An Incredible Tale of Influence

Originally posted on Biblical Notes:

By Weylan Deaver

One man can have lasting effect on multitudes, even after death. Nicholas Brodie Hardeman was a premier preacher, debater and educator in the first half of the twentieth century. In Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium, he preached the gospel to multiplied thousands, the sermons from which can still be read. He debated truth’s cause, to great effect, with prominent digressives and denominational preachers. He trained preachers in a college named for him. My grandfather, Roy C. Deaver, studied at Freed-Hardeman College in the 1940′s and, after graduating, stayed an extra year to study Hardeman. A half-century later, I would graduate from Freed-Hardeman University. What becomes monumental with time can begin with a modest tale of Christian influence, and Earl West relates just such a remarkable story (Search for the Ancient Order, vol. 4, pp. 155-156).

In 1890 an Alabama preacher named J. A. Minton goes to Milledgeville…

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If You Give a Fool a Favor

Originally posted on Biblical Notes:

By Weylan Deaver

How often does it make headlines that an atheist group is upset that prayers are being said somewhere, or that some religious symbol is in the public, or that something is said or written that makes unbelief feel the least bit unwelcome? It does seem that adamant atheists think that Bible-believers’ main duty in America is to make sure atheists are not made uncomfortable in any way by their presence. The best expression of Christianity is one that is neither seen nor heard by any potentially offended unbeliever. A recent grievance from the godless is chronicled by Fox News contributor Todd Starnes in a July 24, 2013 online article, “Chaplain Ordered to Remove Religious Essay From Military Website.” Evidently, it is no longer a given that chaplains can do the very things that make them chaplains, lest some atheist see and feel discrimination (which has become…

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Sin Pride Month

Originally posted on Biblical Notes:

By Weylan Deaver

In case you haven’t heard, we Americans are supposed to be celebrating sin this month. At least, that’s what our President tells us. From his whitehouse.gov website comes a proclamation which reads, in part:

“NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim June 2013 as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Pride Month. I call upon the people of the United States to eliminate prejudice everywhere it exists, and to celebrate the great diversity of the American people.”

Sin has come a long way, hasn’t it? There was a time when it troubled people. Remember when Abraham’s nephew, Lot (a resident of Sodom), was “greatly distressed by the sensual conduct of the wicked” (2 Peter 2:7)? Of course, Lot was distressed by wickedness…

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Why “Same-Sex Marriage” Is a Bad Idea

Originally posted on Biblical Notes:

By Weylan Deaver

“Same-sex marriage” may be winning the polls, but it will lose every time against God’s word in the Bible. Consider several reasons. First, it fails to recognize God’s role in marriage (Matt. 19:6). God does not join anyone in marriage contrary to his law, and if God doesn’t do the joining, then there is no marriage in God’s eyes. For that reason alone, no homosexuals will ever have a God-endorsed marriage. Second, it cannot harmonize with Jesus’ teaching on marriage (Matt. 19:4-5). Jesus endorsed a concept of marriage dating back to Creation, when they were made male and female, and in which a man leaves his parents to cling to his wife. No other definition of marriage meets with Jesus’ approval. Third, it tries to make the unnatural into the normal. A simple reading of Romans 1:26-27 should convince anyone that God deems homosexuality dishonorable, unnatural, shameless…

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Originally posted on The Fellowship Room:

In the third volume of his masterpiece, Search for the Ancient Order (p. 57), Earl Irvin West quotes from an article in the Nov. 17, 1914 issue of Christian Leader by Claude F. Witty. In it, Witty describes some advice an old Christian gave him after he preached his first sermon:

“My brother, now that you have begun to preach, the people of the world will try to kill you, the people of other churches will try to kill you, and that is not all, for your own brethren will try to kill you. And, if they can, you ought to die (as a preacher). If you are not strong enough to live through the ordeal, you are not fit for a preacher of the gospel; but if you are strong enough to live in spite of them, then you are strong enough to make a success of your work.”

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Originally posted on Biblical Notes:

By Weylan Deaver

933Bar Church is the brainchild of Southern Hills church of Christ in Abilene, Texas. The sobriquet was chosen because, starting March 24, 2013 some of their members will begin conducting worship services at a local bar called “Memories” each Sunday morning at 11:30. Both Southern Hills and the new Bar Church have websites (quoted in italics below) extolling the virtues of such a novel approach. Their online list of questions and answers is revealing, if not disturbing.

Southern Hills plainly states, “Bar Church is a satellite location of Southern Hills, and therefore under the oversight of our eldership.” Explaining why a bar was chosen as the right location, they say, “Many people believe in God — or are curious about God — but have legitimate barriers that keep them from traditional churches. By meeting in a bar, we hope to remove some of those religious barriers and…

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Wolves

In the late summer of 2005, Jim Dubcak and I were privileged to camp for a week in the Canadian Rockies of British Columbia, where we slept in a canvas tent beneath the Northern Lights. As preachers of the Gospel, both of us had taken aim many a time at spiritual wolves, but, in the mountains, we each had a license to hunt a real wolf (and a bear, but that’s another story).

Wolf hunting is not easy. As a game animal, the wolf is one of the most difficult trophies in North America. We only heard one the whole time we were there. Getting out of the truck, our guide began to call to the wolf, which was about a hundred yards away, on the other side of a tree line. The wolf howled several times in reply, and hung around for a couple of minutes. By that time, a breeze at our back evidently carried our unwelcome scent to his keen nose, and he ghosted away. As close as we were to the wolf—and though we heard him loudly—we never saw him, which is exactly how he wanted it. Still, just hearing one in the wild was an experience. Later, we took three barrels of leftover animal parts from the butcher’s shop in Chetwynd and emptied them in the wilderness, hoping the fragrant mound would attract some wolves. Though we returned several times to inspect the pile, no wolf was visible.

As large and potentially dangerous as they are, wolves do not like to be seen. Wolves are wary and well equipped to pull down animals much bigger than they—especially when working in packs. The damage a wolf (or wolves) can inflict must be the reason the Lord compared Canis lupus to the enemies of the church. Once, in giving his disciples a preaching assignment, Jesus said, “I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves” (Matt. 10:16, ESV). He also warned his followers of “false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves” (Matt. 7:15). A wolf does not win his dinner by sauntering around a herd of deer while howling to advertise his presence. If that were his tactic, the herd would quickly run away. But, he may bring down the unsuspecting by ever-so-quietly sneaking up on his oblivious target and then dashing in for the kill. Likewise, spiritual wolves in the church do not wear T-shirts stating their true intentions. They may not look very fierce or smell threatening. More than likely, as the Lord indicated, they have put together a costume that, to some degree, looks like a sheep. Their disguising ability makes them all the more dangerous. Before leaving the Ephesian elders, Paul warned that “after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them” (Acts 20:29-30).

Wolves do not embrace a “live and let live” approach. The devil is tirelessly trying to make a meal of God’s flock, hunting the weak, the ignorant, the unprepared, the one who dropped his guard, the one who got separated from the rest. He sneaks in close wearing a sheepskin, but it does not fit him well—there is always the telltale sign that something is amiss. The next time you see a sheep with a mouthful of fangs, or with a sharp set of claws where a hoof should be, raise an eyebrow and go wolf hunting.

Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, Don’t Disapprove

In Romans 1:32 Paul mentions those who practice sin, and those who approve sin’s practice. You do not have to be personally guilty of any particular sin in order to endorse others who are. God forbids both sin-practice and sin-practice approval. This month has seen the President strike down the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, which kept soldiers from openly declaring homosexuality. But, it seems, if there is one thing the emboldened homosexual cannot stand, it is the thought that he does not enjoy approval of his behavior, even at the highest level. The homosexual lobby knows no satisfaction short of a complete restructuring of society around its aberrant values. So now, in the military, they will be allowed to be openly homosexual in practice, while the government makes sure we put an indelible, red, white and blue stamp of approval on the practice. A country of greater moral fiber would not be entertaining such issues. If the practice is sinful, then it is also sinful to endorse the practice, even though approval come from the Oval Office. Immorality is not legislated into morality. And our national leaders would do well to remember that biblical principles trump American politics, policy, and political correctness every time. “Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God” (1 Corinthians 6:9-10, ESV). Come visit us at the Sherman Drive church of Christ, where we still believe God meant what he said about sin.

The Sixth Sense

Thanks to Netflix and Clearplay, my oldest daughter and I watched a movie last night from 1999 called “The Sixth Sense.” It is about a young boy with a disturbing ability. He can see dead people. From their wounds, the people are obviously dead, but the dead people don’t realize they are dead. Wherever he goes, he sees them coming up to him and trying to talk to him. The boy’s reaction at the appearance of a dead person is always one of terror, and he immediately tries to run whenever he sees one of these walking corpses. He lives a solitary nightmare until a determined child psychologist convinces the boy that the dead people are really talking to him because they need his help. So the boy begins to conquer his fear by forcing himself not to run. Instead, he starts listening to the dead people who approach him and he begins to try to help whatever their need is that keeps them restlessly roaming about. When the boy learns how to handle his “sixth sense,” it ceases to be a curse to him.

Fortunately for us, that kind of scary thing only happens in the movies, right? Well, think about it in New Testament terminology. If you are a member of the Lord’s church, you are alive by virtue of the indwelling Spirit of God (Rom. 8:11). But, compared to the population, we who are spiritually alive are few and far between (Matt. 7:14). That means most people we see walking and talking all around us are spiritually dead (Col. 2:13). They bear the deadly wounds of sin in their souls, but they don’t realize they are dead. Instead, they go about as if everything were fine.

As living children of God, we have the rare ability to see dead people for what they are. They ring up our groceries at the checkout counter. They surround us at the mall. They work next to us. They pass us on the sidewalk. They serve our meals at the restaurant. They live next door. They are “the dead” and what they need more than anything is our help. We know they need the gospel and we know that God wants us to help them. Yet, too many times our reaction is one of terror. Instead of helping the dead, we run away. Maybe we are repulsed by their being covered with sin (cf. Rom. 5:8). Maybe we are too spiritually immature to offer competent help (cf. Heb. 5:12). Maybe we are afraid of displeasing the dead and ending up hurt (cf. Gal. 1:10). Maybe we are too lazy and comfortable to put forth the effort (cf. John 9:4). How can we help the church if we are unwilling to look into the eyes of a dead man and offer him the bread of life (John 6:58)? As Christians, we need a keenly developed “sixth sense” that alerts us to the walking dead who surround us. It is a rare and significant ability. Do you have it?

You Are Not Your Own

Tippu Tip's house, Zanzibar

Image by Jeremy Weate via Flickr

Travelers to 1870’s Zanzibar, an island off the coast of East Africa, often commented on the large number of white seashells glistening under the clear waters of the bay. The gruesome truth was far less charming, as they were not shells at all, but the bones of dead slaves tossed overboard—a grim token of the 20,000 stolen men who, each year, passed through Zanzibar, the largest slave market in the world.

Perhaps the most successful of all slavers was an Arab named Hamed bin Muhammed, known widely as “Tippu Tib,” a name meant to imitate the sound of rifles he used to destroy and enslave so many on the Dark Continent. As he would say, “the gun is king of Africa.” A fascinating chapter on Tippu Tib’s rise to prominence is in the book, Tales of the African Frontier, by J.A. Hunter and Daniel P. Mannix.

Tippu Tib perfected a strategy that could be repeated time and again which brought him fabulous wealth, power and respect, and struck terror in the hearts of those who found themselves staring into his muskets. He would travel to the interior, collecting ivory. Then he would overpower an entire village at gunpoint, enslave its citizens, force them to carry the ivory back to Zanzibar, and sell both ivory and his new found slaves for a king’s ransom. Tippu Tib also used inter-tribal warfare to further his fortune. He would form an alliance with a certain tribe and, together, they would wipe out the tribe’s enemy, survivors of which would be sold into slavery. Then, when the friendly tribe grew boastful of its victories and began to demand tribute from Tippu Tib’s caravan, that tribe also would be captured and marched off to Zanzibar, a deadly journey with a mortality rate estimated by Livingstone at 80%. If four out of five died, that was an acceptable loss because the remaining 20% were still enough to keep the industry booming. As one British official stated, “The Arabs regard it like transporting ice. You know most of it will melt away, but there’ll be enough left to show a profit.”

Slavery was abolished in Zanzibar in 1897, but Tippu Tib’s house still stands there, a reminder of a bygone era when man-stealing raked in serious profits. It was a frightful time when you could be minding your own business and find yourself suddenly torn from family and home and marched at gunpoint to be bought and paid for by a stranger who now owned you as private property—lock, stock and barrel.

Macabre memories, to be sure. But, evil as that practice was, it pales in comparison with modern spiritual slavery. “Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness?” (Rom. 6:16, ESV). When you violate God’s law you are “sold under sin” (Rom. 7:14). In essence, you stand exposed and helpless on the auction block and Satan enters the winning bid. He owns you. The other end of the chain around your neck is in the fingers of the prince of darkness. As long as the devil is your master, you are powerless to be righteous. Paul said, “For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness” (Rom. 6:20). In that hopeless situation you would live and die, having been captured by the devil’s wiles, torn from fellowship with God and dragged dangerously distant from the innocence of childhood—doomed to live forever in hell (Rev. 20:15).

You will never cease to be a slave. But, unlike Tippu Tib’s prisoners, you can choose who buys you off the auction block. When you are baptized into Christ (Gal. 3:27), you are purchased at the price of divine blood (Acts 20:28). Paul wrote, “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own,for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body” (1 Cor. 6:19,20).

God’s slaves are volunteers. They are bought, but not stolen. They are owned, but not abused. They are required to labor hard, but helped along the way. They are marched on a route fraught with danger, but which—if survived—leads to the gates of heaven. “But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life” (Rom. 6:22). So, whose slave will you be?