Jul 30

Destroying National Relics

The decision to keep or remove a national relic is not a new discussion. Presently, our country is divided over what to do with the Confederate flag. But, did you know that a similar situation is actually recorded in the Bible? Read on…

As you may remember, while wandering in the wilderness, the children of Israel murmured, complained, and spoke against God. In response, God sent poisonous serpents among them as a form of discipline (Numbers 21:4). Israel quickly confessed their sin and pleaded with Moses to make intercession with God on their behalf. Moses did intercede for the people and God instructed him to make a brazen serpent, set it on a pole, and those who would look at this brazen serpent would be healed (Numbers 21:8).

Fast forward approximately 600 years and we are now in the days of King Hezekiah while he is trying to reform Israel. Hezekiah had been tearing down the altars to pagan gods, and then he commanded the unthinkable.  He commanded that the brazen serpent that Moses made in the wilderness be destroyed (2 Kings 18:4).

How could he command such a thing?  Did he not know the history and significance of this object? This brazen serpent was a national relic. In terms of comparison, it has been preserved twice as long as our “Declaration of Independence.”

Hezekiah hadn’t lost his mind, rather he took note of the fact that the people had begun worshiping this object. It had become an idol, so he called it “Nehushtan” which means, “a thing of brass.” In other words, Hezekiah justified his decision to destroy it by reminding the people that they had allowed this object (merely a thing of brass) to come between them and God, so he destroyed it.

Question: Do you have any “Nehushtans” in your life? Have you allowed anything to come between you and your God? Jobs are good, but not if they rival your devotion to God. Sports are good, but not if you are more faithful to them than to God. You get the idea. Maybe it’s time we come to the realization to which Hezekiah came. Some things may need to be seen for what they are (e.g. just a thing of brass) and not be allowed to get between us and what is of real value. Give it some thought.

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Jul 27

I’m Offended!

offendedAmerica has become a hyper-sensitive society. It seems nothing can be said or done without offending someone. “Politically correct” landmines are everywhere making it difficult to navigate without hurting someone’s feelings.”

The response of some has been to snub their noses and say, “I don’t care what people think; they can just get over it!” However, before we get frustrated and adopt this same approach, let me remind you that Paul said, “I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some” (1 Corinthians 9:22).

Instead of not caring what others think, Paul teaches us we should care what other people think. Consequently, I must learn to walk “softly.” I want to be careful that I don’t “destroy with food the one for whom Christ died” (Romans 14:15). Or to put it in more culturally relevant terms, I don’t want to destroy with “gun control,” “socialized medicine,” “immigration,” or “racial issues” the one for whom Christ died.

Having said all that, I must confess that I am going to unapologetic offend some people. Not maliciously, mind you, but by the very nature of who I am and what I promote. You see, the gospel of Jesus is offensive (Galatians 5:11). It condemns us. It tells us our choices have been immature, selfish, and yes, evil. It reminds us we are weak and need saving. Without euphemisms, it declares we are all sinners and charges us with guilt for the death of Jesus.

There’s just no way you can market that message, dress it up, and package it in such a way that it is no longer offensive. By its very nature, the gospel is offensive.

While we should give great care not to unnecessarily offend people, even people who have been conditioned to be hyper-sensitive, we must never allow political correctness to remove the offense of the gospel.

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Jul 22

What’s a Preacher Supposed to Look Like?

kennethProbably all of us have preconceived ideas as to what a preacher is supposed to look like. For me, I had definite ideas for you see, my dad was a preacher.  For me, a preacher wore a suit and tie to nearly everything.  (My dad would even sometimes mow the lawn while wearing a tie…no joking).

But all of us know, or at least should know, there is no dress code for a gospel preacher…No divine rules about suits, ties, and polished shoes (though that’s not to say that a few man-made rules have never been enforced).

Due to several cultural shifts, some are discussing the appropriateness of “ties vs. no ties,” or “suit jackets vs. polo shirts.” If I may, I would like to add prison stripes to the discussion.

The picture to the left is a picture of my friend, brother, and gospel preacher, Kenneth Washington. I first met Kenneth in Knox County jail where he is awaiting trial for 1st degree murder and attempted aggravated robbery.

For years now, the Karns Church of Christ has had a prison ministry, and Kenneth became one of our students. Very quickly, I became impressed with Kenneth.  I was amazed at this young man’s knowledge of the Bible, and how active and vocal he was in our Bible class.  One of the most impressive things I discovered about Kenneth was during the time in which we would take prayer requests.  While most men would ask that we pray for their quick release, Kenneth would ask us to pray for the families of specific men he knew who were incarcerated. Most all of his requests were for others.

I’ll never forget one night, in the middle of our Bible study, the “light came on” for several of the students and they stopped me in the middle of my lesson, (much like what I imagine happened on the day of Pentecost [Acts 2:36-37]) and they said, “we’ve been deceived!  We’re not saved!  We need to be baptized for the remission of our sins!” Shortly thereafter, with the continued support, teaching, and reinforcement by Mark Cawood, a member at Karns who works in the court system, Wendell Agee, a member at Karns, baptized Kenneth into Christ.

Since then, Kenneth has been on fire for the Lord.  He is reading and studying all the biblical material we can get in his hands.  James Meadows has been giving him class books he has written and Kenneth is filling them out and returning them and requesting more just about as quickly as James can grade them.  Just last month, three inmates were baptized into Christ as a result of Kenneth’s bold and unashamed preaching within the jail.

I don’t know what the future holds for Kenneth with respect to his physical freedom, but I do know that the Lord has set him free from his sins. It’s my prayer that whether free or behind bars, Kenneth spends the rest of his life sharing the good news of Jesus!

So what’s a preacher supposed to look like? If the way you answer this question doesn’t include “prison stripes,” your view is too narrow!

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Jul 16

We Need A Hero

imagesI was saddened this week as I watched Bruce Jenner receive the “Arthur Ashe Award for Courage” at the annual Espy Awards. As you probably know, Jenner, a former Olympic gold-medalist, has decided to live as a woman. What saddened me, even beyond his decision, was the reaction of a room filled with famous athletes. These top athletes and role models all stood and applauded Jenner for his gender change.

While I love sports, and can appreciate the level of expertise unto which these athletes have attained, the response of these athletes has reminded me that we need new heroes. Does being able to throw a ball, hit a ball, shoot a ball, kick a ball, and run with a ball, while being devoid of morals qualify one to be a hero or role model?

Paul stated that not only are those who are guilty of sin worthy of condemnation, but also those who approve of the evil others do; they too are worthy of condemnation (Romans 1:32).

We need a hero! We need to train our children to lift their eyes above the shallowness of picking heroes because they can “play with a ball.” Instead, we need to train them to look to Jesus. Our children need to be so familiar with the life and works of Jesus that they will be in awe of him and come to realize no man is more worthy of “hero” status than him.

  • The compassion Jesus demonstrated toward those who were weak and unlovable is more challenging than a Stephen Curry 3-point shot.
  • The mercy Jesus showed a dying thief is far more amazing than a Peyton Manning touchdown pass.
  • The miracles of Jesus are more deserving of a slow-motion replay than the acrobatic catches of Odell Beckham Jr.
  • The manliness and courage Jesus exhibited while being led as a sheep to the slaughter is infinitely more moving and powerful than any injured athlete playing through the pain.

When a man decides to live as a woman and we call him courageous, we’ve defined-down courage. When a man announces he is a practicing homosexual (as did last year’s winner of the Arthur Ashe Award for Courage) and we call him a “hero,” we need new heroes.

I say it’s time we introduce our children to Jesus. What do you think?

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[Addendum: Lest someone accuse me of being hateful, homophobic, or insensitive to the plight of others, let me share the following.

  • Courage is when someone is enjoying the pleasures of sin but decides to muster the strength to stop.
  • Courage is when someone faces temptation, but refuses to give in and wrestles with that temptation.
  • Courage is when someone stops defending and excusing sin, and acknowledges God’s holy standards.
  • Courage is when one surrenders his own will to follow Jesus.
  • Courage is standing for right when it’s politically correct not to do so.
  • Courage is confronting someone with his sin, rather than turning a blind eye to him.
  • Courage is being a friend of sinners while being supremely loyal to God.

As representatives of Jesus, may we love so deeply that our condemnations of sin cannot be confused with hatred of the sinner].

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Jun 22

“Hot Wheels” And A Burning Conscience

7019_Road_DragsterJust down the street from where I grew up was a drug store that sold “Hot Wheels” cars. That was great news to a little boy who loved to play with and collect “Hot Wheels.” One day I saw a car that I just had to have. It was on a shelf and the sticker beneath it read 89¢. However, when the cashier rang it up, I was only charged 59¢.

I left the store and I was thrilled! The store had under-charged me 30¢, plus I had a really cool new “Hot Wheels” car! However, my excitement was short lived for I soon discovered that I just couldn’t bring myself to play with this car. Every time I tried, my conscience would burn within me. Since I couldn’t stand the pangs of guilt, a couple days later, I took three dimes from my savings, went back to the store, laid them on the counter, and ran out of the store as fast as I could go.

I still have that car to this day. The front wheels are broken off from a lot of play. Most people might throw away a broken car with no wheels, but I’ve kept this car through the years as a reminder not to violate my conscience.

What about you? Do you have a clear conscience? If not, collect your “30¢” and go make things right! You’ll be glad you did!

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