Mar 27

Accepting Love and Saying No More

Samaritan by andyreis at freeimage.com

Samaritan by andyreis at freeimage.com

Good people don’t want to be a burden.  They don’t want to “put other folks out.”  

This is why . . .

Aging parents have trouble allowing their children to do more for them.

The cancer patient struggles to allow church members to come clean her house, because she knows the ladies are busy.

The elder doesn’t want to have a celebration meal and service of recognition for his 30+ years of service when he is stepping down from that role.

The single mother doesn’t want to depend upon grandmother, but she doesn’t know where else to turn.

A co-worker who doesn’t want to go home and rest allowing the  others to pull her slack while she has pneumonia.

Each of these scenarios, and the ones you just thought of in your mind, all struggle with accepting the love and service of others.  I want to suggest that it is right for us to carry our own load. Because many in the world do not carry their own load, those who do, struggle with the reverse–letting others share in their burden.  

When we have no other way, we will finally allow help, but then we talk the whole time about not wanting it or trying to get them to do less.

There is a line from Ruth that is helpful on this topic.  Naomi, Ruth’s mother-in-law, is returning back to her homeland of Israel after the passing of her husband and two sons.  She encourages her daughter-in-laws to remain in their homeland of Moab.  But Ruth makes that great pledge of allegiance to her that we often quote in weddings saying committing to be with her till death (Ruth 1:16-17).  We all know this part of the book, but do we equally know Naomi’s behavior in the next verse?  The Bible says, “when Naomi saw that she was determined to go with her, she said no more” (v. 18).

Naomi relented and accepted Ruth’s love and commitment.  She didn’t constantly badger her to return.  She didn’t wake up everyday feeling like a burden that didn’t deserve such love.  She accepted Ruth’s love and they embarked on the challenge of survival together.  

Sometimes, when others are determined to love and serve us we need to “say no more.”  This will bring so much more joy into the relationship.  It will allow the caregiver to serve with joy and feeling like their service is welcome and appreciated.  It will allow the receiver to move on and take security in the love and service of the other.

Truthfully, sometimes it is easier to give love than accept love.  “Saying no more” is a tough challenge.  But you rob the person of a blessing of being able to love you, when you constantly try to get them to stop doing what they want to do.  Consider how you like being treated when you try to carry someone else’s burden.  So take a lesson from Naomi and “say no more.”

Permanent link to this article: http://www.joshketchum.com/accepting-love-and-saying-no-more/

Mar 24

Unlocking Your Own Jail Cell

http://www.sonyclassics.com/getlow

http://www.sonyclassics.com/getlow

We watch very few movies, because we never take enough time to watch a whole movie.  But we finished an interesting movie the other day called “Get Low.” with Robert Duvall and Bill Murray.  It took us three sittings to finish it, but I enjoyed the show; Amanda not as much, though she picked it.

The movie is about a man who wants to have a public funeral for himself while he is still alive.  He is known as a hermit and is constantly on the rumor mill.  He has lived alone with little contact for some 40 years.  As the show progresses it becomes clear that he is hiding some deep secrets that have created his behavior.  The live funeral turns out to be an attempt to set the record straight, and ultimately find some healing for himself.

He was guilty of an affair with a married woman years ago that lead to the death of her and her husband in a tragic fire.  When the funeral begins and he makes his climatic speech here are some of the key lines which I wanted to share.

“I built my own jail and stayed in it for 40 years.”

“There’s alive and there’s dead and there’s a worse place in between them.”

“I did something I was ashamed of, something I could never fix . . . but I didn’t want forgiveness.  I needed to hold on to what I did, to be sick from it every day of my life.”

I bring up this movie and these memorable lines because they capture many guilt ridden individuals.  They live in the words of Paul like a “wretched man” because of their guilt.  This is why we need forgiveness (Rom. 8:1).  This is why forgiveness is beautiful (Psalm 32).  Yet, we often can nurse our guilt and receive some twisted satisfaction in punishing ourselves.  In the movie, a preacher tried to get him to confess the sin and find healing in Jesus, but he had refused for years.  He would not allow himself to receive and have forgiveness.

We must realize the truth of God’s grace that we don’t deserve forgiveness, but we receive it as a gift.

The jail is really self-built.  We own the key to the jail!  We can unlock the door and walk out anytime we choose.  But we have to surrender our pride and accept the blood of Christ.  We have to accept the forgiveness of others.  We have to let the past go.

Don’t build your own jail and stay it in for 40 years!  Christ came to free us (John 8:31-38). 

Permanent link to this article: http://www.joshketchum.com/unlocking-your-own-jail-cell/

Mar 22

The Lies We Tell Ourselves When We Cheat on God

lies when we cheat on God.001Are you cheating on God?  

What I am asking is:  Are you giving him the loyalty, devotion, and service He deserves?

People in Malachi were cheating God (1:6-14; 3:8-10).  The Laodiceans were cheating God by being lukewarm in their faith (Rev. 3:15-21).  The rich young ruler was cheating God with his money (Mat. 19:19-22).

You can cheat God with your church attendance, contribution, commitments, service to others, and work for the church.  

Now, we typically know when we are cheating God.  A little voice in our conscience keeps bothering us saying we are cheating God, but we tell ourselves some lies that salve our conscience.

What are the lies we tell ourselves when we are cheating on God?

  • We think feelings are what really matter.  If I asked you who is most important in your life, you would say God.  If I said, “Do you love Jesus?”  You would reply with a strong “yes!”  But is that what your life says.  What would those closest to you say is your your top priority?  We judge our loyalties by how we feel, but it is not often an accurate assessment.  The rich young ruler had strong feelings for God, but his actions were sorely lacking.  This is James emphasis in 2:14-26 when he teaches that “faith without works is dead.”
  • We think He understands and His grace and mercy will cover us.  We rationalize that God understands why we are not prioritizing him at this time in our life.  He knows we have to dedicate so much to work and career.  He knows we have small kids, and they zap our energy and require us to be at sporting events all the time.  We believe we can’t serve or give like we should because of some reason, and God will understand this reason.  The problem with this thinking is that it is really a lack of dependence upon God.  It is a failure to realize that life would go so much better and smoother if he was the top priority and a part of everything we do.  Yes, we must depend upon the grace and mercy of God to cover us, but let’s not abuse the grace of God by continuing in sin (Rom. 6:1-3).
  • We think other things are more pressing and urgent.  Maybe the biggest self-deception concerns the dedication to the urgent rather than the important.  God is treated like a spare tire, we want him there when we need him, but aren’t willing to invest very much in a daily relationship with him.  We allow the urgent to replace the important, so we don’t read our Bible, seldom pray, and skip church, but we have time for the cars to be washed, the house to be cleaned, and the ballgame to be watched.  God gets cheated because he is the last on our list and is not nearly as demanding in our ears as our spouse, kids, boss, and tv set!

I need a regular reminder of this lesson.  I don’t want to cheat God.

Be honest, if you are cheating God, you need to honestly realize you are putting ____________ in front of him and quite believing the lies.

———————————-

These thoughts came from a lesson in the series Choosing to Cheat and were inspired by the book of Andy Stanley; When Work and Family Collide

Permanent link to this article: http://www.joshketchum.com/the-lies-we-tell-ourselves-when-we-cheat-on-god/

Mar 18

An Easy Way to Do Family Devos

We know what it is to have a busy schedule and how it is tough to find time for family devotionals.  We don’t do something everyday, but we try to have a short devotional the majority of nights before the kids go to bed.  We have been using a product that helps us make it easy and short.  Let’s be honest, you don’t have a lot of energy for a long devotional or one that requires a lot of thought after a long day and everyone is tired.  This product works great for a daily devotional for families.  This devotional style is geared for families with young children (6th grade and below). 

Here is the product:

Bible bookmarks

http://shop.ethought.com/daily-bible-reading-program-for-children-pack-of-52-cards-one-for-each-week/

These cards have a simple and important Bible truth and give you seven scriptures to read that teach the truth.  Since we don’t do every night, we will often read two or three passages in a night, sometimes only one.  The bookmark gives you a topic and then we as parents can add to it if we want or let the kids ask questions.  We then have a song and prayer.  When doing these cards our devos usually take five minutes.

I haven’t gone through all 52 cards so I am not going to say there are no doctrinal errors in the product, but we haven’t run into any yet.  For the most part it is basic, simple things that children need to know.  They emphasize God’s love, the church, and Jesus.

This website “e-thought.com” has some other similar bookmark products that may also be useful for your family.

I hope this product will help your family have a period of devotional and reinforce some important Bible lessons to your children at home.  I know they have occasionally run specials or coupon discounts for these products, because Amanda received these through a promotional offer.

Do you have any products you would suggest to help with family devos?

Permanent link to this article: http://www.joshketchum.com/an-easy-way-to-do-family-devos/

Mar 15

Is Sunday Still Special?

Picture from freeimages.com; flip calendar 1

Picture from freeimages.com; flip calendar 1

Sunday!

How is it viewed in our culture today?

  • The day for football! (NFL season)
  • The day of rest (stay home and relax)
  • The day for TV watching
  • The day for doing home chores
  • The day for youth sports
  • The day for recreation and hobbies

What about the day for worship and service to Christ and His church?

Sunday should be different for our culture and especially for Christian families.  It is the “Lord’s day.”

Sunday is special because:

  • The Lord was resurrected on Sunday (Mat. 28:1-10; Mark 16:1-10)
  • The church was established on a Sunday (The day of Pentecost) (Acts 2).
  • The early church assembled as a body to worship and partake n communion on Sunday (1 Cor. 16:1-2; Acts 20:7)
  • John was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day (Rev. 1:10).  

Sunday should be special for Christians today! 

  • It is His day.  Not just His morning!  Sunday is about the Lord and His church.  Christians should care about the activities of the church throughout the day.  Whether it is service projects, youth devotionals, showers, Bible classes, or evening worship, Sunday is about the church!  Sunday is special and the day should be consecrated for the Lord.
  • It is a family day.  Sunday should be different for your family!  You should be out of your normal routine.  Rest, refresh, worship, enjoy a Sunday noon family meal, and cherish family time.
  • It is a day of fellowship with brethren.  Sunday is a day of focus upon Christian brethren.  Christians should prioritize fellowship.  The Lord’s day gives an opportunity to visit brethren in the hospital, shut-in at home, or weak in the faith.  Sunday is a day for involvement in fellowship activities.  Some want to say you don’t need the church, you can stay home and enjoy a relaxed morning or rest, maybe read a little scripture or watch a TV evangelist.  This temptation is wholly unbiblical and counter to the instructions of the NT to gather for worship and have involvement with brethren in the body of Christ (Heb. 10:24-25).
  • It is a day of being counter-cultural.  The culture says for us to use Sunday in a selfish way for entertainment, but Christians see it as the highlight of their week that prepares them for faithfulness in the new week.

What about your family?  Is Sunday special to you?  Let’s do our part to keep Sunday special and not give into the worldly culture which wants to diminish Sunday as the “Lord’s day.”  

Permanent link to this article: http://www.joshketchum.com/is-sunday-still-special/

Mar 13

Is Baptism Unnecessary Because We are Not Saved by Works?

Made through Haiku Deck

Made through Haiku Deck

I am teaching through the book of Galatians on Sunday evenings (see the Audio Resources to listen to the sermons).  The series is entitled “Salvation by Faith.”  Paul in the book of Galatians is combating Judaizing teachers who have come into the church leading the Gentile Christians away from the truth by binding the works of the Old Law as necessary for salvation.  Paul will not stand for such (Gal. 2:15-21).

Paul teaches in Galatians, as well as in a fuller treatment of salvation in Romans, that we are saved by the grace of God through faith in Christ.  We cannot depend upon works of human effort to earn our salvation, but must depend upon the works of Christ in paying for our sins (Romans 3 – 5).  Paul’s teachings that we are not saved by works has lead many to argue that baptism is not a necessary act of obedience for our salvation.  While I agree with these individuals in their assessment that we are not saved by works of human merit (Eph. 2:8-9; Titus 3:5), I wholly disagree with them assigning baptism as an act of human effort attempting to gain salvation through works.

Baptism is an act of obedience commanded by God which is a response of our faith in Christ.²  Like faith, repentance, and confession, baptism is an act of faith responding to the commands of God. Baptism is not a work of self-accomplishment.  Baptism is similar to the children of Israel walking around the city of Jericho to conquer the city or Naaman dipping in the river Jordan to be cleansed of leprosy¹.  Baptism is a response of faith, and an act of obedience, based upon what God has promised to do when we obey.

Paul, who is the foremost Apostle teaching salvation by faith and not by works of the law, clearly taught the essentiality of baptism.  Notice these four passages:

  • Galatians 3:26-27 – In the book of Galatians dedicated to teaching against salvation through works of human merit, Paul connects baptism with them being “sons of God through faith, for as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.”  When speaking of when they became Christians and sons of God through faith Paul takes them back to their baptism as their beginning point in Christ.
  • Romans 6:1-7 – Paul has laid forth the glorious gospel in the book of Romans explaining how we are justified through Christ.  But when he addresses the issue of continuing in sin so that grace may abound, Paul reminds them of their baptism as the time when they were united with the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus.  It was at their baptisms when their old man of sin died through the death of Christ and they were united to walk in newness of life through the power of the resurrection.
  • Colossians 2:11-14 – Paul is speaking about Christ fulfilling the Old Law covenant and Christians being forgiven of past trespasses through the circumcision made without hands (baptism).  Paul in speaking of their baptism says this important line, “having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead.”  Notice who Paul said does the working at baptism–God!  At baptism a repentant believer simply trusts in the powerful working of God to wash away his/her sins through the blood of Christ.
  • Titus 3:4–6 – Paul once again is teaching against salvation by human law-keeping and simply good works.  You can’t be good enough for your own salvation!  In this context about the grace of God and our salvation, Paul as he so often does alludes once again to our baptism {called the “washing of regeneration”) in this text.

So I am simply encouraging Bible students to be consistent in their application of Paul’s writings.  Yes he teaches salvation is not by works of merit, but he doesn’t include baptism as a part of those self-accomplishing works.  Baptism is an act of faith and obedience done not to earn salvation, but to receive the grace of God through faith in Christ.  In is necessary to be born again and enter the kingdom of God (John 3:3-5).

—————————

¹  Jericho story is found in Joshua 6 and referenced as being an act of faith in Heb. 11:30;  Naaman’s story is found in 2 Kings 5.

² Acts 2:38; John 3:3-5; Mark 16:16; Mat. 28:18-20; Acts 22:16; Acts 10:48

Permanent link to this article: http://www.joshketchum.com/is-baptism-unnecessary-because-we-are-not-saved-by-works/

Mar 10

My Dog’s Boundaries and the Word of God

Stella

Stella

Stella is a great Golden Retriever.  She has been at our home for three years now and is the most friendly dog you will ever meet.  In fact she loves people so much that it is sometimes a problem, because she greets everyone and begs them to pet her.  Stella wears a collar that works wirelessly to keep her in our yard.  The collar has established a circular perimeter boundary that she knows.  It allows her to visit the neighbors yard a little, but not too far.  We joke that our neighbors love her more than we do.

Recently we lost Stella’s collar.  These collars have gotten very expensive.  It was going to be $129 to replace the collar, so we were waiting and I was hoping Stella knew her boundaries well enough to stay in them.  But Stella began to test the boundary limits more and more.  She first began hanging out at the neighbors home some, then we would catch her across the street or even down the road. This all came to a head last weekend when we couldn’t find her one evening. This was very unlike Stella.  We even drove around looking for her, but she was off exploring or hanging out at someone’s house.  She wandered home like a rebellious teenager the next morning, literally with her head down and tail between her legs, because she knew she was in trouble.

I was motivated even more to find the collar, or bite the bullet and buy a new one.  Thankfully, I was able to find the collar.  Stella has now returned to her old self. She is much calmer, back to laying on her blanket and sleeping in the sun.

But Stella illustrates a similar nature in humans.  We tend to wander slowly away from the boundaries that are best for us.  We test our boundaries, if nothing happens we continue to push them.  Until we are spending whole nights and days away from the safety of home.

Paul in Galatians 3:19 is discussing the purpose of law, and specifically the law of Moses.  Paul says it was “added because of transgressions.”  In Romans 7:7, Paul says he would not have known sin if it wasn’t for the law.  The law of God defines sin for humanity.  It teaches us right from wrong.  It sets proper boundaries for us to live by so that we can dwell in peace, unity, love, and enjoy salvation.

Just like with Stella, mankind needed the law of Moses to set some boundaries.  This is why the 10 Commandments have been a great moral code for societies down through the ages.  The New Testament message of Christ gives us further boundaries like Jesus sermon on the Mount teachings that describe how we should live to be blessed.

But like Stella, we tend to want to throw off the collar and go exploring.  This is why we must keep ourselves in the Word of God.  His commandments are not “burdensome” (1 John 5:3).  They will give us an abundant life here and in eternity.¹  When we reject the boundaries of the Word of God, our souls and very lives are in grave danger!  This is the reason our society is in such disarray and moral decline is because we have thrown off the boundaries of the Word of God.  

Let us stay in the boundaries set by the Word of God and encourage others to do the same!

——

¹  John 10:10

Permanent link to this article: http://www.joshketchum.com/my-dogs-boundaries-and-the-word-of-god/

Mar 05

What Keeps People From Coming Back to the Church?

coming back to church.001All churches have people leave.  But it should break our hearts when people leave. It certainly does the Lord when people leave Him (Luke 15).  Yet people don’t have to remain gone!  They can come back and we should do everything we can to encourage their return to the body.  In order to do this we need to understand what is keeping people from coming back to the church.  I want to share five things that are reasons people use for not coming back. [This information came from a survey done by Focus press a couple of years back, Dale Jenkins FHU lectures in 2014, a Wednesday night Bible class, and my own thoughts.]

  1. A lack of close friendships and family relationships in the church. The early church was a “one another” people.  The book of Acts especially in the early chapters illustrates their closeness and deep friendships.  Today, a lack of connections keep people away.  They feel the church is filled with cliques, and they are an unwanted outsider.  Many live away from family, and thus do not have the family ties that motivate church attendance.  Some statistics show that 82% of church members who do dropout do so in the first year.¹  It is imperative of churches to work to get people connected in the first six months of their membership.
  2. A lack of doctrinal convictions.  Many are not interested in coming back to the church because they do not see the doctrinal necessity of the church.  They have bought into the world’s belief that organize religion is hypocritical and greed-filled.  They do not hold to strong doctrinal convictions about worship, salvation, and the role of the church in the world.
  3. A lack of perceived relevancy of the church.  Following up the last point, not only do they not have strong doctrinal convictions which motivate involvement, but they do not have a practical motivation for involvement.  They do not have a “why” for being involved.  People are very consumer-driven and are consistently asking what is in it for me.  I included the word “perceived” because I believe the church is the most relevant and important work and body on God’s earth.  As I wrote about in a previous post the local church is the hope of the world.  
  4. Bitterness toward the church.  Bitterness invades the heart and influences the perspective of someone tainted by it.  Bitterness often proceeds from legitimate mistreatment.  A confidence may have been violated or a church leader acted shamefully toward them.  They could have been ostracized or neglected.  Sometimes it comes from plain excuses and selfishness.  But bitterness will build a wall that causes people not to repent (see Esau – Heb. 12:14-17).
  5. Sin in their life!  This last one is the main one and runs through all of the above.  Satan is attacking and people give into sin when they leave the church.  I would divide the sin into three categories that keep people from returning to the church:  pleasure, habits, and lifestyle choices.  The church has lots of things competing against it in today’s culture.  Just think about the business of Sunday and the strong temptation for people to be somewhere else besides church.  People also develop habits, which become deep ruts, and are hard to break free from in order to return to worship.  Finally, some have made major lifestyle choices which have taken their life down a road of sin.  Sometimes people are so entrenched in the sin, they are not willing to give up their sins.

It doesn’t matter the reason, any reason is something that is keeping a child of God away from His body and His work.  We need to try to understand the reasons, so we can better minister to them as a church.  We often need to validate their feelings, come along side them in their struggles, and help them see the joy in repentance and the blessing of a church family.  

What other reasons would you give for what keeps people from returning to church?

—-

¹  See Gary McIntosh and Charles Arn book – What Every Pastor Should Know.

Permanent link to this article: http://www.joshketchum.com/what-keeps-people-from-coming-back-to-the-church/

Mar 02

He Departed with No One’s Regret!

walking away by korry_BI was reading through 2 Chronicles when this verse jumped out at me which was speaking about King Jehoram the son of Ahab and Jezebel.

“He was thirty-two years old when he began to reign, and he reigned eight years in Jerusalem. And he departed with no one’s regret. They buried him in the city of David, but not in the tombs of the kings.” (2 Chronicles 21:20)

Did you see that line about him departing after being king with no one’s regret.  The idea is probably that he was not mourned or grieved over as a king.  He wasn’t even given a proper funeral or a royal tomb.  He received none of the customary honors of a king.

The point of this post is:  Don’t be that man!

Make a difference in this world.  Love and serve people.  Be kind and faithful to your family.  Be a hardworking employee who the boss regrets when you are away.

Be the kind of person that at your death, you are mourned, honored, and your legacy remains for generations.

It all depends on what kind of life you live today!  So go live a life of love and service!

Permanent link to this article: http://www.joshketchum.com/he-departed-with-no-ones-regret/

Mar 01

300 Posts!

Number300The last post was number 300!  Wow!  I began blogging in November 2012.  I have tried to consistently blog each week.  The goal was three a week, but I have actually averaged a little less.

Here are some of my thoughts on blogging after 300 posts!

  1. I am grateful to the readers.  Writing is good for me personally.  It causes me to think and clarify my own thoughts.  It leaves a journal and record of some events for our family, but I primarily write because I have a message I want to share with others.  You write because you want to be read!  So I appreciate everyone who has taken time to read a post, because I know there is so much competing in this world for your attention and time.  For you to take time to read my post, is a compliment.
  2. Titles and social media drive the traffic to the blog.  I began learning early on that titles are very important for folks choosing to read your post.  Just like with newspaper articles, the headline makes a tremendous difference.  This connects well with social media because the title must interest the person scrolling their news feed for them to click and go read.  By far, most of my readers have come from Facebook.
  3. The challenge is writing consistently.  Most bloggers start off writing regularly, then slowly slip into irregularly and often seldom post.  This happens because it is tough to write weekly.  I could not do it if it was not a part of my regular work flow.  I do it as part of my ministry, and I prioritize it above other things I could be doing.  Not only is it hard to find the time, but sometimes it is hard to have the content.  Even though I keep a list of possible topics, I sometimes don’t have anything to write.
  4. Don’t get caught up in who does and doesn’t read your blog!  I learned early on that most folks which I have a personal relationship with would not read the blog regularly.  That is fine, I probably wouldn’t read theirs that regularly if they did one.  In fact, I struggle to keep up with blogs that I really like and benefit much from.  So don’t be discouraged and certainly don’t let it affect your relationship with others.
  5. Blogs typically have a slow steady growth, and mine has reflected this truth.  I have seen this happen over the 2 and half years.  While I had one post that went far beyond everything else, the typical pattern of slow steady growth is what the blog has seen in traffic numbers.
  6. People care about the church.  While people don’t read straight Bible teaching posts that well, there is still a hunger for posts about the church.  I find this encouraging that people want to know more about the church and are concerned about the future of the church.  I plan on trying to write more about the church in the future.
  7. Finally, after 300 posts, let me say that WordPress and BlueHost have been great.  I am thankful I chose Bluehost as a provider and WordPress as the platform.  Wordpress is easy to use and works well.  If you are thinking about blogging or getting a website, definitely consider them.

Once again thanks for joining me on the ride, whether it is for one post or all 300 I wouldn’t do this if you weren’t there!

Permanent link to this article: http://www.joshketchum.com/300-posts/

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