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Monday, April 30, 2012

The Things That Youth Can Accomplish

As I read through the history of the Israelites, one of the things that has always amazed me is the story of King Josiah who became King of Judah at age 8. The Bible tells us many stories of evil kings, even of King Manasseh, Josiah's father. Despite the evil ways of his father, the Bible tells us Josiah“did what was right in the eyes of the LORD and walked in all the ways of David his father, and he did not turn aside to the right or to the left" (2 Kings 22:2). After his evil father reigned for 55 years, I find it incredible that Josiah cared enough to repair the temple. While the temple was being repaired, he found the lost Book of the Law, read it and tore his clothes when he realized they were not following the word of God. I continue to be amazed as King Josiah asked the priest to inquire of the LORD for him (2 Kings 22) and did this in a humble and penitent way. He then read the law to all the people of Judah and lead the people as he attempted to get them to follow the law. King Josiah reformed Judah at the young age of 26 (2 Kings 22:3). It is amazing the things that those who are younger can accomplish.

Here at the Elizabethtown Church of Christ, we have so many young people who are willing to lead and do the Lord’s work. I am so thankful for all the young people that we have and their willingness to lead in things like the youth service that we had this past Sunday evening. I am also so thankful for their parents and grandparents who encourage them and work with them, and our Elders who allow them opportunities to serve.

It is so important for us to train our young people to lead, as they are an important part of the church. These young people are the future Elders, Deacons, Preachers, Bible class teachers, parents, and worship leaders. The church will always need leaders in order to function in the way the church works best: God’s way that the Bible describes to us. I am thankful for the many young people that we have at Elizabethtown who are willing to step up and lead. 

Monday, April 23, 2012

Flying to Eternity

It was just another afternoon, the weather was beautiful, and 80 year old John Collins and his wife Helen decided to take an afternoon flight in their family’s plane. However, the flight didn’t go as planned; John Collins had a heart attack, and wife, Helen was left to fly the plane. The problem was that she didn’t have a pilot’s license. She had flown for years beside her husband; she had even taken the controls in the air before, however she eventually had to land. When Helen radioed the tower and informed them of her situation, pilot Robert Vuksanovic scrambled a plane and flew beside her as he relayed instructions to her on how to land the plane. 81 year old Helen Collins was able to successfully land the plane on the runway  by using the instructions that Vuksanovic had given.

Just as Vuksanovic relayed instructions of how to fly as he flew in a plane beside Helen Collins, God has relayed us intructions of how to fly through life through his Holy Word. The Bible gives us instructions regarding Christian living, salvation, and “all things that pertain to life and Godliness" (2 Peter 1:3). The Bible shows us exactly how to live our lives in a way where we can land our “spiritual plane” in eternity in Heaven with our God. Are we listening to the instructions from God which tells us how to land our plane?

Are we:
1) Studying the Instructions?
2) Following the Instructions?

The Bible tells us that “without faith it is impossible to please Him for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him" (Hebrews 11:6). Do we have that faith to trust and obey as God relays us instruction of how to land our plane in eternity with him?

Monday, April 16, 2012

3 John, Jude, Revelation

This week we will finish up our study of NT books with 3 John, Jude and Revelation.

3 John
Author: The elder (John) (1:1).
Audience: “to the beloved Gaius” (1:1).
Purpose of Book:  John writes in order to encourage Gaius, condemn Diotrephes and his behavior, and to commend Demetrius who is a good example to all.

Author: “Jude, a servant of Jesus Christ and brother of James (1:1).”
Audience: “those who are called, beloved in God the Father and kept for Jesus Christ: (1:1).”
Purpose of Book: Jude writes to encourage Christians to contend for the faith and not fall for the teachings of false teachers.

Author: “…he made it known by sending his angel to his servant John (Revelation 1:1).”
Audience:  “John, to the seven churches that are in Asia (Revelation 1:4).”
Purpose of Book: The purpose of the book of Revelation is to give encourage to the Christians under heavy persecution during that time period and encourage them to “be faithful unto death” (Revelation 2:10).

Friday, April 13, 2012

Monday, April 9, 2012

New Testament overview on the epistles of Peter and 1 and 2 John

Epistles of Peter and John
After taking a few weeks off we continue our study of looking at overviews of NT books this week.

1 Peter
Author: Peter (1:1).
Audience: “pilgrims of the dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia” (1:1).
Purpose of Book: Peter writes to those who had been “dispersed” because of severe persecution. He writes encouraging the Christians who had been part of the dispersion and gives them encouragement to keep following Christ.

2 Peter                                                                                                                          
Author: Peter ( 1:1).
Audience: “to those who have obtained like precious faith with us by the righteousness of our God and savior Jesus Christ” (1:1).
Purpose of Book: The purpose of second Peter was for Peter to strengthen his fellow Christians in their faith and to warn them and have them be on guard against false teachers and to encourage them to grow (2 Peter 3:17-18).

1 John
Author: John
Audience: Believers
Purpose of Book: John writes offering certainty for faith in Christ, and gives those who believe assurance for their salvation in a time where many false religions were prevailing.

2 John
Author: John
Audience:  Elect lady and her children (1:1).
Purpose of Book:  John writes to encourage the church to walk in truth and love, and be on guard against false teachers.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Freedom of Religion includes Baptism?

I apologize for not being very consistent with my blog posts the past several weeks.

The past several weeks the Elizabethtown Church of Christ in Elizabethtown, Ky has decided to take on an issue that has plagued the church here for the past several years. The Elizabethtown Church of Christ has participated in the prison ministry in Hardin County, KY as early as the 1970's and during those times baptisms were carried out when inmates requested them at the building where the congregation meets. However in 2002 the policy changed and since then inmates have not been allowed baptism when they request it. The church in Elizabethtown conducts on average around 5000 correspondence courses a year in the prisons in our area and teaches monthly classes in the local prison ministry. We have several ladies who spend all day on Monday's working to grade these courses and sometimes then come back later in the week to finish. Yet, when we have taught these inmates the gospel and given them the very thing that can truly rehabilitate their lives and they have requested to put Christ on in baptism we have been blocked from doing just that.

The church here in Elizabethtown has politely and quietly over the years talked to those who are in charge of this policy hoping to get it changed. However, nothing has changed. The past several months the church in Elizabethtown has been trying to figure out what to do, after all the eternal destination of these prisoners are at stake. The church decided to take the issue before the Hardin County Fiscal Court (sort of like the city council for Hardin County) on March 27th, 2012. Although the Fiscal Court could not change the position of the Jail on this issue we realized they have influence and that this would bring the issue to the forefront of our community. We have been blessed with several positive articles that have been placed in the paper. See links below.

We live in a state (Kentucky) that has many detention centers in it that allows prisoners to be baptized. Our question has been why not Hardin County? Why not allow prisoners to put Christ on in baptism and allow them to use religion as rehabilitation?

The things prohibited in the Kentucky Department of Corrections Policies and Procedures Manual for Religious Programs includes animal sacrifices, nudity, self-mutilation, sexual acts, etc. We can't imagine why baptism is being looked at in a similar light.

There have also been additional questions that have come to light as public attention has been brought to this subject:

Why is baptism necessary, when it wasn't to the thief on the cross? We don't know for sure the thief was never baptized before he was put on the cross, but we do know for sure that he was subject to the old law as Jesus had not yet died on the cross to kill the old law.

Will a God who is a God of grace not understand that they wanted to be baptized? The Bible never says that God would, all we know is that every conversion story in the book of Acts involved Baptism and that 1 Peter 3:21 tells us that "baptism doth also now save us". All we can go by is what is in God's holy word.

Why do prisoners deserve to have the right to be baptized? After all they committed the crime, they should suffer the consequences! Although we don't condone the actions that put prisoners into prison we feel that the Bible makes it clear that we are all sinners (Romans 3:23). The Bible shows us that Christianity is about second chances. Think about the conversion of Saul in Acts 9 as Saul went from being a persecutor of Christians who stood by as Christians were stoned and even helped put them in prison to becoming a Christian through baptism. Even if we look at this from a worldly view, doesn't it make sense to try to give prisoners the teaching and ability to carry out the teaching in order that they can be rehabilitated and changed  instead of going out again after they are released and committing another crime and costing the tax payers more money? Prisoners being allowed baptism benefits all parties.

By allowing baptism are we not just allowing prisoners an excuse to get out of their cell? Although we cannot judge the intentions of the prisoners as only God can. We don't allow just any inmate to be baptized. As this is a serious commitment we do our best to ensure that inmates have studied through our correspondence course or some other means and understand the seriousness of baptism! In addition there are many prisons throughout the state who allow the baptisms to occur in their facilities where the prisoners never even have to leave.

Shouldn't they have found religion before they committed the crime? Many times the first time that prisoners have been exposed to the gospel or have stopped and taken the time to think about religion is after they have become incarcerated.

We have been so thankful for the opportunities that we have had to teach, we just want to be able to carry out the instruction in scripture on how to be saved. We have been encouraging those in Hardin County, KY to let their elected officials know how they feel about this issue. We hope that you will keep us in your prayers as we try our best to allow God's teachings about salvation to be carried out to these inmates!

Mark 16:16 "Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned."

1 Peter 3:21 "Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ"

Romans 6:4 "We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life."