Monday, December 25, 2006

Christmas 2006

I don't think I have ever celebrated a Christmas quite like this one. Tara went off to work. Dewayne and Christa are at home. John and Laura are in Luray or in Alabama--not sure which. Josh and Chara are with his folks in Colorado. Jackie and I are playing Christmas music and enjoying a leisurely breakfast. We each opened one gift, along with Tara. Our big day will be Saturday.

Having grown up in large families (six kids on each side) and having had no small household ourselves (4 children--add the in-laws and Haydn and we have ten. If we include the one in the oven--John and Laura's, that makes eleven), we felt strange to be alone for Christmas. After while, Tara will come back from work; and Dewayne and Christa will be over for the evening. Tara and I talked about going bowling. At noon, Jackie and I are volunteering to help serve at NHC, where Tara works. They are short one server for the noon meal. It will be fun.

Jackie made up a plate for Mr. Egolf, and I'll take it by later today. Mrs. Egolf died last spring. He is such a good friend to us; we miss her.

For many years we have traveled to Oklahoma for the holidays. We had some talk of it again this year, but things have changed for us this year. Home is now in Franklin, Tennessee, though there are pieces of our hearts forever given to our families back home.

I was really happy the Sooners won the Big-12 Championship this year and are playing in the Fiesta Bowl in Glendale. It's not the national championship but we are playing an undefeated team in Boise State. BTW, if you want to know how great the Sooners really are, go to and check out the Quick Facts. OU holds eight #1 in the nation records, including the most points scored by any college football team ever. For those of you who don't know, my mother lives 1/2 mile from the OU campus in Norman. (I'm wearing my Sooners sweatshirt as I write this.)

What I wish for Christmas? I wish people would take a very long look at Jesus and care. I wish they would care morally, spiritually, and practically. I wish America could return to its gospel roots. I wish people would listen closely enough to God (instead of culture) that they would begin to worship Him rather than make themselves the focus. I wish people could make a distinction between worship and entertainment. I wish older people were more respected and less forgotten. I wish the ugly side of the internet would vanish. I wish the programming on television and at the movies were cleaned up morally. I wish everyone were truly Christian and truly set apart Christ as Lord in their hearts. I wish a nation that has told God to hush would open the ears and hearts to Him once again.

They are saying "Merry Christmas" at Wal-Mart again. For most of my life, we were people who didn't celebrate Christmas as a religious holiday but as a family one. The cultural battle to deject Christ from the American scene meant many stores were "Happy holidaying" rather than "Merry Christmasing." (You're not supposed to make verbs out of nouns, but I did.) I, for one, want to continue to help people understand that Christmas is a human tradition; but I also want people to think of Christ--at least for these few days. I want the Lord to be first in the hearts of everyone. Christianity is the best means for peace on earth. He is still the prince of peace. Through Him we have peace with God, with others, and with ourselves. There is no greater peace.

Well, these are my thoughts on a rainy morning in Franklin,

With love,

Saturday, December 23, 2006

The Greatest Need of our Nation

While doing some research for my next article in Think magazine, I ran across some material that I wish I could get into the hands of every responsible person in America. Patrick Fagan, a research fellow for the Heritage Foundation wrote a brilliant paper on the value of religion to America's well-being. He concludes:

A steady growing body of evidence from the social sciences demonstrates that regular religious practice benefits individuals, families, and communities, and thus the nation as a whole. The practice of religion improves health, academic achievement, and economic well-being and fosters self-control, self-esteem, empathy, and compassion.

Religious belief and practice can address many of the nation's most pressing social problems, some of which have reached serious levels (e.g., out-of-wedlock births and family dissolution). Research has linked the practice of religion to reductions in the incidence of divorce, crime, delinquency, drug and alcohol addiction, out-of-wedlock births [now at 4 of every ten, PDS], health problems, anxiety, and prejudice. Faith-based outreach has been uniquely effective in drug addiction rehabilitation and societal re-entry programs for prisoners. Furthermore, the effects of religious belief and practice are intergenerational and cumulative. In a sense, they compound the interest of our social capital.

The greatest need in our nation is simply a return to God and his Word. We must quit making it politically and socially correct to tell God to shut up and leave us alone. The answer to America's self-destruction is and has always been God. If I could get to the highest hill and could shout to America, I would tell them to come home to God. I would point them to the church! I would urge them to repent! I would tell them that God's Word and ways has the answer to their heart-aches. Jesus still gives rest to the soul...

I would urge every reader to take the time to read Fagan's paper. You can find it at:

Forgive the shameless plug, but I also hope you'll go to and subscribe to this remarkable magazine. Some of the dearest people I know work there, and they are trying to make a difference in our world. The magazine is celebrating its first anniversary in January and has already shown itself to be a success.

May God bless America again, and He will if America will allow Him into their lives.


Wednesday, December 20, 2006

When the answer is not an answer

A friend of mine in the Dallas/Ft. Worth area is reporting the rest of the news about what is happening at North Richland Hills:

For those who are not in the D/FW metropolis and want to know what’s happening with congregations after the announcement in last week’s Christian Chronicle…

The North Richland Hills congregation is losing membership very quickly. There is another rather large congregation in the area that has nearly doubled in size since the announcement – this would account for several hundred members alone. Several other congregations also report that they are receiving members who are “finally fed up” with the direction of their former congregation. Not sure where the final numbers will work out, but the effect is sure to be felt. I’m not sure that this significant piece of news will make it into the Christian Chronicle or not.
There appear to be far fewer proponents of the instrument than some would lead us to believe.

People think that compromise and union with error will make our churches larger. Not always. What happens is that people who see the truth finally tire and leave. The progressives have pushed and pushed their postmodern agenda until they have driven off members who will no longer put up with their watered-down convictions.

Of course, some are reasoning that they had to get rid of the objectors in order to advance the cause of union with the Christian church. My, how disposable are their souls? Their love for the instrumentalists and "unity" seems to be greater than their respect for their own people who have convictions!

Loose religion attracts people who want a non-threatening faith, but it is difficult to get progressives to take a firm stand except against "traditionalists."

We have seen changes in Nashville as well. One group wanted change and shrunk from 3700 down to half that size. Another group with a progressive leader has shrunk from 2300 to 1400. This is the other side of this movement, often not noticed by those with the agenda for change.

Truth does matter; and before there can be real "unity," there must be a sanctification in the truth. The unity of John 17 was both relational and doctrinal. Can anyone seriously entertain the idea that Jesus in being one with His Father agreed to disagree but get along? Jesus said otherwise: “My teaching is not mine, but his who sent me. If anyone’s will is to do God’s will, he will know whether the teaching is from God or whether I am speaking on my own authority" (John 7:16-17). I seriously doubt if those who have been prooftexting John 17 have taken enough time to look closely at it. The suggestion that we suspend doctrine and judgment in order to be unified is simply error.

Unity includes all of us agreeing with God doctrinally and relationally. You just cannot separate doctrine from relation (John 8:31-32). True disciples don't.

May the Lord help our broken and bleeding body to heal with truth and love.


Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Like Water on a Duck's Back

"When the wish is father to the thought correct exegesis is like water on a duck's back." (J. W. McGarvey, Short Essays on Biblical Criticism, p. 116).

I am dumbfounded at the lengths to which some will go in order to find permission to do what they desire to do. I recall a number of years ago a brother suggesting to me that polygamy is permissible today. Now, one cannot find a specific prohibitive of polygamy in the New Testament. Even the qualifications for the eldership seems to suggest that some men in those days had more than one wife (at the same time).

Most folks today who oppose polygamy do so from the positive statements of Scripture. Each man should have his own wife; each woman should have her own husband (1 Cor. 7:2). Husband and wife are in the singular. Remarriage after divorce is regarded as adulterous to the first spouse. This notion is built on the idea from the beginning of one-man-one-woman for a lifetime.

I am further amused today at the extent to which some go to defend sex with children, same-sex marriages, and polyamory (marriages of three or more--all married to the others). The cultural argument says that what the Bible condemned in the first century was for that culture but does not apply to us today. Whether it is the principle of silence or simply the authority of the Word itself, people will listen to culture and dismiss God when they want to follow their own impulses.

"When the wish becomes the father to the thought, correct exegesis is like water on a duck's back."

How did anybody ever get convinced of purgatory? Purgatory had some roots in the Apocrypha, but did not find a champion in Christianity for a few centuries. The doctrine suggests the sacrifice of Jesus was insufficient to purge Christians sufficiently of their sins, so they had to go to a temporary hell-like purging till they were cleansed enough to enter heaven. This doctrine insults the blood of Christ, which is more powerful than our sins. Yet some hang on to purgatory. We can't find a specific prohibitive against belief in purgatory; what we do find is the positive teaching on the sufficiency of the sacrifice and on heaven and hell. We further learn about hades and paradise. The silence of the Scripture, in the light of a complete revelation, suggests that purgatory arose in the imaginations of men (cf. Jer. 23:16-40). We must use silence in some measure to argue against purgatory.

The Bible teaches about the sacrifice of Jesus, hades, Paradise, heaven and hell.
The Bible is the complete revelation of God's will for men.
The Bible does not contain any teaching on purgatory.
Therefore the teaching of purgatory must find its source in something other than the complete revelation of God's will for men.
Purgatory is a humanly devised notion.
To teach purgatory is presumptuous innovation and divisive. It is not of the truth and leads men into error.

If this is the case, why would people believe in purgatory? Because they heard someone they trusted and like teach on it. They did not bother to study it out for themselves. Once it became established, it was easier to accept than to question.

Sprinkling, infant baptism, instrumental music in worship, open membership, and so many other doctrines capture the minds of a crowd, and people think it strange to object to these innovations.

"When the wish becomes the father to the thought, correct exegesis is like water on a duck's back." McGarvey surely did know what he was talkin' about!


Monday, December 18, 2006

Mack Lyon and "In Search of the Lord's Way"

"In Search of the Lord's Way" with Mack Lyon remains one of the top three television ministries in the United States. Each week, Mack reaches out to 25-50 million people with the gospel of Jesus Christ. I do not know of any other brother among who has such a national presence and who speaks so clearly and strongly as does Mack. Some twenty-six years ago, he began a work that touched every corner of this country and has gone into several nations.

His gentle nature, his refusal to ask for money, his fatherly wisdom, and his passion for morality and righteousness has endeared him to many within the Lord's church and without. Numerous people have left religious error to come to the truth, some have abandoned denominationalism, others have given up the instrument in worship, and everyone who hears has been blessed by his continued preaching of the truth in love. We thank God for him. Mack is in his very best days, and we pray God's continued blessing for much yet to be accomplished! His recent tract on the church has reached into the hands of tens of thousands of people since the program aired.

After my own father, Harley Sanders, died in 1985, Mack filled a hole in my life, for which I will always be thankful. He also offered an obscure, young preacher an opportunity to help him with some research. I will never forget the day he said to me, "Do you have anything that would be good for outsiders?" He offered a book of mine on worry, my first effort at writing. Mack gave me the privilege of viewing a taping of the program and of traveling occasionally with him. I have learned so much from this man of God. Mack knew how to make a difference in people's lives personally and over the air.

The best religious programs are preaching programs--they get the best ratings and make the most impact. For everyone who aspires to be a better media evangelist, they will not likely find a better model than Mack Lyon. I hope you listen to him each Sunday morning.

with fond affection,

Friday, December 15, 2006

Instrumental music one more time

My understanding is that the Richland Hills congregation in the metroplex of Dallas has now openly advertised a Saturday night service with the Lord's Supper and instrumental music.

The Christian Chronicle tells the story, so I won't. They studied the scholars on the subject for three years. What scholars did they study? Did they study all sides or the side they wanted? McGarvey noted that when the wish becomes the father of the practice, exegesis rolls off like water on a duck's back.

The arguments I have heard over the last few decades usually sound good until it is asked why the early church didn't get that point. Why didn't they understand what some supposed scholars now know.

Why didn't they feel free to use the instrument since Jesus felt it was okay to drink four cups of wine at the passover (ha!)? Why didn't the early church use the instrument since it was used in the temple? Why didn't the early church use it, since Psalm 87 speaks of it in prophecy? Why didn't the early church use it, since it is supposedly in heaven? How is it that the early church could have missed the long-touted psallo and psalmos arguments?

All these imaginative arguments fall flat. They are the dreams of people today who want the instrument, not the understanding of the early church that opposed the instruments.

If these scholars are so smart about the early church, why then didn't those common Christians of the first century (and succeeding centuries) not understand and apply the same?

If you would like to read a lengthy article on Music in NT worship, go to and follow the prompts to the bottom of the transcript page.

Just because some "big" and "popular" preachers and churches choose to do something foolish doesn't mean the rest of us should.


Friday, December 08, 2006

What Is the Truth about Islam?

I would point you to two books, which I think will be helpful in understanding where Islam is today and where they came from.

The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam and the Crusades
The Truth about Muhammad

Both of these books are by Robert Spencer and may be acquired at or at a local bookstore.

The Islamic faith is made up of many fanatics and extremists who wish to convert or enslave all infidels (people who do not believe Muhammad is a prophet or worship Allah). The Allah of Islam is not the Jehovah of the Bible. Muslims worship one God with one person, whereas Christians worship the one and only God in three persons: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

While Muslims believe Jesus is a prophet, they deny that he is the Son of God, that he died for our sins, and that he arose from the dead. They believe the Bible is corrupt. They do not believe the gospel (Mk. 16:15-16).

Their desire is to establish a Caliphate over the whole world. Those who do not convert will be enslaved in dhimmitude or killed. They want the pot of gold, which is America.

This is their desire.


Thursday, December 07, 2006

The threat of Islam

I hope and pray that each one reading this blog from time to time will note the extreme threat that the Islamic religion is posing not only to Israel and Europe but also to the American way of life.

Let me recommend two sites that will educate you and somewhat frighten you:

The Islamic community is telling us day after day they plan to wipe us off the face of the earth. They are raising their children today to hate Israelis and Americans. Christians are infidels, dogs, animals, pigs, urine, and many other despicable things in their eyes. They are committed forever to our destruction. We must not be foolish so as to think they will go away. We must not be Neville Chamberlains and follow the path of appeasement. They will never be appeased; their goal is total world domination for Sharia law.

I hope you will take some time to find the truth.


Wednesday, December 06, 2006

The Status of Churches of Christ

Bobby Ross of the Christian Chronicle recently asked me to speak about the status of Churches of Christ today. Here is my opinion.

Churches of Christ today are a mixed bag, and I frequently hear stories of people who travel wanting to know what kind of congregation they will find at their destination. We should not be surprised that churches today differ, since they differed greatly even among the seven in Asia Minor in Revelation 2-3.

Some churches are growing well, and others are declining. Some have strong leaderships, and others are weak. Some are set in their ways, and others try every new thing that arises. Several people like to lump all churches of Christ in the same group and stereotype them; this is both dishonest and unfair. Some years ago I heard several make outlandish charges against the church. I realized there was probably a congregation somewhere like that; but you could drive down the road and find a congregation that wasn’t like that at all. Jesus did not lump the seven churches of Asia; He spoke to them individually. Some were good with open doors, some were lukewarm, and some were downright displeasing.

There are some predominant mindsets creating a wedge within churches of Christ, and fellowship is already limited if not completely disrupted. The postmodern, “progressive inclusivists” seem to me more interested in placating the public than pleasing the Lord. Far more than the instrument is involved; these churches are embracing a gospel without doctrine and a grace with no need for repentance. They are angry at and embarrassed with traditional churches of Christ. In their disdain, they highlight the abuses of traditionalists to justify their progressive agenda. They deny there are any rigid patterns in Scripture and so feel free to design their own Christianity, usually copied after the denominational groups around them. While a few of these churches seem to succeed, many of them have badly fallen in attendance.

There are others, over-scrupulous in their zeal, which thrive on the controversy that condemns others. They tend to bite and devour, sometimes each other. They have a tendency to make traditions into laws and judge others for not keeping their traditions. The harsh attitude within these churches often keep them small.

These two extremes among us love beating up on the mainstream, that group which is neither progressive nor over-scrupulous. The churches in the mainstream that love the truth, love people, and work hard are almost without exception growing. One church like this in Meridian, Idaho, has tripled in recent years. Churches like this in Dickson, Mount Juliet, and Woodbury, Tennessee, have been building larger auditoriums to hold everyone. I am not convinced that these brethren, who believe in the Restoration principle and teach with love, are going to vanish away in coming years. Many of them are filled with young people who know and love the truth. Many of them are quite involved in training preachers and in spiritually training their children. They believe the Word of God will produce what it has always produced—Christians. Many of these congregations are more interested in doing the Lord’s work than in the compromises of others. They are committed to New Testament Christianity. While no church is perfect, they still strive for it.

These are the churches that gave more than $30 million to Disaster Relief in Nashville, that train with Fishers of Men, and send their children to Bible Bowls. These are the churches that receive and answer calls from the mission fields and from the poor. These are the churches that haven’t thrown away their Bibles to listen to fluffy sermons; they do not have itching ears. They realized the Lord expects them to produce, and they are producing. May their number increase.