Robbing a Bully

Robbing a Bully

As part of my personal reading time, I’m trying to mix in some children’s and young adult books, especially now that I have children and want to have a wider variety of books to read to them and recommend to them as they get older. Upon recommendation from a friend, I recently read Jerry Spinelli’s book Loser. The story traces the early life of a kid named Zinkoff and some of the challenges he faces. 

An early scene in the book captures an all too real occurrence among children in a school setting. Proud of his "giraffe hat” he recently received as part of a zoo visit with his family, the first-grader Zinkoff brings his unique hat to recess only to have it snatched by some older kids...

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Evangelism, Narcissism, and Mission (Pt 2)

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 Disobedience and Repentance in Jonah

When we left Jonah last week, he had boarded a ship in a feeble and hopeless attempt to run away from God and his calling. We often talk about people hitting rock bottom – Jonah has epitomized this metaphor. After receiving the word from God, he has gone nowhere but down. He went down to Joppa, down into the ship, down into the sea, and his redemption has carried him down to the bottom of the deepest sea. Jonah can go no lower. The voice of God has left the prophet, but the presence of God remains. In Jonah’s prayer, we find his repentant heart and have an opportunity to learn something very rich about what it means to repent of our disobedience to God’s will.

Accept God’s discipline. In business, in relationships, and in finances, we know this to be true. Take your medicine. When we see that we have made a mistake, we know that consequences will come. But this time, unlike times before, maybe those consequences can be outrun. It doesn’t work. It never works. And trying to outrun what is coming has only shown to make things worse. But we run. We turn tail and run away from the discipline we cannot avoid. Spiritual matters are no different. Discipline will come when we disobey God’s call. We will be better served and more quickly able to move on when we acknowledge our disobedience, repent of our sin, and accept the discipline that comes from what we have done. Only then can true healing begin.

Trust God’s promises. The path of least resistance is skepticism. It is the most comfortable and most chosen path. Trusting in God’s promises requires a great measure of faith. It is most difficult to act on what we know, because the promise has not yet been fulfilled when we are called to action. But God’s promises are rich and glorious. Read through Jonah’s prayer in Jonah chapter 2. It is littered with remorse and repentance. However, mingled in the despair is the acknowledgment of a faithful God who keeps his promises. Jonah goes all the way back to Solomon’s dedication of the temple to call on God’s faithfulness and mercy.

Yield to God’s will. Ultimately, we have to do what we should have done in the first place. The call didn’t change for Jonah, and it probably won’t change for you either. But, like Jonah, you will always be offered another chance to act on your repentance and yield to God’s will. If we have truly trusted in God’s promises, we will likely see no other choice but to do just this.

Embrace God’s redemption. This may be the most difficult part of the whole process of repentance. It can seem impossible to understand how far God has come for us. It is difficult to wrap our minds around God’s redemption. We find it inconceivable that God, as good, holy, and majestic as we know he is, would be able to look beyond our own failures and even our rebellion against him, and find us worthy of his love. But he does exactly that. It is the promise of a faithful God that when we have yielded to his will and repented of our disobedience, we receive redemption from our Creator. If he does not hold this against us, why should we then hold ourselves hostage to sin that has already been put aside.

Read Jonah’s prayer again. Write it in your heart. Learn how to pray an earnest prayer of repentance. Trust in God’s promises and act on his faithfulness. Yield to the will of the Father and embrace – truly embrace – the redemption the Almighty God.

Joshua Fowler

Joshua is the preaching minister at the Goodwood Church of Christ in Baton Rouge, LA

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Evangelism, Narcissism, and Mission (Pt 1)

JonahAndTheCity_FBCover.jpg

 God’s Love For the Lost in Jonah

Jonah is one of those prophets we know little about. We really only know of one major episode in his life as a prophet. We know his father and his hometown, Ammitai of Gath-Hepher, but of his prophetic message to Israel, we are unenlightened. However, the one narrative we have of his life is deep and rich with application and character.

God loves all humanity and pursues the lost. Not that this is really earth-shattering news. However in the story of Jonah, the fact that God pursues ALL humanity becomes a striking reality. He is not, in this case, looking after a lost sheep or a straying child. He is pursuing a sworn enemy, the vilest offender of human decency, and the most wicked people known to man at the time. And he is asking Jonah to be his ambassador.

We are called to share our faith even when we don’t want to. My gut instinct is to resist all inclinations that my response to God’s command could ever rival Jonah’s. I would like to think I am better than that. But, while I have never boarded a ship and set sail in the opposite direction of the urging of the Spirit, I have certainly acknowledged what God was asking me to do yet kept my mouth shut. And isn’t that really the same thing? When we are faced with situations where God is calling us to do something so brazen, so bold, and so counter to our desire, we too frequently choose rebellion.

In our rebellion, we ignore God’s call. We may think we are better than Jonah because we aren’t literally running away from God, but our offense in ignoring the call is equally as sinful. Maybe it would be better if we had run away. At least then we wouldn’t have fooled ourselves into thinking everything was okay. We convince ourselves that no harm is done when we overlook a divine opportunity to impart the knowledge of a Savior and the grace of The Creator to those who are lost and in need of such. In our refusal, we endorse their condemnation and participate in the advancement of the reign of evil.

In our rebellion, we become a curse rather than a blessing. From the time of Abraham’s covenant, the people of God are a promised blessing to the world at large. It is a shame when children of God who have been offered entry into the presence of God by the mercy and sacrifice of Jesus Christ become messengers of destruction and condemnation instead of forgiveness and acceptance. The Gospel is a blessing, not a curse, to all of humanity. It is a blessing to our neighbors and to our family. It is a blessing to those we agree with and those with whom we differ. It is a blessing to those whom our culture embraces and also to those who are despised. And we are called to take the Gospel even to those whom we might call enemies.

May we have the maturity to discern the voice of the Spirit of the Almighty God when it calls us out into the world to bring the message of salvation and purpose. May we have the courage to shun the temptation and emotion of our fleshly desires. And may we have the boldness stay near to the will of God especially when the road we are called to travel looks most difficult.

Joshua Fowler

Joshua is the preaching minister at the Goodwood Church of Christ in Baton Rouge, LA

If you enjoyed reading, please click the share icons found at the top and bottom of the page to share on social media.

If you would like to join our mailing list, please click here.

Guests Are Present (and do you really want them back?)

Guests Are Present (and do you really want them back?)

"My brethren, do not hold your faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ with an attitude of personal favoritism. For if a man comes into your assembly with a gold ring and dressed in fine clothes, and there also comes in a poor man in dirty clothes, and you pay special attention to the one who is wearing the fine clothes, and say, 'You sit here in a good place,' and you say to the poor man, 'You stand over there, or sit down by my footstool,' have you not made distinctions among yourselves, and become judges with evil motives?” (James 2:1-4) 

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Responding to Those Who Persecute Us

Responding to Those Who Persecute Us

"Evil is not something to be tolerated per your New Testament.” In an exchange with a brother recently about how to respond to those of other faiths, some of whom may mean us harm, this was one of his statements. It made me think of Romans 12:21"Do not be overcome by evil but overcome evil with good."

At first glance, this verse seems to back what the individual said. It must mean that we must overcome the evil in other people before they overcome us. If that means using force in order to do so, then so be it. We will prevent potential evil done to us by removing the possibility of it from being around us...and therefore overcoming it with good........

All except that is the exact opposite of the message of Romans 12.

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How Big and How Small God Is

How Big and How Small God Is

On Wednesday nights in Rockville we have been studying 2 Corinthians. I always appreciate the comments and questions from brothers and sisters in the class stimulating our thinking together. During one discussion session, a thought hit me while I was teaching of a connection between 2 concepts in 2 Corinthians 5. This passage says that our ministry of reconciliation (5:18) - our mission to the world - is motivated/compelled by “the fear of the Lord" (5:11) and “the love of Christ" (5:14). The fresh insight (and I say “fresh" from my perspective…I’m sure many other students of the Bible have grasped this thought long before me) was in how these 2 motivating concepts feed on one another.

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Covenant: Merely a Contract?

Covenant: Merely a Contract?

The Bible emphasizes a unique word in describing relationship agreements: COVENANT. It’s the word God uses to capture His relationship with Noah, with Abraham, with Moses, with David, and ultimately with all who are in Christ - the recipients of “the new covenant,” (Jeremiah 31). But since “covenant” has gone out of fashion in common vocabulary, many search for other words to use in its place. We may be tempted to use the analogy of a contract to understand a covenant. I have used this word myself in preaching about covenant before. They both involve agreements and commitments. However, the biblical concept of covenant emerges as much stronger than the conditions of a contract.

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The Stigmatized and Neglected: Outsiders

The Stigmatized and Neglected: Outsiders

As someone who has lived in multiple nations and seen the good and bad of how Christians treat "outsiders," today's guest contributor Dr. Kwame Awuah-Offei offers some powerful insights into how churches can make sure they do not stigmatize or neglect those who have moved in from the outside. 

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The Stigmatized and Neglected: Youth And The Church

The Stigmatized and Neglected: Youth And The Church

Lazy, apathetic, self-serving, self-entitled, disrespectful, troublemaking, change-agents.

If we were playing Catchphrase, by now someone in the room would inevitably blurted out the word “teenager.”

Granted, you’ve probably met some teenagers that would fit that description. At the same time, you’ve probably met some people in their 30s and 40s that fit that description, too.

Don’t you love labels?

Speaking of labels, I’m a millennial.[1] According to the experts, so is every teenager alive right now.

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He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not

He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not

As little girls, we would be playing outside with our friends when we would grab flowers and play a little game. We’d name different boys: schoolmates, actors, athletes, different celebrities, and any guy we thought we just loved so much. We’d take our flowers and begin pulling the petals off saying the same things over and over, “he loves me, he loves me not, he loves me, he loves me not…” and so on in hopes of landing with the last petal saying “he loves me.” Fast forward a few years and we find ourselves dating and in relationships. Now we have our close knit group of girl friends that we can discuss guys with. We all want to love and be loved. Some of us have found that, some are working on it, and some are still pulling the “he loves me not” petal every time. 

Love… there are tons of songs dedicated to it, along with books, movies, paintings, and even clothing items. There’s even a whole holiday dedicated to relationships and loving someone. Everyone loves to be loved and loves to love someone, including myself. Ladies (and guys too) deserve a special kind of love.

God’s love is a divine love that never ends. 

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Helping Those Who Grieve

Helping Those Who Grieve

Everyday many people experience tragedy through the loss of a loved one (family and friends). Most days, we often know someone who is experiencing death and we are left with the question, "What can I do to help?" Often times, we are left with the reality that there is not a whole lot we can do except offer up prayers on their behalf, so we usually respond by saying, "If there's anything I can do for you, please let me know." 

While this is a great thought and idea, I know from personal experience, it's one that is never answered. So, we go about with our daily lives waiting for the person or family who is grieving to call us. The call is never made because in the moment, the farthermost thought in that person's mind is to call the many people who have offered their help.

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Book Review: The Lunch Ladies

Book Review: The Lunch Ladies

Does a culture of indifference and neglect haunt the hallways of your congregation? Does a culture of indifference and neglect prey on the minds of the individuals that attend your congregation? The Lunch Ladies is a book about changing from a culture of indifference and neglect to a culture of relevant, relentless, urgent, soul seeking love. 

I'm tired of people falling through the cracks. I'm tired of people being ignored. I'm tired of people feeling unwelcomed. You know what? I'm tired of being tired! 

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Everyday Thanksgiving

Everyday Thanksgiving

In November, every year, we focus on the things in our lives we are thankful for. Some of us take to social media using hashtags #thankful, #thanksgiving, #turkey, #getinmybelly (Sorry, I may have my grandmother's thanksgiving meal on my mind), #thankfulfor, and the list goes on and on. Some will participate in a 30 day Thanksgiving challenge on Instagram where you post a different picture each day of things you are thankful for using the #30daysofthanksgiving. As a family, you may sit around the table each evening and talk about one thing you are thankful for in your life or during that particular day. We all have different ways to convey who and what we want to give thanks with it culminating on a day of giving thanks where we meet with family and friends to share a meal together. I love thanksgiving because it combines my two love interests: food and family! There are also no strings attached through the giving a gifts, it's just a genuine thanksgiving feast full of love.

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Taking Free Prayers Requests

Taking Free Prayers Requests

Too often when individuals ask for prayers they receive "advice" instead.  When people ask for prayers, they want and they NEED prayers.  Sometimes the best thing to do is simply to pray with that person and for that person without giving advice.  The "Free Prayer Request" Campaign hopes to communicate a message of love, not one of judgment or hate.

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Killing Apathy

Killing Apathy

Apathy is a huge problem in the church today.  We have become so comfortable.  We come to worship, sit in our normal pew, leave right after the last "amen" is said, go home only to return to worship a few days later.  We aren't evangelizing.  We aren't teaching others.  We aren't going out and making disciples.  We don't have a passion to serve God and His people.

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"What We Got Here, Is Failure to Communicate"

"What We Got Here, Is Failure to Communicate"

One of the most classic lines in movie history is "What We Got Here Is...Failure to Communicate" from 'Cool Hand Luke'.  As I was thinking about what to write for this article this quote came to mind. It seems communication (or lack thereof) is the root of many problems we have with other people.  Many arguments are based on misunderstandings or on unstated expectations.  Christians should be a people of unity and love.  Too often we let miscommunication lead to arguments, which in turn lead to divisions and hate.  To quote the words of James in James 3:10, "Out of the same mouth comes praise and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so"

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The Love of God

The Love of God

Sin separates us from God (Is. 59:2, 1 John 1:6, 8, 10; Eph. 2:12; Eph. 4:18). Because of sin, man and God could not live together. A great chasm separates us from God. We know that God cannot sin (hen. 6:18; 2 Tim. 2:13; James 1:13). However, even in our sin, God still loves us. "But God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8).

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