Oct 11

Embracing a New Season

autumn-3-by Aki_fukaki from freeimages.com

Fall is the season of football games, pumpkins, and hayrides.  What fall activities do you enjoy the most?  Aren’t you thankful for the changing of the seasons?  Each season contains its own unique characteristics and activities.  It helps provide a rhythm to your years and new adventures to anticipate.  While I hope you are enjoying fall now, I bet you are also anticipating the coming of winter.  Winter involves being home earlier, fireplaces, hot cocoa, and the holidays.  We make it through blustery days of winter by anticipating the coming spring.  Spring involves the warming of the temperatures which bring our flowers, trees, and grasses back to life.  New life resurrects again and the browns of winter give way to the many colors of spring.  Spring yields to the increased heat of summer.  Though some may complain about the heat of summer, what would our year be like if there wasn’t the heat of summer?  Hot evenings at a ball field or fun days at the pool fill our lives.  I love late summer evenings and fresh garden produce.

Notice how we anticipate and embrace the highlights and changes of the next season.  We understand with our yearly calendar the truth of the famous verse from Ecclesiastes, “For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven” (3:1).  But let’s apply this same principle to our lives.  Our lives pass through seasons as well.  These are not as short as a calendar season, but they still go by quickly.  You can break down the seasons of your life into small segments of years or in large chucks.  For example, you can talk about the youth season, which really is divided into preschool, elementary, middle-school, and high-school seasons.  Then you move into your young adult season of life.  For many the next season involves marriage and then children.  Then you enjoy the season of raising your children.  Then comes a time when your children leave your home and you experience empty-nest.  You may be going through a season of extended care-giving for your parents.  We often look at retirement and being a grand-parent as seasons of our life.

We understand the calendar seasons and the life seasons, but do we handle the life seasons like we do the calendar ones?  Do we anticipate the coming of a new season of our life?  Do we consider the new opportunities and possibilities it will provide?  Sadly, many times we fear the new season of life.  We fail to embrace the changes that come with the new.  We tend to cling to the old season, focusing on the happiness and comfort we have found with it.  Let’s realize that “for everything there is a season.”  Let’s enjoy the present season, let it go when it passes, and move forward to the new opportunities and possibilities of the new season.  We will be much better off for it!  So go enjoy fall, but anticipate winter.  Both will have their blessings and challenges.  But you will get through them both much better if you live in the present!

Permanent link to this article: http://www.joshketchum.com/embracing-a-new-season/

Oct 04

The “Why” is Answered in the Absurdity of Evil!

Are you shaking your head in disbelief?  Mass shootings seem to be a weekly news item.  On September 24th, peaceful worshippers of Christ were assaulted as they were ending their service at the Burnette Chapel Church of Christ in Antioch, Tennessee.  One lady was killed and six others were injured.  The carnage would have been worse, had it not of been for an heroic usher.  One week later, we are shocked as a nation to hear of the Las Vegas shooting.  The news is calling this massacre the largest mass shooting in modern U.S. history.

All of the focus has been around the question, “Why?”  What could cause someone to do such horrible deeds?  What was their motive and rationale?  Investigators identify patterns in mass shooters, traits such as mental illness, disenfranchised, religiously-motivated, or hatred.  But the answers, still leave us confused.

I was speaking to a wise, older gentleman.  I made the remark that I just can’t understand why someone would do such a terrible act.  He said, “You will never understand, because it doesn’t make sense to the rational mind.”  I think he is spot-on!  But, after reflecting on these mass-shootings, I think I know the answer our culture needs to give for these acts.  We need to call them what they are, “pure evil.”

I believe one of the primary root causes of these heinous acts is our culture’s lack of moral integrity.  We have removed the moral absolutes from our country’s DNA.  Albert Mohler writes, “College professors tell us that moral relativism has produced a generation of Americans who resist calling anything evil, and even deny the existence of moral facts.”¹  We have removed moral truths that condemn certain actions as evil and wrong.  Everything has become relative. Even basic truths like the sanctity of human life.  As Terry Pratchett wrote, “Evil begins when you begin to treat people as things.”  Most Americans are living independent lives unrestrained from the moral confines of a Biblical worldview.  They don’t recognize their moral accountability to others and ultimately to God.  We have dismissed the thought of eternal judgment and reaping the consequences of our moral choices in eternity.  We have, in essence, thrown out the idea of evil!

The label “evil” has been reserved to the Star Wars movies or WW2 tyrants like Hitler and Stalin.  What we need to realize is that evil is abounding today!  The ultimate “why” of these acts is found in the concept of evil!  Evil is absurd.  It makes no sense!  It is motivated by Satan who wishes to create evil, chaos, and deception upon the earth (John 8:44).  Jesus said it best when he said, “the evil person out of his evil treasure brings forth evil” (Mat. 12:35).  When we as a culture feed our people a treasury of evil (just look at the filth on our TVs), yet don’t even call it evil, we will get evil harvests!

In a culture that trumpets tolerance and acceptance, we need to adhere to this quote by Thomas Mann, “Tolerance becomes a crime when applied to evil.”  As Americans and as Christians, we must say enough is enough.  Let’s call it what it is–evil!  Let’s return to a Biblical understanding of good versus evil; of right vs wrong.  Let’s take the fight to evil, by understanding it as the ultimate cause and choose to triumph over it through the power of God.

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¹  Albert Mohler Article – An Act of Pure Evil – Searching for Meaning in Las Vegas

 

Permanent link to this article: http://www.joshketchum.com/the-why-is-answered-in-the-absurdity-of-evil/

Sep 28

Thoughts from a 55 year old Bulletin

Mrs. Ruby Sanders, a sweet widow at Seven Oaks, gave me an old bulletin from 7th and College (the location and preceding name of our church).  It was dated Dec. 9, 1962 (almost 55 years ago).  I am sure she had kept it because it announced her marriage to Laddie Sanders.  I enjoyed reading it and wanted to share with you some observations I made from it.

  • They emphasized attendance!  Brother Flavil Nichol’s article challenged folks to “plan to attend” Bible classes and Sunday night meetings.  They listed a Bible Study Attendance Chart which had those present in every age from Nursery through 60 years and up.  They had these admonitions “We’ll be looking for YOU Sunday!  Help Bring Our Average UP for Dec.”  “BE RIGHT on SUNDAY NIGHT —- ATTEND CHURCH”  Maybe we don’t emphasize our attendance enough today, which is why we have such attendance problems.         
  • They emphasized the brotherhood.  In their prayer list they called members “Bro.” or “Sis.”  This was consistent throughout in the news and notes as well.  Brothers and Sisters were different than everybody else.  Have we lost some of this in the present church?  We tend to neglect the value of membership today in the church.
  • They cared about helping the hurting and seeking the lost.  The bulletin contained opportunities to help the needy and reports on evangelistic efforts.  The church of the 60s has often been portrayed as legalistic and uncommitted to community felt needs.  The Biblical church should always be about loving people and loving the lost.
  • There were less activities.  The church didn’t have a youth minister to plan lots of activities for the kids.  The church had 442 in attendance, but only one minister.  The church didn’t have lots of planned fellowship or service activities.  The church of today, is expected to keep a calendar full of good opportunities for fellowship and service.  Staff are focused on administration and service to the church in many ways.  This is good in many ways, but it is also a response to our consumer-driven culture where people are looking to a church to provide social and spiritual fellowship for them and their kids.  A full church calendar, doesn’t mean the activities are being productive in shaping disciples.  We must always keep the purpose in mind and not be driven by cultural pressures.

I also noticed that we are not the same congregation.  Most of the names are no longer with us here.  Even many of the family names are not represented.  But we are a part of the same church!  We continue their goal of being the church of Christ!   We stand upon their shoulders and we want to continue the legacy of New Testament Christianity.

Permanent link to this article: http://www.joshketchum.com/thoughts-from-a-55-year-old-bulletin/

Sep 27

How Jesus Handled Offending Others

Is it me or does it seem that everyone is offended nowadays?  People are offended by all kinds of things from decorations to beliefs.  While we are all entitled to our own opinions and right to be offended, it sure seems to me that it has gotten out of hand.  “I am offended!” has become a common cry that seems often self-serving and unbalanced.  This caused me to investigate how Jesus handled the issue of offending others.

The greek term skandlon means “to put a stumbling-block or impediment in the way, upon which another may trip and fall; to be a stumbling block” (Thayer).  It is used metaphorically in the NT to cause or make one to stumble, not physically but spiritually. It is often translated “offense” or the verb form “to offend.”

When I researched the gospels I discovered three key ideas about how Jesus dealt with offending others.

  1. He expected that his message and actions would offend others.  When John the Baptist sends disciples asking Jesus if he truly is the Messiah, Jesus tells them about his miraculous works which he is doing.  Then he adds, “Blessed is the one who is not offended by me” (Mat. 11:6).  He understood that his message would be offensive and controversial.  Once many of his disciples turned away from following after him because of his hard teachings, but he didn’t change his teachings or chase after them (John 6:61-67).  He came as the light of the world and he knew the darkness would try to overcome the light (John 1:5).
  2. He practiced and counseled his disciples to leave offended people alone.  Once the disciples came to tell Jesus the Pharisees were offended because of his teachings.  Jesus instructs his disciples to “let them alone” (Mat. 15:14).  He says if they follow these blind guides they will both fall in the ditch.  Earlier, when his hometown of Nazareth was offended because of his teaching, he understood it was because he had grown up there.  He chose to move on and do no more works in the area (Mat. 13:57-58).
  3. When possible, in cases that did not violate the truth of God, Jesus tried to not offend others.  Jesus didn’t intentionally try to offend people.  In fact, even though he didn’t have to technically pay the temple tax since he was the Son of God, he told Peter to pay the tax so as not to offend them.  They would not understand how he was exempt from such a tax, so Jesus paid it, rather than offend them (Mat. 17:24-27).

What are some lessons we can apply to our own lives in 2017 in this ultra-offensive culture from Jesus?  Here are a few for you to consider, I am sure there are more.

  1. The Christian message will still offend people today.  If we craft a version of Christianity that is politically correct and offends no one, then we are not preaching the true gospel of God.  The gospel, in its very nature, is offensive (1 Cor. 1, Gal. 1).
  2. We need to be willing to keep our distance from folks who claim they are offended.  We should try to work through the issue, but if they are not willing, then we need to let them alone.  We should practice the golden rule, always being kind and respectful, but we may be best served by ending the discussion and moving on to other works.
  3. Christians should not be in the business of trying to offend others.  We should try to adopt cultural norms that are acceptable standards of word and action when possible.  Our message and our leader cause the offense, it should not be our petty opinions that really don’t matter that cause them.  For example, we should adopt appropriate terms for races and ethnic groups, rather than persistently using older terms that are now considered offensive.

I hope this study has been a blessing as you try to navigate our overly-sensitive culture and one that is becoming more hostile to the Christian faith.

Permanent link to this article: http://www.joshketchum.com/how-jesus-handled-offending-others/

Sep 19

Jesus Cares When . . .

Love Message by Naama y.m. at freeimages.com

Hurricanes are destroying our cities!  Cancer is ruining our health and stressing our families.  Mental illness issues are plaguing our communities.  Churches are struggling with discord and division.  In the midst of these trials we must remember God invites us to cast all our care upon him because he cares for us (1 Pet. 5:7).

We need to be reminded that Jesus cares!  He is not unsympathetic to our plight and struggles.  He knows, loves, and cares.  In Luke chapter 7 we see Jesus interacting with humanity in four stories, each of which demonstrate how much Jesus cares.

1.  Jesus cares when sickness invades our homes (Luke 7:1-9).  A Centurion’s servant is sick and at the point of death.  He sends elders of the Jews to Jesus asking him to come and heal his servant.  Jesus responses to his request and admires his faith as he has great respect for Jesus’ power and authority.  The servant is healed!  Sickness can bring tremendous stress and anxiety upon us.  Jesus doesn’t want us to go through sickness alone.  He knows and cares for our pain.

2.  Jesus cares when death breaks our hearts (Luke 7:11-17).  In the next story Jesus enters the village of Nain.  He sees a widow who has lost her only son.  Jesus interrupts the funeral procession to bring the boy back to life.  Jesus’ heart went out to this widow.  He showed his love of her and his power over death.  Remember the shortest verse in the English Bible;  “Jesus wept” (John 11:35).  He wept out of compassion for humanity as we deal with death. Jesus cares when we lose our loved ones to death.

3.  Jesus cares when doubt clouds our minds (Luke 7:18-23).  The third story involves the famous preacher John the Baptist.  John was the forerunner for Jesus preparing people for his coming.  But he begins to doubt if his life mission has been correct.  He begins to doubt the Messiahship of Jesus.  He sends some of his disciples to ask Jesus if he is really the Christ. Jesus answers by pointing to his miraculous signs.  He then will compliment John as being “more than a prophet” and a great man.  Jesus didn’t belittle John’s doubt.  He gave him evidence.  Jesus cares when we struggle with doubt.  He offers us proof and encouragement to keep on keeping on!

4.  Jesus cares when sin overwhelms our lives (Luke 7:36-50).  The final story of Luke 7 involves a sinful woman who has been overwhelmed with love and gratitude for the forgiveness Christ offered her.  She comes while Jesus is eating a meal.  She washes his feet with her tears and hair, while anointing his feet.  Christ tells her she is forgiven.  He says she loved much, because she was forgiven much.  Jesus cares when sin ruins our lives.  When we feel  guilt-ridden and unworthy, Jesus cares.  He offers us grace, love, and forgiveness.

So whatever you are going through today, be reminded that Jesus cares.  This should give you hope, strength, and perseverance.

Permanent link to this article: http://www.joshketchum.com/jesus-cares-when/

Sep 09

Our Outdoor Sink

I enjoy cooking outside and have long wanted a sink to help in the preparation.  Also with four kids and all of our outdoor activities a fully-functioning sink would come in handy.  So while it never worked out in our old house, we planned to put one in our new house.  I planned it for the back porch right beside a smoker, grill, and two-burner outdoor gas cooker.  Amanda came up with the design idea of having it directly in line with the main kitchen sink.  So we can easily pass things through and talk as need be.  Also this worked out well with the plumbing.

Like a few other things this did not get done when we were building the house in 2015.  The plumber plumbed it with two outdoor water faucets and a drain.  It has stayed like that since 2015.  We just haven’t made the time to do the project.  Well we were able to tackle it over the last couple of weeks.  Thanks to a donated counter-top and sink from Wes and Ashley (Amanda’s sister) who took it out for their remodel, we saved a lot of money and had a ready to go sink and countertop.

Enjoy the pictures of this project as I take you through our building of it.

We started with a countertop!

We began by building the frame out of 2x4s.

Austin was my sidekick through the whole project. He was a great helper.

Caleb like to hammer!! He is pretty good for a 4 year old!

 

 

I bought the stainless-steel door back in 2015.

 

We covered it in 1/4 inch cement board.

We bought this weathered-barn wood plywood at Lowe’s.

 

We bought this faux stone back in 2014 before we ever started building the house on clearance at Lowe’s for this outdoor sink. We got it at 1/6th of the current price.

Austin loved laying the stones.

We used a glue to attach the stones to the        cement board.

 

I cut them on a wet saw.

Amanda was the chief designer and block-layer. She did great!  She also painted the inside wood grey.

The mostly finished product. I put on the faucet and plumbed the sink.  We have to buy a medal stool to complete it!

The top view!! I also made a cover for the sink with some extra countertop. This helps it not get as dirty and allows it to serve as a larger countertop.

 

 

We are proud of the way it turned out.  The stone looks great.  We love the Corian CounterTop and sink.  We are looking forward to using it for years to come.  I love it when a dream becomes a reality.  We dreamed about it and planned it for years and finally brought it into fruition.

Permanent link to this article: http://www.joshketchum.com/our-outdoor-sink/

Sep 06

Your Purpose Is Not About You!

Posse by Rubenshito at www.freeimages.com

You know the question!  You have asked it in various forms.  It goes like this:  What am I here for?  What is my purpose?

This is a good question.  Most all of us have asked this question.  We are exploring the purpose and meaning of our existence.  But let me suggest that this is not the best question.  This question focuses on ourself!  What am I here for?  What is my purpose?

When we come to understand purpose, we understand that purpose is a means to an end that is not ourself.  We want to be a part of something bigger and more important than our own self.  We want to be a difference-maker in a larger movement.  Ultimately, finding our purpose begins when we realize we must lose the focus on our own glory and become a servant to a larger cause.

People that spend their lives focused on their own pleasure, achievements, and glory end up lonely, bitter, and disillusioned.  This understanding of purpose fits in perfectly with Scripture.  Scripture teaches us that we are created in Christ Jesus for good works (Eph. 2:10).  We are to do good works so that the world will give glory, not to ourselves, but to our Father in heaven (Mat. 5:16).  The defining call of Christ to anyone who would follow after him is to deny themselves, take up His cross, and follow Him (Luke 9:23).  Christ wants us to take up his purpose as our own.

What this means is don’t spend all your time talking about how you want to change the world.  Don’t tie your purpose to getting the perfect job, inventing a new solution or medicine, or becoming rich and famous.  Instead focus on causes you are passionate about that are bigger than yourself.  You see a much better question than “What am I here for?” is “Who am I here for?”  When you realize that you are here for God and to serve your fellow man, than you find a passion and purpose that will make a difference in your life and in this world!

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Idea came from Andy Stanley Leadership Podcast – Sept. 2017

 

 

Permanent link to this article: http://www.joshketchum.com/your-purpose-is-not-about-you/

Aug 30

Speaking for Those Who Can Only Cry

Crying Baby at freeimages.com by Ariel Camilo

Abortion is not the only problem Christians should be speaking out against when it concerns the womb.  There is another epidemic increasing rapidly across our nation, that most Christians rarely encounter.  It is not as severe as abortion in numbers or consequences, but our faith should demand us speak to this issue of pre-natal development as well.

I am speaking about the rise in drug-addicted babies.  The problem is different today, than it was in the 80s with crack-babies.  Though we still have many babies affected by illegal drugs, there is also a tremendously alarming trend in babies born addicted to pain-killers.  The CDC released a report in August of 2016 that said, “the number of babies being born in the U.S. addicted to opioids has tripled in a 15 year stretch.”  Pain-killer addiction is a real problem for our culture.  But it affects an innocent life when expectant mothers remain addicted.

When a baby is born, they are shut-off from the drugs that their mother had been taking.  Their body goes through neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS).  They suffer from gastrointestinal dysfunction, temperature instability, and central nervous system problems, such as tremors, high-pitched crying, and seizures. In 2012, over 1.5 billion in charges were made for treatment of opioid withdrawal.

I have spoken to neo-natal nurses who share their eyewitness tails of watching newborn babies suffer.  Imagine a baby shivering and crying  out in a painful pitch!  The scene is unnerving and filled with sorrow and compassion.

God admonishes Christians to “Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves; ensure justice for those being crushed.” (Prov. 31:8 NLT).  We need to realize that the prescription drug epidemic in our country is not only affecting millions of adults but it is also affecting our next generation.  They begin life in pain with their health already jeopardized.  We need to encourage those who are struggling with an addiction to get help!  Those using prescription drugs should take care to protect their pills and properly dispose of them when no longer needed.  It is our responsibility as Christians to love the hurting and addicted of our present generation, but also to speak up for the oppressed and innocent who are suffering like these precious babies.

Let us pray and speak up for those who can only cry in pain!

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Source – https://www.statnews.com/2016/08/11/babies-opioids-addiction/

Permanent link to this article: http://www.joshketchum.com/speaking-for-those-who-can-only-cry/

Aug 23

You; a Pharisee? Surely Not!

copyrighted Photo – purchased from istock

Most Bible students are familiar with Jesus’ famous parable about the Pharisee and the tax collector who went up to the temple to pray (Luke 18:9-13).  We have read it and heard it preached many times.  Jesus gave the parable to those who “trusted in themselves” and “treated others with contempt” (Luke 18:9).  The Pharisee prayed in a showy manner.  He exalted himself listing his righteous and good deeds.  He thanked God he was not like the sinful tax collector.  It was a prayer of comparison!  He was far superior to the tax collector.  He did all these great deeds and didn’t do all those sinful things.

In stark contrast the tax collector was convicted and broken-hearted.  He was so humiliated before God he refused to lift his eyes upward and beat his breasts as a sign of grief.  He pleaded for the mercy of God because he was a sinner.

Familiar story; right?  You have heard it before and know the main thrust is for sinners to come to God humbly and surrendering their pride in open sorrow and conviction.  So it isn’t really about you?  Well, let me ask you which person in the parable are you more like?  Are you more like the tax collector who has a long history of extortion, greed, and selfishness?  Or are you more like the Pharisee?  Remember the Pharisees were the religious elite of the day.  They took the law of God seriously, so serious in fact they made up a whole bunch of rules to ensure they didn’t even come close to breaking any of God’s rules.  They went to “church” every time the doors were opened. They fasted regularly.  They paid their tithes.  They debated and discussed the Scriptures.  Hummm . . . Which one are you more like?  I am just going to guess here and say if you have stayed with a preacher this long reading an article  about the Bible, then you are probably closer to the Pharisee.

I don’t mean to offend you, but help you realize that this parable is to you!  Most Christians are more similar to the Pharisee than the tax collector.  What this means is we have to heed Jesus’ parable!  We must be aware of the temptation to compare ourselves with others who are living sinful lives.  We can easily uplift ourselves in prayer and view others with contempt.  We may even act to God like we deserve this request we are making in prayer.  We may get angry when God doesn’t answer like we feel he should.  After all, doesn’t God know who we are!

Let’s hear Jesus’ closing line with an understanding that it is given to help us avoid this sin, “For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted” (Luke 18:13).  There should never be a place for pride or contempt of others in our prayers!

Permanent link to this article: http://www.joshketchum.com/you-a-pharisee-surely-not/

Aug 21

The End of Total Solar Eclipses!

by evgenij kursai at free images.com

Today is the day of first Total Eclipse to travel the length of the United States since 1918.  Eclipses where you live are rare events.  Researches who have studied the orbits of the earth and moon believe the moon is moving 3.8 centimeters away from the earth each year. The effect of such movement means that over time the moon will get farther from earth so that it will not create a total eclipse anywhere on earth.  So enjoy the total eclipse now, because they won’t happen forever. “When will this happen?,” you ask.  Scientists estimate this will not occur until 650 million years from now.  So I don’t think you have anything to worry about!

You may be thinking, “This is really, pointless and trivial knowledge.”  And I agree, with the exception that I want to make a spiritual point to your life with this knowledge.  What did you think when you read 650 million years.  That number seems unfathomable.  You probably thought the world will not even be in existence that long from now.  You likely just dismissed it because there is no way it has any relevance to your life now.  But here is the thing–you will be around 650 million years from now.  You likely won’t care much about solar eclipses.  You will be in eternity.  Abiding with God or cast from his presence.  And while that number seems unfathomable and super far away, in the spectrum of eternity, it is still short!

When you really stop and consider it, you realize the import of the short time you spend on earth.  It determines your eternal destiny!  Enjoy the eclipse today!

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Source –

https://eclipse2017.nasa.gov/what’s-very-last-solar-eclipse

 

Permanent link to this article: http://www.joshketchum.com/the-end-of-total-solar-eclipses/

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