HAVE YOU EVER BEEN “FRUSTERED”?

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Some time ago, while discussing a matter that I have long forgotten what it was, the person I was discussing it with commented about being “frustered” due to the matter at hand. Knowing the person’s tendency to confuse words, I assumed they either meant “flustered” (“to become agitated”) or “frustrated” (“feeling exasperated”) over the matter at hand. Whatever it was, I am fairly sure they were not “frustered”. Since that occasion, I have adopted the “word” “frustered”, using it under certain circumstances to convey the combined thoughts of being “flustered” and “frustrated” at the same time due to one issue or the other.

Recently, being “frustered” came to mind. A social network site included some comments by brethren about the “soundness” of schools of preaching associated with the Lord’s church, issuing a question as to what was happening to them. From the original post, it wasn’t long until others “piled on” comments along the same line. Implications were made, suggesting that the majority of such schools, if not all, had fallen by the wayside when it came to seeing the need to “contend for the faith” (Jude 3). It was as if every “brotherhood” school had turned their “backs” on the Scriptures. Could it be that there is some room for criticism among some of “our” schools for what they are teaching today? No doubt! Have there been times in the past that one or more has strayed off the “beaten path” when it came to “preaching the word”? Of course there have been! But just asserting accusations does not prove them to be true and does not merit the implication that all schools have turned from the truth!

Adding to my “frusteration” was the fact that when a respondent asked for a list of things that were issues of which Brown Trail is presently guilty of, no one provided any such list of current issues. Some wanted to go back ten or twenty years and bring up things that we have put behind us. One respondent stated he had provided such a list, but the facts are, he did not. All he did was make accusations with no foundation or evidence. It seemed as if all one has to do is make the claim that this or that school (congregation, preacher, et. al.) is weak and that means it must be the case because “brother so and so” said so. I doubt that any of us would like to have that same “logic” applied to us.

It seems it is time for some serious questions to be asked about this practice. For example, does not proper Christian decorum demand that we address verifiable issues rather than accusations based on nothing more than hearsay? Wouldn’t the “Golden Rule” (Matthew 7:12) demand of us the practice of making sure we know for a fact that someone is a false teacher before we state it publically and, possibly, ruin that brother’s reputation? Which of us would want to be accused of being a false teacher (adulterer, homosexual, thief, et. al) with absolutely no evidence to sustain such an accusation? How would we like it if someone said we were false teachers because someone else said we were?

I recently met with a brother who accused me of something he thought I taught. (I am thankful that he finally came to me, which is what most have not done!) The reality, though, was he had no idea what I believed or taught on the subject, but was guilty of telling others what he “knew” I taught because he had been told it by someone else, who had heard it from someone else, who had heard it from someone else, etc. How sad! In the end, not a single one who accused me had heard me teach what I was accused of, and neither has anyone else, because I have never taught it!!!

Brethren are too slow to verify the truthfulness of accusations before spreading them and too quick to make them. We “shoot first, and ask questions later.” It seem clear that it is past time to put James 1:19 into practice (“Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath:”).

Another occasion comes to mind when a potential student was told by a brother that he would not recommend him coming to BTSOP because of the false teaching being taught there. After some time in research to tract this brother down I emailed him inquiring of him exactly what it was that we were presently teaching that he would disagree with. I referred him to our “Statement of Conviction” found on our Web Site. After some time, he responded that he had no actual reason to believe that we were presently teaching false doctrine except for what he had heard, read, or something or the other, some ten to twelve years earlier. Does anyone see such actions as being true to the Christian spirit? Had he have said, “Ten years ago this was the case, but I do not know about today” that would have different if what he heard ten years ago was true, which it wasn’t. I am thankful that this brother saw the “error of his way” and repented of his actions!! Granted, mistakes are sometimes made. Sins are committed, and brethren repent of them. Should we not give thought to this before we spread accusations that may destroy the good name of brethren, congregations, or schools?

Have schools of preaching experienced problems in the past in certain areas? No doubt! Much like the majority of sound congregations that have faced some issues, dealt with them, and moved on. I could provide a list of some of the soundest congregations in the brotherhood that have had a “flare up” from time to time. They would not want to be judged on those times of weakness or outright sinfulness, given the fact that has all been put behind them by their repentance of the actions done in contradiction to God’s Word.

My “frusteration” continues to be brought on by the unwillingness of some to know, or lack of concern for the truth, that some seem to have about these kinds of things. It appears as if a “party line” must be stepped up to, and regardless of what is actually and presently being practiced or taught, we are assumed to be in error because “everyone” is in error, or there was an error practiced years ago by someone no longer associated with us. It isn’t that we do not have an email address or a telephone number that could be used to “do the right thing” and contact us. It isn’t that love doesn’t “beareth all things, believeth all things” (1 Corinthians 13:7). The truth is our love for the brotherhood (1 Peter 2:17) should cause us to verify the truth of these things before we “parrot” them. I have never been ashamed to tell someone who asks where I stand on anything. But I cannot tell you if you do not ask.

It is difficult enough to find sound men who desire to prepare themselves to be gospel preachers without having to deal with issues like these. With the number of sound congregations growing smaller each day, and the number of schools that are “fishing the same pond”, I fear it is not going to be long until we face to an even greater degree the problem of a shortage of sound men to fill our pulpits. Seldom does a week pass that we do not find ourselves “chasing some rabbit” of an accusation of false teaching that could have easily been dealt with if those spreading the rumor had simply contacted us.

Like the Apostle Paul, we at Brown Trail School of Preaching are not ashamed of the gospel (Romans 1:16)! We are as committed as ever to train our students to “preach the word” (2 Timothy 4:2). We still believe in the necessity of training men to speak only “as the oracles of God” (1 Peter 4:11). We believe and teach that the gospel is “the power of God unto salvation” (Romans 1:16). We, likewise, believe and teach that, as it has always been, any attempt to turn from the pure, unadulterated Word of God is a violation of God’s will for us (Deuteronomy 4:2; Matthew 7:21-23; Galatians 1:6-9). All scriptures are inspired of God (2 Timothy 3:16, 17), and as such they present to man all that which is necessary for “life and godliness” (2 Peter 1:3). If you have heard or believe otherwise about us and what we are presently doing or teaching, call me, email me, or stop by my office. Come sit in on some of our classes or chapel services. Don’t judge us on the past, or on what some may say. A “righteous judgment” is demanded by God (John 7:24). We do not fear that. As a matter of fact, we welcome it.

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A FAMINE IN THE LAND

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With this article, we want to give some thought to the words found in Amos 8:11-14, concerning the subject of “A Famine in the Land.” As we do so, we want examine the text and make proper application of it to the Nation of Israel to whom it was written and then to us today. At the time of the preaching of Amos, Israel was going through a period of prosperity. On the other hand, though, there was much injustice, greed, ease and luxury. Their religious background was much like ours today. There was an abundance of religious rites but little righteousness. Idolatry was being practiced at Dan, Beersheba, Gilgal and Bethel. As a whole, there was a great state of moral decay in Israel.

Due to the disregard of the teachings of the prophet Amos, the Lord expressed to Israel concerning the upcoming famine. It would not be a famine due to the lack of food or drink.
Although He does not say there was not to be such a famine also. But, rather, the famine dealt with spiritual things. Man, in his times of great need or distress, has always turned to the Lord. But now the Lord says there would be no more messages from Him via the prophets. They had cast out and despised the prophets as they set out to proclaim the word of the Lord. Now when Israel turned to them for direction there would be none coming.

How tragic that really was! Imagine what it would be like to turn to the Lord and He not be there to answer. Israel, in all of their self-sufficiency had turned the Lord completely away from them.
In verse 12 an interesting statement is made concerning Israel: “…they shall wander from sea to sea…” The word “wander” is used to describe the unsteady seeking of bewildered persons. It represents those that are looking for something that they do not know where to find it. Thus, Israel is described as a bewildered, befuddled people going from sea to sea, to and fro, seeking the word of the Lord, but being unable to find it. A similar idea is seen in Ephesians 4:14.
Perhaps with the availability of the Word of the Lord it might be hard for us to understand this.
But when we look at it from a physical point of view we get a different picture.

If we look at it in view of food or drink perhaps we will understand it more easily. As we look at our text and look around us we see the famine in the land today. Not one imposed by God, or even natural elements, but one brought upon our own selves. Although we have not yet reached the point wherein we are unable to find the Word of the Lord, we are definitely starving when it comes to spiritual matters. Especially when it comes to the lack of knowledge of the Word of God so ever present today. Again and again we hear people say, “I can’t understand the Bible.” But when we look back we see that their parents and grandparents had no trouble understanding it. And they were, in many cases, not as well educated as those who claim to not be able to understand the Bible.

From what I see it is not a matter of “can’t” but “won’t” when it comes to understanding the will of the Lord. We have self-imposed a famine on the land. We are a malnourished world when it comes to understanding the Word of God, and this is by choice. We have quit:

“Hiding the word of God in our hearts” (Psalms 119:11)
“Searching the scriptures” (John 5:39)
“Searching the scriptures to see whether those things are so” (Acts 17:11)
“Studying to show ourselves approved” (2 Timothy 2:15)

And because of this, we are biblically malnourished. The only way that we can correct this problem is to again become people of the Book. In years past the Lord’s people were recognized for their degree of Bible knowledge. It is sad to say, but this is not the case anymore!

The reason for this is that we spend more time with the daily paper, TV Guide, Facebook, or a hundred other things than we do with the Bible. And as long as we continue along these lines there will always be “a famine in the land”. A famine that is not only going to affect us eternally, but also our children, our grandchildren and our great grandchildren, if the world lasts that long.

We need to become people of the Book once again. We need to become students of the Word as our spiritual forefathers were. When this is done, the famine will be gone, but until it is done the famine will continue to increase.