How old am I ?

Happy St. Patrick's Day Birthday

Happy St. Patrick’s Day Birthday

A good friend, my college buddy and fellow NROTC student at the University of Missouri (Go MIZZOU!), Charlie Hoffman forwarded one of those ubiquitous emails to me that talks about aging. This particular forward along was a bit different in that it posed the question about the age of the author. Well, I decided to take some of the thoughts from that and expand and personalize it to reflect my situation. It seemed the timely thing to do since my birthday, March 17th (that’s right, St. Patrick’s Day) is rapidly approaching. So then, How old am I?

Well, I was born before:
‘ the pill
‘ penicillin
‘ polio shots
‘ frozen foods
‘ Xerox
‘ contact lenses
‘ and before TV was a household item Continue reading

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When God Speaks

In his teaching on Experiencing God,  Pastor and writer Henry Blackaby  describes ways that God communicates with us.  According to him (Reality #4): “God speaks by the Holy Spirit through the Bible, prayer, circumstances, and the church to reveal Himself, His purposes, and His ways.”  I believe that I have experienced God speaking to me in each of these ways many, many times.  But, in each of those times it was more of a nudge or sense than a direct audible communication.  I confess that when I hear claims by others of having heard God speak to them in very clear and unmistakable terms I tend to be skeptical and ask for discernment in how to receive such claims.  For this reason I found the following article by Bob Russell instructive on the issue of God’s communication with us.  I hope you will enjoy it.

A bit about Bob’s background: At just twenty-two years of age, Bob became the pastor of Southeast Christian Church in Louisville, KY, the church where our pastor Brett Andrews as well as others who have served on New Life’s Staff interned.  That small congregation of 120 members became one of the largest churches in America, with 18,000 people attending the four worship services every weekend in 2006 when Bob retired.   Now through Bob Russell Ministries, Bob continues to preach at churches and conferences throughout the United States, provide guidance for church leadership,  mentor other ministers and author Bible study videos for use in small groups.  An accomplished author, Bob has written over one-dozen books. This article appeared first at: as: How to respond to a claim of a “Special Revelation”  RMF

Bob Russell Ministries banner

How to respond to a claim of a “Special Revelation” 

Bob Russell

Bob Russell

“God told me.”

“The unmistakable voice of the Lord spoke in my heart.”

“God eventually got my attention and spoke very clearly.”

“The Lord said…”

Those claims of divine revelation are taken directly from a recent best-selling Christian book. Those assertions of a popular preacher are not uncommon.  Some who lead prayer sessions will at times say, “God will reveal to me what your needs are.”  Or, “God’s spirit is prompting me to pray for your low self-esteem. ”  “I sense in my Spirit that someone here is troubled with family issues.”  These statements leave an impression that God speaks directly to the leader either by audible voice or by the inner prompting of His Spirit.

Let me say upfront that while I have never heard an audible voice from God, I believe that God can and has spoken to people audibly.  Let me also add that while I sometimes have a difficult time discerning between a nudge from the Holy Spirit and my own personal desires, I believe the Holy Spirit guides and directs His people. (see Prov. 3:5-6) However, when I hear seemingly flippant claims by people who appear to receive divine directions more frequently than Abraham, Isaac and Jacob combined, I’m skeptical.  I’ve sometimes asked, “When you say, ‘God spoke to me’, is it an audible voice that you hear?  If so, would you tape it for me?”  The answer is always, “No, it’s not like that.  God speaks in a silent voice in my inner being”.

I then ask, “Then how do you so confidently determine between the prompting of the Holy Spirit and your own random thoughts or instincts?”  Generally, if pressed, people will say something like, “If you walk with the Lord long enough you come to recognize His voice within.”   Or,  “If you listen for the Holy Spirit long enough you’ll sense His prompting. ”   And I’m left feeling like a second-class Christian.

One evangelist recently said, “God told me there is someone in the audience who has cancer…and you’ve just been healed!”  Later, when asked how he knew the message was from God, he responded, “God wouldn’t have put that in my head if it weren’t true!”  It’s difficult to argue with that kind of circular reasoning.

I feel it’s wise to remember several passages of Scripture when we hear these claims of “God’s special guidance.”

Jeremiah 23:30-32
“Therefore,” declares the Lord, “I am against the prophets who steal from one another words supposedly from me. Yes,” declares the Lord, “I am against the prophets who wag their own tongues and yet declare, ‘The Lord declares.’  Indeed, I am against those who prophesy false dreams,” declares the Lord. “They tell them and lead my people astray with their reckless lies, yet I did not send or appoint them. They do not benefit these people in the least,” declares the Lord.

Hananiah, a false prophet, insisted the Lord had revealed to him that the Babylonian captivity was only going to last two years, not the seventy years that Jeremiah had predicted.  Jeremiah rebuked him saying, “Listen Hananiah, The Lord has not sent you, yet you have persuaded the nation to trust in lies. Therefore the Lord says, “I am about to remove you from the face of the earth”.

Take the time to read the entire section of Jeremiah 23:30-40. It makes it clear that it’s very dangerous to claim, “The Lord gave me this message”, if He didn’t do so.  Claims of special revelation better be true or we risk a severe judgment from God.  Jeremiah cautioned, “If a prophet or a priest or anyone else claims, ‘This is a message from the Lord,’ I will punish them and their household” (34) “But you must not mention ‘a message from the Lord’ again, because every man’s own word becomes their own message.  So you distort the words of the living God, the Lord Almighty, our God.” (v. 36) “…you must not claim, ‘This is a message from the Lord’.” (v. 38)

Hebrews 1:1-2 ​
“In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe.”

God did speak in an audible voice to patriarchs such as Noah, Abraham, Moses and Samuel.  God spoke in a variety of ways to others – through a handwriting on the wall, storms at sea and a still, small voice.  Once, God even spoke through the mouth of a donkey.  But in these last days God has spoken perfectly through Jesus Christ.  The life and teaching of Jesus are communicated clearly in the Bible.  The inference is that we should not expect God to give frequent, additional revelation since Jesus is the ultimate message from God.

2 Timothy 3:16-17
“All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”

If the Bible is sufficient to, “thoroughly equip us for every good work”, why should we expect much additional information?  Martin Luther established a principle of, “sola-scriptura”, insisting that the Bible is the supreme authority in all matters of doctrine and practice.  That means every modern claim of divine Revelation should be measured by the infallible Word of God.  Jesus prayed, ‘Sanctify them in the truth, your word is truth.”

1 John 4:1

“Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.”

The most dangerous counterfeit bills are those that most closely resemble the authentic ones. The most dangerous false prophets appear as legitimate representatives of God and use Biblical quotations to establish credibility. Christians should not be gullible. It’s not unspiritual to question or investigate those who claim divine revelation.  Jesus warned, “Watch out that no one deceives you. For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will deceive many.” (Matthew 24:4)

Harold Camping insisted the Lord revealed to him that Jesus was going to return on May 32, 2011. The fact that Jesus didn’t return makes Harold Camping a false prophet and believers who got sucked into his ruse were naïve.

Jim Jones, a charismatic preacher convinced hundreds that God had told him to move everyone in the church to Guyana. Most of the hundreds who followed Jim Jones’ claim wound up dead in a mass suicide.

Last week I read about a megachurch preacher who insists that the Spirit of God moved on his heart, causing him to reconsider his stance on excluding practicing homosexuals in his church.  Thus, according to this preacher, this new revelation contradicts what God had already written clearly in His Word.  Since God is the same yesterday, today and forever, He is not going to speak with a forked tongue.

Nothing is impossible with God.  But believers have a responsibility to test the spirits to see whether they are from God.  Is the doctrine of the teacher consistent with orthodox truth?  Is the life of the teacher above reproach?  Are the prophetic proclamations coming true 100% of the time?  Do they communicate a substantive message that merits divine intervention?

Most importantly, “See that what you heard from the beginning remains in you. If it does, you also will remain in the Son and in the Father. And this is what he promised us – eternal life.” (1 John 2:24-25)

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Discipleship: The Right Path to Purity

As a Christian I believe I am called to love God and love others.  The Bible describes the following dialog between a scribe and Jesus:

A Scribe Questions Jesus

A Scribe Questions Jesus

The Great Commandment

28 And one of the scribes came up and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, asked him, “Which commandment is the most important of all?” 29 Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 30 And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ 31 The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”32 And the scribe said to him, “You are right, Teacher. You have truly said that he is one, and there is no other besides him. 33 And to love him with all the heart and with all the understanding and with all the strength, and to love one’s neighbor as oneself, is much more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.” 34 And when Jesus saw that he answered wisely, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.”  (Mark 12:-28, ESV.  Also see: Luke 10:25-28)  

Now, the question becomes, “Well, how do I do that?”  The answer I believe is to study the life of Jesus and His disciples and seek to live as they lived as disciples.  The Bible contains many examples of how Jesus and disciples lived and how they taught others to live through example and through letters to believers, the epistles,  following Jesus’ death on the cross and resurrection.  There is a huge emphasis on living pure lives and refraining from any behaviors which would dishonor God or be harmful to others.  In that regard how we see ourselves as men and women, our human identity as sexual beings , who follow Christ is vitally important.  The following is an article by Jason Yeatts that addresses that issue.  Jason serves as executive minister with Indian Creek Christian Church, Indianapolis, Indiana. The article appeared first at: Christian Standard  as: Solving Sexuality.  RMF

Solving Sexuality

By Jason Yeatts

Screen Shot 2015-02-14 at 11.56.21 AM  We, as a society and a church, have unconsciously adopted an understanding of sexuality that does more harm than good. I’m not talking about our culture’s growing acceptance of homosexuality, but our acceptance of the idea of homosexuality. The two are quite different. We have picked up a language about sex that both perpetuates a wrong view of human identity and hinders the path of Christian discipleship. To understand how this has happened, we must first look at the human heart.

When Scriptures declare, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” (Proverbs 9:10) and “the fear of the Lord is a fountain of life, turning a person from the snares of death” (Proverbs 14:27), they reveal a deep truth about our hearts. It did not take long in the Garden of Eden for the human heart to pursue its own path. The very first temptation was to be wise in order to be like God. Adam and Eve rejected the fear of the Lord and sought control over their lives. Do we still not desire to be God?

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The Word and Me

My Bible

My Bible

  I love reading.  And, there is no book which I like nearly as much as the Bible, God’s Holy written Word.  It thrills me and has even prior to my being able to understand some of it.  I grasped a few biblical statements at a fairly young age, passages such as:  “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth,” “God is love,” John 3:16, and the like, although I did not grasp them with full understanding even as now I realize that I can’t grasp them in all of their truth and beauty.  I believe that I will not fully “get it” until it is revealed in the fullness in eternity.  Still, what I do understand is thrilling and provides a delightful ever expanding window into God’s nature and His love and sovereignty. But, the main thing I love about the Bible is the change it made and continues to make in me. That change, from death to life (see Ephesians 2: 1-5) and the assurance it brings into my everyday being, ushered in an unspeakable, unfathomable joy, peace, and hope.  

The following is a blog post by Lore Ferguson which speaks of the change the Bible makes in us.  The article appeared first at: Sayable – words about theology, faith, life and the glory of God as: How It Changes Us.  I believe you’ll appreciate what Lore shares with us.  RMF

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How it Changes Us
By Lore Ferguson

Lore Ferguson

Lore Ferguson

I have always owned a Bible, scribbled and tattered, ignored or forgotten, but always one somewhere. For most of my life my Bibles were reminders of ways I’d fallen short, paged taskmasters holding the ruler of law over my head. I knew they were supposed to contain the words of life, but mostly they felt like death.

It was a surprising conundrum, then, when the words of the Bible that first preached the gospel to me came from the first verse of the first chapter of the first book. Genesis 1:1. In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.

And the girl who loved words suddenly loved the Word.   Continue reading

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Evangelizing the Lost

Our Panera Guys Group just started a study of 1 & 2 Thessalonians. This morning we covered 1 Thes. 1. I was impressed by the words of the Holy Spirit speaking through the Apostle Paul, more as a pastor than a theologian, in this passage. In particular I noted all the things that caused the church at Thessalonica to be doing well. I had just read an article by Pastor Greg Stier describing why, in his view, many churches fail to live up to their calling with respect to reaching the lost with the Gospel message. The seven features that Stier identified as missing in ineffective churches are all present in the church at Thessalonica.  Following is an excerpt from the article by Pastor Stier which appeared at: as: 7 Reasons Why Many Churches are Not Reaching the Lost in Their Own Backyards.

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Seven Reasons why Many Churches are Not Reaching the Lost

By Greg Stier

Greg Stier

Greg Stier

1. They’ve lost their “Gospel urgency.”

In the average church there is not a “whatever it takes” mentality when it comes to reaching the lost with the hope of Jesus Christ. There is not a sense of urgency that flows from the reality of hell for those who don’t hear and believe the message of the Gospel.

Sometimes this lack of urgency flows out of a theological construct that causes some church goers to conclude that “it’s all up to God anyway.” Sometimes it flows out of a lack of understanding of the mission and mandate Jesus left for us all in Matthew 28:19 when he commissioned his followers to “go and make disciples of all nations.”

Whatever the reason for this lack of urgency church leaders need to help their congregations hear the call from above (the Great Commission), the whisper from within (compassion) and the scream from beneath (reality of hell) so that the Holy Spirit can re-ignite their peoples’ passion to reach the lost.  Continue reading

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Media omits mention of faith

I have followed the work of Terry Mattingly for about twenty years.  Terry is an author, professor, and journalist who covers religion news. Since 1988 he has written the nationally syndicated column “On Religion” column each week for the Scripps Howard News Service in Washington, D.C.  He is also Director of The Washington Journalism Center, a program run by the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities. Since 2004 Terry has directed the website.  That site, where the following article appeared, is devoted to presenting the important faith and religious aspects of news stories which are either omitted or mishandled by the popular media.  (See Why We’re Here for the story of how came to exist.)  And, on some rare occasions the site even reports on news coverage which gets things right.  I reported such an article here, Justin Forsett Article Done Right.  The following article appeared at:  as: Memory eternal: Human-rights activist and, yes, Christian journalist Kenji Goto is gone.  This particular article is very illustrative of the blind-spots in media coverage.  I followed news accounts, print media as well as local, national, and cable news of the capture and later murder of Mr. Goto at the hands of the ISIS terrorists.  And, not once did I hear anything about Mr. Goto’s faith which was very important as it provided the motive for his journalistic and humanitarian work.  Obviously, there was a huge hunk of the story lacking in all the news accounts which I followed.  So, here is, as Paul Harvey would say, “the rest of the story.”  RMF 

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By Terry Mattingly

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Terry Mattingly

Terry Mattingly

First there was the beheading of Haruna Yukawa, a military consultant who had – by all accounts – lived a unique, if not troubled, life leading him the Middle East as a military consultant. Now, it certainly appears that veteran journalist Kenji Goto has also been beheaded, on video.

Who is Goto? What is the media reporting about his life? As I noted in my first post on this topic, the force at the heart of Goto’s life and work depends on the publication that you read. If you look in conservative and Christian media, you will see language similar to the following from the Christian Broadcast Network:

The slaying of Goto, a devout Christian and freelance reporter whose work focused on refugees, children and other victims of war, shocked this country, which until now had not become directly embroiled in the fight against the militants.

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A Mom Speaks Wisdom

In the interest of full disclosure I have not read the book Fifty Shades of Gray and do not plan on seeing the movie.  However, according to Wikipedia, “Fifty Shades of Grey is a 2011 erotic romance novel by British author E. L. James. It is the first installment in the Fifty Shades trilogy that traces the deepening relationship between a college graduate, Anastasia Steele, and a young business magnate, Christian Grey. It is notable for its explicitly erotic scenes featuring elements of sexual practices involving bondage/discipline, dominance/submission, and sadism/masochism (BDSM).”  Now, the movie version is set to be released on Valentines Day, Saturday, February 14th, 2o15, an ironic release date in that, as far as I can tell, it has nothing to do with true love.  By now you may have guessed why I am not interested in either the book or film.  But I am concerned that the book, which has been a best seller, and film, which has been eagerly anticipated and hyped by the media, are yet further examples of the downward spiral of our society.  And, as is typically the case things of this nature lead to lifestyles and acceptance of behavior which ultimately dishonors the men and women we were created to be.  The following article regarding the movie by Michelle Lazurek is a warning for daughters, and actually all of us, regarding the film and relationships.  The article appeared first at:  as: Don’t Let ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ Lead your Daughter Astray: A Concerned Mother’s Response.  Michelle S. Lazurek is a pastor’s wife, Bible teacher, mother, author and speaker. She gives discipleship tips on her weekly blog (  You may visit her website at RMF

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Don’t Let ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ Lead Your Daughter Astray:
A Concerned Mother’s Response
By Michelle S. Lazurek

Michelle Lazurek

Michelle Lazurek

Dear Daughter,
I’m writing you this letter because I love you. You are the apple of my eye and it is my responsibility to teach you what it means to be a woman. I am proud of how wonderful you have become. As you grow up, you will begin to date and engage in relationships with members of the opposite sex, but I feel I must warn you about how you should act in your future relationships with men. The movies you may watch do not portray women in a positive light. Hollywood does not view you the same way that God does. God wants to liberate you and allow you to be all you can be. He wants you to see yourself as special so you, as well as guys will cherish you as a special gift.
On the eve of the “Fifty Shades of Grey” movie premiere, I feel I should teach you what God has to say about women. If you don’t know already, the movie features the main character Ana Steele, who finds herself attracted to a sexy CEO named Christian Grey. She finds herself repulsed yet intrigued by him at the same time, but Christian wants her to participate in acts that degrade her and rob of her of her rights as a woman, as God’s child and as a human being.

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