Dec 18

The Snakes Kept On Biting

viper by cholin

viper by chilon at www.freeimages.com

Why?

The three-letter word question that haunts many hearts of Christians.  We wonder why must I endure such suffering, heartache, or pain.  We question the love of God and decry the world He created.

In Numbers 21, God sent poisonous snakes amongst the people because they complained about the food and water that God provided.  Many people of Israel died because of the serpents.  The people come to Moses confessing their sins and asking him to pray to God on their behalf.  God instructs Moses to set up the bronze serpent for those bitten to look upon and obtain healing.

This event foreshadows the healing work of Christ at the cross of Calvary (John 3:14-15).  This is the famous part of the story.  But what is not often observed is that God didn’t remove the snakes.

The snakes remained a constant threat to the people for some time.  Salvation was available, but the threat and nuisance of the serpents remained.

This is a good parallel for our own Christian walk.  We can obtain salvation through Jesus Christ but the consequences of our former disobedience often follow us. Past sin often leaves scars, temptations, and continues to be a nuisance that must be warded off for years to come.

But let’s get back to the question of “Why?”  Why would God not just remove the snakes?  Maybe it was because he wanted the Israelites to learn to depend upon Him.

Rather than bemoaning our problems and sufferings, we need to draw closer to God in prayer and rely on Him in hope and faith.  We may not understand why he allows so many snakes to remain, but we can rejoice in the truth that His grace has provided salvation!

Permanent link to this article: http://www.joshketchum.com/the-snakes-kept-on-biting/

Dec 17

Church Website Rant

from website - https://fbceunice.wordpress.com

from website – https://fbceunice.wordpress.com

So we were on our trip to the Creation museum and Amanda was trying to find us some congregations to worship at while on our trip.  She would go to their church website and found this to be very frustrating.  Most church websites fail because they are woefully outdated, and don’t give you the basic information you need.

All churches today should have a website.  If you are meeting regularly in a location you need a website.

The website is your online billboard.  It is an advertisement for you.  You can use your website to do all kinds of things.  You can teach the gospel, share your audio sermons, and allow it to be a place of information for members and visitors, but it is mostly a billboard.  Most of your church members are not going to visit it regularly.  They go when they have a need, typically to find out information.

So what should every church website have on it – bare minimum and easy to find.  Did you read that – “easy to find?”  Put these items on the main home page.  Make them so if people are on their phone and traveling they can easily find them.

  1. Your schedule and meeting times.
  2. Your location.  Have your address clear and easy to find.  If you can have this address linked to a map like Google Maps or MapQuest then even better!  A picture of your facility is also helpful.
  3. Your phone number.

These three items should be easy to find and access on your website. If you do nothing else, but keep these items updated and current then you have done better than many churches.

Some other content for your website would include:

  • Access to your bulletin
  • A few short paragraphs about your congregation (include what you do in worship and some basic doctrinal beliefs.)
  • Information on your minister and other staff members.
  • Upcoming events and activities of the church
  • Social media presence: (Church Facebook page or Twitter Account).

If you are a leader of your congregation let me encourage you to visit your website.  Consider it from a visitor’s perspective.  Most people will not give you more than a minute to give them the information they are looking for when they visit.

We are representing Christ, let’s not let our website give a bad first impression!

Permanent link to this article: http://www.joshketchum.com/church-website-rant/

Dec 14

The Joy We Feel When Our Children Get Along

Our kids playing!

Our kids playing!

Do your kids argue and fuss?  We have good kids, but it seems like we are always playing referee!

The boys are always wanting to rough house and wrestle.  The oldest is constantly manipulating the younger ones to get what he wants.  Brooke is the only girl, but she can stand her ground right with the boys.  They seem to always fight over our attention, a toy, or what we are going to do.

The other night we were running at the church building and the kids were actually playing well together.  Often times our runs are interrupted correcting their behavior, after they have been in an argument.  But tonight it was different, they were all playing well together. They were having such fun. Even the 2 year old Caleb was having a blast.  They were all accommodating one another.

This prompted their mother, who deals with the fusing much more than myself, to make this remark.

“I get so much joy and happiness out of watching the kids play in harmony together, versus fighting and being mean to each other.  I bet this is how God feels about us as His children!”

I have to agree with her.  Consider yourself as a parent and the frustration and disappointment it causes you when your children don’t get along.  Many adult siblings have caused their parents immeasurable amounts of grief and stress because of their conflict.

Now consider our heavenly Father.  He desires that we be ONE!¹  That we have the same mind and dwell together in unity.  He must be frustrated and disappointed at our bickering, religious division, jealousy, and backbiting.²

One of the most discouraging parts of our world today in living the Christian life is the division by those claiming to follow Christ.  Churches with all different names teaching different doctrines populate our towns.  This breaks the Father’s heart and violates the expressed prayer of our Savior as He approached Calvary.¹  Every local church also struggles with maintaining unity and peace.  Which church doesn’t have brethren who aren’t speaking, or hold grudges going back years?  Many congregations have had outright divisions that end in brethren going separate ways.  Do we stop to consider how our actions make God feel?

No wonder the Psalmist said, “How good and pleasant it is for brethren to dwell in unity.” ³

Let’s do our part to get along so our heavenly Father can have those good feelings as He watches us!

———————-

¹  John 17

²  1 Corinthians 1

³  Psalm 133

See my post on What I Wish Everyone Knew about the Church of Christ to learn more about our desire for unity.

Permanent link to this article: http://www.joshketchum.com/the-joy-we-have-when-our-children-get-along/

Dec 11

Should Christians Discourage Belief in Santa Claus?

Happy Christmas Santa by Kurhan at                    freeimages.com

Happy Christmas Santa by Kurhan at freeimages.com

it is that magical time of the year where kids all across the globe look forward to Christmas morning when gifts are arrayed under the tree.  Santa Claus has been a part of Christmas tradition for years, but it seems many Christians today object to this practice.  

Those opposed to Santa Claus typically view the pretend play as lying to kids.  Some may do Santa, but when the kids ask they tell them, so the game isn’t played very long.  Others don’t participate because they fear the loss of faith in God, who is also unseen.  I must admit when we first had kids and started Santa, I struggled to decide how best to handle playing the game.  It was easy for me though, because my wife is an avid Santa advocate so she has no problem answering any questions the kids might ask with creative explanations.

Parents should consider how and why they practice this part of Christmas tradition, which for most families is a big part of the holiday.  I don’t know about your family but we have an elf from Santa, watch all kinds of movies about Santa, go see Santa, and get the best gifts from Santa!

Some reasons to NOT encourage belief in Santa:

  • If it violates your conscience.  Paul teaches us in Romans 14:23 that whatever does not proceed from faith is sin.  I don’t think Santa Claus is in the realm of absolute truth, but rather the pretend realm, but if you feel like it is sin, then you shouldn’t practice it.  If you feel like you are lying, then don’t do it, but give it some thought first by reading all of this post!
  • If your child’s wish list turns into a demand list.  Don’t let Santa be solely about the child having a magical genie that will get them anything they wish.
  • If Santa is a means to manipulate and threaten your children.  All parents will use Santa some to encourage good behavior, but don’t make this the primary focus of Santa.  Parents that are threatening to call Santa every 5 minutes or constantly saying Santa is watching wear me out!  Don’t let Santa be about discipline, after all there are 11 more months out of the year.

Some reasons to encourage belief in Santa:

  • Children can learn some virtues from the tradition such as kindness, generosity, and forgiveness.  These principles are taught though the stories about Santa and the basic act of Santa coming and giving.
  • Children learn they are still blessed, even when they are not deserving.  How many kids have actually been on the good list all year?  Mine certainly have not, yet they still make Santa’s cut.  I think there is a lesson there for all of us.
  • It helps make Christmas not so much about the parents giving all the gifts.  For our family, we have always enjoyed that the kids view Santa as giving the gifts and not us.  Even though a part of me would like the credit for putting toys together till 2 a.m. (one year we put a trampoline together in the middle of the night in cold temperature), I still think it helps make the experience less materialistic than the parents just giving the kids all they wanted!
  • Santa teaches the virtue of giving without expecting anything in return. 
  • Maybe more importantly Santa enriches the child’s imagination.  It allows a kid to be a kid.  We are wired for stories and learn through stories.  Jesus didn’t begin his parables with “now you know this isn’t really true.”  Jotham just launched right into his parable about trees walking, anointing, and talking in Judges 9.  Stories can still communicate truth, whether they are true or not.  We must recognize the pretend and abstract level of stories and communication.  Santa helps kids learn about metaphor and symbolism.  This is why us adults still belief in the “spirit of Santa.”  Our world is harsh, let kids be kids and belief in the fantasy of life as long as they can (1 Cor. 13:11).
  • Finally, I would say it is a fun game.  Don’t over think it.  As long as it is kept in its place it will bless your family with wonderful memories and exciting times.  There is something about the surprise and excitement that Santa provides.

Whatever your view of Santa, I hope you can be respectful of other Christians and not make this a test of faithfulness and dedication to God.  Also, don’t try to spoil their fun by telling their kids!

Thanks for reading and HO! HO! HO!  Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night!!

Share your thoughts in the comments.

———————————–

I am indebted to David Lipe and his thoughts on this subject at Polishing the Pulpit.  Much of these principles came from him.

Permanent link to this article: http://www.joshketchum.com/should-christians-discourage-belief-in-santa-claus/

Dec 07

In My Travels – by Eric Lyons

Eric Lyons is a special friend that goes back to my freshman year at Freed-Hardeman.  He is a tremendous Christian man who loves the Lord with sincerity and truth.  He works at Apologetics Press in Montgomery, Alabama as an author and speaker.  He travels the country doing seminars on apologetics and preaching the Gospel.  I asked him to share what he finds in his travels, what he wrote is uplifting and inspiring.  Enjoy!!  -Josh

Eric Lyons

Eric Lyons

My wife will be the first one to tell you that I do not like being away from home. I am a homebody. I adore my wife. I love my kids. (I like my dog okay.) My parents live only a football field away. (In Alabama, as you may have heard, we measure a lot of things according to the great sport of football.)

As much as I love being at home, and as much as I dislike leaving my family behind to travel to a number of different places in a given year, I love what my brethren do for me. You see, though no church is without her struggles, my brethren inspire me, trip after trip, month after month, year after year. They motivate me to work harder and to live better. They inspire me to keep on keeping on in service to the God of gods and Lord or lords.

Recently I traveled to central Texas to speak on a college campus. There I met a student named Paden. Paden is a remarkable young man. He’s not merely a good student; he’s a great Christian. Both the young and the old admire him. (You should hear his elders talk about him.) He is grounded in the Word and extremely evangelistic. He conducts Bible studies and leads in worship. He began an organization on his state college campus that meets regularly (and openly) to study the evidences for Christianity. He even manages an evangelistic YouTube channel that receives hundreds of thousands of views in a given year. With young men like Paden living according to, and teaching, the powerful Gospel, I can’t help but be encouraged about the Church at present and optimistic about her future.

In early 2014, I visited one of the coldest places I have ever been—Fairbanks, Alaska. The temperature dropped to minus 40 degrees the weekend of my visit. I wound up losing my voice and getting an upper respiratory infection.  (It probably didn’t help that my luggage never made the trip!) But that’s okay. You see, I had the opportunity to spend time with one of the greatest Christian families you’ll ever meet—the Boswells. David and his wife Laura have been working with the Northern Lights church of Christ in Fairbanks for nearly a decade. David is the only full-time preacher in the Kingdom within a 300-mile radius of Fairbanks. He teaches, preaches, and conducts numerous one-on-one and group Bible studies within a given year. He helps with a Christian group on the campus of the University of Alaska—Fairbanks. He is deeply involved in the lives of both his precious family and the many wonderful members at Northern Lights. Yet, as great of a man as David is, he would not hesitate to tell you that he has a better half—Laura.

I wish everyone had the opportunity to spend a day with David, Laura, and their eight delightful children (four biological and four “sent special by God”). Their home is one of love for the Lord and each other. There is a genuine joy and excitement in their Bible-based, Christ-centered home—even during the dark and frigid Fairbanks winter. I especially enjoyed mealtime with Timothy, Benjamin, Jeremiah, Mark, Grace, Noah, Peter, and Andrew.

Paul instructed the church at Philippi to “join in following my example, and note those who so walk, as you have us for a pattern” (3:17). Taking special note of Christians who inspire us to greater depths of dedication and love for our Lord is a wonderful blessing. Who has inspired you to serve the Lord with gladness?  Why not stop and thank God today for the people he has brought into your life—people who remind you and inspire you to “serve the Lord with all your heart” (1 Samuel 12:20).

Permanent link to this article: http://www.joshketchum.com/in-my-travels-by-eric-lyons/

Dec 03

The Wrong Focus Regarding Marriage and Divorce Texts

man woman heart 1 by lilgoldwmn at www.freeimages.com

man woman heart 1 by lilgoldwmn at www.freeimages.com

Being a preacher some of the most difficult conversations revolve around people and their marriage situations.  Marriage and divorce issues are not just doctrinal discussions, but they are heart and soul issues.  They touch our most personal and intimate areas..  The hurt and grief experienced by a divorce is possibly paramount to the death of a spouse.

Because of the sensitive and important nature of the issue we search the Scriptures and examine the passages dealing with marriage and divorce with a fine-toothed comb.

For example, Matthew 19 is a key text on the marriage and divorce issue.  It involves Jesus talking to a group of Pharisees who are trying to test him.  They come and ask him “Is it lawful to divorce one’s wife for any cause?” (v. 3).

In our studying of this text, we often become like these Pharisees.  We go to the text to find out how we can get a divorce.  Or we go wanting to know the permissibility of our desires and intentions.  The bottom line is our focus is on the divorce.  How can we get out of the marriage?  Sometimes one’s mind is made up already and they are just trying to find a scripture, or a preacher, that will give them justification.

In fact, we may even tend to skip the next five verses.  We go to verse 9 to try to find the answer.  Then we discuss, debate, twist, or take pride in what verse 9 says.

When we do this, we become like a tax payer seeking a loophole in the tax code.  We become like the Pharisees who weren’t interested in the heart of the matter, but focused on the legal requirements.

But when we sincerely read the text, we see that Jesus doesn’t just answer their question, but says they need to change their focus.  He basically says, “You are asking the wrong question.”  The question should be, “Why should you stay married?,” not “How do you get a divorce?”.  He launches into a history lesson about God creating marriage in the garden.  He describes marriage as a beautifully intimate relationship that involves life-long commitment, sexual monogamy, and God’s creative act.  He says, man is into the separating business, while God is in the joining together business.

Jesus does answer their question, with a very strict and difficult statement, permitting just divorce and acceptable remarriage only when their has been fornication (v. 9-10).

But do we often have the wrong focus?  I try to challenge struggling marriages to focus on their marriage, rather than how to get out of it.  Yes, there are times when divorce may be necessary, but let’s not make that our first focus.  Focus on how to save the marriage.  This is God’s priority.  It should be ours, but often I fear it is not.  

Permanent link to this article: http://www.joshketchum.com/the-wrong-focus-regarding-marriage-and-divorce-texts/

Dec 02

What Causes Good Works to End?

picture by cobrasoft at freeimages.com

picture by cobrasoft at freeimages.com

Churches and ministries are making plans for 2015.  Some good works are ending. Some are past their prime and need to be stopped because they are no longer effective.  But others will not see 2015 because of other reasons.

Consider four reasons why good works come to an end.  

  1. Immorality – Brotherhood Mutual insurance reports that church fraud exceeds what churches give to missions.  Using the term church in a generic way for all Christian groups they state, “Church crime continues to grow—estimated at $100 million each day. Increasing at an annual rate of nearly six percent, researchers expect church financial fraud to reach the $60 billion mark by 2025. That’s still not the whole picture. About 80 percent of all cases of church fraud go unreported and therefore are not included in statistics.”¹  While those numbers may seem staggering to your local church setting.  Consider over the years how many good works ended because of dishonesty, fraud, or mismanagement.  Included under immorality would also be adultery and sexual misconduct.  Many ministers and ministries have taken devastating blows because of sexual misconduct.
  2. Strife and Jealousy –  Paul and Barnabas had a sharp disagreement that ended their co-ministry together.  James says that where “jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice” (3:16).  The preacher and the youth minister can’t stand each other and the church takes sides accordingly.  The mission team argues about their assignments, work load, rules, and leadership.  Bible school teachers fuss with one another about supplies and material.  A benevolent ministry leader feels slighted by the elders who cut their budget and did not recognize them for their effort.  This creates conflict within the church.  Strife and jealousy are two of Satan’s biggest tools to end successful ministries and mission efforts.
  3. Pride or Selfishness – Pride focuses on what “I” am doing and sees the negative and problems with the group called “they.”  When a ministry leader or worker forgets that the cause is bigger than themselves, problems occur.  The Bible is filled with examples of good works and good men and women being brought low because of pride.  When we get to thinking about what is in it for us or how we should be recognized; we are yielding to pride.  When we begin to think our ministry is more important than other ministries, problems are soon to come.  Preachers must constantly be on guard against this sin.  Sadly many effect servants of the Lord end their ministries with a church with bitterness, and a big part is their selfish pride that believed too much of the hype about themselves.
  4. The Lord – Satan is not the only spiritual being that is involved in ending ministries.  Sometimes God will close the door because he wants us to go another direction.  It may become obvious that it is closed now through some of the above devices of Satan, but the Lord can still use this outcome.  Paul dealt with this reality all through his mission work.  We need to always prayerfully consider whether a good work should be stopped.  It may be that a dead horse needs to be shot!  In other words, it is time to move on.  Church members should be supportive and respectful of elders when they decide to end a ministry.

Why do you think good works come to an end?

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¹   http://www.brotherhoodmutual.com/index.cfm/resources/ministry-safety/article/church-fraud/

 

Permanent link to this article: http://www.joshketchum.com/what-causes-good-works-to-end/

Nov 26

Happy Thanksgiving!

I am so blessed.  I hope you have a great thanksgiving holiday!  Thank you for reading Life in the Kingdom and for your encouragement.

thanksgiving.001

Permanent link to this article: http://www.joshketchum.com/happy-thanksgiving/

Nov 20

The Blank Bible

Blank Bible Question.001

A church member who worked in the book industry gave me this Bible last night. It looks completely normal from the outside.  But every page is completely blank on the inside.  The publisher made a mistake in the printing.

As I was showing Ryan, our youth minister this Bible, it hit us that many could go for days, months, and maybe years with never realizing there Bible was blank. Obviously, folks would likely thumb through the Bible when they received it, but how long does their Bible just sit on the shelf?

If the Bible is not read and studied, is there any difference in it being blank?

[important]Is there any difference in a blank Bible and your Bible when it comes to you? [/important]

Give it some thought.

 

Permanent link to this article: http://www.joshketchum.com/the-blank-bible/

Nov 18

Let Others Wear their Mourning Garments This Holiday Season

Saying good-bye by kevinrohr at freeimages.com

Saying good-bye by kevinrohr at freeimages.com

The holidays are approaching.  For the dominant culture it is welcomed and anticipated as the “most wonderful time of the year.”  Yet, for many it is a time they have been dreading.  The calendar is marked off not with anticipation, but with anxiety and fear.  They wonder how they will get through the holidays.  If they could just skip from November 26th till January 2nd they would.  But they must pass through these days.

For those in grief and mourning the holidays are a particularly hard time of year.  This may be the first “holidays” without a spouse, parent, son, or daughter.  But whether it is the first or the twentieth family holes seem to be even wider during the holidays.  The sense of loss and hurt can be great.  Couple this with social expectations and cultural pressure to be merry, host family gatherings, and be thankful, and it is no wonder mourners want to “skip the holidays.”  

This morning I was reading from the book of Esther.  Mordecai, Esther’s uncle, was in mourning.  He had dressed himself in sackcloth and ashes.  He was in deep grief over a new law which meant death to him and all of the Jewish people.  When Esther heard of his mourning and distress, “she sent garments to clothe Mordecai, so that he might take off his sackcloth, but he would not accept them” (Est. 4:4).

Mordecai had the right response for a grieving person.  It is the response, which many in our culture need to be willing to do.  Our culture, especially during the holidays, wants to force happiness and cheer on everyone.  Yet, some are in grief.  They do not need to be forced to move on and “change cloths”  They need to be able to remember and grieve their loved one as they desire.  Grief is a very individualistic experience.  We process loss with different emotions and in different ways.  Often what works for one, will not work for another.

Friends and family need to be willing to love, support, and encourage.  They need to be willing to cry and weep.  Family traditions may need to be modified.  New traditions may need to be started.  Extra patience and love needs to be displayed.  

Yes, it can be unhealthy to be stuck in one particular stage of grief.  We certainly want to be on guard against substance abuse, long-term clinical depression, and loss of faith or church involvement.  But let’s also allow people to grieve.  Give others the right to not be “happy” during the holidays.  Give them the freedom to do what they can do!  Let them talk about their loved one.  Give them the opportunity to cry and share memories from the past.  

[important]So when someone is wearing mourning clothes this holiday season, don’t send them new clothes!  Go and give them a hug, listen from your heart, and cry with them.  [/important]

Permanent link to this article: http://www.joshketchum.com/let-others-wear-their-mourning-garments-this-holiday-season/

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