Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Concord Road church of Christ

I can hardly describe all the feelings I have about the church that has given me the pleasure of serving for these last 13 1/2 years. I have grown to love the elders and remember them with fondness: Maurice Hall, Harold Coggan, Keith Crowe, Bill Lambert, Don King, Sam Gant, Ron Thomas, Buddy Williams, Jim McGee, Mike Hammond, Steve Ellis, Jerry McCormick, Roy Arnold, and David Harper. Each of these men have a special place in my heart.

I have appreciated deeply the people I worked with Shann Jennings, Joe Wells, Ryan Daniels, Will Tidwell, and Paddy Flanagan. I have so deeply appreciated the secretaries: Nancy Smith, Helen Zemmel, Pam McGee, Emily Wilhite, Deborah Pratt, and Melissa Tolbert.

I appreciate so many deacons with whom I spent much time in planning and working on projects. They are hard workers who have a good favor from God. I thank God for so many prayers, so much good.

As they search for a new minister, may the Lord bless and keep them.

phil

Friday, December 19, 2008






Here are some pictures of the house in Edmond that we will likely purchase.

phil

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Concord Rd.





Concord Rd was so very gracious to Jackie and me in giving us a wonderful send-off party as we end our time in Tennessee and begin a new work in Oklahoma. We are so blessed to have loved ones in both places.

We can hardly say enough good about Concord Rd. Our prayers of thanksgiving ascend to the Father and our hearts pray the right man will come to work with them. May the Lord bless them.

phil

Saturday, December 06, 2008

A Call to America

I'm taking this transition in my life very, very seriously. They tell me that the Search program reaches every corner of America and even to the world. It airs via 84 markets, 4 satellites, 130 cable stations, radio, and internet. This program has been our brotherhood's national voice. We must keep it so and must walk worthy of the name of Jesus Christ.

Several people have said "congratulations" to me, and it is a great honor to speak on one of the three largest religious television programs in America. But, I am also very humbled to think of the awesome responsibility and the need to preach the gospel truth with love. Mack Lyon's shoes are indeed difficult to fill; but the Lord, the Edmond elders, and Mack have entrusted me with this great task. I'm beginning it with prayer, knowing I will need God now more than ever to guide, to strengthen, and to help me. I am not sufficient on my own. My sufficiency is from the Lord (2 Cor. 3:5), and I am praying the Lord will graciously supply all the things I yet lack on my own.

Now I need your prayers and ask your continued financial support for the Search program. My first program on Search will air February 1, and I'm preparing the script now. My prayer is that God will be honored and that I can have a good start with millions of people who don't know me. (The actual audience is about 60 million weekly.) If I am to be a minister and an ambassador for God, then I too must know nothing but Christ and him crucified (1 Cor. 2:2). I must be true to God, honest with the faith, and loving to people.

My task is to point people to Jesus. Like the people who heard Paul at Mar's Hill, America is full of "confliction" (yes I know this is not a word) and confusion. Our country has told God to hush to its own harm. God must not be silenced by cultural bullies. We believe it is high time to start listening to God, to seek out His Way. Jesus always pleased God (Jn. 8:29), and Paul sought to be "fully pleasing to him" (Col. 1:10). So should we. We need to be utterly grateful for God's grace by responding in faith and in repentance. The message of Jesus and Paul to the masses was "repent" (Mt. 4:17; Acts 17:30-31). Repentance is the gift America needs most. People can change, and the need for them to change in the way that pleases God is as great now as at any time.

Please devote yourselves to prayer that God will open doors for the Word (Col. 4:2-4).

With love,
Phil

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Moving

Moving is a headache even under the best circumstances. The Holmes-Rahe Stress scale gives change in residence only 20 out of a possible 100 stress points, but change in responsibilities at work gets a 29! A child leaving home also rates 29. Now, Tara isn't leaving us, but we are leaving her. Then we got to add Christa, Laura, Dewayne, John, Haydn, Louise, and Ava. At 29 each! A major mortgage rates 32! I didn't see what selling a house rates, but it's got to be just as stressful.

Let's see: 20+29+232+32+32= 345!! You'll probably find Jackie and me in the looney bin or the hospital before this is over! ;-)

Saying goodbye to our church family isn't listed. Oh well, the Lord is with us (1 Pet. 5:8).

phil

Friday, November 21, 2008

House for Sale

We have put our home up for sale at 224 Kensington Pl. in Franklin. If you would like to know more about our home or someone moving to Franklin, here are the facts:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LgxMDUlvzrA

Jackie and I have really worked hard. Please pray a motivated buyer will come and want our house. It has a great location in a quiet neighborhood.

phil

Thursday, November 13, 2008

A New Beginning

Mack Lyon and the wonderful television ministry "In Search of the Lord's Way" has invited me to come and work with them in Edmond, OK. Beginning in January 1, 2009 I will be working full-time with Search TV. You might occasionally see me in front of the camera. My new email address will be phil@searchtv.org.

I will continue to work with Amridge University and the Theological University of America. I will continue to write for Gospel Advocate, Spiritual Sword, and Think magazine.

While I will greatly miss my loved ones at Concord Rd. in Brentwood, TN, I am very excited about the opportunity to take the gospel to millions by means of television, internet, and radio. I covet your prayers, because I know I can do nothing without God's strength and guidance.

Monday, November 10, 2008

The Real Change America Needs

No greater moral change ever passed over a nation than passed over England during the years which parted the middle of the reign of Elizabeth from the Long Parliament. England became a people of the book, and that book was the Bible. It was read at churches and read at home, and everywhere its words, as they fell on ears which custom had not deadened, kindled a startling enthusiasm. As a mere literary monument, the English version of the Bible remains the noblest example of the English tongue. But far greater was the effect of the Bible on the character of the people. Elizabeth might silence or tune the pulpits, but it was impossible for her to silence or tune the great preachers of justice and mercy and truth who spoke from the Book. The whole temper of the nation felt the change. A new conception of life and of man superseded the old. A new moral and religious impulse spread through every class. (John Richard Green, A Short History of the English People)


There is a greater need today for the Word of God to permeate the lives of people in America than at any time in the history of this country. We need the guidance, the assurance, and the wisdom only God’s Word can give.

Let us read our Bibles, meditate upon its words, and fill our hearts with its messages. The word strengthens (Rom. 16:26-27), nourishes (1 Peter 2:2), purifies our souls (1 Pet. 1:22), gives us life (Jn. 6:63), and is the means of our new birth (1 Pet. 1:23).

The word of God makes the naïve wise (Ps. 19:7-11), brings light to a darkened world (Ps. 119:104), and gives us a never failing measure for truth (Jn. 8:31-32; 17:17).

Pick up your Bible and let God into your heart and your life.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Rise Up, O Men of God

Rise up, O men of God!
Have done with lesser things.
Give heart and mind and soul and strength
To serve the King of kings.

Lift high the cross of Christ!
Tread where His feet have trod.
As brothers of the Son of Man,
Rise up, O men of God!


William Merrill wrote these stirring words in 1911, and they still call us to a nobler life of service to our great God.

Before we rise up, we must wake up. Let us wake from the slumber which dulls our senses to a lost and dying world. Heaven is calling through the gospel, and hell is real for those who refuse. This hasn't changed.

Let us wake up to the gospel message of love--which is kind and gracious because it tells the truth and gives hope. The gospel is the way out of immorality, the way out of guilt and hopelessness, and the way out of deception. Jesus is still the way, the truth, and the life. Let us wake up to what we have in Christ and who we are in Christ. Let us wake up and remember that we are nearer salvation than when we first believed.

Let us pray before we rise up. Pray for wisdom to know how to live in a world that doesn't understand or appreciate your commitment to God. Pray for strength and courage to do what is right each day. Pray for comfort; God's grace is sufficient for us. Let us ask God to forgive our weaknesses and give us a new heart full of determination to love Him.

Let us rise and take up our crosses; let walk where He walked and as He walked. Let us renew our zeal and build our fervor for the King of kings and Lord of lords. He is our true leader, and only He can take us to Heaven. Only Jesus. There is no other Lord. Let us serve from our hearts to please Him. Die to yourself and grasp His will.

Let your light shine. Speak a good word for Jesus. Refuse to be angry. Rejoice in the Lord. See your friends' burdens and help them. Never give up.

God is not unfair. He recalls the good you do (Heb. 6:7-9). Your labor in the Lord is not in vain (1 Cor. 15:58). It is never in vain. The world is lost in vain pursuits (Eph. 4:17-24); its works are vanishing away (1 Jn. 2:17). But your labor in the Lord is productive of an everlasting good. Get busy.

Phil

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Take a Breath

Last Wednesday night several came into midweek worship and Bible classes with the overwhelming disappointment over the election. Those of us who believe partial-birth abortion is infanticide and same-sex marriage is wrong felt deserted by a blind country who would allow such an advocate of evil rule over them.

Some friends have suggested that the America we have known and loved will disappear in days to come. No doubt, the election will make advocates of evil who love to silence the truth even more bold. I admit it... I too am heartsick and a bit angry.

Take a breath.... this too shall pass.

History is a wonderful reminder that evil doesn't last forever, no matter how powerful. Good will win out in the end, even if the devil deceives the nations and enslaves them for his evil agenda. The Lord of lords and the King of kings sees and knows it all. He will destroy evil with the sword of his mouth.

This is not a time to hide in caves; it is a time to stand strong. God has equipped us with a panoply (a suit of full armor). Read about it in Ephesians 6:10-20. Having done everything in this battle with the devil, we are to stand firm. This is not a time for retreat; it is a time to go to war for our souls!

Instead of throwing our hands up in failure, let us redouble our efforts! We have the weapons to win EVERY time! God has given us faith! God has given us love! God has given us TRUTH! God has given us the hope the world needs so badly. We are not puny and poor; we are God's heirs, God's holy nation, God's royal priesthood, a people for God's own possession! In God's eyes we are holy, beloved, and chosen! For us God is preparing an eternal home.

Let us not be surprised that the world is worldly; it always has been. The whole world, after all, lies in the power of the evil one; but we are not of the world. The LORD watches over us. Take a breath, say a prayer, recall the promises, and get to work.

God gave us the Word, a powerful and unstoppable weapon. The world can't burn it up, delete it, or resist it. It stands written! Preach it! Proclaim it to a lost and dying world with love and conviction. The world may hate us for it, but they will not shut us up. The Bible has survived as the seed of the kingdom. Hide it in your heart, and it will produce life eternal for you and for those who will hear you.

Don't quit! Don't give up! Don't give out! We have not yet begun to do all that we can do to light a dark and dreary world with the eternal gospel of Jesus Christ.

Redouble your efforts, love the Lord, love people, let your light shine, and give thanks. Throw aside discouragement and be men. We not only can win souls, we can change lives and lands with the power of love and the word. Preach, love, and stay the course! The Kingdom of heaven needs you!

phil

Monday, October 27, 2008

When Paul came to Corinth

When Paul came to Athens and Corinth, he found them filled with idols and immorality. The culture of monotheism he had known in Jerusalem was now replaced with rampant polytheism. There were gods everywhere. Women were quiet in Judea but noisy and evident in Achaia. Only men were priests in Judaism, but the temple priestesses were abundant in Corinth. There were nearly 1000 of them, and they knew how to satisfy a man in their worship. In Judea there was a book of divine law, but in Corinth all one need do is keep the gods happy.

When Paul came to Corinth, he came to a foreign culture very unlike the one he found in Judea, where he schooled under Gamaliel as a Pharisee. In Judea they valued righteousness; in Corinth they valued sexual immorality. "Food for the stomach, and the stomach for food!"

The paradigm shift from a Jewish culture to a Greek one was overwhelming. I cannot imagine even the shift from modern to postmodern culture to be any more radical.

Some say, "A new culture should require a new brand of Christianity adapted to the culture, Amen?" So says the "emerging church." The church must change or die, so says all the experts! We have to be postmodern; we have to be pluralistic; we have to stop being judgmental about anything; and we have to stop beating up on sinners with the Bible. We need a new church for a new age!

Paul did not say that to the new Christians he converted at Corinth or Athens or Colossae or Rome. He didn't argue for an accommodation to culture. He argued for the world to conform to the gospel teaching.

Romans 12:2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.

1 Corinthians 11:2 Now I praise you because you remember me in everything and hold firmly to the traditions, just as I delivered them to you.

1 Corinthians 15:1-2 Now I make known to you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received, in which also you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast the word which I preached to you, unless you believed in vain.

2 Corinthians 4:18 while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.

Colossians 2:6-8 Therefore as you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, having been firmly rooted and now being built up in Him and established £in your faith, just as you were instructed, and overflowing with gratitude. See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ.

Colossians 3:1-4 Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory.

2 Thessalonians 2:15 So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught, whether by word of mouth or by letter from us.

As salt, we are to permeate the earth; otherwise we are worthless.

A new church? Paul said there is one church. A new church cannot be the one church Jesus built; it must be different. A new church is not really a church; it is a counterfeit, pretending to be the real thing.

I think I'll listen to Paul and hold fast to the Lord's way.

phil

Thursday, October 23, 2008

A video worth watching

I've been a little lax on posting due to the fact my computer was down for a week at church. This video is really worth watching:

http://www.valuevotersusa.com/"

I hope you will go to the polls and vote in the coming days. Throw out the ungodly people who will not uphold life and morality. Elect people who love life and believe in the teaching of the Lord.

phil

Thursday, October 02, 2008

What?

No comment. Listen for yourself!

Check out this link:

http://www.youtube.com/swf/l.swf?swf=http%3A//s.ytimg.com/yt/swf/cps-vfl56573.swf&video_id=4FCNKwHRCQM&rel=1&eurl=&iurl=http%3A//i1.ytimg.com/vi/4FCNKwHRCQM/default.jpg&t=OEgsToPDskLOHeN_yrKUeWv9terA4yH4&use_get_video_info=1&load_modules=1

What really is finger pointing?

The postmodern mindset found in emergents and others says that "modern" Christianity is unworthy of consideration because it points fingers at sin and sinners. Now in the mind of many postmoderns, the Christianity of the Bible and the Christianity of "modern" (not postmodern) America are radically different. Their excuse for fostering the emergence of a new church arises from their utter rejection and questioning of everything in the "modern" church.

Oddly, those who put down "modern" Christianity use Matthew 7:1 to do so. They believe that the rational "moderns" have sinned against the global society by unfairly labeling sin and sinners.

Matthew 23 is not "modern" belief; this chapter contains the words of LORD Jesus. In verse after verse he is there judging the scribes and Pharisees as hypocrites. Note these labels that point fingers and judge from Matthew 23: blind, blind guides, blind fools, children of hell, whitewashed tombs, full of lawlessness, sons of murderers, serpents, and brood of vipers. He asked them how they will escape being sentenced to hell?

If you read Matthew 7:1-5 and Matthew 23, you see two sides to the concept of judging. Jesus didn't want people to judge according to appearances but to judge with righteous judgment. His rule was needed in the day when Pharisees judged others as sinful for breaking their human traditions (Matthew 15:1-14), and it is needed today.

People who read Matthew 7:1-5 and then judge people for righteous judging don't realize their blind self-contradiction. They are as blind as the fellow with a log in his eye. To condemn others for judging righteously is a not what Jesus is teaching in Matthew 7:1-5 but a popular, human reinvention of the passage. Merely repeating Matthew 7:1 in response to everything right or wrong is is both blind and ignorant. It is not inappropriate judging to call sin what God calls sin.

Now if the problem of sin is real, and the consequences of such sin is hell, one can understand the passion Jesus showed in denouncing the hypocrites. He did not do it angrily or self-righteously. I believe Jesus denounced them with a broken heart, honestly (because there is a real problem) and lovingly (because he had hopes of redeeming even them).

Physicians are not castigated because they tell us of a disease. Teachers correct the errors of their students in order to teach them properly. Parents discipline their children so they can endure and prosper. All this is done for our good (Heb. 12:1-11). Why then is preaching the truth about sin so hateful to postmoderns?

Could it be that emergents and postmoderns have fallen into an old error, when they reject all finger-pointing?

Solomon frequently recognized that fools spurn instruction and correction. Perhaps the problem is not in "moderns" finger-pointing to the ANCIENT, premodern, Bible laws but in postmoderns rejecting the ANCIENT, premodern, all-culture, Bible instruction of God. Consider the inspired, ancient words of Solomon:

Proverbs 1:7 "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction."
Proverbs 1:22 "How long will scoffers delight in their scoffing and fools hate knowledge?"
Proverbs 8:13 "The fear of the Lord is the hatred of evil. Pride and arrogance and the way of evil and perverted speech I hate."
Proverbs 8:35-36 [Wisdom speaking] "For whoever finds me finds life and obtains favor from the Lord, but he who fails to find me injures himself; all who hate me love death."
Proverbs 10:8 "The wise of heart will receive commandments, but a babbling fool will come to ruin."
Proverbs 12:15 "The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man listens to advice."
Proverbs 13:1 "A wise son hears his father's instruction, but a scoffer does not listen to rebuke."
Proverbs 17:15 "He who justifies the wicked and he who condemns the righteous are both alike an abomination to the Lord."

It is loving and virtuous to restore the fallen and to bring back those who have been captured in sin (Gal. 6:1; James 5:19-20). One does this by being honest about sin and speaking of repentance, which is a good thing. One shows no love to the lost by refusing to call sin what it is or to gloss it over with human opinions. Leaving sinful people in sin by justifying their sin is an abomination to God and soul-threatening.

God is not impressed by the legislation of human opinions; He has not needed to ask our postmodern advice. Jesus thrice told the devil, "It is written," to solve some "right-wrong" issues. Perhaps we should follow suit without fear that we are finger-pointing in doing so. The words of Jesus stand and do not need editing.

I have no desire to promote unwarranted finger-pointing and judging; but the false relabeling of sin (such as homosexuality and abortion) as finger-pointing is actually "scoffing." Scoffing is simply the showing of contempt. When people scoff at sin, they are showing their contempt for God not their piety. They point fingers at God; they judge God.

Scoffing at God is postmodern, but it is not new. It was abominable in Solomon's day, and it still is. Scoffing at sin is no advancement over moderninsm.

I am truly amazed that people would rather hate, dismiss, or judge God than they would admit to their friends they believe sin leads to hell. But such is characteristic of our culture.

O Lord God, help us to return to you.

Phil

Monday, September 22, 2008

Changing times

Peter Drucker, a well-respected management and business guru, writes in his book Post-Capitalist Society:
Every few hundred years in Western history there occurs a sharp transformation. Within a few short decades, society rearranges itself—its worldview; its basic values; its social and political structure; its arts; its key institutions.
Fifty yeas later, there is a new world. And the people born then cannot even imagine the world in which their grandparents lived and into which their parents were born.
We are currently living through just such a transition (1).


The change to a postmodern worldview isn't quick. It is feathering the generations as the modern fades and the postmodern overwhelms. The coming generations are more pluralistic, more mystical, more experiential, more global, more fluid, and more convinced of subjective preferences. They do not like logic and refuse to be judgmental about anything. It doesn't like Christianity, because Christianity appears to point the finger at them.

How do we address these changes?
We hold fast to what we believe. We live convicted lives with love. We won't win everyone, but we will survive. We hold fast to faith, hope, and love. We do not forget who we are, whose we are, from where we have come, and where we are going.

We try to understand those with whom we must live (1 Chron. 12:32) but do not conform to them (Rom. 12:2). We identify with others but never lose focus of the imperatives of who we are (1 Cor. 9:19-23).

We understand that the gospel message is eternal not temporal. We understand that the kingdom of God is eternal not a reinvention in succeeding generations. We look to an eternal God who transcends cultural shifts, which are themselves destined to die.

We must once again see the utter uniqueness of Jesus as the one and only Lord. We must again proclaim all the reasons why we should believe. Our pulpits must once again ring with evidences for faith, hope and love.

We must live as people born again to a new life in a world bound for futility and confusion. Postmodernism has nothing to offer better than Christ.

Just as generations came back to God in the Old Testament, so there will be returns to the one and only faith of all time (Jude 3). That it may take time should not cause us to despair. The Lord is still on the throne, and his hand is with his people.

blessings,
Phil

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Remembering my father

On September 24, 2008 my father will mark 102 years from the time of his birth. Dad died on June 12, 1985 at the age of 78 in Dallas, Texas. I was 33 at the time, and it was the hardest experience I ever endured. I still mourn my father.

He had just turned 45 when I was born, 48 when Beth was born, and 51 when Patti was born. Oliver Harley Sanders was a strong and healthy man most of his life. At six foot tall, he weighed 157 pounds nearly all his adult life. Dad liked to walk in his later years and often did so, even when he had a car to drive.

Dad was born in Oklahoma Territory, less than a year before Oklahoma was admitted to statehood. He was born in the township of Stella in Canadian County, Oklahoma about ten miles east of Norman, Oklahoma. He is buried with my grandparents and brother in Tecumseh Cemetery, half-way between Shawnee and Tecumseh.

All of these memories seem to flood back to me. I'll be going to my home town, the place of my birth, the place where I graduated from high school, in a few weeks. I don't usually go to the cemetery (I like to remember people alive), but I probably will go out there this time. I want to see the gravestone. I likely will see the burial places of some other relatives--some kinfolk I never knew: my brother and my grandfather. When I find dad's stone, I'll also find my grandma Booth. Mom will be buried there beside dad, but not soon I pray.

2008 marks the 90th year since my grandparents and their family obeyed the gospel at the Central Church of Christ in Shawnee. The building was located on Union Street in those days instead of the fine edifice at 10th and Bell.

I am to preach at Central on October 5-8, and nothing in quite some time has kindled all the feelings that going home seems to stir in my soul. While I am there I will tell the story of William Lee and Rebecca Sanders and of Curtis G. Booth. I love to tell these stories, and they are Shawnee stories. Just thinking of them brings a little tear to my eyes.

My dad was not a perfect man, but he was "faithful in a few things." Orphaned at 12, driven from home at 14, he suffered many lonely hardships with his brother Hill. Dad had his oldest daughter kidnapped from him in early adulthood; he did not see her again for more than 30 years. Dad was among the first five men in Pottawatomie County to be drafted at the onset of World War II. He rose to the rank of sergeant and trained soldiers to shoot artillery. He went to the island of Luzon in the Philippines, where he saw violent action. When dad came home from the war, he never wanted a gun in the house.

My mom, who obeyed the gospel at the age of 16 in Shawnee, was the best thing that ever happened to my dad. Though they lost a son, my brother Richard, mom and dad loved each other dearly. They were good parents and did the best they could in many ways. Dad smoked for many years until he learned that smoking was harmful. He laid down his pipe and never took it up again (he didn't want his boys to smoke).

Mom and Dad wanted to be sure that we were Christians, so in the year 1967 we began attending Dale Church of Christ, where Hill and Alice went. Dad wanted us to have some training. I still treasure friends I made there. Danny Fredman and I still email at least once weekly. I preached my first sermon there at the age of 16 in 1968. They let me do Wednesday night devotionals as well. I remember hearing Steve Bracken preach, and I knew that's what I wanted to do! Mom and Dad always encouraged me. I don't think I would be preaching today if they had not gotten us involved in church at this critical time in my life.

Dad baptized a few folks, preached some sermons, and wrapped Bibles for World Bibles for Christ. He and Mom were very involved in their later days at Northridge, and I am thankful for the service they gave.

I hope to see a lot of loved ones and old friends at Central in October. I remember hearing such great preaching there when I was young--Richard Black, Perry Cotham, and others. A sweet sister who helped me gave me a tape of Alan Highers in 1970. Alan preached a sermon on the tape entitled, "Five Minutes After Death." That was the most powerful sermon I had ever heard up to that time. It still is. I will preach that sermon Wednesday, Oct. 8. I've preached it no less than 100 times over the last 35 years. Little could I imagine what good friends Alan and I have become in these later years and how often we have labored together in the Spiritual Sword.

Going back to your roots reminds you who you are, whose you are, and where you belong. Shawnee is home--Louisa, Kickapoo, Harrison, and Broadway are streets that fill me with memories. Long before the mall there was downtown. I remember Jr. High across the street from a 12 cent hambuger place with a Scottish name (but not McDonald's). I remember high school on Union St (not out by the football field). I remember Jim Thorp Stadium and 5-cent taffy.

Dad didn't have much of anything to impart to me or my siblings, except a faith that leads to eternal life that is far more precious than gold or jewels. For my part, I am glad I received the greater, for the rest just doesn't matter.

with love and appreciation,
Phil

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Good reports

I have had several reports from a couple of states that people are being baptized following their study of the "Upon the Rock Bible Studies." They are free online, and you may copy them as much as you desire. Brian Gregory up in Kentucky, a prisoner minister Larry Ware in Oklahoma, Roderic Armstrong and Charles Howard from Nashville School of Preaching all report baptisms this year using the studies. I have also taught three and baptized two recently using them. Go to the link www.God-answers.org, click on online tools, and then go to the "Upon the Rock" section.

I pray many more souls will be won.

kindly,
Phil

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Deceptive Sin leads to atheism

I teach a course in Christian Evidences at Amridge University, an accredited school that offers everything from an Associate Degree to a Doctor of Philosophy in Bible. I found this quotation in the textbook I thought worth sharing, considering the comment I made August 11 on "Rebellion and Amorality":

J. Budziszewski, a repentant former atheist says:

"Not many people disbelieve in God and then begin to sin; most atheists adopt some favorite sin and then find reasons to disbelieve in God. In this common sequence of intellectual events, an individual does not begin by denying God or even by denying moral law. Rather, he begins by denying a part of the moral law, perhaps even a single moral law. Perhaps he denies only the precept of chastity--that sex is a privilege of a marital union. Perhaps he denies only the precept of fidelity--that vows are to be kept. Perhaps he denies only the precept of filial reverence--that parents are to be held in respect. Or perhaps he denies only the precept of justice--that one must not seek unfair advantage."

He further argues:

"One eventually loses control of the 'no to just a part' gambit because it is impossible to reject just a part of the moral law. To affirm that the unitive and procreative power of sexuality may be used outside of matrimony is to deny a great many things about human nature besides. To affirm that a vow may be broken is to call into question the very idea of personal responsibility. To deny to one's parents their due respect is to reject the chain of obligation that links all generations. To maintain that one may seek unfair advantage is to unleash the gods of the jungle." ("Why I Am Not an Atheist" in Why I Am a Christian, ed. by Norman Geisler, 57).

Deception breeds deception, and self-deception breeds more self-deception. One lie must cover up another, until an individual is blind to his own soul and to his own God.

Sin breeds thanklessness and dishonor to God (Rom. 1:18-21). We must be aware that all sin has a vulnearability to self-deception.

Think about it,
Phil

Monday, September 01, 2008

When a family member sins?

What do conservative Christians do when people fail? They understand, they forgive, and they show compassion. They follow Jesus. Jesus understood, forgave, and showed compassion. What they don't do is act like sin isn't sin. Christians treat sin as sin and forgive the sinner. Forgiveness means they don't hold the sin against the sinner.

If you listen to the critics of the faith, you would think that they are ready to stone the seventeen-year-old daughter of Sarah Palin. But the conservative Christian leaders didn't. Some progressives, postmoderns, and liberals and media love to point the finger at anyone whom they think is a conservative as judgmental. They label such people as self-righteous and hateful toward sinners... what is interesting is how the liberals never let a failure go, while conservatives know how to forgive. What is amazing is how judgmental the media has been and how kind Christians and conservatives have been.

(But you see, one is only judgmental when one is conservative. Liberals don't judge other liberals; they just judge conservatives--but judging conservatives isn't judgmental; it is broadminded. Hmmm! How self-serving.)

The liberal, progressive media wanted so badly to label Gov. Palin as a hypocrite because she backed abstinence as a way to combat teen pregnancy.

As the father of four daughters, I grew to realize that my daughters (as good as they were) were not perfect; but no matter what they did, I loved them and supported them. How could I do otherwise?

Those who do not hold God highly would rather dismiss or ignore sin. They leave it unconfessed and unresolved. To them it is not an issue. Their amorality, however, comes back to bite them. There is always a payday for unresolved sin, whether they want to admit it or not. Paul said about unresolved sin: "a little leaven leavens the whole lump of dough." When sin is not treated as an evil and resolved then it spreads. That's what has happened in our postmodern (unwilling to condemn) world.

A Christian confesses sin and finds resolution to sin in forgiveness. The Lord's way works; other ways fail to deal with sin. The cross and the love of God forgives sin and leads the way out. The liberal way of denying there is a moral issue is utter foolishness.

thinking
Phil

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

If My Friend Were Not a Christian

Nearly all of us have friends who have not become Christians. Some may not have attended church at all; others may have stopped attending several years ago. What can we do to help bring a lost soul to Christ.

First, begin praying earnestly for your friend that God will open a door for your friend to hear the gospel (Col. 4:2-4). Talk to God about your friend; it will help when you talk to your friend about God.

Second, prayerfully set an example of a believer before your friend (1 Cor. 11:1). Your friend will believe what he sees in you before he does what he hears from you. Your moral life, your proven faith, your sacrificing love, and your unsinkable hope will speak loudly what God has done in your life. Live such a life that people will ask you why.

Third, prayerfully remember you must earn the right to speak to people about the most critical issues of their lives. People will grant you time to speak when they know you genuinely care for them and for their souls.

Fourth, prayerfully begin by planting little seeds. A simple sentence containing profound observation or point can often be far more persuasive than a sermon. In your responses, keep God in the focus.

Fifth, prayerfully give your friend a relevant tract, a Christian periodical, an audio CD or DVD of a sermon, or a guided Bible study. Remember in today’s culture most people want to find the truth for themselves. No one wants to be told; they desire to search it out to establish their own faith. There are many valuable aids available to help them; use them (The “Upon the Rock” Bible Studies are especially effective. Download them free at www.God-answers.org).

Sixth, prayerfully invite them to a fellowship at church so they can meet other Christians. Introduce them so they feel welcome and wanted. Then, invite them to worship to hear a gospel sermon. Encourage them and enlist others to encourage them.

Seventh, prayerfully ask them to obey the gospel. If they are not ready continue working and ask again. Don’t give up, some folks take a while. In the end you’ll rejoice when they become a child of God.

Brotherly,
Phil

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Utter Dependence

The older I grow, the more I realize how utterly dependent I am upon God. Life hands us many incredible changes, some of which we never expected. New situations challenge us to find deeper faith, deeper understanding, and deeper love to cope. Yet even with all of our training and effort, we realize our own human weakness and limits. We can't measure up on our own abilities; we utterly need God.

Paul was right when he found his sufficiency not in himself but in the Lord (2 Cor. 3:5). So must we. We aren't wise enough on our own; we aren't strong enough on our own; and we do not have the resources enough on our own to do all that God has assigned us to do. We need God's help.

It is certainly better to take up the yoke of Christ than to try to labor on our own strength. His yoke is bearable and his load is light (Matt. 11:28-30). The yoke of Christ was designed to help us bear what we could otherwise only do with great exhaustion.

It has always been interesting to me to study Paul's discussion of grace (the favor of God). While Paul realized his salvation is by grace (Eph. 2:5, 8), he also knew that his ministry was by the grace of God. God put him into place (Acts 26:18-20; 1 Tim. 1:12-16). Paul didn't earn a spot; God gave it to him and enabled and strengthened him to do the work (1 Cor. 15:8-10). Paul had this understanding that he really did not deserve the ministry he received; yet, Paul was not going to receive the grace of God in vain. He would be obedient to his heavenly calling and walk worthy of it. So should we all.

What a blessing the guidance of the Word is! What a comfort it is to engage the God of heaven in prayer! What consolation to know the Holy dwells in me, and I am never alone.

I am utterly dependent upon my Father to help me, my Lord to save me, and the Holy Spirit to strengthen me.

phil

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Sometimes life is defined by what you will not do

I am learning a lot about character this week. I have seen it in a group of men whom I love and share much. They are my shepherds.

Over these years I have witnessed their prayers, their tears, their service to the family of God at Concord Rd., and their obvious love for God and each other.

Many people love the thought of leadership. When everything is good and easy, leadership is desired; but when life and decisions get hard, leadership can be excruciatingly difficult. I have learned over these last thirteen years to appreciate the eldership beyond measure. My elders have allowed me to set in on their meetings, to voice my concerns and thoughts, and to share in their prayers for the congregation. I have seen them in all seasons, and my respect could not be greater for their sacrifices and their utter concern for the welfare of the congregation.

Elders can't tell everything they know. Sometimes they make decisions people don't understand or approve. I can tell you, they make these decisions often with great thought and prayer. Sometimes members need to step back from the easy criticism and simply trust. They aren't telling you everything, because they are protecting someone or helping someone. They are willing to bear the brunt of criticism (much of it unfair) in order to see the will of God done and a brother or sister protected. Give them a break.

Elders and all leaders have to give an account for the flock. Let me say here that Hebrews 13:7 and 13:17 says "leaders" not "elders." The word leader certainly includes "elders" but may not fully be limited to just them. That burden weighs on their hearts, every soul of the flock.

Pray for your elders and encourage them. It will bless their hearts.

phil

Charlie Egolf passed today

Lynn, his daughter called me at 11 am to let me know of Charlie's passing into eternity. He was a wonderful friend, mentor, and brother in Christ. I will miss him greatly.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Rebellion and Amorality

Some folks reject God, because they don’t want God to interfere with their moral and sexual lives. Aldous Huxley, an atheist who destroyed the faith of many and author of Brave New World explained in his book, Ends and Means, why he chose not to believe.


I had motives for not wanting the world to have a meaning; consequently assumed that it had none, and was able without any difficulty to find satisfying reasons for this assumption. The philosopher who finds no meaning in the world is not concerned exclusively with a problem in pure metaphysics, he is also concerned to prove that there is no valid reason why he personally should not do as he wants to do, or why his friends should not seize political power and govern in the way that they find most advantageous to themselves…For myself, the philosophy of meaninglessness was essentially an instrument of liberation, sexual and political.

The freedom to live any way one desires often causes people to deny Jesus and to embrace atheism and evolution. For Huxley, the theory of evolution had to be true for moral reasons, not scientific ones. Robert Morey observed, “The moral implications of creation would be too dreadful to bear” (The New Atheism 35).

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Charles Egolf

For thirteen years, Charles Egolf has been my next-door neighbor. He has been the best neighbor a fellow could ask for. He was far more than a neighbor. Often, he was like a father to me. He knew so much about so many things after more than 80 years of life. But even tonight his mind was sharp and his attitude full of love, joy, and hope.

Mr. Egolf, so I have always called him. Mrs. Egolf once got after me for not calling him Charlie; but I never could quite do that. In my mind, he was MR. Egolf. I respected him so. Mr. Egolf was a Marine, one of the most highly decorated officers in Williamson Co. for his service in World War II.

While his attitude was always superb, full of life and full of goodness, Mr. Egolf had only been a Christian for a couple of years. Tonight he told me that he never felt alone since he came into the church. (He lost his good wife a few years ago.) Mr. Egolf frequently went with me to Nashville School of Preaching. He loved Bible study and loved the other students at the school. I will always treasure the 20 minutes we had together in the car going up to the school and especially the twenty minutes we had coming home. We had marvelous conversations; he always encouraged me.

Mr. Egolf is in ICU at Williamson Medical Center with less than twenty percent lung capacity, and that is declining. He does not anticipate ever leaving the hospital.

Mr. Egolf saw things very clearly. He was exceptionally wise. An avid reader, he built three bookcases for all the books he'd read in recent years. He loved the Lord, loved the church, and loved people. He was the most loved man on our block. Everyone knew him and loved him. He knew everyone by their first name and looked out for all of us. He saw the love in Christ, and that helped him through the intellectual struggles of coming to faith. He saw the forgiveness in Christ and longed for unity among brothers.

Mr. Egolf, I love you.

phil

Monday, July 21, 2008

The Emerging Church Movement

I encourage you to read my article in the July issue of the Gospel Advocate on the emerging church. I wanted to give you just one quote from the article.

Brian McLaren, an emerging church leader said,

I don’t believe making disciples must equal making adherents to the Christian religion. It may be advisable in many (not all!) circumstances to help people become followers of Jesus and remain within their Buddhist, Hindu or Jewish contexts … rather than resolving the paradox via pronouncements on the eternal destiny of people more convinced by or loyal to other religions than ours, we simply move on … To help Buddhists, Muslims, Christians, and everyone else experience life to the full in the way of Jesus (while learning it better myself), I would gladly become one of them (whoever they are, to whatever degree I can, to embrace them, to join them, to enter into their world without judgment but with saving love as mine has been entered by the Lord (A Generous Orthodoxy, 260, 262, 264).

If McLaren believed that Buddhists, Hindus, and Jews were lost, he would lead them to Christ and not just try to improve their present religion. But you see, he doesn't think that what Jesus said in Scripture (Jn 14:6) is true or should be pressed on anyone. Emergents don't criticize, they connect. And how do they connect? By compromise, by disbelief in the one true way, and by accommodation to the world. There is "one faith" and only one faith. There is one Savior and only one Savior. To leave others in the domain of darkness is neither faithful to Christ nor loving to people.

Luke 9:23-24 says: “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. 24For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. 25For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself?"

Christians who expect to be saved follow Christ and teach others to follow Christ. He is the way the truth and the life. There is no other way to heaven. Making a Buddhist a better Buddhist grants no access to the blood of Jesus. Jesus died for all, but he did not sacrifice himself to leave people in error.

Now, having said that, I must wonder why a Christian University associated with our brethren would invite Bruce McLaren to their campus to lecture to their students?

Amazed at how far some have drifted,
Phil

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Division in the Church of England

This article appeared July 1, 2008, in The Times, published in England. Apparently, the Church of England is in the midst of a division over right and wrong. Religion correspondent Ruth Gledhill writes:

More than 1,300 clergy, including 11 serving bishops, have written to the archbishops of Canterbury and York to say that they will defect from the Church of England if women are consecrated bishops. As the wider Anglican Communion fragments over homosexuality, England’s established Church is moving towards its own crisis with a crucial vote on women bishops this weekend.

Of the 1,333 clergy who signed the protest letter, 60 per cent are serving clergy. Among the retired bishops is the former Bishop of Chichester, the Right Rev Eric Kemp. Some women deacons have also joined the protest. The traditionalists write: “We will inevitably be asking whether we can, in conscience, continue to minister as bishops, priests and deacons in the Church of England . . . We do not write this in a spirit of making threats or throwing down gauntlets. Rather, we believe that the time has come to make our concerns plain, so that the possible consequences of a failure to make provision which allows us to flourish and to grow are clear.”

Churches of Christ are not the only ones to be facing the great crisis of conviction. It seems that these battles are everywhere present as the culture of the world changes.

Phil




Wednesday, July 02, 2008

A Conviction Crisis

“Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.” (Luke 22:41-42)
“For I am ready not only to be imprisoned but even to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord
Jesus.” (Acts 21:13-14)
Jesus and Paul demonstrated their deep conviction and devotion to God by their willingness to suffer and die to do the will of God. Many early Christians like Stephen and James gave their lives for the cause of Christ. One wonders if American Christians today would sacrifice their lives for the Lord.

According to the U.S. Religious Landmark Survey published last week by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, there are a number of puzzles about religious convictions in America and in the churches of Christ.

While 98% of members of churches of Christ and 88% of all Americans are certain or fairly certain of God’s existence, while 96% of members of churches of Christ and 82% of all Americans say their faith is very or somewhat important to them, and while 94% of members of churches of Christ and 81% of all Americans prayed to God at least a few times this month, far fewer showed strong convictions in their beliefs and practice. For instance, only 73% of members of the churches of Christ attended church at least once in the last month (compared to 54% of all Americans).

Only 39% of members of the church of Christ would say their religion is the one true faith leading to eternal life, while 56% said many religions lead to eternal life. I read this fact broken-hearted. Do brethren doubt what Jesus said in John 14:6 and what Peter said in Acts 4:12? Are there not one gospel, one body, one faith, and one baptism?

Among members of the church of Christ 35 percent felt abortion should be legal in all or most cases (compared to 51% of all Americans). Among churches of Christ 31 percent felt homosexuality should be accepted (compared to 50% of all Americans). Why this lack of conviction? Why does our profession of faith in Christ not also pertain to beliefs and practice?

Among all Americans only 29% rely mainly on their religious beliefs for guidance regarding right and wrong. Most trust their personal experiences. Why do people inside and outside the church compromise their convictions? They do so because they are listening to man and the culture but not to God.

We need conviction if we are to pass our faith on to the next generation. We can no longer sit silently while the world succeeds in the decay of our faith and morals. Let us speak up for the Lord with love. Let’s help people to see that God’s way is the right way and the best way. Let’s not let a crisis of compromised convictions destroy us.

Phil.

Monday, June 23, 2008

World Population, and we have a lot of work to do!

The world population is growing at an incredibly fast rate, and the demographics of that change have many things to say to Christians. As of today 6/23/08, the world population stands at 6,705,373,654 (8:10 am CDT). The US Census Bureau estimates world population will increase to 7 billion people in 2012 and 8 billion in 2020. US Census estimates of world population say that the earth's population is growing at a rate of 6.5 million people per month. The world's population has doubled since 1970. Here is an estimate of world population through history.
  • 1 AD 150 million
  • 1350 AD 300 million
  • 1700 AD 600 million
  • 1800 AD 900 million
  • 1900 AD 1.6 billion
  • 1950 AD 2.4 billion
  • 1985 AD 5 billion
  • 2012 AD 7 billion
  • 2020 AD 8 billion
World population has more than doubled in my lifetime and has nearly quadrupled in the lifetime of my mother (who is now 89 years of age). Amazing!

We have much to do in preaching the gospel to the whole world. We cannot sit silent and let a world remain lost in error and sin. We must use every tool, make every effort to speak until we can no longer speak until every soul has come to know the Lord Jesus. We must use television, the internet, radio, and print media to do all we can as long as we can wherever we can.

Phil

Monday, June 16, 2008

Who's the Wife? Confused Living.

By now you've heard the news. Men can marry men and women can marry women in California. Their liberal court went against the vote of the people and said so.

I've conducted more than a few marriage ceremonies over the last 36 years. My first couple was married in June 1972. I could legally perform the marriage ceremony; but since I was still 20 at the time, I could not marry on my own without my parent's signature. It's true. I had to wait a couple of years before I got Jackie.

Well, back to California.
If a couple of gays marry, which one is the wife? If a couple of lesbians marry, which one is the husband?
On the tax form, which one is the head of the household, while the other is a spouse?
We'll have to throw away our jokes about hen-pecked husbands. Now we have hen-pecked hens. I wonder who is doing the pecking.
I wonder which of the guys is the protector and which is the respecter? If both are husbands, here are two married guys without wives.

The sad thing is there'll be some confused, little guys who are fatherless or motherless; instead they'll have two confused moms who have no husband or two confused dads who have no wife.

How do you explain parents who by choice of lifestyle cannot parent? How do explain to innocent children how biological mommy committed adultery with some male outside the family, so that biological mommy and the other mommy could have a child? How do you explain that this was not because the sexual functions of both mommies didn't work but because they don't work together to produce a child and cannot ever produce one, so they had to bring in a third party?
What confusion!

The whole thought that marriage needs redefinition into a perverted confusion is itself offensive to common sense. Homosexual behavior is not married, godly love; it's selfish sex. Those confused, liberal judges didn't redefine marriage; they approved legal lust. Homosexual unions may be legalized by justices, but God regards such as the unfortunate result of a person who fails to acknowledge Him and so given over to perverted lusts (Romans 1:24ff.).

Now some will regard this as mean-spirited and think I'm unChristian for saying what God said. But let's think about who is mean-spirited. Is it kind to rob children of mothers or fathers in order to satisfy selfish sex? Is it kind to rear a child in confusion? Is it kind to so press your agenda (to demand acceptance for what is immoral) that you influence other people's children with your immoral example? Is it kind for one justice to tell the whole state their morality is not as important as some supposed right to pervert marriage and nature? Is it kind to tear the fabric of society apart by confusion and perversion?

Christian kindness does not sit silent in the presence of sin. To do so would be to let the sinner go to hell unwarned. That is the really unkind thing to do. Kindness is to speak out lovingly against the error, even in the face of opposition. Kindness is the calling to repentance, not in the tolerating of gross sin.

The really unChristian person is the one who so hates the light that he must strike out at anyone who calls sin evil. Herodias called for John's head out of hatred. All he did was tell the truth. Who was unChristian?

Well, who's the wife in that gay marriage, and who's the husband in that lesbian union? And you call that a marriage?

Phil

Friday, June 06, 2008

Growing Churches

Growing churches are usually characterized by a number of vital qualities:

First, healthy and growing churches are unconditionally committed to the Lord Jesus Christ and to His Word. They are not distracted by the fads of the day, nor are they given to self-centered pursuits. They realize that gimmicks and cosmetics don't build sound churches. The world will not beat a path to their door simply because they have a better gimmick. Growing churches are built upon the rock, which does not move and is not shifting like sand. They are committed to the one true gospel and hold firm to the teaching of the Scripture, realizing that without God there can be no real growth. They realize that only the gospel can save, and they see no reason to dilute it. They see no value in turning the church into a country club. They know that God gives the increase.

Second, growing churches are healthy and active. They are not lazy, nor do they pass the time from week to week keeping house. They grow by training and by intention and by hard work. They take the Great Commission seriously. They are not waiting for some other congregation to come and help them. Their beauty arises not from pretentious marketing but from the wholesomeness of their souls. They live what they believe.

Third, healthy and growing churches are devoted to praying. They pray for the lost to open their hearts. They pray for open doors for the word (Col. 4:2-4). They pray for their preachers. They pray for opportunities to speak the truth. They pray in victory and in sorrow.

Fourth, healthy and growing churches are outward focused but uncompromising. They are not caught up in the quagmire of fickle religious experience. They do not wake up each Monday wondering what they have to do to outdo the day before. They realize that long-term, loving relationships may have special times but cannot survive on mountaintop experiences alone. They live on daily kindness and blessing. They live on grace and peace and love.

Fifth, healthy and growing churches know how to love and forgive; but they realize that true spiritual healing cannot take place without the correction of repentance. They know it is vain to give medicine to kill pain but leave the leg broken. They also realize that talking grace apart from repentance accomplishes nothing.

Sixth, healthy and growing churches are committed to teaching and preaching the gospel message wherever and whenever there is an opportunity. They have not hidden the gospel in the church building, hoping some lost seeker will someday come to his senses and wander in. They have gone out to the hedges and roads, persuading those in need to come to Jesus.

Seventh, healthy and growing churches have committed leaders. They have elders and preachers who believe in loving and working to bring in the lost. They are men who know how to feed others spiritually and give them the divine help they need. They are men who follow-up with the new converts and with the weak. They have counted the sheep again and again. They have bandaged the injured and cleaned the wounds. They have labored into the night to keep the wolves away.

May God be with those laborers, who having known the love and grace of God, are willing to work in the field in good times and bad. And may the Lord help us see the urgency of our calling.

Phil

Monday, June 02, 2008

Faithspeak

People who have strong faith in Jesus Christ speak their conviction in positive and strong terms. “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. For by it the men of old gained approval. By faith we understand that the worlds were prepared by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things which are visible” (Heb. 11:1-3, NASB).


Faith assures us that what we hope for is true; we are convicted that what God says is utterly trustworthy. Some other examples of speaking faith:

“And we know that God causes all things to work together for good…” (Rom. 8:28).

“For we know that if the earthly tent which is our house is torn down, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands…” (2 Cor. 5:1).

“for I know whom I have believed and I am convinced that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him until that day” (2 Tim. 1:12).

“let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins” (James 5:20).

“and though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory” (2 Peter 1:8).

“These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life” (1 John 5:13).

Such speech encourages my heart to have greater confidence and trust in whatever God says in His Word, the Bible.


Speak faith, not doubt. Speak confidence, not fear. Speak hope, not despair. Speak to eternity, not simply the here and now. Speak with conviction, and do not be afraid of “absolutes.” God is, after all, absolutely good, true, and loving. Speak faith.


Then there is doubtspeak. Doubtspeak is full of maybes, possibilties, could be's, and uncertainties. No one can know for sure about anything. Respect for others (especially the scholars) means that no one should assert anything with any judgmentalism.


The devil would love nothing more than to create doubt in the hearts of believers about every essential Christian teaching. Read Genesis 3:1-7 once again. The devil frequently uses this formula:


1. Ask a question that creates doubt.

2. Contradict what God says

3. Produce and alternate truth.


A fourth thing the devil loves to do is to punish and persecute anyone who disagrees with his perverted plan. He is not content to disagree with God; the devil hates God and the light and the people who follow God. His tool of doubt works quite well on the uninformed and the misinformed. Many people fall prey to doubting the truth.


I want faithspeak in my life, but not doubtspeak.


brotherly,

Phil





Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Why are churches dying?

Ron Sellers of Ellison Research recently released his findings on the changes people make in where they worship and why. There are many reasons why smaller churches die (aging, change in community, apathy, etc.), but some of the things we are told by agents of change are not verified by this research. Sellers said:
"There's sort of an assumption out there that traditional forms of worship are dying out and that smaller churches are really in danger of dying out," he shares. "And while that may be true of individual smaller churches, still the average church in the United States has around a hundred people attending. You've got a lot of smaller churches that are out there, that are very active, that are very involved and people are involved in them -- and there's no evidence that the smaller churches are giving up a lot of congregants to the mega-churches."

"Theologically, 53% of adults who have changed where they worship say their new place of worship is about the same as their old one. Twenty-eight percent moved to a place they feel is more theologically conservative, including 12% who say it is much more conservative, while 19% moved to one that is more theologically liberal (including 7% who feel it is much more liberal). "

Some folks actually prefer to participate in worship rather than be entertained by artists, prefer following Biblical patterns over contemporary fads, and prefer to please God rather than please themselves.

Before one decides that churches must change (to be like the big boys) or die, one should stop and think.

Churches of Christ with 500 and above in attendance only account for 243 of the nearly 13,000 congregations; that's less than two percent and not far off the national average for all religious groups in America. According to the 2006 directory published by 21st Century Christian, the largest 1000 congregations will house 35.4% of the attendance. Only ten percent of the churches will have 200 or more in attendance, but they account for 40.5 percent of the attendees (page 15).

That means that the majority (59.5 percent) of our folks still worship in churches smaller than 200.

Phil

Friday, May 23, 2008

On the Nature of Babies

Before the day is out, Jackie and I will have the pleasure of seeing our fourth grandchild, Ava Annabelle Lee Bryant. Dewayne and Christa have arrived at the hospital, and the waiting has begun.

Singing Sam McAlley wrote this song just before Haydn (the big sister) was born in 2003:

The future looks much brighter;
There's hope within the world.
Today I held within my arms
A brand new baby girl.
And though I don't yet know her
I love her just the same.
What a blessing to watch her turn
When I call out her name.

{Chorus} Fresh from heaven, such a blessin'.
God looked down on us and smiled.
Fresh from heaven, such a blessin'.
God gave this precious child.

I pray that she will grow up strong,
I pray that she is wise,
I pray that she will find success
In a world filled with lies.
But most of all I pray that she
Will come to know the Lord,
To find the joy and happiness
That heaven will afford.

{Chorus} Fresh from heaven, such a blessin'.
God looked down on us and smiled.
Fresh from heaven, such a blessin'.
God gave this precious child.

From the theological point of view, I have always regretted Augustine's wrongheaded assessment of children. He argued they must be evil, since they constantly cry and are so utterly selfish as infants. Augustine and Calvin promoted the "original sin" view of children, thinking they must be tainted somehow by coming into this sinful world. Sin is an act of will and cannot be inherited. You'd think to listen to some today that Adam & Eve ate of "the tree of the knowledge of evil and evil" instead of "good and evil."

Paul spoke clearly in Romans 7:9-11

I was once alive apart from the law, but when the commandment came, sin came alive and I died. 10The very commandment that promised life proved to be death to me. 11For sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, deceived me and through it killed me.

The Law of God teaching Paul not to covet came inspired in the days of Moses (Romans 7:7-8), but for Paul it came when he was old and responsible enough to understand it. Before that time, as an infant and a small child, he was spiritually alive and precious to God. No sin was in his life at all. Yes, he like David was born into a world filled with sin (Psalm 51:5) and learned sin from those around him. God, however, did not make him wicked. He was alive spiritually at birth. This is why belief in "limbo" is a fantasy. When a little one dies, God takes him into heaven.

That all responsible people have weakness is altogether true. In Genesis 8:21 the Lord declared that man's intention is evil from his youth, but not at birth or from birth. Humans have to learn evil. Jesus understood that even his disciples could be weak. He said to his trained and closest friends and disciples at the Garden of Gethsemane, "Watch and pray that you enter not into temptation, for the spirit is indeed willing but the flesh is weak" (Mt. 26:41).

Infants and small children are fresh from heaven and pure in heart. To such the kingdom of heaven already belongs (Mt. 19:14). They are alive to God, and their angels in heaven always behold the face of the Father who is in heaven (18:10). God is protecting and watching over them.

Well, pray for little ones to grow up and know the true and living God.

in Christian love,

phil






Monday, May 12, 2008

Why baptize infants?

I have often appealed to the baptism of infants as an innovation, arising in Christian history many years after the New Testament Scriptures. Those who uphold infant baptism often appeal to the tradition of the church (quoting early church fathers) for their source and claiming that the traditions of the living church were derived orally but not in written form from the apostles. They make this claim of oral tradition often in spite of the written accounts of the New Testament.

The traditions of the Roman Catholic and Orthodox churches in matters like the baptism of infants reminds me of the warning Jesus gave to the Jews who also were convinced that their oral Torah found its origin in Moses. Their traditions became so strong they began to trump the written commandments of God in Scripture (see Mark 7:1-19; Matthew 15:1-14). When human traditions are given authority, they find many ways to annul what Scripture enjoins. Such is the case with infant baptism.

The Scriptures emphatically teach that baptism follows the preaching of the gospel, confessed faith and repentance (Mk. 16:15-16; Acts 2: 38; 3:19; 8:35-38; Rom. 10:9-10). Since infants are incapable hearing the word with understanding, confessing their faith, or repenting of sin, they are not appropriate candidates for baptism.

Baptism is for the forgiveness of sins (Acts 2:38); baptism is the time when sins are washed away (Acts 22:16); baptism is that time when the old self is crucified with Christ so that the body of sin may be done away (Rom. 6:4-6) and one enters into newness of life being freed from sin; baptism is an act of faith in the working of God who forgives us of sin (Col. 2:12-13); and baptism is an appeal to God for a good conscience (1 Pet. 3:21).

When one considers that an infant is sinless and alive spiritually (Rom. 7:7-11) until that point that sin becomes alive, one sees the utter fallacy of baptizing an innocent infant for the remission of his non-existent sins.

Those who baptize infants often do so against the baby's will. Is the heart not to be involved? When the Romans obeyed a form of teaching that made them free from sin, they did so from the heart (Rom. 6:3-7; 16-18). Are we free to baptize adults against their will? If we cannot kidnap an adult and force an immersion against his will, what makes us think we can do so with an infant?

And what is the example of the first century? In Acts 5:14 the Lord was adding "men and women" (aner and gune) to their number in the church (cf. Acts 2:41, 47). Their baptisms came at the hands or under the oversight of the apostles. In Acts 8:12 Philip baptized both "men and women" (again aner and gune).

The terms men and women refer to males and females of responsible age, old enough to be married. These words are set in contrast to infants and boys and girls, who are too immature to be responsible or to marry. Now if the tradition of infant baptism holds to be a rule of faith and practice for the church, why didn't the apostles and Philip know it? Why do we not find this out until a later century? Could it be that infant baptism was never an apostolic tradition at all, but came about as an invention of later leaders?

"The first ecclesiastical command to baptize infants is contained in the fourth‑century Apostolic Constitutions VI:15." (Everett Ferguson, Early Christians Speak, I:64)

"The early Christian feeling about the innocence of infants finds clear expression in second century authors and in the writer who makes the first explicit reference to infant baptism in Christian history, Tertullian (On Baptism 18:1‑10,12). Innocence here meant "sinlessness, or at least guiltlessness." (Ferguson, I:58)

"The earliest likely reference to infant baptism is to be found in Irenaeus" (Against Heresies II.xxii.4). (p. 59) "The first unambiguous reference is to be found in Tertullian (V. 12), and he was opposed to the practice . . .. He seems to be stating, as elsewhere in his treatise On Baptism, the common position of the church." (p. 60)

The fact is the practice of infant baptism was a human innovation, a human tradition that actually nullifies the commandments of Scripture to confess faith and repent of sins (since infants are incapable of such things). Those who hold such views fall into the same trap as the legalistic Jews of Jesus day who demanded the keeping of the traditions of the elders (the supposed oral Torah), which they swore was handed down from Moses in unwritten form.

When people trust in oral traditions supposedly from the apostles and not found in the written Scriptures, they deceive themselves in thinking what they have planted has come from God. Even the false prophets of the Old Testament thought they were speaking the oracles of God (Jeremiah 23:16-40); but they were deceiving themselves. Their words never came from God.

"Every plant which my Father has not planted shall be uprooted." This truth still applies.

kindly,
Phil

Thursday, May 08, 2008

The Dawkins Delusion


The former atheist and scientist who turned to theism, Alister McGrath, in a short tome responds quite well to Richard Dawkins' unfortunate railing against Christianity. I'm finding more and more that the present militancy of atheism against Christianity has more to do with attitude than evidence. McGrath amply demonstrates that.

When I studied skeptics and atheists in graduate school in the early 80s I found a common characteristic: they tended to look at the ugly and dysfunctional rather than see the beauty, order, and design of nature. David Hume was just sure that if there were a God, he was indeed limited in power or intelligence or in love.

Hume and Dawkins see what they want to see and dismiss (in true postmodern style) everything else. The self-described "objective" and "rational" scientist, Dawkins is just sure that anyone who thinks differently than he does about God must surely be biased and ignorant. McAlister says:

"Relgion is persistently and consistently portrayed in the worst possible way, mimicking the worst features of religious fundamentalism's portrayal of atheism" (14).
Atheists can not let go of the carnival atmosphere of the Scopes trial. Ann Coulter's book, Godless, has a wonderful retelling of what really happened. It seems the whole thing was hatched up in New York, that Scopes was only a rare substitute and recruited, that the town council wanted the trial to gain attention, and the movie Inherit the Wind told the story unfairly. The devil worked hard to make religion look silly, and a small town didn't get in the way.

So many charges against Christianity as a religion cannot be leveled against Jesus Christ the Lord. Jesus never sent anyone into war. The teaching of Jesus did much to end slavery and to elevate women. The ethic He taught on the mountain has yet to be surpassed by anyone anywhere.

I ran across a website recently that spoke of the "myth" of Christ and compared him to the myths surrounding Joseph Smith and Muhammad. While I concur that neither Smith nor Muhammad were prophets, the website was misleading about Jesus. Neither Smith nor Islam have any ancient prophecies about them, but there are hundreds pointing to the Messiah Jesus. The evidence for the resurrection of Jesus from the dead is indisputable and overwhelming. The website dismissed this but certainly never answered it.

We live in a society that hollers loud and long about narrowness and closed-mindedness in Christianity but hardly looks at itself. The human body could not have occurred undesigned. We know that. The intricacies of our cells and our bodies demand a designer, just as the morality of our souls demand a moral governor. This designer and governor is no less than God, the God of the Bible.

Phil


Monday, May 05, 2008

The Word is All-Sufficient

So much of the disputes of our day center around Biblical authority. The questions of inspiration and inerrancy have much to do with what we think the character of Scripture is. The question of all-sufficiency, however, leads to many more issues.

It has been some time since our pulpits and lectureships have sounded out a cry that the word of God is all-sufficient. So much error stems from a belief that the Word somehow does not measure up to God's desired will for our faith and practice.

The challenge of "living church tradition" and papal decrees said that the Scriptures were not enough to teach us, that we needed church officials to give us the right and true interpretation to God's Word.

The challenge of the Apocrypha that intertestamental, Judean beliefs could be inserted into the Old Testament, in spite of the lack of recognition by the Jews, Jesus or the apostles.

The challenge of creeds and denominational dogmas was that we needed human authorities to direct us in addition to the Scriptures. We must be able to see the Scriptures through their lens.

The challenge of tongue-speaking in the 70s argued that we needed gifts beyond the teaching of the Scriptures.

The challenge of the Crossroads/Boston cult was that the word was not sufficient to mentor us in Christian living, we needed a personal leader to control our daily lives with guilt and manipulation.

The challenge of modern day prophets who speak messages beyond the teaching of the New Testament.

The challenge of postmodernism is that truth is so diverse that there are no absolutes or final revelations from God which cannot be dismissed or set aside for the current cultural dictates.

Scripture, however, claims for itself finality and sufficiency. There is no other revealed truth from God beyond the 66 books of the Bible. Jesus promised to reveal to the apostles of the first century "all truth" (John 16:12-13). The "faith" was once for all time "handed down" in the first century. No one was to abide outside the words of Jesus. There was a finality not to be transgressed. It is a salvation issue (Gal. 1:6-9; 2 John 9; Rev. 22:18-19).

We need nothing more than Scripture, and humanly-designed religious beliefs and practices beyond the Scripture are broad ways and sand theology. We need the Lord and His teaching, not the presumptuous traditions of men. We need Bible, not cultural solutions, to save us and to show us what is pleasing to God (Acts 20:32).

The Word of God is final and sufficient. That is where we go to build our houses on rock. All else is sinking sand.

Phil

Thursday, April 24, 2008

My moderating policy

My blog was begun to express my views and beliefs. It is not a public blog, where I allow anyone to trash me or to express views that are unkind or unscriptural. Tacky comments are unwelcome and show the person who wrote them unfavorably. I choose not to include many of them. While I allow some anonymous posting, I will leave other, unfavorable anonymous posts in cyberspace. I sign my name to my posts.

phil

Monday, April 21, 2008

Richard "Seeded" Dawkins

Few movies have moved me quite the way Ben Stein's Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed has! I laughed and cheered as Ben Stein showed the utter foolishness of Richard Dawkins.

Dawkins and Stein had a lengthy conversation, which was recorded in the movie.

Liberalism has showered accolades on atheist author Richard Dawkins' best-selling book "The God Delusion." But when Stein suggests to Dawkins that he's been critical of the Old Testament God, Dawkins protests -- not that Stein is wrong, but that he's being too mild. He then reads from this jaw-dropping paragraph of his book:

"The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully."

Dawkins' arrogant blasphemy was no credit to him. He thinks of himself as quite a scholar and virtually mistake-free in his assessment of God. The Father in heaven will one day "assess" him.

Then came this brilliant piece of logic and wisdom from the mouth of Dawkins:

Moderator Ben Stein asks Dawkins how life began:

DAWKINS:Nobody knows how it got started. We know the kind of event that it must have been. We know the sort of event that must have happened for the origin of life.
BEN STEIN:And what was that?
DAWKINS:It was the origin of the first self-replicating molecule.
BEN STEIN:Right, and how did that happen?
DAWKINS:I told you, we don't know
...
BEN STEIN:What do you think is the possibility that Intelligent Design might turn out to be the answer to some issues in genetics or in evolution.
DAWKINS:Well, it could come about in the following way. It could be that at some earlier time, somewhere in the universe, a civilization evolved, probably by some kind of Darwinian means, probably to a very high level of technology, and designed a form of life that they seeded onto perhaps this planet. Now, um, now that is a possibility, and an intriguing possibility. And I suppose it's possible that you might find evidence for that if you look at the details of biochemistry, molecular biology, you might find a signature of some sort of designer.

Imagine! Dawkins doesn't believe in God, but he believes in an Alien-seeded humanity. Dawkins is not a son of God, but he believes he is the son of an alien. Such incredible wisdom.

BTW, how did this highly evolved, tech-savvy form of life evolve? Dawkins didn't answer the question, he merely transferred it from one world to another. If Darwinian means hadn't worked so well here, how did it work there?

Dawkins has fallen into a trap like Aquinas' infinite regression. He can't answer anything for sure, because, having rejected God, he is only guessing. Why, friend, should anyone base their lives on his futile and empty guess.

In Scripture, the fool is not necessarily someone who is mentally deficient. It is someone who chooses to live his life without the knowledge or the acknowledgment of God.

Phil



Thursday, April 17, 2008

Let's Go to Israel


If you are interested in going to Israel to see where the Lord Jesus lived and walked, then you may want to go with Dan Chambers and me this fall, Nov. 11-20, for a ten-day tour!

This will be Dan's fifth trip and my second. We'll visit Joppa, Caesarea, Nazareth, the Sea of Galilee, Caesarea Philippi, the Golan Heights, Megiddo, the Dead Sea, Ein Gedi, Jerusalem, Bethlehem, the Valley of Elah, and much more.

We will stay in top hotels and each delicious food. It will be a wonderful trip with experienced guides.

When you read the Bible, you'll read it with greater understanding and insight.

If you are interested, please let me know. I will gladly send you a brochure and reservation request.

Phil