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The Freed-Hardeman University Chorale sings — and signs — at the conclusion of Tuesday night lectures.
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Photo by Erik Tryggestad

A Revelation (or two) at Freed-Hardeman

Christian university's Bible lectureship explores the many applications of a misunderstood book.

HENDERSON, Tenn. — Revelation is a New Testament book that a lot of us try to avoid.

But within the apostle John’s visions of lions, lambs, dragons and beasts are valuable lessons about worship, sexual sin and ever personal finance.

Freed-Hardeman University students and lectureship participants sing during a Wednesday morning chapel service in Loyd Auditorium.

Freed-Hardeman University students and lectureship participants sing during a Wednesday morning chapel service in Loyd Auditorium.

That’s what I’m learning at the 88th annual Bible Lectureship at Freed-Hardeman University. I’m also getting the chance to catch up with some friends I haven’t seen in years and to follow up on some stories we’ve run in The Christian Chronicle.

The lectureship continues through Thursday night. Here’s a sampling of what I’ve experienced so far:

• Does Heavenly Music Dictate Earthly Worship? That’s the question Hiram Kemp, a minister for the Lehman Avenue Church of Christ in Bowling Green, Ky., tackled during his class. A lot of us in Churches of Christ have preconceived notions about this, Kemp said, but he encouraged us to “put those away and let John speak for himself.”

Hiram Kemp speaks during an afternoon class in Loyd Auditorium at Freed-Hardeman University.

Hiram Kemp speaks during an afternoon class in Loyd Auditorium at Freed-Hardeman University.

John filled Revelation with allusions to history, Kemp said, noting that there are some 280 references to the Old Testament in the book, though no direct quotes. It’s almost like “God is playing his greatest hits” from books including Daniel, Zechariah and Ezekiel, he said.

One example of this type of imagery, Kemp said, is Revelation 14:2: “And I heard a voice from heaven, as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of a great thunder: and I heard the voice of harpers harping with their harps.” If we introduce harps into worship because of this passage, should we also then introduce incense bowls? And should we start eating scrolls? Both of those are mentioned in Revelation as well. Kemp encouraged Christians to “leave the harps in heaven.”

The message of Revelation is that “the distance that stands between you and heaven, it won’t always be there. This is a dress rehearsal for eternity.”

Regardless where we stand on the use of instruments in worship, focusing on the harps misses the point John is trying to communicate about heavenly music, Kemp said. Throughout the book are references to singing. Songs stick with people, he said, adding that the Song of Moses and the Lamb sung by the redeemed is “not just an earworm, it’s a soul worm!”

With open Bibles, participants in the Freed-Hardeman Bible Lectureship listen to Hiram Kemp speak on "Does Heavenly Music Dictate Earthly Worship?"

With open Bibles, participants in the Freed-Hardeman Bible Lectureship listen to Hiram Kemp speak on “Does Heavenly Music Dictate Earthly Worship?”

“We must never apologize for worshiping the way the New Testament says we should,” Kemp said. Neither should we think of a cappella worship as “just singing,” he added. “It’s singing from someone who’s been redeemed, longing for (God’s) presence.” Is that how we worship?

Earthly worship is “a kind of spiritual FaceTime,” he said, referencing the popular cellphone app. The message of Revelation is that “the distance that stands between you and heaven, it won’t always be there. This is a dress rehearsal for eternity.”

@christianchronicle HENDERSON, Tenn. — “There is, beyond the azure blue …” Partiricpants in the 88th annual Bible Lectureship at Freed-Hardeman University sing “Our God He is Alive” (formerly No. 728b in church hymnals), jokingly refered to as the “national anthem of Churches of Christ.” The weeklong event’s theme is “Triumph of the Lamb: The Battle with Evil in Revelation.” #freedhardemanuniversity #freedhardeman #biblelectures #ourgodheisalive #728b ♬ original sound – The Christian Chronicle

• Revelation and global missions was the topic of Mark Reynolds’ talk. The minister for the Towne Acres Church of Christ in Muncie, Ind., went four verses down from Kemp, citing Revelation 14:6: “And I saw another angel fly in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach unto them that dwell on the earth, and to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people.”

I never saw this verse as a call to global evangelism. I’ve always equated it with end-times prophecy. But Reynolds showed how it applies to the here and now. He also traced the Lord’s love for all peoples throughout the Old Testament. He chose to work through the children of Israel, but in Exodus 19:5-6 God said, “Although the whole earth is mine, you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.” The children of Israel were to be God’s witnesses to everyone they encountered — a “light for the Gentiles,” as recorded in Isaiah 49:6.

The Freed-Hardeman University Chorale sings — and signs — at the conclusion of Tuesday night lectures.

The Freed-Hardeman University Chorale sings as Kate Fitzgerald signs “The Prayer of the Children” during a performance after the Tuesday night keynote.

God’s children find a lot to bicker about and fight over these days, Reynolds said. He cited Acts 11:18, when the Jewish Christians realized that “even to Gentiles God has granted repentance that leads to life.”

“This is huge!” Reynolds said. If Jewish and Gentile believers could cooperate in the early days of the church, “then we ought to be able to get together.”

In addition to preaching, Reynolds serves as assistant director for international schools at Bear Valley Bible Institute, which has 63 international schools that train church leaders around the globe.

• I missed Brandon Lanciloti’s presentation on “Why Churches Need Really Good Internal Controls” but Doug Peters heard it. Peters, executive director of Heritage 21 foundation, treated me and Lanciloti, assistant dean and assistant professor of accounting at Freed-Hardeman, to dinner at the Blacksmith Restaurant in nearby Jackson.

From left, Brandon Lanciloti, Doug Peters and Erik Tryggestad enjoy dinner at the Blacksmith Restaurant in Jackson, Tenn.

From left, Brandon Lanciloti, Doug Peters and Erik Tryggestad enjoy dinner at the Blacksmith Restaurant in Jackson, Tenn.

I got to learn about Lanciloti’s ministry to preachers — he helps them with contracts, money management and taxes — and churches. We talked about how congregations, regardless of size, can become victims of fraud and con artists. I’m hoping to follow up with him to get some best financial practices for churches.

Having studied Revelation, I realize how much the book has to say about the dangers of economic powers that can distract and even enslave us, turning us away from God.

@christianchronicle HENDERSON, Tenn. — The Freed-Hardeman University chorale sings “Triumph of the Lamb,” a song composed by associate professor of music Alan Kinningham for the university’s 88th annual Bible Lecturship, which continues through Thursday. #revelation #fhu #freedhardemanuniversity #biblelectures #triumphofthelamb ♬ original sound – The Christian Chronicle

• Andrew Phillips, pulpit minister for the Graymere Church of Christ in Columbia, Tenn., spoke on “The Church’s Struggle with Evil — The Church That Tolerates Wrong,” focusing on the messages to the churches in Pergamum and Thyatira in Revelation 2. The Lord doesn’t mince words in that chapter, referring to “the sword of my mouth” and “that woman Jezebel” — both of which the book’s readers would immediately understand, Phillips said.

When dealing with sin, we’re tempted to “deny the concept,” he said, defaulting to an “I’m OK, you’re OK” mentality. Or we focus too much on the conflict. We sometimes highlight the criticisms that the apostle Paul makes of the early church, but in his own analysis Phillips found that only in a very small percentage of Paul’s admonishments does he name individual people. And his compliments far outnumber his criticisms.

We should “recognize the reality of false teaching,” Phillips said, but we also should “allow God to guide the response,” recognizing that “the goal is repentance.”

Julie and Mike Aldrich

Julie and Mike Aldrich

• Between sessions I got to meet Mike and Julie Aldrich, a couple from Florida who turned a car wreck into an opportunity for evangelism.

Last year the couple, members of the West Broward Church of Christ in Plantation, Fla., got into an accident with Craig Washington and his fianceé, Anna, who were on their way to get married. Mike Aldrich prayed with the couple and offered to drive them to the courthouse.


Related: Across the Nation: ‘All-Church VBS,’ a car wreck that led to baptism and more quick takes


The couple got married — and, eventually, baptized. Meanwhile, Mike Aldrich retired after working as a chief plant operator for Naples, Fla., and as a volunteer firefighter. He and his wife wanted to be a part of the Freed-Hardeman community, so they stepped out in faith and moved to Henderson, not knowing for sure what they’d do. Now the empty nesters serve as residency supervisors in FHU’s Benson Hall, which means they basically have 144 kids.

But they love it, Mike Aldrich said. Several of the young men from the dorm have led prayers or read Scripture during the lectureship, and he feels like a proud parent. Julie Aldrich added that she’s been amazed at how she’s seen God’s hand at work, opening doors for them.

And speaking of doors, the Washingtons remain active in the West Broward church, attending “every time the doors are open,” she said.

• Teaching our kids about God’s design for sex isn’t easy, said Colt Mahana. But too often we’re sending the message that “sex is bad” and we’re robbing creation of its beauty.

Colt Mahana speaks on "Running from Sexual Temptation and Running to God" during a Wednesday morning lectureship class at Freed-Hardeman.

Colt Mahana speaks on “Running from Sexual Temptation and Running to God” during a Wednesday morning lectureship class at Freed-Hardeman.

Mahana, assistant dean for spiritual life at Faulkner University, spoke on “Running from Sexual Temptation and Running to God.” He cited 2 Timothy 2:22, in which Paul tells the young minister to “flee the evil desires of youth.” But “aimless running is not helpful,” he said.

We live in a “hookup culture” that saturates us with potential triggers that point us toward sexual sin, Mahana said. We need to talk with our kids about those triggers.

We also need to be forgiving, he added. Sexual sin can lead some to believe that they are unworthy of a spouse and might as well just keep on sinning. “There is hope,” Mahana said. “They can heal. Give them a path forward.”

Filed under: Bible lectures biblical vision for sexuality church finances Freed-Hardeman Freed-Hardeman lectures Freed-Hardeman University Global church Insight National Partners prophecy Revelation Sexual stewardship Stewardship Top Stories

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