Jul 22

Book Reviews: The Derision of Heaven and Esau’s Doom

I have a great appreciation and admiration for Michael Whitworth.  Michael started his own publishing company Start2Finish books a couple of years back.  It is his aim to produce trusted, engaging guides to God’s word.  He desires to cover every Bible book over the course of his lifetime.  He is certainly making great strides at accomplishing this goal.  I am amazed at the amount of material he is able to produce, given his work as a preacher and family man as well.  You can read more about Michael, his blog, and other books at his website – www.MichaelWhitworth.com.   I want to review two of Michael’s latest books.

The Derision of Heaven:  A Guide to Daniel


derision of heaven

I have read and taught this book twice.  I developed a greater appreciation for the book the second time.  I taught it to two different Sunday school classes at Seven Oaks.  Michael does a wonderful job of helping the adult reader consider the famous stories of Daniel that are usually reserved for children’s classes.  He shows their application and power for the Christian.  The last 6 chapters of Daniel are some of the most difficult in all the Bible.  Michael does not get bogged down in all of the details of the prophecies.  He had adequately done his research and conveys the necessary information, but he succeeds in giving the reader an overall view of the meaning and some application from them.  He is not dogmatic on his view, and is humble in interpreting apocalyptic literature.  The book is concise and non-techical so that it can be easily used by the general audience which is his target.  The church purchased books for students in my classes and many of them were read and used.  My two favorite aspects of this book were: 1) his closing section at the end of each chapter called “Talking Points” where he makes some application to our current world, and 2) his constantly taking the reader back to Daniel’s overall theme of the sovereignty of God in this world.  The reader is left with a renewed appreciation for the prophet Daniel as a man, and most importantly the power and might of God amongst the nations.

Buy Your Copy at Amazon

Kindle – $7.99; Hardcover – $18.99; Paperback – $11.99; Audio – $17.95

Esau’s Doom:  A Guide to Obadiah

The little book of Obadiah is not often studied or preached from today.  Michael has produced an ebook on the book.  It is a quick but informative read.  I have actually preached a sermon on Obadiah in times past, but this book gave me some new thoughts and information that will lead to some fresh sermons on Obadiah.  Michael does a great job of making relevant and practical the ancient book of Obadiah. I was made to see Obadiah in new lights and with renewed application for the church today. He does a thorough job of research and explains the text in a concise manner. His talking points and use of historical information are some of the highlights.  The reader is challenged to consider their attitude toward their enemies and our mercy and compassion for others. 

Buy Your Copy at Amazon for $2.99


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Jul 17

We are Isaac and Jesus is the Ram

abraham_isaac_1Christians know the story of Abraham offering Isaac as a sacrifice  in Genesis 22.  We typically see the foreshadowing of Jesus in Isaac.  Isaac was the “only son” of Abraham and he willingly laid upon the wood that he carried.  The events likely happened on the mount that would one day be the area of the Jerusalem.  Abraham passes the test of faith marvelously, so committed to obedience that he believed God would raise Isaac from the dead (Heb. 11:17-19).

In so focusing on the parallels between Isaac and Jesus, we may often miss another lesson in the story.  Abraham told Isaac, when questioned about the whereabouts of a lamb, that God would provide for himself the lamb (v. 8).  Later, when the angel stopped Abraham from slaughtering his son, a ram is caught in the thicket.  A ram is a male lamb, that was a suitable sacrifice.  Abraham named the place, “The Lord will provide.”

The ram is typically just a side character given little attention.  But let me encourage you to consider the ram.  From this perspective let us envision the ram as representing Jesus.  Us, as sinful humanity, who deserve to be on the altar are Isaac.  We should die for our sins, but God provided a lamb!  Just like Isaac, who was granted freedom and walked away, so you and I walk away free in Jesus!  Jesus took our place on calvary’s mountain!

So we say with Abraham, “on the mount of the Lord it shall be provided” (Gen. 22:14).

Permanent link to this article: http://www.joshketchum.com/we-are-isaac-and-jesus-is-the-ram/

Jul 16

Government Religious Restrictions Come to New Pathways Home in Kentucky

npfcSince coming to preach in Mayfield, Kentucky I have been involved with the New Pathways for Children ministry.  The work began in 1990 and has grown through the sacrifices of Christians in this region.  The facility has undergone a renewal in the last three years through the leadership fo Glen and Ricky Burse.  Their number of children served fluctuates, but over the last 10 years of my time here they  have serve around 25 – 40 teen boys and girls.  They have a classroom and teacher at the boy’s campus where students attend school.  The ministry recently completed, through generous donations, a new girls’ home.

New Pathways has worked with the state of Kentucky in receiving placement of children and are paid based upon these children.  The children’s home has been able to continue to share Jesus with these students and take them to church.  There has been some restrictions, but overall the Christ-based mission of the ministry has not be inhibited.  I personally have taken my family and conducted devotionals in the boys home for 10 years.  Seven Oaks church hosts the 2nd Tuesday night of the month devotional.  The boys love to sing and listen attentively to the lesson.  Many boys and girls have been converted to Christ through the years.

In the last month the state of Kentucky, in response to a court ruling stemming from a lawsuit filed by the ACLU, incorporated significant religious changes into their contract.  Here are some of the quotes from the contract which the board of directors unanimously rejected. 

  • The agency shall not:
    • Require, coerce or pressure any child in any manner to attend religious services or instruction or to otherwise engage in or be present at any activity or programming that has religious content;
    • Impose any form of punishment or benefit based on a child’s voluntary decision as to whether to participate in or attend any religious service or instruction or any other activity or programing that has religious content.
    • Proselytize any child in any religious beliefs.
    • Require any child to pray or to participate in any form of prayer, or to attend any form of prayer that is organized, led, or otherwise sponsored or promoted by the Agency, or
    • Place any religious symbols or other religious articles in any child’s private room or automatically provide religious texts or materials to any child, unless requested by the child . . . .”  (p. 21)
  • The agency was also required to “provide each child in its care with opportunities to practice the religious belief and faith of the child’s individual or family religious affiliation.”   This provision went on to state they had to provide transportations to different house of worship and also “provide or facilitate for children not wishing to attend any offered religious services or activity” at the same time “an appropriate, non-religous alternative activity comparable in terms of general attractiveness to children.” (p. 21-22).

The state is transferring the existing children to new facilities by the end of July.  Ricky Burse the director of New Pathways told me that the facility is in the process of transitioning into a smaller ministry of providing for needy children without government aid or restrictions.   The ministry has set as its goal to initially begin with 6 boys and 6 girls.  They plan on finding children through social service agencies, the church, and other avenues to serve.

Some Reflection 

  1. This reflects the tide of our culture.  The secularization of our culture is incredible and it is likely going to continue to affect the way churches and ministries do work. 
  2. This illustrates the cultural trend of not valuing the role of God, moral truth, and Biblical guidance.  Our country is moving farther into sin because a respect and appreciation for God’s Word as a foundation for building character, peace, and stability is not had by most.  Despite the product and lives touched by a facility like New Pathways because of their Christian convictions, the government was asking them to take care of troubled kids who have no foundational life anchor nor moral compass without being able to give them one in the form of Jesus Christ and His Word.  The more the world wants to separate God from themselves the more they lose all that God offers and that is a tremendously high price to pay!  They fail to see the benefits that our society has long recognized in religious instruction and Biblical knowledge.  In the end this creates an amoral society that looks similar to the days of the judges when “everyone did what was right in his own eyes.”
  3. The Lord is still on His throne and our goal is to give Him glory!  New Pathways has been struggling with this tension of government requirements for years, with this latest decision to stand firm upon their convictions despite the unknown future, they give an example of faith.  It is difficult because children must leave their placement at New Pathways, employees will lose their jobs, and the fiscal situation will be daunting.  But when we stand on our convictions and seek to give God the glory then we are doing right!  Ricky Burse expressed to me that they believe the Lord will lead them into a new ministry of caring for kids in ways that will allow them to be powerful in their work for Christ.  After all, nothing really happens for God’s people until God’s people step out in faith.  So rather than be downtrodden that thousands of dollars and many sacrifices have gone into this work only to see it be stopped by government restrictions, Christians throughout the area must see the potential of this facility and the good that can still be done for children.  I stand with them in support and prayer.  God can do great things with this work!

You can learn more about New Pathways for Children and offer your financial support.  Their website is www.npfc.net.   Please pray for them during this transition.

Permanent link to this article: http://www.joshketchum.com/government-religious-restrictions-come-to-new-pathways-home-in-kentucky/

Jul 11

5 Ways You Can Build Up the Church

Wooden Building Blocks by Yaba at freeimages.com

Wooden Building Blocks by Yaba at freeimages.com


“Strive to excel in building up the church.” 1 Cor. 14:12

Here are 5 ways to build your local church that most anyone can do!

1.  Attend Bible class on Sunday morning.

2.  Attend worship on Sunday morning.

3.  Attend evening worship on Sunday evening or your small group if your congregation meets in this fashion.

4.  Attend Wednesday night Bible study.

5.  Attend special church fellowships and outreach events like VBS, gospel meetings, potlucks, and service projects.

Alright, I know these five are all the same.  I basically just said, “Go to church every time you can!”  In my estimation that is one of the best ways to build the church.

If you choose to attend at every opportunity, you will:  

  • encourage others,
  • grow yourself,
  • develop close friendships,
  • get involved in serving and planning, and
  • be a backbone of support for  the church’s leadership.  

So determine to build up the church.  You can do it by simply being there!

Permanent link to this article: http://www.joshketchum.com/5-ways-you-can-build-up-the-church/

Jul 09

A Good Story Versus Your Story

I recently read a stirring local book about the murder of the Graves County Sheriff in 1922 by his deputy.  The book entitled “A Courthouse Tragedy” was written by a local lawyer and family relative to some of the key characters.  I enjoyed the book and learned much about Graves County and our city of Mayfield, KY.

purchased / copyrighted photo

purchased / copyrighted photo

Last week, I visited with a brother from Seven Oaks church of Christ where I preach who is a direct descendent of a prominent family in the story.  He had heard the story since his childhood and met the key characters.  He had met the man who pulled the trigger, his grandparents had lost their farm paying lawyer fees to provide for his trial and defense of self-defense.  He knew the man’s son who was raised by his grandparents until he was 8 and then was taken to Oklahoma when his father got out of prison.  It was a painful family story that has impacted his family to this day.

He said that the publishing of this book brought all these memories back to him and was like reopening an old wound.  He said it was difficult on him.

As I thought about his emotions and words I considered the gospel and our relationship to the story of Jesus. 

For me, the book was a good story.  I had interest because it was about my local community, but I didn’t have any personal ties to the families.  It didn’t open any old wounds.  My family had not been shaped by these events decades ago; it was just a good story.  But for this man it was emotional.  it was real.  It was his story!

As I thought about this, it occurred to me that this is the difference in the true Christian and the person of the world who has a nominal faith in Jesus.  Many in the world know the story of Jesus.  They may even have an interest in parts of it and learning more about it.  But it is not “their story!”  For the true Christian, the gospel is our story that has an emotional impact upon our lives.  The events of 2,000 years ago are real and shape our daily behavior.  The cross evokes emotions!  The story tears open our old wounds and humbles our souls.  We live in the shadow of the cross.  It is not just a story that is interesting it is our story by which we are saved!  It means everything to us.

The gospel is not just a good story, it should become your story!

“For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.”  (2 Corinthians 5:14–15 ESV)

Permanent link to this article: http://www.joshketchum.com/a-good-story-versus-your-story/

Jul 08

The Greatest Challenge Facing Families

kiddies soccer by sd2005 at freeimages.com

kiddies soccer by sd2005 at freeimages.com

We were discussing our schedule for the week and the activities with sports, when Amanda said it!

She said, “I think youth sports may be the greatest challenge facing families today.” 

Some might heartily disagree with this statement. Some might say it is worldliness, apathy, or materialism that is challenging families today.  They would certainly have ample evidence to support their statement.

Yet, Amanda’s statement has much merit.  What Amanda was saying is that all of the activities, be it sports, music lessons, gymnastics, dance classes, or academic teams are a great challenge for families.  

They challenge families by dictating their time and schedules.  They keep families from being together as a whole family.  Mom carries one to piano, while dad goes with another to coach the t-ball game.  Monday night is t-ball, Tuesday is little league for brother, Thursday is golf camp, and Friday and Saturday is the soccer tournament for the older sister.  This is how many families roll.  It is how society tells us we must roll today if we are going to be a good parent and give our kids what they are” entitled” to. 

So, families spend time and money in traveling sports.  The dinner table is left empty as fast food meals are consumed.  Work and chores are not taught, because there is just not enough time.  Dad and mom don’t have time to maintain their marriage, doing good to talk to each other about their days.  The church suffers.  Kids have erratic Bible class attendance.  Church youth activities take last place behind the many other commitments.  Christian families say the Lord and His church are first place, but they struggle to reflect this priority in their time and energy.

Yet does it really make a difference?  Are all the lessons we say really being taught?  Do kids really learn all about teamwork from sports?  Are they happier because of these activities?  Is it really necessary for our kids to start out playing when they are 4 so they can play on the High School team?  Do they really have to belong to a traveling team, or will a local league be good enough?  What will kids remember about their childhood; a day at the ball field with their friends or relaxed day at home with family?  Who do we really want teaching our kids values and morals–the coach or ourselves?

As I thought about Amanda’s statement, I think she is very accurate.  It may not be the greatest sin of our generation, nor the greatest harm to the church, but I believe it is possibly the greatest challenge parents face today because it is believed to be a part of good parenting.  It is something that must be constantly managed, fought against, and kept in check.  

We have four kids and we are facing this challenge on a regular basis.  It requires constant adjustment.  We don’t always get it right!  Many times we don’t know if we got it wrong or right!  We do recognize the challenge.  We do fight against allowing our lives and schedules to be controlled by the kids’ sports and pursuits.  We do always want to examine our schedules and make sure they are reflecting our priorities.

What are your thoughts on how to manage this great challenge?

Permanent link to this article: http://www.joshketchum.com/the-greatest-challenge-facing-families/

Jul 04

In Honor of Zamperini and Happy 4th of July

UnbrokenOne of the best history books you can read is the book “Unbroken” by Laura Hillenbrand which tells the unbelievable story of Louis Zamperini.  The story is coming out in movie form soon.  He survived incredible horrors at sea, and then in a Japanese prisoner of war camp.  It is a great story of survival, courage, and forgiveness.  He died yesterday at the age of 97 years of age (see this LA Times article).  If you haven’t read or listened to the audiobook of Unbroken you should do so.

It is because of the sacrifice and service of men and women like Zamperini that we have the freedoms we do today in America.  Let us not take them for granted.  His story is a great reminder of the sacrifices that were made for freedom!

I hope you have a great 4th of July weekend.  

Permanent link to this article: http://www.joshketchum.com/in-honor-of-zamperini-and-happy-4th-of-july/

Jul 01

Stopping the Craziness!

The apostle Peter says a “speechless donkey spoke with a human voice and restrained the prophet’s madness” (2 Pet. 2:16).  Peter is referencing the Old Testament story of Balaam who desired to curse Israel.  He was rebuked in his actions by a donkey who God miraculously allowed to speak.  What was the “madness” of Balaam?  This term madness means “insanity, madness, or folly.”  Put commonly, it means to be crazy or out of your mind!  What was Balaam doing that would prompt the Apostle to say he was insane, mad, or crazy?

Peter said, he “loved gain for wrongdoing” (2 Pet. 3:15).  He was greedy and loved the idea of making a profit off of doing sinful things.  Peter said this is “madness.”

How many folks in our world today are insane or mad if we use this definition?  How much money is made each day by folks through wrongdoing.  The pornography industry is a 10 billion dollar a year industry.  Alcohol sales in the U.S. equal about 90 billion dollars a year.  Many make money through unethical lending and business practices.  Many lie and steal their way to money.  Peter says all of this is madness!  If we look at our world honestly, we must admit our world is insane with its love of money!  We must not give in to the craziness!

Permanent link to this article: http://www.joshketchum.com/stopping-the-craziness/

Jun 29

Marriage Statistics: It is Not as Bad As Quoted

by hisks from www.sxc.hu

by hisks from www.sxc.hu

The popular quote from preachers and others is that 1 in 2 marriages end in divorce.   This means the divorce rate is 50%.  This statistic has never been accurate because it is based simply off of the number of marriages and divorces.  New research suggest much better statistics, especially amongst Christians.

I am going to refer you to two articles that highlight actual research data.

1.  You Know How They Say the Divorce Rate in the Church is 50%: Prepare to be Shocked  – This article reflects statistics about Christians in the broad sense in America and says that the divorce rate amongst church attenders is 15 – 20%.  It also states that 80% of marriages are happy, not 30% as sometimes found.  These stats were found through an 8 year study.

2.  Stop Quoting Bad Divorce Stats  - This article looks at Census data and says that 72% of people who have ever been married are still married to their first spouse.  It goes on to say that actually because this stat does not take into consideration death of a spouse, that the divorce rate is much less than 28%.  The 50% number has been wrong for years, because it does not take into account all of the marriages that are continuing.  This article goes onto state that “practicing Christians have a much higher statistical success rate at marriage today.”

I hope you will take the time to read these articles more closely.  But chiefly I hope we will stop propetuating the myth that 50% of marriages end in divorce.

Permanent link to this article: http://www.joshketchum.com/marriage-statistics-it-is-not-as-bad-as-quoted/

Jun 26

How to Use Questions Effectively in Bible Class

Questions by immrchris from freeimages.com

Questions by immrchris from freeimages.com

In a previous post I wrote about my 7 Bible class teaching aims.  In this post I want to think about how to use questions effectively.  I am still a learning and am not an expert on this topic.  But here are some of my thoughts and I hope you can share yours to better aid myself.

Jesus used questions throughout his ministry as a part of his teaching method.  I think questions help your students actually think and participate in the lesson.

Here are 10 ways to use questions effectively.  I also share some example questions from a couple of lessons from the early chapters of Exodus.

  1. Use questions to begin class.  You set the tone for participation and creative thinking at the beginning of class.  If I want to have a good class discussion, I will always try to begin with questions.
    1. What is the best trip you have ever been on in your life?
    2. Considering your past now, what did you think about yourself in high school and college?
  2. Use questions that are relevant and focused on the students current lives or the current world.
    1. We break Moses’ life into 3 stages.  What are some of the stages of our lives?  How does God work to mature us through these stages?
  3. Use questions that create a level of controversy to get the students to thinking.  I personally do not like much controversy or tension, so I don’t want to use outlandish methods, or create doctrinal disputes, but I often will try to put forward questions that allow listeners to agree and disagree.  The teacher can then let the students share their thoughts.
    1. Did Moses act rightly or wrongly in murdering the Egyptian?
  4. Use questions that have been provoked in your mind from the text or subject.  Be honest about your questions and share them with the class.  They will often help you learn more.
    1. What are some key elements in our lives that we need to have that allows us to be molded by God like Moses was molded through his years?
  5. Use questions that help the students consider the thoughts, emotions, reactions, motives, and attitudes of the characters in the Bible stories.  
    1. Would you say the Egyptians were insecure?  What happens when people become insecure?
  6. Use questions that are specific rather than abstract and broad in nature.   
    1. If you were Moses’ mother, what emotions would you experience?
    2. After years in Pharaoh’s palace who did Moses identify with as a person?  What do you think caused this identity?
  7. Use questions and be comfortable with the silence of the class.  One mistake teachers often make is asking a question, but only pausing for a brief time for a response.  The teacher needs to be comfortable pausing and waiting for the class’s response.
  8. Use questions like Jesus as your method of allowing students to discover truth and learn content.  One of my favorite ways to teach is to have a text that you can ask good questions from and the students are eager to discuss and learn.  When this happens, a wonderful dynamic occurs in the classroom and everyone pools their knowledge and the teacher and students alike end up discovering messages and concepts from the text.  Teachers have to be willing to let the subject often go where they did not intend, but more learning often occurs.
    1. How does the story of the midwives really serve as a small version of the entire Exodus message?
    2. What does this story teach us about God’s time frame?
  9. Use questions that help the students apply the lessons learned.
    1. What could we learn from Pharaoh’s daughter?
    2. How does fear affect our lives?
  10. Use questions that take a quote from the book or from the text and ask what is the author meaning or do they agree with the statement.
    1. What is meant by the statement, “who did not know about Joseph” (v. 8)?  What lessons are in this thought?

What ways do you use questions effectively to teach?

Permanent link to this article: http://www.joshketchum.com/how-to-use-questions-effectively-in-bible-class/

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