Nov 26

Happy Thanksgiving

My blog has taken a back seat to our new house.  We are working hard to get it finished.  We are feeling the pressure with a December 12th move-in date.  We are currently laying floors and painting the bonus room.  I will update you with recent pictures of the family and the house in the future.

I hope you have a wonderful thanksgiving.

Two thoughts I leave with you this year:

  1.  Thanks for reading my posts throughout the year and all you do for me and my family.
  2. This year, focus on all of the abundant spiritual blessings you have in Christ.  Just consider how much more blessed you are in Christ than those who only enumerate physical blessings.  In the end, the spiritual blessings are what really matter!

Have a great one and stop on by and help me lay some floor this weekend if you are really bored!

family EAster

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Nov 18

Being Convicted Doesn’t Make You Judgmental

There is a great lack of strong convictions in the church today.  Many Christians don’t know what they believe on core issues of doctrine.  They have been convinced that they should believe a certain way, but they are not convicted.  Convictions are something that are stood for in the face of opposition.  They are held despite sacrifices.  Convictions are matters of faith.  We hold them as a matter of duty and loyalty to our God.

We need convictions!

It seems that many have moved away from strong convictions, because our culture esteems tolerance and abhors judgmental attitudes.  Having convictions has become uncommon, because it is connected with a judgmental and condemning attitude.  

This is a shame!  Holding convictions doesn’t make one judgmental and intolerant.  Jesus held strong convictions, just read his teachings in the Sermon on the Mount or look at the dialogue between him and the Jews.  But he wasn’t judgmental.  Paul lived out strong convictions and taught convictions to his congregations, but he wasn’t judgmental.

We need Christians today who will know and stand for their convictions, rather than melt under the world’s pressure. The world doesn’t need Christians who don’t know what they believe and think it really doesn’t matter what you believe.  The Lord needs Christians who are convicted they are saved by the blood of Jesus and others are lost to hell without God’s truth.  Convictions are held before God and are shared with others in love.

Let’s be more than convinced, let’s be convicted!

I am reminded of the story of the famed atheist going to hear the preacher.  He was asked why he was gong, because he didn’t believe his message.  He remarked, I don’t, but he sure does!  This is what we need to present to the world today.


You can listen to my sermon on this topic in the Audio Resources.

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Nov 12

Can I Get a Witness?


Bible in pew - by sraburton[This was an article I wrote for Think Magazine in a recent issue that focused on Christians and persecution.]

For years the book of Revelation has been a hotly debated book.  Many churches neglect to study it because of its perceived and real challenges.  My belief is that Revelation will become increasingly relevant and popular again as Christians face persecution.  You see Revelation is not meant to be debated in comfy church buildings, but it is a call to faith in the midst of suffering and persecution.  The more God’s people become a victimized and marginalized people, the more hope and power Revelation will have for the church!

The book was written to Christians who were living under the vast propaganda of Rome.  Everything was calculated for a response of loyalty and submission to Rome and her pagan idols.  The book is saying, “Don’t believe what you see!”  God is on the true throne, not Caesar (Rev. 4-5).  The Christian’s challenge is to see the world as God sees it.  John seeks to open his readers’ eyes to the true spiritual reality.  God is in control and the Lamb will be victorious.

But what are Christians to do in the meantime? How are they to respond to the social injustices and physical persecutions?  One of the  simple answers in the book is to be a “witness.”  There are three greek words that lay behind this concept in Revelation.  They are “martus” the noun form which refers to the one who bears witness.  These have the responsibility of bearing a divine message or testimony.  In the persecuted church, they become martyrs or ones who witness unto death.  The second word is the verb form “martureo” and means to witness or bear testimony.  The third form found is the noun “marturia” which refers to the testimony, proof, or spoken statement.  These words form an important concept of what Christians are called to be in this world of darkness.  Christians are to bear a witness of Jesus.  We are to call forth his testimony and message.  We are to be truth-tellers in a world of lies and false teaching. 

This powerful concept is prevalent throughout the book.  Revelation begins by describing John as a witness to the “testimony of Jesus Christ” (Rev. 1:2).  Jesus is the “faithful witness” who lived out his testimony on earth and now calls us to be His witness on earth since he has returned to heaven (1:5, 3:14).  Antipas was a “faithful witness” or “martyr” of Jesus who was killed in Pergamum.  The souls under the altar who cry forth for justice were slain for “the word of God and for the witness they had borne” (6:9, 20:4).  The two witnesses who come in the power of Elijah and Moses are slain for their testimony.  Though the evil world rejoices at their death, God exalts them in resurrection and victory (11:1-13).  Christians are called to conquer by the “word of their testimony” (12:11).  The harlot is described as drunk on “the blood of the martyrs of Jesus” (17:6).  The angel instructs John and his fellow brothers to “hold to the testimony of Jesus.” (19:10).

Chapter 11 is an important chapter in the interpretation of the book, though one of difficulty, it seems this chapter is best understood by focusing on the concept of being a witness.  It describes two witnesses who come in the likeness of Moses and Elijah pronouncing the testimony of the Lord (v. 4-6). They possess great power and the reader is anticipating a wonderful victory, but the text extinguishes such hope as the beast makes war on them, conquers them, and kills them.  Their bodies lay exposed in the wicked cities of men and earth’s evil inhabitants rejoice over them and make merry, even exchanging presents because these witnesses had been a torment to them (7-10).

John’s vision captures the way persecution looks from earth.  Truth-tellers who stand up for the Word of the Lord become victims, they are oppressed and even slain.  The multitudes rejoice, and it seems their testimony was in vain.  But the vision doesn’t end there!  The breath of life from God enters them and they hear a great voice saying, “Come up here!”  They go up to heaven in a cloud and their enemies watch them!  These witnesses are resurrected and enter the glory of heaven with the Lord.  “The point is not that the beast and the Christians each win some victories; rather, the same event – the martyrdom of Christians – is described both as the beast’s victory over them and as their victory over the beast” (Bauckham).   From the heavenly perspective, things look quite differently, the martyrs are the real victors.  “To be faithful in witness to the true God even to the point of death is not to become a victim of the beast, but to take the field against him and win” (Bauckham).  The beast’s apparent victory is not so, but in truth God’s real victory as the truth of God is witnessed to in the dark world.

Throughout the book, the Lord Jesus is encouraging his followers to bear witness to the truth of the Gospel message through their suffering and martyrdom.  Christians stand, like Moses and Elijah who confronted the pagan idolatry and political corruption of their world, as the prophetic witness of God in today’s dark world.  The role of witnesses is to bring the nations to faith in Christ through their testimony of Jesus (Rev. 12:11).  This torments the dwellers of earth and puts truth-tellers in opposition to the majority.  Thus, the message of Revelation is to conquer, not through military might or political power, but to conquer as Jesus conquered, as a lamb who died.  John envisions each Christian being a willing martyr and witness to the truth.  This is how Jesus won, by telling truth and dying in submission to God.  It is how his army wins, through witnessing and death.

Consider this thought:  Satan’s greatest threat is persecution and death, but the Christian’s greatest victory is martyrdom.  Who holds the trump card?  You see a Christian’s aim should be to bear witness to the glory, truth, and love of God.  When we willingly die, or suffer hardships,  because of that witness, it simply strengthens that testimony.  As Tertullian, the second century church father said, “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church.”  The more Satan killed, the more folks wanted what the Christians had!

It is no wonder we get our english word “martyr” from the greek word “martus” used throughout Revelation either translated as “witness” or “martyr” depending on the context.  To be witness for God in this world truly should mean being willing to die for that testimony!     

As we face increased persecution, marginalization, and ostracization from society as Christians, let’s remember our role.  Our role is to be a witness.  We must hear the Lord of all the earth, as he looks upon the rampant wickedness and decay of our world asking, “Can I get a witness?”  Who will be a truth-teller regardless of the repercussions it brings?  This is what God desires.  This is how we win!  This is what we are called to be; nothing more, nothing less!  We are called to be witnesses.  To point people to Jesus and His truth.  The church is to be the pillar and ground of truth in a world of lies and deception.  As persecution comes, remember to view the world from a heavenly perspective, not listening to all of the world’s propaganda, but being a truth-teller—a witness to God in this world!  


Bauckham, Richard, The Theology of the Book of Revelation.,  Cambridge Univ. Press, Cambridge, UK.  1993 Kindle Edition

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Nov 11

My Favorite Military Books

Today is Veteran’s day and I wanted to share some of my favorite military books.  I don’t read as much as I used too with my busy schedule now, but these are some of my favorites over the years.  They are in no particular order.  But I hope they may help you fill out your reading list if you are looking for something this holiday season.

  1.  Flags of our Fathers – This is an incredible story made into a movie about the famous flag raising photo of Iwo Jima.  The background story of the men is fascinating.
  2. I have long enjoyed Stephen Ambrose books.  Some of my favorites are:
    1. D-Day
    2. Band of Brothers
    3. Citizen Soldiers
    4. The Wild Blue:The Men and Boys who Flew the B-24s over Germany
  3. Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee – This is a long book, not sure I read it all, but it is an eye opening account about the American Indians in the West.  It is a very sad and touching story.
  4. Team of Rivals:  The Political Genuis of Abraham Lincoln by Doris Goodwin
  5. Unbroken – The subject of a recent movie, this is one incredible book and story.  By Laura Hillenbrand
  6. 1776 by David McCullough
  7. The Killing of Patton – by Bill O’Reilly and Martin Dugard
  8. The Killing of Lincoln – by Bill O’Reilly and Martin Dugard
  9. Tenko!  Ranged Jail by John Boyd with Gary Garth – This book may be tough to get a copy of if you are not located near the Mayfield, KY area.  This was a locally published book by one of the former elders of the congregation I serve.  He recounts his story as a POW in a Japanese prison camp.  It is special in many ways to me, as I knew him personally and preached his funeral.
  10. George Washington by Paul Johnson – A short, but good account of George Washington.
  11. His Excellency:  George Washington by Joseph Ellis
  12. Tiger Force:  A True Story of Men and War – by Michael Sallah and Mitch Weiss – Vietnam war era book.

I believe that reading that choosing to read one of these  books this Veteran’s day will help you have a greater appreciation of our freedoms and the soldiers who have made them possible.

What books would you recommend?

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Nov 03

The Story of How God Blessed Us to Pay Off a $338,000 Debt in One Week!!

me and don with check

Me and Don Spark (an elder) after having picked the check up from the bank.

“Nothing really happens until God’s people step out in faith.”

I preach this message regularly to the 7 Oaks Church of Christ congregation, but this past Sunday I had a powerful illustration behind it!

Let me tell you a little background information so you can understand the power of this story in seeing God work.  Back in 2014, we added a 4000+ square feet educational annex.  Involved in this building project were also the addition of two new canopies, LED parking lot lights, and other minor improvements.  The total cost of these projects were around $600,000.  We had reduced the debt on this project to $338,537.97.  These debts were costing us about $1,000 per month in interest alone.  The church was paying for these debts through quarterly 5th Sunday contributions which were typically between $17,000 – $20,000.

But this past week we were shocked and thrilled to learn we were named as the sole beneficiary of a trust.  When we found out the amount of money, we were fully convinced in the providence of God.  We received a gift from the trust of $367,000.  We are able to completely retire our debt.  No more interest will have to be paid, freeing us up to invest in more missions and ministries.  The project that was begun in 2014 is paid for in 2015.  We never would have thought it possible.

The story behind this gift is even more remarkable.  You see the lady who bequeathed this money was not a member at our congregation and died back in 1998.  She spent most of her life in another state.  She was a dedicated Christian lady, who chose to bless the Lord’s church.  Her half-sister had been a longtime member at 7 Oaks.  This lady named Elizabeth Allene Morris had established this trust in 1993.  She established the trust so that her sister would be provided for from the trust as long as she lived.  Her sister passed this past September.  7 Oaks was the sole beneficiary for the remaining trust value.  We had no idea.  Most of our church family do not know either of the ladies involved as the sister who was a member had moved off years ago to be cared for by family.  Mrs. Morris is an example of someone who understood the big story of this life is God.  We are all just supporting actors playing our part in the grand story of God.  Most of us will likely be forgotten in a number or years too, but we should invest and honor the eternal causes that will go on for eternity.

While there are so many thoughts related to this story, one of my favorite is how it illustrates that God’s shovel is always bigger than our shovel!  It reminded me of Jesus’ words, “give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap”  (Luke 6:38).  God gave to us abundantly and it ran over, even providing a little extra!

***To listen to this past Sunday’s sermon where I celebrate and reflect upon this gift go to the Audio Resources.  It is titled “Celebration and Reflection on Paying Off the Church Building”

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Nov 01

What the World Will Not Teach Your Children

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**For an audio sermon on this topic preached on November 1, 2015 see the Audio Resources page.

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Oct 28

God is Not To Be Used, But Served!

First Samuel chapters 4-6 tell the story of the Ark of God getting passed around from group to group all in an attempt to use God for their personal benefit.  First, Israel brings the Ark out for a battle against the Philistines.  They lose because of their wickedness and the ark is stolen.  The Philistines value the ark.  They at first place the ark in their pagan temple, but God destroys their idol.  So they begin to pass the ark through a series of 5 cities.  They didn’t want to just send it back, apparently believing it had power.  But God kept bringing plagues on the city that had the ark involving mice and tumors.  So they would soon pass the ark on to get rid of the plagues.  After much ado they send it back to Israel.

As I read and taught this story in our Bible class, it occurred to me that these ancient people were only about trying to use God for their own blessings.  Even when God brought tribulations upon them, they did not turn to him, they just wanted to get the ark gone so they could go back to their normal lives.  Isn’t that how it is today with many people?  They are focused on what they can get from God.  They desire to turn to him when they need him, often only in an attempt to get deliverance or relief from their pinch.  Man is in no position to use and manipulate God!  Man is the created who need a Savior!.  Our job is to serve and honor Him.

The question for each of us today:  Am I serving God for who He is, or for what I can get from Him?

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Oct 25

Caleb and Landon Lead Singing at Church

Some of our young men lead worship last night at Seven Oaks Church of Christ. While they all did a wonderful job, I wanted to share Caleb and Landon’s video.  Austin did a great job on his lesson, which I may get loaded to Youtube later.

If you want a smile and encouragement, then watch this short video.


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Oct 23

What My Sunday Night Survey Revealed

surveysaysLast week I offered a survey on this site regarding Sunday night.  I also asked members of Seven Oaks to fill it out.  I thought you might enjoy learning about the results and my observations.  There were 93 respondents and I appreciate each who took the survey.




The Results:

  1.  Which of the following best describes where you are, or what you are doing, when you are NOT in worship on Sunday evening?
    • 11 – Working – 12.1%
    • 21 – Spending Time with Family – 23.1%
    • 2 – Doing house chores – 2 – 2.2%
    • 0 – Watching TV and Sports – 0%
    • 1 – Enjoying a favorite hobby or recreation – 1.1%
    • 8 – Getting ready for the week – 8.8%
    • 34 – I am always in worship, so I don’t know – 37.4%
    • 14 – Other – 15.4%
  2. Which of the following would motivate or encourage you to regularly attend a church even on a Sunday evening?
    • 14 – Classes for children 4th grade and below – 18.2%
    • 20 – Bible class format on Sunday evening – 26%
    • 22 – An organized small group ministry in people’s homes – 28.6%
    • 28 – Fellowship meals and activities – 36.4%
    • 11 – Youth training program at the same time as worship – 14.3%
    • 41 – Special sermon series on topics you are interested in – 53.2%
    • 15 – Community Service projects – 19.5%
    • 7 – Other – 9.1%
  3. Do you wish your congregation would have a longer morning worship period with Bible classes, prayer time, and worship in place of the traditional Sunday night worship?
    • 20 – Yes – 22.2%
    • 44 – No – 48.9%
    • 20 – Not Sure – 22.2%
    • 6 – Other – 6.7%
  4. Do you believe you have a stronger spiritual and congregational life if you attended Sunday night church activities?
    • 58 – Yes – 69%
    • 15 – No – 17.9%
    • 7 – Not sure – 8.3%
    • 4 – Other – 4.8%


  • The last question allowed open responses.  I received a good number of statements, that could be put into a few categories: 1) Some commented in support of the difference small groups made for them in building close relationships.  2)  Some spoke of the importance of Sunday night and how Christians serious about growing their faith would be present.  3)  Some discussed their congregations struggles with this issue and spoke of considering various options from the longer Sunday morning to monthly Sunday night services.  4) A couple commented about how churches have emphasized Sunday morning over Sunday evening traditionally.
  • Most folks who do not attend on Sunday evening do not see the benefit it in to their spiritual and congregational life.  If you take out the 34 who always attend worship, then only 24 respondents said they believe attendance would give a stronger congregational and spiritual life.  From the comments and the responses to question 1 it is obvious that people feel spending time with family or having free time for themselves is more important.
  • I was most surprised that “special sermon series” had the highest results in what would encourage or motivate your attendance.  I don’t mean to doubt respondents, but I just haven’t seen that to be true.  Maybe it is my preaching or my topics, but I have seen very little difference related to topics I preach on getting folks back.  This even goes for special speakers.  I have tried contemporary concerns, family lessons, textual studies, and overall they don’t make much difference.  All you hear is, “that was a good sermon, you should have preached it on Sunday morning!”
  • The survey also shows the high desire people have for relationships.  The fellowship meals and small groups were both really high in what people desire.  We started a monthly family fellowship at 7 Oaks where I preach on family the 4th Sunday night and we have a fellowship meal together.  This has grown in popularity and involvement through the year.  But I don’t see any statistical attendance difference in it and our regular Sunday night in terms of worship attendance.
  • My final observation is that churches are going to be struggling with this issue for years to come.  There is a recognition that we need more Bible study and worship time, but we also are living in a world that is so busy that people are often not willing to attend.  Churches must strive to find their relevance and the best means to impact and serve future generations.  The traditional Sunday night service has served, and continues in many ways to serve, a great function in the church; but churches must always be exploring how to make it impactful or be wiling to change to something else that could do more good.

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Oct 20

A Modern Day Daniel

Coach Kennedy

Coach Kennedy

Have you heard about Joe Kennedy; the assistant football coach for Bremerton High in Washington?  He has had a long-standing practice of going to the 50-yard line after a game and having a prayer.  He does this personally and silently.  He doesn’t require his players to attend, but has simply gone to the middle of the field, bowed on one knee and prayed.

The school board believes this to be an unconstitutional act.  They have given a directive to him to not pray, believing this is a public display of faith violating the separation of church and state.  He was also forbade from mentioning anything religious to the team, kneeling, or bowing his head.  This new directive was put to the test this past Friday night at their homecoming game.  At the close of the game, he went to the 50- yard line and kneeled in silent prayer.  Many of the opposing team players witnessed his actions and chose to join him in prayer.  The school board has since said they are in negotiation with him regarding the issue and his employment status is unchanged.

This story provoked a few thoughts in my mind I wanted to share.

  • I believe our founding Fathers would be traumatized to realize that the principles they established in the constitution are being used to forbid individual silent prayer by a citizen just because he is an employee of a public school.  He is not forcing his beliefs down anyone’s throats, he is simply going and having a prayer at the close of the game.
  • Are we really here in our nation?  I knew we had these issues with not leading prayer or having public prayer at football games, but can a coach not even kneel and pray silently anymore?  Don’t we have bigger issues to deal with regarding our kids and their education than the “supposed” damage that might occur if they saw a coach practicing his faith and living by conviction?  I don’t even understand the liberal mindset on this of pushing against it.  It must come down to the school board fearing they will get sued and cost them lots of money because an employee displayed faith!
  • My sarcastic side thought, “we sure wouldn’t want a public display of faith!”  That would ruin our country and all those people leaving in the stands to see a man kneeling at the center of the field.   Really!?  What are the secularist so afraid of when it comes to faith?
  • This man reminds me of Daniel in the Old Testament.  I don’t know anymore about him than this story, but he was told not to pray.  It was his custom and habit for years of doing this, so he continued to do it!  When you study Daniel, we ask why didn’t he just pray in secret.  Why did he go to the open window and bow towards Jerusalem?  Because it was his custom!  He would not deviate from his practice, as it would be a compromise of his principles and devotion to God (Daniel 6).  Coach Kennedy would not deviate from his custom either.  He was bold in his faith and an inspiration for the rest of us!

What are your thoughts and reactions to this story?

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