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Sabastian, What Am I Going to Do With You?

by Teresa L. Sexton

Dedicated to Randy Sexton and Sabastian

Sabastian, what am I going to do with you? Just keep loving you, I guess, and putting up with your ornery, silly ways.

You came into my life at the perfect time. Of course, I couldn’t have known that. Linda had posted your picture to help you find your forever home. I was smitten. My husband had, only recently, said, “No more pets. They’re too much trouble, they tie us down. When these two are gone, that’s it, no more.” He was talking about Fancy and Savannah, our two little toy poodles who were spoiled rotten, mostly by Aaron. But, then you showed up. Your picture pulled at my heartstrings like there was already a rope connecting you to me.

Oh, look, Aaron! He looks so sweet and he is black and white! To me, there couldn’t have been a more beautiful color combination for a standard poodle. Aaron looked at the photos on my phone, then looked at me and said “Get him, if you want him.” He couldn’t resist wanting you either, you were a gorgeous little boy. …and those eyes.

We made a quick weekend trip to Wichita, Kansas, to get you. It was a great trip. Not only did we get to see Josh and Sasha, but, also, it didn’t hurt a bit that you were owned by dear friends,Tom and Linda. I had known and been friends with Tom since I was just three years old and Tom, four. Our families were good friends. Our dads worked together.

Aaron, Josh, Sasha and I brainstormed for the perfect name, one that sounded like you looked, if that makes any sense. I had thought of “Sabastian,” then Josh said  “Sabastian,” so that was it! I don’t know why, but it fit. So, you became our little boy, and we brought you home to Arkansas.

Fancy took right to you, she has always been a loving little soul, well, if dogs have souls. Savannah was not happy with your appearance into our home. She would growl and bare her teeth, trying to intimidate you into keeping your distance, all six pounds of her.

You settled in well, and we adored you. Aaron, the man who didn’t want any more pets, treated you like canine royalty. You were showered with treats, back and belly scratches and hugs.

You came to us in the middle of summer. We would play with you in the backyard. You loved to, and still do, run the length of the deck and at the end leap completely over the three steps to the ground. You would shadow Aaron as he would work on his projects in his backyard shop. He loved your presence, the way you followed and watched him.

Winter came, and with it, the bitter cold, and so much snow. February was cruel. Aaron left us. He didn’t mean to, but God said, “It’s time, son.” Gone. A man who could smile like the sunshine, smiled no more. Well, not here on earth, anyway. No more laughter. No more “I love yous.” You didn’t understand why Dad wasn’t with us anymore but you changed, immediately. Sabastian, you became the man of the house. You weren’t even a year old, yet, but you stepped up.

When the doorbell rang the next day, you became my guard dog, my protector. You barked big boy barks and made sure who ever entered the house knew you were in charge. By that time, you were a big boy, big enough to be given respect for your attitude. Your presence was such a comfort.

You became my rock, my constant companion. Of course, my faith in Jesus is my true Rock and Foundation. I came to realize, again, how God’s loving hand is ever present, ever orchestrating our lives. His timing is impeccable.

Romans 8:28 NIV

 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.

Sabastian, you try my patience sorely, but I can never stay mad at you. I know God put you in my life. You, for some odd doggy reason, revel on getting your mouth on almost any small thing I own, and have, absent mindedly, left in harm’s way. You aggressively chew, and try to devour. How have you tried my patience? Let me count the ways. 1. My new fitbit, nothing but tiny pieces of electronics, 2. Four bible markers, 3. Three tubes of my favorite lip gloss, and two tubes of lipstick (no, they weren’t “your color”), 4. Three mechanical pencils, 5. Unknown number of plastic flossing toothpicks, 6. Socks, yes, my socks, for Pete’s sake, 7.  …and the list goes on.

Have I mentioned that you have auditioned and been accepted into the Hackett City Canine Choir? “Go tell it on the Mountain,” seems to be the theme song to which you and your friends subscribe. Your favorite spot to participate from is the deck by the above ground pool. From there, you can see over the privacy fence and into our fair city. You are a very vocal member of the choir and the Town Crier Club.

Thinking I had found the ideal solution to your excessive vocalizations, I gifted you with an anti-bark collar. It doesn’t shock you when you bark. It is supposed to. Why doesn’t it? The connected phone app says it is functioning properly. What? Initially, when you barked, the collar vibrated and the recording of my voice telling you to “Be quiet!” got your attention. Now, I have come to the conclusion you will bark, just so you can hear my voice, when I am not with you.

Christmas Lights! I closed off the stairs to the swim deck with a wall of beautiful, cheerful lights. The excessive barking has ceased. Awww…sweet peace and quiet. Silent Night. Who needs high tech anti-bark collars? Truth be told, nights are peaceful because you are comfortably sleeping in your humongous pet taxi, your safe place.

My bodacious Sabastian, it is through your eyes you speak. You tell me you love and adore me, you need me. You can’t get enough hugs, back scratches and having me talk to you. You want to be with me, near me, follow me. Sharing my recliner, in my lap is a place you love to be. I love for you to be there, too.


Thank you, Lord, for bringing Randy into our lives. I love him, and so does Sabastian. He is an answer to my prayers. Thank you, Lord, for never giving up on those of us who love you. You are the God of second, third, fourth…chances. We are human, we are imperfect, but you know that, you created us. Thank you for giving us hearts where there is always room for one more. You wrap us in grace and mercy that we don’t deserve. You love us and hear each of us. We stand on your promises.

The Light. Know it. Show it.

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What Is Celebrate Recovery and Why Did It Get Started

By Randy Sexton

As I related in my last article, “This Is My Story,” I fell into secret sin in 2009. I was firmly enmeshed in pornography and sexual addiction, when I began seeking counseling to battle these sinful defects of character. I began seeing a Counselor in November 20, 2018. This Counselor had 12 years’ experience as a counselor, was gifted in working with families and couples, had a heart for working with men’s issues, and had been trained at the Institute of Sexual Wholeness. He was certified as an LPC (Licensed Professional Counselor) and as an LMFT (Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist). During our very first session, he told me about this Christ-centered recovery program called Celebrate Recovery. He recommended that I check it out. He said there were several churches in the area that offered Celebrate Recovery ministries. Following his advice, I attended my first Celebrate Recovery meeting at West-Ark Church of Christ in Fort Smith, Arkansas on January 7, 2019. On that same night I asked someone to be my Sponsor and I signed up for a Step Study. I had been reading several books that my Therapist had recommended and I was more than ready for the help that the CR Program offered.

In that first meeting, I attended what was called a “Newcomers Meeting” and was given a little paperback book, Your First Step to Celebrate Recovery by John Baker. That book helped me to understand the history and the benefit of attending Celebrate Recovery meetings. In this article, I would like to share thoughts from the Introduction: What Is Celebrate Recovery written by Rick Warren and from Chapter 1: Why Did Celebrate Recovery Get Started written by John Baker. I would also like to invite you to check out the website to find a local Celebrate Recovery program in your area

I have now been a part of the West-Ark Celebrate Recovery ministry for almost four years and have found healing. In Celebrate Recovery I have found a safe place to work on my hurts, habits and hang-ups. If you are struggling to find healing, I offer the following words as a first step in your recovery journey. God Bless you!

What Is Celebrate Recovery?



Celebrate Recovery started in 1991 at Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, California. At that time, the church was meeting at a high school gymnasium. John Baker wrote Pastor Rick Warren the “now-famous, concise, 13-page, single-spaced” letter outlining the vision God had given John for Celebrate Recovery. After reading John’s letter, Pastor Rick said, “Great, John — go do it!”

As Rick Warren points out, the Bible makes it clear “all have sinned.” Because of that sin, we hurt ourselves as well as others. “This means each of us needs recovery in order to live our lives the way God intended.” Because time doesn’t heal all wounds, we need something more to address hurts because “wounds that are left untended fester and spread infection throughout your entire body. Time only extends the pain if the problem isn’t dealt with.”

“Celebrate Recovery is a biblical and balanced program that helps us overcome our hurts, hang-ups, and habits. It is based on the actual words of Jesus rather than psychological theory. Celebrate Recovery is more effective in helping us change than anything else I’ve seen or heard of.” While there are many 12-step programs around, most of those programs are very vague about the nature of God, the saving power of Jesus Christ, and the ministry of the Holy Spirit.

Rick Warren describes how he began an intense study of the Scriptures to discover what God had to say about recovery, “My study resulted in a ten-week series of messages called, ‘The Road to Recovery.’ During that series, Pastor John Baker developed the participant’s guides which became the heart of our Celebrate Recovery program. I believe that this program is unlike any recover program you may have seen. There are six features that make it unique.

  1. Celebrate Recovery is based on God’s Word, the Bible….
  2. Celebrate Recovery is forward-looking….
  3. Celebrate Recover emphasizes personal responsibility….
  4. Celebrate Recover emphasizes spiritual commitment to Jesus Christ….
  5. Celebrate Recovery utilizes the biblical truth that we need each other in order to grow spiritually and emotionally….
  6. Celebrate Recovery addresses all types of hurts, hang-ups, and habits….”

Why Did Celebrate Recovery Get Started?

The short answer to this question is that CR got started because John and Cheryl Baker realized they needed something more than, what then existed, to help them heal from the hurts that they had experienced in their lives. As Cheryl tells their story in the opening chapter of this book, we see two people who experienced the negative effects of alcohol in their lives, but who also suffered from deeper underlying issues of low self-esteem, insecurity, co-dependency, and need to control.

John and Cheryl met at a fraternity-sorority football game at the University of Missouri where they were both going to school. John was president of his fraternity and Cheryl was president of her sorority.  Cheryl and John were married in John’s senior year.  Little did Cheryl know what the next 19 years would have in store for her.

After graduation John joined the Air Force and was chosen to be a pilot.  He attended Officers Training School and, in 90 days, learned to act like an officer and drink like a gentleman!  He continued to abuse alcohol and viewed it as cure for his pain, certainly not a sin!  In the service he quickly found the proper use for 100% oxygen – to cure hangovers!  You know, the service is gifted in discovering one’s talents.  John was selected as his squadron’s social officer.  Perfect!  A job that required a lot of hours planning functions at the officers club’s bar.

After the service he joined Scott Paper Co., got his MBA degree at night school and God gave he and Cheryl their first child, a daughter, Laura.  And two years later they were blessed with their son, John Jr.  John was promoted eight times in the first eleven years of his business career.  He was the vice president of sales and marketing for two very large consumer food manufacturers. All of this by the time he was 30 years old.

With all the business success came several relocations.  Attending church became less and less important to John as his drinking increased.  He believed that if he died he was saved; however, he also was beginning to be uncomfortable with his lifestyle, business practices, and priorities.  To the outside world everything with his family seemed normal, but in his heart he knew something was very wrong. As John’s drinking continued to increase, he turned his back completely on God.

John was known as a functioning alcoholic.  He knew he had a problem, but he never lost a job or never got arrested for drunk driving.  Up to this point his secret was still safe.  Cheryl was in denial, or so he thought.  She just couldn’t label him as an “alcoholic” until she noticed his new breakfast drink – beer!  One evening, in her anger, she asked him to go to counseling with her or to just leave.  Much to her surprise, he left!  And their separation began.

John’s life was out of control.  It was an October morning, and he was in Salt Lake City on a business trip.  He woke up and knew he couldn’t take another drink.  But, he also knew that he couldn’t live without one!  He had finally hit his bottom.  He made it back to Orange County and went to his first AA meeting.  He started going to AA meetings daily.  He went to over 90 meetings in 90 days.  As the days passed, he came to “earnestly believe that God exists, that I matter to him, and that he has the power to help me recover.”

Cheryl was completely unaware that John was beginning to deal with his alcoholism. She tells of how her dysfunctions began to surface. She had never told anyone about the breakup of their marriage. She had wanted to tell her close Christian friends at the church pre-school where she worked but she just didn’t feel safe. She wondered if there were others who were also struggling with pain that they were too afraid to share and feeling so different and alone. She says, “Thinking that if we switched churches we would find a safe place to tell others about our pain, the kids and I began attending Saddleback Church. But we didn’t want to feel different or alone, so we didn’t tell anyone there about the separation either.”

Meanwhile, as John was continuing to work the 12-Steps of the AA program, he came to Step 8: We made a list of all persons we had harmed and became willing to make amends to them all and Step 9: We made direct amends to such people whenever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.

He had quite a long list of names on his amends list.  They ranged from former employers, former employees, friends, and neighbors.  But his most special amends he owed were to his family – especially to Cheryl.  When he got to step nine they were still separated.

On February 14, 1991, after being separated for a year, John left a note on Cheryl’s table asking her to meet him for lunch.  On Valentine’s Day!  She thought it was a little strange to be meeting her separated husband on Valentine’s Day!  During that lunch, John told her that he had been attending Alcoholics Anonymous and that he went to meetings several times a week and had a sponsor.  He told her that AA was founded on the principles of the 12 steps, and he needed to share the ninth step with her.  He simply told her that he was truly sorry for the pain he caused in her life, that he still loved her, and that if he could ever do anything for her – anything – just ask.  Now this is where it really gets interesting.

One Saturday night he was visiting the kids and they asked him to go to church with them on Sunday morning.  Much to their surprise he said yes!  He hadn’t been in a church for five years! John describes what happened, “That Sunday morning, I heard the music and Pastor Rick’s message, and I knew I was home.  Cheryl and I began in earnest to work on our issues that had torn our relationship apart.  And five months later God opened our hearts and we renewed our marriage vows.  As a family, we were baptized and took all the church’s classes – Class 101 (Membership) – Class 201 (Maturity), and Class 301 (Ministry) which is the class that I now teach.  Folks, that can only be the power and grace of God!”

As John attended his AA meetings he was mocked when he talked about his Higher Power – the only true Higher Power – Jesus Christ.  And at church he couldn’t find a place where individuals could openly relate to his struggle with alcoholism. He knew they were there because in a church of then 6000, he couldn’t be the only one struggling with a hurt, hang up, or addictive habit.  So John wrote Pastor Rick a concise 13 page single-spaced letter outlining the vision that God gave him – the vision of Celebrate Recovery a Christ-centered 12 step recovery program.  And he said, “Great…do it!”

John was finally able to accept God’s call, and he entered Golden Gate Baptist Seminary.  He committed his life to God to serve him wherever and whenever he chose. The first meeting for Celebrate Recovery started on November 21, 1991 with four open share groups: women’s chemical addictions, women’s codependent, men’s chemical addiction, and men’s codependent. Forty-three people attended that first meeting with volunteers leading their worship and lessons were taught in a large group format. John was asked to join the Saddleback Church Staff in 1992. In 1993, Rick Warren preached “The Road to Recovery” sermon series that became the basis for the 8 Principle of Celebrate Recovery. In 1994 and 1995 John wrote the 4 Participant Guides that now serve as the basis of the Celebrate Recovery Step Study.

Read Cheryl’s words as she describes the growth that resulted, “As we began to use the participant guides, we had a huge growth spurt. Leaders began to emerge from those step study groups and wanted us to start new groups. Gradually groups for newcomers, anger, eating disorders, food addictions, love and relationship addiction, sexual addiction, codependents in a relationship with a with a sexually addicted man, gambling, sexual/physical/emotional abuse, and adult children of the chemically addicted were added to the original four small groups.”

“Celebrate Recovery has helped more than 17,000 people at Saddleback, attracting over 70% of its members from outside the church. Eighty-five percent of the people who go through the program stay with the church and nearly half serve as church volunteers. Celebrate Recovery is now in over 37,000 churches worldwide!” (

If this sounds like a program that you would benefit from, I would invite you to begin your Celebrate Recovery journey by visiting a local Celebrate Recovery ministry near you.

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“This Is My Story” by Randy Sexton

Note: I delivered the following message as part of an “invitation talk” on December 18, 2019.

The Psalmist wrote, “Blessed is the man Who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly,

Nor stands in the path of sinners, Nor sits in the seat of the scornful; But his delight is in the law of the Lord, And in His law he meditates day and night. He shall be like a tree

Planted by the rivers of water, That brings forth its fruit in its season, Whose leaf also shall not wither; And whatever he does shall prosper” (Psalm 1:1-3). This passage not only describes the favored position of the godly man but it describes the progressive nature of sin in the sinner.

We sometimes sing a song in our worship services (#541 “Blessed Assurance”) that contains these words in the chorus, “This is my story, this is my song, Praising my Savior all the day long…” That song speaks to the assurance that we have in Jesus. When we sing that song we are celebrating the fact that we are “heirs of salvation, purchase of God, Born of His Spirit, washed in His blood.”

Today I am going to share my heart with you …This is my story. Well actually it’s not MY story. It’s the story of Jesus working in my life! What I have to say may alarm some of you; I hope not. Some would call this my testimony. And some of us don’t like testimonies. My purpose in sharing my story with you is to remind us all that we must bear the consequences of our sin. My prayer and my hope is that my openness and vulnerability my help others who struggle. In part, my decision to use this as an invitation message, was stirred by the discussion that ensued in a class I recently attended on “The Sin of Gossiping.” In that class, the question was asked, “What would you do if someone came up to you and said, ‘I need to tell you something, but you must promise me that you won’t tell anyone else.” My observation (though I did not offer a comment in class) was that many of us in the church DO NOT UNDERSTAND THE CONCEPTS  OF  ANYNYMOTY AND CONFIDENTIALITY.  That is why it is often not a SAFE PLACE for those who are hurting and seek to find healing. And as the brother who was teaching the class pointed out, there are many “out there” who are hurting!

Today I want to tell you Who I Was, Who I Became, and Who I Am Today.

Who I Was

I was raised by godly parents. My father preached the gospel for more than 40 years and my mother supported him as he moved from place to place to proclaim the gospel. Many of you may have known my parents. At the time of his death in 2006, my father had served as an elder and a preacher at the Van Buren Church of Christ in Van Buren, Arkansas, but had resigned the eldership because he was going to be gone on Sunday mornings. He saw a great need to preach the gospel and began traveling to Waveland to preach on Sunday morning and then to Bethel to preach on Sunday afternoon and then he was back at Van Buren for Sunday evening service.

With that as a foundation I “grew up in the church” as we often say. I obeyed the gospel when I was 13 years old and I tried to live the life of a good Christian. I became a Bible class teacher. I did quite a bit of what the old-timers used to call “appointment preaching.” I served as a deacon, a treasurer, and an elder in the local church where I was a member.

But something happened not long after my dad passed away. In fact, someone who is still very important to me recently said, “You kind of lost your way when he passed away.” And she was right. I wasn’t ready for Dad to leave me. He was a wise counselor that I turned to when I was troubled by something. Like the time I was laid off after 15 years with Union Carbide, he helped me work through that.

In about 2009 secret sin entered my life. I was good at hiding it from everyone but God. The progressive nature of the sin that I found myself embroiled in led me deeper and deeper.

Who I Became

I became a hypocrite. I looked at things that a Christian has no business looking at. I knew what I was doing was wrong. I was hurting but I did not know where to turn. I felt the pain that Paul talks about in Romans 7:15 when he says, “I don’t really understand myself, for I want to do what is right, but I don’t do it. Instead, I do what I hate.” I found myself involved in a struggle between the flesh and the spirit. Paul again says in Galatians 5:16-17, I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish.” 

I sought recovery on my own, reaching out occasionally for help but not really knowing where to turn. I did not really feel safe admitting my problems to my brethren. As it always does, sin will find you out (Numbers 32:23). It found me out in 2018 and I tried, like I had for 9 years to tackle it by myself. I tried but I relapsed and eventually my wife of 23 years. Divorced me and I became a broken man. A young man, wiser than his young years said to me recently, “I’m confused how, for 4 whole years, you could be unfaithful to a woman who was not only a great mother and Christian, but a great and caring wife towards you for over 20 years.”

Eventually, I found a safe place, it is called Celebrate Recovery. It is a Christ-Centered 12 Step program designed to help people find healing from their hurts, habits and hang ups. The power of the program is that it directs people to Jesus Christ. The 8 principles of CR, that are based upon the Beatitudes, and the anonymity and confidentiality that is part of the DNA of the program, helps to guarantee it as a safe place!

Who I Am

I am not a perfect man but neither am I the man that I became because of the sin that I allowed to remain in my life. I was broken, I am now healed. I was controlled by secret sin; I am now open and transparent. I was a man struggling to find healing alone, I now am a man who is working the 8 Principles and the 12 Steps of recovery. I am now a man forgiven but still suffering the consequences of my sins.


There is no sin so great that it cannot be forgiven when repented of. The consequences of those sins, however, may be severe and affect us the rest of our lives. This is where I now stand: I have repented and asked forgiveness from those I have harmed but I still suffer the alienation of family; my wife of 23 years refused to reconcile, and one of my two sons, whom I love, will not speak to me!   As I share my story, so that others who suffer from similar struggles might find hope, it is my prayer that my focus will always be upon Jesus, the author and finisher of my faith! Just as true now as it was in the first century, “Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).

If you are reading these words right now, and you have not obeyed the gospel of Jesus Christ, please know that only in Him can you find forgiveness for your sins and healing from those things that trouble you. He promises, “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. (Mt. 7:7-8). And again, “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” (Mt. 11:28-30). The simple plan of salvation calls for you to believe in Him (Acts 2:38), repent and follow him (Acts 3:19), confess Him as King of your life (Rom. 10:9-10), be baptized into His precious blood (Acts 2:38), and live faithfully to him until your last breath is taken (Rev. 2:10). If you have done these things but then you have stumbled and fallen, pick yourself back up, repent and pray (Acts 8:22). As you move forward in your faith and recovery journey always look to Jesus, living life one day at a time, enjoying one moment at a time. May Bod bless you!

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Remembering My Creator Volume 4, Number 1, August 31, 2018 Theme: Thoughts From Hebrews

In This Issue


  • “Jesus is Superior to Angelic Beings (1:1–2:18)” by Randy Sexton
  • “Warning a Rest for the People of God (3:7-4:13)” by David Bushnaq
  • “The High Priesthood of Jesus (4:14-10:18)” by Dillon Jarrett
  • “The Full Assurance of Faith (10:19-39)” by Hannah Clark
  • “Sacrifices Pleasing to God (13:1-19)” by John Crawford
  • “Thoughts on Hebrews 13″  by William C. Sexton (Reprint)



Jesus is Superior to Angelic Beings (Hebrews 1:1 – 2:18)


Randy Sexton


Roger Shouse states, in his excellent class material on the book of Hebrews, “Hebrews is considered by many to rank with Romans and Revelation as difficult to understand. Certainly the writer himself believed what he was writing was for the spiritually mature (Hebrews 5:11-6:3). The book contains what is probably the most sustained argument in Scripture. The author makes extensive use of Old Testament quotations and an understanding of the Jewish Scriptures is essential to understanding the book.”


The Hebrew epistle does not tell us who wrote it and various commentators and writers have differing opinions as to authorship. Some believe it was authored by Paul, others Apollos, and still others Clement, or Luke, or Barnabas. Neither does the author of this epistle clearly designate his audience. But he does seem “to be targeting a group of Jewish converts who are facing the temptation of returning to Judaism. The author seeks to show the superiority of the new convenant over the old. The author knows the recipients (Hebrews 5:11f; 10:24f; 1317f), who are clearly a certain group of Hebrew Christians rather than Hebrews in general” (Shouse).


The theme of this entire epistle is that the New Covenant is better than the Old. A Key Verse is Hebrews 8:6: “But now He has obtained a more excellent ministry, by as much as He is also the mediator of a better covenant, which has been enacted on better promises.”


“Jews who became Christians faced many hardships. Think about it. Just leaving behind all of the rituals of Old Testament worship would have been hard. They had been doing these things their entire lives. Some were treated as outcasts by their friends and family. Others were persecuted. Because of all these hardships, some considered turning away from Jesus and going back to the Old Law.” (David Banning, A Quick Look at Each New Testament Letter, p. 18)


The primary thoughts in this section of the epistle could be captured under the headings: the supremacy of God’s Son, Warning Against Neglecting Salvation, and the Founder of Salvation. Let us examine these thoughts as presented by the writer of the Hebrew letter.


The Supremacy of God’s Son (1:1-14)

Although God has spoken to His people throughout the ages, the instrumentality He has chosen has varied. And in our case, He has saved the best until last. In these last days He speaks to us through His Son. We may sometimes lose sight of how blessed we are to sit where we do in the “stream of time” and to benefit from those who have lived before us and from the things that “have been written for our learning” (Rom. 15:4).


Warning Against Neglecting Salvation (2:1-4)

To avoid drifting away from our salvation, “we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard.” Because we are prone, as humans, to act from what our hearts and minds dwell on, we cannot NEGLECT what we have learned, and still remain steadfast.


The Founder of Salvation (2:5-18)

The writer of this epistle shows the tremendous things that Jesus has done for us in order to demonstrate the value of remaining faithful. Nothing else can compart to Him. The fact that Jesus left heaven to become a man should make us so very grateful for the benefits that accrued to us.



Warning a Rest for the People of God (3:7-4:13)


David Bushnaq


Hebrews 3 shows us that there are two types of people, those who will enter God’s rest and those who will not. We also find just how those who failed to enter God’s

rest earned that state. Starting in verse 7…


Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says: “Today, if you will hear His voice, Do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion, In the day of trial in the wilderness, Where your fathers tested Me, tried Me, And saw My works forty years. Therefore I was angry with that generation, And said, ‘They

always go astray in their heart, And they have not known My ways.’ So I swore in My wrath, ‘They shall not enter My rest.’ ”


We as children of God know that we too, as those who were lead out by Moses can rebel against God if we wish, however as hindsight is 20/20 we also know what awaits us.


Could you believe the nerve of those following Moses? They saw the plagues, they saw the sea separating right and left so they could walk on dry land, but as soon as things got tough, they wished to return to the Egyptians, undoing all the good God and Moses did for them.


“Beware, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God; but exhort one another daily, while it is called “Today,” lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin. For we have become partakers of Christ if we hold the beginning of

our confidence steadfast to the end, while it is said: “Today, if you will hear His voice, Do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion.”


This passage warns, and rightly so, that we can depart from the Living God. In doing so, we lose our salvation, or rest, when this life is over. Not only must we watch out for ourselves, but those in the household of God as well.


We do not have Moses, as they did, but we do have something better. We have God’s holy word and the best defense against deceit is, as Jesus said “it is written.” We must realize where our salvation comes from, and live lives accordingly- steadfast until the end.


Now there is a command for us, we must “hear his voice” and remain open, receptive to it. After all, starting in verse 16 we find that just hearing isn’t enough.


“For who, having heard, rebelled? Indeed, was it not all who came out of Egypt, led by Moses? Now with whom was He angry forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose corpses fell in the wilderness? And to whom did He swear that they would not enter His rest, but to those who

did not obey? So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief.”


This is the finality of life. All will cease- from this life that is. I guess in that regard all will rest, physically, but that’s not the end of it. If we rebel, as those did, our state would be like those who fell in the wilderness. Worse than that, we incur God’s wrath. A wrath there will be no rest from

once we die.


So once again, there are two types of people, those who will obey and those who will not. I ask you then, which will you be? We learn that not all died in those 40 years, those who remained faithful did enter the promised rest, everyone else, however, as Matthew 7 states


“Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.”



Call to Faith and Endurance – The Full Assurance of Faith (Heb. 10:19-39)

Thoughts by Hannah Clark


For the passage listed in the title, my Bible contains two division titles, “Hold Fast Your Confession” and “The Just Live by Faith.” I have separated my thoughts to coincide with these headings and hope they will make it easier as you follow along in your Bible.


Hold Fast Your Confession

We are to emulate Christ and one of the characteristics of our Father is that He Himself is faithful. One of the promises made to Abraham was that “all of the families of the earth shall be blessed.” (Genesis 12:3) Throughout the Old Testament we can see prophecies that foretell the coming of Christ in whom we have salvation. The Hebrew writer even states in chapter 10 verse 23 that “He who promised is faithful.” What a comfort to know that the living God we serve will not forsake us despite how imperfect we are. In this, we can have assurance that our trust in Him will not be misplaced but lead to everlasting life.


The Just Live by Faith

“Therefore do not cast away your confidence which has great reward.” (Heb. 10:35) Our faith will be tested and tried in various ways but in turning to the scriptures, we are warned not to give in. The Hebrew writer includes a warning for those that would turn away in that there is no salvation from sin outside of Christ.


Of how much worse punishment, do you suppose, will he be thought worthy who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, counted the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified a common thing, and insulted the Spirit of grace?” (Heb. 10:29)


It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” (Heb. 10:31)


Joshua stated in the Old Testament “as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” (Joshua 24:15) The first century Christians felt a sense of urgency that has been lost over time. They were awaiting the coming of Christ again and preparing His coming. They knew that their earthly possessions were of little value compared to their home in heaven (Heb. 10:34). The Hebrew writer says that they “…see the Day approaching” and that “for yet a little while, and He who is coming will come and will not tarry.” (Heb. 10:25, 37)  Our lives on this earth may seem long and full of years but that is nothing compared to the expanse of eternity. With the assurance of faith we have in the Lord, we ought to be preparing ourselves for Christ to come again and be waiting to “see the Day approaching.


Therefore, we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day.” (2 Corinthians 4:16)



“Thoughts on Hebrews 13”


William C. Sexton (Reprint)


Introduction: This last chapter of the book to the Hebrews begins with the directions to let brotherly love continue, looking back and remembering, not forgetting some who entertained strangers.


Remembering faithful Christians in “bonds,” is a commendable thing to do. Marriage is described as be “honorable in all,” while the violators of God’s rules in this matter shall be “judged.”(Heb. 13:1-4)


Covetousness is to be avoided, as we are to be “content” with such things as we have. This can be done, if we remember that God has promised that He’ll not leave nor forsake us. Whit that promise, we can know by faith the Lord is our helper, so we’ll not fear what men can do to us (Heb. 13:5-6).


Remember, in the sense that we respect them who have the rule over us. Each of us ought to appreciate the people God has set forth in His church to rule in the sense they are concerned for our souls and are willing to guide us in that which has been revealed, knowing that God knows best and is interested in our well-being! These people have spoken the message from heaven and provide example worthy of imitating, following. We need to look at the results of such living (Heb. 13:7)


We need to recognize the unchangeableness of Jesus, and thus be not carried away with doctrines that are not what God has revealed. The heart needs to be established on the grace of God, rather than being obsessed with carnal matters. In contrast with those who are trying to hold on to the Old Covenant, we have an altar on which they have no right to partake. Those animal sacrifices are no longer doing what they once signified, for Jesus has come and fulfilled His mission. He has accomplished what those offerings of Old could only point to. The appeal is made then for us to go forth committed to Jesus, and humbly carry any and all reproaches that result from our behavior and commitment to Christ. (Heb. 13:8-13).


Christians here are not looking for an earthly city; rather, we are looking for that heavenly place. The “sacrifice” we offer is “Praise to God,” the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name. Doing good is to ever be before us. That included understanding what respect we need to give to the elders who watch for our souls. We need to pray for all the servants of God. (Heb. 13:14-19).


Now the God of peace who brought Jesus forth from the dead can make us “perfect in every good work,” as we do His will. The writer appeals to them to accept the word of exhortation, and to “know” brethren who have been “set at liberty.” Salute all them who rule. Grace be with us all. (Heb. 13:20-25)




  1. What are we told to continue and remember (Heb. 13:1-2)?


2 How is marriage described, contrasted with violations of the marriage vowel (Heb. 13:4)?


  1. What is said about covetousness and contentment and why (Heb. 13:5-6)?


  1. What is said relative to them who have the rule over us (Heb. 13:7, 17)?


  1. What is said about Jesus and being carried away with strange doctrine (Heb. 13:8-9))?


  1. What is said about the “altar” we have contrasted with the Old one (Heb. 13:10-13))?


  1. What is said about a city, as distinct to what we are looking for and doing (Heb. 13:14-16)?


  1. What is said about prayer, conscience, and honestly (Heb. 13:18-19)?


  1. What has the “God of peace” done and can and will make you (Heb. 13:20-21)


  1. What is said about exhortation, knowing certain brethren, and saluting (Heb. 13:22-25)
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Van Buren Instructor – April 18, 2004

       “Take firm hold of instruction, do not let go; keep her, for she is your life.” Prov. 4:13
  The Van Buren                         Instructor                                          A Publication of the Van Buren church of Christ Meeting at 711 Access Road in Van Buren, AR. 72956; Service times Sun: 9:30 and 10:20 AM; 6:00 PM; Wed. 7:00 PM Study    471-5801……                                                   Visitors Welcome ….Members Expected!

    Volume 6                                                       April 18, 2004                                  Number 16

                                                                                                                                               Bitterness: A Bullet of Brutality!

 Acts 8:23: “For I see that you are poisoned by bitterness and bound by iniquity.”

    Ephesians 4:31: “Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice.

  Each of us is likely to be treated in a way that we perceive to be unfair along life’s pilgrimage, perhaps a number of times. How we react to such action determines to a great extent the amount of happiness, pleasure and satisfaction we experience in this journey as well as how we nurture others.

  Bitterness can easily “spring up” in the heart of the person who en counters unfair and or harsh treatment.  Bitterness will affect us greatly and practically every other person who crosses our path.  The Bible points to bitterness as something to be weeded out of our lives  at the earliest stages and not allowed to develop, because the consequences are so great. Read carefully the inspired writer’s words:

  Hebrews 12:15: “looking carefully lest anyone fall short of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble, and by this many become defiled;”

  Its development is from the very small “root” to the destructive poisonous plant fully developed ‑‑ causing much trouble and defiling many.

  1. In many of our streets today, bullets are piercing the hearts and life support systems of many, much before their time.  We read of people having bullets enter houses and even taking their lives while they lie in bed or play in their yards, even while being held in the arms of their grandmother on their steps.  A great deal is being said and resources spent on trying to restrict the purchase of guns, which I have no objection to, but feel that it is foolish to think that such restrictions will make a dent in the crime committed by guns.  It’s what is  being fed into the minds of children  and a failure to help them learn how  to deal successfully with unpleasant  experience, that’s producing the bullets of brutality.

  2. Bitterness is not only a critical destructive mind set for the person who has it, but it is a bullet that pierces the lives of all  who touch that person.  His/her behavior affects many others.

                How to avoid bitterness:

  1. See the destructive forces and consequences of it.  Look first of all in the Bible and read of its danger and consequences of a spiritual nature.

  2. Look around you and see others who have developed this in their minds and see how miserable they are and how they affect others.

  3. Determine to look at the positive aspects of adversity ‑‑ Job,  Peter, Paul and others.  Yes, one will suffer some at the hands of the wicked. At times well meaning people will say things and do things that cut us to the heart.  But remember that we are not the first to so suffer ‑‑ see Abel, Jeremiah, Christ and His apostles and early disciples. The righteous always wins the battle, however, in the long run. Read 2 Cor. 4:17; Rom.8:16‑18. Ponder their message seriously.

  Remember what James says: “But if you have bitter envy and self‑seeking in your hearts, do not boast and lie against the truth. This wisdom does not descend from above,..” (Jas. 3:14‑15).  ‑‑William C. Sexton


    Those to Serve Today Announcements: Les Davis

Song Leader: Sean Cavander

Prayer: Don Douglas

Lords Supper Talk: Ottie Talkington

Scripture Reading: Keith Hernandez

Lesson: Burl Young

Closing Prayer: Ellis Westbrooks

                 Lord’s Supper Table

Bread:  James Stein Fruit of the Vine: Jeff Bryant

Assisting:Derek Goodin and Ellis Westbrooks


    Welcome to all visitors with us today. We are so happy you came to worship the God of heaven. Please fill out a visitor’s card and place it in the collection plate. Please come back any anytime. If we can be of help, in studying the Bible, please let us know. We’ll gladly study any Bible subject with you, and try to do it at your convenience and place of your choosing.

Bible Reading for Today:

Sunday morning: See Burl Young   

Those who are sick, Prayer List:

  Brother Hugh Jeffery discovered last week he has COPD, and must take daily treatments. Keep him in you prayers, please

Jeff Bryant’s father, is still in  Saint Edwards, Room 5414, taking Therapy. I’m told the last two days had shown improvement. Let us keep him and the family in our prayers.

Barry Jones, It was so good to have brother Barry Jones home and able to attend services last Sunday. Let us keep him in our prayers, that the healing will be complete, and his life will be greatly improved.

     Geneva Sexton, had to miss her 6th chemo. treatment Friday due to a low blood count. She had been feeling very weak and could hardly stay awake. She said the first part of the week, she slept about 19 hours a day. Therefore, she still needs your prayers. Lois and I greatly appreciate your concern and prayer in her behalf.­

VERY GOOD NEWS:  we have a new sister in the Lord Jesus Christ. Haley Herandez was baptized last Sunday night. We know that angels in heaven rejoiced (Lk. 15:7, 10). We all rejoice with her, also! We know her mother and father are thrilled by her good action! 


Yours  truly says THANS for your prayers. The meeting in Saint Joseph MO, April 11-16 went well. Lois and I enjoyed being able to worship with people we had not seen for awhile, as well as meet some new people. We preached the truth, and it seemed to be received well. We had a safe trip home.                    

Our Meeting with Pat Farish, April 25-30

     Next Sunday is the starting date for the spring series of lesson . Let us make this a week of prayerful efforts to contact out neighbors, friends, relatives to attend. The following topics will be explored, examined in light of the Bible.

   Sunday morning, The Solution, Psalm 119:11

   Sunday evening, “What Doth Hinder?”

  Monday, “Words, Whereby Thou Shalt Be


  Tuesday, Joseph, In The House Of Potiph­ar

  Wednesday, The Thief On The Cross ‑‑

                        And You

  Thursday, “Then Cometh The Devil”

   Friday, Why Do You Wait?

Those out-of-town:

     Randy Cavender plans to be preaching in Tahlequah, OK today, both services.  Remember him in your prayers, also.

            I’ll be preaching at Waveland this morning and at Bethel at 4:30, and try to be here at 6:00 PM. Lois plans to be with me.

            Talkingtons, Ottie and Sue, are to be out of town today, I’m told.

            Les and Stephanie Davis and the children are to be visiting out of town today I understand.

      There was a work day at the building yesterday. I understand that 5 men and two women showed and did some work. I trust that we all are grateful for their efforts.

      Wednesday night study:  Let us all remember the Wednesday study at 7:”30 PM. Classes for all. __________________________________

The Van Buren Church of Christ

711 Access Road

Van Buren, AR 72956

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The Disciplines of Life: Lesson #19 – Doubt


As we continue our series on the disciplines that the Christian should incorporate into his character, we would like to take a look at The Discipline of Doubt. As we have pointed out in previous articles in this series, these are called “disciplines” because they are not acquired without deliberate effort. Discipline is “training that corrects molds or perfects the mental faculties or moral character” (Webster’s Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary, p. 360).

We have been using, as an anchor for this series, a book by V. Raymond Edman published in 1948 titled The Disciplines of Life. Although Mr. Edman was associated with the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, and I don’t agree with everything he wrote, many of the things he has written resonate with me.

As he begins the chapter on Doubt, Edman says, “Doubt, like dismal, dank darkness, settles down upon our spirit; and benumbed with bewilderment, we know no what to do nor what road to take. Doubt, like deep seated disease, gnaws ceaselessly, remorselessly at the vitals of our convictions and conscience; and dizzy with dismay, we falter and faint. We doubt ourselves and our friends, our background, and our future, our experience and the facts thereof, our faith in the Bible and the God it presents. Doubt defeats, discourages, destroys. ” (p. 229).

Edman compares doubt with faith saying, “By way of sharp contrast, faith builds, lifts. Lightens, strengthens. ‘The just shall live by faith’ (Hebrews 10:38; Romans 1:17). Faith brings lilt of laughter for sighing of sorrow, light of life for darkness of despair, strength of spirit for faltering of fear, balm of blessing for hunger of heart. They who believe are blessed: happy, joyous, steady, strong, whose resources are from unfailing springs of refreshing.” (IBID).

Edman illustrates this discipline from the life of John the Baptist that caused him to ask Jesus, “Art thou he that should come, or do we look for another?” (Matthew 11:3). Edman questions what it was that caused John to ask this question, despite having other evidences that indicate that “John knew beyond shadow of doubt that Jesus was the Christ, the Lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world…” (John 1:29-34). The commentator Adam Clarke offers this comment on the passage, “A third opinion takes a middle course between the two former, and states that, though John was at first perfectly convinced that Jesus was the Christ, yet, entertaining some hopes that he would erect a secular kingdom in Judea, wished to know whether this was likely to take place speedily. It is very probable that John now began, through the length of his confinement, to entertain doubts, relative to his kingdom, which perplexed and harassed his mind; and he took the most reasonable way to get rid of them at once, viz. by applying to Christ himself” (Adam Clarkes Bible Commentary, p. 6578). To add some perspective, it may be worth noting that John had been in prison for about twelve months when he sent his disciples to Jesus with this inquiry.

As we think about the discipline of doubt, let us consider some factors that might cause us to begin to doubt things that we have previously held onto as bedrock truth. Let us also consider the steps that would bring us back from this doubt to faith.

What May Cause Doubt to Rise Up in Us

The Loss of Health

When we can no longer do the things we once did with ease, because of age or disease, our faith can be tried and we may begin to doubt God’s provision for us. I love this quote from Angela Perritt, “Your doubts do not trouble God. He is not surprised by them nor do they make Him pull away from you. When you find yourself struggling with doubt, you find yourself among some of the “Greats” in the Bible like Job, Abraham, Sarah, Gideon, and Thomas, just to name a few. Job doubted God’s goodness when his children died and his livelihood was gone. Abraham and Sarah doubted God’s promise as they grew older and found themselves still without a child of their own. Gideon doubted God could use a man like him to fight his upcoming battle. And of course, our beloved Thomas, he doubted Jesus rose from the dead…” (

Psalm 77 is a community lament describing an earnest prayer coming from a troubled heart. It acknowledges that the reason for the trouble may be some fault of the people. David laments to the Lord, “In the day of my trouble I sought the Lord; My hand was stretched out in the night without ceasing; My soul refused to be comforted. 3 I remembered God, and was troubled;

I complained, and my spirit was overwhelmed. Selah 4 You hold my eyelids open; I am so troubled that I cannot speak. 5 I have considered the days of old, The years of ancient times. 6 I call to remembrance my song in the night; I meditate within my heart, And my spirit makes diligent search. 7 Will the Lord cast off forever? And will He be favorable no more? 8 Has His mercy ceased forever? Has His promise failed forevermore? 9 Has God forgotten to be gracious? Has He in anger shut up His tender mercies? Selah” (Psalms 77:2-9)

And here is an article by Kathryn Butler that I thought so good that I have quoted it in its entirety.

If God Doesn’t Heal You

“Weeks of chemotherapy eroded the lining of her mouth, mangled her immune system, and culminated in an hours-long surgery to carve out a tumor the size of a grapefruit.

Throughout, friends and loved ones lifted up a heartfelt but singular prayer: Heal her, Lord. She wrapped herself in their words as if girding herself in armor. Afterward, she pointed to a line on the pathology report that described dead cells at the center of the tumor, and she praised God for his mercy. She reasoned that the chemotherapy had killed the tumor before her surgeon ever put knife to skin, and the healing for which she prayed was at hand.

But those dead cells didn’t promise cure. Rather, they indicated a cancer so aggressive that blood vessels could not tunnel to its center. The tumor was growing so rapidly that it could not support its own middle. Months later, the cancer not only returned, but spread, clogging her lungs and dotting her brain.

Reeling in Grief

As the delicate balance of her organ systems teetered and collapsed, prayers for a cure became more ardent, from her church as well as from her own lips. Her doctors recommended home hospice, but she clung to her conviction that God must melt away her disease, and insisted upon last-ditch chemotherapy instead. Still, the cancer continued its deadly march. Fluid ballooned her limbs and saturated her lungs. One awful night, with ICU alarms sounding her elegy, her heart quivered and lurched to a stop.

“Although God can heal us, we must never presume that he must.”

Wholly unprepared to lose her, her family reeled in grief. They agonized over how to endure without her, and struggled to reconcile this flickering out of a beloved, faithful life, against their continual appeals to God for cure. How had this happened? They lamented. Had God noticed their prayers? Had he even listened? Did they not pray enough? Was their faith too meager? How could God ignore her, when she was so faithful to him?

God made heaven and earth, catapulted the planets into motion, and assembled the scaffolding of our cytoplasm. Surely, he could also eradicate our cancer, realign our bones, or restore blood flow to areas that mottle.

A Thorn for Now

God can and does heal. In my own clinical practice, he used a patient’s improbable recovery to draw me to himself. Throughout Jesus’s ministry, he performed miraculous healings that glorified God and deepened faith (Matthew 4:23; Luke 4:40). The Bible encourages us to pray in earnest (Luke 18:1–8; Philippians 4:4–6). If the Spirit moves us to pray for healing, whether for ourselves or our neighbors, we should do so with fervor.

Yet while we pray, we must attend to a critical distinction: although God can heal us, we must never presume that he must. Death is the consequence of the fall (Romans 6:23). It overtakes us all, and most commonly recruits illness as its vehicle. When Christ returns, no disease will blot God’s creation (Revelation 21:4), but for now, we wait and groan as our bodies wither. We may perceive our healing to be the greatest good, but God’s wisdom surpasses even the most impressive reaches of our understanding (Isaiah 55:8). We cannot bend his will to resemble our own.

Time and again the Bible depicts instances when God does not immediately eradicate suffering, but rather engages with it for good (Genesis 50:20; John 11:3–4; Romans 5:3–5). “A thorn was given me in the flesh,” the apostle Paul writes of his own physical affliction. “Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness’” (2 Corinthians 12:7–9). God responded to Paul’s prayers for healing not by curing him, but rather by working through Paul’s suffering to draw him nearer to his glory. In the most exquisite example, through his suffering and death, Christ redeems us from our sins and pours grace out upon us (Romans 3:23–25; Ephesians 1:7).

A Heartbeat to Heaven

When we ignore God’s work in suffering, and cleave breathlessly only to our hope for a cure, we forsake opportunities for closure, fellowship, and spiritual preparation at the end of life. Research warns that those of us within a religious community are more likely to pursue aggressive measures at the end of life, and more likely to die in an ICU.

If we set our eyes only on a cure, rather than on the reality of our physical mortality, we may chase after treatments that not only fail to save us, but which also rob us of our capacities to think, communicate, and pray in our final days. We forget that if our healing is not within God’s will, we will need fortitude, peace, and discernment to endure. And if cure does not come, a single-minded focus on healing strands ourselves and those we love with unsettling doubts about the validity of our faith.

The gospel offers a hope that exceeds the reparation of our bodies. This side of the cross, even as our vision darkens and the world closes in, we need not fear death. Christ has overcome, and through his resurrection death has lost its sting (1 Corinthians 15:55–57). Death is but a momentary breath, a transition, a heartbeat before we reunite with our risen Lord (2 Corinthians 4:17–18). In the wake of the cross, death is not the end. Through Christ’s sacrifice for us, through God’s overflowing and sufficient grace, we have spiritual healing to sustain us through eternity, even while our current bodies warp and break.

Pray for More

When life-threatening illness strikes, by all means pray for healing if the Spirit so moves you. But also pray that, if cure is not according to God’s will, he might equip you and your loved ones with strength, clarity, and discernment. Pray he might grant us all peace to endure — through the pain, through the infirmity, with eyes cast heavenward even as fear drives us to our knees. Pray that as the shadows encroach, and the light within us dwindles, that the light of the world might illuminate our minds and hearts, drawing us toward himself in our final moments on this earth. Pray we would know in our hearts that our end on this earth is by no means the end.

However dark death seems, it is fleeting and transient, a mere breath before the eternal life to come.”


Note: Kathryn Butler is a trauma and critical care surgeon turned writer and homeschooling mom. She is author of Glimmers of Grace: A Doctor’s Reflections on Faith, Suffering, and the Goodness of God. She and her family live north of Boston.

The Loss of Happiness

“The loss of happiness can dig deep into the human spirit. Like John we have known the sweetness of human fellowship, the strength of human love, the satisfaction of service rendered unto the Saviour and our fellow men, yet for beauty of bountiful blessing we have ashes of anguish and absence, for strength through oil of His joy we have weakness through multiplied mourning, for praise caused by His providence and protection we have heaviness and hopelessness and helplessness. Our soul has entered into iron; lover and friend are far from us; and we seek to fathom the fearful shadows by crying, ‘Art thou he, or look we for another?’”(Edman, pp. 231-232).

The Loss of Hope

The loss of hope can cause one to despair. We may encounter people and events in our lives “whose incessant blows leave us bruised, bloody, beaten. We stagger to rise and shake off our doubts and fears, but to what end, and by what means? There is no hope, we say to ourselves; rather, we concur with the poet: ‘Truth forever on the scaffold, Wrong forever on the throne’ (Edman. P. 232).

The Loss of Holiness

“The loss of holiness can also bring us into the darkness of despair and doubt…. Often … in human experience we find that unbelief does have a moral cause. We know the will of God, yet we desire our own way. We sense the conviction of the Spirit because of our wrong, but we love our sin. We are dark of mind because we are hard of heart. We doubt because we disobey. We run through red lights of warning – moral, physical, spiritual; and find ourselves doubting the mercy of the Most High because of our own willfulness and waywardness. We stumble because we sin, even though we know, ‘He that covereth his sins shall not prosper; but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy’ (Prov. 28:13) (Edman, pp. 232-233).

What Steps Will Bring Us Back from Doubt to Faith

Step 1: Bring Our Plight to Jesus

We must turn from self, from sin, from weakness and from weariness to Him. We sometimes sing about the importance of bringing everything to Jesus and keeping our eyes on him as we go through trials in this life. The words of the beautiful song, Open Our Eyes, written by Robert Cull and copyrighted by Maranatha Music! says:

Open our eyes, Lord,

we want to see Jesus,

To reach out and touch Him,

and say that we love Him.

Open our ears, Lord,

and help us to listen.

Open our eyes, Lord,

we want to see Jesus.

Open our hearts Lord,

We want to know Jesus,

To follow and trust Him,

And show that we love Him.

Open our minds, Lord,

To think of His goodness,

Open our eyes Lord,

We want to see Jesus.

Step 2: Believe the Evidence He Presents

“To John He sent word of His deeds and words; to Thomas He stated, ‘Reach hither thy finger, and behold my hands … be not faithless, but believing’ (John 20:27). Believe what He has done for you and for others down through the ages. His Word has stood the test of the centuries, and will stand the caustic criticism others may now be casting at it. God’s mercy is new each morning, and is everlasting; His grace is sufficient, His faithfulness will not fail. He tries His children but does not tempt them to despair; He burns the dross from their life as does a refiner of silver, but He does not abandon them. Believe His power to strengthen you, His presence to help you, His peace to keep you, His providence to care for you” (Edman, p. 234)

Step 3: Believe His Word

“Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Romans 10:17). The Lord Jesus answered the thrusts of doubt from the Tempter, ‘If thou be the Son of God … ‘with ringing, ‘Thus saith the Lord, It is written … it is written’ (Matthew 4:3-11). To take one’s stand on the Word of God, to believe what He has promised, all appearance to the contrary notwithstanding, to be steadfast, unmovable, unafraid, to ignore the insinuations that cast clever and calculated criticisms against the God character of the God of all grace, is to find oneself strong in the Lord. Believe your beliefs that are founded upon the Word, and doubt your doubts that come from disease, despair, disappointment, or disobedience” (Edman, pp. 234-235).


As Edman closes this chapter on the discipline of doubt, he says, “Doubt paralyzes; faith vitalizes. Doubt defeats, faith triumphs. Doubt destroys; faith makes alive. To the evidences that will come to your tested and trusting soul there will be the response of Thomas, ‘My Lord and my God’; and you will be partaker of the blessing to the unoffended, who ‘have not seen, and yet believed.”(John 20:28-29). Honest doubt, faced by the Word of God and faith, will discipline your heart and mind to bring you into deeper devotion and assurance” (p. 235).

Thanks for reading.


(Source: The Disciplines of Life by V. Raymond Edman, pp. 229 – 235)

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The Disciplines of Life: Lesson #18 – Domination


As we continue our series on the disciplines that the Christian should incorporate into his character, we would like to take a look at The Discipline of Domination. As we have pointed out in previous articles in this series, these are called “disciplines” because they are not acquired without deliberate effort. Discipline is “training that corrects molds or perfects the mental faculties or moral character” (Webster’s Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary, p. 360).

We have been using, as an anchor for this series, a book by V. Raymond Edman published in 1948 titled The Disciplines of Life. Although Mr. Edman was associated with the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, and I don’t agree with everything he wrote, many of the things he has written resonate with me.

As he begins the chapter on Domination, Edman says, “Most of us are followers, and rightly so, but it is the responsibility of some to assume leadership for the welfare of the many in the school or church, the farm or the factory, the community or the nation. Of the followers it is required to be diligent and cheerful in the performance of our duties; for the leaders there is the discipline of domination that analyzes the attitudes and measures the motives of those who are called to places of authority, lest they lead or rule for self-interest. Do we lead with love for others and with loyalty to the lowly Christ, or do we lord it over them? With true and searching insight into the human spirit, the Lord Jesus Christ said to His disciples and through them to us, ‘You know that the rulers in this world lord it over their people, and officials flaunt their authority over those under them. But among you it will be different. Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first among you must become your slave. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many.’” (p. 219).

As Edman points out, there is no modern fiction or biography that equals that of David in illustrating this Discipline of Domination. “Taken from the humble calling of caring for sheep to becoming king of his country…. A peasant lad became a prince, a singer saved his people with a slingshot, a poet performed deeds of valor, a country boy became a king, a shepherd boy became a sovereign. What was the secret of such startling success, that we might learn therefrom?” (p. 220).

Let us consider these factors …

David’s Courage

One might think that it was David’s courage that was the cause of his great achievements. He guarded his father’s sheep from vicious wild animals. He demonstrated courage as he led Israel as their king. But David does not point to any of his own abilities to account for his rise to authority. He spoke to the Lord the words of this song on the day that the Lord delivered him from the hand of all his enemies and from the hand of Saul. “…Your gentleness has made me great…. (Psalm 18:35)

As Edman says, “Who would have guessed that gentleness, meekness, docility, mildness of spirit gave true meaning to David’s life? He appears to be a carefree, courageous keeper of sheep, a fearless soldier and magnificent leader of men, a man of war rather than a maker of peace; in brief, a man whose military prowess make him master of his people; nevertheless, these qualities were not the true secret of his greatness. Meekness made him a monarch, kindness made him a king, gentleness made him a great man in the earth” (pp. 220-221).

David’s Gentleness Toward His Own

One incident that illustrates this is found in 1 Chronicles 11. Scripture says that David was at the cave of Adullam, while the army of the Philistines was camping in the valley of Rephaim when he became very thirsty and said, “Oh that someone would give me water to drink from the well of Bethlehem, which is by the gate!” The text proceeds to describe how three of David’s Mighty Men “broke through the camp of the Philistines and drew water from the well of Bethlehem which was by the gate, and took it and brought it to David.” But David would not drink it, but rather poured it out as an offering to the Lord and said, “Be it far from me before my God that I should do this. Shall I drink the blood of these men who went at the risk of their lives? For at the risk of their lives they brought it.” Therefore he would not drink it” (1 Chronicles 11:17-19).

Edman tells of an incident similar to the account above, that occurred during World War I. General Frank Parker, who was a tough West-Pointer, is said to have been observed with tears coursing down his cheeks as his tired men passed before him as he reviewed them as they returned to the trenches. Edman describes the scene, “As the weary and battle-worn doughboys returned through a destroyed French village, the Stars and Stripes were flung into the breeze, the Regimental Band was drawn up amid the debris of the market place…. tears of tenderness for his tired men…. within he had tenderness of a woman’s heart” (p. 222).

David’s Gentleness Toward His Enemies

King Saul, out of sheer jealousy, sought to destroy David again and again. He hunted David like a wild animal in the wilderness. When David had the opportunity to take vengeance against Saul he refused to do it. More than once Saul was at David’s mercy. David’s companions encouraged him to avenge himself or, at least to allow them to, but David would not. “So he said to his men, “Far be it from me because of the Lord that I should do this thing to my lord, the Lord’s anointed, to stretch out my hand against him, since he is the Lord’s anointed” (1Samuel 24:6). “But David said to Abishai, “Do not destroy him, for who can stretch out his hand against the Lord’s anointed and be without guilt?” (1Samuel 26:9)

Do we possess this same kind of attitude toward our enemies and those who ridicule and abuse us for our faith? Are we disciplined in domination, rulers of our own spirit before we are rulers of others? “He who is slow to anger is better than the mighty, And he who rules his spirit, than he who captures a city” (Proverbs 16:32). “Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,’ says the Lord. ‘But if your enemy is hungry, feed him, and if he is thirsty, give him a drink; for in so doing you will heap burning coals on his head’” (Romans 12:19-20)

David’s Gentleness Toward God

“He recognized that it was not his hand nor his strength that saved him from the bear and the lion, even from Goliath, rather it was of the Lord: for “the battle is the Lord’s” (1Samuel 17:47). From experience he could say, “My soul, wait in silence for God only, For my hope is from Him. He only is my rock and my salvation, My stronghold; I shall not be shaken. On God my salvation and my glory rest; The rock of my strength, my refuge is in God. Trust in Him at all times, O people; Pour out your heart before Him; God is a refuge for us” (Psalms 62:5-8).


As Edman closes this chapter on the discipline of domination, he says, “Gentleness of spirit toward those who are close to us, gentleness toward those that wrongfully abuse us or are our enemies, gentleness toward the Spirit of God, through whatever means He may speak to us, this is the discipline of domination.

Thanks for reading.


(Source: The Disciplines of Life by V. Raymond Edman, pp. 211 – 218)

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Becoming the Man God Wants You To Be #11: Teamwork

If I am to become the man God wants me to be, I must develop the attribute of teamwork. Teamwork is “cooperative or coordinated effort on the part of a group of persons acting together as a team or in the interests of a common cause.” (

“It takes a true team effort for any group to be successful in any endeavor – a family, a business, a sports team or a community group. When individuals are truly focused on the good of the group or team, they are willing to place their own individual success second to the success of the team. This is what sets apart the greatest, most successful and most enduring teams or groups of all kinds through history. The greatest champions of sports, business, entertainment, politics, and service have humbled themselves and become ‘team players’, working to make their entire unit great. That is true teamwork.

Today, so much attention is given to individual expression and individual performance. Yet experience tells us that the greatest things have been accomplished by a group of individuals working together for a common cause. Those who have the most profound impact on the world and gain the greatest significance in life are those who know that it takes a team working together to achieve. They also know that sharing the reward is also most rewarding. Team players strive to make their entire group great. No team sport athlete wins a championship on his or her own. No business leader is solely responsible for the company’s success. No individual alone carries a group to victory. Groups and teams cannot function properly and healthily without the participation of every member filling his or her role. You are a part of some type of team – whether in a school group, a band, a sports team, a family, or a group on the job. You may not realize it, but the members of your team are looking to you to fill your role and help them reach something greater. How will you respond?

(Heart of a Champion Character Development Program, Teamwork, Volume 3, p.3).

Teamwork is one of the attributes that the Heart of A Champion Character Development Program ( strives to develop in young people in its outreach program. Their written and video programs approach this under 4 subtopics: Teamwork in a Group Setting, Teamwork in the Family, Teamwork Means Thinking Team 1st, and Teamwork in Trust Relationships. We shall use that same approach in discussing it here. Please consider …

Teamwork in a Group Setting

“We live in a world today that focuses on individual achievement. Yet in reality most great or even good things are accomplished by a group of individuals working together for a common cause. This is true of governments, companies, sports teams, and families. The best of these have learned that the sum of the parts is greater than the whole, and that it takes a group effort to achieve the greatest success. The people in groups with this approach have been able to work together to realize greater things as a unit than they could on their own. Real teammates pull for those around them when they are doing well, encourage them when they are struggling, help them when they are hurting, and speak the truth in love when they’ve done wrong. Be a great teammate for someone else, and you will find that others will help you reach your goals and dreams too. REMEMBER, TOGETHER EVERYON ACHIEVES MORE!”

(Heart of a Champion Character Development Program, Teamwork, Volume 3, p.4).

Chris Paul

“In just a few years, Chris Paul has become one of the NBA’s brightest stars. As a point guard, Chris’ job is to be a leader on the court and to make his teammates better. Chris’ teammates agree that he excels at both. Not only is he known for his tremendous ability and creativity on the court, but also for his commitment to helping others in the community.”

(Heart of a Champion Character Development Program, Teamwork, Volume 3, p.4).

Nicknamed “CP3”, he has won the NBA Rookie of the Year Award, an NBA All-Star Game Most Valuable Player Award, two Olympic gold medals, and led the NBA in assists four times and steals a record six times. He has also been selected to eleven NBA All-Star teams, nine All-NBA teams, and nine NBA All-Defensive teams. He currently plays for the Phoenix Suns. Off the court, Paul has served as the National Basketball Players Association president since August 2013.

USA Women’s Softball Team

“The USA Softball team was nothing short of amazing during 2004, as they went 53-0 in a pre-Olympic tour against the best collegiate and amateur softball teams in the nation. Then, in Athens at the 2004 Summer Olympic Games, they defended their gold medal in overwhelming fashion, winning all 9 of their games by a combined score of 51-1.

But their story of teamwork goes beyond the scoreboard. The support they gave each other and especially their coach during the most difficult time in in his life may have been the team’s biggest accomplishment of all.  For their dominance on the field, they were called the “Real Dream Team” on the cover of Sports Illustrated during its pre-Olympic coverage. Looking at the stats, it’s not hard to see why.

Once they hit Athens, they broke 17 Olympic records (nine of which they already owned or shared) and tied another on the way to their third straight gold medal. The pitching staff registered microscopic 0.12 ERA and threw 55 2/3 straight scoreless innings. They pitched eight consecutive shutouts with five straight one-hitters. Their nine straight wins (a record in one Olympics) extended their international winning streak to 79 straight, dating back to July 13, 2003.

But if you ask the team’s head coach Mike Candrea, he’ll tell you that their biggest accomplishment in 2004 was carrying him through the biggest struggle of his life. Less than two weeks before the team was scheduled to leave for Athens, they were in an airport in Stevens Point, Wisconsin, waiting to catch a flight to Stratford, Connecticut, for the final stop in their pre-Olympic tour. Candrea’s wife, Sue, suddenly became ill, with what was later determined to a brain aneurysm and was rushed to the hospital. She died two days later. Sue had quit her job as an accountant to travel with the team and had become the ‘team mom.’ Her death was devastating to the entire team.

‘Coach Candrea is a second father to all of us and Sue was like our mom on the road,’ said star pitcher Jennie Pinch. ‘It was incredibly hard for all of us, but we leaned on each other for strength as each of us searched for answers to this unbelievable tragedy. We knew Sue would want us to continue and travel to Athens to take home the gold.’

Ten days after Sue Candrea’s death, the team boarded the plane bound for Athens without their head coach, who arrived a week later, after dealing with his wife’s death and funeral arrangements. While the players mourned the loss of their special friend, rather than just go through the motions during the Olympics, Team USA bonded even closer together through the adversity. They vowed to help fulfill Coach Candrea’s goal for the team. ‘I don’t want to just win (the Olympics),’ he told them on many occasions, ‘I want to dominate.’

Candrea drew strength from his team, and the memory of his wife’s goal for him to coach in the Olympics. He stressed to each of the players to treasure each moment. He also reminded them that his memories of his wife kept him focused in pursuing their shared dream.

His final encouragement to his teas was stirring: ‘I don’t want you to play for me or Sue during these Olympics, because this is about representing your country and playing for the United States of America.’ The team responded. Beginning with a 7-0 victory over Italy, Team USA ripped through the tournament, not allowing a run until the gold medal game against Australia in their 5-1 victory.

‘To me courage doesn’t mean you’re brave,’ Mike Candrea said following the Olympics. ‘Courage is something that allows you to get through tough times. I told this team from day one that they could be special athletes. They proved to me they’re not only special athletes but special people.’”

 (Heart of a Champion Character Development Program, Teamwork, Volume 3, p.6).

Teamwork in the Family

“Every family is a team, no matter if the family consists of 2 or 20. For the family to succeed, each member must be working for the good of the family. When a family member has a dream, what do you do to help them to see that dream fulfilled? Are you willing to sacrifice some of your individual desires so that your family can reach their goals? Many experts feel the family is the world’s most important team, and that if families break down, then society will as a result be broken down as well. What can you do to see to it that your family doesn’t break down? You are a key member of your family team and have many important roles to play in the success of the team. Look for ways to help your home team win, by helping other teammates in your family reach their goals and dreams. You will realize big time rewards if you do. Remember, Together Everyone Achieves.

(Heart of a Champion Character Development Program, Teamwork, Volume 3, p.7).

Joseph Jones

“Pursuing a career in the arts takes a great deal of time and commitment. As an accomplished actor, dancer, teacher and choreographer at the regional level, Joseph Jones knows just what it takes to be successful. With his own children also pursuing activities in the theatre, managing the needs of everyone in the Jones family requires a great deal of teamwork. This has been most evident during the serious illness of one of his children.”

In 2001, then 3-year old Olivia was diagnosed with Leukemia. As they began treatment for her, family members came together to help. Part of the treatment involved bone marrow transplant and brother Tyler was the donor. Older sister Caitlyn, who had been performing on a Disney cruise ship chipped in to help as well, as she “laid it all down for the sake of the family.” Her father says, ‘No one forced Caitlyn, she saw the need and knew where she needed to be.’ The family pulled together to provide incredible strength. Joseph worked two jobs. Every member pitched in.

 (Heart of a Champion Character Development Program, Teamwork, Volume 3, p.7).

Dick & Rick Hoyt

“They are the endurance sport family, and they are truly amazing. Dick and Rick Hoyt are a father-and-son team who together compete in just about every marathon race they can find. And if they’re not competing in a marathon, they are likely entered in a triathlon: 26.2 miles of running, 112 miles of bicycling, and 2.4 miles of swimming. Together they have become a model of endurance. But more than their amazing achievements of endurance, they are the epitome of a team.

Rick Hoyt can’t walk or talk and is confined to a wheelchair. For the past twenty plus years, his father Dick has pushed and pulled his son across the country and over hundreds of finish lines. When Dick runs, he pushes Rick in a wheelchair. When Dick cycles, Rick sits in the seat of his wheelchair, attached to the front of the bike. When Dick swims, he pulls Rick in a small, stabilized boat. On land or water, they carry on.

In 1962, Rick was born with the umbilical cord coiled around his neck, which cut off oxygen to his brain. Doctors told Dick and his wife, Judy, that there was no hope for Rick’s development. ‘It’s been a story of exclusion ever since he was born,’ Dick said. ‘When he was eight months old the doctors told us we should just put him away – he’d be a vegetable all his life. Well those doctors are not alive anymore, but I would like them to be able to see Rick now.’

Convinced Rick was every bit as intelligent as his two younger brothers, the Hoyts were determined to raise him as normally as possible. Local school authorities didn’t agree. ‘Because he couldn’t talk they thought he would be able to understand, but that wasn’t true,’ Dick said. So, the parents taught Rick the alphabet, and through the efforts of some Tufts University engineers, equipped Rick with an interactive computer that allowed him to use sight head-movements to highlight letters and spell out words. Within a brief time, Rick was ‘writing’ out his thoughts and communicating clearly.

In 1975, Rick was finally admitted into a public school. Two years later, he told his father he wanted to participate in a five-mile benefit run. Dick agreed to push Rick in his wheelchair. They finished next to last, but felt they had achieved something significant. ‘Rick told us he just didn’t feel handicapped when we were competing,’ Dick remembers of that night. And so, ‘Team Hoyt’ was born. Dick and Rick began to compete in more events. The competitions became the most meaningful experiences in Rick’s life. ‘What I mean when I say I feel like I am not handicapped when competing is that I am just like the other athletes. Now many athletes will come up to me before the race or triathlon to wish me luck.’

Early on, that wasn’t the case. ‘Nobody wanted Rick in a road race,’ recalls Dick. ‘Everybody looked at us, nobody talked to us; nobody wanted to have anything to do with us. As time went on, though, they could see he was a person – he has a great sense of humor, for instance. That made a big difference.’

After 4 years of marathons, Team Hoyt tackled triathlons. For this, Dick had to learn to swim. ‘I sank like a stone at first’ he said. With a newly-built bike adapted to carry Rick in front, and a boat tied to Dick’s waist as he swam, the Hoyts came in second-to-last in a competition held on Father’s Day 1985. They have been competing ever since, and inspiring those around them and themselves.

‘Dad is one of my role models,’ communicates Rick. ‘Once he sets out to do something, Dad sticks to it whatever it is, until it is done. For example once we decided to really get into triathlons, dad worked out, up to five hours a day, five times a week, even when he was working.’

‘Rick is the one who inspires and motivates me,’ Dick said. ‘People just need to be educated. Rick is helping many other families coping with disabilities in their struggle to be included.’

Rick has continued to inspire. He graduated from high school and moved on to Boston University, where he earned his degree in special education in 1993. While continuing to compete with his father in numerous events, including the prestigious Boston Marathon, they have also climbed mountains together and trekked more than 3700 miles across America. Rick also secured a job at the Boston College computer laboratory. There he has worked to help develop a system through which mechanical aids, such as a motorized wheelchair, can be controlled by eye movements when linked to a computer. Team Hoyt’s impact is profound. Together, this father and son have inspired people all across America to see that when people work as one, noting is impossible.”

(Heart of a Champion Character Development Program, Teamwork, Volume 3, p.9).

Editor’s Note: The above article was published in 2009. Dick Hoyt passed away March 17, 2021 and The Boston Athletic Association, which puts on the marathon, released a statement that afternoon mourning Hoyt’s passing, with the organization writing he “personified what it meant to be a Boston Marathoner” during his more than three decades of races:

The B.A.A. is tremendously saddened to learn of the passing of Boston Marathon icon Dick Hoyt. Dick personified what it meant to be a Boston Marathoner, showing determination, passion, and love every Patriots’ Day for more than three decades. He was not only a fan-favorite who inspired thousands, but also a loyal friend and father who took pride in spending quality time with his son Rick while running from Hopkinton to Boston.

As a leader of Team Hoyt, Dick Hoyt and his son Rick quickly became Boston Marathon legends after their first run in 1980. Pushing Rick in a custom racing chair, Dick and Rick completed 32 Boston Marathons together, including a final finish in 2014. The pair’s bond and presence throughout the course became synonymous with the Boston Marathon. Team Hoyt’s 1,000th race together came at the 2009 Boston Marathon, and in 2015 Dick served as Grand Marshal of the race in recognition of his impact on the event and Para Athlete community.

Dick Hoyt was one-of-a-kind. We will sincerely miss Dick, and are keeping his many family and friends in our thoughts and prayers.”


Hoyt was also honored by a tribute written by Dave McGillivray, former Boston Marathon Director that appeared on the website on that same date (

Teamwork Means Thinking Teams 1st

“Teamwork sometimes means letting go of something that will you but will hurt the team. Often times we don’t see how our choices affect others until after the consequences of those decisions play out, and then it’s too late. Often what is good for us individually is not good for the team. Most of the failures you see in teams or groups are a result of not thinking team first. The corporate scandals that have been in the headlines can be traced back to individual selfishness of the part of a few, and the same is true of sports teams, leadership of nations, and even celebrity families. When societies, teams and families operate with ‘me first’ mentality, they nearly always fail and are filled with regret. So always Think Team 1st. The rewards are much greater and much more lasting.”

Connor Cruise

“In 2005, Connor Cruse was just like any other five-year-old boy. He loved sports, pizza and super heroes. But after he complained of a stomachache for two weeks, Connor’s parents took him to the doctor, who informed them that Connor had Stage 4 Neuroblastoma – a devastating form of cancer. From that day on, the Cruse family spent every moment committed to helping Connor get well; which required great sacrifices from each member of the family. In the process, they learned that true teamwork means thinking team first.”

They became very transparent, as they realized it would take a team effort to address Connor’s needs. A friend helped them start a website; where people could keep up with what was going on with Connor They came to realize that the true teamwork of friends and family gave Connor the best chance to win this fight. That fight gave them 4 additional years with Connor that they would not have otherwise had.

(Heart of a Champion Character Development Program, Teamwork, Volume 3, p.10).

Nick Moretta

“Nick Moretta had a choice, but in his mind, there really was only one choice. No other option would work. His wife, Debbi, had slipped into a coma during treatment for leukemia. She was in the hospital, and Nick wanted to be by her side. When she was released from the hospital, Nick knew she would need to be cared for over an extended period of time. He didn’t want to pass that responsibility to anybody else.

So he took a vacation from his job as a lineman – or an apparatus technician – for Southern California Edison, the company that supplies electrical power for the greater Los Angeles area. But the days off quickly turned into weeks off, and soon it became clear that the weeks off would eventually need to turn into months off the job for Moretta.

When Moretta’s vacation time was used up, Debbi still needed around the clock care. So, at the risk of losing his job, Nick decided to stay with her. It was clear if Moretta was going to provide his wife the help she needed, then he would need help. That’s when Nick’s friends from work, and many other co-workers who didn’t even know him, jumped in to help out.

In an amazing display of unselfishness and teamwork, Moretta’s co-workers volunteered to donate their own yet-to-be-used vacation time to Nick Moretta. All together they donated a total of more than one year’s worth of vacation time so Nick could stay at home with his wife.

‘This is valuable time, time they could be spending with their own families,’ Moretta told the Los Angeles Times. ‘A lot of people opened their hearts to us.’ What made the donation from the 300-plus SC Edison workers so amazing to Moretta is that most of the employees had never even met the Morettas. It was just a case of individual workers coming together to help out a co-worker.

An unwritten agreement between Edison and electricians union allows employees to donate up to eight hours of vacation per year. However, Edison employees requested permission to donate additional time. Supervisors approved the move.

‘Guys over the years, don’t mind coming in and working an extra day,’ said David Barstow, the foreman of Nick Moretta’s crew and his crew partner. ‘Sometimes it’s all you can do. Sending flowers is nice, but what they really need is time with their family.’

The idea was suggested by a couple of supervisors, who sent out a department-wide e-mail detailing Moretta’s situation and asking employees if they would consider donating any of their vacation days. The supervisors were overwhelmed with the response. Moretta received more than 2,500 hours of donated vacation time from more than 300 co-workers. Amazingly, even after employees had given the total of 2,532 hours of paid leave time, they told their supervisors they wanted to give more.

Nick Moretta spent the time away from work helping his wife regain her strength after she came out of the coma and returned home. His daily routine included crushing pills and pouring them into water; pouring nutritional shakes into her food bag; bathing her; reading to her; stretching her legs, arms, and hips; and helping her learn how to stand once again.”

(Heart of a Champion Character Development Program, Teamwork, Volume 3, p.12).

Teamwork in Trust Relationships

“Nothing is more important or valuable in our lives than relationships. Money may come and go, jobs may end, material possessions may lose their value, but relationships can last for a lifetime. Our closest and most important relationships require mutual trust. Those relationships should be valued above all our possessions and positions. What people need most is to know that, as the military motto states, that some has their back – meaning someone is looking out for them. What are the most important trust relationships you have? What have you done to keep trust in those relationships? What can you do to deepen the trust between you and that person? Once you give up trustworthiness in a relationship, that relationship will never be the same. Pay special attention to your trust relationships and you will have the opportunity to have the opportunity to have great teammates who will always be there for you. This is a crucial part of Teamwork!

(Heart of a Champion Character Development Program, Teamwork, Volume 3, p.13).

Tommy Sansom

“Tommy Sansom was a teacher and coach in the Waco, Texas school district. One day, Tommy noticed that student Jesse Allsbrooks seemed to be having trouble adjusting to his new school. So Tommy decided to reach out to Jesse. A friendship developed that became valuable to both Tommy and Jesse.”

Tommy noticed that Jesse was hanging around his classroom at lunch time rather than going to the lunch room and eating with the other kids, so he checked with Jesse’s mother to get her permission to take an extra sandwich and eat lunch with him every day. Jesse began to look forward to this time every day. It was an opportunity to share what was going on in his life – both the good things and the bad. Tommy’s wife also started putting notes in the lunch she fixed for Jesse, asking him about his day. Jesse eventually moved to East Texas but on Father’s Day the next year he called Tommy to wish him a happy Father’s Day. Tommy says, “Teachers aren’t lucky enough to see the fruits of their labors. It’s hard to see the harvest. But you know when that student walks out of your class the last day of school if you’ve impacted that student’s life. I want to be remembered as a teacher that the kids look back on and say, ‘Mr. Sansom respected me and loved me, and he loved me to the point that he pushed me to be successful.’”

 (Heart of a Champion Character Development Program, Teamwork, Volume 3, p.13).

Jessica Lee

“As a high school student, Jessica Lee had a secret. For over two years she endured physical and emotional abuse from her boyfriend. Rather than seek help from those around her, Jessica was afraid to tell even her closest friends and family.

‘I wrestled over telling people what was happening to me because I was ashamed,’ said Jessica.

Jessica felt as though she had nowhere to turn. Only after her boyfriend burned her with cigarettes and broke a bottle over her head did Jessica speak u and bring an end to the violence. Looking back, Jessica wishes she had sought help sooner.

‘I was in denial. I blamed myself,’ she said. ‘I wished there’d been somewhere to turn besides my family or friends – a hotline with someone I didn’t know but who understood.’

After living in an abusive relationship for over two years, Jessica was determined to help other girls suffering in similar situations. So at age 19, Jessica founded the first nationwide hotline specifically designed to combat the widespread problem of teen dating violence.

The new hotline is overseen by the National Domestic Violence Hotline, which had previously served primarily adults. Calls to the new hotline are answered by teens and other young adults in the hope that young abuse victims will be more comfortable confiding in someone their own age. So far, it’s working. The hotline receives an estimated 1,000 calls per week.

Research has shown that many victims of abuse – no matter what age – are afraid to speak up because they feel alone and ashamed. According to a recent study, it is now estimated that half of all teenagers in the U.S. have experienced dating violence. Jessica is providing these young people hope by giving them a place to turn, and a way out. Today she has teamed up with thousands of young people from all over the United States to help end the cycle of violence in relationships between teenagers.

If someone you know is involved in an abusive relationship, you have an opportunity to team up with them at a time when they need your help most. Visit for information on how to take a stand for yourself or your friends.

And remember, with a friend at their side, anyone can be helped.

(Heart of a Champion Character Development Program, Teamwork, Volume 3, p.15).


Think about what it takes to demonstrate teamwork in your life: in a group setting, in the family, that it means thinking team 1st, and in trust relationships. I hope that, after reading this month’s articles, you know a little more about teamwork and how you can further develop that attribute to Become The Man God Wants You To Be. Thanks for reading…


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The Disciplines of Life: Lesson #17 – Diversion


As we continue our series on the disciplines that the Christian should incorporate into his character, we would like to take a look at The Discipline of Diversion. As we have pointed out in previous articles in this series, these are called “disciplines” because they are not acquired without deliberate effort. Discipline is “training that corrects molds or perfects the mental faculties or moral character” (Webster’s Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary, p. 360).

We have been using, as an anchor for this series, a book by V. Raymond Edman published in 1948 titled The Disciplines of Life. Although Mr. Edman was associated with the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, and I don’t agree with everything he wrote, many of the things he has written resonate with me.

As he begins the chapter on Diversion, Edman says, “Duty to be performed may be difficult, dreary, even dangerous; but it is delight when done. There are many dangers between detail of duty and ‘Well done, good and faithful servant’; and not least among the dangers to be defined and denied is that of diversion. We remember the old fable of the race between the tortoise and the hare; and while we admit we are not so patient as the plodder who won the encounter, we disagree that we are as stupid as the sleepy-head that lost. The danger of diversion from the plain path of duty is always with us; and at no time should we be over confident of our powers and progress toward the goal” (p. 211).

Please observe, as Edman points out, that Diversion from Duty may come from sheer carelessness on our part, or from dangers of the way, or from undue emphasis on the unnecessary details of the duty, or from preoccupation with the past. We shall now notice each of these in turn.

Diversion from Duty May Come by Sheer Carelessness on Our Part

An illustration from scripture can be found in 1Kings 20:39-40 where the prophet, who has been entrusted with a responsibility, proves unreliable, and thus endangers both himself and his country.  “As the king passed by, the prophet called out to him, ‘Sir, I was in the thick of battle, and suddenly a man brought me a prisoner. He said, ‘Guard this man; if for any reason he gets away, you will either die or pay a fine of seventy-five pounds of silver!’ But while I was busy doing something else, the prisoner disappeared!’ ‘Well, it’s your own fault,’ the king replied. ‘You have brought the judgment on yourself.’

Young people are often guilty of this. A number of things compete for the youngster’s attention. “Diversion, however, lurks in the uphill climb to success, not necessarily wicked things, just carelessness, idleness, day-dreaming, the radio, a bull-session, a magazine article, even a long letter that has its place, but not first place when duty calls. There was every intention to do the work, to finish the assignment, to be faithful to one’s trust; but they were undisciplined in denying themselves leisure or luxury, just ‘busy here and there’ with trivialities until the hour-glass of opportunity had emptied itself and the task was unfinished. The better is often the enemy of the best; and we are  busy with good things, important activities, helpful enterprises, but not the duty we are to do now. College students are tempted to substitute the extra-curricular for the curricular, the social for the academic, the easy for the difficult, the interesting for the essential, the recreational for the creative, the better for the best. Everything worthwhile has its time and place, but not the same time nor place. Beware lest by being ‘busy here and there’ we get nowhere” (pp. 212-213).

Diversion from Duty Can Come Through Dangers of the Way

Daniel of Scripture was faithful and effective in the execution of his duties, both secular and divine. This caused great envy with the court politicians and they caused the king to make illegal the worship of any kind for a period of 30 days, with a penalty attached for violation. This threat did not deter Daniel from maintaining consistently that the living God was his helper. He said “But there is a God in heaven who reveals secrets, and he has shown King Nebuchadnezzar what will happen in the future. Now I will tell you your dream and the visions you saw as you lay on your bed” (2:28). He told Nebuchadnezzar, “You will be driven from human society, and you will live in the fields with the wild animals. You will eat grass like a cow, and you will be drenched with the dew of heaven. Seven periods of time will pass while you live this way, until you learn that the Most High rules over the kingdoms of the world and gives them to anyone he chooses” (4:25). And again, “Daniel answered the king, “Keep your gifts or give them to someone else, but I will tell you what the writing means. Your Majesty, the Most High God gave sovereignty, majesty, glory, and honor to your predecessor, Nebuchadnezzar… or you have proudly defied the Lord of heaven and have had these cups from his Temple brought before you. You and your nobles and your wives and concubines have been drinking wine from them while praising gods of silver, gold, bronze, iron, wood, and stone—gods that neither see nor hear nor know anything at all. But you have not honored the God who gives you the breath of life and controls your destiny! (5:17, 18, 23).

We know well the rest of the story, that Daniel faced the threat of the lion’s den but he maintained his faith and his integrity. We may not face anywhere near the threat that Daniel faced but we do face the possibility of diversion from our duty by danger to ourselves or those we love. “Happy is that heart that is faithful in his responsibilities to God and his fellowmen and that can say, ‘The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me’ (Heb. 13:6). Disciplined to do one’s duty despite any danger!” (p. 214).

Diversion from Duty Can Come from Undue Emphasis on the Unnecessary Details of the Duty

The story of our Lord in the home of Lazarus, Mary, and Martha illustrates this point. As you recall, Scripture describes, “As Jesus and the disciples continued on their way to Jerusalem, they came to a certain village where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. Her sister, Mary, sat at the Lord’s feet, listening to what he taught. But Martha was distracted by the big dinner she was preparing. She came to Jesus and said, ‘Lord, doesn’t it seem unfair to you that my sister just sits here while I do all the work? Tell her to come and help me.’ But the Lord said to her, ‘My dear Martha, you are worried and upset over all these details! There is only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it, and it will not be taken away from her’” (Luke 10:38-42). The contrast is made in the passage between these two women. Martha is chastised by the Lord for being overly concerned about the physical details of serving. Edman offers this comment, “Many efforts have been made to discern deeply what our Lord meant in His word to Martha, but those I have read miss the point of His statement. He knew the woman’s heart, and her desire to do her very best for her Guest; but He preferred more fellowship and less food, more conversation on things everlasting and fewer courses, more listening and less luxury…. Diverted from duty and delight by details, interesting but necessary. Too occupied with the trees to see the forest, too fussy about food to have fellowship with our guests, too much serving to listen, too many good errands to run a straight course, too much Martha and too little Mary. We can do much, and yet miss ‘that good part’” (p. 215).

Diversion from Duty Can Also Come from Preoccupation with the Past

The Apostle Paul illustrates this point perfectly. He had both successes and failures from his past that he could have allowed hinder him from doing his duty. He says, “…though I could have confidence in my own effort if anyone could. Indeed, if others have reason for confidence in their own efforts, I have even more! I was circumcised when I was eight days old. I am a pure-blooded citizen of Israel and a member of the tribe of Benjamin—a real Hebrew if there ever was one! I was a member of the Pharisees, who demand the strictest obedience to the Jewish law” (Phil. 3:4-5).

Edman says, “He could have dwelt in detail on the advantage of the Jew in knowledge of the Old Testament, in the promises, in the orthodoxy of the Pharisee… The opposite can also be the case: we can be so grieved by the mistakes and galled by the failures of the past that we have no heart for the present or the future” (p. 216). Paul announces his decision, as he looked at his past life, “I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me. No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us” (Phil. 3:13-14).


“Disciplined not to be diverted from the pathway of duty by present carelessness or impending dangers, by multitude of daily details or the long shadows of the past; this is the discipline of diversion we need that we too can say, ‘This one thing I do!’” (p. 217).

The chapter closes with this poem by George Matheson.

“Make me a captive, Lord,

And then I shall be free.

Force me to render up my sword,

And I shall conquer be.

I sink in life’s alarm

When in myself I stand;

Imprison with Thy mighty arm,

Then strong shall be my hand.

My heart is weak and poor,

Until its Master finds;

It has no spring of action sure,

It varies with the winds.

It cannot freely move

Till Thou hast wrought its chain;

Enslave it with Thy mighty love,

Then deathless I shall reign.”

Thanks for reading.


(Source: The Disciplines of Life by V. Raymond Edman, pp. 211 – 218)