Understanding the Role of Elders in Guiding the Congregation

Setting: Ezekiel and Barnabas, affectionately called “Barney” when he says something especially silly, are relaxing at a sunny lakeside park. Children play on the nearby swings, ducks glide across the water, and a gentle breeze rustles the leaves of the surrounding trees. Jeremiah sits nearby, seemingly lost in thought.

Ezekiel: [leaning back on the picnic blanket] You know, Barney, I’ve been thinking about how we should obey our leaders in the church. It’s more about following their wise counsel rather than just blindly doing whatever they say.

Barnabas: [scratching his head] Oh, you mean like when I follow the GPS, even if it leads me into a lake? [grins]

Ezekiel: [laughing] Not quite like that, Barney. It’s more about being persuaded by their wisdom and experience. Like when Peter said, “We must obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29).

Jeremiah: [mumbling to himself, barely paying attention] Right, it’s about being persuaded, not commanded…

Barnabas: [nudging Ezekiel] Hey, Zeke, what’s up with Jeremiah today? He looks like he’s trying to solve the world’s biggest puzzle.

Ezekiel: [glancing at Jeremiah] I noticed that too. Maybe he’s just deep in thought about the topic. So, Barney, did you know that in Hebrews 13:17, the word “obey” actually means to be persuaded, to listen to, to yield to?

Barnabas: [wide-eyed] Whoa, so it’s like when my dog finally sits because he’s convinced I have a treat? [chuckles]

Ezekiel: [smiling] Kind of. It’s about elders leading by persuasion rather than by command. They should have the kind of character that makes us want to follow them willingly.

Barnabas: [trying to connect the dots] So, it’s like when I trust my grandma’s advice on baking cookies because she’s been doing it forever?

Ezekiel: [nodding] Exactly! Elders earn our trust and respect through their godly lives and wise leadership. They guide us, and we follow because we see their dedication to serving Christ.

Jeremiah: [suddenly interjecting] And that’s why it’s crucial to appoint qualified men as elders. If they lack the Spirit-authored qualifications, they might become authoritarian instead of persuasive leaders.

Barnabas: [tilting his head] So, if an elder starts acting like a dictator, it means he wasn’t really qualified in the first place?

Ezekiel: [thoughtful] In many cases, yes. That’s why Paul warned us about self-serving leaders in Acts 20:28-30. We need to be careful who we appoint.

Jeremiah: [absentmindedly nodding] Right, and the congregation should have a say in appointing these leaders, just like in Acts 6:3…

Barnabas: [looking puzzled] Jeremiah, are you even here with us? You keep zoning out like you’re watching an invisible TV.

Ezekiel: [smiling] Yeah, Jeremiah, what’s on your mind? You seem really distracted today.

Jeremiah: [snapping back to the present] Oh, sorry. Just… thinking about something. Anyway, Barney, you should know that elders have the authority to lead, not to boss people around. It’s about influencing with their example, not issuing orders.

Barnabas: [grinning] So, they’re like the head chef in a kitchen. They guide the team, but they don’t micromanage every dish?

Ezekiel: [laughing] Exactly, Barney. And just like in a well-run kitchen, everyone has a role and contributes to the overall success. Elders oversee and guide without taking over every detail.

Jeremiah: [more animated now] And this kind of leadership fosters participation and involvement from everyone in the congregation. It’s about creating an environment where everyone feels valued and included.

Barnabas: [leaning back, satisfied] Got it. Elders should lead like my mom when she organizes our family road trips. She plans the route but lets us pick the snacks and music.

Ezekiel: [smiling] Perfect analogy, Barney. Elders guide the overall direction while allowing room for everyone’s input and participation.

Jeremiah: [sighing, seemingly deep in thought again] Yeah… input and participation…

Barnabas: [whispering to Ezekiel] Seriously, what’s up with him? Should we be worried?

Ezekiel: [whispering back] I don’t know, but let’s keep the conversation going. Maybe he’ll open up.

Barnabas: [speaking up] So, Zeke, about submitting to elders. It’s more about respect and cooperation than just doing what they say, right?

Ezekiel: [nodding] Exactly, Barney. Hebrews 13:17 talks about submitting to their authority out of respect and trust. It’s about yielding to their guidance because we believe they have the congregation’s best interests at heart.

Jeremiah: [distractedly nodding] Submission isn’t about blind obedience, it’s about trusting their judgment…

Barnabas: [playfully] Hey, Jere, are you planning a secret mission or something? You’ve been acting like a secret agent all day!

Jeremiah: [snapping out of it] What? No, nothing like that. Just… some personal stuff on my mind.

Ezekiel: [gently] We’re here for you, Jeremiah. You don’t have to carry whatever it is alone.

Jeremiah: [smiling slightly] Thanks, Ezekiel. I appreciate that. And you too, Barney. Sorry for being so distracted today.

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Barnabas: [grinning] No worries, Jere. Just remember, if you need to talk, we’re all ears. Even if we have to wade through some Greek words to understand you! [laughs]

Ezekiel: [laughing] Yeah, Jeremiah, we’re here. Now, let’s get back to enjoying this beautiful day and the wisdom we’ve been sharing.

[The trio continues their discussion, with Jeremiah gradually opening up more, finding solace in the company of his friends, and the conversation flowing with a blend of humor and deep insights about leadership and obedience in the church.]

The Elders’ Dilemma

Scene: Jeremiah and Ezekiel sitting in a coffee shop. Jeremiah is reading a letter he received from a fellow church member while Ezekiel stirs his coffee.


The aroma of freshly brewed coffee filled the small, cozy café as Jeremiah and Ezekiel settled into their usual corner booth. Jeremiah unfolded a letter he had received and began to read aloud to Ezekiel.

“Dear Jeremiah,” he started, “I’m a member of the church of Christ and I’ve recently read your article ‘Majority vs Elder Rule’. Our congregation is going through a tough time. We have elders who aren’t being the leaders they should be. They’ve hired a minister with a history of splitting congregations, and they refuse to meet with us as a group. What should we do?”

Ezekiel raised an eyebrow. “Sounds like a sticky situation. What do you think, Jeremiah?”

Jeremiah sighed and took a sip of his coffee. “It’s a difficult spot for sure. Elders are supposed to lead the church, not divide it. Remember what Paul said in I Timothy 5:19-20: ‘Do not receive an accusation against an elder except from two or three witnesses. Those who are sinning rebuke in the presence of all, that the rest also may fear.'”

Ezekiel nodded. “So, they need to gather evidence and confront the elders with solid proof of their wrongdoing, not just opinions or preferences.”

Jeremiah agreed. “Exactly. It’s important to document everything. If individual meetings aren’t working, they should approach the elders in small groups, just like Matthew 18:16 advises: ‘But if he will not hear, take with you one or two more, that by the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.'”

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Ezekiel chuckled. “Sounds like we need to call in a biblical detective team. ‘CSI: Church of Christ’.”

Jeremiah laughed. “Indeed! But all humor aside, it’s crucial they follow the scriptural process. If the elders still refuse to listen, they might have to bring it before the whole church. Matthew 18:17 says, ‘And if he refuses to hear them, tell it to the church. But if he refuses even to hear the church, let him be to you like a heathen and a tax collector.'”

Ezekiel shook his head. “And if the congregation sides with the elders despite the evidence?”

Jeremiah paused, thinking deeply. “Then it might be time to consider a more drastic step. They may need to find a new congregation or even start a new one, as hard as that might be. The unity of the church is important, but not at the expense of doctrinal purity and proper leadership.”

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Ezekiel leaned back, his face serious. “That’s a tough call. But if the elders are truly in the wrong, they’re not leading the church in accordance with God’s will.”

Jeremiah nodded. “True. It’s a serious matter. The church must stay faithful to God above all else. Elders have a huge responsibility, and when they misuse their position, it can lead the congregation astray. That’s why Paul emphasized accountability in I Timothy.”

Ezekiel sipped his coffee thoughtfully. “You know, Jeremiah, this reminds me of the time we dealt with that situation about the church kitchen. Remember? The arguments about whether it was scriptural to have one?”

Jeremiah chuckled. “Oh yes, I remember. ‘Is it a kitchen or a cafeteria?’ was the big debate. But seriously, this situation is more severe. It’s about leadership and the spiritual well-being of the congregation.”

Ezekiel grinned. “I suppose the stakes are higher than whether or not we can have potlucks.”

Jeremiah laughed. “Definitely. But the principle is the same: staying true to biblical teachings. We must always ensure our actions align with scripture, whether it’s about kitchens or elders.”

Ezekiel finished his coffee and looked at Jeremiah. “So, what advice should we give them?”

Jeremiah folded the letter and put it back in his pocket. “They need to follow the steps outlined in the Bible: gather evidence, confront the elders in small groups, and if necessary, bring it before the church. And if all else fails, consider finding or starting a congregation that upholds biblical principles.”

Ezekiel nodded. “Sounds like a plan. It won’t be easy, but it’s the right thing to do.”

Jeremiah smiled. “Yes, it is. Now, how about we grab another cup of coffee and continue our discussion about the theological implications of pineapple on pizza?”

Ezekiel laughed. “I’m ready for that debate any day. Lead the way, Jeremiah!”

Is It Really Worth It?

The sun began its descent beyond the horizon, casting a warm glow over the peaceful countryside. Jeremiah and Ezekiel, two seasoned travelers, made their way along the winding path that led to their humble abode. As they walked, the evening breeze carried with it the scent of wildflowers and the gentle rustle of leaves.

Their conversation meandered through the trials and triumphs of their recent endeavors. The topic turned to the challenges they faced in their ministry, particularly in their efforts to reach those in prison with the message of hope and redemption.

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“It weighs heavily on my heart, Ezekiel,” Jeremiah confessed, his voice tinged with concern. “The trials we face in spreading the gospel to those in prison seem insurmountable at times. Is it worth it?”

Ezekiel, ever the optimist, paused to consider Jeremiah’s question. “My dear friend,” he began, his voice steady and reassuring, “though the path may be fraught with obstacles, we must not lose sight of the greater purpose of our calling. As it is written, ‘Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature’ (Mark 16:15). In obedience to this command, we find meaning and fulfillment, regardless of the challenges we encounter.”

Jeremiah nodded, taking comfort in Ezekiel’s words. “You speak the truth, my friend,” he acknowledged. “Even in the face of adversity, the work of spreading the gospel is a noble endeavor. It is indeed worth it.”

Their conversation continued as they made their way home, their hearts buoyed by the timeless truth of scripture.

Arriving at their modest dwelling, Jeremiah and Ezekiel settled into their familiar surroundings. The soft glow of lamplight illuminated the room as they prepared to break bread together. As they ate, their conversation turned to their experiences in ministering to those in need, both within the prison walls and beyond.

“I cannot help but wonder about the impact of our efforts,” Jeremiah mused, his brow furrowed in thought. “Do you ever question whether we are truly making a difference?”

Ezekiel considered Jeremiah’s question before responding. “It is natural to have doubts, my friend,” he replied gently. “But let us not underestimate the power of God’s word to transform lives. As it is written, ‘For as the rain comes down, and the snow from heaven, and do not return there, but water the earth, and make it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; it shall not return to Me void, but it shall accomplish what I please, and it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it'” (Isaiah 55:10-11).

Jeremiah nodded, his faith reaffirmed by Ezekiel’s words. “Indeed, we must trust in the power of God’s word to work in the hearts of those we minister to,” he agreed. “For even in the face of uncertainty, we can take comfort in the knowledge that our efforts are not in vain.”

As the evening wore on, Jeremiah and Ezekiel continued to share stories of their encounters with those they had sought to reach. Some tales were filled with triumph, while others bore the weight of disappointment and sorrow. Yet through it all, their bond remained unbreakable, strengthened by their shared commitment to their calling.

In the days that followed, Jeremiah and Ezekiel redoubled their efforts in spreading the gospel, undeterred by the challenges they faced. They visited the prison regularly, offering words of encouragement and hope to those who were incarcerated. They also extended their ministry to the surrounding communities, reaching out to the lost and the brokenhearted with the message of salvation.

Their work was not without its struggles. They faced opposition from those who doubted the sincerity of their efforts and questioned the effectiveness of their methods. Yet Jeremiah and Ezekiel remained steadfast in their conviction, trusting in the guidance of a higher power to lead them forward.

One day, as they made their way to the prison to conduct their weekly Bible study, they encountered a group of individuals gathered by the roadside. Among them was a young man named Daniel, whose life had been ravaged by addiction and despair.

“Is it worth it?” Daniel asked, his voice tinged with skepticism. “Do you really believe that your words can make a difference in someone like me?”

Jeremiah and Ezekiel exchanged a knowing glance before Ezekiel spoke. “We believe in the transformative power of God’s word,” he replied, his tone gentle yet firm. “As it is written, ‘For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes’ (Romans 1:16). We have seen firsthand the impact that the gospel can have on a person’s life, and we have faith that it can bring about change in yours as well.”

Daniel listened intently as Jeremiah and Ezekiel shared stories of redemption and hope, their words resonating deeply with his troubled soul. As the sun began to set, casting long shadows across the landscape

, Daniel made a decision that would alter the course of his life forever.

“I want to know more,” he declared, his voice filled with newfound resolve. “I want to learn about this God who can bring hope to the hopeless and light to the darkest of places.”

With hearts full of gratitude, Jeremiah and Ezekiel welcomed Daniel into their fold, embracing him as a brother in faith. Together, they embarked on a journey of discovery and transformation, united by their shared belief in the power of God’s love to change lives.

As the days turned into weeks and the weeks into months, Jeremiah and Ezekiel continued to minister to those in need, their faith unwavering in the face of adversity. Though they faced challenges and setbacks along the way, they remained steadfast in their commitment to their calling, trusting in the promise of a brighter tomorrow.

And as they looked back on their journey, they marveled at the countless lives that had been touched and transformed by the power of God’s word. For in the end, they knew that their efforts had not been in vain, and that the work they had undertaken was indeed worth it.

Echoes of a Dream

In the echoes of a dream, where freedom rings,
A melody of justice, where each heart sings.
Martin Luther King Jr., a beacon so bright,
Guiding us towards a world, bathed in light.

“It’s about character over color,” he declared,
A vision of unity, a dream we’ve shared.
Beyond the hues that paint our skin,
Let character’s radiance truly begin.

No shackles of bias, no chains of strife,
But a celebration of the essence of life.
In the tapestry of humanity, colors blend,
Character’s the thread that binds, my friend.

Let judgments be not based on shade,
But on the kindness in actions displayed.
For in each soul, a unique story unfolds,
A tale of character, a narrative to be told.

May the canvas of perception be ever clear,
With understanding and empathy near.
No divisions by color, no lines to sever,
In unity, we cherish, in character, forever.

So, let the legacy of Martin Luther King endure,
In the spirit of love, equality, and more.
A world where character triumphs over the hue,
For in unity and justice, dreams come true.

The Power of S.W.A.G.

In a world packed with challenges and uncertainties, there’s this epic force called grace—God’s favor and compassion that flip life’s script. It’s the ultimate game-changer, offering comfort, redemption, and a roadmap to a life packed with meaning.

Picture this: a tee shouting “SWAG – Saved With Abundant Grace.” Beyond a catchy line, it’s a daily nod to God’s boundless love for His squad. That tee? It’s more than threads; it’s a shoutout to grace that can light up every nook of our lives.

The Bible? It’s the plug for wisdom, and it’s all about grace’s epic perks:

Ephesians 2:8-9: “Saved by grace, not by your hustle—it’s God’s gift, no boasting!” Grace isn’t about what we do; it’s about what God gives.

2 Corinthians 12:9: “When you’re feeling low, grace’s got your back.” It’s power in your weakest moments.

Romans 5:20: “Sin’s got nothing on grace—it’s always got your six.” No matter the mess-ups, grace is bigger.

Titus 2:11: “Grace is for everyone, no VIPs.” It’s a worldwide invite to grace’s game-changing party.

James 4:6: “Stay humble, get more grace.” Being real opens the grace floodgates.

The Bible’s stacked with stories showing grace in action. Like Saul becoming Paul—from Christian-hater to grace preacher. That’s a whole 180!

Rocking that “SWAG – Saved With Abundant Grace” tee? It’s more than a style move; it’s shouting out the real deal. It’s a convo starter, a chance to share how grace flips lives and gets people curious.

So, when you rock that tee, remember the crazy amount of grace we’ve scored. Let it spark a fire to spread that same love around. It’s a shoutout to being thankful for the love we don’t deserve and spreading that game-changing grace vibe.

In a world itching for hope and a comeback story, let’s rep our “SWAG” and show how grace can turn lives around.

The Church Lady

In the heart of a charming town, there was this dynamite church where Mrs. Thompson, the legendary Church Mama, reigned supreme. She had this knack for welcoming kids with open arms and that warm hug that could make your day.

During Sunday school, she’d spin Bible stories like fairy tales, making ’em pop with her animated storytelling. But heaven help the mischief-makers! When things got too rowdy, out came the infamous “Look.” It was a blend of love and warning that could freeze a room quicker than an ice storm.

Off the church grounds, Mrs. Thompson was a superhero, showing up with her magical chicken soup for the sick and comforting families in need. She orchestrated parties and plays that made every kid feel like a star.

And oh, the tales she’d spin! Like the one about rescuing a lost kitten, teaching the gang about kindness and helping others.

Years passed, kids grew up, but Mrs. Thompson’s “Look” stayed etched in their memories. Her lessons of love and faith? They stuck like glue. Her legacy was a big, glowing neon sign of love and kindness, thanks to one awesome Church Mama!

What is the name of your favorite Church Lady? Do you have a precious memory to share? Please do so in the comments below.

Sisters Potluck!

You Were Warned

Introducing our exclusive “Sisters in Christ Potluck” T-shirt, a delightful blend of humor and faith-inspired wisdom!

In a world where patience and temperance are virtues to uphold, this tee serves as a gentle yet powerful reminder. The bold statement, “Don’t Mess With Me. I’ll get my sisters in Christ and we’ll organize a potluck that’ll make you repent for days!”, encapsulates the essence of grace and unity found in Christian sisterhood.

Embracing the spirit of camaraderie and understanding, this shirt draws inspiration from biblical teachings that urge us to exhibit patience and refrain from instigating trouble. In Galatians 5:22-23, the fruits of the Spirit remind us of the importance of exhibiting qualities such as patience, kindness, and self-control.

The design embodies the lighthearted approach to dealing with challenges while exemplifying the strength found in collective support. Proverbs 15:1 echoes this sentiment, emphasizing the power of a gentle response in diffusing situations.

Crafted with premium quality fabric and a comfortable fit, this t-shirt is a stylish addition to your wardrobe, spreading a message of peace, patience, and the joy of communal gatherings. Whether worn casually or to spark conversations, it serves as a beacon of positivity and a testament to the calm and understanding nature we aspire to embody.

Wear it proudly as a reminder to walk in the light, exhibiting the patience and temperance reflective of our Christian values. Let’s join hands as sisters in Christ, fostering unity and understanding in a world that often seeks discord.

Get your “Sisters in Christ Potluck” T-shirt today and spread a message of patience, unity, and the strength found in Christian fellowship!

Thanksgiving in the Face of Opposition

New Orleans: Thanksgiving Amidst Struggles for Freedom

In New Orleans, the historical significance of Thanksgiving for enslaved individuals was a nuanced reflection of their existence amid societal constraints. While the festivity bore semblances to the traditional holiday, it was fraught with limitations and hardships. Families, torn apart by the cruel institution of slavery, often faced ordinances restricting gatherings and imposing fragmented celebrations. Ownership of property or the ability to celebrate freely was a luxury few could afford.

However, amidst these adversities, the resilience of enslaved communities prevailed. Defying restrictions, they clandestinely congregated, cherishing brief moments of unity and spiritual solace. The struggle to reclaim familial bonds and preserve cultural traditions persisted despite the oppressive environment.

The defeat of such policies and restrictions wasn’t immediate, but gradual emancipation and the eventual abolishment of slavery marked pivotal victories. Though challenges persisted for newly freed blacks, the resilience and fortitude exhibited during these Thanksgiving gatherings echoed the enduring spirit of perseverance.

Natchez, Mississippi: A Tapestry of Thanksgiving and Resilience

In Natchez, Thanksgiving for enslaved individuals was interwoven with the fabric of their daily lives under bondage. Ordinances and restrictions often curtailed the expression of familial ties, limiting the joyousness of the occasion. Despite these constraints, slaves sought solace in communal gatherings, sharing meager yet heartfelt meals as an act of solidarity and defiance against their circumstances.

The defeat of oppressive ordinances didn’t happen overnight. It was a culmination of persistent advocacy, resistance, and the tireless pursuit of justice. The gradual shift towards freedom and the acknowledgment of the rights of newly freed blacks marked a turning point, albeit amidst ongoing challenges and struggles.

Memphis, Tennessee: Thanksgiving in the Shadow of Inequality

Memphis, with its history as a major slave market, bore witness to Thanksgiving celebrations fraught with inequality and systemic injustices. Enslaved individuals faced severe limitations in expressing gratitude and gathering with loved ones. The ownership of property or the freedom to celebrate was marred by the specter of oppression.

The defeat of these inequalities was a protracted battle. The Civil War and subsequent Reconstruction era brought transformative changes, yet the fight against discrimination persisted. The slow march toward equality and justice paved the way for significant reforms, underscoring the progress made while acknowledging the ongoing work needed to achieve a more equitable society.

Fugitivism
Escaping Slavery in the Lower Mississippi Valley, 1820-1860 By: S. Charles Bolton Narrated by: Andrew L. Barnes Length: 11 hrs and 36 mins Unabridged Audiobook

Louisiana’s Plantations: Thanksgiving as a Tool for Reflection and Education

Louisiana’s plantations, now transformed into educational museums, serve as poignant reminders of the harsh realities faced by enslaved individuals during Thanksgiving and beyond. These sites facilitate crucial conversations about the legacy of slavery, offering a platform for reflection and education on racial injustice and historical accountability.

The defeat of ignorance and silence came through the acknowledgment of historical truths and the pursuit of comprehensive education. These museums, while not perfect, represent strides toward fostering understanding and dialogue critical for societal progress.

In today’s world, as we gather for Thanksgiving, it’s crucial to reflect on the complex history embedded in these regions. While the state of the union today isn’t without flaws, acknowledging and understanding the struggles faced by those in the past fosters gratitude for the progress made while inspiring continued efforts toward a more equitable and inclusive future.


This exploration aims to connect the historical traditions of Thanksgiving for slaves in each region to contemporary issues, emphasizing the resilience and struggles faced by enslaved individuals and highlighting the ongoing pursuit of justice and equity.

Fugitivism by S. Charles Bolton

Fugitivism: Escaping Slavery in the Lower Mississippi Valley, 1820-1860 By S. Charles Bolton
  • Estimated Length:  10.5 hours
  • Project Budget:  Royalty Share
  • Word Count:  98000
  • Language:  English
  • Distribution:  Exclusive
  • Territories:  World

Winner, 2020 Booker Worthen Literary Prize

During the antebellum years, over 750,000 enslaved people were taken to the Lower Mississippi Valley, where two-thirds of them were sold in the slave markets of New Orleans, Natchez, and Memphis. Those who ended up in Louisiana found themselves in an environment of swamplands, sugar plantations, French-speaking creoles, and the exotic metropolis of New Orleans. Those sold to planters in the newly-opened Mississippi Delta cleared land and cultivated cotton for owners who had moved west to get rich as quickly as possible, driving this labor force to harsh extremes.

Like enslaved people all over the South, those in the Lower Mississippi Valley left home at night for clandestine parties or religious meetings, sometimes “laying out” nearby for a few days or weeks. Some of them fled to New Orleans and other southern cities where they could find refuge in the subculture of slaves and free blacks living there, and a few attempted to live permanently free in the swamps and forests of the surrounding area. Fugitives also tried to return to eastern slave states to rejoin families from whom they had been separated. Some sought freedom on the northern side of the Ohio River; others fled to Mexico for the same purpose.

Fugitivism provides a wealth of new information taken from advertisements, newspaper accounts, and court records. It explains how escapees made use of steamboat transportation, how urban runaways differed from their rural counterparts, how enslaved people were victimized by slave stealers, how conflicts between black fugitives and the white people who tried to capture them encouraged a culture of violence in the South, and how runaway slaves from the Lower Mississippi Valley influenced the abolitionist movement in the North.

Readers will discover that along with an end to oppression, freedom-seeking slaves wanted the same opportunities afforded to most Americans.

New audiobook release coming November 2021!

The Book Break!

What is this series all about?

Gavin Stoutheart’s father the baron is missing, along with Gavin’s brother the heir. He must step up to lead his people as they flee before an invading army.

His only hope is that a combination of prohibited animal magic and his knack for strategy will keep them safe as they make their way through a fractured kingdom with an army on their tail.

Melissa interviews John M. Olsen, an editor for the publisher Immortal Works, and a fantasy author, in this week’s episode of The Book Break.

John has written countless short stories, and a three-book fantasy series, “Riland Throne.” The three books are “Crystal King,” “Crystal Queen,” and “Crystal Empire.” John is also a member of The League of Utah Writers and regularly teaches at conferences.

*This interview was pre-recorded before the COVID-19 outbreak.

John M. Olsen | The Book Break | Season 3 Episode 22

THE FANTASY TRILOGY IS HERE!

AVAILABLE NOW!

NEW RELEASE: Overcoming Gossip

  1. Overcoming Gossip
  2. How Satan, the Accuser of the Brethren, Uses Gossip to Fragment the Body of Christ

Overcoming Gossip takes a serious look at how the “accuser of the brethren” works in partnership with people who gossip to bring down God’s children and keep a spirit of disrespect alive in families, churches, ministries, and communities.

Through true stories gathered from believers, Overcoming Gossip highlights the various types of gossip, as well as many of the common motivations – conscious or unconscious – for negative speech coming from Christians.

Balanced perfectly with God’s love, the author paints a positive picture of hope and discusses the importance of forgiveness. This book provides a comprehensive guide for Christians who want to stop accusing the brethren and learn to live a life of love and grace toward others.

Both inspirational and instructional, the powerful stories are filled with wisdom that is sure to change the way you think and talk.

©2011 Mark D. Michael (P)2020 Destiny Image Audio

“Gossip is like a person who has a picture of you doing something wrong, and each time you seek to move beyond it, they pull out the picture to remind you of your past, thus leaving you feeling inextricably bound to your mistakes.”

The Loudest Whimper!

What would you do in the event of a catastrophe? Where would you go? How would behave? These are only a few questions you might consider pending a nuclear attack. Although the questions are hypothetical, it is worthy of serious consideration. Especially in the midst of a worldwide pandemic that was virtually unknown to most only six months ago. Did you think for one minute that toilet paper would be the most sought after commodity on the market in the first three months of this year? Absolutely not!

So… What would you do?

If you’re not exactly sure… then your probably like Paul in the movie “The Loudest Whimper” written and directed by Anthony Battaglia and narrated by Andrew L Barnes, the voice of Paul.

Who’s Paul? He is cynical as it relates to the question of survival. He’s the kind of guy who won’t try very hard to hang on to a ‘normal and civilized’ lifestyle. As far as he is concerned, if the world blows up tomorrow or annihilated by meteor showers… that’s perfectly fine.

“A nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought.”

~ Ronald Reagan

I am stunned by the number of articles written about the best way to prepare for surviving nuclear fallout. It seems unlikely, but the possibility of nuclear fallout is without a doubt possible. Although none of us want to think about a future tragedy, however, it is very real when you consider terrorism, sudden economic instability, espionage, and a number of other undesirable circumstances.

The Loudest Whimper challenges us to contemplate if only for a few moments, our mindset when faced with pending destruction. Anthony Ballagia does an exceptional job of bringing out a variety of alternatives in a humorous and entertaining way you won’t soon forget.

The Loudest Whimper

Jeremiah and Ezekiel: A Fragrant Debate Amidst Distractions

Setting: Jeremiah and Ezekiel find themselves in a bustling marketplace filled with vendors shouting, children playing, and the occasional stray animal causing chaos. They’re trying to discuss the role of elders in the church, but the distractions make it quite the challenge.

Jeremiah: [dodging a wayward chicken] Ezekiel, have you ever thought about the work of elders in the church? Like, are they more shepherds or rulers?

Ezekiel: [sidestepping a vendor’s cart] Oh, definitely a hot topic, Jeremiah. But it’s hard to concentrate with all this noise! I guess we just have to roll with it. Now, where were we? Ah yes, elders. Are they supposed to oversee or control everything?

Jeremiah: [laughing] Well, you see, some people think elders should run the show with an iron fist. Kind of like that vendor over there who won’t let anyone touch his apples without paying first.

Ezekiel: [snickering] That’s one way to put it. But seriously, Jeremiah, overseeing isn’t the same as controlling. The Bible teaches that elders should lead by example, not dictate every detail of church life.

Jeremiah: [trying to ignore a shouting match between two merchants] Exactly. Like in our friend Dale Smelser’s work, he points out that elders should develop the congregation, not dominate it. They should be shepherds guiding the flock, not authoritarian rulers barking orders.

Ezekiel: [nodding] True, true. It reminds me of those elders who insisted on making all the announcements themselves. They thought they were protecting the flock, but really, they were stifling growth. Just like that baker over there refusing to let anyone else handle the dough.

Jeremiah: [chuckling] Perfect analogy! And when someone suggested sharing the announcements, they shut it down faster than a pigeon snatching a breadcrumb.

Ezekiel: [grinning] Yes, their reasoning was, “We thought about it, but since we run things, we’ll just keep running them.” It’s as if they were afraid the congregation might say something wrong.

Jeremiah: [watching a juggler distract the crowd] That’s a problem. It’s not about making every decision for everyone. Elders should encourage participation and leadership development within the church, just like how a good juggler teaches others the trick rather than hogging all the balls.

Ezekiel: [laughing] Nice one, Jeremiah! Exactly. The essence of their role is to oversee, not micromanage. They should inspire and lead without lording it over everyone.

Jeremiah: [dodging a running child] Speaking of which, there’s also the issue of how elders handle dissent or suggestions. Instead of just dictating decisions, they should consider the congregation’s input.

Ezekiel: [sidestepping a dog] Right. And if an elder’s decision leads the church astray, it’s not enough to blindly follow. Remember, Jesus warned about the blind leading the blind into a ditch (Matthew 15:14).

Jeremiah: [laughing as the dog chases its tail] Yes, following blindly can lead to both elders and congregation falling into trouble. Elders must guide with wisdom and humility, not authoritarian control.

Ezekiel: [watching a mime act out a leadership scenario] And let’s not forget how elders handle church discipline. Withdrawal from fellowship isn’t about elders alone deciding someone’s fate. It’s a congregational action underpinned by the Spirit’s guidance.

Jeremiah: [amused by the mime’s antics] Exactly. Elders should lead the process, but it’s the congregation that collectively decides, reflecting the will of God, not just the elders.

Ezekiel: [shaking his head at a vendor hawking “miracle cures”] And for those who think elders control salvation, let’s be clear: Only Jesus holds that key. Elders can guide, but they can’t dictate someone’s standing before God.

Jeremiah: [nodding vigorously] Amen to that! Whether it’s a baby shower or a major decision, elders should steer the ship without hogging the wheel. They’re shepherds, not taskmasters.

Ezekiel: [dodging another chicken] So true, Jeremiah. It’s about balance—leading with authority but without authoritarianism, guiding but also empowering.

Jeremiah: [grinning as they finally find a quiet corner] We’ve come to a good resolution here, Ezekiel. Despite all the chaos around us, it’s clear: elders are to nurture and develop the congregation, not rule it with an iron fist.

Ezekiel: [smiling] Exactly. Now, how about we grab a bite to eat? All this debating in the marketplace has made me hungry.

Jeremiah: [laughing] Lead the way, shepherd! Lead the way.


[They walk off, leaving the bustling marketplace behind, satisfied with their lively discussion and eager for a well-deserved meal.]

A Walk Through Sacred Woods

It was a serene morning as Jeremiah and his close friend Ezekiel set off on their favorite nature trail. The path meandered through a lush forest, where the canopy of trees filtered the sunlight, casting a soft, greenish glow. Birds sang melodies high above, and a gentle breeze rustled the leaves, creating a peaceful ambiance that perfectly set the stage for their conversation.

Jeremiah had recently read an insightful article about congregational participation and was eager to discuss its contents with Ezekiel. “You know,” Jeremiah began, “I’ve been thinking a lot about how decisions are made in our community. The article I read used the example of the early church in Antioch and Jerusalem to illustrate a more inclusive approach.”

Ezekiel nodded, intrigued. “What do you mean by ‘inclusive approach’?”

“Well,” Jeremiah continued, “the article emphasized that decisions were not solely made by the elders. Instead, the entire congregation was involved. For instance, when the issue of Gentile circumcision arose in Antioch, it was the brethren—the whole community—who decided to send Paul and Barnabas to discuss the matter with the elders and apostles in Jerusalem.”

Ezekiel paused to absorb this. “So, the decision-making wasn’t top-down?”

They walked in silence for a few moments, the sound of their footsteps blending with the natural symphony around them. “It’s interesting,” Ezekiel said finally. “It seems like this model fosters a deeper sense of community and accountability.”

“That’s what the article highlighted,” Jeremiah agreed. “The early church’s approach ensured that everyone had a voice and felt responsible for the outcomes. Elders provided guidance and oversight, but they did so by leading and persuading rather than dictating. It’s a form of leadership that relies on humility and service, much like Jesus washing his disciples’ feet.”

“Exactly,” Jeremiah affirmed. “The brethren in Antioch appointed Paul and Barnabas, and when they reached Jerusalem, the entire church there was involved in the discussion, not just the leaders. The congregation listened to the arguments, debated, and reached a consensus together. This participatory model is quite different from what we often see today, where elders might make decisions behind closed doors and simply announce them to the congregation.”

Ezekiel smiled. “The idea of leaders being servants is powerful. It reminds me of something I read about oversight. True oversight is about watching over and caring for the community, not controlling it. Elders should be like shepherds, guiding and protecting the flock with love and wisdom.”

“Exactly,” Jeremiah said, his eyes lighting up. “The article mentioned that the Greek word for ‘oversight’ used in 1 Peter 5:2 carries the connotation of careful regard and watching over, not rigid control. It’s about nurturing and ensuring the well-being of the congregation.”

As they continued their walk, the trail led them to a small clearing with a bench overlooking a tranquil pond. They sat down, and Jeremiah reflected on their conversation. “Imagine if our church embraced this model more fully. Decisions made collectively, elders guiding with humility, and the whole congregation actively participating in our mission. It would transform how we relate to one another and our sense of purpose.”

Ezekiel nodded thoughtfully. “It would indeed. It’s a reminder that true leadership is not about authority but about service. And that we, as members of the community, have a responsibility to engage and contribute. It’s a beautiful vision.”

They sat in companionable silence for a while, watching the sunlight dance on the water’s surface. The walk had not only given them a physical respite but also a spiritual and intellectual refreshment. As they stood to continue their journey, Jeremiah felt a renewed sense of commitment to fostering such a participatory and humble spirit in his own community.

As they left the clearing, the forest seemed even more alive, a vibrant testament to the interconnectedness and harmony that comes from true participation and servant leadership.

Jeremiah and Ezekiel: A Fragrant Debate

Jeremiah: Ezekiel, have you ever noticed how Paul is like a human incense stick?

Ezekiel: A human incense stick? That’s a new one, Jeremiah. Are you suggesting he smells good?

Jeremiah: Well, in a way. You see, in II Corinthians 2:14-17, Paul talks about how God leads Christians to victory through Jesus, and he compares the spread of the gospel to the smell of incense at a triumphal celebration.

Ezekiel: Ah, I get it! So, Paul and the other preachers are like fragrant sacrifices, spreading the knowledge of Jesus everywhere they go. Quite the aroma therapy session!

Jeremiah: Exactly! And just like incense can be smelled far beyond its source, the gospel reaches places you’d never expect. It’s in the air, even if people aren’t always fans of the scent.

Ezekiel: That’s a brilliant comparison. Just like some people hate the smell of certain perfumes, some reject the gospel. But it’s still there, lingering in the air, whether they like it or not.

Jeremiah: Right, it’s like the message of Christ. To some, it’s a sweet smell of salvation, but to others, it’s the stench of death.

Ezekiel: So, when Paul says the gospel is like incense, he’s pointing out how it’s one message but perceived very differently. It’s not about God making people accept or reject it; it’s about how the message divides people.

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Jeremiah: Exactly! Just like Jesus said he came to cause division (Luke 2:34, John 9:39), the gospel separates those being saved from those perishing.

Ezekiel: And those perishing find it offensive, while those being saved find it thrilling. It’s like how the defeated in a war would find the smells of victory nauseating, but the victors would find it exhilarating.

Jeremiah: Spot on! And Paul’s role in spreading this message is a humbling honor. Imagine being part of God’s plan, teaching a simple yet profound message that changes lives.

Ezekiel: But who’s really up for such a task? Paul even wonders about this in II Corinthians 3:5-6. It’s a massive responsibility.

Jeremiah: Indeed. Paul emphasizes that gospel teachers aren’t just peddling God’s word like cheap merchants. They sincerely believe in what they’re preaching, offering an unadulterated message.

Ezekiel: Kind of like not watering down wine, huh? Paul insists on giving an honest offering of the gospel, unlike many others who corrupt it for their own gain.

Jeremiah: And remember, even back then, there were plenty of false teachers. True gospel teachers always kept in mind that God was watching them, speaking with Christ’s authority.

Ezekiel: Now, moving to the life-changing letters Paul talks about in II Corinthians 3:1-4. Some might think he’s boasting about his abilities, but he points out that the proof is in the pudding—or in this case, the Corinthians.

Jeremiah: Absolutely! The Corinthians are like a letter of recommendation written on Paul’s heart, visible to everyone. No need for self-promotion when the transformation in people’s lives speaks for itself.

Ezekiel: And Paul humorously mentions he doesn’t need to pat himself on the back. The impact on the Corinthians is his commendation.

Jeremiah: He even says they are a letter from Christ, written by Paul on their hearts. This isn’t a physical letter but a living one, shaped by the Holy Spirit to represent Christ.

Ezekiel: It’s like having a spiritual tattoo, isn’t it? It’s not about the ink or stone but the transformation within.

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Jeremiah: Exactly. The new covenant brings a greater spiritual impact, shaping people’s hearts and lives.

Ezekiel: Paul’s confidence comes from knowing his work was done through Christ, aiming people toward God. With such a guide and goal, how could he go wrong?

Jeremiah: True, Ezekiel. It’s a divine aroma that keeps on spreading, whether we’re ready for it or not.

Ezekiel: And with that, let’s just hope no one brings out the incense next time we’re in the middle of a debate!

The Great Debate

Did Sacrifices Forgive Sins?

Scene: Jeremiah and Ezekiel are seated at a cozy café on a rainy afternoon, cups of steaming coffee in hand. The café is quiet, the perfect atmosphere for a deep theological discussion.


The rain pattered gently against the windows of the café, creating a soothing backdrop to Jeremiah and Ezekiel’s latest discussion. They sat at a corner table, their Bibles open, ready to dive into another intriguing topic.

Ezekiel took a sip of his coffee. “Jeremiah, have you ever pondered whether the sacrifices in the Old Testament actually forgave sins?”

Jeremiah leaned back, his eyes twinkling with interest. “Ah, that’s a profound question, Ezekiel. It reminds me of a debate I recently heard about, centered around the idea of ‘rolling forward’ sins under the Old Law. Have you read Hebrews 9 and 10?”

Ezekiel nodded. “I have. And Leviticus 4:20 too. It says, ‘the priest shall make atonement for them, and they shall be forgiven.’ It seems to suggest that animal sacrifices did, in fact, forgive sins.”

Jeremiah tapped his Bible. “True, but let’s delve deeper. Hebrews 9 and 10 argue that while these sacrifices were necessary, they weren’t the ultimate solution. They provided a temporary measure until something greater could come.”

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Ezekiel furrowed his brow. “So you’re saying these sacrifices were more symbolic, pointing towards a future, perfect sacrifice?”

Jeremiah smiled. “Exactly. Hebrews 9:9-10 says these sacrifices ‘cannot make the worshiper perfect in conscience.’ They were regulations until ‘the time of reformation.’ The real issue, Ezekiel, was that the blood of animals could not permanently remove sin. It was like a shadow of what was to come.”

Ezekiel took another sip of his coffee, pondering. “Hebrews 10:4 also states that ‘it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.’ So, these sacrifices were more about obedience and foreshadowing Christ’s ultimate sacrifice?”

Jeremiah nodded. “Yes. When Christ appeared as the High Priest, He didn’t use the blood of animals but His own blood. Hebrews 9:12 says, ‘He entered the holy place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption.’ Unlike the old sacrifices, His sacrifice was sufficient for all time.”

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Ezekiel’s eyes lit up with understanding. “So, while the Old Law’s sacrifices provided a temporary covering, they were not a permanent solution. They were a foreshadowing, a way to prepare people for the ultimate sacrifice of Christ.”

Jeremiah leaned forward, his voice soft but firm. “Yes, and this is further supported by Hebrews 9:13-14, which argues that if the blood of goats and bulls purified the flesh, how much more will Christ’s blood cleanse our conscience from dead works to serve the living God.”

Ezekiel nodded slowly. “I see. The sacrifices were necessary, but they pointed towards something greater. Jesus’ sacrifice didn’t just cover sins temporarily; it provided a permanent solution, allowing us to be truly cleansed and serve God.”

Jeremiah continued, “And this is why Hebrews 9:15 calls Jesus the mediator of a new covenant. His death covered not only future sins but also those committed under the first covenant, ensuring eternal inheritance for those called.”

Ezekiel smiled. “It all makes sense now. The Old Law was a shadow, a preparatory stage for the ultimate sacrifice. Jesus’ death on the cross was the culmination, the perfect sacrifice that made all other sacrifices obsolete.”

Jeremiah raised his cup. “To understanding the depth of God’s plan and the ultimate sacrifice of Christ.”

Ezekiel clinked his cup against Jeremiah’s. “To the perfect sacrifice and the eternal redemption it brings.”

As they sipped their coffee, the rain continued to fall outside, but inside, the warmth of their discussion illuminated the profound truth of their faith.


The Youthful King

Scene: Jeremiah and Ezekiel sitting in their favorite park, enjoying a sunny afternoon. Nearby, a group of teenagers play frisbee and occasionally glance over at the two older men, curious about their animated conversation.


The park was alive with the sounds of laughter and chatter, the perfect setting for one of Jeremiah and Ezekiel’s deep discussions. Sitting on a weathered bench, the two old friends watched as a group of teenagers played frisbee nearby.

Ezekiel pointed with his cane. “Look at those young folks, full of energy and independence. Reminds me of our topic for today, Jeremiah.”

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Jeremiah chuckled. “Ah, yes. The joys and pitfalls of teenage independence. Did you ever read about Rehoboam, Solomon’s son? His story is a classic example.”

Ezekiel leaned forward, interested. “Oh, I remember him. The young king who made a mess of things. Tell me more.”

Jeremiah cleared his throat, adopting a storytelling tone. “Well, when Rehoboam became king, the people approached him, asking for relief from the heavy taxes imposed by his father, Solomon. Sensible request, wouldn’t you say?”

Ezekiel nodded. “Indeed. Solomon was wise, but he wasn’t light on the tax burden.”

Jeremiah continued, “Rehoboam sought advice from the elders who had served his father. They suggested he ease the people’s burden, to win their loyalty. But then, Rehoboam turned to his peers, the young men he’d grown up with.”

Ezekiel raised an eyebrow. “Ah, I see where this is going.”

Jeremiah smiled. “Exactly. The young men advised Rehoboam to assert his authority, to show the people who was boss. Rehoboam liked this advice better. He told the people, ‘If you think my father’s taxes were heavy, you haven’t seen anything yet!'”

Ezekiel laughed. “And that, my friend, was the beginning of the end for his united kingdom.”

Jeremiah nodded solemnly. “Indeed. Ten of the twelve tribes rebelled and formed their own kingdom. All because Rehoboam chose to be different from his father’s generation, rather than considering what was right or wise.”

Ezekiel shook his head. “It’s a tale as old as time, Jeremiah. Teenagers wanting to assert their independence, often by doing the exact opposite of what their parents would do.”

Jeremiah glanced over at the teenagers playing frisbee. “Do you think they realize how many decisions they make just to be different from their parents? Not because it’s right or wrong, but just because it’s different.”

Ezekiel laughed. “Probably not. They’re too busy trying to be independent. But that’s part of growing up, isn’t it? Making mistakes and learning from them.”

Jeremiah smiled. “True. But it’s also why it’s important to teach them the value of wisdom from older generations. Proverbs 22:6 says, ‘Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.'”

Ezekiel nodded. “Yes, and Ephesians 6:4 reminds fathers not to provoke their children to wrath, but to bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord.”

Jeremiah leaned back, looking thoughtful. “It’s a balance, isn’t it? Teaching them to make their own decisions, but also helping them understand the consequences of those decisions.”

Ezekiel grinned. “And maybe a bit of humility too. Admitting that sometimes, the old folks do know best.”

Jeremiah chuckled. “If only Rehoboam had understood that. Instead, he split a kingdom.”

Ezekiel sighed. “It’s a lesson for all ages, really. Sometimes the wisdom of the past is the best guide for the future.”

Jeremiah watched the teenagers for a moment. “Do you think they’d listen if we told them this story?”

Ezekiel laughed. “Probably not. But one day, when they’re older, they might remember two old men in the park talking about a young king who made a dumb choice. And maybe, just maybe, they’ll make a wiser decision because of it.”

Jeremiah smiled. “I hope so, my friend. I hope so.”

The School and Senior Housing Debate

Scene: Jeremiah and Ezekiel sitting on a park bench, enjoying a sunny afternoon. Jeremiah has a newspaper, while Ezekiel is munching on an apple.


The park was alive with the sounds of children playing and birds chirping. Jeremiah glanced up from his newspaper and saw Ezekiel approaching with his signature grin and a half-eaten apple in hand.

“Good day, Ezekiel!” Jeremiah called out, waving.

“Good day, Jeremiah,” Ezekiel replied, plopping down on the bench next to him. “What’s the news today?”

Jeremiah handed him the newspaper. “There’s an interesting letter to the editor about a church wanting to fund a school and senior housing. Thought it might make for a lively discussion.”

Ezekiel took the newspaper and scanned the letter. “Oh, this should be fun. So, where do you stand on this issue, Jeremiah?”

Jeremiah leaned back and folded his arms. “Well, Ezekiel, I think the Bible is pretty clear about the roles and responsibilities of the church. Churches are to focus on spreading the Gospel, not running schools or senior homes.”

Ezekiel nodded thoughtfully, taking another bite of his apple. “I see your point. But what about the argument that these initiatives help the community and can be seen as an extension of the church’s mission to do good?”

Jeremiah chuckled. “That’s the tricky part, isn’t it? But if we look at Ephesians 6:4, it says, ‘And you, fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord.’ Teaching children is primarily the responsibility of the parents, not the church.”

Ezekiel nodded. “True, but isn’t there a benefit to having a community approach to education, especially in a faith-based setting? We could help ensure the children receive both secular and spiritual instruction.”

Jeremiah leaned forward, a serious look on his face. “The issue is not about the benefits but about the biblical authority. The church’s role is to spread the Gospel. If individual Christians want to start a school, that’s their prerogative. But using church funds for secular education steps outside the biblical mandate.”

Ezekiel raised an eyebrow. “What about the elderly then? Surely, providing housing for seniors falls under the church’s duty to care for its members.”

Jeremiah shook his head. “Again, the Bible places the primary responsibility on families. Look at I Timothy 5:4: ‘But if any widow has children or grandchildren, let them first learn to show piety at home and to repay their parents; for this is good and acceptable before God.’ The church steps in only when there is no family to help.”

Ezekiel rubbed his chin. “I see your point. But isn’t there some flexibility in how we interpret these roles, especially in modern times?”

Jeremiah smiled. “That’s the danger, Ezekiel. When we start interpreting roles based on modern convenience rather than scriptural commands, we risk straying from God’s intended purpose. Remember I Timothy 5:16: ‘If any believing man or woman has widows, let them relieve them, and do not let the church be burdened, that it may relieve those who are really widows.'”

Ezekiel sighed, finishing his apple. “So, no flexibility then? Just strict adherence to the text?”

Jeremiah nodded. “It’s about maintaining the purity of the church’s mission. If we start funding schools and housing projects, where does it end? We must draw the line somewhere.”

Ezekiel grinned. “You’re right, of course. But it does make you wonder about the practical applications in today’s world. Maybe we can find a middle ground that respects the scriptures while addressing modern needs.”

Jeremiah laughed. “That’s the challenge, my friend. Balancing scriptural adherence with practical compassion. But always remember, as II Timothy 3:16-17 says, ‘All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.'”

Ezekiel clapped him on the shoulder. “Well said, Jeremiah. Now, how about we grab a coffee and debate something a little less controversial? Like, whether pineapple belongs on pizza?”

Jeremiah laughed heartily. “Now that’s a debate I’m ready for. Lead the way, Ezekiel!”


I Can Feel It!

It was another bright morning in the tranquil village where Jeremiah and Ezekiel lived. The two old friends had planned to meet at the local café, a small, cozy place run by a cheerful couple who made the best coffee in town. The café was a favorite spot for locals to gather, share news, and debate the issues of the day.

Jeremiah arrived first, as usual, and found a table by the window. He waved at the barista, who knew his order by heart, and settled down with a sigh. He had brought along a copy of an article by Robert Turner that had recently caught his eye. As he skimmed through it, Ezekiel walked in, his face lighting up as he spotted Jeremiah.

“Morning, Jeremiah!” Ezekiel called out, making his way over. “What’s the topic of debate today?”

Jeremiah grinned, holding up the article. “Ah, Ezekiel, have a seat and prepare yourself. We’ve got a real gem today: ‘All Feeling, No Proof’ by Robert Turner. It’s all about the rise of emotionalism and subjectivism in the church.”

Ezekiel’s eyes sparkled with interest as he took his seat and ordered his coffee. “Sounds fascinating. So, what’s Turner’s main argument?”

John 7:38 “Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.”

Jeremiah adjusted his glasses and began reading aloud. “He talks about how emotionalism and the search for ‘genuine worship’ have led some churches astray, relying on feelings rather than scripture. He mentions mood music, dimmed lights, and other props that are used to create a spiritual atmosphere, which he dismisses as ‘devotional clap-trap.'”

Ezekiel chuckled. “Clap-trap, indeed! So, Turner’s arguing that this emotionalism is a departure from true worship?”

Jeremiah nodded. “Exactly. He emphasizes that true worship involves emotions that come from a knowledge of God’s will and a desire to serve Him, not from artificial stimulants.”

Ezekiel leaned back, stroking his chin thoughtfully. “You know, there’s a point to be made there. Romans 10:17 says, ‘So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.’ If our faith and worship aren’t rooted in scripture, they’re just feelings.”

Jeremiah smiled. “Precisely. Turner also warns against the dangers of subjectivism—relying on our own feelings and experiences rather than on the Bible. He quotes I John 4:6, ‘We are of God. He who knows God hears us; he who is not of God does not hear us. By this we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error.'”

Their conversation was interrupted by the arrival of their coffee. They paused to thank the barista, who beamed at them, pleased with their appreciation.

Ezekiel took a sip of his coffee and sighed contentedly. “So, where do you stand on this, Jeremiah? Do you think there’s a place for emotion in worship?”

Jeremiah chuckled. “Oh, there’s always a place for emotion, Ezekiel. But it must be grounded in truth. Take Ephesians 3:3-5, where Paul talks about the mystery of Christ being revealed by the Spirit to the apostles and prophets. It’s not about personal feelings or revelations, but about the word of God.”

Ezekiel nodded. “Agreed. But let’s not dismiss all feelings outright. After all, Galatians 5:22-23 talks about the fruits of the Spirit—love, joy, peace, patience. These are deeply emotional experiences, but they’re also the result of living in accordance with God’s will.”

Jeremiah leaned forward, a mischievous glint in his eye. “Ah, but here’s where Turner’s point comes in. He argues that when we rely too much on our feelings, we risk straying from biblical authority. He even mentions Pat Boone, saying that God communicates with him in a way that’s ‘inwardly and in a spiritual way.’ Turner calls this subjectivism, a dangerous path.”

Ezekiel laughed. “Poor Pat Boone, always getting dragged into theological debates. But Turner has a point. We must be careful not to elevate our feelings above scripture.”

Jeremiah raised his coffee cup in a mock toast. “To balance, my friend! May we always find the right mix of heart and head in our worship.”

Ezekiel clinked his cup against Jeremiah’s. “Hear, hear! So, how do we address this issue in our own congregations? How do we ensure that our worship is both heartfelt and scripturally sound?”

Jeremiah took a thoughtful sip of his coffee. “Education, Ezekiel. We need to teach our congregations the importance of grounding their faith in scripture. As Turner says, the problem often starts with a superficial knowledge of the Bible. We must go deeper.”

Ezekiel nodded. “And we must also model this balance in our own lives. Show them that true worship is passionate and informed. It’s about knowing God’s will and letting that knowledge transform our hearts.”

Jeremiah smiled. “Well said, Ezekiel. And we mustn’t forget the importance of community. Hebrews 10:24-25 reminds us to ‘consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another.'”

Ezekiel grinned. “So, less mood music and more Bible study?”

Jeremiah laughed. “Something like that. But maybe we can keep the coffee.”

Ezekiel joined in the laughter. “Agreed. Coffee stays.”

As they continued their discussion, their banter filled the café with warmth and laughter. Despite the seriousness of the topic, they found joy in their shared quest for truth and their deep-rooted friendship.

“Jeremiah,” Ezekiel said suddenly, a twinkle in his eye, “do you remember that time we tried to introduce a ‘new’ worship style with mood lighting and soft music?”

Jeremiah chuckled. “How could I forget? The congregation was confused, and old Mrs. Thompson nearly had a heart attack when the lights dimmed.”

Ezekiel laughed. “And then Brother Martin stood up and said, ‘Are we having a seance or a worship service?'”

Jeremiah wiped a tear from his eye. “Yes, and we quickly learned that gimmicks don’t substitute for genuine worship.”

Ezekiel nodded. “True. But it was a good lesson. Worship should be about substance, not style.”

Jeremiah took another sip of his coffee, his expression growing serious. “You know, Ezekiel, Turner’s article makes a good point about the dangers of looking inward for authority. When we prioritize our feelings over the word of God, we’re on a slippery slope.”

Ezekiel nodded thoughtfully. “Yes, and it’s a reminder for us to stay vigilant. We must continually return to scripture as our ultimate authority. As Ephesians 3:3-5 says, the mystery of Christ is made known to us through the Spirit, but it’s grounded in the word.”

Jeremiah leaned back, a satisfied smile on his face. “Indeed. And while we might disagree on some details, we both agree that scripture is our foundation. That’s what keeps us grounded.”

Ezekiel raised his coffee cup again. “To scripture, and to keeping each other grounded.”

Jeremiah clinked his cup against Ezekiel’s. “To scripture, and to the joy of debate.”

They sat in companionable silence for a moment, enjoying their coffee and the morning sun streaming through the window. Their debates, while sometimes heated, were always rooted in a shared love for God’s word and a mutual respect that had grown over the years.

Ezekiel broke the silence with a grin. “You know, Jeremiah, despite our differences, I always enjoy our discussions.”

Jeremiah smiled warmly. “As do I, Ezekiel. Iron sharpens iron, after all.”

They continued to discuss, laugh, and occasionally disagree, but always with the understanding that their shared faith was the foundation of their friendship. And as the morning turned to afternoon, they knew that no matter how heated their debates might get, their commitment to each other and to the truth would always bring them back together.

For in the end, their friendship was a testament to the balance they sought in their faith—a balance of heart and head, emotion and scripture, laughter and serious study. And as they left the café, walking side by side down the sunlit street, they knew that their journey was indeed worth it.

Are You My Brother?

It was a bright and sunny afternoon in the peaceful village where Jeremiah and Ezekiel lived. The two old friends and fellow ministers had decided to meet at their favorite spot by the river, under the shade of a large oak tree. The sound of the flowing water and the chirping birds provided a tranquil backdrop to their animated discussions.

Jeremiah arrived first, carrying a picnic basket filled with homemade treats. He settled down on the grass, spreading a blanket and arranging the food. Moments later, Ezekiel appeared, holding a rolled-up scroll. His face bore a thoughtful expression, hinting at the lively debate to come.

“Ah, Ezekiel, you made it!” Jeremiah greeted, waving him over. “I’ve brought some bread and honey. Perfect for a debate, don’t you think?”

Ezekiel chuckled and took a seat. “Indeed, Jeremiah. Nothing like a bit of nourishment to fuel our discussions. And today, we have quite the topic on our hands.”

Jeremiah raised an eyebrow. “Oh? What’s on your mind this time?”

Ezekiel unrolled the scroll and began reading. “I received a letter from a fellow preacher asking if those who teach institutionalism or liberalism can be called brethren. It’s a thorny issue, one that I think we should delve into.”

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Jeremiah nodded, taking a bite of bread. “Certainly a topic worth discussing. So, what’s your take on it, Ezekiel?”

Ezekiel leaned back against the tree, contemplating. “Well, the scriptures do provide guidance. In II Thessalonians 3:13-15, it says, ‘But as for you, brethren, do not grow weary in doing good. And if anyone does not obey our word in this epistle, note that person and do not keep company with him, that he may be ashamed. Yet do not count him as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother.'”

Jeremiah’s eyes twinkled with mischief. “Ah, so you’re on the side of gentle admonition. Treat them with kindness, but keep your distance, eh?”

Ezekiel smiled. “Precisely. They are still brethren, albeit wayward ones. Just because they’ve strayed doesn’t mean we should cast them out completely.”

Jeremiah took another bite, chewing thoughtfully. “You know, I see where you’re coming from, but let’s not forget II John 9-11: ‘Anyone who runs ahead and does not continue in the teaching of Christ does not have God; whoever continues in the teaching has both the Father and the Son. If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not take them into your house or welcome them. Anyone who welcomes them shares in their wicked work.'”

Ezekiel raised an eyebrow. “So you’re saying we should shun them entirely?”

Jeremiah shook his head. “Not shun, exactly. But we must be cautious. By associating too closely, we risk endorsing their errors. Remember I Corinthians 5:9-13: ‘I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people— not at all meaning the people of this world who are immoral, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters. In that case you would have to leave this world. But now I am writing to you that you must not associate with anyone who claims to be a brother or sister but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or slanderer, a drunkard or swindler. Do not even eat with such people.'”

Ezekiel chuckled. “So you’re telling me we’re having lunch together now, but if I step out of line, it’s no more picnics?”

Jeremiah laughed heartily. “Something like that, my friend. But seriously, it’s about maintaining the purity of the faith while still showing love.”

Ezekiel nodded thoughtfully. “True. We can’t compromise on doctrine, but we also can’t lose sight of the command to love our brothers and sisters. It’s a delicate balance.”

They sat in companionable silence for a moment, enjoying the serenity of their surroundings. The river flowed steadily, a symbol of the enduring passage of time and the constancy of their friendship.

Jeremiah broke the silence with a grin. “You know, Ezekiel, you always were the more diplomatic one. Maybe that’s why you get more wedding invitations.”

Ezekiel chuckled. “And you, Jeremiah, always the stickler for rules. No wonder you were voted ‘Most Likely to Argue with a Pharisee’ back in seminary.”

They both laughed, the sound echoing through the trees.

“All humor aside,” Jeremiah said, “this is a serious issue. How do we draw the line between correction and rejection?”

Ezekiel nodded. “Indeed. I think it comes down to intent. If our intent is to guide them back to the truth, then we must approach them with love and patience. Galatians 6:1 says, ‘Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted.'”

Jeremiah sighed. “It’s a tough balance. We must be vigilant and discerning. But we must also remember that we are all fallible, and we all need grace.”

As the sun dipped lower in the sky, casting a golden glow over the landscape, they continued to discuss, each providing scriptural support for their viewpoints. Their debate was earnest, but always laced with humor and mutual respect.

At one point, Jeremiah quoted, “Galatians 3:26-27, ‘So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.’ They are still our brethren, and we should not be quick to dismiss them.”

Ezekiel nodded. “Yes, and that’s why we must correct them in love. But remember, II Corinthians 6:14, ‘Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness?'”

Jeremiah smirked. “Always the diplomat, Ezekiel. But point taken.”

The evening wore on, and their discussion ranged far and wide, touching on various aspects of faith, doctrine, and the challenges of ministry. Through it all, they remained steadfast in their commitment to the truth and to each other.

As they packed up their picnic and prepared to head home, Jeremiah turned to Ezekiel with a smile. “You know, my friend, despite our disagreements, I always enjoy our debates.”

Ezekiel grinned. “As do I, Jeremiah. Iron sharpens iron, after all. Proverbs 27:17.”

Jeremiah chuckled. “Indeed. And who knows? Maybe one day we’ll figure it all out.”

Ezekiel laughed. “Perhaps. But until then, we keep striving, keep debating, and keep loving our brethren, even those who stray.”

They walked home together, their hearts lightened by their shared journey and their unwavering faith. For they knew that, in the end, their efforts were indeed worth it.

Preaching or Teaching?

In the heart of Maplewood, within the cozy confines of a diner suffused with the aroma of freshly brewed coffee, two friends, Ezekiel and Jeremiah, engaged in their weekly discourse on matters of faith. Ezekiel, with his dignified demeanor and spectacles perched upon his nose, and Jeremiah, his rugged exterior belying a jovial spirit, found solace in their shared fellowship.

Their conversation this Saturday morning centered on a bulletin article questioning the validity of preaching the Gospel to believers. “Can you believe the audacity of this writer?” Jeremiah exclaimed, waving the bulletin in disbelief. The article claimed preaching to believers was futile, as preaching was associated solely with evangelism, while teaching nurtured those already inducted into the faith.

Ezekiel chuckled softly. “Indeed, Jeremiah, some have a knack for complicating simplicity. The Gospel, as euaggelizo, declares good tidings, irrespective of whether it’s heard before.”

Jeremiah nodded in agreement. “To imply believers can’t receive the Gospel afresh is absurd. Even the good news of faith and love Timothy conveyed to the Thessalonians was heralded as glad tidings.”

As their discussion deepened, Ezekiel cited Acts 5:28: “When preaching the gospel, they filled Jerusalem with their doctrine.” “See, preaching and teaching are intertwined,” he remarked.

Jeremiah’s eyes gleamed with understanding. “And what of Paul’s admonition in Romans 2:21? ‘Thou that preachest a man should not steal, dost thou steal’—isn’t that preaching?”

Ezekiel nodded. “Indeed, teaching encompasses all aspects of doctrine, whether basic tenets or moral guidance. The distinction is blurred in Scripture.”

Jeremiah chuckled. “And the writer’s claim of pulpit preaching being unknown in the early church? Nehemiah 8:4 depicts Ezra preaching from a pulpit, and Peter’s Pentecost sermon is akin to pulpit preaching.”

Ezekiel’s gaze brightened. “Exactly! Terms may differ, but the essence remains. Our duty is to spread the Gospel, whether through teaching, preaching, or sermonizing.”

Their conversation wove through the tapestry of biblical wisdom, each passage strengthening their conviction. As they bid farewell, Ezekiel and Jeremiah departed with renewed faith and camaraderie, their discourse a testament to the enduring power of fellowship in the journey of faith.