Friday, September 28, 2007

To Whom Are You Listening?

We are all listening to something, and it is worth our time to think about what we are hearing. If we desire to please God, we must think about what we are feeding our souls. To what are you listening?

If you are listening to (or watching) less than wholesome media, don't be surprised when you think or say less than wholesome things (1 Cor. 15:33). If you spend your time with angry people, you will learn their ways (Prov. 22:24-25). If you flirt with gossip, you will damage yourself and others. To what and to whom are you listening?

If you persistently read the works of people who believe false teaching, it is more likely that you will find sympathy with what you read. You may even lose sight or fall victim to Satan's persuasive ideas. He may even steal the Word of God from you (Luke 8:11ff.)

Christian unity arises from listening to the Lord Jesus and serving Him alone. It doesn't come from blending the world in with one's Christianity. It doesn't come from being distracted by the world's thinking and values. It doesn't come from the world's techniques. The world will always try to convince us that it has a better way than the Lord. To whom are we listening?

Paul said,
"but we have renounced the things hidden because of shame, not walking in craftiness or adulterating the word of God, but by the manifestation of truth commending ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God. 3And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, 4in whose case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. 5For we do not preach ourselves but Christ Jesus as Lord, and ourselves as your bond-servants for Jesus’ sake. 6For God, who said, “Light shall shine out of darkness,” is the One who has shone in our hearts to give the Light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ" (2 Cor. 4:2-6)

The devil would love nothing more than to adulterate the word of God with his own thinking, so that he might blind people to the truth.

The real cause of disunity among those who name the Name is the devil. He leads people to listen to a gospel blended with culture and popular thinking. Then when those who love truth call attention to the error, he vilifies them for it. He is a maligner of the Truth and those who believe it. Make no mistake.

If we listen to his lies and to his maligning of the righteous, we will not see things in the true light. We must continue to listen to the Lord, in whom is only Light and goodness. We must bring every thought captive to Him.


Thursday, September 27, 2007

In the culture but not of the culture

I recall all the talk of Woodstock and my generation. I graduated from high school in 1969. I recall the first heart transplant was that year. I'll never forget seeing on television Neil Armstrong set foot on the moon: "One small step for man; one giant leap for mankind." I cannot take such memories from the vault of my mind. I understand that.

But I didn't go to Woodstock, didn't take drugs, never liked hard rock, and never grew long hair. I didn't oppose everything about the Vietnam war (since I had two brothers serving in the Navy). I didn't go to Canada to avoid the draft.

Many of the features people say dominated my generation really didn't affect everyone. Fulfilling the instruction of Paul in Romans 12:2 to be not conformed but to be transformed by the renewing of our minds is possible and obligatory. People can live above their culture. Christians have done it for centuries.

The men of the restoration movement broke from the denominational mindset to return to Scripture for their faith and practice. What they did arose out of their commitment to the Lord and the instruction of Scripture more than anything else. They had read passages such as Jeremiah 6:16; 2 Thess. 2:15; John 8:31-32; and 2 John 9-11. They knew they were not to add or take away from the teaching of Christ. That was not culture telling them that--it was the Word they read and studied. They did not conform to the sectarians of their day; they transformed by the renewing of their minds. And so should we.

Were they right about everything. Of course not. That is why we all have the responsibility of renewing our minds and transforming our lives into conformity with Christ. There is a Biblical norm (call it culture if you like) to which we can and must adhere.

I am not a Campbellite, Lipscombite, or McCordite. I was not baptized in the name of Cambell. Campbell was not crucified for me. Nor Lipscomb, nor McGarvey, nor Lewis, nor McCord, nor Kelcy--though I may listen to them all. I know Whom I have believed. Only He is Lord and Savior.

So while some would accuse us of capitulation to the culture of restoration, we continue quoting the Scriptures and pointing out the humanity of restoration leaders. Perhaps that is why I don't preach from the King James Version, the Living Oracles, or the ASV.

I might point out that those who holler the loudest about the error of drawing doctrines from inferences practice that very thing. Campbell included.


Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Jury member?

In 2006 Dale Jenkins, Jeff Jenkins, Steve Higginbotham, Mike Green, Mike Baker, Wayne Hatcher and I embarked on a project to produce a book entitled, Seeking True Unity. The book has done very well, and only a few copies remain for sale. Brethren have appreciated the book and have even invited some of us to speak on the topics of the book.

Recently a blogger friend has set about the task of reviewing the book. He is a brother and acquaintance of mine. He said some nice things about the book. Bobby Valentine and I have exchanged views several times and find ourselves only occasionally agreeing. Our book dealt with the issues surrounding the 1906 division between the Christian churches and churches of Christ.

Among Bobby's comments on the book, I found this one interesting and somewhat misleading:

Thus as I read and reflected on the prosecutions arguments, as a member of the jury, it occurred to me that what I was actually hearing was actually an apology for the status quo .For division. I kept hearing, through the testimony, why it is good for “us” to remain basically as “we” are. We are told that some “refreshing changes” are being made but we never find out what they are.

Knowing Bobby, I am not surprised at his assessment of making the division for the split our fault for maintaining the status quo. Bobby would like to cast himself in the role of a jury member. In point of fact, he is more like a witness for the defense.

I have little inclination to defend anything but what he calls the status quo. We are, after all, to hold to the apostolic traditions (2 Thess. 2:15). It was the introduction of an innovation, the unauthorized or strange worship (among other matters), that caused the estrangement. They left us. We did not leave them. We could not go with them into their error.

Truth unites, and that is the meaning of seeking true unity. Forming a union with error, compromise, and innovation is not the unity for which Jesus prayed. The path to unity is when all men set aside their own opinions and remain under the headship of the one and only Lord. To have unity we must all conform to His will, not suspend it so that we can permit innovation.

So Bobby, we look forward to your further installments. As for freshness, being committed under the leadership of Christ, rather than capitulating to culture, is the freshest thing I know.


Tuesday, September 25, 2007

If we silence God

I'm quite concerned about the 2008 election. One radio commentator I hear often was complaining about not letting the extreme left or the conservative Christians make the policy of our government any longer. The people should make the policy.

While I quite grant that I hope the extreme liberal left (with its policies of political correctness and socialism) will have no voice in our government, I believe it is utter foolishness to push God out of the thinking of our country. The particular commentator, whom I respect, said that the founding fathers never envisioned conservative Christians making policy in this country.

I was astounded at his reasoning. He apparently did not know the staunch views of our founding fathers. They believed that the freedom we enjoy came from those same conservative views. Many of the views people today regard as "right wing radical" were the norm of other generations. We have become in many respects what would have been unthinkable to them.

President Thomas Jefferson who wrote the Declaration of Independence and is credited with suggesting a separation of church and state, offered this National Prayer of Peace on March 4, 1805, the day of his second inauguration:

"Almighty God, Who has given us this good land for our heritage; We humbly beseech Thee that we may always prove ourselves a people mindful of Thy favor and glad to do Thy will. Bless our land with honorable ministry, sound learning, and pure manners."

While Jefferson detested those who abused and corrupted Christianity, he believed very strongly that the way of Jesus ought to be followed.

President George Washington addressed the General Committee representing the United Baptist Churches of Virginia on May 10, 1789. He said:

"If I could have entertained the slightest apprehension that the Constitution framed by the Convention, where I had the honor to preside, might possibly endanger the religious rights of any ecclesiastical Society, certainly I would never have placed my signature to it;
...I beg you will be persuaded that no one would be more zealous than myself to establish effectual barriers against...every species of religious persecution."

In his National Day of Thanksgiving Proclamation in New York City, October 3, 1789, Washington said:

"Whereas it is the duty of all nations too acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for his benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favor..."

Among other things in this proclamation, Washington urged that "we may then unite... to promote the knowledge and practice of the true religion and virtue...."

On March 11, 1792, Washington wrote in a letter to John Armstrong:

"I am sure that never was a people, who had more reason to acknowledge a Divine interposition in their affairs, than those of the United States; and I should be pained to believe that they have forgotten that agency, which was so often manifested during our Revolution, or that they failed to consider the omnipotence of that God who is alone able to protect them."

In his Farewell Address, Washington said:

"Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, Religion and morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of Patriotism, who should labor to subvert these great Pillars of human happiness, these firmest props of the duties of Men and Citizens....
"Let is simply be asked where is is the security for prosperity, for reputation, for life, if the sense of the religious obligation desert the oaths which are the instruments of investigation in the Courts of Justice? And let us with caution indulge the supposition, that morality can be maintained without religion. Whatever may be conceded t the influence of refined education on minds of peculiar structure, reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle. 'Tis substantially true, that virtue or morality is a necessary spring of popular government."

That our country's founding fathers saw little link between faith and government is a modern and postmodern notion. The fathers themselves would have been utterly shocked at such an absurdity.


Friday, September 21, 2007

I am a citizen of heaven

With all the political talk in the wake of next year's presidential race, it is easy to lose sight of our real loyalty. I am an American, true. My family has been in this country since well before the revolution. My forefather on my dad's side, Nahum Sanders, signed a pledge in 1778 to fight King George for North Carolina. My forefather on my mother's side, Patrick Henry, was at one time general of the army of Virginia in opposition to the crown and led a very successful raid on a British armory. As governor of Virginia and a friend to George Washington, Patrick sent once and again to the soldiers who wintered at Valley Forge. In fact, among his other statements, Patrick Henry is credited with the first public declaration, "I am an American." I am proud of my country.

When I was a boy, I asked my father about our nationality. Some of our ancestors came from Ireland, England, France, and Holland. Dad said, "Son, you're an American; and that's all you really need to know."

But as proud as I am of my country and its Christian roots, I am a citizen of heaven. Paul said in Philippians 3:20-21, "But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself." Citizenship in heaven is by far the most valuable possession I have. Nothing else compares.

In my lifetime, I've lived in twelve houses that I can remember. I bought my first house in Franklin some twelve years ago. Though it is a nice house, it is temporary. The place Christ has reserved for me (John 14:1-3; 1 Pet. 1:3-5), however, is eternal. Once granted, it is mine forever. Jesus is preparing it, and God is furnishing it. It will be more glorious and more lavish than anything I can imagine.

I have always treasured the promise of Ephesians 2:6-7. God "raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus,
so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus." My Father in heaven wants to lavish his love and grace on me in eternity. I can hardly imagine what all He has in store to bless me.

If heaven is my home, I need to think more about it (Col. 3:1-4). I need to let the values and the ways of God be far more influential on my thinking. If I am citizen of heaven, I need to live like one. If I am a person in God's household, I need to live like one of His family. I need to put away the offensive and live with love. My life ought to glorify God, not seek self-glorification or self-gratification.

There is no greater privilege than to have the right to be a citizen of heaven. I must not forget that.


A couple of projects

In coming days I will complete the second of two projects I've planned for this fall. About two weeks ago, I taped a 65-minute CD presentation for Focus Press on Marriage. The publisher is working on the cover and the reproduction now. It is composed of six 10-12 minute messages to help married folks live more happily.

I am now teaching and working on a CD dealing with parenting. We should tape it later in the fall. Focus Press will also make these available. I don't know everything about marriage or about parenting, but there will be lots of information on these CDs to make them worth your while. To get the best out of them, you may want to listen to them more than once.


Friday, September 14, 2007

The Enemy

Before Andrew Jackson became the seventh president of the United States,
he served as a major general in the Tennessee militia. During the War of 1812
his troops reached an all-time low in morale. As a result they began arguing, bickering, and fighting among themselves. It is reported that Old Hickory called them all together on one occasion when tensions were at their worst and said, "Gentlemen! Let's remember, the enemy is over there." *

We have people in the church to the extreme left and right who have no clue who their enemy is. One periodical I received seems to think that the enemy is sound and balanced brethren. They figure that since the balanced brethren are not as extreme as they are, they must be compromisers and the "enemy." With their pens they bite and slander and condemn. They demand everyone toe their line. Diotrephes lives again. Their hateful approach feeds the fire of those on the other extreme who are always slapping the church.

On the other side are arrogant bloggers who can find nothing right with the church. They constantly harp on all the negatives, charging that the church is tied up in traditions. They can't see why we don't use instruments. They seem to want the church to become a bad imitation of the evangelicals. They alone understand grace and can't see why anyone would insist on baptism for salvation. Anomia lives.

In their thinking mainstream churches of Christ are the enemy. One might suggest they take a long look at themselves (Matt. 7:1-5). It is the extreme approach that is causing so much conflict and controversy.

The real enemy is the devil, who preaches false doctrines and splits churches. He does it through self-willed people who have to be first and through sin-ridden libertines who want to cast off the rule of the Lord. Yes, there is conflict; but the source of that conflict starts inside of arrogant men and outside the New Testament.

There is the opportunity for Satan to get into anyone of us. To warp our thinking with selfishness, pride, or sin. It is easy to begin finding justification for our desires rather than submitting to the Lord. It is easy to puff up and compare ourselves with others. When you start doing that, Satan is at work.

We must not forget who the enemy is that we are fighting. It is the world. We must learn to set aside our personal, petty issues of pride and get back to the work at hand--winning the lost!


My personal thanks goes to David Sargent for the above illustration. He puts out an excellent weekly e-newsletter, Living Water. I read it with eagerness. You can subscribe to this newsletter at

Archived issues of "Living Water" can be viewed and accessed from our website at:

Thursday, September 13, 2007

A rainbow

This morning as I drove into work I saw a beautiful rainbow. There wasn't any rain, and the clouds were thin. Remarkably, the sun was to the right and the rainbow to the left. I was facing east. Usually when you are looking at a rainbow, the sun is at your back; but not this time. The rainbow was not very large, but its colors were vibrant.

The rainbow reminds us that God will never again destroy the world with water. That is God's covenant with mankind. Rainbows stand for promise and hope.

God placed his bow in the sky after He saved mankind from the evil of itself. It must have broken God's heart to see that the thoughts of all men were only evil continually. The devil never missed a trick, and he still isn't missing any. Anything and everything he can do to cause men to forsake God and righteousness, he will try. Too often he succeeds.

Last night as Jackie and I drove to church, we passed by Centennial High School. The soccer field up on the hill was filled with players and spectators. Have they not forgotten that God's people worship on Wednesday evening? The devil doesn't miss a trick. The world is an evil place.

Evil is turning this world upside down. Postmodern thinking along with Schuller's New Reformation have declared sin an outdated word in our society. Schuller believes the worst thing you can do in evangelism is to call attention to sin or to people being sinners. He thinks the only sin is when an individual thinks low of himself. Obviously we have no desire to offend people; but no one helps

Schuller's way makes man into his own god. Our personal view of ourselves is important, but it is NOT the only sin. The God of Heaven is the One who defines what is sin. It is untrue that Jesus never recognized sin or that He refrained from calling a sinner a sinner. He said to Peter, "Get behind me, Satan." He constantly called the Pharisees "hypocrites." The message of John the Baptist, Jesus, and the twelve was "repent." Repent. Repent.

Noah preached repentance for one hundred years, but the people grew even more evil. God destroyed them for their evil hearts and lives. He wiped out the evil so that man could start fresh and clean from that evil environment.

There are times in our own lives when we must sweep out the ugly, so that the fresh and clean may live. Sweep out the immoral, the presumptuous, the false, and the hurtful. Let the good of God live on. Turn away from sin and turn to God.

God promised with the rainbow never to destroy the world with water. There is a destruction coming, but it will be fire (2 Peter 3) at the end of time. In the meanwhile, the blood of Jesus is at work, cleansing us from sin, and motivating us to live righteous lives.

The world is evil, but there is now hope in Christ. The love of God, the blood of Christ, and the truth of the Spirit all assure us that there is a better way than falling into destruction and ruin. We can live for God and love Him. We don't have to follow the easy path. We can make it into the ark of safety and live by following the Lord.

I was encouraged by the rainbow. It reminded me that God has a way of redemption for me.


Wednesday, September 12, 2007

James Garfield and singing

Thanks to Frank Walton for sending me this post:

From the Diary of Gen. James Garfield

James Garfield, later President of the United States, preached among the Disciples of Christ/Christian Churches. Here are his thoughts on attending Metropolitan Baptist Tabernacle in London, England to hear Charles Spurgeon preach:

“At half-past eleven Spurgeon came in, and at once offered a short, simple earnest prayer, and read and helped the whole congregation to sing Watts' stirring hymn: There is a land of pure delight.

For the first time in my life I felt some sympathy with the doctrine that would reject instrumental music from church worship. There must have been five thousand voices joining in the hymn. The whole building was filled and overflowed with the strong volume of song. The music made itself felt as a living, throbbing presence that entered your nerves, brain, heart, and filled and swept you away in its resistless current.”

Published in the 1883 volume of Century Magazine, and is quoted in "Charles H. Spurgeon: His Faith and Works," H.L. Wayland, Copyright 1892 by the American Baptist Publication Society.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Set them apart in the truth

"Set them apart in the truth. Your word is truth" (John 17:17).

Jesus prayed that too, and He prayed it before He prayed for unity. We can have unity because we believe the truth about the Person. We cease to have a relationship with the Person of Jesus if we are unwilling to listen to His truth, if we depart from the truth, if we do not love the truth, or if we compromise the truth.

Trust (or faith) is inseparably intertwined with the Truth. Jesus, after all, is the Truth. He came to bear witness to the truth; He sets us free with the Truth; and grace and truth come by Him.

We are to love the truth and to buy the truth, even when it costs us much and makes us ugly in the eyes of the world. We must love the truth more than we love the wisdom of the world. Those who sell the truth to gain the praise of the world have their reward already. They can expect none from God. They have chosen what is important to them.

The truth should not automatically be identified either with the traditions of men or the latest notion. Truth is not determined by opinion polls, majorities, counsels, or loyalties. Truth is determined by what God says. Truth is not determined by what crafty people can do to read into the Scriptures what they prefer, but truth is determined by what we can draw out from the Scriptures. Scholars may observe a truth, but they cannot manufacture it.

The postmodernists are wrong: truth is not manufactured at all. Truth is revealed by God. Men may manufacture their customs and mores; they may insist on their creeds and canons. They may enforce their fiats and faiths. But men do not manufacture spiritual truth; only God can do that. Men can merely observe it, and most men have a hard time doing that. Most would rather blend it with their own biases.

"Thy Word is truth." It has the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. The Word alone is our standard and measure. All else leads us into confusion.

If I could stand upon the highest place and shout, I would call men back to the Truth of God's Word. I would call them away from the postmodern lie that every view is as good as another, that every church is as good as another, that every faith is like all the others, and that everyone's subjective truth is as good as everyone else's. Only God's truth matters for eternity. The rest is illusion.

For the love of God's truth,

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Family portrait Sept 1, 2007

These two portraits of the family were taken Saturday, Sept 1 at about 4 pm. You might notice that we have one more on the way. I am holding Haydn, Jackie is holding Louise. The top row from left to right: Josh and Chara Watson, Christa and Dewayne Bryant, John and Laura Wilson, and Tara Sanders. We number eleven today, but with God's grace twelve in October.

God is so good to bless us so richly.