A FAITHFUL CHILD OF GOD AND/OR RECOGNIZED AS A MEMBER OF THE CHURCH

The writers of the New Testament knew nothing about “joining the church of your choice.”  Instead, they encouraged people to obey the gospel.

When people obeyed the gospel, they became children of God (cf. Gal. 3:26-27).  They were also added by the Lord to His church (cf. Acts 2:38, 41, 47).

The “process” by which these people became children of God and members of the church included —

  • Hearing the gospel (Rom. 10:14)
  • Believing the gospel (John 8:24)
  • Repenting of past sins (Luke 13:3, 5; Acts 2:38)
  • Confessing one’s faith in Jesus (Rom. 10:10)
    • Baptism (immersion) in water for the remission/forgiveness of sins (Acts 2:38, 22:16;         Gal. 3:27; Rom. 6:3)

Sadly, there were those in the days of the apostles who thought they were faithful children of God, but who were not.  These would include —

  • Those who were still following the Law of God given to Moses.  This would include the people who heard the sermon on the Day of Pentecost and many others to whom the apostles preached; especially those to whom Paul preached in various synagogues.
  • People who knew only of the teaching of John, the forerunner of Jesus.  People like Apollos (Acts 18:24-28) and the people Paul encountered in Acts 19:1ff would be included in this number.
  • Good, moral, “religious” people like Cornelius (Acts 10 &11).

It is also sad to notice that there were those who were recognized by others as members of the church, but who were not at all conducting themselves as faithful children of God.  We find no joy in reading about such people as —

  • Simon the sorcerer, who had a problem in giving up his popularity among the people of Samaria (cf. Acts 8:9ff).
  • The unnamed man who was recognized as a member of the church in Corinth, but who was living a sinful lifestyle (cf. 1 Cor. 5:1-13).
  • Hymenaeus and Alexander, who had made a shipwreck of their faith (cf. 1 Tim. 1:19-20).
  • Diotrophes, who did not acknowledge apostolic authority and loved being in a place of prominence (cf. 2 John 9-10).

What was true in the first century is still true today.  There are good, honest, well-intentioned people who sincerely believe that they are children of God.  Unfortunately, they have never been taught and/or have never truly obeyed the gospel of our Lord.

There are others, who having done that at some point in the past, are now living a life of disobedience to God.  They may be recognized by others as members of various congregations.  They may, in fact, be in leadership positions as was the case with Diotrophes.

A faithful child of God is also a member of the Lord’s church.

However, the fact that I may be recognized by others as a member of the church does not necessarily mean that I am a faithful child of God

How important is this?  Please read carefully these words from the lips of Jesus:

 

Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven.  Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’  And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’ (Matt. 7:21-23, NKJV)

 

Jim Faughn

 

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WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A MOTHER AND A MOM?

As I think about Mother’s Day, I’ve been thinking about the five mothers in my immediate family (my own mother, my mother-in-law, my wife, my daughter, and my daughter-in-law).  Two of them are no longer physically with us, but are still very much a part of our family and our hearts.

From all five of them, and from some others, I think I’ve come up with some differences between what it means to be a mother and what it means to be mom.  Here are some of the things I’ve thought of:

  • “Mother” may be only a title.  “Mom” is a term of endearment.
  • In reality, it takes a relatively short time to become a mother.  It takes years to fulfill the responsibilities of a mom.
  • Children may be an obstacle to the careers and/or goals of a mother.  Things like successful careers, notoriety, wealth, etc. are put on the back burner for a mom.
  • Mothers may “farm out” their children to the point that they rarely see them. Moms realize that, while others might be of assistance, nobody can care for her children and nurture like she can.
  • “Mother” causes me to think of formality.  Moms can, in fact, be formal.  They can also have tea parties, make mud cakes, etc.
  • Mothers embrace.  Moms hug.
  • A mother may (or may not) prepare delicious and nourishing meals for the body.  Moms feed the emotions and, hopefully, souls of her children.
  • Mothers may see to it that their children go to the best schools.  Moms read bedtime stories.
  • Mothers may make sure their children get the best professional medical care.  Moms can “kiss away a boo boo” and fix scraped elbows and knees in the kitchen or bathroom.
  • Mothers give birth.   Moms make a life.

I’m sure this list could be improved upon.  I know I’ve left some things out and that I could have said some things a lot better, but, hopefully, this will be some “food for thought.”

Before I leave this subject, I’ll suggest one more difference between a mother and a mom.

  • A lot of mothers will be receiving beautiful and costly greeting cards with only a signature at the bottom.  Somebody “happened to remember” that it was Mother’s Day.
  • A lot of moms will receive either…

1)         A greeting card with a very personal and heartfelt personal note

                                                            — OR —

2)         A handmade card with some “beautiful pictures” done with crayons (smudges  and all) and maybe the message — “To the best mommy in the world”

 

Jim Faughn

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POSSIBLY THE MOST DANGEROUS “ISM” OF ALL

For years, many of us have heard and read information about some serious concerns about various “isms.” The concerns were due to the fact that one or more of these “isms” threatened the unity, harmony, and soundness of the church of our Lord.

The earlier discussions that I remember had to do with one or both of the following:  liberalism and/or anti-ism.  One the one hand, there was concern over going beyond what God has revealed to us in His word.  One expression of this (based on Matthew 16:19) was that some were “loosing where God had not loosed.” On the other hand, some seemingly were being too restrictive in their interpretation of the Bible.  Again, in keeping with the sentiments of Matthew 16:19, they were accused of “binding where God had not bound.”

Along with those concerns, there were voices being heard which sounded the warning about the dangers of materialism.  Warnings were sounded (and rightfully so) about “…the deceitfulness of riches…” (Matt. 13:22; Mark 4:19).  People did, in fact, need to be reminded that our Lord said, “…Take heed, and beware of covetousness: for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses” (Luke 12:15, NKJV).  It is important to remember that the Holy Spirit instructed Paul to inform us that “…covetousness…is idolatry” (Col. 3:5).

From time to time, and up to this present time, other “isms” have made their ways into public discussion and practice.  Each of them presented its own set of challenges.

It is my opinion that another “ism” is threatening the unity, harmony, effectiveness, and soundness of God’s people in our day and time.  Further, it is my opinion that this “ism” may be as damaging as any of the others.  It may even be more damaging that some or all of them.

This “ism” permeates our society and has found its way into the church in a big way.  I know of no congregation that is not affected by it to some degree.

This “ism” wears the name of consumerism.

It may have started in the world of retail sales where the slogan was, “The customer is always right.”  It has now worked its way into the entire business community.  Instead of employers telling prospective employees what is expected of them, the situation has been completely turned around in some instances.  It is almost to the point where the employer has his or her hat in hand asking a prospective employee what can be done to make him/her happy.

Does anybody seriously believe that coaches and managers of athletic teams “run the show” in the same way as was the case in previous years?  If so, where does the recent movement to unionize college athletes come from?

Students at all levels get used to a cafeteria — and not merely at lunch time.  Classes, schedules, rules, etc. are all geared to “meet their needs.”  In some cases, if that is not done, the parents will band together and demand a change in policy, personnel or both.

Speaking of parents, have you noticed how many “cater” to the whims, desires, interests, etc. of the children?  Things such as discipline and respect have been sacrificed at the altar of “self-fulfillment” or “self-expression” — for the children.

Can anybody successfully argue (or do so with a straight face) that this thinking has not invaded churches?  Elders, preachers, and others are asked, in so many words, questions like these:

 

“What can you do for me and for my family?”

“What kind of lifestyle is accepted here?”

“What kind of activities are here?

“What’s the least amount I can do and still be accepted as a member here?”

“Will your worship services appeal to me?”

“What programs do you have in place that will meet my needs?”

“Does the preacher always preach things that will make me feel better?”

 

Congregations are chosen as “church homes” and preachers are hired and fired based on answers to those kinds of questions.

Maybe it is time for somebody to remind all of us that Jesus said:

 

“…If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself,

and take up his cross daily, and follow Me” (Luke 9:23, NKJV).

 

            The sobering words of one of the songs we sometimes sing need to serve as another reminder of what Jesus has done for us and what He expects from us:

 

I gave My life for thee,

My precious blood I shed,

That thou might’st  ransomed be,

And quickened from the dead;

I gave, I gave My life for thee,

What has thou giv’n for Me?

 

Jim Faughn

 

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A STATEMENT & A QUESTION — WITH ETERNAL CONSEQUENCES

Those who heard me preach this past Sunday heard me make a statement and ask a question.  I hope they (you) don’t think I’m being redundant when I make that same statement and ask that same question here.  It may, in fact, be the case that nobody but me remembers the statement and the question.

The reason I’m repeating the statement and asking the question again is not because I think either the statement or the question is all that profound.  At the same time, I think they sum up much of what I’ve been trying to say as a preacher for over thirty-five years.

 

Here’s the statement:

Every person is living by some philosophy of life and in some type of lifestyle.

 

            Here’s the question:

Are you willing to go into eternity with that philosophy and in that lifestyle?

 

            We could spend a lot of time discussing a great variety of philosophies and lifestyles.  We could discuss their origins, their proponents, their opponents, their strengths, their weakness, and dozens of other things.  In short, we could, in some ways, emulate those in Athens who “…would spend their time in nothing except telling or hearing something new” (Acts 17:21, ESV).

You may remember that Paul, on that occasion, “cut to the chase” and gave them information about God.  Before Paul spoke, God was unknown to them.   Before Paul spoke, they lived their lives and worshiped in ignorance (cf. Acts 17:23, 30).

After Paul spoke, they had a choice to make. We can almost hear the emotion in Paul’s voice as he said, “The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now He commands all people everywhere to repent, because He has fixed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom He has appointed; and of this He has given assurance to all by raising Him from the dead” (Acts 17:30-31).

I don’t think I’m stretching the meaning of Paul’s words very far at all when I suggest that, in some way, he was saying something like:  “You’ve been living by some philosophy and in some lifestyle until now.  Are you ready to go into eternity and face the judgment of God that way?”

There were three reactions to Paul’s message.  There were those who made fun of it (v. 31).  There were those who wanted to hear more and give it some consideration (v. 31).  There were those who accepted it (v. 34).

In which group would you have been in?  In which group would you have preferred to be in if that was your last day to live?

Again, are you willing to go into eternity believing what you now believe and living like you currently live?

Jim Faughn

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THIS EZRA

To some, it may appear as just another one of those long lists of names we find in the Bible.  This particular list is at the beginning of the seventh chapter of Ezra.  The list begins with Ezra and works his lineage back through sixteen names.  The sixteenth name is “…Aaron the chief priest” (v. 5).  I guess you could say that this is similar to the lists of “begats” we find in various places in the Bible — only in reverse.

I suppose we would have to have the mind of God to understand all of the reasons why a list like this is in the Bible.  Was it included to help to establish the “credentials” of Ezra?  After all, if he could trace his lineage all the way back to Aaron, it would help to establish the fact that he did, indeed, have some credibility.

Were these names included merely to take up space?  The obvious answer to that is, of course, an unqualified no!

I’d like to mention one thing that comes to my mind when I read the words “this Ezra.”  It helps to establish the fact that I am not reading a book of fairy tales, legends, fables, etc.  It helps me to know that, when I read the Bible, I’m reading about real people, real places, real events, etc.

There is not a passage in my Bible (or yours) that begins, “A long time ago in a land far, far away…”  Instead, when I am reading God’s word, I am reading about many people whose names are found in history books.  I am reading about events that those same history books verify as having taken place.

Consider the following passage as just one more example of this:

 

Now in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, Pontius Pilate being governor of Judaea, and Herod being tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip tetrarch of Ituraea and of the region of Trachonitis, and Lysanias the tetrarch of Abilene,   Annas and Caiaphas being the high priests, the word of God came unto John the son of Zacharias in the wilderness.  (Luke 3:1-2)

 

In these two short verses, there are five governmental officials named.  Does the evidence of history tell us that these were real men?  Yes!  In these same verses, we read about six places (The Roman Empire is implied while the other five are named.)  Did these places exist?  Yes!  In these same two verses, two religious leaders (besides John) are mentioned by name?  Did they really live and did they serve in the capacity mentioned in Luke 3:2?  Yes!

If all of this is true, why, then would I doubt that John lived?  Why should I deny the evidence he presented about Jesus?

Why, in fact, should I deny or question the validity of anything I read in the Bible?

Two words — “this Ezra” — say to me, “You can trust your Bible.”

Jim Faughn

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THE GLANCE

It happens every once in a while.  I happened again recently.

I get the glance.

There will be a discussion about somebody who hasn’t been at church in a while.  Somebody will raise the question, “Has anybody heard anything about ______?”  Maybe the question is, “How’s __________ doing?”

Then — the glance.

The glance is directed at me.  After all, I’m the preacher!”

I do my best to stay informed, to be supportive, and to demonstrate concern.  I will readily admit that I, all too often, “drop the ball.”

I think that a lesson might be learned from athletic teams.  From what I’ve observed, when one player drops the ball, another one does all he can to retrieve it.  Even better than that, the team works together to try to make sure the ball is never dropped in the first place.

These words were not written exclusively to elders or preachers.  They were addressed to all Christians:  “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ (Gal. 6:2).

Jim Faughn

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GOD’S ACCURACY

I recently received an email from a member of the congregation where I preach.  ”I’ve edited it down” due to its length and due to the fact that it contained a request about forwarding it on.

I think, though, that you’ll find what is left very interesting.  I know I did

GOD’S ACCURACY

God’s accuracy may be observed in the hatching of eggs. . . . .-
those of the canary in 14 days;-
those of the barnyard hen in 21 days;-
eggs of ducks and geese in 28 days;
those of the mallard in 35 days;
The eggs of the parrot and the ostrich hatch in 42 days.
Notice, they are all divisible by seven, the number of days in a week!

God’s wisdom is seen in the making of an elephant.
The four legs of this great beast all bend forward in the same direction.
No other quadruped is so made. God planned that this animal would have a huge body, too large to live on two legs.  For this reason He gave it four fulcrums so that it can rise from the
ground easily.
The horse rises from the ground on its two front legs first.
A cow rises from the ground with its two hind legs first.

How wise the Lord is in all His works of creation!
Each watermelon has an even number of stripes on the rind.
Each orange has an even number of segments
Each ear of corn has an even number of rows.
Each stalk of wheat has an even number of grains.
Every bunch of bananas has on its lowest row an even number of bananas, and each row decreases by one, so that one row has an even number
and the next row an odd number.

Amazing!-The waves of the sea roll in on shore twenty-six to the minute in all kinds of weather.-
All grains are found in even numbers on the stalks.
God has caused the flowers to blossom at certain specified times during the day.  Linnaeus, the great botanist, once said that if he had a conservatory containing the right kind of soil, moisture and temperature, he could tell the time of day or night by the flowers that were open and those that were closed!
The lives of each of us may be ordered by the Lord in a beautiful way for His glory, if we will only entrust Him with Our life. If we try to regulate our own life, it will only be a mess and a failure.  Only God, who made our brain and heart, can successfully guide them to a
profitable end.

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AN ENCOURAGING HEADLINE

Today’s post will be very brief.  In the interest of fairness, though, I think it is necessary.

If you read my post the other day, you read my thoughts about the decision of the World Vision organization to hire “Christians” who are in a same sex marriage.

This morning, the following headline was on foxnews.com (and other places):

Two Days Later, World Vision Reverses Policy That Allowed Hiring Of Gays

Due to some doctrinal differences, this decision does not mean that I am now a supporter of this organization.  I am pleased, though, with this stand that they have taken.

In my opinion, our nation would not be where it is morally if people who at least believe in Christian principles would take a firm stand on and for those principles.

Jim Faughn

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WORLD VISION = WORLDLY VIEW

World Vision’s American branch will no longer require its more than 1,100 employees to restrict their sexual activity to marriage between one man and one woman.

Abstinence outside of marriage remains a rule. But a policy change announced Monday [March 24] will now permit gay Christians in legal same-sex marriages to be employed at one of America’s largest Christian charities.

Those first two paragraphs are in italics because they are a direct quote from Monday’s edition of ChristianityToday.com.  The title of the article/post by Celeste Gracey and Jeremy Weber is “World Vision:  Why We’re Hiring Gay Christians in Same Sex Marriages.”

The authors quote Richard Stearns, the president of World Vision U.S., as believing this is a “‘very narrow policy change.”  Further, he is said to believe that this should be viewed as “‘symbolic not of compromise but of [Christian] unity.’”

For those who may not be familiar with World Vision, it is reported to be a “Christian relief and development organization.”  Its stated purposes have to do with helping, in various ways, the underprivileged throughout the world.

While the goals may be commendable on some level, this “very narrow policy change” is indicative of a sad, but all to common, truth.

World Vision has joined the ranks of a growing number of organizations and individuals who would like to be considered as “Christian,” but which/who have a decidedly singular worldly view.

God’s people are called to be salt and light (cf. Matt. 5:13-16).  Those who have responded positively to that challenge are different from – not the same as – the environment around them.

God give us more people who truly have a Christian view instead of a world view.  May our “vision” be to take the truth of God’s word to those who are lost rather than to join them in their lost condition.

Jim Faughn

 

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FRIENDLY FIRE

Military spokesmen and the news media seem to use a variety of phrases in an attempt to sanitize some of the unpleasant aspects of war.  From time to time, we hear reports of troops being wounded or killed by “friendly fire.”  That somehow sounds better than having to report that the damage was done by one of our own bullets, missiles, bombs, etc.

Sometimes, the evidence indicates that the fire was not so friendly.  At times, some apparently take advantage of the confusion caused by the intensity of a particular battle to settle some personal grudge with a fellow soldier (maybe a superior officer).

I have wondered at times how often “friendly fire” damages the Lord’s army.  Could it possibly be that some of our wounds and casualties come from our own ranks?

We know that Paul had to deal with “…perils among false brethren” (2 Cor. 11:26). He also warned that: “But if ye bite and devour one another, take heed that ye be not consumed one of another” (Gal. 5:15).

Sadly, it seems that some have neither learned from Paul’s experience, nor heeded his warning.  Some in the Lord’s army seem more intent fighting a brother or sister, discrediting them, spreading gossip about them, and/or ignoring them than they are on waging war against our real enemy.

“Friendly fire” among us may cause the loss of two souls.  The one “fired at” may be so wounded that he or she never recovers.  The one who does the “firing” is most certainly damage beyond measure until and unless he or she repents.

Jim Faughn

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