Apr 27

A Christian and Vows

By Oreo Priest (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

By Oreo Priest (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Jesus taught disciples not to swear by earthly objects (Mat. 5:23-27).  The Pharisees had become accustomed to swearing by the altar, the temple, and the earth.  That had developed a tradition and system surrounding these vows and what was more powerful and appropriate.  Jesus says that we should not try to add strength to our words.  We should be people of integrity who simply use “yes” and “no”, with there being no need to add extra word for emphasis and force.  

James says, “do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or by any other oath, but let your “yes” be yes and your “no” be no, so that you may not fall under condemnation.”  (James 5:12).

Here are some general principles I want to observe about swearing and vows.

  1. Taking legal oaths and making a vow is acceptable and scriptural if done appropriately.  Oaths are not evil.  God made oaths (Heb. 6:13-14; Psalm 110:4).  Jesus testified with an oath (Mat. 26:63).  Paul made oaths (2 Cor. 1:23; Rom. 1:9; Gal. 1:20).  So a respectful, sincere, legal oath is not condemned, but acceptable. Thus oaths in court and marriage vows are good and acceptable before God when done appropriately.  Essentially they are a formal promise.
  2. Using extra words to add force to our words often becomes the type of swearing Jesus forbids.  Jesus and James do forbid false, blasphemous, and frivolous oaths.  Oaths that use extra words and emblems seeking to add power to the words.  In fact, this is connected with foul language or swearing language.  It is profane speech and often blasphemous.  Consider how people use the Lord’s name in vain in a way to add force and power to their words.  Christians should keep their tongues in check and not use such profane and vulgar talk.  There is no need for such if we are a person of honesty and integrity.
  3. We should not use vows to force the Lord’s actions, and likewise, cause us hardship and guilt.   Some today can use vows or swearing similar to the Pharisees by making a vow when they are in a desperate situation to God.  Someone might say, “Lord if you will ________ , then I will __________”.  While not always wrong or sinful, these types of vows certainly seem to be unwise and go against the spirit of these teachings.  We are not to put the Lord to the test by trying to force His hand or bargain with God (Mat. 4:5-7).  The Bible contains some examples of foolish vows (see Saul and Jephthah), which cost them dearly.  When people make such a vow it sets themselves up for hardship.  If the Lord is seen to grant their vow, then they are compelled to live out their end of the agreement.  Many times this is not possible or even advisable over years.  This creates guilt and internal conflict because of violating the vow.  If the vow is not granted, then they can become angry and bitter at God.  It seems the best course is to simply do what the Bible advises and pray fervent prayers trusting in God’s sovereign will and provision.

I hope these points have helped you consider vows.  What thoughts or questions would you have for my consideration?

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See Wayne Jackson’s article on this issue.

Permanent link to this article: http://www.joshketchum.com/a-christian-and-vows/

Apr 21

Is Your Church Prepared to Save Someone’s Life?

aedChurches are in the saving business!  Of course, I am speaking about saving people’s souls through the gospel of Jesus Christ.

But what about saving someone’s physical life?  We were faced with that task on a Wednesday night at 7 Oaks Church of Christ recently. Our normal Bible study portion had concluded and we were moving chairs and setting up tables for our annual ladies’ night on Friday.  A hundred or so brethren were working doing various tasks while kids played, when a member comes running to me telling me that a sister had passed out.

I immediately went to the hallway and observed our youth minister already calling 911.  He was near by an a teen girl had immediately grabbed him.  I recognized immediately that she was serious, so I quickly called on one of our elders who knows CPR well to come.  He began assessing the situation and started CPR.  I could not get a pulse on her.  By this time word was spreading quickly.  A few other members who know CPR were assisting as well.  They saw the need for our AED machine.  We quickly retrieved it and the first responders began using the machine.  The AED machine was a phenomenal tool to use.  It is very simple to administer and once in place the computer assess the person’s breathing and heart rate and gives instruction.  The AED machine administered two   electric shocks.  It instructed the men as they gave CPR.

While this was going on, other brethren had got all of the children in one area, especially helping with the ladies’ grandchildren who were at services.  Her husband had been found from another location in the building and he was assisting in the CPR. One of our deacons lead a group in prayer in the auditorium.  The ambulance arrived and took her to the hospital.  Later that evening in the emergency room, the doctor came to give the family a report.  He said she had suffered a heart attack.  Her actual condition involved her heart going into a v-fib, an irregular heartbeat of the lower part of the heart which causes blood not to be pumped.  He said the actions of the first responders, and specifically the use of the AED machine, saved her life.  Unfortunately, she suffered another serious heart attack 24 hours later in the ICU unit and once again required extensive CPR and electric shocks.  She is currently in a medically induced coma in ICU trying to assess her functions and allow her body to heal.

Our church family has been greatly saddened by this situation and is fervently praying and ministering to this family.  But we are also proud and thankful for the actions taken on Wednesday night by the first responders.  We are also grateful that we invested around $1000 to purchase an AED machine.  We bought one a couple of years back.  We have two elders who are involved in CPR classes and encouraged the purchase understanding the value of such a machine.

While overall, our church reacted well to this emergency, we still learned some areas we need to improve.  Here are two simple things your church should have in place, that many congregations do not.

  • An accessible AED machine.  I know it seems like a lot of money for something you might not use, but these machines are wonderful and are needed in public places such as a church building.  Buy a case as well and put it in a visible location.  We also purchased the infant’s pads so it can be used on an infant.

aed2

  • Have some members trained in CPR.  Chances are your congregation has some of these people already.  The leadership needs to know who they are and they need to be willing and able to serve.  Consider offering a class at your congregation to train volunteers and have an organized system in place.

Permanent link to this article: http://www.joshketchum.com/is-your-church-prepared-to-save-someones-life/

Apr 18

A Business with the Right Idea!

Amanda and Ashley wearing their dresses.

Amanda and Ashley wearing their dresses.

This is not my typical post on this blog, but I was so impressed with the philosophy and aims of this company that I had to share about them.  When we were at the Lads-to-Leaders convention in Nashville my wife did some shopping at one of the booths connected with the convention.  She told me this is where my sister-in-law had also bought a dress at a previous ladies’ convention.

Amanda found a dress she liked that she made look so beautiful on Easter.  Amanda picked up one of their cards and I read about their mission.

The business is called “The Pearly Peacock”.  They describe themselves as “an affordable online store, that specializes in finding MODEST clothing with a trendy flair.”

Isn’t that awesome!!  In a day and age where ladies and girls have to search hard to find modest clothing, here is a Christian retailer seeking to offer such.  The dresses and clothes are very nice and affordable.  I couldn’t believe how cheap my wife’s dress was.  The cloths are stylish and modest.  Such a anomaly to everything else we see in the world.

But it gets better.  The card continued by saying, “Our primary goal at “The Pearly Peacock” is to glorify God and share the good news about Jesus with those we serve.”  The company also believes in giving back to their community with a portion of the profit going to the Nashville Inner City youth ministry.

The booth stayed busy throughout the convention and I am told sold lots of clothing.

Interestingly enough I was talking to a missionary friend at the convention and he was saying this is becoming a trend in evangelism to use businesses to share the gospel.  I know the lines may be blurry at times, but I believe we need more Chrisitian businesses with a counter-cultural agenda and goal of glorifying Christ.

Let me encourage you to check out “The Pearly Peacock” the next time you are looking for ladies’ clothing.  You can find them on the web at www.pearlypeacock.com and also like their page on Facebook.  I have no association with their owner Emily Hayes, but I appreciate what she is trying to do!

Permanent link to this article: http://www.joshketchum.com/a-business-with-the-right-idea/

Apr 07

Learning From History about Terrorism

Wikinews_tag_terrorism.png

Wikinews_tag_terrorism.png

History is a wonderful source of helping us better understand the present.  We would do well to be informed and aware of the history of Western nations with Islamic extremists and nations.

I am reading Thomas Jefferson and the Tripoli Pirates by Brian Kilmeade and Don Yaeger.  This book details a little known war during Jefferson’s Presidency with the Tripoli nations of Northern Africa.  These nations were Islamic nations, that were ruling the Mediterean sea through pirating behaviors.  The nations of Europe were paying a high tribute to allow their vessels safe transport.  America, a young fledging nation, was trying to negotiate peace with these nations as some of their vessels were being attacked and sailors taken captive.

The cost of peace was excessive.  This lead to one of the leading statesmen, a ship captain who had been enslaved by the nations earlier, to state, “Money is their God and Mahomet their Prophet.”  They were involved in demanding such exorbitant tribute money, because of greed.

John Adams met with a representative of these nations named Abdrahaman, when asked how the nations could justify, “making war upon nations who had done them no injury.”  The response was less than chilling.

“According to his holy book, the Qur’an, Abdrahaman explained, ‘all nations which had not acknowledged the Prophet were sinners, whom it was the right and duty of the faithful to plunder and enslave.”  Christian sailors were, plain and simple, fair game. . . . ‘Every mussulman’, he explained, ‘who was slain in this warfare was sure to go to paradise.’  To Abdrahaman, this was not complicated.  In his culture, the takers of ships, the enslavers of men, the Barbarians who extorted bribes for safe passage, were all justified by the teaching of the prophet Muhammad.  ‘It was written in our Qur’an,’ he said simply.”  [Excerpt from p. 14-15]

Some of my thoughts:

  • I believe greed and money are a major factor today in the motives driving radical Islamic terrorists and aggressive nations.  Just like in Christianity, greed can be disguised under religious motives and actions.  What a great quote for today as well, “Money is their god, and Mohammad their prophet.”
  • We should not be surprised that these terrorists justify their ruthless acts by appealing to the Koran.  This is the historical pattern.  Despite what many want us to believe, the Koran condones violence against unbelievers.  Our nation was experiencing such violence over 200 years ago, we cannot act like many of our officials want us to act as if religion is not a key factor in these terrorist acts.  The Islamic religion and the teachings of the Koran are something for us to be concerned about!  History tells us that it does not produce peaceable nations who love their enemies.  (See my post entitled:  Because of Who Their God is?

What are your thoughts?

Permanent link to this article: http://www.joshketchum.com/learning-from-history-about-terrorism/

Apr 06

Brooke’s Song

IMG_4061Brooke turned 9 today!  We can’t believe she is growing so fast.  Just a short time ago I wrote about her being six.

Brooke is a vibrant, full-of-life, sweet, smiling, little girl.  This story captures why we are so proud of Brooke and her demeanor in life as well.

Brooke competed in the Lads-to-Leaders and Leaderettes convention in Nashville.  She did a great job with her speech, oral Bible reading, Bible bowl, and song leading.  Her team won first in the Bible Bowl which was a great accomplishment for them, considering they started studying late in the year and were younger than other teams.  But  the compliment that will most stick out to her mother and I will always be what the song leading judge said.  Brooke did a great job leading her song, but she did not use her hand to direct the song, which cost her on the judging, so she did not place.  But when one of the judges was lining up the girls for a picture, she noticed Brooke as being so tall.  She then proceeded to say, “I want everyone to know this is the girl that sang with all the other girls as they lead their songs.”

That is our Brooke!  She lives in a house with three boys.  The older one is the most responsible 11 year old you could find.  Her younger brother is full of bounding energy and always creating some type of havoc and attention.  Then their is the baby, Caleb, who is just the three year old, last-child classic “baby’ of the family.  Brooke is overshadowed many times in our home.  But what does she do?  She just keeps on singing with everyone else!  She is her own special person who loves animals, day-dreams as only a little girl can, and manages to still be girly!  She is usually happy to play what the boys want to play, holding her own in trampoline games and sporting events.  She can be a great “tom-boy” out working on the farm with the family, but also a soft princess at the mall.  She is growing in her role of imitating her mother as a cook.  This week, while we were out exercising, she made us pancakes.  Now we don’t eat normal pancakes at our house.  We have an assortment of special diets, so she made egg-free, dairy-free, gluten-free pancakes.  How many grown women can do that?  They were made from scratch and great to eat.

She is singing her own song and singing everybody else too!  We are so thankful she is a part of our family chorus!  

IMG_3924

We love you Brooke!

P.S.  The boys always say I treat you differently because you are a girl.  They are right!  I do treat you differently.  You are supposed to be treated differently because you are a girl, never let the world say you are the same as boys!    You have a special, God-given role as a girl and lady!  You deserve and need such treatment because you are my sweet, precious daughter!

Brooke with her two Great Pyrenees Dogs and Caleb!

Brooke with her two Great Pyrenees Dogs and Caleb!

Permanent link to this article: http://www.joshketchum.com/brookes-song/

Mar 30

A Church’s First Year at Lads-to-Leaders Convention

The Seven Oaks Group

The Seven Oaks Group

We just got back from our congregations first year to attend the Lads-to-Leaders Convention.  I know your congregation may be considering this ministry.  I wanted to write about our experience and how we went about it in the hope of helping you as a first-timer as well.  I am going to use a bullet list to organize my thoughts and ideas.

How We Got Started:

  • After getting the approval of our elders, we selected a steering committee lead by one of our deacons.  I originally helped get the committee going, but do not serve on it now.  The committee is compromised of one deacon, our youth minister, and two ladies.  Of course each of their spouses work and serve as well.
  • We invited Ben Giselbach from L2L to come on a Sunday to tell us about the program.  Ben’s workshop involved a combined Sunday morning Bible class, a short talk during worship, and a longer afternoon explanation of the program.
  • The steering committee selected several events for us to be involved in and asked parents to sign their kids up for events and committee to going to the convention.  We chose to go to the Nashville Convention site.
  • We were late in trying to develop this program for the 2016 year.  We did not have Ben come until early December.  We got the events all going in January and some not till February.
  • It it normal for it to seem overwhelming and intimidating!
  • We had some kids participate with us in events that did not attend convention and invited any child to be involved.  We did not have as good as participation as hoped, but felt we had a good number for the first year.
  • The committee assigned or recruited volunteers to coordinate an event and work with the kids.  They then allowed these coordinators to select the time and venue for preparation and training.
  • Regarding finances, our elders budged $2,000 for this ministry in 2016 and paid the registration fee at convention of all those attending.  Each family paid for their hotel room at convention, though the church offered if assistance was needed.  The church also provided food at the convention.

Our Experience at Convention

  • We are only about 2 hours from the Nashville convention site, so we chose to go down early Friday morning and return late Saturday evening.
  • Convention was much crazier and busier than I ever imagined.  We have four kids, three were involved in the activities.  So we were always going to a new event.  We signed up to judge two events each, which added to the chaos.
  • The hotel is huge and everything is spread out so we walked a ton.
  • The weekend was well-organized, though it was a bit confusing for our group at first.  We had trouble getting our rooms and finding out all we were supposed to be doing at the start.
  • The award banquets were exciting, boisterous, and extremely fast-paced.  The kids were thrilled to be able to go on stage and we were all encouraged to learn our Bible Bowl teams did well.  Our 3rd-4th graders won 1st and the 5th-6th grade team made the finalists.
  • We had a couple from church go to host the hospitality room.  This room had food for the group.  I couldn’t imagine doing the weekend without bringing some food.  We ate breakfast and lunch in the room.  We had lots of sweets and snacks as well. We ordered pizza on Friday evening and some of us walked to the mall on Saturday evening.
  • We found that the convention gave a tremendous boost to the enthusiasm of the program.  The kids came back fired up and ready to prepare for next year.  We see the importance in kids participating in convention and it is nice it gives a set deadline.  It provides lots of motivation for the kids.

Our Plans for Year 2

  • The committee is going to be making plans for our second year very soon.  We hope to recognize and award those who were involved in this first year, while trying to use the momentum from the convention to inspire more involvement.
  • We plan on doing some of the year-around events and getting started much earlier in our convention preparation so we are not so rushed.
  • Also, we learned how to make convention easier and better in terms of logistics and planning.

If your church is looking for a ministry tool to help prepare your youth to be leaders and more involved in the service and work of the church please check out Lads-to-Leaders.  Contact them for how to get more involved.

Their website is:  www.lads2leaders.com

 

 

Permanent link to this article: http://www.joshketchum.com/a-churchs-first-year-at-lads-to-leaders-convention/

Mar 29

“You Are the Trophy”

Austin Delivering His Speech

Austin Delivering His Speech

Austin, my 11 year old son, was disappointed at not placing in his speech competition at Lads-to-Leaders.  He rocked his speech!  He delivered it the best he had ever done.  He felt really good about it.  He enjoyed the lesson, put his heart out there, and felt like he would get a trophy.

He understood it wasn’t about the trophy, but he felt he had done a great job and delivered the speech well.  He had worked so hard.

We were discussing this with him in the hotel room.  My parents were telling him how much better he did, than me, when I was his age.  How I was so nervous and shaky; they didn’t even know if I would make it through the speech.  Of course I never won a trophy or made it into the finalist category.

It was at the completion of this story that my mom said this powerful line that captures the purpose and good of Lads-to-Leaders.

You are the trophy that has come from your dad doing it years ago.  He never won a trophy, but from the seeds that were planted  you have come today participating in preaching the Bible, leading a song, and competing in Bible Bowl.  If he would have won a trophy, it would be in an attic gathering dust, but you, and your siblings, are the trophy that have come and that is what matters!  

Sometimes Lads-to-Leaders gets a bad wrap because of its emphasis on competition, but the competition is only to accomplish the purpose of training and motivating.  It is not the goal or end, but only a part of the process.  The real trophy is the product that comes!

Permanent link to this article: http://www.joshketchum.com/you-are-the-trophy/

Mar 22

Are You Willing to Be Bored for Jesus?

"Most Bored" by Sally Bradshaw at www.freeimages.com

“Most Bored” by Sally Bradshaw at www.freeimages.com

All churches can have times where you get bored.  You may get bored with a Bible class teacher, or a person who makes too many comments in Bible class.  You may be bored with the same old youth group activities.  You may not like a song leader or a song that goes on endlessly like a slow moving train.

Surely every preacher has a lesson that is boring from time to time!

John Mark Hicks, a professor and author, put this thought-provoking status update on Facebook and Twitter.  He wrote:

“It is difficult to imagine one willing to die for Jesus if they are not also willing, for the sake of community, to be bored for Jesus.”  [Facebook / Twitter – March 20, 2016]

What a great thought!  How many of us take confidence in our own love for Jesus; we would willingly say we would die for Jesus, but then we will not bear with the smallest of things in our service to Him?  We are admonished through His teachings to love one another.  Loving one another involves patience, bearing with one another, and kindness (1 Cor. 13).

Service and worship in the church is not primarily about ourselves anyways.  It is about the glorification of God, not the gratification of people (1 Thes. 2:4).  If we are not willing to put up with our own self-imposed “boredom” for the cause of Christ, then maybe this says much about our attitude and true love for Jesus.

Permanent link to this article: http://www.joshketchum.com/are-you-willing-to-be-bored-for-jesus/

Mar 20

Dealing with Information Overload

thinking by Gabor Kalman at freeimages.com

thinking by Gabor Kalman at freeimages.com

Do you ever leave a great class feeling worse about yourself than when it began?  The speaker didn’t want to communicate this message, but they presented such material that it overwhelms you!

Being a preacher, I can feel like this sometimes when I go to a lectureship or conference.  The speakers do a good job and you hear some wonderful lessons. But you come away thinking something like this:

  • I need to read 50 books a year to be a “good preacher” like that brother who talked about the importance of reading.
  • I need to make 20 visits a week to be a “good minister” like that brother who grew a church from 75 to 200 in 3 years.
  • I need to practice all of my sermons out-loud to be a “good speaker” like that incredible speaker who says he does that to everyone of his sermons.
  • I need to pray for one hour a day to be a “good disciple” like that brother suggested in that powerful lesson on prayer.
  • I need to baptize 10 people this year through personal studies and knock on 3,000 doors to be a “good evangelist” like that one brother said in his lecture on evangelism.
  • I need to spend 1 hour a day with each child (I have four) in quality time in order to be a “good father” like that parenting expert said in his lecture.
  • I need to take my wife out on a date once a week and send her a card each week to be a “good husband” like that marriage speaker said.

Now you read that list and figure out how I am going to do all those things that are needed!  There is a temptation to want to just throw my hands in the air and say, “I am just going to fail!”  I wonder in what ways I should try to improve, because I certainly can’t in all of them.

Can you sympathize?  I know my wife can as she has spoken to me many times about this idea when it comes to women’s classes and lectures.  Just get a woman to really tell you what they think about that virtuous woman in Proverbs 31 they hear so much about!

I don’t have the answer to this overwhelming feeling.  I certainly am not blaming it on the speakers, the books, or the advice of others.  But here are some thoughts I use when I face this challenge, I hope they will help you too.

  1. I try not to learn too much!  Jerrie Barber taught me this principle.  He calls it the “Mustard Seed” principle from the teachings of Jesus (Mark 4:31).  It is the idea of focusing on one small idea that you can use in your life.  I call it a rifle, rather than a shotgun approach.  If you try to learn and do it all at once, it overwhelms you, but you focus on one area and apply it now.
  2. I try to honestly assess my present situation and make changes in the area, or areas, needed most.   I need to be challenged.  I need to be pushed out of my comfort zone.  I need to be motivated.  So I need to honestly see what areas I can do better and make necessary changes.  A part of this evaluation is considering my strengths and weaknesses.  The key part of this evaluation is seeking to maintain balance and discipline throughout all the needed areas of life and ministry.
  3. I fight the temptation to compare myself with others.  Paul taught us not to compare ourselves with others, but to seek to imitate Christ (2 Cor. 10:12).  Our goal is to be maturing into the fullness of the stature of Christ.  I can always find someone far superior, likewise, I can find someone far inferior.  My aim should be to find strength, wisdom, and guidance from the examples of others, but not overly compare myself with them. We are different people, in different situations, with different strengths.
  4. I determine to do my best, understanding my individual accountability to God.  While it can be fearful, it can also be peaceful to understand that God is our judge.  We are judged based on our faithfulness of the talents and resources we have to use (Mat. 25).  My responsibility is to prayerfully do my best, trying to balance all of the needed areas of focus.
  5. I realize that busyness is not a virtue.  The temptation is to try to do everything which requires us to burn the candle at both ends!  We have to cut out recreation and rest.  We can become legalistic with our time and accomplishments.  Busyness is not a grand virtue.  Yet, we will drone on-and-on telling others all that we have been doing and have to do as if that gives us worth and value.  We feel bad to say we were unproductive or actually just rested and relaxed.  We often have the wrong emphasis. In the end, there is only so much time in a day, and we can’t do it all!

There could be more, but these are some principles that help me when I feel overwhelmed and unable to measure up to others in my mind.

What suggestions would you add?

Permanent link to this article: http://www.joshketchum.com/dealing-with-information-overload/

Mar 15

Apps to Help Your Family Devotions

family devo.001We try to do nightly family devotionals.  We typically keep ours pretty short (between 4 – 10 minutes).  For the last year or so we have just sung songs that the kids knew by memory, or occasionally pulled out a song book.  But we don’t have enough song books, and typically don’t want to take the time to get them.

We found a great way to rectify this problem recently. Ryan Scherer our youth minister told Austin (our 11 year old) about an app called Adventures in Ministry (AIM).  This app includes a long list of song lyrics.  Some have the notes, but most just have the words of the songs.  Many are new devotional songs, but some are the older traditional songs.  We have an Apple TV which allows us to screen mirror the image to our TV so everyone can see [If you have a Roku and Android phone it should work the same].  Then we use the ESV app for mirroring our Bible text or reading for the night.  We typically do a couple of songs, one scripture, and a prayer.  These Apps make it easy and allow us to sing different songs in a better way because we have the words before us.  Everyone can see them easily.  The only problem is the argument of who gets to control it if you have four kids!!

Here are the links to get these Apps:

Adventures in Ministry App:

Google Play – For Android Users

iTunes Store – For Apple Users

ESV Bible App

Google Play – For Android Users

iTunes Store – For Apple Users

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Tyler Brassfield, a brother in Christ, designed this AIM app and can design apps for your church ministry.  Check out his site and work at 316apps.com.

Permanent link to this article: http://www.joshketchum.com/apps-to-help-your-family-devotions/

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