Apr 16

When Was the Last Time You Studied Sex?

adult-classesThis topic may make you a little uncomfortable, it certainly does me, after all my mom and mother-in-law both read my blog!  But I decided to post anyways.  I felt the same way when I was planning what our Wednesday night men’s class would study this last quarter.

I have been teaching the class for 10 years now, so I reflected on what topics I have not covered well over that time, that are pertinent to men.  We teach our teens about sex regularly.  We talk about the topic in marriage classes, but not often in regular classes.

At first, I was a little nervous about beginning the subject.  Our men’s class has about 25-35 men and range in age from college to 80s.  The class has been wonderfully received.  In fact, the first week we talked about why the subject is not addressed more and the men found it encouraging that the church was discussing the topic.

My aim in the class was to look at the topic from the Bible, trying to communicate what God says about the topic, while also discussing all that is going on in our world with the topic.  When you consider how big of an issue this topic is in our present world, then it is a shame that the church doesn’t address the topic more!

We are covering the following areas (the class likes one or two more weeks):

  • The Bible and Sex
  • Understanding and Avoiding Lust
  • The Problem of Pornography
  • The Problem of Adultery
  • Parenting and Sex
  • Sexual Identity Issues in our Culture
  • Homosexuality
  • Sexual abuse in our culture
  • Marital Sex

The class has had some very helpful discussion and we have all been able to learn from each other on these topics. We have done well to keep the topic tasteful, Scriptural, and applicable to the wide range of men in the class.  The diversity of the men has helped as we have learned from one another.  The class has reached some of its highest attendance ever.

The point of this post is to share the idea and my experience with the class.  The church has often been seen as turning a blind-eye and deaf-ear to this sensitive topic.  In a sex-saturated world, Christians need to study what God says on the topic and gain encouragement for overcoming their temptations.  So be it from the pulpit or in class settings we must address these issues.  

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Some Resources:

FHU Lectureship books have had good articles over the last 10 years on various subjects.

Joshua Harris book – Sex is not the problem, Lust is

Christiancourier.com

Albert Mohler – Albertmohler.com

Permanent link to this article: http://www.joshketchum.com/when-was-the-last-time-you-studied-sex/

Apr 14

The Bible in Our Sound-bite Culture

Made through Haiku Deck

A Haiku Deck Slide

“Judge not, lest you be judged.”

“Let him who is without sin, cast the first stone.”

“for the husband is the head of the wife . . .”

Hear any of these verses or sayings in our culture today?  We live in a sound-bite culture where messages are often communicated in short-quick statements.  We read the paper, scan a news website, or scroll through Facebook looking at short headlines.  When we watch ESPN or CNN they are constantly streaming news in the ticker in short quick bursts.  Political candidates vying for 2016 election are already formulating their slogans and what sound-bites they want to emphasize.

The problem is we have also adapted this attitude toward the Bible.  How many people use and say the sayings I referenced above without knowing their CONTEXT?  A verse or sentence of Jesus can take on a life of its own in our culture and is often disconnected from the original context.

For example, how many who quote “judge not, lest you be judged,” understand Jesus is speaking of hypercritical and hypocritical judgement.  He is not forbidding speaking to someone about their sin and trying to help them overcome it.  Later he even says, “first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brothers’ eye” (Mat. 7:5).

The story of the woman caught in adultery is abused as a story where Jesus goes light on sin and refuses to condemn or rebuke this sinful woman (John 7:53-8:11).  Unrepentant sinners love to quote to those trying to encourage their repentance, “he who is without sin, let him cast the first stone.”  But in context, the whole episode was not about the woman, but about the Pharisees and Scribes trying to trap and test Jesus so they might accuse him.  They weren’t interested in obeying the law or the woman, they were after Jesus.  Jesus avoids their trap and refuses to condemn the woman, because he was not her accuser.  He instructs her to sin no more.

How many abusive husbands know and quote to their “rebellious wives” that the Bible says the “husband is the head of the wife.”  This is certainly true, but they fail to recognize that in the same context Paul says a husband should love his wife as Christ loved the church (Eph. 5:21-33).  He should nourish and cherish her.  Yet, he holds to his “sound-bite” while he shamefully treats his bride, trying to demand the respect he doesn’t deserve!

I could go on and speak about abused Old Testament stories or how people know one verse as it relates to salvation (like John 3:16 or Romans 10:9-10) and fail to follow the rest of the Bible’s teachings on that subject.  The key is CONTEXT.  We must study to take the overall message of a text or even the entire Bible.  Just like with our sound-bite news, we must look deeper than just the headline.  This requires reading, effort, and time; somethings we often don’t want to give in our sound-bite culture.

The Bible was meant to be read and studied in context, not to be lifted and abused with short, sound-bite statements that often convey a different meaning than the original text.  (By the way, preachers are some of the worst, myself included, at misusing verses out of context).

Don’t believe all the sound-bites you hear said in our culture about scripture.  Open up God’s book and read it for yourself, you will be amazed at some of your discoveries!  

Permanent link to this article: http://www.joshketchum.com/the-bible-in-our-sound-bite-culture/

Apr 12

Our Masters Trip

I wanted to share some pictures from our trip to Augusta National golf course on Tuesday of the Masters week.  I love watching and playing golf when I can. My oldest son, Austin, shares this passion and he actually has a game to go with it.  He was so excited to go and did so well walking many miles.

The course is so beautiful.  We enjoyed the trip with my in-laws, who cherished their first trip to Augusta.  My mom had got the opportunity to get tickets through the Master’s ticket’s lottery.  See my other post about lessons for the church from our trip to Augusta.

We got to see all the big names we were wanting to see and enjoyed the father/son time.  It was special to share the experience with Austin and to always have it as a memory.  One reason I love golf is the lifetime recreation it provides for families enabling them to play together throughout the years.

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Our group in front of the famous 13th green.

 

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Austin and I on the par 3 course.

 

We followed the practice round of Phil Mickelson, Rickie Fowler, Dustin Johnson, and Brandt Snedecker.

We followed the practice round of Phil Mickelson, Rickie Fowler, Dustin Johnson, and Brandt Snedecker.

I liked this picture showing more of the beauty of Augusta.

I liked this picture showing more of the beauty of Augusta.

Austin with Tiger in the background.

Austin with Tiger in the background.

Us enjoying them skipping balls across the pond on 16.

Us enjoying them skipping balls across the pond on 16.

Permanent link to this article: http://www.joshketchum.com/our-masters-trip/

Apr 09

What The Church Can Learn from the Masters

Me, Austin, David and Loretta Carson at Augusta National

Me, Austin, David and Loretta Carson at Augusta National

We had the privilege of attending the Tuesday practice round of the 2015 Masters tournament at Augusta National Golf Club in Augusta, Georgia.  It was a special day that I will share more about in an upcoming post.  It was our first time at “the National” as locals refer to the course.  While you would not want to stretch the application too far, there are some things I think the church could learn from the way Augusta National conducts the Masters.

1.  Aesthetic beauty is significant.  Azaleas, pines, and lush green grass basking in the spring sun are what makes Augusta famous.  It signals the end of winter for golfers all over the country and causes people to watch and attend just for the beauty.  In the church, I think we can devalue the importance of beauty.  The appearance of our buildings from the outside and the decor on the inside speak to the visitor.  They even communicate to the members.  I am not suggesting that we plant azaleas and manicure the front church lawn, but we should care about cleanliness, clutter, styles, and appearance.

2.  Smiles and warm greetings make you feel welcome.   We were pleasantly surprised with the amount of sincere greetings we received from workers.  They were everywhere too!  They had an abundance of security and staff.  The staff ranged in age from young to old, but all where friendly and cordial.  They were smiling and used pleasant greetings.  They asked questions and gave the impression that they were thrilled to be at “the National” on this Tuesday working in a restroom or behind a cash register.  They asked where you were from and if you were enjoying your experience.  One older security guard, way removed from the course and the golfers next to a restroom, commented to Austin, “Smile son, you are at the National.”  They were happy.  What kind of impression do our members make to guests?  Do they greet them with smiles and warm words.  Maybe more importantly, do they give the impression that they are happy to be at church?  Imagine if all of our members had such an attitude, how powerful it would be for guests coming to worship.

3.  Marketing is crucial in this noisy world.  Augusta is spectacularly marketed.  They protect their product and advertise it well.  They manage their business well and keep people interested in preserving the tradition, while excitedly waiting to see what happens next.  The church cannot market in the same way as Augusta, but we must realize the importance of marketing in this world with so much noise and heavy competition for attention.  We cannot sit back and expect people to come to us to receive the gospel. We must get the message out about Jesus and market our local church.  Social media, traditional media, and our members offer all sorts of possibilities, but we must remember marketing is crucial!

4.  Preparation and planning speak value to people.  It is quickly evident when you are at Augusta that they have done this before!  It is a well-oiled machine. They have all year to get ready for this one week and they use most of it in preparation.  They communicate well with the patrons their expectations.  They spend hours manicuring the course, and set up a large amount of seats. Everything is done top-notch.  They have all the restrooms staffed to keep the bathroom lines moving.  They are able to feed thousands quickly and efficiently.  Traffic and parking are all thought out in detail. Preparation and planning speaks value to the customer.  It says you spent time and effort to make this the best experience possible.  We need to make everything we do in the church top-notch too!  Our worship should be planned, and the song leader and preacher prepared. After all, we have had all week to prepare and have done worship many times before.  Community events, like easter-egg hunts, trunk-or-treat, or a service projects, should be organized, planned, and prepared.  Preparation and planning speaks value to those we are serving.

5.  Rules are willingly followed when given with an appropriate motivation and understanding.  How can you get 30 or 40 thousand (whatever the number Augusta has each day) to go without their cell phones for hours?  You require that no one can bring in a cell phone in order to attend the Masters.  So people leave them in the car!  Augusta has all kinds of strict rules.  I am not suggesting that the church should have a bunch of man-made rules regarding dress or cell-phone usages, but we understand that God does require us to change when we come to Christ.  God has given his “rules” or “commandments” about holy living in the pages of Scripture.  Sometimes, we often act embarrassed about God’s requirements, or try to slide them in with a “by the way” line.  But rather, we should take a lesson from the Masters.  When people are properly motivated, they will obey the rules joyfully and willingly.  People must first understand they are saved by the abounding grace and love of God.  When they are motivated through the cross of Christ, the rules are no longer a burden, but a joy (I John 5:1-4).

If you have the chance to go to Augusta National do so, it was a wonderful experience.  I had a great time and i hope these observations and lessons can bless the church as we try to reach the lost with the gospel, which is way more important than any golf tournament.  

Permanent link to this article: http://www.joshketchum.com/what-the-church-can-learn-from-the-masters/

Apr 05

Instrumental Music Debate: How Should We Respond?

Made on Haiku Deck

Made on Haiku DeckThis

This article is not intended to give a thorough Biblical defense of a cappella singing in worship (see the footnotes for information on that subject), rather this post assumes the belief in a cappella worship to God.

The Otter Creek Church, which is a congregation traditionally associated with the Church of Christ adopted the use of instrumental music in worship in one of their Sunday services.  This congregation located in Brentwood, TN is one of a growing number of churches of Christ who have added instruments to their worship.  This announcement grew significant media attention, even an article in USA Today.

This news, as well as the subject in general, often creates discussions amongst friends and family.  These can be awkward and uncomfortable at times.  How should those of us who believe in a cappella praise in worship to God respond to those who ask us about why we still worship without instruments?  Let me suggest three things.

  1. Don’t act ashamed for the practice of a cappella music.  We can tend to feel like the odd balls in the religious world who aren’t like everybody else.  So when we are asked about why we don’t use instruments, sometimes Christians can act embarrassed of our practice.  There is nothing to be ashamed of regarding our commitment to singing in worship.  We don’t practice a cappella praise to be different, we practice it out of a conviction that it pleases God.  In fact, a survey of music in the church through the centuries reveals that churches of Christ stand on the side of history with their a cappella praise.  Instruments were not introduced into Christian worship until the 6th century.  Most assign the date of their introduction to 670 A.D. by Pope Vitalian.  What is more surprising for most of our religious world today, is that most all protestant churches were a cappella in praise until the last 160 years.
  2. Develop an easy to understand response.  So once you have determined that you are not going to act embarrassed about why you worship a cappella, work on developing an easy to understand response.  Don’t be argumentative or condescending to the questionnaire.  Personally, I don’t think real quick on my feet, so I like to have an idea of how I will respond when a certain subject comes up.  Regarding instruments of music in worship, I suggest you incorporate these ideas into your response.
    1. Our plea is restoration of the New Testament church in faith and worship.  There is no record of them worshipping with instruments in the NT, but only singing in praise to God and we want to do likewise.
    2. Our aim is to simply do what God has asked us to do and what we know He will be pleased with in worship.  He commands us to sing and make melody in our hearts in worship and so that is what we do (Eph. 5:19, Col. 3:16).
    3. We have no indication in the NT that God is pleased with praise offered from a musical instrument in worship, there is neither a command nor example of Christians doing such.  Thus, we will do what God has asked us to do numerous times in the NT and sing to God, offering to him the “fruit of our lips.” (Heb. 13:15)
    4. For us it is an issue of authority, we try to do things in faith and practice for which we have authority (Col. 3:17).  There is not authority in the NT for worshiping with instruments.  God specifically asked for singing, so we don’t want to go beyond His authority.
  3. Determine to make your singing heartfelt.  I said earlier that we should not be embarrassed with our doctrinal conviction, because it is a conviction based on the authority of God and a desire to please God.  But many Christians should be embarrassed with their singing!  Christians must understand that God calls us to sing and make melody in our hearts to the Lord (Col. 3:16, Eph. 5:19).  The instrument that should be used in our singing is our heart reverberating with praise, thanksgiving, joy, and gladness to the Lord.  We should sing out, even if we have a poor singing voice, encouraging one another in worship with our songs.  It has been said that the best argument in favor of a cappella music is good, heartfelt singing where our voices join the heavenly chorus in praise to God.

It is sad when churches add instruments of music to their worship leaving the restoration plea and going beyond the authority of God’s word.  One positive that comes from news like this is the discussion that takes place.  Those of us committed to a cappella worship must respond appropriately, not shying away from these discussions.

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Resources:

This archive of some sermons includes three I did on the subject back in 2009. Scroll to the bottom of the page.

A powerpoint I did on the subject in PDF form.  -Should Christians Use Instrumental Music in Worship to

Where is the Piano?  By Dan Chambers – a great little book on the subject.

Permanent link to this article: http://www.joshketchum.com/instrumental-music-debate-how-should-we-respond/

Apr 03

Pray for the Persecuted Church

Jeff Abrams who preaches in Shoals, Alabama and has made many trips to the Ukraine has put together something special for this Easter.

We in our comfortable pews (or seats here at 7 Oaks) are not aware of the persecution and challenges our brethren face in other parts of the world.  Jeff has produced a website called Sundayiscoming.com where he shares stories of people and churches suffering persecution.  His goal is to get every preacher to pray for the persecuted church this Sunday before his sermon.  Check out the site; it is simple and well-done.  Watch some of the videos and read some of the stories.  I just watched Steve Worley’s video about Nigerian Christians being slaughtered and having churches burned, yet they have joy and great faith.  You can also get up-to-date information and encouragement through the Facebook page Sundayiscoming.

Be most importantly, join Christians across our nation in praying for these brethren.  

Do it everyday, but especially do it this Sunday!

 

 

sunday is coming ad

Permanent link to this article: http://www.joshketchum.com/pray-for-the-persecuted-church/

Apr 02

I’m just going to look . . .

Caleb loves peanuts.  He developed a habit of getting them out of the pantry and eating them throughout his day.    As he is getting older, Amanda has started clamping down more on this habit so he will eat his meals good.  The other day it was almost lunch time and Caleb goes to the pantry and gets the nuts.  Amanda says, “No, you can’t have them now, because we are about to eat lunch.”

He said, “I am just going to look at them.”  Caleb Looking

 

Then after a few minutes he said, “I am starving” repeatedly.

Thankfully, it was close to lunch and he made it!!

While this is a super cute story, it does illustrate a truth with human nature.  When we are not entitled to something, we tend to rationalize our actions and say, “Well I will just look.”  But this only makes us desire the forbidden fruit even more!  We feel like we are starving and can’t be satisfied and happy unless we get it.  It is then that our flesh is the weakest and sin often takes hold!

“But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.”  (James 1:14–15)

 

Permanent link to this article: http://www.joshketchum.com/im-just-going-to-look/

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.

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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/

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