Oct 19

Assume Sincerity

by juliaf from www.sxc.hu

by juliaf from www.sxc.hu

I attended the Better Conference back in September.  There was a round table discussion with five of our most respected and successful preachers.  All were veterans with ministry experience of 40-60 years.  They were discussing various ministry topics when a question was asked about how to handle those of other Christian faiths.

One brother said that for years he had often assumed that folks in denominational churches held their beliefs because of tradition or had insincere motives in interpreting Scripture.  He said, over the years after studying and being  friends with many who differ from him, he learned to appreciate Proverbs 21:2.  It says:

“Every way of a man is right in his own eyes, but the LORD weighs the heart.”

People who believe in the sinners’ prayer for salvation, once saved always saved, premillennialism, or other doctrines  which we would strongly disagree with them on in churches of Christ are not insincere.  They are doing what they believe to be right.  Most all have pure motives and desire to follow God’s word.

If we begin with this premise of their sincerity, rather than assuming negative thoughts about why they believe what they believe, we will come to the table of discussion with common ground and an attitude of love.

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Oct 18

Emergency Workers Appreciation Night Report

emergency-workers-appreciation-night-001This past Sunday night 7 Oaks Church of Christ honored the emergency workers of our community.  We invited all law enforcement, firemen, and EMT workers to our evening service and a meal.  We advertised on Facebook and the local paper for this event.  We personally invited many of our Emergency Workers and departments.

The night went well.  We had about 10 Emergency workers and their families present.  We had a special meal in their honor.  We did soup and chili with pimento cheese sandwiches.  One of our ladies made a cake and we had lots of other desserts too.

We kept the service a little shorter.  I preached from Romans 13:1-7 and the story of the good Samaritan.  My point was that these workers are serving as good Samaritans amongst us and are deserving of respect and honor.

The workers and their families were very appreciative of this honor and we believe the prayers and thought encouraged all of the workers in our community even though many did not come to the specific event.

We have done similar nights for other professions in years past.  But your congregation may want to consider having such a night for workers in your area.

Permanent link to this article: http://www.joshketchum.com/emergency-workers-appreciation-night-report/

Oct 12

New Thoughts on Old Sacrifices

I am teaching a Wednesday night Bible class on the Old Law.  This week we are studying the sacrificial system.  We are all familiar with the foreshadowing of Christ in the sacrificial system.  But here are a few fresh thoughts I have from looking at this in an in-depth manner.  (I am not going to reference the statements, but most all of these thoughts come from Leviticus 1-7).

  • Sacrifices were required so the people could come into the presence of God.  (Read that slowly)  Put in other words– you couldn’t come to God without a sacrifice!!
  • The entire system was based upon God, through his grace, allowing a substitute life to atone for the offerer’s sin.
  • There was an emotional and convicting element involved when the offerer had to place their hands on the animal and slaughter them (often the priest would kill while they were touching.)  It was impossible to miss that this animal is giving his life as a substitute for my sin so I can remain in a relationship with God.
  • The sacrifices were gifts offered to God.  All of the sacrifices, except for the peace offering, the worshipper did not get to partake.  He offered his best to the Lord and received not a bite!  The individual offerings were voluntary and involved conviction.
  • Forgiveness was not just because of the ritual, but was based on the grace of God and faith of the offerer.  With the trespass offering the sinner was responsible for demonstrating sincere repentance by offering restitution and monetary payment to the one they had defrauded.
  • The peace offering involved a meal together between God, the priests, the offerers, and others gathered at the tabernacle.  It was a communal meal.  It foreshadowed the communal meal of the Lord’s Supper were Christians celebrate and remember the death of Jesus.
  • Offerers were forgiven at the sacrifice, but they were to live dedicated, holy lives from that point forward.
  • Finally, though I don’t want to suggest that the Old Law was better or we should in any way practice sacrifices today, I do wonder if we often neglect to emotionalyl grasp what a physical sacrifice would teach us. Since owning animals, I can’t help but think of what it would be like to sacrifice them.  First, it would be hard to take your best.  Second, it would be a real sacrifice to give up your food for a spiritual cause.  It would take much faith and conviction of sin.  Third, it would bring home powerfully for you, when you slaughtered your own animal and saw its blood sprinkled on the altar and body parts consumed, the seriousness of sin and the holiness of God.


    Me and the kids with our new lambs

Permanent link to this article: http://www.joshketchum.com/new-thoughts-on-old-sacrifices/

Oct 09

Feeding the Problems and Starving the Star Performers in the Church

Leadership 1 - by svilen001 - at free images.com

Leadership 1 – by svilen001 – at free images.com

Mark Sanborn wrote about the extraordinary service of Fred the Postman in his best-selling book The Fred Factor in 2004.  The book tells about Fred’s generosity and commitment to excellence in the midst of normalcy.  The book encourages people to be a Fred.  The real Fred Shea gained some recognition from the book, but has since continued to work for the USPS.  In Mark Sanborn’s follow up book Fred 2.0 released in 2013 he updates the life of Fred.  He notes that Fred has received little recognition for his extraordinary service and the difference he continues to make for his customers.  After decades of work, the USPS has not formally recognized or encouraged his admirable service.  When asked about this he is realistic and replies, “The problem at work is that they forget about you because you’re not a troublemaker.”  Mark then makes this observation, “It’s ironic, isn’t it, how poor performance tends to get more attention than good performance?  We effectively feed our problems and starve our star performers.”

As I reflected on this thought, it hit me that churches are often guilty of the same mistake.  Who gets the attention in the local church?  Isn’t it often the people who complain or create problems and strive?  What do most elders meetings consist of–discussing problems in the church or discussing the hard work and opportunities available because of servants?  The squeaking wheel gets the grease!

Now please don’t misunderstand me.  Leaders in the church should be willing to deal with problems.  We should be attentive to the needs of the flock and have compassionate hearts like Christ.  But, we also must understand we can “feed the problems” if we are letting the vision and work of the church be held captive by a few who demand attention or their preference.  The church must do like the Apostles in Acts 6 when they appointed men to serve the Grecian widows.  They kept their focus on prayer and the word.  Sometimes, we need to allow people to be upset and ignore their demand for attention if it is harming the overall church.

But let’s not overlook the second aspect of his statement, we “starve our star performers.”  How often in the church are we reluctant to recognize, appreciate, or honor someone who has made a great contribution and service to the Lord’s work because we are afraid of what others will think?  We need to sincerely say thank you to those who serve tirelessly with little recognition.  They don’t do it for the glory, but they still need some encouragement.  You know who I am talking about!  The old faithful servants in your church who have been doing superb jobs for years.  They don’t complain, they don’t worry if they aren’t recognized, they just keep on serving.  When you need them to do something they are always willing to help.  They know what needs to be done and they get it done.  Let’s recognize and appreciate these folks more.  It will encourage them and inspire others to be like them.  Don’t let the excuse of, “well if we recognize them, we will offend others who we are leaving out” keep you from encouraging these brethren. If you don’t want to do it publicly, at least make an effort individually to encourage the old faithful brethren that you can count on to keep the church going strong.

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Oct 07

Allowing God to Interrupt Your Life

may-i-interuptDietrich Bonhoeffer, the German theologians who died under Nazi persecution wrote this in his book Life Together.

“We must be ready to allow ourselves to be interrupted by God, who will thwart our plans and frustrate our ways time and again, even daily, by sending people across our path with their demands and requests. We can, then, pass them by, preoccupied with our important daily tasks, just as the priest–perhaps reading the Bible–passed by the man who had fallen among robbers.”

His quote brings up some good questions for us to consider.

How attuned to the needs of others am I as I go through my day?

Do I allow God to teach me through the interaction with others?

What can I do to be more like Jesus and always live in the present, having time for all, even the unexpected interruptions, yet still accomplishing much for the Lord?

These are good questions I need to consider.  Our American culture focuses so much on getting things done!  We have so much to do, that we often despise interruptions.  But what if God is sending the interruptions?  We should not be like the levite and the priest who stepped to the other side of the road and hurried on to their business while they left the robbed man half dead in the street.  We must be the good samaritan who handles the interruption with compassion and mercy.  We must be like Jesus when Zacchues climbs the tree seeking to see him.  Jesus changed his lunch plans and chose to spend his afternoon seeking and saving the lost!

Some of our best accomplishments can come through letting God interrupt our lives and going with his plan over our own to-do list.  


See Luke 10:29-37 and Luke 19:1-10

Permanent link to this article: http://www.joshketchum.com/allowing-god-to-interrupt-your-life/

Sep 30

Before You Go on Fall Break

Kids on Vacation - by Ned Horton at www.freeimages.com

Kids on Vacation – by Ned Horton at www.freeimages.com

It is that week!  It happens each spring and fall with the schools taking a week long break.  Families head out of town  for a week of vacation.  Our church attendance will likely be significantly down this Sunday as many of our people will be gone.

Before you leave, or maybe while you are in the car driving, here are a few things I want our families to consider.

  1. We are praying for you!  I am praying for all those who are traveling this week.  Typically our public prayers in worship mention those who are traveling.  We care and want you to be blessed and come home safely.
  2. You are representing Jesus!  Please don’t think you can participate in wrongful behaviors just because you are many miles away from home.  Be mindful of your choices and the example you are setting for your kids and others.  People will find out and others will know.  And by all means, if you are going to do something wrong, don’t post it on social media!  Remember who you are and whose you are!
  3. Determine to attend worship.  Being on vacation is not a vacation from God!!  Plan where you will worship and prioritize attending services.  It will make a statement to your family and it will bless your life by worshipping with new brethren (just don’t like the preaching a whole lot better!).
  4. Limit electronic devices so you can cherish your time together.  While electronic devices can help pass the time in the car, don’t let your family spend all week staring at their devices.  Put the phones away, play some board games, go for walks, and enjoy the scenery.  You may even try talking to one another.
  5. Use the opportunity of the family trip to grow closer to Christ.  Families are so busy and scattered during normal life, so when you take a vacation be sure to slow down and enrich your lives spiritually.  Read the Bible on your vacation.  Have some family devotionals.  Parents spend some time talking to your children about their lives and your desires for them.
  6. Have Fun!!  Go enjoy being a family and come back refreshed!  God has provided you the opportunity to go, so go enjoy it and be thankful!

Permanent link to this article: http://www.joshketchum.com/before-you-go-on-fall-break/

Sep 23

Group-Tipping Our Christian Duty

Tips Cup by Gustavo Ribeiro de Mello

Tips Cup by Gustavo Ribeiro de Mello

I don’t think anyone likes it, except the waiters, when restrauants add a mandatory percentage of tip when you are dining as a big group.  Likely the main reason for such is they have learned when people eat in big groups it requires more work from the servers and often people don’t tip like they should.  You see it seems that people naturally assume in a big group others will do it.  They neglect their own responsibility because they are in the cover of a group.

Are we guilty of the same mistake when it comes to our Christian duties?  How many Christians are a part of a large group, we call them churches, and they assume someone else will do the duty?  Every Christian has a responsibility to visit the widows, sick, and hurting.  Every Christian has a responsibility to give sacrificially.  Every Christian is to be evangelistic and mission centered.  But we allow our group and the collective works of the group to cause us to assume “someone else will do it.”  The purpose of the church is not to take away our individual duties, but to provide encouragement and strength for us in order that we can live out our faith as individuals more powerfully.

The church can’t be like a restaurant and impose a percentage on everyone, but all of us need to step up and realize we have to “bear our own load.”  Don’t have a group-tipping attitude, determine to do your duty for the cause of Christ not turning your responsibilities over to the group. 


Note:  I heard this illustration by Wade Webster at Polishing the Pulpit.

Permanent link to this article: http://www.joshketchum.com/group-tipping-our-christian-duty/

Sep 22

“Jesus a Friend to Sinners”: What Does It Mean?

jesus-a-friend-to-sinners-001We love the expression, “Jesus a friend to sinners.”  We have popularized it in songs and it appeals to our need of his love.  But it was originally applied by his enemies who were accusing him of sin.¹  What does this expression mean for our lives today?

It does not mean . . . 

Certainly this expression does not mean Jesus “hung out” with sinners for fun.  Today, Jesus’s mission to sinners is often twisted to the point that it pictures him as just spending recreational time with sinners.  Some go with the line of thought that “Jesus loved a good party!”  Nothing could be further from the truth.

Nor does it mean that Jesus condoned the sin of those he sought to reach.  Jesus was never “cool” with what sinners were doing.  He did not approve of sinful actions through word or deed.  He was in the process of giving his life because of sin.  He never sinned himself, and certainly would not condone it in others.

What does it mean . . .  

While this phrase shouldn’t encourage us to live in sin, it certainly gives us hope when we are convicted of our sin.  You see this phrase does recognize the fact that Jesus came to save sinners.  It was to Zacchaeus the tax collecting sinner who Jesus, after coming to his house, declared, “for the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”²

Jesus being described as a “friend of sinners” also exemplifies his treating all people with respect and love.  Truthfully, all have sinned and are in need of salvation.²  Yet, Jesus reached out in love to all people.  He loved the prostitutes (Luke 7), the tax collectors (Luke 19), Judas (Mat. 26), and those who crucified him (Luke 23).  He shared the message of everlasting water with the adulterous Samaritan woman (John 4).

Finally, the phrase also represents the idea that Jesus went to sinners to call them to repentance.  He said, “those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick.”  Thus, he came to call the sinners back into a relationship with God made possible by God’s abundant grace.

Far from just running with sinners and condoning their sin, Jesus went to them in love, maintained his holiness, and called them to follow him!  This is why Jesus is still a friend to sinners.  He loves you and me.  He doesn’t condone our sin, but he came to save us, loves us now, and calls us to follow him.  Will you turn to your friend–Jesus the Christ?



¹ – Mat. 11:18-19

² – Luke 19:10; Rom. 3:23


Permanent link to this article: http://www.joshketchum.com/jesus-a-friend-to-sinners-what-does-it-mean/

Sep 14

Drawing Faith Lines: A Lesson from Patent Shoes

patton-shoesWe are called to live out an ancient faith in this modern world.  This means we often have to use biblical principles to make judgments about what we should and should not do in this world.  Christians often disagree on these judgements and controversy seems to surround these topics.

We were discussing this idea in ladies’ Bible class this week.  One lady related a story from her days years ago at a Christian university.  At this time, female students had to wear dresses on campus to class.  The style of the day was black patent shoes.  But one of the older, respected Bible professors took a strong stand against these shoes.  He claimed that Christian ladies should not wear such shoes because they are so shiny and reflective they might allow boys to see under their dresses.  

While likely given with the right spirit and intentions, this respected professor lost much of his respect with the student body.  He was seen as out-of-touch and as drawing radical lines just to restrict the youth.  I am sure much worse was even said in the privacy of dorm rooms!

There seems to be a good lesson for us all in this story.  We need to be cautious when drawing lines regarding faith decisions.  We want to aim for holiness and remember we are called to be different from the world, but we must also use rational common sense.  We must not seek to unduly restrict or lay a burden upon the youth of the church, just because they are embracing a style or preference we don’t like.  This is what the Pharisees did in all of their rule making and tradition keeping ways.

So be careful.  Before you start drawing lines and condemning the judgements of others, be sure you are standing on solid Biblical principles and issues of moral virtue and holiness are at stake.  If not, you may be simply cast aside at best, given no hearing by your brethren, or at worst, you could offend and turn people away from the Lord.

Permanent link to this article: http://www.joshketchum.com/drawing-faith-lines-a-lesson-from-patton-shoes/

Sep 11

Family Vacation and Church Retreat Rolled into One

img_1217-1I had always thought about family vacations and church retreats being separate things.  A church retreat is usually just for a weekend get away.  It is intense and involves people spending most all of their time with church family.  It is typically within driving distance and often at some type of a camp or park.

Family vacations involve your own family only, not the half the church and often involve taking vacation time and going during the week.

These two descriptions are how most people see family vacations and church retreats.  But the Fairground Roads Church of Christ and their preacher Brent Newton have successfully merged these two previously separate events.  This past July some 242 Christians participated in a spiritual retreat or encampment organized by this church.  This is their third one of these held at Snow Mountain Ranch in Granby, Colorado.  They only do one every four years.  Originally it started as an event for their church family, but at this years event there were many other churches represented.  My family participated in the event and had a wonderful time.

 The retreat is Sunday through Friday and thus requires vacation time. They do it at a wonderful location in the Rocky Mountains.  They have a morning devotional and evening activity and worship.  All the meals are provided through the YMCA facility.  Brent said his goal was to focus on the two families of the Christian.  You spend time with the church family at the morning devo and evening activity and worship periods.  During the daytime you have time to be with your physical family.  It helps the church and families grow closer.  It provides families with an opportunity to take a wonderful vacation but also to be spiritually encouraged and grow closer to other Christians.

A great idea that other churches should consider!  It was truly a blessing to our family.  img_1154

Permanent link to this article: http://www.joshketchum.com/family-vacation-and-church-retreat-rolled-into-one/

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