Jul 12

How The Church Should Be a Human Chain!

On Saturday evening July 9th, 10 people had been pulled 100 yards off the shore of Panama City Beach.  A riptide had separated these individuals from the shore and was threatening them with drowning.  Some of the ten were adults who had gone trying to rescue two young boys and got pulled into the riptide themselves.  Rescuers on the shore were waiting for a boat to aid the victims, when someone started yelling to form a human chain.  Beach goers began linking arms and legs forming a 100 yard human chain.  Then they would pass each of the exhausted swimmers through the chain back to safety.  All ten were saved.  One 63 year old lady caught in the riptide experienced a massive heart attack, but is expected to survive.

Washington Post Picture – Courtesy of Roberta Ursrey

This story is a visual illustration of what the church is to be to the world. 

The church must link arms and legs in service and unity to reach out to the world.  Our calling is to be united together in our outreach.  Our evangelism cannot be based solely on the preacher or sermons given from a pulpit.  We must link together, combining our talents to rescue the lost.

The church must pass the rescued along to the shore of safety.  The image of them passing the drowning victims through the human chain back to the shore is insightful.  When someone comes to Jesus, everyone in the church should want to touch them.  Every person is needed to encourage and rally around them as they learn the Christian life.  We must show our support and give them a helping hand in their journey to heaven.

The church must be willing to risk wading out into treacherous waters to save sinking sinners.  The beachgoers who entered the water, risked their own lives to save others.  We must be willing to take risks and step out in faith in order to reach the lost.

How is your congregation doing as a human chain leading others to salvation?  Maybe more directly, how are you doing in linking arms with other Christians to rescue drowning sinners from the world?

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Washington Post Article 

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Jul 09

Austin and Brooke’s PGA Junior League Golf

We are having fun playing golf this summer.  Our two oldest children, Austin and Brooke are playing in a league.  They play in matches or games that involve our team playing another team.  They pair up into two man scramble teams and take on two players from the other team.  They have done well.  I made this video with some highlights of their first four matches.

 

 

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Jul 07

Finding Your Center!

We live in a world of chaos.  Our lives are like walking through a crowded mall during Christmas.  We are surrounded by stores attractively designed to grasp our attention.  Salesmen working a kiosk booth ask for a few moments of our time to sell us what we have always needed, but never knew we wanted!  Fame, fortune, and pleasure all are doing the same things to us every day.  They promise happiness and joy, but often leave us deceived and battered.  We wander through life bouncing in-and-out of stores and listening to various salesmen!  Where is our center?

Jesus understands the allurements the churches are facing in Asia.  After speaking to each of them, he reminds them of the throne of God (Rev. 4-5).  God is to be on the throne of our heart as He is truly on the throne of the universe.  How do we stay connected to our center, in a world of such chaos and divergent pathways?  We worship God regularly!  Worship centers us in God.  It puts Christ on the throne and us as grateful servants.

As John pictures the throne room of God, he describes the ongoing worship of heaven.  The 24 elders and the 4 living creatures sing praise to the Creator and Eternal Being (4:8-11)!  They cast their crowns before Him (4:10).  A scroll is brought forth and its message is revealed through the power of the slain Lamb (5:1-7). Prayers of the saints ascend as incense to God (5:8).  The redeemed praise the slain Lamb through who’s blood they are ransomed (5:9).  This is worship!  This is what Christians do when we assemble.  We center our hearts and minds on the throne of God.  We join the heavenly multitude in worshiping God.  We sing, preach, pray, offer, and commune in honor of the Lamb who was slain.  Worship is not when the natural and the spiritual world compete, but when they coordinate!  

We need worship regularly to stay anchored; to stay fixed to the center.  Without worship, we do not even know our circumference!   We lose sight of the boundaries thet are good for us.  We become selfish and arrogant individual doomed to bitterness and sin.

Sunday’s coming!  Gather with God’s people to find your center!

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Ideas originated with Eugene Peterson’s book Reversed Thunder – ch, 5

 

 

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Jul 02

Lewis: The Lamb Fearful of Sheep

Lewis is a six months old Barbados Blackbelly sheep on our farm.   His mother died when he was born.  We bottle-fed Lewis for the first two months of his life.  Lewis had a twin brother named Clark, who sadly died unexpectedly at about a month old.  Lewis is strong and healthy.

But he has one big problem.  He is afraid of other sheep.  He identifies with us and chicken better than the herd of sheep.  The other sheep look just like him.  They are not mean to him.  He is fixed so he offers no threat to the ram.  But he fears the other sheep.  Maybe he thinks the others are judgmental.  Maybe he believes the others have their own group and they will not accept him in it.  Maybe he doesn’t want the restrictions of being in the herd.  They play follow the leader and all act the same, maybe he wants to be different.  Maybe he feels like he is not one of them, even though he looks like them.  Maybe he just wants to be by himself.  But whatever it is, we are sure his identity is confused.  He doesn’t have a proper self-identity.  He is a sheep without a herd.  

Do you know any human sheep who act the same way toward the church?  They are fearful of the church.  They believe they will be judged.  They are rebellious of being in the herd and going along with what the church is doing.  They love their independence and just as soon be alone making their own decisions.

What Lewis doesn’t realize is that he is made to be a sheep!  He may have a messed up personal identity, but he was created to be a sheep.  He can only truly fulfill his purpose and place in this world by being a sheep in the herd. He is missing out on the love, protection, and companionship of other sheep.  He is open to prey, lacks community, and has constant anxiety because he refuses to try the herd.

I beg all of of the lost sheep out there who refuse to seek their identity in the church to quit being afraid of Christians.  Realize you were created by God to be a part of the church.  The church isn’t perfect, but it is God’s herd on earth created for our protection, love, and companionship.  

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Jun 30

Musings on Lee and Grant and the Civil War

I just finished listening to William C. Davis’ book Crucible of Command:  Ulysses S. Grant and Robert E. Lee–The War They Fought, the Peace They Forged.  The book is 688 pages in hardcover and took over 24 hours to listen to it.  I listened to it over a period of 4 months.  I really enjoyed the book and I wanted to share some thoughts with you about it.  This is not a review or a factual history lesson from the book, but simply some of my reflections on the book.

  • Both Lee and Grant were men of high moral character.  It is often assumed that men of power are allowed indiscretions in their personal character and morals.  Affairs are common for military and political leaders.  Both Lee and Grant struck me with their desire for honest and Christian virtue.  Grant’s presidency is known for corruption, but much of that has to do with him blindly trusting his friends and appointees.
  • The concept of a Civil War is really unnerving to consider.  You have men like Lee who served in the US military his entire career until 1861.  You have citizens who have worked and lived together for decades now being forced to choose sides.  But this is not just a political divide, but one that turned quickly into war.  I found myself a bit unnerved with how quickly our forefathers could let political differences dissolve into killing one another.  You can talk about all the reasons, but in the end, they were fighting and dying for these causes.  As our nation today seems to be more divided and contentious, I don’t predict Civil War, but I do fear how quickly it can turn from political and social difference to bloodshed and brutal fighting.
  • Lee’s view of God was fascinating.  Lee grew significantly in his protestant faith from a young man to his war years.  His wife likely had a large influence upon his personal faith.  But what was fascinating to me was his view of God’s providential workings.  He believed that it was all up to God’s divine plan.  Victories and defeats were all ordained by the sovereignty of God.  He took courage in being risky in his decisions as well as finding peace in sending men into battle because of the providence of God. He believed God was on His side and the battle’s outcome was left to God.  He then was able to resiliently handle defeat and encourage Christian conduct and peace in the post-war area because he saw the outcome as God’s will.  He was very cognizant of his own sinfulness and desired greatly the peace and rest of heaven.
  • The desire to heal and move on was remarkable.  These two giant leaders help forge the peace.  While the south was destroyed and newly freed black slaves were being mistreated throughout the south, these leaders help encourage their people to work for unity.  They sought peace and prosperity for their futures.  Lee encouraged labor, education, political influence, and Christian virtue.  Grant sought restraint towards and pardons for former Confederates.  He wanted states to be readmitted into the union and worked as President to draw the nation together.  Grant was conciliatory even in death as he had two confederate generals serve as his pallbearers along with Northern leaders.
  • History is never as clean or clear as the public narrative wants to suggest.  Today, we are taking down statues of Lee and seeing his name being disassociated with because of him being a southern general.  Grant is often portrayed as an overly aggressive butcher in war and later a corrupt president.  History involves many more details and shows that both men had many admirable traits as well as flaws and problems.  A study of their lives shows they are far more complicated and intricate than today’s image may suggest.

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Jun 25

Being a Great Dad Like the Prodigal’s Father

by alphao – www. sxc.hu

The story of the prodigal son is one of the most famous parables of Jesus (Luke 15:11-32).  It beautifully and simply portrays the love God has for his wayward children.  The father, who represents God in the story, takes center stage displaying love, forgiveness, and parental wisdom.  In studying this story, I noticed six lessons for those of us who want to be great dads.

  1. Great dads allow their adult children freedom (v. 11-12).  The father gave his younger son his half of the inheritance.  He surely knew he would squander it away, but he recognized he was an adult.  The sad truth is the best of fathers sometimes lose their children to the world.  We cannot control our children for their whole lives, we must be willing to let them go.
  2. Great dads allow their children to live with their consequences (v. 13-16).  One of the hardest part of parenting is allowing your kids to suffer the effects of their poor choices.  He didn’t go and rescue him from the pig pen or send him a steak while he was hungry!  Parents must seek to love without enabling.  Children often have to hit bottom before they will come home.
  3. Great dads create warm memories of home (v. 17-19).  When the son was in the pig pen, he remember his father’s house.  He remembered the kindness and goodness of home.  We should want to raise our children with love and security so they can have fond memories of home.
  4. Great dads long to welcome their children home (v. 20).  The father never quit loving the son.  He was looking for his return.  We must keep in mind that this isn’t just a reconciliation to the family.  The story isn’t about he decided to come to Thanksgiving dinner!  Jesus is emphasizing he chose to return to the teachings and faith of his parents.  He came back to God!
  5. Great dads forgive their children (v. 21-24).  The son truly repented and the father forgave immediately.  He didn’t bring up the money or the shame he had brought upon his family.  He treated him as his son and celebrated that he was alive!  Children need to know their father will forgive them when they have done wrong!
  6. Great dads minister to each child where they are (v. 25-32).  The older son, who had been faithful and loyal all the years, was hurt over the father’s actions.  He refused to come to the party celebrating the son’s return.  But the father went immediately to entreat him.  He explained his reason and implored him to realize the joy in his brother’s return. For many Christians our faithfulness can lead to entitlement.  The father was able to treat the elder son as he needed and see his strengths and weaknesses too.

Which of these six lessons do you need to apply today to your life to be a great dad?

Permanent link to this article: http://www.joshketchum.com/being-a-great-dad-like-the-prodigals-father/

Jun 22

The Benefits of an In-State Mission Trip!

I preach for the Seven Oaks Church of Christ in Mayfield, Kentucky.  Kentucky has several counties that have only one church of Christ.  Now that my kids are getting older, I wanted to lead a group, with the help of my wife, to one of these congregations this year to preach a meeting and hold a VBS.  I was late in the planning of the trip, but it came together for us to work with the Menifee County Church of Christ in Frenchburg, Kentucky.  The Menifee County church is a small struggling church of less than 20.  The work has been going on for around 20 years.  The county is small with a total population of just over 6000.

We had a group of 21 from 7 Oaks go.  Our summer youth intern went with several of our teen group.  We had three families go and take their small children as well.  Plus, we had some single adults.  All in total, we had a great group of hard working Christians.

We left on Wednesday and returned on Sunday afternoon.  We were blessed to stay at a youth camp operated by the Rolling Hills Church of Christ in Mount Sterling, Kentucky.  The camp worked as a great home base for eating and lodging needs.  We worked with Randy and Cathy Imel who have served the church there almost 17 years.  Randy and Cathy are a wonderful family who faithfully serve the Lord despite the difficult work of growing the church in this area.  They were so kind, loving, and hospitable to us.  We all were encouraged by their love and loyalty to the  Lord.

Randy and Cathy Imel

We spent Thursday and Friday door-knocking the town and county.  We were able to easily do the populated areas and much of the rural neighborhoods.  The ladies prepared for VBS while the teens and kids practiced their VBS skits.  One of our men, who is an electrician by trade, repaired the lights for the church.  I preached the gospel on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.  The VBS went from 10 to 2 on Saturday.  We had three skits, crafts, lunch, and games.

The Benefits of an In-State Mission Trip

  1. It allows for folks that may not want to fly or have the time for a longer trip to go on a mission effort.
  2. The cost is substantially less because of travel distance and time away from home.
  3. It helps practice evangelism in a similar context as back home, which will hopefully help evangelism be easier back home.
  4. It helps open our eyes to the world we live in close to our home.  We were able to experience poverty and a surprising different culture here in our own state.  We came back more appreciative of our area and grateful for the strength of the church in our community.
  5. It allows for a wider range of people to go on the trip.  We had from 4 year olds up on our trip.  We had whole families and we had a group of teens.  It really was not possible to take a group with the dynamics of ours on a long trip.
  6. It encourages a struggling church.  We were able to provide a free VBS and gospel meeting for this very small church.  It helped expose our group to a mission church and to experience its challenges first hand.

We were very blessed by this trip.  We are grateful for the Menifee County Church of Christ hosting us and appreciating our efforts.  We pray the trip will continue to produce glory to God.

Sunday Morning Worship

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Jun 20

New Issues for Today’s Parents

Our kids playing!

Parenting has always been tough.  Great Biblical heroes struggled to be good parents.  David was a great king and psalmist but failed in numerous ways as a parent.  Samuel and Eli both had rebellious sons who brought shame to their legacy.  Jesus even pictures God the Father as having a rebellious son in the parable of the prodigal son.

But parents today face new challenges that previous generations did not face.  Here are a few issues that parents today must intentionally determine to manage in order to raise faithful Christians and responsible adults.  

  1. Phones – The cell-phone revolution has had dramatic effects for our culture.  Research says the average age of kids getting their first smartphone is 10.3 in 2016.  Texting is the primary form of communication used by adolescents and teens.  Smartphones allow access to the internet, social media, and games.  The same study reported 24% of kids are allowed unrestricted private access to the internet.¹  Parents must set guidelines to protect their children from exposure and too much phone usage.  They must teach the child self-discipline and train them how to use the phone for when they will leave their home.
  2. Media Exposure –  Kids growing up today are exposed to far more media than any generation before.  There are more TV channels and ways to view shows than ever before.  The onslaught of streaming services like YouTube and Netflix make media access unlimited.  But it isn’t just the amount of media parents must battle, but it is the filthy quality of so much of the media that parents must combat.
  3. Sports Participation – The current generation of kids are being raised with more opportunities and expectations of participation than ever before.  Most parents feel like they are not being a “good parent” if they don’t have their child involved in sports and extracurricular activities.  Youth sports has moved from local recreation or backyard fun to travel teams that involve higher levels of skill, cost more money, and go year-a-round.  Sports can fill up the family calendar and often become a direct competition for involvement in the local church.
  4. Homosexual Agenda – Over the last 20 years the homosexual movement has gone mainstream.  Gay characters fill the movies and TV shows.  Gay celebrities and sports stars are lauded as heroes.  The Supreme Court has allowed gay marriage to stand in this nation.  More frightening than this is the agenda’s emphasis upon adolescents to consider their sexuality.  Kids are encouraged, while they are going through the difficult years of puberty, to consider they may be gay.  Kids, who are searching for an identity, often find one though the homosexual sub-culture.  Add this to the cultural emphasis on tolerance and acceptance and you have a real challenge for parents raising kids today.
  5. Gender Issues – The issues our culture is experiencing in regard to gender identity conversations is shocking.  Past generations never considered the need to intentionally teach a child they were a boy or a girl.  But now with transgender issues on the rise nationally and people being able to choose the bathroom of their gender identity rather than biological sex parents must deal with this topic.  Parents must emphasis what it means to be a man or a woman.

While it may seem I haven’t offered much help to Christian parents in this article, but simply listed the new issues those raising children today are facing, I hope this realization is helpful.  Parents today must WAKE UP!  We are facing key issues that past parents didn’t face.  Key issue that we didn’t face growing up.  Parents today must step up to the plate!  We must determine to intentionally wade into these issue with our children and guide them through these challenges with the aid of God’s word and His church.  We cannot set back and let the culture take the lead with our children.

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¹  https://techcrunch.com/2016/05/19/the-average-age-for-a-child-getting-their-first-smartphone-is-now-10-3-years/

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Jun 01

Have We Turned Shepherds into Fences?

Copyright Trevor Littlewood and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.

The Bible speaks often about shepherds.  God is the Shepherd of Israel, who is the flock of His pasture (Ps. 23; 95).  Jesus describes himself as the “good shepherd” who knows his sheep and leads them to an abundant life (John 10).  Elders or overseers of the church are described in the New Testament as Shepherds.  They are to lead, feed, and protect the flock of God which they oversee (Acts 20:28; 1 Peter 5:1-5).

But we fail to grasp this ancient image in our present culture.  When was the last time you saw a shepherd?  I mean a real shepherd who stood in a field all day and lead sheep across the countryside to water and fresh pasture.  I sometimes will call myself a shepherd because I have a small herd of sheep on our farm.  But I don’t truly shepherd them.  Instead, I use a modern form of shepherding called fences.  We use wire or electric fencing to keep our sheep within their boundaries.  We supply them their water in a trough and provide food for them within the fence.  The fence does the job of the shepherd for the most part.

As I thought about modern shepherding with fences, it occurred to me that we can do the same thing with elders in the church.  We can make them into fences.  Here are some ways we make shepherds into fences:

  • When we make them into a ruling board of directors who legislate from afar.
  • When we expect them to bring the water and food to us, and if we don’t like it we complain and may even break out and go to another pasture.
  • When we look at their leadership and authority as confining and restrictive, rather than for our good.
  • When we strip them of a personality and make them into a stereotype or group without a face that is slandered or misunderstood.
  • When we view them as aloof, distant, and unconcerned about our personal needs.
  • When we don’t see them as real men seeking to love Jesus and willingly offering their best, not perfection, to the Lord.
  • When we forget their role is tied to a relationship with us and our duty is trust and support.

We may not understand the ancient shepherd image, but we can surly understand the modern fence image.  Let’s not make our shepherds into fences. Elders need to work regularly to not see their work as a fence, simply standing guard from a distance bringing the sheep water and food.  Elders must realize their work is about being among the sheep.  They must live with them.  They must be in the pasture with them leading, feeding, and protecting.  Their work is about being an example.  A fence is not an example, it is only a boundary.

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May 30

Farm Report # 10: A Busy Winter!

We have had lots of activity on the farm the first 5 months of the year.  Here are a few significant things!

  1.  We bottle fed two lambs!  We named them Lewis and Clark.  Unfortunately after about 4 weeks, Clark died very suddenly.  He was always a little weak, but he seemed to be doing well.  We struggled this winter with some odd sickness in our sheep.  We consulted with our vet and had one treated, but lost 8 or 9 lambs or ewes this winter.  We lost two of our best mommas and several young lambs.  But after spring came and they got out on fresh pasture things seem to have improved.  Lewis is thriving, though he is closer to us and than the sheep, and refuses to join the herd.  He is a funny lamb!

2.  We got a new horse!  Let me introduce you to Daisy. Daisy is a beautiful paint horse we received free from some friends.  She is so sweet and loves people.  She is gentle and a good riding horse.  She just needs to be ridden more than we do.

3.  We have had three calves born and are expecting one more.  We got one extra!  Our young heifer we purchased last August from a family in TN, gave us a surprise calf.  Apparently their bull had made contact with her, without them knowing.  She was only about 14-15 months old when she gave birth.  But thankfully it has worked out and she gave us a nice little bull calf.  An extra bonus for this year.  We also had to bottle feed Judy’s calf because she had an utter problem.

This is Judy with her calf!

4.  Brooke got some rabbits.  Brooke has wanted rabbits for a long time.  So we built a hutch for them one day in a few hours using some material left around the farm.  I am sure we will have more rabbits than we need soon enough.

5.  The big news this winter was dad bringing his backhoe and a friend’s bulldozer over to clear and level much of the farm.  We gained probably about 4 more acres of pasture.  We cleared a bunch of overgrown brush filled with sapling trees and kudzu.  We pushed in a large ditch in the front so we have more pasture and we can cross to our front field without having to get on the road.  I have been working hard trying to prevent erosion.  We really appreciated all the hard work that dad, Joe Bob, and Jonas did.  We even got Amanda on the tractor doing some work.  We built up our front yard several feet by our house and lowered a hill that kept you from seeing the house.  The increase in pasture has helped make our rotational grazing easier this spring and will accommodate more animals.  Thanks so much Dad! 

6.  Finally, we have continued to enjoy the beauty of the farm.  It seems we are getting more settled and are able to enjoy the process and not feel so overwhelmed with the work load.  

 

Permanent link to this article: http://www.joshketchum.com/farm-report-10-a-busy-winter/

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