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.

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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


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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.

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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

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Sep 08

Letting Go of the Junk in Your Truck!

Here is my true parable for you:


I had trouble letting go of a small blow-up water trampoline!  It wasn’t that I loved the trampoline or had lots of special memories associated with the trampoline; no it was because it represented a mistake I made!  The trampoline was purchased for the kids to use in our pond back in 2014.  The very first time we went to use this $50 investment I lost the plug.  It landed in high grass somewhere between my pond and the electrical outlet.  I searched and searched but never found it.  I lost it because I was being careless with the plug and not carefully securing it.

The kids were disappointed.  I was frustrated.  Even the eagle eyes of Amanda and Brooke could not find this lost item.  I rigged up the trampoline for a time with duct tape.  The kids were able to play with it like a raft, but it never worked properly.  I thought an air mattress plug would fit it, but it didn’t.  I thought I could contact the company and purchase one, but they didn’t sell the plugs.  So I put the trampoline in our storage shed.  It stayed there until this past Spring.  We cleaned out the shed and I discovered it again.  We filled up a trailer to take to the dump.  The trampoline made it on the trailer.  But when I got to the dump, I could not throw it away.  I put it in the back of my truck.  It stayed in the back of my truck for the last three months.  I hoped I could find a plug for it.  But I did nothing to ever look for a plug!  I just let the reminder of it punish me on a regular basis!  It got dirty and became pretty nasty taking up space in my truck.  For over three months I carried it around with me everywhere I went.


So this past week I determined to do it!  I determined to let it go!  I threw it away.  It is gone!  My fifty dollar loss and disappointing-the-kids mistake is history.  I let it go.  I couldn’t fix my wrong, I had to just let it go.

This trampoline parable reminded me of how we are with our mistakes.  We try to forget about them, but they keep being discovered.  We try to fix them, but we are not able to do it.  We even choose to live with them daily, just carrying them around everywhere with us.  We get used to the junk in our truck.  We develop lots of emotional baggage around it, things like guilt and regret.

At some point we have to decide–I am going to let it go.  I am going to move on.  I am going to throw the mistake away and move on to the future.  In our lives we can do this because of Jesus.

What are you carrying around in your truck?  Maybe it is bitterness from someone doing you wrong.  Maybe it is a rocky past filled with sins.  Maybe it is wasted time and years that keeps eating your heart away.  Maybe it is a big mistake that you keep seeing everyday and feeling the weight of it.  At some point you have to cut it loose.  You have to give up finding the “fix.”  You have to let it go and move on.

“let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus,”  (Hebrews 12:1–2 ESV)



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Sep 06

The Who and What of Sainthood

by Jose A Warletta at

by Jose A Warletta at

On Sunday, September 4th, Mother Teresa was named a “saint” by the Roman Catholic church in a ceremony attended by around 200,000 people in St. Peter’s Square.  Mother Teresa died on September 5th, 1997.  She was known for her love and care to the homeless and suffering. She ministered in India and is known for establishing a religious order following her practices.¹

Coincidentally, I was addressing questions from the congregation in my sermon Sunday night.  I was asked about who are saints and why does the Catholic church believe in praying to them.  I did not realize the canonization of Mother Teresa was taking place on the same day.

A follower of Jesus should be concerned with what the Bible says on this subject and should desire to practice their faith in a way that is obedient to Bible teaching. Just because a church organization calls people saints and has an elaborate system to recognize and approve such doesn’t mean the Bible teaches such doctrines.

In fact, the term “saint” is used in both the Old and New Testaments.  In the OT it refers to holy people or godly people (Daniel 7:18-28, Psalm 30:4; 2 Chron. 6:41).  In the NT, the word is once again connected with holiness.  Saints are the “holy ones.”  The term is most commonly used to refer to Christians (Acts 9:13, 32, 41).  Paul refers to believers in Jesus in the churches he writes as “saints.” That is right; saints are simply Christians! Not some super class of Christians.  Not departed Christians who’s faith and influence still are memorialized, but simply Christians.  You see Christians are the “holy” people of God who are called to be holy for God is holy (1 Peter 1:16).  The term is used 13 times in Revelation, where the saints are Christians who are holding the faithful and true witness for Jesus in a world of persecution.

The Catholic church has recognized over 10,000 people as Saints through the centuries.  There is no Biblical example, command, or teaching that supports this practice.  Catholic faithful will often pray to a saint as they are connected with geographical areas and particular needs of humanity. This practice of praying to saints is also unbiblical and goes against the teachings of the New Testament.  Jesus died to serve as our Great High Priest and Christians are to pray through Jesus (Heb. 4:14-16).  He is the one and only mediator between God and man (1 Tim. 2:5).  Not only does Christ serve as an intercessor but also the Holy Spirit makes intercession for the Christian (Romans 8:26).  We have no need for a “saint” to make intercession when we have Christ and the Holy Spirit.  In fact, it is wrong for us to worship anyone, be it an angel, man, or saint.  We must worship God and Him alone (Mat. 4:10; Acts 10:24-26; Rev. 19:10).

So while Mother Teresa may have done many acts of compassion and selflessness, it is important that we understand the Biblical term “saint.”  The Catholic church’s practice is without scriptural support and is based upon their traditions and doctrines.  The glorious part of this study is that we don’t have to wait years after our death and be a famous person to be named a saint. We can be a saint, a holy person of God, today!  In truth, that is what every Christian is!  Maybe by not using this term, except to refer to “super-Christians,” we have lost the concept of why it was used so much in the NT.  We are to be holy!  We are to be different.  We are sanctified by the blood of Christ and thus we are saints, not because of our good deeds, but because of His grace!


¹  USA Today article

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Aug 18

Essential Items for a New Preacher

by juliaf from

by juliaf from

I am thankful for young preachers going into the work.  I am particularly excited this year as there are a couple of my friends who are starting their freshman year studying to become preachers.  I am optimistic about their studies and the impact they will have for the Lord.  This got me to thinking about what a young preacher needs by way of material resources to do the work well.  My hope is that young men involved in preaching and preparing themselves to preach will be blessed by this list.  I also hope that older brethren who have some resources will be able to use this list to bless young preachers just starting out.

  1.  A Preaching Bible – I know you have Bibles.  But you need to get a good leather bound Bible that is comfortable to carry.  I have had a couple over the years.  My current one is an ESV leather-bound Bible which I love that my wife bought me for our 10th anniversary.
  2. A Navy Sport-coat – I know preachers dress more casually today than in the past, but you will still need to dress up sometimes.  Depending on the preferences of the church you preach for, you may be expected to wear a tie and coat each Sunday.  A navy sport-coat will go a long ways as it can be worn with different color pants and match an array of ties.
  3. A Black Suit – If you preach very long you will be asked to do weddings and funerals.  A black suit works great for both occasions.  I call mine my marry’em and bury’em suit!  It really is an important piece of clothing to have as a preacher.
  4. A Purchased Bible Program – I know there are tremendous free resources available online and through apps, but if you are going to be a preacher, I believe it is worth the investment in Bible software.  You can continue to add to this library of resources for the rest of your life.  You can take it with you wherever you go in a compact form.  The initial investment can be considerable, but it is a great blessing.  If you are taking Greek and Hebrew classes in school, I would recommend buying the Greek and Hebrew tools to aid you in these studies.  I use Accordance and like it very much.  Many of my friends prefer Logos.  Bibleworks, Olive Tree, and PC Study Bible are also options.  But I would recommend staying with Accordance or Logos.
  5. An iPad or Tablet – I made the switch to preaching from my iPad mini several years ago and love it.  It is so much easier than using paper notes and offers several advantages (I share how I do it this post).  The tablet should work well with the Bible study program and allow you to take a number of sermons, books, and other resources with you on the go!
  6. A Laptop – Many congregations will provide some type of computer for the preacher.  A computer is essential for the modern preacher.  You should save all of your sermons and Bible classes as your database will grow over the years and be a valuable tool for your work.  I have a Macbook Pro which the church provides that I use on a daily basis.

I am sure there are more items that a new preacher could use, but this list covers the basic essentials.  Obviously young preachers can be blessed with good books, commentaries, and other resources as well.

What else would you add to this list?  If I can help add any further clarifications let me know.

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Aug 16

Being Like Judas

business piggy bank 3 by osito-plMost Christians would never think of being like Judas!  He was the wicked Apostle that betrayed Jesus.  He feigned friendship and love with a kiss, while secretly betraying our Lord.

Bible students have long struggled to explain how Judas could do such an act.  But the Holy Spirit is pretty clear in the reason Judas betrayed the Lord.  He was greedy!  He was bowing to the god of more!  He wanted more money and possessions.

Notice the Biblical description:.

  • He was a thief! (John 12:4-6)
  • He went to the Jewish leaders looking to negotiate an offer for betraying Jesus.  He settles on a sum of 30 pieces of silver (Mat. 26:14-18).
  • Peter describes him posthumously as receiving a field for the reward of his wickedness.  He is alluding to the money being used to purchase a field, a “field of blood” as Peter describes it, after he threw it back in the temple (Acts 1:16-20)

Judas was motivated by greed and hunger for more physical possessions.  He bowed at the altar of money (Mat. 6:24).

Many Christians must admit that they struggle with greed as well.  They spend their lives consumed with having more!  The church is neglected in their lives while they make this pursuit.  Families are put on the back burner as husbands and wives spend their days seeking more.  The self-storage business remains one of the fastest growing real estate industries.  We keep collecting more and more stuff!  Not that all of this is wrong, but it surely should caution us to check our hearts!

We would never betray Jesus by turning him over to be crucified!  But we fall to the same sin that prompted Judas to betray Jesus when we yield to greed.  We must fight greed through generosity, contentment, and maintaining a Biblical perspective on this world.   

– – – –

You can study all of the Apostles through my workbook “The Twelve” available on Amazon for $5.99.  

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Aug 11

Honoring the Homeschool Mom

Mom Teaches Kids Math

              Mom Teaches Kids Math

She rises early in the morning just to have a few minutes to herself before her day begins.  She loves her job, but most days she wonders if she can do it.  She constantly is feeling like someone could do better.  She carries the weight of her children’s future success upon her shoulders.  She feels responsible for not only their character and kindness, but their math and science.  She is only a woman, but she feels like she must be a locomotive motor pulling, pushing, and sometimes huffing and puffing her children through the day.  She will hear her name at least 1,000 times today.  Her kids are so connected to her, that they often ask questions of dad through her while dad is there!  Her day will see laughter and tears; silly moments and serious stares; heartfelt hugs and quick swats.  She switches back and froth from being a mom to a teacher like Clark Kent to Superman. She struggles to know when to push and when to yield.  She must constantly motivate herself to teach another lesson.  She juggles teaching a high-school, middle-school, and elementary, all while still caring for a toddler!

The world doesn’t understand why she would do such a task.  Many assume it is because the family just wants an easy way out and likes to sleep past 8:00.  Some think they are just quirky and weird.  She often questions it herself, when she realizes all the time she would have if she wasn’t teaching.  Her reputation is pulled down by many who have given a bad image of homeschooling, but she churns on none-the-less trying to intentionally set her own expectations and patterns.

She struggles with getting school done with all of the extra activities she is involved in with the children.  From trips to the library to get books, to teaching and participating in a weekly COOP program, to monthly field trips with other families, and church activities in-between; she knows they all have value, but they wear her out!  She still has to do the laundry, cook the meals, and be a wife to a husband who only knows one thing for sure, he could never do what she does!

Yet, in this world she is seldom recognized.  There is no pay check at the end of the month, nor award at the end of the year.  Kids don’t appreciate the sacrifice of their mom until they are much older.  The father gets the pay and time out in the public, while the mom holds down the homeplace.  Yet, she continues to labor and serve.  The only explanation is love, convictions, and determination.  She doesn’t want to be arrogant, haughty, or prideful.  She isn’t condescending of others and their choices, she is just trying to do what fits her family best for the time.  Her goal is mature, healthy, adult children who love God with their whole heart and can be successful at whatever they try.  They are independent, self-starters, who know the value of family, hard-work, and have not been harmfully scared by the influences of the world.

It is the HOMESCHOOL MOM that I describe.  It is the description of my wife, whom I dearly love and appreciate that I honor.  I thank her and I honor all others.  May God bless their efforts and dedication as they find the motivation and determination to teach another year!

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Aug 10

The Difference Jesus Makes in Your Marriage

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These six characteristics were taken from the book pictured – The Surprising Secrets of Highly Happy Marriages. You can also listen to this sermon in the Audio Resources page.

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