulfill our purpose.

  • Mark 1:38

We are DEDICATED to authentic Christianity.

  • Acts 11:26

We are PERSUADED to be peacemakers.

  • Matthew 5:9

We are MOTIVATED to reach our potential.

  • Colossians 3:23

We are CHALLENGED by the need.

  • Matthew 9:37-38

Monday, August 15, 2011

Baptism: For the Saved or for the Lost?

What Baptism Will and Will Not Do

Matthew 28:19-20

Written by George Goldman

  1. Why discuss it? Why harp on it so much?
    1. Some prefer not to discuss it.
    2. The religious world is divided on the subject.
      1. The majority regard it as non-essential. They say that baptism is not a definite part of one’s salvation from sin.
      2. If the religious world said prayer was non-essential I would preach sermon after sermon on prayer. The Bible encourages us to be both fruit inspectors and wolf detectors (Mt. 7:15-20).
    3. Baptism is a Biblical word, therefore I’m obligated to preach on it and to explain it to anyone who will listen.
      1. The Lord has given us enough information on this subject to remove all doubts from our minds.
      2. Today we’ll search the Bible and find what baptism will not do, what it will do, and is it for saved people or lost people.
  1. The Bible does not teach that baptism will do everything. Nor does it teach it will do nothing. It is not a matter of all or nothing. There are some things that baptism will not do and there are some things it definitely will do. First, six things that baptism will not do:
    1. Baptism will not give you a license to sin.
      1. To the contrary the Bible teaches that baptized people are not to serve sin. Rom. 6:1-6; 12, 17-18
      2. God endeavors to keep man from sin, but not give him a license to sin.
    2. Baptism will not make you immune to sin.
      1. A baptized believer needs to be continually on guard.
      2. The Bible teaches that one can fall from grace.
        1. Gal. 5:4 --You are severed from Christ; you have fallen away from grace.
        2. 1 Cor. 10:12--Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall.
        3. The Bible gives both warnings and examples about falling away (Heb. 6:4-6).
        4. The Bible says we can fail to inherit (Gal. 5:19-21 read).
        5. That weak brothers can perish (1 Cor. 8:11).
        6. That we can fail to bear fruit (Jn. 15:1-6).
        7. So baptism will not make you immune to sin.
      3. We are not only told that we can fall but also how to keep from falling.
        1. 2 Pet. 1:5-10
        2. Jude 24--Now to him who is able to keep you from falling and to present you without blemish before the presence of his glory with rejoicing.
      4. In fact the Bible tells us how to come back when we fall (Acts 8:22-24).
        1. James 5:16--Therefore confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man has great power in its effects.
        2. 1 Jn. 1:7-10
    3. Baptism will not remove the scar of sin.
      1. Sin often leaves a scar even though its guilt has been forgiven.
      2. A person through sinning can ruin his body and destroy his health. He must bear the brunt of his sin even though its guilt has been forgiven.
      3. The Bible promises the remission of sins but it does not promise the removal of the bad consequences of sin.
    4. Baptism will not keep you from being tempted.
      1. 2 Tim. 3:12--Indeed all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.
      2. Mt. 11:28-30--This passage teaches us that Christ can make our burdens easier to bear.
    5. Baptism will not relieve you from further responsibility.
      1. Baptism is the beginning of one’s Christian responsibility.
      2. A person arises from the watery grave of baptism to walk in newness of
        life (Rom. 6:4).
      3. Eph. 2:10--For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good
        works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
      4. Baptism will not cover up one’s lack of faith or repentance.
      5. Baptism will not save the man who does not believe (Jn. 8:24).
      6. Baptism will not save the man who will not repent (Lk. 13:3, 5; Acts 2:38).
      7. Baptism will not save a man without his consent. Every act of obedience must be from the heart (Rom. 6:17f; Acts 2:41).
  2. Now these six points do not rule out baptism altogether. Just because there are some things baptism will not do does not mean that baptism is non-essential to salvation. Baptism may not do everything, but it will do some things.
    1. The Bible mentions baptism (a N.T. word not an O.T. one).
      1. There are over 100 references to the root word baptiso in the New Testament.
      2. It would be valuable for you to underscore every place where the New Testament mentions baptism.
    2. The Bible defines baptism in at least two places.
      1. Rom. 6:3-4
      2. Col. 2:12--You were buried with him in baptism in which you were also raised with him through faith in the working of God, who raised him for the dead.
      3. Literally the Greek word baptiso means to immerse.
    3. The Bible gives examples of baptism.
      1. About 3,000 were baptized on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2)
      2. The Samaritans were baptized (Acts 8)
      3. There is the example of Simon the magician and the Ethiopian eunuch (Acts 8)
      4. Saul of Tarsus is another example (Acts 9)
      5. People at the house of Cornelius (Acts 10)
      6. Lydia and her household (Acts 16)
      7. The Corinthians (Acts 18)
      8. About 12 men from Ephesus (Acts 19)
    4. Baptism will do something. It has some purpose; it is mentioned, defined, and exemplified in God’s word. What will baptism do? Baptism will remit sin (Acts 2:38) "because of" or "in order to."
      1. Our English word "for" has two opposite meanings. We might say a man went to town for a loaf of bread or in order to get a loaf of bread. On the other hand we might say that a man was put in jail for stealing, or because he had stolen.
      2. The Greek language is more exact. There are different prepositions for each of these words.
        1. "because of"
        2. on account of
        3. In order to obtain
        4. Baptism because of the remission of sins was never at say time authorized by God.
        5. In Acts 2:38 both repentance and baptism are for the same thing. "In order to obtain the remission of sins.
      3. There are many good people who believe that baptism plays no part in one’s salvation from sin. They believe a person is saved before he is baptized.
        1. But if so he is saved before his sins are remitted.
        2. Acts 22:16--If so he is saved before his sins are washed away.
      4. It is just as wrong to be baptized the wrong way by sprinkling, etc., as it is to be baptized for the wrong reason. (Acts 19:1-5) There is a biblical example of people who were immersed a second time after they had found out the true reason for baptism.
    5. Baptism will save a person from his past sins (1 Pet. 3:20-21) "by or through water."
      1. If you have never been baptized in order to be saved, then you have never become a Christian in the Bible way.
      2. If you were taught that you were saved before you were baptized, then you were saved before you were in Christ; because baptism puts you into Christ (Rom. 6:3; 2 Cor. 5:17; Gal. 3:27). Salvation is only in Christ Jesus (2 Tim. 2:10).
    6. Baptism is to fulfill all righteousness.
      1. Mt. 3:15--But Jesus answered him, "Let it be so now; for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.
      2. In the New Testament sinners never ate, slept, or drank until they were baptized into Christ. The Philippian jailer was baptized even at midnight (Acts 16:25). If baptism were optional, non-essential, and if there were no danger to the soul, then surely he would have waited until morning.
      3. Baptism is not a mere ceremony because you are already saved. It is not a church ordinance. But it is a solemn act of obedience to God. To reject the command to be baptized for the remission of your sins is to reject the gospel of Christ and the council of God (Lk. 7:30)
  1. The Bible mentions baptism, defines it, gives examples of it; tells you what it’s for, its purpose; it even tells you when to be baptized.
    1. A person should be baptized when:
      1. He heard the word with any open heart (Acts 16:14f)
      2. He believes with all his heart (Acts 8:12)
      3. He repents after being cut to his heart (Acts 2:37f)
      4. He confesses with a sincere heart (Rom. 10:10)
    2. If you have not been scripturally baptized, please consider what baptism will do for you.

Friday, August 12, 2011

A New Leaf

Redeeming the Time

Written by Hannah Burleson

At the end of every semester (be it Fall, Spring, or Summer), when it gets to the final two weeks, I always realize how quickly it flew by and what a massive amount I need to get done, even though I kept thinking "I have plenty of time to do it." Then I always spend those two weeks stressed to the the max as I eat, breath, and live papers, projects, and exams. At the beginning of every new semester, remembering how miserable it was the previous semester as a result of my own procrastination, I get really excited about how I am going to do things differently this time. I am going to have a schedule and get everything done early. And I am going to be on top of every assignment. And I am NOT going to procrastinate. And I am going to do all that and still have extra time for God, my husband, my family, my friends, and myself. And I am going to be the most well-rounded, organized, get-it-done college girl on the planet. And then that never actually happens. I always fall into the same rut that I always fell into.


This is it. I'm turning over a new leaf. This Fall, I am going to TRULY be that well-rounded, organized, get-it-done college girl. I am going to be the model Christian, wife, student, and friend. And I am NOT going to procrastinate or waste valuable time.

Oh, really? How, you ask? I have a plan this time. I have created a schedule which, if followed carefully, will allow me to fly through the semester (hopefully) stress-free. Here's what the schedule is going to be like:

SUNDAY: Sunday will be entirely devoted to Eva and the going's on at Eva.

MONDAY: Monday will be dedicated to the home. I will spend Monday's cleaning, buying groceries, doing laundry, and other various household chores.

TUESDAY: Tuesday, I will be in Florence at HCU. I have The Gospels with Cory Collins at 8:00 am. I have Timothy and Titus with Ted Burleson at 1:00 pm. Before heading home, we will have supper with my grandmother.

WEDNESDAY: Wednesday, I will have two online classes to spend time on. At 8:00, I have Daniel and Ezekiel with Nathan Daily. At 1:00, I have Ethics with Kerry Williams. Then, of course, Wednesday night Bible Study.

THURSDAY: Thursday morning, I will be in Florence at HCU. At 8:00, I have Introduction to Christian Theology with Cory Collins. Thursday afternoons will be spent getting a head-start on assignments for school.

FRIDAY: The entire day is dedicated to reading, homework, and assignments. If I'm good, maybe I'll get a date night with my husband every now and then. ;)

SATURDAY: Everyone deserves a day off, right? After all, it IS football season. (ROLL TIDE!)

I think I can do it. :)

If I have inspired anyone to join me in the quest to be the best you can be, click on the link below which will direct you to a helpful website which provides some helpful time-management tools:

Master Your Time. :)

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Listening to a Sermon

How to Listen to a Sermon

  1. We’re blessed to listen with our Bibles open.
    1. Dt. 4:2, "You shall not add to the word which I command you, nor take from it, that you may keep the commandments of the Lord your God which I command you."
    2. Ps. 119:105, "Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path." It is if it’s open, known, believed, and lived.
    3. Acts 17:11, "These were more fair-minded than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so."
    4. If it was right to check behind the Apostle Paul, it’s right to check behind every preacher. I don’t think I’d lie to our or mislead you, but I have been wrong many times about many things. Only God is always right.
  2. We’re blessed to listen with our minds open.
    1. READ Acts 17:30-34. Some listened only to the point when they heard something that disagreed with them. Once Paul spoke of the resurrection of the dead, they shut down.
    2. If we hear something new, something different, something said in a different way that we’re accustomed to, we don’t shut down our hearing. Rather, we turn up our thinking. It could be that the Lord is using this new phrasing to open our hearts and minds to new understanding. It could be that we’re being given opportunity to grow, to correct a misunderstanding, or to acquire deeper understanding of God’s word.
    3. I’ll admit that it could be that the preacher is misstating or misapplying God’s truth. That does happen. If it does, Acts 18:24-26 comes into play.
  3. We’re blessed to listen to the message more than the messenger.
    1. I love an excellent biblical lesson that’s skillfully presented. But, as a guy who tries to preach, I know that we’re not always at our best in presentation.
    2. We have every right to expect every sermon to be sound, practical, thoughtful, and organized. I’m not trying to make any excuses for bad preaching.
    3. At the same time, you know what Moses said about his own speech, "O my Lord, I am not eloquent, neither before nor since You have spoken to Your servant; but I am slow of speech and slow of tongue."
    4. You know what some of the brethren said about Paul’s preaching. 2 Corinthians 10:10, "For his letters, they say, are weighty and powerful, but his bodily presence is weak and his speech contemptible."
      1. In the verses that follow, Paul warns brethren against doing the wrong kind of comparing.
      2. God gives different strengths to different people.
      3. Whatever gift we have, we are to use to the glory of God (1 Peter 4:10-11).
      4. Whatever good we do, we do it by the power of God and to the glory of God. 2 Cor. 10:17, "But he who glories, let him glory in the Lord."
    5. You know what Paul said about his own preaching. READ 1 Corinthians 2:1-5.
      1. Paul wasn’t making excuse for bad preaching.
      2. He wasn’t making a case for lack of preparation and organization.
      3. Rather, he was reminding us that that the power is in the message, not the messenger.
        1. Never would I say that the messenger doesn’t matter. We rightly expect every teacher and preacher to live consistently with the word he preaches.
        2. Modern proverb, "What you live speaks so loudly that I can’t hear what you say."
        3. We remember Paul’s word to Timothy, Let no one despise your youth, but be an example to the believers in word, in conduct, in love, in spirit, in faith, in purity."
        4. Also, "Take heed to yourself and to the doctrine. Continue in them, for in doing this you will save both yourself and those who hear you." 1 Tim. 4:16
      4. We know the biblical truth:
        1. "…It pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe." 1 Cor. 1:21b
        2. Romans 1:16, "For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek."
  4. We’re blessed to listen for God’s truth rather than for man’s mistakes.
    1. Every sermon is going to have some less-than-perfect aspect.
      1. Preacher may say 2 Corinthians when he means 1 Corinthians.
      2. He may say Moses when he means Noah.
      3. He may dangle a participle, split an infinitive, or pronounce a silent letter.
      4. At times, we even mess up subject-verb agreement.
    2. I’m not saying that it’s wrong to notice such things. I’m not saying that there’s anything wrong with a friendly reminder for the sake of improvement.
    3. But, I am saying that it’s possible for you to listen better than I speak.
      1. We can refuse to let little mistakes prevent our hearing of God’s truth.
      2. We can remember that, "We have this treasure in earth vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us."
    4. Listen for the truth, not for the flaws of presentation. Listen for the power of God, not for the frailty of man.
  5. We’re blessed to listen for God’s truth, even when the preacher’s style is not the best match with us.
    1. I have sorely disappointed some people with my preaching.
      1. Too "teachy", too calm, too positive, too much like a Bible class. Too many stories and too many illustrations.
      2. "I want a sermon with fire and brimstone. I what a sermon that gets on my toes. I want a sermon that moves me."
    2. We must be careful here. 2 Corinthians 4:5 still reads, "For we do not preach ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord and ourselves as our bondservants for Jesus’ sake."
      1. We don’t preach ourselves.
      2. Stories, poems, and illustrations never saved anyone.
    3. At the same time, Jesus was the master storyteller.
      1. Matthew 13:3, Then He spoke many things to them in parables…"
      2. Matthew 13:34, "All these things Jesus spoke to the multitude in parables; and without a parable He did not speak to them."
      3. Paul used examples from sports (a boxer who fights the air, a runner who wants to win the prize runs according to the rules), from the military (put on the whole armor of God), from home and family (Eph. 5:32, "This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church."), and from the farm ( "he who sows sparingly shall reap sparingly"; "you shall not muzzle the ox who treads out the grain").
    4. You know what I’m saying.
      1. Styles vary. Approaches vary. Techniques of communication vary.
      2. The best question is not, "How do I like his style of preaching?"
      3. The best question is, "Is the word of God being faithfully preached?"
      4. And we welcome any style, approach, or technique so long as the truth of God is preached in purity and faith.

One final thing to say about how we should listen to a preacher:

  • We should listen from the inside. We should listen as one who has believed the gospel, turned from sin, confessed Christ as the Son of God, and has been baptized into Christ for remissions of sins.
  • We should all listen to every sermon as a happy, faithful Christian who is on his way to heaven.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Biblically-Based Education

Biblically-Based Education
Why are We Here?

Written by Dr. Bill Bagents

Why are we here? Why are we investing thousands of dollars and thousands of hours in biblically-based education? Why not just close the doors, forget all books except the good book, and march out into the world full-time right now?

We are here because we recognize the importance of preparation. Some have called it “the ministry of preparation.” We see ourselves following the example of Joshua as he apprenticed with Moses, of Elisha as he served with Elijah, of the twelve as they followed our Lord, and of Timothy and Titus as they learned from Paul. These men did not lack commitment or conviction. They did not lack faith or fervor. They knew something of the awesomeness of God. I believe they knew that God deserved their best. They chose to prepare in order to give their best to God.

We who teach and preach have an awesome responsibility. We work with God in helping people understand the riches and wonders of His word. We know that Holy Scripture is God’s word. It is our guide and our standard in doctrine and in life. We also know that most people need all the help they can get in understanding and applying God’s word. I hope you don’t hear that as an insult to God or His word. I mean no insult. I don’t believe for a moment that God makes things difficult for us. In truth, I think we make things difficult for God. We’re so limited, so finite. That’s why we need all the help we can get in understanding God’s truth.

I love Ezra and Nehemiah. Nehemiah 8:8 reads, “So they read distinctly from the book, in the law of God; and they gave the sense, and helped them to understand the reading.” I have no trouble at all identifying with the Ethiopian of Acts 8. Philip asked him, “Do you understand what you are reading?” You know the reply, “How can I, unless someone guides me?” The more I study the Bible the more I appreciate Peter’s words in 2 Peter 3:16. He mentions the epistles of our beloved brother Paul. He says of them, “ which are some things hard to understand, which those who are untaught and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures.” There may be a thousand ways to misunderstand Scripture, but there’s only one way to get it right.

Why are we here? Why are we investing thousands of dollars and thousands of hours in the ministry of preparation? I want to share a short list of answers with you.

First, we are here because we have an awesome responsibility. The God of heaven and earth has revealed Himself to us through Scripture. His word reaches across cultures, continents, and centuries to engender obedient, saving faith in our hearts. His word shows us His Son. It shows us His love. And we have been charged to preach the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth in a way that people can understand. 2 Timothy 4:1-5, Deuteronomy 4:2, Proverbs 30:6, and 1 Peter 4:11 all document this charge.

Second, we are here because we want to teach God’s truth with confidence, competence, and conviction. In 1Timothy 6:20, Paul told Timothy, “Guard what was committed to your trust, avoiding the profane and vain babblings and the contradictions of what is falsely called knowledge...” He warned the Christians in Colosse, “Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the traditions of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ” (Col. 2:8).

The devil is good at what he does. He knows the value of confusion and doubt. He knows the danger of Christians who are absolutely convinced that the Bible is God’s Holy Word; that its truth can be understood, believed, lived, and taught. He doesn’t even mind us teaching that word, so long as we don’t teach it with confidence, competence, and conviction. The devil has so much well-packaged, sophisticated, and appealing misinformation in place. Only those who teach the truth of God with confidence, competence, and conviction can offer him any real competition. I know that the power is in the word and not in the preacher. Jonah shows us that in the Old Testament. Paul makes that clear in 1 Corinthians 1 and 2. But, we could never read Romans 10 and rightly conclude that the preacher doesn’t matter. We’re here because God deserves our best and because we know something of the strength of our adversary.

Finally, we are here because God’s word has more to tell us than we have as yet understood. I love that old statement, “The Bible is a pool of truth in which a child can wade and an elephant can swim.” So many fundamental truths are beautifully simple and crystal clear. At the same time, there are wondrous concepts which we may never fully grasp.

You remember 2 Timothy 4:13. Paul is near the end of his life. He’s virtually alone and under arrest in Rome. Only Luke is with him. He writes to Timothy, “Bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas when you come -- and the books, especially the parchments.” Paul who trained at the feet of Gamaliel, who received direct, personal revelation from the Lord, who had visions more wondrous than he could describe still wanted the books and the parchments. He wasn’t through learning. He wasn’t through teaching. My prayer for us is that we never get through, either. That’s why we are here.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Mental Health for Ministers

Mental Health for Ministers

1 Thessalonians 2:1-12

Written by Bill Bagents, D.Min.

  1. 2:1-2. Reject false shame and false guilt. What is is. What’s bad is bad. We can’t polish it enough to make it good. We’re blessed if we don’t even try to shine it up. We’re blessed if we reject the temptation to try to hide the truth. [You know why I say “try to hide the truth.” Truth doesn’t hide well]. I some people think it’s embarrassing to admit that we’ve taken lumps in ministry. Some quality people have been kicked around at one time or another. Even some topflight leaders have been kicked around on occasion. Moses. David (his own men wanted to kill him on occasion.) Paul. Jesus.
  2. 2:3. Keep your motives clean. What you can’t do from a good motive, don’t do. It’s OK to put motives on the table. Often it’s wise. It can preempt/prevent trouble. There’s only one person you have to face in the mirror each morning and only one ultimate judge of every man’s heart. If your own heart smites you …
  3. 2:4. Work for God and not for the brethren. God’s the better boss. He’s consistent. He’s gracious. He communicates well. He stands with those who stand with Him. “What did I do for God today? Was I God’s man today?”
  4. 2:4. Forget about trying to please everybody. You can please most of the people most of the time – if you’re gifted. Might please most of the people some of the time. But, we can never please all of the people. Some just won’t allow it.
  5. 2:5. Don’t go consequentialist. You know those guys: the end justifies the means, the results justify the methods. There will be times when there’s an easy path to an important goal, but that path is less than Christian. Don’t take it. It’ll bite you. That’s what the devil offered Jesus in Matthew 4.
  6. 2:6. Don’t base your self-worth on your approval rating. Remember John 6. Jesus fed the 5,000 and they loved Him. On the next day, they followed Him across the lake. When Jesus questioned their motives and taught them about the true bread of life, “From that time many of His disciples went back and walked no more with Him.” (6:66)
  7. 2:6. Don’t focus on your rights. i.e. “we might have made the demands of an apostle.” If you’re what you ought to be as a minister, they can’t pay you enough. If you’re not, you’re lucky that they’re paying you at all.
  8. 2:7-8. Minister from the heart. Love deeply. Get close to people. Show them that you care. It’s a myth that preachers get into trouble because they get too close to the brethren. I know we can get the wrong kind of close. I know we can “clique out” i.e. get close to some and keep our distance from others.
  9. 2:9. Work hard. Colossians 3:23.
  10. 2:10-12. Stay moral. 1 Peter 1:13-16. Otherwise, it’s just a sham. It can’t have heart, it can’t last. Not of Christ.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Love Builds Up

Blown Away by Love

Written by Cory Collins

… love builds up. 1 Cor 8:1

What the National Weather Service calls the “Hackleburg Tornado” traveled 132 miles, with winds surpassing 210 mph, leaving a nonstop scar in the earth from Hackleburg to Huntsville. Of a dozen deadly twisters across Alabama on April 27, 2011, this one alone was given the strongest rating of EF-5. This one tornado is thought to have claimed 70 lives, by far the deadliest single twister in state history. At least 3,838 businesses in Alabama applied for federal assistance because of storm damage; another 37 applied due to loss of business. At least 16,345 homeowners across Alabama registered with FEMA.

Such a tragedy reminded members of the Bellevue Church of Christ in Nashville of the devastating floods that had struck their own community almost a year earlier. Over 13 inches of rain fell there May 1-2, 2010. As a result, more than forty families in the congregation lost their homes. However, even a flood is no match for the love of God.

In order to communicate that love, two creative members at Bellevue had a brilliant idea. With others they designed, built and painted small houses, like birdhouses, one for each displaced family. Various members then repeatedly stuffed the houses with notes of love and encouragement. The houses were placed in the foyer of the church building, where the flood victims would eagerly check them at every service. People loved the experience, whether they were on the giving end or on the receiving end. One sister says, “The houses were an overwhelming hit -- both with our members who placed notes in them, and with the victims who would go to their ‘houses’ as soon as they entered our lobby.”

So, when the Bellevue folks heard about the tornado, they knew what to do! They built 17 more houses, one for each Hackleburg church family whose home was destroyed. They painted each one by hand and placed the family’s name on the outside. They filled the little houses with Scripture, expressions of faith, and words of loving support. They had never met these victims, but they knew something of their pain. They knew how to comfort.

Then on July 17 a church busload of Bellevue members traveled several hours roundtrip to worship with the saints in Hackleburg. Mike Lane, the local preacher, spoke about the power of God’s love. After the service a Bellevue elder stood and explained why they had done what they did. Then the name of each homeless family was called, and the house built for that family was handed to them, while others watched. Tears were shed. Hugs were shared. Friendships were formed. All because love built and filled those houses.

These Bellevue friends had invited Tanya and me to meet them along the way and ride to and from Hackleburg. We’re so glad we did. God’s love in action touched our hearts, boosted our faith, and changed our lives. We were blown away … by love.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Evangelistic Seminar

A Secret to congregational growth: meet the needs of the community in which you serve.

Written by Michael Farris,
Heritage Christian University Alumnus

Every Christian has a special place in the body.
The congregation's work at South Haleyville on July 29th serves as a great example of what can be accomplished when every member does their part!

Many in Haleyville, Alabama have had a difficult economic year. After a season of disastrous weather & rising unemployment, many parents struggle to make ends meet, even more so to budget for extra expenses such as backpacks & school supplies for their children. Being aware of this financial need, allows an opportunity to meet even a greater need in this society: the training of parents to train their children. After admitting the less-than-desirable results from the typical VBS, this congregation decided 3 years ago to incorporate their normal VBS into an ANNUAL PARENTING SEMINAR. (Classes for all age groups with the focused age-appropriate topics for everyone in the home, including godly principles for the family.)

What gets all the locals to step foot into a church building to enjoy listening to an hour presentation? Simple: SCHOOL SUPPLIES for their children. In an atmosphere of love and concern for all, the knowledge of the church's desire to help makes everything go very smoothly. With the advertisements making it clear that this event is not merely a 'handout' (which usually includes some wordy tract about the church that most may toss in the trash) all who registered for the Seminar were aware their only payment for all supplies is cooperation and appreciation.

But while all the members spent countless hours preparing the classrooms, running errands, packing the bags, organizing the papers, cooking the meals, etc., a few more were needed to fill key-teaching roles to provide as much helpful, engaging, enlightening, fun, and meaty content during that short 1.5 hours the visitors time there. Along with the teachers within the South Haleyville congregation for the younger ages, Heritage Christian University alumni Kyle Mashburn & Michael Farris enjoyed the honor having Dr. Bill Bagents, Vice President of Academic Affairs at HCU, on board for a special benevolent & evangelistic evening- which met a variety of particular needs relating to the nurturing of the family.

Each speaker was given the class-group appropriate for their specialized field of expertise. Kyle, whose zealous emphasis in youth ministry suited him perfectly to both entertain and teach a full class of young junior high kids about what their roles are as children to their parents. Michael, whose joy for helping others find and develop their talents, not to mention love for magic tricks, helped appeal and relate to the high school group who are on the brink of serious decisions that will chart the rest of their lives. But no one other than Dr. Bagents was asked to accept the offer to conduct the interactive discussion with an auditorium class filled with the children's parents, grandparents, and guardians. His invaluable material and experience, along with his great ability to bond with strangers made the time fly while helping each one better deal with the situations that every parent needs advice for handling.

At the end of the program, every student present got a new backpack filled with the supplies needed for their school year. Members unite for a cause, different talents are needed & used, community is helped, the Lord's name is lifted up, God's will is taught, lives are changed. Such effective works must continue.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Teaching Your Children to Pray

"Lord, Teach Us to Pray"

Written by Dr. Justin Imel

This week, we've explored ways to lead our children in drawing closer to God. Prayer plays a huge role in spiritual formation. Jude clearly connects spiritual growth and prayer: "You, beloved, building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life" (Jude 20-21, ESV). If we wish our children to grow in the faith, we need to teach them to pray.

How to we teach our children to pray?

We can model proper prayer. One of Jesus' disciples came to Jesus and made a request: "Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples" (Lk 11:1, ESV). Jesus then took the time to model prayer. Take the time to model prayer before your children.

As we model prayer before our children, the possibilities are endless:

  • We teach them to praise God's glory (Matt 5:9).

  • We teach them to pray for God's will to be carried out throughout Creation (Matt 5:10).

  • We teach them to request ever so humbly the material blessings we need (Matt 5:11).

  • We teach them to beseech divine forgiveness (Matt 5:12).

  • We teach them to take the church bulletin and to pray for the sick by name (Js 5:16).

  • We teach them to ask God's blessings on our national leaders (1 Tim 2:1-2).

  • We teach them to pray that God send forth workers to share the Gospel (Matt 9:38).

  • We teach them to pray for a future mate, for they will pray together one day (1 Pet 3:7).

  • We teach them to pray for the bully who constantly harasses them (Matt 5:44).

  • We teach them to be thankful for every blessing God gives (Phil 4:6).

These are some of the instructions God has given for prayer. Will you teach these truths to your children? In what other ways can you teach your children to pray?

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Ten Topics for Family Devotions

The Family that Prays Together Stays Together

Written by Cory Collins

“How can a young man keep his way pure?
          By guarding it according to your word.
With my whole heart I seek you;
          let me not wander from your commandments!
I have stored up your word in my heart,
          that I might not sin against you” (Ps 119:9-11, ESV).

Young people have an increasingly difficult time keeping their way pure in this crooked and perverse generation. Yet, the Psalmist provides the answer to pure hearts – a knowledge of Scripture. As we have mentioned this week, you as a parent have a huge role to play in your children’s spiritual formation.

As a godly parent, you undoubtedly desire to see your children grow in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. Here are ten ideas for family devotions.

  • Each family member’s favorite Bible character: His/her choices and consequences
  • Heroes of the Faith (Heb 11)
  • Fruit of the Spirit
  • Explain to your children why you became a Christian
  • What are some ways that you want to grow to become more like Jesus?
  • Proverbs: God’s wisdom for daily living
  • A sermon from last Sunday
  • A helpful bulletin article
  • Why the church is vital
  • How would Jesus handle current events?

These are ten suggestions you should feel free to use. But, the possibilities are endless! The important thing is the teaching of Scripture. What topic will you share with your family this week?

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Tips for Starting a Family Devotional

Nearer My God To Thee!

Written by Cory Collins

Yesterday, we introduced the need to train children in righteousness. While the Scriptures are abundantly clear, you may be pondering how you begin such a process. Today, we wish to provide tips that will help you begin drawing your family closer to God.

  • Start with the decision to start! Fathers, take the initiative (Eph 6:4). But, if there is no godly man in the family, mothers need to remember Timothy, Lois and Eunice (2 Tim 1). Decide today that you will guide your family in righteousness.

  • Start small. Even if you begin once a week or even once a month, start! Doing a little is far better than doing nothing. And, the fact that you have done something is significant.

  • Prepare your family early. Let the idea soak in, especially with older children. You may find that you kids are much more agreeable than you expect.

  • Set a time and a day. A good time is right after dinner while the family is still together and before evening activities begin.

Decide to draw nearer to God today! Take the time to lead your family in proper paths. Your rewards will be reaped in eternity.

Tomorrow we’ll provide suggestions for choosing a text or topic to help you start.

Monday, August 1, 2011

One A Day Vitamins

Family Devotionals

Written by Cory Collins

We are all acutely aware of the need for proper nutrition. We wish our children to maintain a healthy diet, and we often purchase vitamins of their choosing to encourage a balanced diet. As we age, proper nutrition becomes no less important, and several companies produce vitamins aimed at the aging population.

As important as physical health is, what if there were a daily vitamin that would strengthen your marriage? What if a properly balanced diet were able to help keep your children active in the church? What if some pill could increase your motivation or your assurance of salvation? What if your diet were able to help you accept and deal with illness, aging and loss?

There is such a vitamin – the family devotional. “The family that prays together, stays together.” “A family altar can alter a family.” Those statements are far more than clichés; they’re truth. Studies have repeatedly shown that the children of parents who actively and personally express their own faith are many times more likely to become happy, faithful and strong Christians.

Throughout this week, we’re going to be offering solidly biblical counsel on beginning a family devotional. But, before we begin to offer tips and strategies, we want to lay the biblical foundation. The prayer is that as we see the biblical rationale our spirits will be motivated to follow the biblical teaching.

“Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise” (Deut 6:4-7, ESV).

“Now his parents went to Jerusalem every year at the Feast of the Passover. And when he was twelve years old, they went up according to custom” (Lk 2:41-42, ESV).

“Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Eph 6:4).

Scripture clearly teaches the importance of training children in righteousness. We wish to move in the direction God desires we move. Come with us this week and let’s together move closer to our Creator.