What Does Your Church Look Like?

Posted: April 3rd, 2017 | Author: | Filed under: Articles

For at least a couple of decades, denominational churches have pushed their “youth ministries” to the point that they basically resemble a rock concert. Darkened stages, lasers, dry ice, and rock music betray the “market-driven” approach that is ironically pushing their youth out the door. The problem is “preference.” “Market-driven youth ministry” gives young people a youth group that looks like them, does activities they prefer, sings songs they like, and preaches on subjects they are interested in. It is a program of preference.

The generation of teens and 20-year-olds has been referred to as “the Overindulged Generation.” They ask for more and more, and society gives it to them. More and more, the power of God, contained in the gospel (Romans 1:16), is substituted for a market-driven experience. In an effort to give children and parents something “attractive” and “relevant,” denominations have embraced novel new methods that have dramatically affected their churches.

Because of the market-driven movement, “big-box” churches exist in most cities. What is their Sunday like? It starts in the coffee house, (which is the foyer). It continues in the concert hall (which is the worship assembly), and it is brought to a head in the comedy club (which is the sermon).

Giving people what they “prefer” is a road that once you go down, has no end. There is an old principle: “What you win them with, you win them to.” All these churches that have taken this path can look at their “youth groups” and see what their congregation is going to be like in 15 years. From what I have seen, that would not be a comforting thought.

What might churches do instead? The opposite of giving people what they want is to give them what they need. The beauty is that the Bible already knows how to do this. The pure doctrine of Christ says that man’s greatest need is salvation from the universal scourge of sin (Romans 3:23). Peoples’ obedience to Jesus through baptism saves them from their sins (Acts 2:38; 22:16). In the first century, once people obeyed, they went out to the highways and byways, loving, teaching, and serving the lost. In those days, Christians taught the gospel with boldness, just like Paul spoke of in Romans 1:16. Furthermore, they served the poor, the widows, and the orphans, and the world noticed.

We cannot allow ourselves to be pulled into the culture-driven goals of denominational churches. We have to forget the culture-centered models and simply get back to the ancient goals of scriptural authority, zealous teaching, and fervent service. This is what will convert our children and help them grow in Christ.

The commission of Jesus in Matthew 28:19-20 was intended to make disciples. Conscientious Christians want to teach and convert their children and other children to be Christians for life, not just for high school. There is no telling how many millions of dollars have been spent among denominational churches in “youth ministry” with no real spiritual results other than mere entertainment. I pray that conservative brethren will not go down the same path with similar results. We are trying to do just like the apostles did in the first century: make disciples of Christ by preaching the gospel. It can accomplish the genuine results of changing the heart and winning souls to Christ.

-Kyle Campbell



Posted: April 3rd, 2017 | Author: | Filed under: Articles

Phobos is the Greek word for “fear” and is the basis of our English word “phobia.” It is attached to various prefixes to denote a morbid fear of “heights” (acrophobia), of being “enclosed” (claustrophobia), of being in “crowds” (agoraphobia), and of “water” (hydrophobia). It was used to coin a new word in the 1950s which is defined as “unreasoning fear of or antipathy” toward homosexuals. The word is “homophobia.”

It is noteworthy that homophobia has been nuanced to include “antipathy” or “hatred” toward homosexuals which does not inhere in other phobia words. The word “homophobic” is clearly intended to denote a person who might not only fear but also hate homosexuals. Though nothing in the word “homophobic” per se implies religious opposition to homosexuality, it is used to identify those who oppose homosexual marriages. They, it is said, are homophobic because they hate homosexuals and oppose our nation legalizing their commitment to one another in marriage.

At this point, brethren, we must be clear: God does not “hate” homosexuals. He so loved “the world”; He gave His Son an offering for “sinners”; God is devoted to “rapists,” “pedophiles,” “harlots,” “whoremongers,” “adulterers,” “fornicators,” “murderers,” “thieves,”—and, yes, “homosexuals.” Jesus died for men while they were yet “sinners.” Jesus tasted of death for “every man” (see John 3:16; Rom 5:8; Heb 2:9; 1 Cor 6:9-10).

We read in scripture a story that teaches an important lesson on this matter. Jesus, the apostle John records, reached out in love and compassion to a woman who had been caught in the very act of adultery. We are not told everything about this event, but one wonders: if the woman was caught committing adultery, where was the man. Why did these Jews bring only the woman? And why were they unwilling to stay, bear witness against the woman, and cast the first stone. Were they protecting the man for some reason? We don’t really know, but what we do know is that Jesus called for one without sin to cast the first stone, stooped down to write something on the ground, and the whole crowd suddenly disappeared. Jesus, according to the law, could not without witnesses judge and condemn this woman (see Heb 2:1-3; 10:26-31). So He did what compassion and righteousness demanded: He told the woman to “go thy way” and “from henceforth sin no more” (John 8:1-11).

Both we and homosexuals can learn some important things from this account: First, Jesus loves and has compassion for sinners—including homosexuals (see 1 Cor 6:9-10). In His compassion He reached out to homosexuals when He died for “every” man. He designed the gospel to save all men who will “repent” and be “baptized” into Him and into His death (Mark 16:15-16; Acts 2:38; Rom 6:3-4; Gal 3:26-29). But “repentance” means that homosexuals, as the adulteress woman and “all men,” must forsake sin—“sin no more” (Luke 13:3,5; Acts 2:38; Acts 17:30-31; Rom 6:1-2). And “baptism” is in the name of Christ and that means homosexuals, as all men, must forsake their sin and come to Jesus (Matt 11:28-30; Acts 2:38; Acts 10:48).

Furthermore, Jesus teaches Christians to love their neighbors—even as they love God with all their hearts and souls and minds and strength (Matt 22:37-39). Disciples of Christ, then, are not to decide what neighbors they choose to love. They must even love their enemies, which includes praying for them and providing food and clothing for them when they are hungry and naked (Matt 5:43-44; Rom 12:17-20). Vengeance belongs only to God; only He has authority to display wrath toward homosexuals.

There is, brethren, no place in the heart of any Christian for homophobia, but neither may he pass off the sin of homosexuality as innocent. Vengeance does belong to God and He will repay sinners with punishment for their transgressions. We must warn homosexuals that the practice of this sin is an abomination and vile passion that will keep them from entering God’s eternal kingdom (Lev 18:22; Rom 1:26-27; 1 Cor 6:9-10; Jude 7).

-L. A.



Posted: March 26th, 2017 | Author: | Filed under: Articles

“Then He who sat on the throne said, ‘Behold, I make all things new’” (Rev 21:5).

All of us know the excitement that comes from starting over. Perhaps that’s why we enjoy springtime so much. It’s a fresh beginning. Old growth is gone, and everything is green again. But imagine a land where everything is always as if it had just been refreshed and rejuvenated. That would be heaven.

If we’ve obeyed the gospel and are living faithfully to Christ, then there is a sense in which all things have become new for us already (2 Cor 5:17). And when the apostle John heard God say, ‘Behold, I make all things new,’ there is a sense in which we can say that God has already done that for His people.

But the richest experience of newness that even the most faithful Christian can have right now will pale in comparison to the newness that will be ours in heaven. If you are a Christian and you think there is a big difference between your life right now and the one you used to have, just wait till you see the difference between what you have right now and what you’ll have with God in eternity. What is now is but a merest foretaste of what is to come.

I predict that one of the things that we’ll find most striking about heaven is the absence of anything resembling decay or decline. Right now, even our highest and purest joys are attacked by age and decrepitude. No sooner have we begun to enjoy something than it is taken away from us, and we’ve only started to appreciate its beauty when it withers away. But in eternity, neither the beauty or value of anything will be diminished by the aging process. Not only will everything be new, but it will stay new!

I make the prediction in the preceding paragraph because I believe everything in heaven will partake of God’s nature, in which there is no loss due to age. “Of old You laid the foundation of the earth, and the heavens are the work of Your hands. They will perish, but You will endure; yes, they will all grow old like a garment; like a cloak You will change them, and they will be changed. But You are the same, and Your years will have no end” (Ps 102:25-27). Given the nature of God, I’m looking for heaven to be a place where the word “new” has a whole “new” meaning.

“In eternity everything is just beginning” (Elias Canetti).

-Gary Henry


Waking To The Promised Land

Posted: March 26th, 2017 | Author: | Filed under: Articles

It seems that no matter how long we live, we are seldom ready for the end of life to come. When life ends before the usual time we are obviously thrown into shock and grief. But even when someone has lived “three score and ten,” we are often filled with pain no less sharp. We weren’t quite ready to say goodbye…and we likely never would have been. If you have ever felt this way at seeing a long life come to a close you are not alone.

After living 120 years on this earth Moses drew near to the end. One might think that surely after 120 years that one would feel that the end would actually be a relief. Moses even says, “I am no longer able to come and go” (Duet 31:2). But in spite of all of those years, and in spite of waning energy he said, “O Lord GOD, You have begun to show Your servant Your greatness and Your strong hand; for what god is there in heaven or on earth who can do such works and mighty acts as Yours? ‘Let me, I pray, cross over and see the fair land that is beyond the Jordan, that good hill country and Lebanon” (Deut 3:24-25). Did you catch that? After 120 years Moses feels that God had only begun to show His greatness…and Moses is right. After 120 years Moses wants to see one more thing. I think I can imagine it, because I have watched loved ones go and wanted just a few more words with them. I just want to tell them one more thing or hear one more word of wisdom, one more word of love, one more word of assurance from their lips. It’s not even that they “left before their time.” It’s that they left before MY time.

So then the end comes for Moses. In Deuteronomy 34, he is allowed to go to the top of a mountain and see what he is missing out on. Do you think that was a cruel trick? It wasn’t. In fact, as I think of it, I consider the notion of the last sight in this life being the thing I most want to see and yet cannot realize. Moses’ eyes close as he looks over to that land of promise but what do his eyes open to? Of course it is the true promise land. Can you imagine the contrast? As Moses beholds the glory of God, can you imagine him thinking that he missed out on something? Perhaps, looking over that land wasn’t a reminder that he “missed out” but a reminder that such was never the true land of promise. He fell asleep looking at a promise he missed out on and awoke to the only one that ever mattered.

-Stephen Russel


A Reason For The Shadows

Posted: March 26th, 2017 | Author: | Filed under: Articles

We sometimes speak of life amid the shadows. We refer to such things as sorrow and adversity, calamity and misfortune as shadows. Yet, we need to remember that the same God who made the sunshine also made the shadows. Yea, it is the brilliancy of the sunshine that produces the contrast of the shadows. Is there a value in shadows? Yes, verily, for who could appreciate the beauty of the sunrise were it not for the shadows of the night? To awake on a foggy morning with only the shadows of the misty clouds about us causes us to yearn for the crisp dawn with sun reflecting upon the western hills. Yes, shadows have their purpose.

And it is so with the shadows of pain, sorrow and adversity. The one who comes out of such shadows as these appreciates the light so much more than the one who has known only peace and prosperity. The pain of sorrow only intensifies the joy of contentment. The bitter cup of anguish makes the taste of comfort that much sweeter. We must learn to use the shadows to come to appreciate the sunshine.

When adversity comes, the end result of it will be determined by how we accept it and how we use it. We can lie down and wallow in the shadows of self-pity or we can move toward the sunshine. The choice is really ours. For as surely as there is a night, there also follows a sunrise. We can walk toward that sunrise and away from the night. Sunset may be coming, but the sunrise we’ll see!

-Forrest D. Moyer


Neither Jews, Catholics, Nor Protestants, Simply Christians

Posted: March 26th, 2017 | Author: | Filed under: Articles

Numerous times I have filled out forms that included a question about religious affiliation or preference. These forms normally included three options: Jew, Catholic, or Protestant. Such forms today would likely include Muslim, Buddhist, or Hindu. The older forms did contain a blank for “other” in which I would write the name “Christian.” It intrigues me that these forms never included the name “Christian”—the only name given by God to disciples of Christ.

Christians know that Jesus by His death abrogated the law of Moses and the Jewish religion. That law is no longer bound by God on any man—including Jews themselves. After the death of Jesus, God instituted a “new” or “second” covenant that He binds on all men, whether Jew or Gentile.  He commissioned His apostles to preach the gospel of the new covenant to “all nations” and “every creature” (Matt 28:18-20; Mark 16:15-16; see Heb 8:6-13; 9:11-22; 10:5-10). Those who responded to the good news of salvation in Christ were called by God “Christians”—whether Jew or Gentile. Both were told to glorify God in “this name” (see Acts 11:26; 1 Pet 4:16).

After the first century, significant changes took place and a completely different system of religion was developed by the teaching and practices of men who went beyond the instruction of the New Testament. This way of life, completely foreign to God’s revelation in the scriptures, dominated world thinking and was known as “Catholicism,” and its proponents were called “Catholics.” They followed creeds, sacraments, and doctrines defined by “councils” of bishops and dictates of the Pope.

By the 16th century theologians arose to protest the authority of the Pope, accept the Bible as God’s only authority for religious practices, and adopt the theology of salvation by “faith alone.” This resulted in numerous “protests” against Catholicism and these believers came to be known as “Protestants.” The conviction of “faith only” led these theologians to a variety of practices that divided the movement into numerous denominations which followed human opinions and traditions in worship, organization, “modes” of baptism, and a multiplicity of other doctrinal practices not taught by Jesus or His apostles (Matt 15:1-9).

Many Jewish, Catholic, and Protestant beliefs and practices are distinct and different from the teaching and doctrines of the new covenant as revealed in the New Testament. In fact, the books of the New Testament forewarn that in later times men would depart from the faith and give heed to seducing spirits and doctrines of false teachers (1 Tim 4:1-3; see Acts 20:29-31). To be simply “Christians” men and women reject these teachings and practices that are not revealed, taught, and authorized by the Bible.

Those who accept only the name “Christian” look back to the first century, examine the scriptures, and seek to learn the true, original, recorded beliefs and practices of the church that Jesus built by the work and teaching of inspired apostles and prophets (see Eph 3:3-5; 2 Tim 3:16-17). All men to please God and learn what is true must, as the Bereans, examine the scriptures daily to see what is so (Acts 17:11). That means they must reject the Jewish religion and look back beyond the views of Protestantism and Catholicism to determine from the contents of the Bible what practices God authorized man to believe and obey.

Those of us who do this are not manifesting an attitude of arrogance or antagonism toward others, but are seeking to approach God in humility, to understand the truth He has revealed in the scripture, to receive His will for man, and to submit only to His instruction. We accept the apostle John’s warning that whoever goes beyond the teaching of Christ has not God and the apostle Paul’s threat that if we preach any other gospel than what they preached we will be accursed (2 John 9; Gal 1:8-9). Those who abide in this teaching are simply Christians.

-L. A.


Making God’s Goals Our Own

Posted: March 19th, 2017 | Author: | Filed under: Articles

If you were to sit down and write up a list of all your goals in life for the next 5 to 10 years, what would they be?  Career goals?  Education goals?  Vacations that you want to take?  House projects you want to accomplish? Debts you want to pay off or purchases you’ve been saving up for?  Goals for your relationships or family?

How many of them would be goals for your relationship with God?  …spiritual goals?  Would they even make the list?

Maybe we should think about it this way.  If God were to write a list of goals for your life over the next 5 to 10 years, what would they be?  Surely fulfilling His purposes for our life should be of utmost importance.  It should no longer be we who live, but Christ who lives in us (Gal 2:20).  The love of God must reign supreme in our hearts (Matt 22:37-38).  The love of Christ must control us (2 Cor 5:14-15).

So, what would God’s goals for our life be?  Goals in spiritual growth?  Maturing in things like faith, virtue, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly kindness, and love (2 Pet 1:5-7)?

These goals can sometimes be hard to measure.  But we can set bench marks for ourselves in things like Bible study and prayer.  We can aim for more consistent communication in our relationship with God.  We can set aside time to read and pray on a daily basis, even if it’s just 10-15 minutes.  We can set goals to read through the New Testament or the entire Bible in a year.  We can keep prayer lists to keep track of who and what we need to be praying for.

How about goals in overcoming temptation?  We can identify the sins we struggle with most and keep alert against their approach.  Try going a whole week without complaining, without saying a single unkind word, or without  indulging a lustful thought.  Set goals in being a better steward of your time, your body, or your possessions.

How about goals in church service?  Set a goal not to miss a single assembly this month or to get every Bible class lesson completed.  Work toward being able to teach a class or give a short talk.  Multiply your talents and try serving in ways you’ve never served before.  Visit  or call someone who needs encouragement at least once a week.  Make it your goal to greet and get to know every visitor that enters our doors.  Find some work that needs to be done and volunteer to do it.

What about goals in evangelism?  Jesus’ entire purpose in coming to earth was to “seek and to save the lost” (Luke 19:10).  It was for this He suffered and died on the cross.  Should it not be one of our highest goals in life as well?  Don’t just set a goal for converts, but set a goal for contacts.  We never know where the soil will be fertile, but the more seeds we sow the better chance we have of finding that good and honest heart.

Try to personally invite at least 10 people to our gospel meeting.  Post flyers on every available bulletin board in your community.  Pass out at least one business card a week.  Write down a list of 20 acquaintances to whom you could offer a home Bible study and if you’ve crossed them all off, go find some more.   You never know what they’ll say until you ask.  Expand your comfort zone, build your confidence, and equip yourself to teach.

So, what are your goals for the next 5 to 10 years?  What are your goals for this year, this month, this week?  What are your goals for today?  Spiritual maturity doesn’t happen by accident.  It takes hard work, and it happens one purposeful day at a time.

We must apply all diligence if we want to make it up the stair steps of spiritual growth (2 Pet 1:5).  We must make God’s goals our goals and then pursue them with all our might.  God is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him (Heb 11:6).  Drifting through life with half-hearted efforts to reach God is not enough.  Life is a race, heaven is the finish line, and we must run in such a way that we may win (1 Cor 9:24).  That is the ultimate goal that should dictate all other goals in our lives.



It Is A Small Thing

Posted: March 19th, 2017 | Author: | Filed under: Articles

We read the following from 1 Cor 4:3-4, “But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by a human court. In fact, I do not even judge myself. For I know of nothing against myself, yet I am not justified by this; but He who judges me is the Lord.”

Gleaned from both of his New Testament epistles to the Corinthians, we see that Paul often had to defend his apostleship (1 Cor 9:1-2), explain his motives in not having come to them sooner (1 Cor 4:18-19), argue his right to forego marriage and/or to be paid for his services (1 Cor 9:4-14), challenge the accusation that he behaved differently in person than his writings reflected (2 Cor 10:10-11), and all this to his brethren! So, what else is new? The very same kind of thing continues till this day.

But notice that Paul said that it really didn’t bother him much what brethren thought of him, even if some actually judged him one way or another. And for that matter, he didn’t even spend much time concerned with how he judged himself. He knew that there was nothing he had against himself (i.e. he lived in all good conscience) but in the end, it was only God’s approval he had to have, for that was all that mattered. To that I heartily say, “Amen!”

Paul cared how others viewed him. In 2 Cor 13:6-9, he expresses his desire that they not view him negatively, but then goes on to say how that having their approval at all costs was simply not possible. Mainly he wanted them to behave honorably and if in so doing he continued to be seen as weak, then so be it. Paul, as always, fully sacrificing himself for others; longing for other’s salvation, even at the expense of his own diminished self-image.

I, too, am concerned about my reputation among brethren and it bothers me greatly when I know someone disapproves of me or some decision I have made, but I have to seek to imitate Paul, even as he was imitating Christ. Paul considered it a small thing to him that others criticized him, passed judgment on his integrity or upbraided him for decisions he made differently than they would have made. But that was also the same with our Lord. He was called names like “winebibber” and “friend of sinners” because of who He associated with (Matt 11:19), was criticized sometimes for His decisions (i.e. healing on the sabbath…why not just wait until the next day and no one would have a problem?) and accused of having lost His mind for getting so wrapped up in the things of God that He did not eat (Mark 3:20-21). But as the saying goes, “it all was like water off a duck’s back.” I am sure that Jesus was concerned as to what others thought of Him (“Who do men say that I am?” He asked on one occasion – Matt 16:13) but ultimately it mattered very little, it seems.

So whether it be the Greatest Example, Jesus or His noble follower, Paul, I have two great role models along these lines. They both say that in the final analysis, what I most need to be concerned about is not what the world thinks of me, nor my brethren, and not even myself, but what the Lord thinks. As Paul says in a certain place, “For not he who commends himself is approved, but whom the Lord commends” (2 Cor 10:18). And in another place, “Study to show yourself approved unto God” (2 Tim 2:15). And so I shall.

-Whit Sasser


Are You Too Busy?

Posted: March 19th, 2017 | Author: | Filed under: Articles

We live in busy times.  Most of us with children at home find ourselves coming and going all the time.  The calendar is full of activities.  There is very little “down time” or quiet time.  Our busy schedules often keep some of us from helping out in the kingdom.  For instance, the elders may ask a man to consider serving as a deacon.  Without even thinking about the great service that he could render, the person declines saying, “I can’t right now, I’m just too busy.”  Or, someone is asked to teach a Bible class.  The opportunity is turned down because the person is too busy.

Being “too busy” can be an easy excuse for simply not stepping up and doing what we should.  Saying “I’m too busy,” sounds so much better than saying, “No, I just don’t want to.”  Being busy is assumed to be the banner of a successful parent.  Being busy means you are not lazy, bored, or dull. We are just busy people.

But have you ever considered that Moses was busy tending his flock when God called him to lead Israel.  Gideon was busy threshing wheat when God called him to service.  David was busy caring for his father’s sheep when God appointed him king.  Nehemiah was busy serving the king when he decided to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem.  Peter and John were busy fishing when Jesus called them to follow him.  God never used the lazy or idle.  He goes to those who are already at work and busy.

It takes time to teach a class ,or open your home to hospitality, or to write a card of encouragement, or have a home Bible study, or to serve as an elder or deacon.  Those that are busy doing those things have families, jobs, hobbies, and commitments just like everyone else.  In fact, you will find those that are very busy in the kingdom have to fight time commitments, juggle their schedules, sometimes miss activities they’d like to go to just like everyone else.  There are times they would like to just lay on the couch and watch TV.  There are times when they get stressed because they feel pulled in more than one direction.  But they have found some things that others fail to see.

They have found that being busy in the kingdom is worth the sacrifice they must make.  They are making a difference and what they are doing is a good work.

They have found that making time for kingdom work teaches their children a valuable lesson.  You don’t do everything you want to do first and then if you have any extra time, find something to do for God.  You make time for God.  You work your schedule to include God.  You make time for the work of the Lord.  The Lord found time to die on the cross for us.  The Lord finds time to bless us and answer our prayers.

There are many busy folks in the kingdom.  You are making a difference and we are thankful for that.  Being busy is not an excuse for not doing what God wants of us.

-Roger Shouse


The Next Step Is Always Our Most Important

Posted: March 13th, 2017 | Author: | Filed under: Articles

“For I am the least of the apostles, who am not worthy to be called an apostle because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me was not in vain” (1 Cor 15:9-10).

Like Paul, we need to focus primarily on our improvement rather than on our disappointments. What has happened in the past is important, of course, but it is not nearly as important as what happens next. We may have taken many wrong steps, but none of these matter as much as the next step that we take.

When we’ve dug ourselves into a hole, it does not make good sense to continue digging the hole deeper. Yet that is what we often do. Disappointed and discouraged, we let ourselves be held captive by the thought that we can’t change the past, and we continue to make the same mistakes (and maybe even worse ones). But it should help us to remember that the next step is our most important. Depending on what we do next, we will either help our situation or make it worse; we will either cut our losses or continue to increase them. And not only that, we’ll make it either easier or harder to take the right steps later on. We’re building today a momentum that’ll either help us or hinder us tomorrow.

Despair is a vicious enemy, and we need to take the initiative against it. We can’t afford to sit back and simply wish that we hadn’t marred our past as we have. If our future is to be anything we can feel good about, we must get up and get busy. There is important work yet to be done, and the courage to take the next step is the key to progress. There comes a time when we have to have enough “true grit” to take the battle to the enemy, indignant about what he’s already done in our lives and determined that the damage is going to stop. Here and now, we’re making a clean break!

If we intend to seek God, it’s necessary that we not only think but also act in His direction. Serving God faithfully means going ahead and doing the good that’s possible in the present moment. The saved will be those who have pressed ahead—in faith, in hope, and in love. And doesn’t victory finally come down to this simple thing: being dogged enough not to let ourselves be defeated by what we’ve done in the past? Even if, like the apostles, we’ve slept while we should have been on duty, our Lord would say to us what He said to them: “Rise, let us be going” (Mark 14:42). “Never let the sense of past failures defeat your next step” (Oswald Chambers).

Gary Henry