Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Ten Topics for Family Devotions

The Family that Prays Together Stays Together

“How can a young man keep his way pure?
          By guarding it according to your word.
With my whole heart I seek you;
          let me not wander from your commandments!
I have stored up your word in my heart,
          that I might not sin against you” (Ps 119:9-11, ESV).

Young people have an increasingly difficult time keeping their way pure in this crooked and perverse generation. Yet, the Psalmist provides the answer to pure hearts – a knowledge of Scripture. As we have mentioned this week, you as a parent have a huge role to play in your children’s spiritual formation.

As a godly parent, you undoubtedly desire to see your children grow in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. Here are ten ideas for family devotions.
  • Each family member’s favorite Bible character: His/her choices and consequences
  • Heroes of the Faith (Heb 11)
  • Fruit of the Spirit
  • Explain to your children why you became a Christian
  • What are some ways that you want to grow to become more like Jesus?
  • Proverbs: God’s wisdom for daily living
  • A sermon from last Sunday
  • A helpful bulletin article
  • Why the church is vital
  • How would Jesus handle current events?
These are ten suggestions you should feel free to use. But, the possibilities are endless! The important thing is the teaching of Scripture. What topic will you share with your family this week? 
Cory Collins

Tips for Starting a Family Devotional

Nearer, My God, To Thee

We need to train our children in righteousness. While the Scriptures are abundantly clear on this, you may be pondering how you begin such a process. Here are some tips to help you begin drawing your family closer to God.
  • Start with the decision to start. Fathers, take the initiative (Eph 6:4). But, if there is no godly man in the family, mothers need to remember Timothy, Lois and Eunice (2 Tim 1). Decide today that you will guide your family in righteousness.
  • Start small. Even if you begin once a week or even once a month, start! Doing a little is far better than doing nothing. And, the fact that you have done something is significant.
  • Prepare your family early. Let the idea soak in, especially with older children. You may find that you kids are much more agreeable than you expect.
  • Set a time and a day. A good time is right after dinner while the family is still together and before evening activities begin.
Decide to draw nearer to God today! Take the time to lead your family in proper paths. You will reap great rewards in eternity.
Cory Collins

One-A-Day Vitamins

Family Devotionals

We are all acutely aware of the need for proper nutrition. We wish our children to maintain a healthy diet, and we often purchase vitamins of their choosing to encourage a balanced diet. As we age, proper nutrition becomes no less important, and several companies produce vitamins aimed at the aging population.

As important as physical health is, what if there were a daily vitamin that would strengthen your marriage? What if a properly balanced diet were able to help keep your children active in the church? What if some pill could increase your motivation or your assurance of salvation? What if your diet were able to help you accept and deal with illness, aging and loss?

There is such a vitamin – the family devotional. “The family that prays together, stays together.” “A family altar can alter a family.” Those statements are far more than clichés; they’re truth. Studies have repeatedly shown that the children of parents who actively and personally express their own faith are many times more likely to become happy, faithful and strong Christians.
Throughout this week, we’re going to be offering solidly biblical counsel on beginning a family devotional. But, before we begin to offer tips and strategies, we want to lay the biblical foundation. The prayer is that as we see the biblical rationale our spirits will be motivated to follow the biblical teaching.

“Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise” (Deut 6:4-7, ESV).

“Now his parents went to Jerusalem every year at the Feast of the Passover. And when he was twelve years old, they went up according to custom” (Lk 2:41-42, ESV).

“Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Eph 6:4).

Scripture clearly teaches the importance of training children in righteousness. We wish to move in the direction God desires we move. Let’s begin today as Christian families to move closer to our Creator.
Cory Collins

Blown Away by Love

… love builds up. 1 Cor 8:1

What the National Weather Service called the “Hackleburg Tornado” traveled 132 miles, with winds surpassing 210 mph, leaving a nonstop scar in the earth from Hackleburg to Huntsville. Of a dozen deadly twisters across Alabama on April 27, 2011, this one alone was given the strongest rating of EF-5. This one tornado is thought to have claimed 70 lives, by far the deadliest single twister in state history. At least 3,838 businesses in Alabama applied for federal assistance because of storm damage; another 37 applied due to loss of business. At least 16,345 homeowners across Alabama registered with FEMA.

Such a tragedy reminded members of the Bellevue Church of Christ in Nashville of the devastating floods that had struck their own community almost a year earlier. Over 13 inches of rain fell there May 1-2, 2010. As a result, more than forty families in the congregation lost their homes. However, even a flood is no match for the love of God.

In order to communicate that love, two creative members at Bellevue had a brilliant idea. With others they designed, built and painted small houses, like birdhouses, one for each displaced family. Various members then repeatedly stuffed the houses with notes of love and encouragement. The houses were placed in the foyer of the church building, where the flood victims would eagerly check them at every service. People loved the experience, whether they were on the giving end or on the receiving end. One sister says, “The houses were an overwhelming hit -- both with our members who placed notes in them, and with the victims who would go to their ‘houses’ as soon as they entered our lobby.”

So, when the Bellevue folks heard about the tornado, they knew what to do! They built 17 more houses, one for each Hackleburg church family whose home was destroyed. They painted each one by hand and placed the family’s name on the outside. They filled the little houses with Scripture, expressions of faith, and words of loving support. They had never met these victims, but they knew something of their pain. They knew how to comfort.

Then on July 17 a church busload of Bellevue members traveled several hours roundtrip to worship with the saints in Hackleburg. Mike Lane, the local preacher, spoke about the power of God’s love. After the service a Bellevue elder stood and explained why they had done what they did. Then the name of each homeless family was called, and the house built for that family was handed to them, while others watched. Tears were shed. Hugs were shared. Friendships were formed. All because love built and filled those houses.

These Bellevue friends had invited Tanya and me to meet them along the way and ride to and from Hackleburg. We’re so glad we did. God’s love in action touched our hearts, boosted our faith, and changed our lives. We were blown away … by love.
Cory Collins

When Words Become Weapons

Death and life are in the power of the tongue … Prov 18:21

“Sticks and stones may break my bones,” but words can crush my spirit, devastate my sense of self-worth, and destroy my dignity. Verbal abuse, unlike physical abuse, leaves no outward scars. It cannot be proven by photographs or other evidence. No one but the victim will ever fully know the pain and distress that it causes. Jesus understands. He discussed verbal abuse in connection with murder and anger (Matt. 5:22). We must take it as seriously as He did.

What does verbal abuse involve? Dr. Jay Grady provides this partial list:
Yelling - Accusing - Using sarcasm - Threatening - Insulting - Treating another with scorn – Intimidating - Humiliating - Putting another down - Ridiculing - Blaming - Disparaging another’s ideas - Name-calling - Belittling - Rejecting another’s opinion - Criticizing - Mocking – Trivializing another’s desires.

You and I could use this checklist on ourselves. We could ask our spouses, children, and others, “Does my language or tone ever leave you feeling that I am accusing, using sarcasm, humiliating, etc.?” Regardless of our professed intentions, if our words have these perceived effects, we have no business using them! Parents, employers, church leaders, and others in leadership positions must be especially cautious, lest we appear to misuse our authority to take advantage of those under our direction. We must correct our children, for example, without derogatory, demeaning words that leave them emotionally crippled.

If my spouse, child, or another person answers, “Yes, I do feel that way (intimidated, etc.),” as a Christian I know I should say, “Please forgive me. I genuinely love and respect you. Tell me whenever you feel this way again.” According to Grady, “The underlying premise of verbal abuse is control, which is a means of holding power over another.” When I sincerely ask your forgiveness, I make it clear that I am not about control or manipulation. I set both of us free.

Because I am a sinner, I can so easily justify my words, insisting I have done no wrong. I can say, “I was just joking!” See Prov. 26:18-19. I can say, “You’re too sensitive!” I can say, “I didn’t mean that the way you heard it!” But, because I truly want you to be blessed, I’ll just say, “If it does not edify, help, and encourage you, I won’t say it or do it. Period.”

Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers. Eph 4:29
Cory Collins

“Give ‘em Watts, Boys!”

About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them … Acts 16:25

Believe it or not, a 17th-century British hymn writer indirectly helped American troops to withstand British forces almost one hundred years later, during the Revolutionary War.

Isaac Watts was born on July 7, 1674, in Southampton, England. His father was a religious dissenter who spent much time in jail as a result. Young Isaac learned Latin at the age of five, Greek at nine, French at eleven and Hebrew at thirteen. For twelve years, his mother taught him to write rhyme and verse. He devoted much of that learning to hymns.

Altogether he penned more than 600 hymns. Among the best known, still beloved today, are: “Joy to the World;” “O God Our Help in Ages Past;” “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross;” “I Sing the Mighty Power of God;” “When I Can Read My Title Clear;” “Alas and Did My Savior Bleed” (also known as, "At the Cross"); “Am I a Soldier of the Cross?” and, “Come We That Love the Lord” (also known as, “We’re Marching to Zion”).

English immigrants to the American colonies brought hymnals, filled with Watts’ songs, with them to the New World. They intended to use them just for singing, of course, but war changed their plans. On June 23, 1780, at the Battle of Springfield (New Jersey), British forces attacked with about 5000 men and almost 20 cannon. They seemed invincible. Gen. George Washington had left the area, leaving others to face the invading army.

During the battle the American colonists ran out of ‘wad’ for their muskets. A chaplain on the scene ran into the nearby church building and gathered up the hymn books, containing Watts’ songs. He then proceeded to tear out the pages and give them to the soldiers to be used to wad their muskets, as he yelled out, "Give 'em Watts, boys!" They did. The British forces retreated, never to attack New Jersey again. From the Battle of Springfield came the modern phrase used to express anger, "to give them 'watt' for."

Paul and Silas “wadded their muskets” with songs of praise in a Philippian jail. Jesus and His disciples sang a hymn after the Last Supper, before going to Gethsemane. David found God’s strength through song when persecuted by Saul, attacked by the Philistines, and defied by his son Absalom. Paul spoke of this “wadding:” “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.” Col 3:16

Christian, use that songbook! Fill your heart and your lips with victorious songs of God’s glory. Come into His presence with praise and thanks. Share those songs with your family. Live out the words you sing. Then watch the enemy run.
Cory Collins

Soul Mates … OR Cell Mates?

So Jacob served seven years for Rachel, and they seemed to him but a few days because of the love he had for her. Gen 29:20

Though there are many degrees in between, and though marriages may be measured in any number of ways, we may consider it as fact that some husbands and wives are soul mates; others are cell mates. The former seem to have hearts that beat together; the latter may want to beat each other, physically and/or emotionally. Very happy couples sprint hand in hand. Sad couples drag on, feeling locked in handcuffs by the marriage “bond.”

Virtually every person that marries thinks he or she has found a soul mate. All is blissful, peaceful, and rewarding. Yet, ironically, months or years later, the joys have turned to chains. The husband (and/or the wife) feels imprisoned and yearns to breathe free! What happened? What can be done about it? If in your marriage you feel like a cell mate …
  • Remember and renew the earlier, happier days. When you were free, you chose not to stay that way. Why? Tell your spouse, “I chose you because …” “Some of my favorite memories with you are …” “God blessed us when …”
  • Admit the unkind ways you have helped to create the prison. “I have been impatient … unfair … selfish … arrogant.” “I have expected too much, and given too little.” Then, and only then, ask your spouse to take responsibility for his or her part as well.
  • Realize that your spouse may feel trapped as well. Give your cell mate some slack, some gratitude, some support. Decrease his or her misery, and you will ease your own. The more you pull on his or her handcuff, the more your own wrist will ache.
  • Let some fresh air into the cell. Stop arguing for a week, and talk about areas of agreement, especially basic values. Read the Bible together and pray. Talk about faith, hope, and love. Go for a walk. Share a new hobby and a new church ministry.
  • Invite a trusted friend into the cell. An elder or preacher, with his wife, can listen, pray, and offer confidential, godly counsel. So can a trained Christian therapist. Do not be ashamed. Do not deny your struggles. Do not let the devil win.
  • Act like a soul mate first. Be the person that you would want to share a cell with, before you ask your mate to be that person. Allow your spouse time to deal with the shock.
  • Become a closer soul mate of Jesus Christ. Let His beauty be seen and reflected in you. He forgives. He encourages. He affirms. His yoke is easy, because He shares and carries the load with you. The more you think, speak, and act like Jesus, the more your spouse will want to be bound to you for life.
Cory Collins

    A Bad Check

    The Check’s in the Mail, but You Dare Not Cash It! 

    Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. And he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.” Matt 4:8-9

    Early one September morning my cell phone rang. I took the call, from the 202 area code (Washington, DC). The man said he was a Postal Service agent, and he asked, “Is this Cory Collins?” “Yes.” “Did you use your Discover Card ending in xxxx to open a Click-N-Ship account this morning?” I was suspicious. I said, “No!” and ended the conversation. The fact is, I don’t even have a Discover Card. What was going on?

    I phoned the USPS fraud office later and confirmed that the agent was legitimate. I called Discover to be sure no one had opened an account there in my name. I checked my credit report for the same reason. All was clear. Whew! I let it go. I hoped it was over. I knew, however, that someone had obtained my name, cell number, and (likely) home address.

    Then, about ten days later, a large Priority Mail envelope arrived at the house. It was “returned to sender,” and it came to me as if I had sent it! Someone had used my name and address, pretending to be me, and had mailed this envelope to a “Bill Roach” in Ventura, CA. The crook (the real sender) had entered Mr. Roach’s address incorrectly. The envelope could not be delivered, so it was sent back to the designated sender – me.

    Inside was a cashier’s check, drawn on the Mountain West Bank in Coeur d’Alene, ID, in the amount of $2,850. The remitter was named as Mathew Anderson, and the payee was Bill Roach (as above). It looked perfect, even including the watermark and other top security features. I phoned that bank and described the story and the check. The officer asked for the remitter’s name and then said, “We know about other checks just like this one, with this same fake remitter’s name. They are bogus.”

    Some scam artists will offer such fake cashier’s checks in large amounts. They only ask you to send them a genuine check from your account to cover “taxes” or “shipping and handling fees.” They then cash your check and pocket your money. When you cash their bad check it costs them nothing. You may have to pay an additional “bad check” bank fee.

    Satan is the ultimate con man. Whatever he promises is appealing, pleasurable, and apparently free. It’s only after you agree to do business with him that you realize you have lost everything. You’re broke. Bankrupt. And he’s laughing all the way to the bank.

    Ask Eve (Gen 3:1ff). The serpent’s deal sounded too good to be true. And it was. Lost souls in hell would tell you the same. Scripture says, “Don’t give the devil a foothold” (Eph 4:26-27). Don’t cash Satan’s check. He’ll rob you blind. Cory Collins

    To Hurt You, I’ll Hurt Me. So There!

    To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. Rom 12:20-21

    How strange it was to learn in January, 2012, that Terry Thompson, the owner of the Muskingum County Animal Farm in Zanesville, Ohio, had released 56 exotic, wild beasts from their cages, and that he had then taken his own life. Sheriff's deputies, armed with high-powered rifles, shot nearly 50 of them — including 18 rare Bengal tigers and 17 lions — in a big-game hunt across the state's countryside, as homeowners nervously hid indoors.

    After an all-night effort that extended into Wednesday afternoon, 48 animals were killed. Six others — three leopards, a grizzly bear and two monkeys — were captured and taken to the Columbus Zoo. A wolf was later found dead, leaving a monkey as the only animal still on the loose. Those destroyed included six black bears, two grizzlies, a wolf, a baboon and three mountain lions. Dead animals were being buried on Thompson's farm.

    The 62-year-old Thompson had reportedly had repeated run-ins with neighbors and with the police. In fact, just three weeks earlier, he had been freed from jail for possessing unregistered guns. Apparently he thought he had a score to settle. The Associated Press report said that Thompson threw the cages open and shot himself to death “in what may have been one last act of spite against his neighbors and police.”

    Spite is defined as, “A desire to hurt, annoy, or offend someone; malicious ill will prompting an urge to hurt or humiliate.” Like the word “despite,” It is derived from the Old French despit, from the Latin dēspectus for contempt. Whoever Thompson thought he was spiting, whether the authorities or his neighbors, it was he who suffered most. He’s dead.

    When I decide that I will strike back at someone who has wronged me by feeding myself anger, hatred, and vengeance, I am the one who suffers. I’m doing it to myself. He or she may be happy, peaceful, and even unaware of the pain I am trying to inflict.

    When I cut back my church involvement, worship, or giving, because of what someone said or did to me, I am cheating myself of opportunities to grow and serve. I’m hurting my own faith. I’m depriving myself of joy. The only one who is truly happy as a result is the devil.

    I can hurt my boss by complaining, gossiping, and wasting time on the job. I can hurt my spouse by bickering, leaving a mess on the floor, or yelling at the kids. I can hurt people that do not like me by being rude, arrogant, and mean. I can hurt drivers who cut me off by honking, screaming, and tailgating. When I do I inflict scars and wounds on my own soul.

    The flip side is just as true. When I help others, I actually help myself. I’ll try it! Why don’t you, too?

    A Simple Strategy for Success

    “Do you not say, ‘There are yet four months, and then comes the harvest’? Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look on the fields, that they are white for harvest.” Jn 4:35

    Being “shrewd as serpents” (Matt 10:16) involves both prayerful and careful effort in doing the work of the Lord’s church. In order to “grow up into our Head” with the “proper working of each individual part” (Eph 4:15f), we must plan the work and then work the plan.

    Our friend Michael Jackson, the Director of Institutional Effectiveness at Heritage Christian University, superbly assists every department head in the planning and assessment of its work. Using a six-step paradigm, he helps leaders draw a map and then follow it. Eureka! This system, at least in principle, could be adapted to benefit the work of the local church.

    The first step is to define the “Purpose.” Here we would state the function of the church, “to save the lost and secure the saved,” or “to evangelize, educate, and edify.” We could then add the specific mission of any ministry, such as our educational program: “To teach the Word of God clearly and accurately, so that all may know Him and do His will.”

    The second step is to list the “Strategic Goals.” These might include biblical concepts, texts, classes, opportunities, and applications which the Bible school aims to provide.

    The third step notes “Objectives – Means of Assessment and Criteria for Success.” These are specific, measurable, achievable, time-bound benchmarks that will mark progress. They could include grade-level review quizzes, service projects, student essays, etc.

    The fourth step lists the “Assessment Results.” What did the tests, activities, or other instruments indicate? Did the students make the intended score, or exhibit the desired mastery of the concept, or accomplish the pre-selected level of success?

    The fifth step states the “Use of Results.” Based on the outcomes in step four, we reevaluate and reconstruct our objectives. If we reached them, we move on to new horizons. If not, we stick with them, diagnose the failure, and devise a better way to proceed.

    The sixth step identifies the persons responsible, the due date, and the budget impact. Who are the “go-to” leaders that will implement the updated aims? By what date will they have completed the task? What resources will be required and set aside?

    This same, simple strategy can be applied to local evangelism, benevolence, youth, the training of new elders, deacons, and teachers, etc. This six-step cycle can be repeated over and over and over again until the job is done. The Lord’s work is not complicated, but it does require big-picture thinking and nuts-and-bolts participation.

    The gospel has the power, but we have the tools. Let’s put them to work.  Cory Collins

    What's "In Store" for the Church?

    Php 2:20 For I have no one like-minded, who will sincerely care for your state. 21 For all seek their own, not the things which are of Christ Jesus. 22 But you know [Timothy’s] proven character, that as a son with his father he served with me in the gospel.
    God’s Word compares the church to a body, in which each of us is to be a functioning, contributing part. Christ and the church are also parallel in some ways to a husband and wife. We are like a kingdom, a holy nation, and a royal priesthood. Could the church also be similar to a store? Who might we see when we shop, and what do they teach us?
    First is the browser. He or she is “just looking,” maybe not even for anything in particular. The browser has no stake at all in the store but just stops in from time to time when it’s convenient. If the salesperson offers too much help, the browser may feel pushed and decide to leave. If the store should close, the browser feels no great loss.
    Second is the customer. He wants or needs something, perhaps several things. He’s looking for good selection, low price, and solid value. If he finds all that at the store, he may make a purchase. If he does not he will move on.
    Third is the employee. He punches a clock, does what he is paid to do, collects his pay, and leaves. He does not have to come early, stay late, or even enjoy what he does. He will likely stay at the store – unless and until another boss offers higher pay, better hours, or greater benefits. He has some degree of loyalty, but he may still be looking at options.
    Fourth is the manager. He is in charge of tasks, people, and schedules. He has been with the store for a while. He has accepted more responsibility and received more rewards. He feels more loyal to the owner and the company. He may be on a clock, but he will come and work just about anytime he feels that work is required. He is trustworthy and reliable. However, if he becomes discouraged by difficult circumstances, daunting challenges, or demanding people … the owner will need to find a replacement.
    Finally there is the owner. Unlike the others, his life is to a huge degree wrapped up in the success of the store. He is tireless in his efforts. He loses sleep, puts other things on hold, and invests all that he can in making the store the best it can be. His name, his character, and his reputation are all connected with the progress (or lack of it) that occurs.
    What’s “in store” for the church? That depends. Who are you in the “store?” What is your role? Will you and I become more and more like that owner? Will we be genuine stake holders who invest ourselves and take personal responsibility for the church’s growth and effectiveness? Timothy was like that (Phil 2:20-22). Don’t you want to be, too? – Cory Collins

    Monday, January 30, 2012

    What Jesus Said about the Bible

    Several years ago, in a one-on-one discussion I had with a local religious leader, it became apparent that he and the group he served questioned some basic teachings of the Scriptures. When I asked him about the importance of belief in creation, the crossing of the Red Sea, and the virgin birth, he hedged. “We are a unity movement,” he said. “We only ask that people believe in Jesus.” He also said that one’s view of sexuality and marriage, including homosexual behavior, should not be an issue.
    One problem with this approach, “Give me Jesus, but do not insist on some Bible teachings,” is that it ignores what Jesus himself said about the Bible. His words indicate unmistakably that he held the very highest view of Scripture, that it is inspired, without error, true, and authoritative.
    The four Gospels are the earliest and most detailed accounts we have of the life and teachings of Jesus. We dare not minimize or discount their value as ancient documents, written within a few decades of the person and the events that they describe. Only these records can tell us what Jesus believed and said about the Bible. Only a radical, skeptical rejection of their testimony would indicate otherwise.
    According to the Gospels Jesus affirmed the Genesis account of creation. In Matt 19:1-12 he declared that God himself (not just Moses or another human author) had spoken the words of Gen 2:24. He also taught in that passage that marriage consisted of a male and female whom God has joined together.
    Jesus believed that God had actually spoken to Moses at the burning bush (Mark 12:26). He agreed that Jonah had been swallowed by a large fish, in which he remained for three days and three nights (Matt 12:40-42). He used that historic event as a type or parallel to his own death and resurrection. Can a person reject such teachings and still say, “I believe in Jesus?”
    In Matt 5:17-20 Jesus supported every “jot” (the yodh, the smallest letter in Hebrew) and “tittle” (a serif or small stroke distinguishing one letter from another) in the Law and the Prophets. Regarding the Psalms, Jesus quoted Ps 110:1 as the words of David, speaking “in the Spirit” (by inspiration). In his hometown synagogue Jesus read as Scripture the words of the prophet Isaiah (Luke 4:16-21). When talking with the Pharisees in Matt 15:1-9, Jesus distinguished the written law (given by God) from the oral law (added by man). There he referred to the words of Moses and of Isaiah as words which God had spoken. In Luke 24:44 he referred to the Law of Moses, the Prophets, and the Psalms. These three categories included all the writings in what we call the Old Testament.
    Jesus said, “The Scripture cannot be broken” (John 10:35). To believe in Jesus is to believe what he taught, that the words of Scripture are the words of God, unbreakable and perfect.
    It may be argued that, in all these statements, Jesus was talking only about the Old Testament. What did He say, if anything, about the New? Plenty! He told the apostles that there would be occasions on which the Holy Spirit, not they, would be speaking (Luke 12:12). He said in Luke 10:16, “The one who hears you hears me, and the one who rejects you rejects me, and the one who rejects me rejects him who sent me.” He also said, “Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven” (Matt 18:18).
    Also clear are Jesus’ promises to the apostles the night before he died. He told them, “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you” (John 14:26). Then, “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you. All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you” (John 16:12-15).
    Shall we just believe in Jesus? Yes, as long as we believe in the Jesus who taught what he taught about the Bible.
    -- Cory Collins

    Sunday, January 15, 2012

    The Night I Met Abraham Lincoln

    I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me, and delivered Himself up for me. Gal 2:20

    Some years ago Christian friends invited Tanya and me to their home to enjoy dinner and a fascinating chat, apparently with the 16th President of the United States, Abraham Lincoln. Was it really he, or was it an impersonator? For most of the evening, it was hard to tell. We were totally delighted, inspired, and intrigued. But who was he really?

    Homer S. Sewell III was born in 1943 in Hinesville, Georgia. In 1964, while he was in the Army, he accepted a position at the White House with the Communications Agency. During Lyndon Johnson’s administration, he became closely involved with the First Family.

    In 1975, while living in Orlando, Florida, Sewell responded to an ad asking for volunteers to talk to students in the local schools about any subject of interest. He offered to talk about his experiences in Washington, D.C. At the same time, he began to grow a beard. Local people told him that he bore a striking resemblance to Abraham Lincoln. He started delivering the Gettysburg Address as a part of his school program.

    Since that time, Sewell has devoted his energy to one thing: becoming exactly like Lincoln. He studies diligently, comparing sources in order to distinguish between facts and legends. He dresses, talks, and behaves as Lincoln did. He freely speaks in the first person “I,” as if he really were Lincoln. To spend an evening with him is to feel that one has actually been in the presence of the real “Abe.” He travels widely to make presentations, because he wants everyone to know his hero. He challenges children to dream big, to live by “Honest Abe” values, and to avoid alcohol, other drugs, tobacco, and violence.

    Dennis Boggs, a Metro Nashville school bus driver, is another Lincoln look-alike and imitator. Awhile back he was incensed when a local TV station aired a show which portrayed Lincoln as a quirky President who filled his mind with perverted thoughts about male Union soldiers. Boggs had to do something to defend his hero, so he printed protest placards and walked back and forth, by himself, in front of the TV station’s studios.

    What about us? Will we as Christians be that intently focused on imitating Jesus Christ? Will we memorize His story in every detail? Will we be able to say with Paul: “I no longer live, but Christ lives in me?” Will we find an audience and deliver His address to the lost? Will we stand up for Him, alone if necessary, when He is ridiculed or rejected? Will others, having been with us, feel that in a very real sense they have been in the presence of the Lord? As the hymn asks, I will ask, “Let the beauty of Jesus be seen in me.” -- Cory Collins