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Ananias and Sapphira, and Private Property

Ananias and Sapphira, and Private Property

            Recent Christian history has been cluttered by an odd combination of Socialism mixed with Christianity.  Socialism is a political/economic theory that replaces the private ownership and control of property with ownership and control by the society at large.  By mixing Socialism with Christianity, Christian Socialists conclude that private property, the free market, financial profit, and other aspects of Capitalism, are sinful and that the teachings of Jesus require their rejection. 

            The following quote is typical of Christian Socialism:

If we are serious about our desire to share space, share life together, and participate in God’s new creation, then we must seriously reconsider our understanding of and relationship to private property.  Indeed, the more I study the Bible and economics, the more I am convinced that private property is at the core of many of the problems we face and is, itself, a fundamentally anti-Christian belief and practice (from jesusradicals.org).

Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5:1-11)

            Primarily a story that (i) elevates the selflessness of Barnabas (Acts 4:36-37), (ii) decries lying, and (iii) illustrates God's swift and sever punishment in other ages, the story of Ananias and Sapphira also (iv) affirms the right of private property.  Asking  "Before you sold the field, it belonged to you, right? And even after you sold it, you could have used the money any way you wanted" (Acts 5:4), Peter challenged Ananias' lie.  In so doing he confirmed private ownership and personal control of property.

Private Property before Ananias and Sapphira

            Private ownership is well-entrenched in the Old Testament.  Following Lot's capture by a marauding king, Abraham rode to the rescue.  What did he rescue?  In addition to returning Lot, "Abram (also) brought back everything the enemy had stolen, as well as the women and servants...and everything Lot owned" (Gen. 14:16). 

            Establishing foundational religious and moral law, Moses said, "You must not steal anything" (Ex. 20:15), and "You must not want to take anything that belongs to another person" (Ex. 20:18).  All kinds of property ownership and use are elsewhere confirmed in the Old Testament (Lev. 25:10).  Even Solomon's worthy woman "looks at land and buys it. She uses the money she has earned and plants a vineyard" (Prov. 31:16).

            Jesus included property ownership, enterprise, and fair profit in several Parables.  For example, seed was sown (Mt. 13:3-23), fish caught (Mt. 13:47-50), money was fairly lent (Lk. 7:41-43), barns built (Lk. 12:15-21), property was managed (Lk. 16:1-8), workers were hired (Mt. 20:1-16), and lost property recovered (XLk. 15:3-10) all without any rebuke whatsoever.

After Ananias and Sapphira

            James 4:13-16 provides another affirmation of the right to private property, and to profit - so long as God is honored and prideful boasting is avoided.

Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and...trade and make a profit...Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will...do this or that.” As it is, you boast in your arrogance.

            If God means for us not to "trade and make a profit," He here missed a perfect opportunity to condemn conscientious Capitalism.  Instead, arrogance and failing to honor God are condemned.  We do more than cover our tracks with "If God wills."  We also honor Him as he blesses us in our enterprises. 

            Similarly, I Timothy 6:17-18 warns, but does not condemn the most effective Capitalists, but channels their pride and their profits.

Command those who are rich with the things of this world. Tell them not to be proud. Tell them to hope in God, not their money...Tell those who are rich to do good—to be rich in good works. And tell them they should be happy to give and ready to share.

Conclusion

            Nothing about any of these passages should be misconstrued to justify, much less demand, a "Wild-West" economic system that is free from reasonable controls, or that allows the poor to free-fall without safety nets.  In fact, the many other verses that call for the protection of the downtrodden (see Is. 1:17) suggest that enlightened and compassionate Capitalism should be preferred over laissez faire. But nothing about these passages is consistent with Christian Socialism.  It is simply not the case that God opposes private ownership or private control of property.    

           

           

            

In Praise Of Working Wives And Mothers

In Praise Of Working Wives And Mothers

            Praising "worthy women" and establishing an ideal for praiseworthy womanhood, Solomon wrote Proverbs 31:10-31.  Among the many virtues of her worthiness is industry.     

  • "She seeks wool and flax, and works with willing hands" (V:13).

  • "She considers a field and buys it; with the fruit of her hands she plants a vineyard" (V:16).

  • "She perceives that her merchandise is profitable" (V:18).

  • "She makes linen garments and sells them; she delivers sashes to the merchant" (V:24).

            In contrast to the in-home industry that was typical of Solomon's times, the out-of-home industry of jobs and careers is more typical of our times.  Resetting Proverbs 31-10-31 into contemporary money-making realities, Solomon is honoring working wives and mothers.  This article is written to further reflect on the amazing contributions of wives and mothers who also work outside the home.

"Who Also Work Outside the Home"

            The old saying, "A man works from sun to sun, but a woman's work is never done" is painfully accurate.  Women who work outside the home are painfully aware of "the second shift," the also in addition to their job or career.

In addition to their jobs in the formal economy, women also engage in a second shift of work at home; they take care of most of the household (cleaning and cooking), childcare (homework, bathing, etc.), and additional family care responsibilities (such as caring for elderly parents).

            References to the second shift recognize that working women pull a full first shift outside the home, and then pull another second shift at home.  Doing the math, adding a first shift and a second shift equals two full shifts.  In fact, working wives and mothers also do most of the work inside their homes.

            Changing awareness has enlightened many men to the fact of the second shift and its extra demands.  Recognizing that their wives work overtime every day, many men are signing on to the second shift themselves.  Many families no longer see housework as women's work, but as work for everyone who lives in the house.

Outside the Home

            Outside of their homes, many of our Christian sisters are nurses, bankers, teachers, secretaries, clerks/administrators/coordinators, and business owners.  They "rise while it is yet night" (Prov. 31:15).  They "do not eat the bread of idleness" (Prov. 31:27). 

            And their "works praise" them (Prov. 31:31).  Several of our sisters who work outside of the home are very highly respected for what they do.  Earning money, they have also earned professional praise.  "Her husband also, and he (better) praise her" (Prov. 31:28).

If You Want To Get Something Done...

            There is another old saying - "If you want to get something done, ask someone who is busy."  There is something about being busy that breaks down the barrier to becoming busier still.  Once people get their motor running, they find that they are able to keep their motor running pretty fast.  Idleness is a habit.  So is industry. 

            Some people remain in idle, but not worthy women.  After her first shift outside the home, and her second shift of housework, she is still able to shift into a third shift.  "She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue" (Prov. 31:26). 

            In a predictable corollary to "If you want to get something done, ask someone who is busy," church leaders know that if you want to get a Bible class taught, a project led, or a special task completed, they are wise to ask a sister whose works elsewhere praise them.  At the Liberty Church of Christ, the third shift of church work is filled by women who take a deep breath after their first two shifts, and then keep plowing ahead.

Reflected Glow - Where Does It Come From?

            They run in pairs.  They really do. 

            Again regarding the worthy woman, Solomon said, "Her husband is known in the gates when he sits among the elders of the land" (Prov. 31:23).  Something about the industry of the worthy woman rubs off on her worthy husband, making him even more worthy.  Or is it the industry of the worthy husband that has rubbed off on his worthy wife?  In fact, multi-shift men and multi-shift women seem to attract each other.  They have a way of challenging each other.  Their glow is mutual.   

High Praise

            Many women have done excellently, but our sisters who fill the three shifts of (i) housework, (ii) work outside the home, and (iii) church work surpass them all (see Prov. 31:29).  We are amazed at their energy and industry.  We are indebted to them for their contributions of time and talent.  

What Can We Learn From the Very First Christians; What Can We Learn From the Very First Church?

What Can We Learn From The Very First Christians;

What Can We Learn From The Very First Church?

            In an age when everything that has been around for a while is being rejected as mere tradition, it is refreshing to return to Acts 2 with the question, "What can we learn from the very first Christians in the very first church?"  Acts 2 possesses that kind of seriousness and solemnity.  If what they did was good then, then why isn't it good for us today?

The Very First Plan of Salvation

            Speaking to devout Jews gathered at Jerusalem for the religious feast of Pentecost, Peter laid out a step-by-step plan for saving themselves (Acts 2:40).  What did they have to do (see Acts 2:37)?

  • They had to "give ear to (his) words" (Acts 2:14) and "hear these words" (Acts 2:22).  Although the miraculous outpouring of the baptism of the Holy Spirit was taking place all around them, their salvation began with hearing words.
  • They had to "know for certain" (Acts 2:42).  "Know for certain" is an apt synonym for faith and belief
  • They had to be "cut to the heart" (Acts 2:37) and "repent" (Acts 2:38).  "Cut" sharply contrasts with the lesser feeling of being "caught." 
  • They had to be baptized (Acts 2:38, 41).  Immersion was required .
  • Receiving the "remission of sins" (Acts 2:38), they followed their salvation with a life of devotion (Acts 2:42).  Immersion was just the beginning.

The Very First Church at Work and at Worship

            Devoting themselves to Christian living after their conversion, the very first Christians in the very first church:

  • Studied the Bible (Acts 2:42).
  • Worshipped together (Acts 2:42).
  • Generously assisted each other (Acts 2:44+).
  • Conducted "day by day" instruction in the plan of salvation (Acts 2:47).

The Plan of Salvation Taught by Churches of Christ

  • Hear
  • Believe
  • Repent
  • Be Baptized
  • Live a resurrected life

The Work of the Church Taught by Churches of Christ

  • Evangelism
  • Edification
  • Benevolence

What To Do?

            Why would we choose to be temporarily relevant and eternally irrelevant?  Seeking to appeal to the hear and now, some fail to appeal to the scriptures as our source of authority for all that we do.  This article points back to the very first Christians in the very first church.  What did they do.  Why don't we do the same?

Tough Love - Saying "No" as an Act of Deepest Affection

Tough Love - Saying "No" as an Act of Deepest Affection

            With books like Love Must Be Tough (1983), Christian-oriented writers like James Dobson challenged overly permissive assumptions about how we ought to treat each other.  Caught in the cultural down draft, the definition of love had softened to the point that people were killing each other with (too much) kindness, and with too many yeses.  By toughening love, Dobson, and others, reconnected love with accountability and responsibility.

The Cycle of (Too Much) Kindness

            Scenes like the following are all too familiar.  Whenever there is a tender relationship, there is the possibility that someone in the relationship will take advantage of others, and that some others in the relationship will be taken advantage of.  In these unhealthy relationships, the user uses love as leverage to get what they want, and the "useds" use syrupy, permissive love as an excuse to keep on giving.

Adult son:                   Mom, I really need $1,000.

The mom:                    Son, your dad an I gave you some money just last month.

Adult son:                   Yes mom, but things are tight and I'm out again.

The mom:                    Have you had any luck with your job search?

Adult son:                   I've tried, but they are just not hiring - you know, the economy.

The mom:                    Son, your dad and I can't keep giving your money to live on.

Adult son:                   Just this once more mom.  I really need the money.

The mom:                    O.K. son, just this one more time.

The mom:                    (to herself) At least he knows that I love him.

New Words

            Tough Love introduced new vocabulary into the language of relationships.  One of the new terms is Learned Helplessness.   Learned helplessness is what happens when people adopt a helpless, dependent, and unrepentant approach to life after being bailed out of their problems again and again.

            Natural Consequences is another Tough Love term.  Natural consequences are the bad things that naturally follow bad decisions.  A popular saying summarizes natural consequences: "Play stupid games, win stupid prizes." 

            Natural Consequences have a way of waking people up.  The pain of running headlong into a wall will convince you to never run into any other walls - unless   someone (over) protects you from the natural consequence of "Ouch - that hurts!"  This over protecting is called Enabling.  An Enabler is someone who makes it possible for another to continue self-destructive behavior by making it impossible for them to suffer the full and painful consequences of that behavior. 

            Unable to say "no," fearful of losing love, and addicted to approval, enablers are Codependent.  In effect, a permissive perpetual enabler is just as "hooked" as any addict.  Being unable to say "no" for fear of losing love, and being hooked into the cycle of learned helplessness and enabling is the core of Codependency. 

But I Love Him

            Love is the leverage used by the perpetually irresponsible.  If a perpetually irresponsible adult can convince someone else to "love" them in a way that allows them to never get a job, to never end their addiction, to never stop philandering, or etc., then they have sidestepped the natural consequences.

            Love is also the self-justification of enablers.  When a perpetual enabler perpetually prevents their loved one from suffering the natural consequences of their irresponsibility, the good feeling they get from their "love" blinds them to the harm they are doing. 

            And harm is being done.  By giving in to them again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, irresponsible people are empowered to remain irresponsible.  Learned helplessness is not pretty.  Learning how to live responsibly by being held accountable is much prettier.

Foster's Home for Children

Foster's Home for Children

            Foster's Home for Children has been a part of the annual budget of the Liberty Church of Christ for many years. Tony Bloom, our speaker for the morning of February 19, 2017 works for Foster's Home in public relations and fund raising. This article is written in connection with Tony's visit to give you some hard data about Foster's Home. Additional information can be found at fostershome.org.

Sherwood Foster, oilman and rancher, with his wife Myrtie, founded the home named in their honor.  Children came to live at the first house in 1960.  Since its humble beginnings, Foster’s Home has served over 4,000 children and is affiliated with the churches of Christ.

 

Sherwood and Myrtie Foster chartered the children’s home in 1958 and the first children were taken into care in the winter of 1960. Since that time, Foster’s Home has provided for the needs of over 4,000 Texas children. From one home located  on a 55 acre site in the northern edge of Stephenville, the facilities have grown to include twelve residential group care homes; Administration building; Mabee Health, Education, and Services Center; Commissary; Pittman Family Center, a multi-purpose facility; barn and livestock pens.

Since 1960, Foster’s Home for Children has demonstrated the ability to meet the needs of troubled children and families by providing residential group care, foster family care, and adoptions. Foster’s Home services, based on strong Christian values, are presented by our professional staff in an educational approach, teaching appropriate skills for interactive living. Foster’s Home operates on sound financial principles with very limited long-term debt. The day to day operations are supported by faithful individual donors and approximately 300 Churches of Christ throughout Texas.

Foster’s Home is licensed as a Residential Group Operation with the State of Texas, and is also licensed as a Child Placing Agency with the State. Foster’s Home is a member in good standing with the following professional organizations: Christian Child and Family Services Association, Texas Coalition of Homes for Children, and is an Accredited Charity by the Better Business Bureau.

Sherwood and Myrtie Foster’s Home for Children has embraced the Sanctuary Model of Trauma Informed Care as the conduit for implementing its mission to children and families suffering from violence, neglect, abuse, addiction, racism and trauma. Sanctuary is based on trauma theory and systems theory, which makes it particularly effective for an entire organization. Sanctuary is based on the idea that healing from trauma, stress and adversity requires creating an environment that promotes healing.

Sanctuary uses S.E.L.F. as the lens through which it examines the seven commitments, use of safety plans and daily living in the neighborhood of Foster’s Home.  The S.E.L.F. framework stands for:• Safety • Emotions • Loss • Future. Sanctuary-trained staff are expected to be role models for healthy relationships among clients and treatment providers and to make safety and non-violence major priorities across the milieu.

Developing safety plans for clients and staff members is a core component of the Sanctuary Model. These plans are constantly evolving and contain internal and external de-escalation techniques for clients and staff to use until they can regain control of their emotions. These techniques distract clients from focusing on what is upsetting them and assists them to internalize de-escalation techniques.  Every person in the Foster’s Home neighborhood carries a safety plan, from the president to the youngest child.

  • Foster’s Home for Children is an Accredited Charity by the Better Business Bureau, having met their 20 standards of accreditation by the Better Business Bureau for each of the last 5 years.
  • Foster’s Home for Children owes no debt.
  • In the last 5 years, over $4 million has been invested in campus expansion and renovation.
  • Since 1960, the mission of Foster’s Home for Children has been “to heal the wounds of troubled children and families.” To accomplish this, we use evidence based models and treatment protocols.
  • Foster's Home regularly achieves over 99.9% compliance rating on state licensing standards.