Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Family Forte: My Strong Family

“My Strong Family”  by: Topher Wiles
                “Look dad!” Micah yells as he strains, grunts, and huffs his way to a half pull-up.  At five years old, my third son carries a bulk heftier than his siblings.  If Gabriel is built for tennis and Ethan is built for wrestling, then Micah is definitely built to be a line-backer.  Being over twice Micah’s age, Gabriel recently achieved his first honest pull-up, a great achievement for a sixth grader.  Any of our readers who have multiple children know the “monkey-see-monkey-do” routine of the younger brothers and sisters.  So here we are, watching what must be Micah’s hundredth attempt at a pull-up.  Teeth are gritted.  Face is strained.  Knuckles are white.  Micah is still only halfway up when his arms finally give out.

                Why do I watch eagerly without wavering in attention?  Why do I lock my eyes on Micah’s like a heat seeker homing in on its target?  Why do I cheer, encourage, and high-five this pre-k hulk before, during, and after his inevitable failure at accomplishing a single pull-up?  Stay with me a moment while I tell you an awful and amazing story to answer our questions. 

                January of 2018 was much colder than this year.  The frigid temperatures saw me working feverishly to get my new-to-Sparta family out of our RV and into the new home we purchased.  Before we could pack up and move our belongings out of our Indiana home and into our Sparta home, I had some serious work to do.  I began to feel a small strain in my back after days of ripping carpet and pulling staples from the existing hardwood floor that lay underneath in our new home.  Yet a weekend closing date on our home in Indiana meant that I couldn’t slow down for pain or strain.  I had to get everything ready to move within 5 days since the buyers of our home up north were taking immediate possession when they signed on the line.

                It was the deadline, the long hours remodeling, and the lack of proper strengthening that landed me in Ty Webb’s office (one of our elders at Central Church of Christ), writhing in pain from my first lower back injury.  Did you know that you can be in so much pain that it induces your vomit reflex?  Yeah, I didn’t either.  I wonder what was going through Dr. Webb’s mind as his new preacher was crying like a baby, unable to stand up, and begging for a trash can to mitigate the effects of the up-chuck reflex at 7am that Wednesday morning.  I wonder what the emergency room doctor in Indiana was thinking three days later when he was told the story of my back injury and how I was writhing in pain on his gurney because I hurt it again attempting to load my recently sold house into a U-Haul. 

                I wonder at these things a year later as I enjoy one of the fittest moments of my life.  I’m stronger now in my back, arms, and legs than I’ve ever been before.  I’m stronger entering into 2019 than this time last year because of family.  It was my church family in Indiana that came to our rescue and loaded that moving truck.  It was our church family in Tennessee that moved me and my wheelchair to the front porch to let me watch as they unloaded my belongings into our new Sparta home.  It was Dr. Ty Webb, my brother-in-Christ, who encouraged me to do my first triathlon as he continued to watch over my strengthening progress.  It was my wife and kids who took up the slack to let my body rest and heal.  It was my family who continued to sacrifice time so that I could visit the YMCA every morning to get stronger, be healthier, and become a better version of my former self.  I am stronger today because of the love, care, and attention of my family.

                Why do I give my love, care, and attention to Micah even though he can’t do a pull-up?  The reason doesn’t lie in the pull-up itself.  I could care less if the boy can do 1, 10, or 100 pull-ups (although 100 pull-ups at 5 years old would be cool!).  What I do care about is Micah knowing that he has my love, care, and attention as he becomes a stronger version of himself.  That’s what God, my heavenly Father, did for me through the trials of the last year.  Love, care, and attention – that’s what families give.   

“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might.” – Ephesians 6:10

The word “forte” comes from the latin word “fortis” meaning strength.  Our weekly Family Forte article in The Expositor is the effort of family at CentralChurch of Christ to give your family the love, care, and attention it needs to become a stronger version of itself.  If we can help you in any way, please contact us at Central Church of Christ through email,, or through our website,

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Nazarite Vow November

Patrick Lankford wanted us to join him in a "No Shave November."  When we upped the ante with "Nazarite Vow November," he was all in!  So, rather than not shaving or cutting your hair in fall months, let's do what "Nazarite" really means.  Devote ourselves to God!

So, what would it mean to take a Nazarite Vow today?  
Like the Nazarites we would:

  • Let no razor touch our head
  • Not touch any wine or fermented drink. (That means I have to change my mouth wash to something without alcohol). 
  • Not eat or drink anything grape related. (Except Communion on Sundays). 
  • Don't touch or go near any dead bodies. (I'll make an exception for a funeral). 
  • Consecrate or set apart ourselves and our time daily for study and service to God. 
  • Pray Daily that God would set us apart for His purposes. 
  • Offer a "sacrifice" of praise on Saturday, Dec 1st, when we shave & cut our hair. 
So, if you want to do more than "No Shave November" to consecrate yourselves to God, simply let Topher or Patrick know, we'll be happy to walk through a modern day Nazarite Vow together.  We'll talk later about what our Saturday, December 1st will look like later.

Suggested Readings
Thurs - Nov 1 - John 1:45-46 "Can anything good come out of Nazareth?" "Come and see!"
Fri - Nov 2 - Numbers 6:1-21 - Amos 2:11 - Details of the Nazarite Vow
Sat - Nov 3 - 1 Samuel 1 - Samuel is born.
Sun - Nov 4 - 1 Samuel 2
Mon - Nov 5 - 1 Samuel 3
Tues - Nov 6 - 1 Samuel 4
Wed - Nov 7 - 1 Samuel 5
Thurs - Nov 8 - 1 Samuel 6
Fri - Nov 9 - 1 Samuel 7
Sat - Nov 10 - 1 Samuel 8
Sun - Nov 11 - 1 Samuel 9
Mon - Nov 12 - 1 Samuel 10
Tues - Nov 13 - 1 Samuel 11
Wed - Nov 14 - 1 Samuel 12
Thurs - Nov 15 - 1 Samuel 15
Fri - Nov 16 - 1 Samuel 16
Sat - Nov 17 - 1 Samuel 19:18-24, 1 Samuel 25:1
Sun - Nov 18 - Judges 13
Mon - Nov 19 - Judges 14
Tues - Nov 20 - Judges 15
Wed - Nov 21 - Judges 16
Thurs - Nov 22 - Mark 1
Fri - Nov 23 - John 1
Sat - Nov 24 - Luke 1
Sun - Nov 25 - Matthew 3
Mon - Nov 26 - Mark 6
Tues - Nov 27 - Acts 18:1-18
Wed - Nov 28 - Acts 21:17-24
Thurs - Nov 29 - Mark 14:22-25
Fri - Nov 30 - Luke 22:15-18
Sat - Dec 1 - Num 6:1-21

Extra info from Jewish Encyclopedia


Nazarite Laws.—Biblical Data:
Three restrictions are imposed upon the Nazarite, according to Num. vi.: he may not take wine, or anything made from grapes; he may not cut the hair of his head; he may not touch the dead, not even the body of his father or mother. If a Nazarite has become unclean by accident, he must offer a sacrifice and begin the period of his vow anew. He is "holy unto the Lord" (Num. vi. 8), and the regulations which apply to him actually agree with those for the high priest and for the priests during worship (Lev. x. 8 et seq., xxi.; Ezek. xliv. 21). In ancient times the priests were persons dedicated to God (Ezek. xliv. 20; I Sam. i. 11), and it follows from the juxtaposition of prophets and Nazarites (Amos ii. 11-12) that the latter must have been regarded as in a sense priests. Young men especially, who found it difficult to abstain from wine on account of youthful desire for pleasure, took the vow. The most prominent outward mark of the Nazarite was long, flowing hair, which was cut at the expiration of the vow and offered as a sacrifice (Num. l.c.; Jer. vii. 29).
In Ancient Israel.
The history of Nazariteship in ancient Israel is obscure. Samson was a Nazarite, whose mother abstained from wine during her pregnancy. His superhuman strength lay in his long, unshorn locks (Judges xiii. et seq.). Samuel's mother promised to dedicate him to God during his whole life, saying, "There shall no razor come upon his head" (I Sam. i. 11); the Septuagint concludes from the latter promise (to which it adds "he shall drink no wine") that Samuel was a Nazarite. Neither the nomadic Rechabites nor their wives or children drank wine (Jer. xxxv.; II Kings x. 15 et seq.).
Extent.—In Rabbinical Literature:
The Nazarite law was minutely developed in post-Biblical times and became authoritative, while the popularity of Nazariteship and the influence it exercised on men's minds appear from its numerous regulations, which form a voluminous treatise of the Mishnah, and from the many expressions and phrases accompanying the taking of the vow. If one said, "May I be a Nazarite," he became a Nazarite at once (Naz. i. 1). As a consequence of the universal custom, peculiar words and phrases, some of which are now unintelligible, were formulated for the taking of the vow (Naz. i. 1, ii. 1; p. 10a; Ned. 10a, b, et passim). "'Let my hand, my foot be nazir,' is not valid; 'Let my liver [or some other vital part] be nazir,' is valid" (Naz. 21b; Tos. to Naz. iii. 3). When the sanctuary was defiled at the time of the wars of the Maccabees the people assembled all the Nazarites before God as persons who could not be released from their vows (I Macc. iii. 49); yet when Nazarites returned from the Diaspora and found the sanctuary destroyed they were absolved from their vows (Naz. v. 4), although at the same time others took it (ib. v., end).
The expenses of the offerings of poor Nazarites were borne by the wealthy, this charitable obligation being expressed by the phrase "to have [his head] shorn"; and King Agrippa had many Nazarites "shorn" (Josephus, "Ant." xix. 6, § 1; Naz. ii. 5, 6; Acts xviii. 18; xxi. 23, 24 [Nazariteship ofPaul]). "At the time of R. Simeon b. Sheṭaḥ 300 Nazarites came to Jerusalem. In the case of 150 he found a reason for annulling their vows, but in the case of the others he found none. He went to his brother-in-law King Jannai [103-76 B.C.] and said to him: 'There are 300 Nazarites who need 900 sacrificial animals; you give one-half and I will give the other half'; so the king sent 450 animals" (Yer. Ber. 11b and parallels). Noble persons also, both men and women, took Nazarite vows. Queen Helena was a Nazarite for fourteen (or twenty-one) years (Naz. iii. 6; see Jew. Encyc. vi. 334, s.v. Helena), and Agrippa's sister Berenice was at Jerusalem on account of a Nazarite vow taken before the outbreak of the great war against the Romans (Josephus, "B. J." ii. 15, § 1).

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Hurricane Michael Help

Caleb and I are travelling toward the gulf on Thursday morning, October 18th at 4:30am.
If you want to help, bring tarps, cash for gas, water, baby supplies, and hygiene items, to Central Church of Christ by tonight. We'll be at the building until 8pm to accept donations.
We plan to take more trips in the future for long term recovery. Stay tuned!
Instagram: @centralchurchsparta

Monday, September 24, 2018

Pre-Season Baseball

David, Drew, Hayden, Holden, Here's a couple of items we worked on.  Proof read these two documents for me and make suggestions for edits. 

Sheet #1 - Calendar with mental training staying on Wednesdays.  It just looked balanced that way.

Sheet #2 - These are Drew's recommendations for workouts.  I have yet to put the time into comparing my sources.  Drew's had a lot of good ideas to target specific areas.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

What do you remember?

What do you remember from 9/11? Here are 6 peoples I remember from that week in 2001. 

  1. My wife. I met Ashley shortly after the planes hit on 9/11/2011. She was reading her Bible calmly from 2 Corinthians 4. 
  2. My 3 Lipscomb University classmates. (Michael, Jon, & Paul) They shoved life aside to drive supplies, money, and aid together with me to the Pentagon & Manhattan Island. 
  3. The Military Police and his assault rifle. He made it clear that we were not to pray on the Pentagon lawn at 1am Thursday morning. 
  4. The Franciscan monks who prayed for us before we entered the gates to Ground Zero. 
  5. The elders of Manhattan Church of Christ who let us sleep on their floor. 
  6. The K9 units who worked tirelessly to find survivors. I wrote a short article on them here in 2015.

Today I returned to the hope that is in the passage Ashley read to me on 9/11. May it also cause you to hope in Christ as you read it.

"We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; 9 persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; 10 always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies." - 2 Corinthians 4:8-10

I remember on 9/11 the way Christ was manifested in so many bodies of those who loved God and loved their neighbor. What do you remember?

Other People, Elevate or Example?

The Beatitude Character Traits: Blessed are the poor in spirit... who morn... the meek... who hunger & thirst for righteousness... the merciful... the pure of heart... the peacemakers... the persecuted for the sake of righteousness. (From Matthew 5:3-10)

The Situation:
In a group Bible Study, I wanted to talk tangibly of Jesus' beatitudes.  As the class defined & discussed each character trait I asked the class to answer two questions.
  1. What person from the Bible exemplifies the specific beatitude?
  2. What person from your life today exemplifies the specific beatitude? 
The goal was to give our studiers a Bible reference and a living reference to look at to model their lives after as they try to live the Beatitudes out personally.

The Problem: 
A person came later to me with the following request. "Studying the beatitudes is fine, but stick to Bible examples.  We don't need to elevate people."

My Response:
I asked several questions and commended the piety of the person's desire to keep Christ elevated above people. Yet, I disagree.  I believe we are to find examples all around us of those we can model our lives after as they model after Christ.  My belief is that commending others for the glory they bring Christ, enumerating their faith in Christ, and modeling after them as they model after Christ is not only good, but something we are commanded to do.  I'll list scripture below for you to decide.

The Dialogue: 
The person backtracked to, "We need to only do it in private then, not in public."  I offered, "Bible class is private.  It is church family gathering together in a small groups to talk, discuss, and learn about the truth, how to live it, and how to teach it.  Paul also did it publicly as he as the whole Corinthian church to follow him as he followed Christ."  Then I asked, "What numbers do we have to have for it to be considered private to you?"  Their response was, "Just not in Bible class."

The Close:
We closed not seeing eye to eye.  I thanked the person for their time, concern, and suggestions.  I also requested any scripture I may have violated in class by asking for examples around us of these character traits, while admitting that I would consider the issue of elevating vs exampling modern names today.  Hopefully our dialogue continues.

Some Scripture concerning following other people who follow Jesus: 

1 Corinthians 11:1 – From Paul to the Corinthian Church
  • ·         Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ. – NIV
  • ·         Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ. – ESV
  • ·         Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ. - KJV

1 Corinthians 4:15-16  – From Paul to the Corinthian Church
  • ·         Even if you had ten thousand guardians in Christ, you do not have many fathers, for in Christ Jesus I became your father through the gospel.  Therefore I urge you to imitate me. - NIV
  • ·         For though you have countless guides in Christ, you do not have many fathers. For I became your father in Christ Jesus through the gospel.  I urge you, then, be imitators of me. - ESV
  • ·        For though ye have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet have ye not many fathers: for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel.  Wherefore I beseech you, be ye followers of me. - KJV

Philippians 3:17  – From Paul to the Corinthian Church
  • ·         Join together in following my example, brothers and sisters, and just as you have us as a model, keep your eyes on those who live as we do. – NIV
  • ·         Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us. – ESV
  • ·         Brethren, be followers together of me, and mark them which walk so as ye have us for an ensample. - KJV

Hebrews 13:7  – From Anonymous to the Jewish Believers
  • ·         Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith. – NIV
  • ·         Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith. – ESV
  • ·         Remember them which have the rule over you, who have spoken unto you the word of God: whose faith follow, considering the end of their conversation. - KJV

Finally, is mentioning those who model well the truth of Christ an example or an elevation?  You decide.

Friday, July 6, 2018

Appreciating Feminine Freedom Fighters

By: Topher
                Independence Day has come and gone.  Grandiose firework displays have filled your sight.  Delicious grilled meats have filled you belly.  Family & friends have filled your memories.  Now is a good time to ask the question, “What has filled your gratitude?” 
                In the midst of July 4th busyness, we often forget to spend time in gratitude for the freedom we’ve been given.  Here are two of nine women I’ve been studying that had a profound impact on our freedom in America and in Christ.  Study them and thank God for female freedom fighters. 
Priscilla, the wife of Aquilla, is mentioned 7 times in the Bible.  Five times she is mentioned before her husband, which usually denotes priority, authority, or focus.  After living in Rome, she traveled with Aquilla & Paul to Ephesus to encourage the fledgling church.  In total, Paul lived with Priscilla & Aquilla for 18 months.  In Acts 18:26, she is mentioned first again when they took aside an eloquent & educated preacher named Apollos and “explained to him the way of God more accurately.”  Apollos following would later be compared to Paul (1 Cor 3:4) and I suspect he may have been the true author of the wonderfully deep book of Hebrews.  Thank God for Priscilla who, along with her husband, helped further the freedom given in Jesus Christ in the spiritual battle against sin & darkness.
Molly Ludwig Hays may be often known by a different name, Molly Pitcher.  Folklore has it that in June 1778, she scanned the battlefield looking for her husband John as his regiment of Colonial soldiers under George Stirling withstood the forces of dreaded imperial general Clinton. Cannon blasts shook the ground on this scorching hot day as she spotted her husband working the ramrod of a colonial cannon.  As she repeatedly carried her pitcher of water from creek to soldiers, the wounded would yell, “Molly, PITCHER!”  Then, she spotted the signs of heatstroke when John slumped over his cannon, crumpling before the approaching redcoats.  Molly jumped up to “man” the cannon in her husband’s stead, thus aiding General Stirling in the battle and preserving the colonial push for freedom in the Revolutionary War.  General George Washington personally commended her bravery and post-war congress voted to pay her $40 annually for the rest of her life for her services in the Revolutionary War.  Thank God for Molly who, along with her husband, helped further the freedom given in the Revolutionary War in the battle against imperialism.
Neither Priscilla nor Molly were looking for fame when they served in their respective battles.  Instead, they were simply serving with their husbands in marvelous ways.  May we remember, appreciate, and model our lives after these feminine freedom fighters.
“An excellent wife who can find? She is far more precious than jewels.” – Proverbs 31:10

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Prayer List Upgrade

Image result for prayer child     The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective!  James drops this motivating morsel at the end of his letter to Christians in trouble (James 5:16).  If prayer is such a potent force, why do we often feel as if we’re stuck in a rut uttering mindless repetition before the almighty Father?  Have no fear, scripture is here!  I encourage you to put this helpful list from scripture near your primary prayer place.  Whether it’s a kneeling bench, a closet, a bathroom, the office, or the car, posting this prayer list in a prominent location can help you pray for the same things early Christians did in a fresh and exciting way! Here are some things you can pray for starting today.

·   Pray that God would exalt His name in the world. – Matt 6:9
·   Pray that God would extend His kingdom in the world. – Matt 6:10
·   Pray that the gospel would speed ahead and be honored. – 2 Thess 3:1
·   Pray that God would give justice to His people in their cause. – Luke 18:7
·   Pray that God would save unbelievers. – Romans 10:1
·   Pray that God would direct the use of the Sword. – Eph 6:17-18
·   Pray for words to boldly proclaim the good news. – Eph 6:18-19
·   Pray for the healing of wounded brothers & sisters. – James 5:14-15
·   Pray that God would supply his troops with necessities. – Matt 6:11
·   Pray for God’s wisdom. – James 1:5
·   Pray that God would establish His leadership in the mission field. – Acts 14:23
·   Pray for unity and harmony in God’s Kingdom. – John 17:20-21
·   Pray for a knowledge of God’s will. – Colossians 1:9
·   Pray for power to comprehend the love of Christ. – Ephesians 3:14-19
·   Pray for strength and endurance. – Colossians 1:9-11
·   Pray for the forgiveness of your sins. – Matt 6:12

Other People to Pray for in the Bible
·   One another (Jam 5:16)
·   All people (1 Tim 2:1)
·   Friends (Job 42:10)
·   The Saints (Eph 6:18)
·   Governing Authorities (1 Tim 2:2)
·   Church Leaders (Heb 13:17-18)

“May He (God) give you the desire of your heart and make all your plans succeed!” – Psalm 20:4

Friday, June 8, 2018

The Bow of the Beginning and End

The Bow of the Beginning and End 
by: Topher Wiles

     “It’s not the destination but the journey that matters.” That sounds like a great old adage to follow, yet we need more to keep us afloat along till we reach our destination.  We need reminders of the beginning and the end.
     Noah steps off that grand ole ark to God’s artistic lightshow in form of the amazing rainbow.  Imagine being a 601 years old adult seeing it for the first time!  Noah had a wonderful fresh start to the journey as we often do in our Christian walk.  Do you remember the time, like Noah, you were “saved through water?”(1 Pet 3:20)  It was an amazing fresh start, wasn’t it!?
For many of us, that fresh start gets muddied & mired with trouble along the way, much like the calamity Noah & Ham found just after the flood. (Gen 9:22)  How many times have we seen Christians on fire with a fresh start only for that blaze to die to a barely visible glowing ember through the rest of their lives?   Yet, the Christian walk doesn’t have to be this way.  We can continue to travel with a brightened and enlightened life filled by focusing on two major points, the beginning and the end.   
     God gives us a view of the Alpha & Omega, beginning & end, in the book of Genesis and Revelation.  To sum up both, you need only remember His rainbow.    
  1. Remember the rainbow as God’s as a fresh start in the first book of the Bible in Genesis 9:13.
  2. Remember that we will see God’s rainbow in all its glory again in Revelation 4:3. 

     That’s right, the rainbow doesn’t show up again in the Bible until John’s vision of heaven where that beautiful bow encircles God’s throne.  How exciting it will be to see that rainbow again with God in the middle of it!   
      “At once I was in the Spirit, and there before me was a throne in heaven with someone sitting on it. And the one who sat there had the appearance of jasper and ruby. A rainbow that shone like an emerald encircled the throne.” – Revelation 4:2-3
     From these two rainbows in scripture, we are reminded of our beautiful fresh start and our glorious hope to come when we finally see Jesus.  God purposefully puts His rainbow only in the beginning and end of the Bible to give us sweet reminders of where we’ve come from as well as our coming hope to give us motivation along the way.  May God bless you with sweet remembrances on your journey. 

    May the hope of heaven help you to live today for Jesus!

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Memorial, Mess, & Mystery

     Memorial Day has been one of my favorite holidays over the last few years.  Our tradition has been to wake up early each Memorial Day to go fishing with a veteran at church; then cap the day off with a fish fry with church family.  For some, however, conversation of Memorial Day has become a mess of a moral dilemma.
     Pacifists argue that Christians should be about peace citing Jesus' words in John 16:33, "in me you may have peace" and Matthew 5:39 "turn the other cheek."  Militarists counter with Jesus words in Matthew 10:34, "I did not come to bring peace but the sword" and Romans 13:4 "For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God's wrath on the wrongdoer."  Our generations aren't the first to struggle with these moral messes.
     How do we wrestle with living in a fallen world in light of this dilema?  How do we deal with Memorial Day, a day as old as the Civil War, that honors the sacrifice of soldiers? 
     For me, on Memorial Day, I simply strive to honor the words of Jesus in John 15:13, "Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends."  For anyone who has sacrificed life for your freedom, you can rest assured that honor is due them.  Whatever your hand finds to do on Memorial Day, at least spend time honoring the greatest soldier in the Lord's Army to lay down His life for you, Jesus Christ.

by: Topher Wiles