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Screen Shot 2015-03-05 at 5.04.32 PM  Last Father’s day I was honored to be asked to sit as part of a panel discussion on fatherhood at our church, New Life Christian Church in Chantilly, VA. Our senior pastor, Brett Andrews, was the moderator and other panel members were David Edwards, Dale Spaulding, and Pat Furgerson. It was a fun experience but at the same time a bit daunting. While I have learned a great deal about fatherhood over the years, both as a father, grandfather, and great grandfather, my experience has taught me what a flawed father I have been and how many mistakes I have made. Still, God has blessed me richly and I am without words to adequately express my gratitude to the perfect Father God for all He has done. With that said, I decided that sharing a bit of what I’ve learned and experienced might be helpful to someone.  I’ll do this by just remarking on the topics that were addressed by the panel.  So, here goes:

St. Pat's Day at Dogfish Head Alehouse

Father’s Day Panel at New Life

Q. How do you adjust to the individualism of sons?
– Get rid of your own expectations of what your children will or should be as far as their individual personalities, likes and dislikes, interests, skills, etc.   My sons, Thatcher and Patrick, had very little interest in participating in sports, although that was a major component of my life as a boy.  And I just expected, or assumed, that they would have the same interest and that we would play a ton of sports together. That didn’t happen.  And that was ok – but not what I expected.
– Concentrate on meeting them where they are and showing love and godly acceptance.
– As much as possible join with them in their interests.  For example, if they aren’t particularly interested in sports but are fascinated with electronics, find something you can do together in that area.  One of my best memories as a father is the  time Thatcher and I built a color TV set together from scratch.  I had thought Thatcher and Pat might be interested in a military career since I had enjoyed my service in the Navy so much.  But, they had zero interest in the military, but loved computers.  So, I found pleasure in helping them pursue careers along those lines.  I believe that going out of your way in helping your children pursue their interests and passions is probably one of the best ways possible to maintain a strong bond with them as they approach adulthood.  Help them with their interests, whatever they might be, e.g.,  music lessons, Young Life clubs and church youth groups, part-time employment, sports, etc.  Continue reading

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Who’s to Say Who is a Christian — or Whatever

The intersection of faith and politics is certainly curious.  For example, the question of President Obama’s faith was headlined last week, not because of anything the President had done or said, but because of the response of a presidential hopeful to the issue.  This is a bit different.  First, the President has clearly on a number of occasions stated that he is a Christian and avowed  how important it is to him.  He also points to his baptism in the United Church of Christ  as evidence of his Christian faith.  Meanwhile, there are     Screen Shot 2015-03-01 at 8.42.02 PM  claims beyond number by his critics that it is all a ploy and that he is in fact a Muslim. However, as the following article points out, a determination is not so easy.  So, is self-identification sufficient?  Or should we ask the oft repeated question: “If he were indicted  for being a Christian would there be enough evidence for a conviction?”   I’m reminded once again of Oscar Wilde’s quote  that the truth is rarely pure and never simple.   This Samual James article really does a super job of examining the question, not only regarding the President’s faith but the whole way we view belief systems.  The article appeared at: www.Patheos.com  as: Scott Walker Doesn’t Know if Obama Is a Christian.  RMF

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Scott Walker Doesn’t Know if Obama Is a Christian (And Neither Do I)
by Samuel James

Samuel James

Samuel James

Governor and Republican Presidential hopeful Scott Walker says he doesn’t know if President Obama is a Christian. I, for one, believe him. Why is it so hard for some to accept his answer?
The President says he is a Christian. This is, as Ross Douthat points out, an indisputable fact of public record. There’s no need to assume the governor was unaware of this when asked the question (he came close to implying as much, though, stretching credulity). By the same token, there’s no need to assume that the person who posed the question to Walker was unaware of this either.
So here’s the scenario: A reporter asks a politician to give his opinion on a matter, the facts of which are widely known as a matter of public record to almost everyone in the room and certainly to both the interviewer and the interviewee. You don’t have to be a politico to know what kind of question this is, and why it would be asked. In the words of Admiral Ackbar, it’s a trap. And it’s a trap because the “facts” of the question aren’t nearly as factual as they might seem.

Screen Shot 2015-03-01 at 5.41.15 PM President Obama identifies as a Christian. To some, that fact alone renders irresponsible any answer to this question other than a quick and unequivocal “Yes.” By this line of thinking, a person’s religion is a matter of self-identification. If they say what they believe, that’s what they believe, and that’s what we should say they believe. If the President says “I’m a Christian,” then, because religion is a matter of personal decision and conviction, there’s no right to challenge that identification. Obama says it, we believe it, that settles it.  Continue reading

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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: www.bobrussell.org 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)

Continue reading

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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?

Continue reading

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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: gregstier.org 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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