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Below are the articles written by Steven J. Cole, pastor at Flagstaff Christian Fellowship.

Grateful or Grumbling?

Written by Pastor Steve Cole on .

Couple-Arguing-At-BreakfastHelen Keller, born blind and deaf, wrote, “I have always thought it would be a blessing if each person could be blind and deaf for a few days during his early adult life. Darkness would make him appreciate sight; silence would teach him the joys of sound.”

Her words lead me to ask, Do we truly appreciate each day as God’s gracious gift to us? Are we filled with gratitude for the many blessings He gives us? It’s so easy to slip into a grumbling, negative attitude, frustrated by the problems and irritations we face, not seeing even these things as sent from the hand of a loving God. As His redeemed people, our lives should daily overflow with gratitude for His gracious salvation, even in the midst of trials (see Col. 1:10-12 ; 2:7).

Steak And Arsenic: A Review of Neil Anderson’s Victory Over the Darkness

Written by Pastor Steve Cole on .

Neil-Anderson-Victory-Over-DarknessReading Neil Anderson’s Victory Over the Darkness [Regal Books, 1990, 245 pp.] is like eating steak laced with arsenic. The steak tastes great and makes up the major portion, but the arsenic, imbedded throughout, will kill you.

First, the steak: Anderson strongly sets forth the believer’s position in Christ and the beneficial effects of believing this truth. He underscores the many Scriptures affirming that believers are saints, new creatures, forgiven, righteous, etc. Certainly these are crucial truths for every Christian to believe and act upon.

Anderson rightly affirms that right thinking produces right emotions: “... feelings are a product of the thought life.... Anger, anxiety and depression are usually the result of a faulty belief system. The greatest determinants of mental and emotional health are a true knowledge of God, and acceptance of His ways and the assurance of His forgiveness” (p. 236). Amen!

Sadly, though, the book is laced with arsenic. An undiscerning reader will swallow the poison with the steak. The outcome will be worse than not eating the steak at all!

The main error is that Anderson repeatedly asserts that believers are not to view themselves as sinners, not even as sinners saved by grace, but as saints who occasionally sin.

Enjoying Your Kids While You Can

Written by Pastor Steve Cole on .

Portrait-of-Happy-FamilyPastor Steven J. Cole (WORLD, 6/14/97, under title, "Quantity quality time")

A couple of years ago, around the time of her sixteenth birthday, my middle daughter said to me, "Dad, do you remember how you used to take each of us somewhere special for our birthday, just time alone with you?" I remembered, of course. Not every year, but on three or four of the kids' birthdays, I had set aside a Saturday, or sometimes a Friday night through Saturday night, where just

Why You Don’t Need More Self-Esteem

Written by Pastor Steve Cole on .

Businessman On Knees 377995One of the most popular ideas to emerge in Christian circles in recent years is that we all need to build and maintain proper self-esteem. Dozens of best-selling Christian books are laced with this theme. It is frequently mentioned in sermons and on Christian radio shows. It is a fundamental assumption underlying most Christian counseling. For example, one well-known Christian treatment program, endorsed by top Christian leaders, states in a promotional brochure, “Part of [this program’s] success is found in the unique ability to target and resolve problems of low self-esteem. At the core of all emotional problems and addictive disorders is low self-worth. It is never the only problem; but it is so major an issue that, if not dealt with adequately, one is kept from experiencing lasting, positive results.”

An article by a Christian psychologist on the problem of pastors who commit adultery stated that one reason pastors fall into sexual sin is low self-esteem. If they would just love themselves properly, they wouldn’t have a need to find “love” from another woman. Another article asserts that low self-esteem is a major factor behind homosexual behavior. A popular Christian author even used the story of Lee Harvey Oswald to illustrate how low self-esteem led this man to shoot President Kennedy!

Happy Holidays and Sound Doctrine

Written by Pastor Steve Cole on .

Mary-And-Joseph-Nativity-ChrismasI sat staring at my computer screen for over an hour, trying to think of some warm, fuzzy thoughts on the holidays for this issue of our church newsletter. I’m sorry to disappoint some of you, but I’m just not a warm, fuzzy holiday sort of person. I truly hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year, but I often feel that articles on those themes tend to evoke wide yawns. If that’s not true for you, I’m sure you can find lots of warm, fuzzy articles in other publications you receive.

It’s not warm and fuzzy, but an issue that continues to be on my heart (I wrote about it in a newsletter article earlier this year) is the current push toward Christian unity. I received something today that informed me that it is indefensible if our church does not cooperate with other churches and ministries. If the proper biblical and theological parameters are added to that statement, I would agree. But it’s the blanket statements to the effect that we must drop all denominational and doctrinal differences and work together that concern me.

Winning the War Against Lust

Written by Pastor Steve Cole on .

Broken-heart-sign-lossI want to answer a very practical question for Christians living in this sex-saturated society: How can we win the war against lust and the overt sexual sin which results from lust? We're bombarded daily with sensuality. You can't watch TV, read a news magazine or drive past billboards without being confronted with blatantly sexual pictures and messages. We all know that as Christians, we are to avoid sexual immorality. The tough question is, How? Being a man, I'm writing as a man to men, although what I say has much application to women as well.

Women in the church: What can they do or not do?

Written by Pastor Steve Cole on .

Happy Mother And DaughterFebruary, 1996 (Revised)

The issue of women’s roles in the church is complicated and emotionally charged. These comments are only a brief synopsis of some of the issues. As elders, we affirm the rationale, purposes and affirmations of The Danvers Statement (see below, or go to: http://www.cbmw.org/about/danvers.html). Below are some specific questions and our understanding of how Scripture applies to each. Our goal is to honor God and His Word, while avoiding both a legalistic approach and compromise with the worldly influences threatening to undermine God’s unchanging truth.

1. Can women serve as elders or pastors over men?

Why Good People Don’t Go To Heaven

Written by Pastor Steve Cole on .

hellA question I frequently ask people is, “If you were to die and stand before God and He said, ‘Why should I let you into heaven?’ what would you say?” Most people recognize that it’s a crucial question!

The answer I most frequently hear goes like this: “I’ve tried to do the best I could. I’ve never hurt anyone intentionally. I’ve been a pretty good person.” In other words, basically decent people will get into heaven. Only really bad people--thieves, prostitutes, and murderers--will go to hell.

The Basis for Christian Unity

Written by Pastor Steve Cole on .

christian-unityChristian unity is a hot topic. Here in Flagstaff, there have been a number of inter-church "Unity" services and other cooperative events which often include both Catholics and Protestants. I recently received an invitation to attend a worship service being held at the Nativity Catholic Church, where Dr. Emilio Castro, former General Secretary of the World Council of Churches, spoke on, "Together on the Faith Journey." In 1993, several prominent evangelical leaders signed a document,

Let's Stop the Rhetoric about Abortion

Written by Pastor Steve Cole on .


Pregnant-Belly-with-fingers-HePresident Clinton has voiced his opinion that abortions should be "safe, legal, and rare." I hope the American public can see this for what it is: Rhetoric. Webster's Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary defines rhetoric as "insincere or grandiloquent language." In case "grandiloquent" is not a familiar word, it means that which is marked by "lofty or pompous eloquence: BOMBAST." And, "bombast" is "pretentious inflated speech or writing." You get the idea--we're listening to a president who mouths misleading

PROMISE KEEPERS: A Perspective

Written by Pastor Steve Cole on .

the-word-is-the-swordPromise Keepers (hereafter, PK) began in 1990 through the vision of then Colorado University football coach, Bill McCartney. Aimed at discipling men, PK “is a Christ-centered ministry dedicated to uniting men through vital relationships to become godly influences in their world” (from their purpose statement). They have an orthodox, though brief, statement of faith. They have attracted ever-increasing crowds of men to stadium-filled rallies around the country. They also provide leadership seminars for pastors and lay leaders, along with various training materials (video & audio tapes, a monthly magazine, and various printed materials).

Baptism: Some Common Questions Answered

Written by Pastor Steve Cole on .

baptismBaptism is an important topic that also arouses much controversy and confusion. The decisive issue is, what does the Bible teach? I want to answer from the Bible some common questions about baptism. If you have a different understanding, I simply encourage you to study the Bible for yourself to see what it teaches (see Acts 17:11 ). Scripture alone, not church tradition, is our authoritative standard.

1. Why is baptism important?

CHRISTIANS AND PSYCHOLOGY: Some Common Questions Answered

Written by Pastor Steve Cole on .

Jesus-and-psychologyDuring the past 15 to 20 years a dramatic shift has taken place in American Christianity: Psychology has flooded into the church. Christian psychologists are now the ones many Christians primarily look to for guidance in the Christian life. Christian psychologists write many of the best-selling books and dominate much of Christian radio. Many pastors use psychological terms and concepts in their sermons.

Of Football and Love

Written by Pastor Steve Cole on .

Defense-Of-The-Green-Bay-PackersWith football season behind us (that high church holy day, Superbowl Sunday, is now past) and Valentine’s Day just ahead (as I write), maybe it’s a good time to put in a word for marriage, especially to husbands coming out of “football hibernation” (that period of winter when husbands’ bodily functions slow down as they sit for months in front of the tube watching game after game). Some of you wives may need to read this to your husband if he’s forgotten how during the football season.

The combination of football and marriage reminds me of a true story I read in Reader’s Digest. A woman married for 34 years to a coach said that she had learned that a ball game always has top priority. But one particularly frustrating day she burst out, “Frank, you’d miss my funeral to go to a ball game!”

Very calmly her husband the coach replied, “Roberta, what ever made you think I’d schedule your funeral on the day of a game?”

Mining For Gold: What I’ve Learned from Reading Christian Biographies

Written by Pastor Steve Cole on .

Hand-Giving-BibleDuring a class in my final year in seminary, Dr. Howard Hendricks said something that jumped out and grabbed me for life: “Two factors will have the greatest impact on where you find yourself ten years from now: the books you read and the friends you make. Guard them both very carefully!”

That was many years ago. I got to thinking about what, apart from the Bible, has most influenced my Christian life. I concluded that it is reading Christian biographies—the lives of the saints, as some call it. The people I have read about have become my friends, even though I won’t meet them personally until I get to heaven. Hendricks was right: the friends I have made through the books I have read have had a profound impact on my life.

Preaching is Hazardous: The Gospel Boomerang

Written by Pastor Steve Cole on .

Integrity-honor-trust-virtuePreaching, I have discovered, is a hazardous occupation.

I first learned this a short time after starting in the pastorate, when I made the mistake of preaching a series on the Christian and his money.

I did not consider the subject personally threatening. My finances were above reproach. I sought to live a simple life style. I was not in debt. I was tithing my income to the Lord’s work. I was honest on my income tax.

I also was not blind. I had seen the nice cars in the church parking lot and the VCR’s and computers in people’s homes. “These people need to learn what God has to say about this important subject,” I thought. “They’re victims of living in materialistic America.”

I chose my texts as carefully as a hunter selecting his best arrows.

The Inefficiency of God

Written by Pastor Steve Cole on .

Time-Management-ConceptAs I was speed-reading the latest book on how to be a more efficient executive, I realized that God is terribly inefficient. I say it reverently, of course. But really, the Lord could have been much more efficient in the way He administered His eternal plan. I’m not sure the Lord would do well in modern America.

We live in a culture obsessed with efficiency. We have instant everything: instant photography, instant coffee, instant copy machines, and instant information available on almost any conceivable subject. Computers can do in seconds what took a whole office full of people weeks to do a few years ago. We have the one-minute manager, oneminute Christian executive, and even the one-minute Christian father! If something is more efficient, we want it.

Separation Versus Cooperation

Written by Pastor Steve Cole on .

Graffiti-on-the-old-berlin-wallSome Thoughts on the Limits of Cooperation with Other Christians & with the World

One of the difficult issues for every Christian to work through theologically and implement practically is the degree of separation from professing Christians and from the world. All Bible-believing Christians would acknowledge that Christians are called to be in the world, but not of the world, even as our Lord was (John 17:14-17 ). He Himself had that perfect blend of grace and truth which enabled Him to be the friend of sinners without becoming stained by their sin. And He has called us to be like Him. We are to be known by our love for our fellow Christians (John 13:35 ); yet we are to come out and be separate from evil persons and activities, perfecting holiness in the fear of God (2 Cor. 6:14-71 ). We want to be known by what we witness for, not by what we witness against, and yet we must witness against certain things in order to witness for the Lord.

The Best Show in Town?

Written by Pastor Steve Cole on .

Crowd-of-peopleSay, Mary, how about if we go over to First Church this Sunday morning? I see in the paper that they’re having that famous Christian speak.”

“Well, honey, I don’t know. I noticed that Second Church is having that recently converted rock star, and I think the kids would enjoy that. And we can catch the sacred concert and prophecy film over at Third Church in the evening.”

Let’s face it: we live in a spectator society. From football to the movie theater to the ubiquitous American altar known as television, we are programmed to sit passively while the performer croons, “Let me entertain you.”

Quite often the church unwittingly caters to this mentality. We assume that we are called to compete for spectators. So we attempt to put on a better show. We advertise in the papers, we put our current attraction on our marquees, and pray for a packed house.

Christians & Politics: How shall they mix?

Written by Pastor Steve Cole on .

A-politician-is-promoting-theFrom a message preached in Crestline, California November 4, 1984 © Steven J. Cole, 1984

"It would be political suicide to give that speech," said an aide to his boss. "He's right, Senator," chimed in another aide. "It's just one clear-cut statement after another."

Perhaps I am committing pastoral suicide to dare to talk on an issue as emotionally explosive as