During worship on Sunday, 70-year-old Janice went forward to put on her Lord in baptism (Gal. 3:27). As is our custom, we all gathered around into a large circle around the auditorium after worship. This “welcome circle” is meant to represent Christians all over the world who have put on Christ and are now united. It represents Janice’s new spiritual family who stands ready to support, encourage, and help her in any way we can. We sang songs like “God is So Good” and “I’m Happy Today.” One of our elders prayed for Janice, and then we each went up and hugged and welcomed our new sister into the Lord’s body. Her shining face was truly a beautiful sight to behold.
But here’s what I really love about the welcome circle:
I love being able to look around and make eye contact with every member. It’s a treat to be able to look at the faces around the circle and think about my relationship with them, how thankful I am for them, or what prayer needs they may have.
I love seeing the expressions on their faces. No heart is untouched by a baptism. Whether young or old, each face reflects emotion. Everyone is smiling, and many are doing so through tears. I imagine most of us are recalling the day we obeyed the gospel ourselves.
I love the sense of connection. In an increasingly disconnected society, I’m especially grateful for the sweet tie that binds us together in Christ. These relationships are real and everlasting.
I love the joy. After the circle broke up, I looked around in every direction. The building was filled with groups of people whose faces were bright. There were no polite or half-hearted smiles, but genuine teeth-showing grins. Our hearts were encouraged and our strength was renewed. This happiness can’t be fabricated or bought or forced. It’s simply the unique joy experienced by those who love God and love His people.
“And my soul shall be joyful in the Lord; it shall rejoice in His salvation” (Psalm 35:9).
If you’ve had a loved one turn away from God, you may have asked, “HOW?”
How do I know what to say?
How do I keep from being led by my emotions?
How can I make sure my own faith stays strong?
Thankfully, the answers to our questions can be found in God’s faithful Word. I have a book coming out in February (Lord willing) that deals with what to do when loved ones fall away. Each week in December I’ll be sharing some excerpts from the book.
From chapter one– KEEP YOUR FAITH IN GOD
God’s love is nothing like man’s imperfect love. God’s love is perfect and everlasting. When things are going well, we are secure in that knowledge. But sometimes when our hearts are hurting, we forget the amazing depth and enduring nature of God’s love. Could it be Satan whispers doubts in our mind about God’s love? Like Mrs. Job advising her husband to “curse God and die” (Job 2:9), Satan’s lies begin with God to get us to turn away from Him. When he tempted Eve, Satan mentioned God’s name three times (Genesis 3:1-5)! To keep ourselves from ever believing Satan’s lies about God, we need to continually reacquaint ourselves with the love of God. The Word is filled with the truth about God’s love. Study it often so its voice will be louder than Satan’s.
From chapter four– SEEK GUIDANCE FROM GOD’S WORD
Emotions, both positive and negative, are powerful, and certainly our emotions are involved when a loved one falls away. Our society places an emphasis on letting personal emotions guide important decisions. “I have to follow my heart.” “Do what feels right to you.” The world’s mantra is that while rules are good, ultimately one should live by what feels right to them. But feelings can be an unreliable and unsafe guide. “The heart is deceitful above all things” (Jeremiah 17:9). When Saul persecuted Christians, he wasn’t trying to be wicked. He thought he was doing the right thing. He was following his heart. He didn’t realize his actions were contrary to God’s will. He said, “Indeed, I myself thought…” (Acts 26:9). He was convicted by his feelings. His conscience never once made him question his actions (Acts 23:1). Even good people make huge mistakes when allowing their feelings to guide them. It wasn’t until Saul encountered Christ that he learned to “speak the words of truth and reason” (Acts 26:25). Wise Solomon sums it all up by saying, “He who trusts in his own heart is a fool” (Proverbs 28:26). When a loved one falls away, we must be aware of the danger of being led by our feelings. It can happen without us even realizing it. The way to safeguard against that is to stay in the Word. “Let my heart be blameless regarding Your statutes, that I may not be ashamed” (Psalm 119:80).
Next week’s excerpts will deal with the subjects of prayer and guilt. I’d love to hear from you…Have you had a loved one fall away? Have you had to make sure your emotional response stays in line with God’s Word? What have you done to strengthen your own faith?
Denny Petrillo is the president of the Bear Valley Bible Institute of Denver. One of the classes he teaches is “Biblical Exegesis.” Exegesis in Bible study means to take out of the text what the text is intending to say. An exegetical approach keeps us from bringing our own baggage or preconceived notions to the text. What could be more important as we strive to gain wisdom (Col. 1:9,10) and seek God’s will for us (John 7:16-18)?
Dr. Petrillo looks for Four P’s when studying. The following information about the Four P’s is from the notes I took in his class:
If a word or phrase appears frequently in a book, it must be an important concept. These “key words” help us understand the author’s focus. They keep us on task and allow us to keep verses in context. When we see a word that has a number of occurrences, we should ask, “Why does the author keep using this word? What does it mean?” From Genesis to Revelation, every book has key words. The rule of thumb is if a word occurs at least one time per chapter, it’s probably a key word. Color-coding the key words helps them jump out at you and remind you that they are important words in the book. Here are some examples we were given in class:
“Faith” appears 63 times in Romans. The serious Bible student will put together all of the faith passages to find out the meaning of the word and how it’s used in the book.
“Coming” appears 52 times in Matthew. By paying attention to his word, the Bible student will learn that people have different reasons for coming to Jesus–some for healing, some to test, some to be a disciple, and some for teaching.
“Knowledge” appears 14 times in 2 Peter. Since there are only three chapters in 2 Peter, it becomes apparent that “knowledge” is a major theme in the letter.
Sometimes an author will come right out and state why he is writing.
For example, John writes, “…these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ…” (John 20:30,31). So the Bible student now knows the purpose of the book of John and will keep that in mind when studying. Key words are often found in purpose statements. In John 20:30, 31, there are at least five key words: signs (15x), believe (99x), life (55x), disciple (79x), and Jesus (254x).
Another example of a purpose statement is 1 Tim. 3:15,16, “…I write so that you may know how to conduct yourself in the house of God…”
Denny Petrillo likes to put the purpose statement on a 3×5 card and keep it where he can frequently look at it. He said, “This reminds me of one crucial point–he said this is why he is writing. Therefore, whatever I say should clearly and easily fit into that statement!”
When a writer says, “This is what I pray about concerning you…,” he will logically include important points. If the writer’s praying about it, it’s what the book is probably about. Examples are found in Ephesians 1:15-19 and 1 Thessalonians 1:2-5. Some questions to ask when finding a prayer:
What are the two or three main points of his prayer?
What seem to be the predominant words in this prayer?
When we want to emphasize an important point, we will use bold type, italics, ALL CAPS, or underlining. In the Greek, they used petition verbs. Petition verbs are “I urge,” “I beg,” “I beseech,” etc. When we come across a petition verb, the writer is letting us know that what he’s about to say is VERY important.
Rom. 12:1- “I beseech you therefore…that you present your bodies a living sacrifice…” The petition verb clues us in to the importance of this statement and lets us know it’s a key thought in the letter.
1 Cor. 1:10- “Now I plead with you, brethren…that you all speak the same thing…”
Phil. 4:2- “I implore Euodia and I implore Synteche to be of the same mind in the Lord.” Two petition verbs in one verse means what he is about to say is especially significant! The letter to the Philippians is about being of the same mind. What mindset does Paul want them to have? “Others about self” according to 2:3. “Mind” appears 11 times in the book. The serious Bible student will consider this while reading through the entire letter.
A list of petition verbs in New Testament letters can be found here.
Looking for these four P’s is one easy way to make sure we are striving to be serious students of the Word. “Be diligent to present yourself to God, a workman that does not need to be ashamed, handling accurately the Word of God” (2 Tim. 2:15).
Prayer for Today: Thank you, Lord, for those who show us how to keep learning and growing in Your Word!
She’s young, beautiful, warm, and fun-loving. Pour a cup of coffee and enjoy this interview with Alicia Bookout, a sweet preacher’s wife and mother.
Kathy: Hi, Alicia! Please tell us a little about yourself.
Alicia: “Garrett and I met for the first time on January 28, 2006 at a get-together for the freshman at the Bear Valley Institute of Denver. He had just moved from TX. He asked some people about me, but was told I was younger than I actually was, so didn’t pursue. He later learned my real age (whew!) and a year later we fell hard for each other. We just celebrated 6 years of happy marriage!
Right after marriage we were given the excellent opportunity for Garrett to work as the Intern for Bear Valley church of Christ for two years. Our “mentors” (as we like to call them) were some people named Neal and Kathy Pollard. 😉 Since 2010 we have lived in Clovis, NM where Garrett is the pulpit Minister for the 16th and Pile church of Christ.
I’m blessed to get to stay at home with our two wonderful, fun and energetic kids, Emma (4 yrs) and Wesley (2 yrs).”
Kathy: You write for KatharosNOW. What’s that all about?
Alicia: “It is a blog aimed to encourage teenage girls to remain pure and clean (katharos) in this world. My sister-in-law started it a couple of years ago. Several different Christian women and young ladies from around the country write for it. I think it is a great resource for young ladies today.”
Kathy: Sounds wonderful! I know many will enjoy checking out http://katharosnow.com/
You fill many roles. Many young mothers struggle with feeling like they don’t have enough time to accomplish everything. What advice would you give them?
Alicia: “Pray and drink lots of coffee! I still struggle with this problem myself. One thing that has really helped is making daily lists. Especially on days that I feel overwhelmed. I will list at the top things that I absolutely have to get done that day and then add extras. If I get to the extra part of the list, that is great, if not, I really try to not lie in bed and stress about it. So many young moms (myself included) can run themselves ragged trying to make everything perfect. Some days it will just not be that way and that is ok. As long as you are taking care of your biggest jobs God has given you (hubby and children) then you are doing good. I would suggest though to NEVER allow your alone/quiet time with God to go on the “extras” part of your list. That has to be a priority daily or it will lead to more stressed and unaccomplished feelings (learned from experience).”
Kathy: What’s your favorite company meal?
Alicia: “Crockpot Shredded Italian Beef Sandwiches! It’s easy, can feed an army and something I grew up with so it always reminds me of home. I usually prepare Velveeta cheese dip to go along side so that you can smother your sandwich with it if you want. Needless to say, this is not a dish for those counting calories.”
Italian Beef Sandwiches
1 sirloin tip roast, rump roast, etc. (pork works good, too…cheaper!)
1 pkg. dry Italian Dressing (about 1 per 1 1/2 lbs of meat)
one can of Beef Broth
Put in Crockpot on low for 8ish hours (depends on how many pounds of meat you use). Shred and put on rolls!
Kathy: Would you mind sharing another favorite recipe with us?
Alicia: “I have too many favorite recipes so this question was one of the hardest to answer. Chocolate Éclair Cake kept coming to mind though. So easy to make and I could eat the entire pan if I’m not careful.
1 Box Graham Crackers
1 big box Instant Vanilla Pudding
1 8 oz. container Cool Whip
1 tub Chocolate Frosting
Make Pudding according to directions and mix the cool whip into the pudding. In a 9×13 dish layer graham crackers and top with pudding mixture. Make 3 layers ending with graham crackers as the top. Heat up your chocolate frosting and pour over the top of the graham crackers. Refrigerate for a couple hours and then gobble up!”
Kathy: As a busy mom of young children, how do you keep the spark alive in your marriage?
Alicia: “As newlyweds we were told a number of times “enjoy the romance before kids come along!”. Garrett and I were determined to not let our romance fizzle out once I got pregnant with our first. It definitely takes more work, but I truly believe that having kids has made us more in love and a stronger couple.
I would suggest DO NOT give up on your quiet time and dates! We love our kids to pieces but need our time together. We do this by making sure our kids have a strict bed time (8 pm in this house) so that we have nightly alone time. If you don’t have a babysitter for a date out on the town, one of our favorite things is in-home dates! After kids are in bed cook together, watch a movie, play a game, just get creative! Home dates can be cheaper, cozier, more fun and romantic than a night out.
Also, make sure even though most of your time is spent caring for the children, that you still let your hubby know that you think of him daily. Take time in your hectic day to flirt with him. Text messages, Facebook and phone calls are great ways for that. Get dressed up just for him occasionally. My sweet husband says my “mom outfits” (sweats, t-shirt with kid food and marker and pony tail) are cute, but I also know he doesn’t complain if I fix myself up. Little things that show him you care are always a good thing.”
Kathy: What is something about you that people might be surprised to know?
Alicia: “I was born in Okinawa, Japan and have lived in 9 different states. I was an “air force brat” growing up and loved the experience of seeing all sorts of new places and people!”
Kathy: When I think of you, I think of someone who’s joyful, warm, and real. I’m sure you deal with your fair share of stress and problems, so what’s your secret to maintaining these admirable traits?
Alicia: “I appreciate you saying that. I can definitely say I have not dealt with stress like I should at times and have to work on it a lot. My new favorite thing to do when I am feeling especially stressed, upset or anxious is to do a word search in scriptures. I use my bible program online (concordance works great too) and look up words like “comfort”, “worry” and “joy”. I will read most of the scriptures that pop up. Some of my favorites I end up reading a couple times throughout the day and even writing them out on sticky notes and putting them on my walls as reminders. It is amazing how much better I feel and how my attitude changes after I do this.”
Kathy: Thank you, Alicia! It’s been a real pleasure ‘chatting’ with you, and I appreciate your beautiful insight and wisdom. May God bless you and your sweet family as you shine for Him!
Before worship began today, Clint Stephens, an elder at Bear Valley church of Christ, made a special request. He explained that our five elders have been reaching out to several individuals for many months, individuals who have turned away from God. He asked that we all join hands with the elders in reaching out to these dear, wayward members.
Mark Hanstein, another elder at Bear Valley, preached from John 4 this morning. His lesson was powerful and heartfelt as he challenged us to be, in every sense of the word, the church OF CHRIST. He said there are some things we learn about Christ from His interaction with the woman at the well. First, Jesus cared about souls enough to seize every opportunity to teach them, even when it called for being unconventional. Second, Jesus stood for truth always, which is why He exposed the woman’s previous marriages and current relationship. With these thoughts in mind, Brother Hanstein asked us several questions. When we ask the cashier, waiter, or neighbor, “How are you?,” do we really mean it? If we know they’re not Christians, we know how they’re doing, and we know what they need. Do we seize that opportunity to share the gospel? As the church OF CHRIST, will we always stand for truth no matter what? Will we teach the truth about marriage, divorce and remarriage, or will we turn a blind eye? Will we teach the truth about homosexuality, no matter the political climate? Mark Hanstein challenged us to think and act like Christ.
In one morning, these two elders gave us a glimpse into their hearts. I thank God for them. They are good leaders, true shepherds of the flock. Why? Because they are compassionate, demonstrated by their tireless efforts to reach those who have strayed. They are evangelistic, evidenced by their constant reminders for all of us to “Think Souls,” along with their personal efforts toward that end. And they are convicted. They stand for truth. They’re not afraid to uphold the Word of God. And how reassuring to know that they will continue to do so, come what may!
Kristy Woodall shared these good words recently:
“Perhaps the only ones who can truly understand the service of an elder is his family. They see the countless meetings, the hunched shoulders as the burden seems unbearable, the hours of prayer and the tears. Let’s hold up their hands, honor, respect and pray for them. All they want to do is to help us get to heaven. Thank God for your elders and show them a little love too!”
That’s great advice, and I want to do a better job of praying for and appreciating our humble, hard-working elders.
Prayer for Today: Thank you, God, for Clint Stephens, Mark Hanstein, Dave Chamberlin, Ernie Barrett, Maynard Woolley, and all elders who truly love souls and stand for Your truth.
No one came to see me. No one called me. No one sent me a card.
It seems like I’m doing all the work. No one is helping me.
I’m tired of being the one always making the first move. Let someone else make the effort for once.
I give and give and give, but never get anything back. I’m sick of it.
If I didn’t go out of my way to talk to people, then no one would talk to me. From now on I’m just going to sit back and see who cares enough to come speak to me.
I realize that sometimes we make statements like these in order to vent in moments of frustration, weariness or loneliness. But sometimes we’re just being self-absorbed. Discontentment sets in when we think we’ve been overlooked or neglected, or when we start comparing our good efforts to the seemingly nonexistent ones of others. What a dangerous and unattractive mindset!
When we are tempted to accuse others of neglect, we need to ask ourselves, “How many visits have I made this past week? This past month? How many people have I called to encourage?” Could it be that we expect from others what we aren’t willing to do ourselves? “Why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye?” (Matt. 7:3).
When we are tempted to give up because we feel like we’re the only ones making any effort, we need to inspect our motives. We shouldn’t serve for recognition or gratitude. We should serve in humility because Jesus commanded it (John 13:14, 15). We shouldn’t put forth only as much effort as we see others putting forth. We should only compare ourselves to Christ, which means we’ll keep on giving it our all (Phil. 2:5-8). Let’s not fall into the world’s mindset of selfish entitlement. Instead, let’s prayerfully and earnestly consider how we will answer when Jesus asks, “What have you done for Me lately?”
“And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith” (Gal. 6:9,10).
Prayer for Today: Help me, Lord, fight the blinding trap of selfishness. May I always have the mindset of Your Son who was motivated by love to serve others.
Two smiling friends showed up at my house on this chilly Monday. Their arms were filled with boxes as they headed straight for the kitchen table. I was amazed as they began arranging delightful treats of goodness, such as cucumber sandwiches, egg salad sandwiches, fresh scones with cream, dipped strawberries, little quiches and fresh fruit. The afternoon quickly warmed up as we spent a couple of sweet hours sipping Earl Grey, chatting and laughing.
This unexpected gift will warm my heart for years to come. Lynn and Teri know that I love all things TEA. They planned and schemed. They baked. They brought their own dishes. They gave up their precious after-work hours. Such a thoughtful surprise! They left behind extra tea treats, a box of Earl Grey, a jar of chocolate hearts and a sweet card. I feel so spoiled, loved, grateful, blessed.
“Come, let us have some tea and continue to talk about happy things” (Chaim Potok).
Prayer for Today: Thank you, Lord, for sweet companions, simple pleasures, and memories to treasure.
PTP stands for “Polishing the Pulpit,” but could very easily stand for “Power to Persevere!” Over 2,300 Christians spent a week together in the most spiritually uplifting environment imaginable (this year there will be at least a thousand more). If you’ve never been to PTP, here are some highlights to interest you in making plans to attend next year:
-SPIRITUAL GROWTH- There are literally a dozen or more classes offered every hour, covering a wide variety of topics and texts. Speakers from all over the country presented lessons that boosted our faith and reignited our desire to make a difference for Christ!
-NOURISHING FELLOWSHIP- Oh boy. Thinking about the nature of God’s family, and the close bond we enjoy when thousands of us get together, warms my heart and strengthens my soul. We caught up with old friends and made new ones. Our 3 sons enjoyed hanging out with a large number of like-minded teens. There were many moments of giving & receiving encouragement, and many moments of refreshing laughter.
-POWER IN NUMBERS- Nearly every time we left the event center, someone in town would notice our tags and say, “Are you with that large church group?” We had many conversations with strangers about the conference and about the Lord’s church. It was fun, and it was easy, because there were so many of us. It made us want to bring that same “visibility” back to our home town. It made us more determined to create opportunities to tell others about the Lord’s church.
-A TASTE OF HEAVEN- I’ve always loved singing with the saints. It’s special and meaningful. Singing with thousands of saints is a downright goose bump-giver. How beautiful were songs like “It is Well with My Soul” and “Holy, Holy, Holy!” I heard many folks state my own feelings…”Imagine what it must be like in Heaven!”
My family is very grateful to all who put in countless hours of planning and work to make PTP happen. Our cups our full and our hearts are thankful.
Prayer for Today: Thank you, Lord, for the time of concentrated study and fellowship I’ve enjoyed. May I carry these feelings of renewal and determination “into all the world.”