How far are you willing to go to worship?

Some good thoughts from a good friend.

Tonk Talks

I knew of a couple once who traveled about two and half hours one way to go to worship services. They lived in the Northeast of the United States and this was the closest congregation of the churches of Christ for them. This family was dedicated and determined to worship the Lord. How are far would we be willing to go to worship?

In the Bible we read of an individual who was dedicated to worshiping the Lord; the Ethiopian eunuch in Acts 8:26-40. The scriptures tells us that the Ethiopian eunuch was traveling back home to Ethiopia after going to Jerusalem to worship. He would have traveled hundreds of miles by chariot just to go to the Temple of the Lord. While there he would have only been able to go to the Court of the Gentiles because of his status as a eunuch. This would be kind of…

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Why Bring A Friend To Church?


Sunday, September 18, 2016 is our annual BF2C ( Bring a Friend to Church ) Sunday at Ham Lane Church.  Each year, around this time, we plan a special service specifically to invite our friends and family to join us in a time of worship followed by a time of food, fun, and fellowship at our annual Fall Family Fellowship at Lodi Lake immediately following our morning services.


Why bring a friend to church? Nowhere in the Bible do you find an example of Jesus encouraging His disciples to bring a friend to a special church service.  I want us to understand that inviting someone to church and inviting someone to Jesus is not the same thing.  Although we do want to have numbers and see chairs filled on our BF2C, that’s now why we want you to bring a friend.  Although we are planning a special service and a great fellowship afterwards, that is not the highest level of discipleship. Moreover, we certainly do not what you to think that inviting your friend to church is the same thing as leading them to Jesus.


Why bring a friend to church?  It’s because we want them to connect with a biblical community, to experience worship together, to study, to sing, to give, to serve, and to experience fellowship with a family of God.  It’s because we understand that people will get an invitation to follow Jesus through the Bible study, the sermon, or general community environment.  It’s because we truly believe that what we have in store will impact their life for the sake of the gospel to help them grow, rest, learn, gain passion, and begin or strengthen their walk with Jesus.


I once heard a country preacher say, “I have never seen an empty seat get saved.”  I agree with that!  We want you to invite your friend to hear the gospel message, the good news about Jesus Christ.  The Apostle Paul wrote, “ I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings” and “to win as many as possible” (see 1 Corinthians 9:19-23).  That why you should bring a friend to church.



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A Memorial Day Prayer -2016


Almighty, infinite God – it is appropriate that we would pause at this time to invite Your presence here among us at this Memorial Day Service.

For so many, today means a day off, the close of a 3-day weekend or even a vacation.  Today is a perfect time to gather with family and friends, enjoy food and fellowship and just relax.  Some may even be tempted to do nothing today.

However, many have chosen to gather here, because we know that 3-day weekends, vacations, and the freedoms we have to gather with family and friends is granted to us at a great cost.

We pray for the men and women serving in our armed forces even now, who are not afforded the luxury of a day off. This morning we pray for their safe return and we pray for their families who miss them dearly.

I am reminded of the Words of Jesus who said, “Blessed are those who mourn… for they will be comforted.”   God, please lift the hearts of those who see today not a just a joyous celebration but as a painful reminder of sorrow and loss.

Give strength to those who have lost family.  Comfort those whose loved ones died serving their country.   Serving OUR country.

Today, it is with thankful hearts that we celebrate and remember their sacrifice.

Let us cherish, nurture, and handle with care the freedom for which they fought – The freedom for which they fought and died.

We close this invocation by praying the Words of Scripture:

Sovereign Lord, now let your servant die in peace, as you have promised.”


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Another Great Year at PBL


Those of us who attended a Church of Christ Christian College know the blessings of Bible Lectureships.  At Ohio Valley, I looked forward to the annual Bible Lectureships each year and for many years after my graduation, while still preaching in the Ohio Valley area.  During my decade serving both God and country in the U.S. Army Chaplain Corps, the opportunity to attend any of our fellowship’s  annual Bible lectureships was not afforded to me.  However, now that I find myself living and preaching on the west coast, I have been afford the opportunity to attend the Pepperdine Bible Lectures {PBL} in the coastal cliffs of beautiful Malibu, California.

This was my 3rd year to attend PBL and each year they keep getting better and better.  N.T. Wright was a featured keynote speaker this year and it was nice to hear something from Dr. Wright and not have to worry about a test to follow or a paper to write as was true during my years in seminary.   Some of the legends in our fellowship (or at least legends in my opinion) were all on tap including Jeff Walling, Randy Harris, Don McLaughlin, and Patrick Mead.  The worship times were amazing.  All the praise teams did a fantastic job leading our hearts and minds in worship to our Great God.  I really appreciated Keith Lancaster (yes, KL himself) taking us back a little old school and leading the well-loved hymns of our fellowship.  And maybe best of all is seeing old friends and make new since this event draws people from all over the US, Canada and even further from within and from without our own tribes.

If you are ever afforded the opportunity to attend the Pepperdine Bible Lectures, I would highly recommend it.  If you cannot, you do have the opportunity to hear and see the lectures on line.  A simple google search will bring up multiple sites that have multiple years of the lectures that Pepperdine provides free of charge.  I can still remember the days of ordering and purchasing cassette tapes of lectures – back in “the day.”  If you go to, you will even find full worship services and hear all the keynote speakers.  I am confident you will be blessed if you do.


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What is Advent?

On Sunday November 29, 2015, we are beginning a sermon series on the topic of “Advent” which will lead us into this greatly anticipated holiday season of Christmas. Advent is the season of the year leading up to Christmas and is observed with various traditions within a variety of Christian Churches. The word “advent” means “arrival” or “an appearing or coming into place.” Some churches often speak of Christ’s “first advent” and “second advent;” or His first and second coming to earth. The Advent celebration is both a commemoration of Christ’s first coming and an anticipation and the hope of His second coming. Just as ancient Israel longed for the Messiah to come, so Christ-followers today long for our Savior to come again.   The Advent season begins on the fourth Sunday before Christmas and ends on Christmas Eve.

One of the most common Advent traditions involves the use of evergreen wreaths, branches, and trees. Evergreen has traditionally been used to represent the eternal life that Jesus brings. You may have noticed the evergreens throughout our building this morning. You will also notice an Advent wreath up front this morning, an evergreen circle with four colored candles and one white one in the middle. These candles will be lit one at a time during this Advent series. The first candle represents “hope” and this morning we will discuss the hope that came with the birth of Jesus and the hope we have in His promised second coming.

Commemorating Jesus’ birth and anticipating His return should be an everyday part of the lives of the Christ-follower. However, I think it is advantageous for us to take the opportunity at this holiday season, when people are experiencing the hope of Christmas, to share with them the true hope that came and is coming in Christ Jesus our Lord and Savior. Does observing Advent make one a better Christian or more acceptable to God? No. However, celebrating Advent as a reminder of what this season is about is very good – and therein lies its greatest value.

Here’s a preview of the upcoming sermons:

Sunday Nov 29
Advent: Hope has come…Hope is yet to come!
1 Peter 1:1-25  (focal verses 3, 13, 21)
Sunday Dec 6
Advent: Love has come…Love is yet to come!

1 Peter 1:1-25 (focal verses 8, 22)

Sunday Dec 13
Advent: Joy has come…Joy is yet to come!
1 Peter 1:1-25 (focal verses 6, 8)
Sunday Dec 20
Advent: Peace has come…Peace is yet to come!
1 Peter 1:1-25 (focal verses 2, 25)


Wednesday Dec 23 “Christmas Eve-Eve Service”

Advent: Christ has come…Christ is yet to come!
1 Peter 1:1-25 (focal verses 10-13)


I hope to see you at our Advent Services this Season. In the meantime our prayers continue to be “Come Lord Jesus, Come!”


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“For God is not a God of disorder, but of peace…Everything should be done in a fitting and orderly way”  (I Cor. 14:33, 40). The structure of the church not be determined by culture, business practices, or even traditions. The structure of the church should be based on the nature of the church. Here is how the Bible describes the nature of the Church, and here at Ham Lane Church, we strive for a biblical structure based on these biblical descriptions of the church.


The Church is a fellowship

Acts 2:42

“They continued steadily learning the teaching of the apostles, and joined in the fellowship…”

Top priorities in a fellowship are harmony and unity. 

Ephesians 4:3

“Make every effort to keep the unity of the spirit thorough the bond of peace.”

Romans 14:19

“So let us concentrate on the things that make for harmony and the growth of our fellowship together.”

Any attitude that causes disunity is sin. 

Col. 3:15, I Cor. 1:10, 2 Tim. 2:14, Pr. 17:14, 2 Cor. 13:11, Phil. 1:27, 2:1-3; Col. 2:2, Phil. 4:2, I Pet. 3:8, I Cor. 14:33, John 13:34-35, 2 Tim. 2:23, Rom. 15:5-6, Rom. 12:16-18, Col. 3:13-14, Ps. 133:1

1 Corinthians 11:17-18

“(Often)…your meetings do more harm than good because I hear that when you come together as a church, there are divisions among you…”

IMPLICATION: A good structure promotes unity and downplays differences.

The Church is a family

1 Peter 3:8

“You should be like one big happy family, full of sympathy toward each other, loving one another with tender hearts and humble minds.”  (See also Gal. 6:10, Heb. 2:10-12, I Pet. 4:17)

1 Timothy 5:1-2

“Don’t reprimand a senior member of the church, appeal to him as a father. Treat the young men as brothers, and the older women as mothers. Treat the younger women as sisters…”


1 Timothy 3:4-5

“(A Pastor) must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him with proper respect. If anyone does not know how to manage his family, how can he take care of God’s church?

IMPLICATION: A good structure operates on the basis of relationships not rules.


The Church is a body
1 Corinthians 12:27, Ephesians 5:23, Ephesians 1:22-23, Colossians 1:18 and 2:19

We are a body! We are a living organism – not an organization!  

Romans 12:4-6

“Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we who are many from one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We each have different gifts according to the grace given us.”

In an organization, “maintenance” becomes the focus, but in a living organism, “ministry” is the focus.  

Ephesians 4:11-12
“God gave…some to be pastors and teachers to prepare God’s people for works of ministry, so that the body of Christ may be built up…”



The Church is a flock
Jesus’ favorite description of the Church: John 10:1-30, Matthew 26:31, Matthew 25:33 

Those who care for the Church are like shepherds.

John 21:16-17
“Jesus asked Simon Peter, ‘Do you really love me?'” “Yes Lord’, said Peter. Then take care of my sheep.”

I Peter 5:1-2
“To the elders I say…Be shepherds of God’s flock, serving as overseers…”

Three different terms are used in the New Testament to refer to the same church leaders:

  • “Poimen”:  Pastor or Shepherd
  • “Presbyters”:  Elder
  • “Episcopos”:  Overseer or Bishop

Acts 20:17-18, 28
“Paul sent to Ephesus for the elders of the church.  When they arrived he said to them…Guard yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be pastors of the church of God…”


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Life And Liberty for All

liberty_bellJuly 4, 1776 is a day all patriotic Americans re­member as the birth of our nation. It was on that historic date that British colonies declared their in­dependence from England. On July 8, 1776, along with church bells throughout the colonies, the Lib­erty Bell peeled out the symbolic message of free­dom and independence. On the bell is found the inscription, “Proclaim Liberty throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof.” The inscrip­tion is taken from the Bible, Leviticus 25:10.

Until 1835 the bell rang every year during the celebration of the declaration of independence. Now it is just a relic. The Liberty Bell is one of the few remaining national symbols on which a passage from the Holy Book of God remains. That indicates the respect the founding fathers of this nation held toward God and His word. The current legislators reflect just how far away from that respect this na­tion has come. The Bible has been made an illegal book in federally funded programs and in public schools.

The declaration of independence cost many re­bellious colonists their lives. They fought for free­dom, the right to pursue their own happiness. They inscribed on our currency, “In God We Trust.” But like the Liberty Bell, that inscription means very little to Americans. Some have tried to get it re­moved from our currency. Quite candidly, I believe it may as well be removed — not to satisfy the fool­ish purposes of some radical group of godless people, but to come even with the way most Ameri­cans really think. How much trust do you think the majority of Americans really put in God Almighty? Americans show very little trust in anyone or any­thing. This nation’s problems could easily be fixed by a return to the foundational disposition ex­pressed in “In God We Trust.” “Every word of God is pure: He is a shield unto them that put their trust in Him” (Proverbs 30:5).

Men will shed blood for political freedom. It is not so with spiritual freedom. More seek to avoid spiritual freedom than to achieve it. Bruce Barton once said, “What a curious phenomenon it is that you can get men to die for the liberty of the world who will not make the little sacrifice that is needed to free themselves from their own individual bondage.” The way to spiritual liberty is through Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of God. He said, “Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:32).

Truth is the only thing that frees man from spiri­tual slavery. But liberty requires that the slaves to sin rise up in a spiritual revolution and rebellion. A declaration of freedom against the bondage of sin is made the very moment one comes out of sin into freedom. By inspiration, Paul wrote, “But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you wholeheartedly obeyed the form of teaching to which you were entrusted. You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness” (Romans 6:17-18). The turning point from slavery in sin to freedom in Christ is wholehearted obedience.

Obedience must be grounded in faith. Faith is produced by divine revelation (Romans 10:17). Saving faith obeys the word of God without reser­vation. Obedience is compliance with law. Cicero said, “Liberty consists in the power of doing that which is permitted by the law.” Living under God’s law is the only way to be free from the blight of sin.

This year, when you celebrate the 4th of July, remember the wide discrepancy between the moral and spiritual values of America today and those of the men and women who died to make this one free nation under God. We need to return to the former disposition toward God and to a time when men felt free to inscribe passages from the Holy Word of God on our most valued national symbols.

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