The Command, Calling, and Consequences of Following the Christ

June 17, 2019 at 10:06 am | Posted in John | Leave a comment
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Jesus is often referred to as “Jesus Christ,” but Christ is not Jesus’s last name. If Jesus of Nazareth even had such a thing as a “last name” during His earthly ministry it would have probably been something like “Jesus Ben Joseph” or “Jesus Bar Joseph,” “ben” or “bar” meaning “son of.” Most of the people Jesus encountered would have thought Him to be merely the son of Joseph, rather than the Son of God. “Christ” is more of a title than a name. Jesus was the Christos, which was the Greek term for the Hebrew “Messiah.” He was “anointed” with the grace of God. The title “Christ” tells us that He is divine, but that He was also the prophesied human Savior, from the seed of Eve and Adam, descendant of Abraham and Jacob (renamed Israel), prefigured by Moses, of the line of David, who would qualify for David’s earthly throne while at the same time being David’s Heavenly Lord.

And he brought him to Jesus. And when Jesus beheld him, he said, Thou art Simon the son of Jona: thou shalt be called Cephas, which is by interpretation, A stone.

John 1:42

This is how Peter got the name by which he would become known.

The day following Jesus would go forth into Galilee, and findeth Philip, and saith unto him, Follow me.

John 1:43

Why was such a pedestrian, seemingly-lackluster recruiting pitch so effective? A request or even a command to “follow me” has never been in short supply in the world among those who would seek to use others for profit, fame, power, even companionship, benevolence, or team-building. The typical response to an unadorned “follow me” would be: “Why?” “For what?” “Where?” “What’s in it for me?” or even “No.” The secret to Jesus’s success with this method though, I believe, is not in the “follow.’ The key is in the “Me.” A God-revealed understanding of Who Jesus is makes the “follow” almost superfluous and unnecessary as a command. When the eternal Son of God, the Savior of mankind, the Creator of the universe, the deliverer of your nation, reveals Himself to you, and you truly grasp the import of Who He is and what this revelation means, how could you NOT follow Him? How could they not become literal “disciples” – people who walked around behind a “Master” or Rabbi, an itinerant teacher, listening and learning, and trying to imitate Him? He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life: a path, a person, and a purpose.

Now Philip was of Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter. Philip findeth Nathanael, and saith unto him, We have found him, of whom Moses in the law, and the prophets, did write, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph. And Nathanael said unto him, Can there any good thing come out of Nazareth? Philip saith unto him, Come and see.

John 1:44-46

Nazareth was a disreputable place, ordained as the birthplace and hometown of Jesus, perhaps in order to prepare Him in His childhood for a life of mockery, rejection, and humility.

Jesus saw Nathanael coming to him, and saith of him, Behold an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile!

John 1:47

It’s possible that Jesus was making an ironic statement when He referred to Nathanael as being without guile and therefore a true Israelite, since the Jewish people have historically been stereotyped as being especially shrewd in their business dealings, but He was also referencing those who would believe the truth about Jesus as being the true descendants/heirs of Jacob, and therefore Abraham. The true Israelites are manifested by faith in the Messiah rather than by their birth and ethnicity.

The Insidious Appeal to Superficial Excitement

June 14, 2019 at 10:17 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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Back in the hey-day of the so-called “seeker sensitive movement,” churches tried all sorts of embarrassing promotional methods to “reach people where they are.” Programs (disguised under the name “outreach” in many cases), modeled on successful business-growth strategies, were instituted to try to make church services as innocuous and “un-church-like” as possible, so that lost people would feel entertained or a least comfortable enough to attend. Numbers went up, but true conversions and sanctification did not.

This strategy has now been denounced by some of its key founders, but it has not died completely, and it has been adopted in surprisingly subtle and devious (and patently unbiblical) ways. One area where it has recently seen a resurgence is in so-called “survivor” or “recovery” start-up ministries. These ministries are often led by a charismatic individual with some type of character-scandal in his past that would disqualify him from leading a sound Biblical church. A good example of this is a man named “Pastor” Greg Locke, whose rants I often see posted on the social media accounts of otherwise discerning Christians. I used the scare quotes around “pastor” because I don’t believe he’s qualified to be an actual pastor, having left his wife for his church secretary. Locke has hit on a successful formula, though. Using what appears to be his cell phone, he often makes vain “selfie videos,” with his face close-up in the screen, touching on hot-button political or cultural issues like gender-neutral bathrooms or millennial kids who badmouth their own parents. He is absolutely fanatical in his devotion to President Trump, and thereby appeals to a group of people who love conservative politics as much as or more than Jesus.

Whereas the original seeker-sensitive methods targeted the “unchurched,” this new variation goes after other churches’ members. They will try to lure away an existing church’s assistant or associate pastor, looking for someone who’s disgruntled, overly proud and stubborn, and resistant to the senior pastor’s authority, but still weaselly enough to make it seem like he’s getting a raw deal as he pouts off to adopt some sort of “co-pastor” title under the stronger, more manipulative leader of the new recovery ministry.

Once that has been done, the members of the assistant pastor’s former church will be systemically targeted and lured away into this new ministry. The method for convincing church members that the grass is greener is to make it seem like the new start-up ministry is more “exciting,” more “alive” than where they are. As I mentioned in a previous post, it helps if the leaders can claim special private revelations from God authorizing their behavior. Next, they will pull out the old “dead religion” card. “Is your church boring? We will really hoot and holler in our services! Does your preacher just preach from the Bible, trusting the Word of God, rather than raw emotionalism, to change people’s lives? Not us! Our preacher will run around, waving his arms, and even stand on a chair [ignoring the fact that he does it so predictably every time he preaches that it’s obviously staged for effect]. Look, we’ve dropped our former denomination’s name from our ministry title, because it carries ‘baggage’ in the minds of wishy-washy non-serving Christians! We don’t even use the word church in our name!”

This new ministry targets supposedly “hurting people in the pew” of other churches, so it has to really play up to the squishy “church-is-about-my-feelings” crowd. Sure, the terminology is dressed up in cliched Christianese, but it’s fairly easy to spot for anyone with Biblical discernment. Here are some examples:

1. “At our services, God will touch your heart.”
Number of times “touched my heart” is the Bible: 0

2. “At our services, the Lord will speak to your spirit.”
Number of times the Bible says that the Lord spoke to someone’s spirit: 0

3. “At our services the Holy Spirit will wrap his arms around you.”
Number of times in the Bible that the Holy Spirit wrapped His arms around anyone: 0

4. “At our services, the Holy Spirit shows up in a special way.”
Number of times the Bible describes the Holy Spirit in a post-Pentecost New Testament worship service as showing up in a special way: 0

5. “At our services the preacher gets a hold of God.”
Number of times the Bible describes a preacher getting a hold of God: 0
[What this really means is that the preacher starts his sermon by telling the congregation to open their Bibles to a Bible verse, but then going on a long tirade or series of personal anecdotes without ever actually exegeteing the verse. He will also, for dramatic effect, claim that, “I’ve been working on a message for several days, but the Holy Spirit just won’t let me preach it. He just now gave me this instead…”]

 

 

 

It’s a formula that sadly works on many weaker church members, inducing them to leave a church with a high view of Scripture and the real transforming work of the Holy Spirit, for a fake sideshow of manufactured enthusiasm, featuring a carnival barker masquerading as a preacher, serving up heavy doses of people-pleasing pablum to folks who would rather be entertained than equipped to serve.

Is Cremation Allowed?

June 12, 2019 at 9:07 am | Posted in Q&A | Leave a comment
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Question: Does the Bible say that cremation is allowed?

Answer: The Bible – to the best of my knowledge – doesn’t specifically forbid or authorize cremation. In the vast majority of instances, the bodies of dead human beings in Biblical accounts were buried, rather than burned, although there are a handful of instances of burned bodies in the Bible. Because the Bible offers no specific commands on the subject, I would not be comfortable in saying that cremating the body of a deceased loved one is a sin. Faced with a choice, and the ability to afford a burial, I would go with the burial, simply because – as stated above – it seems to have been the preferred method during Bible times, and because burying a body whole seems to more properly symbolize our hope of bodily resurrection, as emphasized in I Corinthians 15.

Having said that, it is also necessary to point out that there will be a bodily resurrection of believers whose bodies were cremated, were donated to medical schools to be used as cadavers, were blown to smithereens in turkey-fryer explosions, were completely decomposed, were melted in hot lava, were “sawn asunder” (Hebrews 11:37), and were eaten by sharks. How will God resurrect a body which has disintegrated and been blown by the four winds of the four corners of the earth? I have no idea, but it won’t be difficult, because – you know – He’s God.

And Sometimes Y

June 10, 2019 at 1:17 pm | Posted in Luke | Leave a comment
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In elementary English, children learn that the vowels are A, E, I, O, U… “and sometimes Y.” In a previous lesson I looked at the “vowels of hell.” In addition to the devil’s “kingdom” being a.ctual, e.nergetic, i.ntelligent, o.rganized, and u.nited, I will now add that it is “sometimes y.oked.”

Yoked means attached. The kingdom of Satan is sometimes attached to a lost person (possession), or, as pointed out by Jesus, in some cases it is attached to a “movement.”

And when the people were gathered thick together, he began to say, This is an evil generation: they seek a sign; and there shall no sign be given it, but the sign of Jonas the prophet.

Luke 11:29

The sign of Jonah was that he was swallowed by a fish or a whale, and vomited up on dry land. When he preached, people repented. Jesus told the crowd that their generation was evil because they were seeking signs when the greater-than-Jonah was right there in front of them!

For as Jonas was a sign unto the Ninevites, so shall also the Son of man be to this generation.

Luke 11:30

Jonah was “buried” and “resurrected,” in a sense, but Jesus is greater. He actually died and actually come back to life.

The men of Nineve shall rise up in the judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it: for they repented at the preaching of Jonas; and, behold, a greater than Jonas is here.

Luke 11:32

There is a “movement” today which is sometimes (“sometimes Y”) yoked with satanic influence. This movement says that you don’t need to accept that Jesus is real unless you are seeing signs and wonders. Those of us who recognize this error in the charismatic and the “Word Faith” prosperity movement have to be careful, too, though, that we don’t fall prey to Satan’s influence in more subtle ways:
-“I lost my job, so what’s the point of continuing to go to church?”
-“I’ll start praying, but I better see some results.”

Let’s not be part of what Jesus called a “wicked” generation.

The Competition

June 7, 2019 at 10:17 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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In a previous post I looked at the importance of the word “for” which begins the well-known verse, John 3:16. There is another “for” which continues building on these ideas in the next verse.

For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.

John 3:17

In what sense will Jesus – Who we know has been given all authority in Heaven and in earth, including the authority (Matthew 28:18: “all power”) to judge and condemn (Acts 17:31) – not condemn? Answer: In the sense that those who do not believe on Him are condemned already.

He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.

John 3:18

After cleansing the Temple in Jerusalem, and after His encounter with Nicodemus, Jesus and His disciples went out into the Judean countryside.

After these things came Jesus and his disciples into the land of Judaea; and there he tarried with them, and baptized.

John 3:22

This makes it sound like Jesus was personally baptizing people, but:

(Though Jesus himself baptized not, but his disciples,)

John 4:2

It seems likely that Jesus authorized His Disciples to baptize new converts, but did not actually do the baptizing with His own hands. The Apostle Paul often left the actual baptizing to others as well (I Corinthians 1:14).

Jesus, in His earthly ministry, fulfilled, but also exceeded, the Old Testament types which pointed to Him.

Then there arose a question between some of John’s disciples and the Jews about purifying.

John 3:25

Jesus had exceeded the Old Testament Tabernacle and Temple water pots when He changed the water into wine at the wedding in Cana. He had exceeded the Old Testament locations of worship as the meeting place between man and God as demonstrated when He cleansed the Temple. He fulfilled the Old Testament prophecy of the necessity of the water-spirit birth as He preached to Nicodemus. Now a specific group of Jews, possibly led by one man, questioned John’s practice of baptizing for ritual cleansing those who were already Jewish by birth, custom, and faith, and, as a part of their challenge, they saw an opportunity to try to drive a wedge of division between John the Baptist and Jesus.

And they came unto John, and said unto him, Rabbi, he that was with thee beyond Jordan, to whom thou barest witness, behold, the same baptizeth, and all men come to him.

John 3:26

The phrase “all men come to Him” is a provocative exaggeration. Obviously not “ALL” men were going to Jesus, nor had “ALLmen gone to Him instead of John, but the numbers were changing. Jesus’s ministry was growing and John’s was shrinking.

How competitive are you? Just as one spouse is often introverted and the other extroverted; just as one is often neat and the other messy; just as one is often extravagant and the other a tightwad: often the Lord will put together one competitive spouse and one who could care less about “winning.” Do you love to win? Do you hate to lose? Are you happy for others when they succeed where you have failed? Does it bother you that people might think poorly of you in comparison to someone else? Somebody thought that John the Baptist might experience a couple of these reactions when confronted with the rising influence of Jesus’s ministry over his, so they decided to confront him about it.

Competition is not, in and of itself, a bad thing. Sporting contests just aren’t much fun unless both sides are trying to win – to beat the other side. However, as shown in I Corinthians, competition in Christian ministry can be a dangerous and damaging thing. Soulwinning is not a contest. Who has the “best” Sunday School class probably should not be a competition. But human nature, which since the Fall has a strong bent toward pride, likes to be first, to get attention, to get credit, to feel superior – so you can’t look at this group of Jewish instigators and think, “Did they REALLY suppose John the Baptist would be jealous of Jesus??” Even reading it today, we catch ourselves thinking that we couldn’t totally blame him if he was – but remember:

For I say unto you, Among those that are born of women there is not a greater prophet than John the Baptist: but he that is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he.

Luke 7:28

Jesus didn’t say this about John as a form of flattery. Here was John’s response to the suggestion that Jesus was better than Him:

John answered and said, A man can receive nothing, except it be given him from heaven.

John 3:27

This may seem to you, in the cold analytical light of merely academic Bible study, to be something of a “duh” statement. In a universe ruled over by a sovereign omnipotent God, OF COURSE we only get what He gives… and we don’t get anything He DOESN’T give us, but does this (true) maxim hold a central place in our minds “all day, every day?” Possibly not. Otherwise we would never get jealous, and we would always only rejoice when something good happens to HIM or HER, and something “bad” happens to ME. Jeremiah 9:23 and I Corinthians 4:7 remind us to ask: “Why do I glory in wisdom or might if they are only gifts?” Every good and perfect gift comes from the Father of Lights (James 1:17).

Ye yourselves bear me witness, that I said, I am not the Christ, but that I am sent before him.

John 3:28

Although John was known as the Baptizer, he could call anyone who had listened to his preaching as a witness to answer the question: “What has been the main thrust of my ministry? What I am all about?” If honest, they would have had to answer that John’s main message was: “The Messiah is coming, and He’s now here, and I’m not Him.”

This would be a great motivation in our evangelism. Any time we go to visit someone who does not know Jesus we can tell them, “I’m the one who came to see you, but I didn’t come to tell you about myself, and I want you to meet someone else that I hope you will soon know, love, worship, and obey. You will like Him a lot better than me, and that’s exactly what I want!”

He that hath the bride is the bridegroom: but the friend of the bridegroom, which standeth and heareth him, rejoiceth greatly because of the bridegroom’s voice: this my joy therefore is fulfilled.

John 3:29

Can you imagine the best man at a wedding trying to steal the bride, or being angry once the couple says their “I do”s? John’s job was almost done, and he had done it in a great way. He had been successful. His mission was fulfilled, so he was full of joy. That’s why we mustn’t read the next verse as melancholy resignation:

He must increase, but I must decrease.

John 3:30

John was not bummed out. He was stating a fact, and he was celebrating the accomplishment of a great momentous occasion.

The Lord Our Righteousness

June 5, 2019 at 1:25 pm | Posted in Jeremiah | Leave a comment
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Josiah reigned for 31 years and had been relatively good king. Three of his sons and one of his grandsons were the last four kings of Judah, but they were all wicked. Jehoahaz (also known as Shallum) only ruled for three months before the Egyptian pharaoh (Necho) took him to Egypt where he died.

For thus saith the LORD touching Shallum the son of Josiah king of Judah, which reigned instead of Josiah his father, which went forth out of this place; He shall not return thither any more: But he shall die in the place whither they have led him captive, and shall see this land no more.

Jeremiah 22:11-12

Jehoiachim (also known as Eliakim or Johoiakim) ruled for eleven years before he died.

Therefore thus saith the LORD concerning Jehoiakim the son of Josiah king of Judah; They shall not lament for him, saying, Ah my brother! or, Ah sister! they shall not lament for him, saying, Ah lord! or, Ah his glory! He shall be buried with the burial of an ass, drawn and cast forth beyond the gates of Jerusalem.

Jeremiah 22:18-19

Jehoiachin (also known as Jeconiah or Coniah) ruled for three months before Nebuchadnezzar conquered him and took him to Babylon where he died.

As I live, saith the LORD, though Coniah the son of Jehoiakim king of Judah were the signet upon my right hand, yet would I pluck thee thence; And I will give thee into the hand of them that seek thy life, and into the hand of them whose face thou fearest, even into the hand of Nebuchadrezzar king of Babylon, and into the hand of the Chaldeans.

Jeremiah 22:24-25

Zedekiah, the last king, saw Jerusalem destroyed. The Babylonians killed his sons and then blinded him. He died in Babylon, too.

Out of the survivors of the Babylonian conquest, though, Jeremiah promised a Messiah.

Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will raise unto David a righteous Branch, and a King shall reign and prosper, and shall execute judgment and justice in the earth. In his days Judah shall be saved, and Israel shall dwell safely: and this is his name whereby he shall be called, THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS.

Jeremiah 23:5-6

Yahweh Tsidkenu means “the Lord our Righteousness,” and He would be a king descended from King David who would execute judgment and justice in the earth, but how would that be a comforting promise? A righteous king and a just judge would punish the unrighteous, and that’s exactly what we are. The comfort is found in the word “OUR.” This king would somehow clothe us with His righteousness, and, even more to the point, He would BE our righteousness. He would execute justice upon Himself in our place, and transfer to us His righteousness, effectively trading places with us until the wrath of God against us was satisfied. We know Him more particularly as Jesus Christ. What a Savior!

Surrender or Die

June 3, 2019 at 2:19 pm | Posted in Jeremiah | Leave a comment
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Jeremiah Chapters 21-24 are not necessarily in chronological order after the time of Jeremiah’s life and ministry that have been described in the immediately preceding chapters, but they show that the kings of Judah during Jeremiah’s time WERE aware of his ministry. Around 588 B.C. the Babylonian army surrounded Jerusalem. King Zedekiah had attempted to secure an alliance with Egypt, but when he did not pay tribute to Babylon, Nebuchadnezzar was provoked into invading.

The king sent for Jeremiah, probably desperate for hope that Yahweh would intervene and rescue, but Jeremiah remained consistent, prophesying only judgment and wrath.

Thus saith the LORD God of Israel; Behold, I will turn back the weapons of war that are in your hands, wherewith ye fight against the king of Babylon, and against the Chaldeans, which besiege you without the walls, and I will assemble them into the midst of this city. And I myself will fight against you with an outstretched hand and with a strong arm, even in anger, and in fury, and in great wrath.

Jeremiah 21:4-5

The King and the officers would be captured and executed, but many people could survive by surrendering.

And unto this people thou shalt say, Thus saith the LORD; Behold, I set before you the way of life, and the way of death.

Jeremiah 21:8

Note that obeying God is the way of life – the only way. Going any other way – disobeying God – is a way of death, and there are a million “other” ways.

He that abideth in this city shall die by the sword, and by the famine, and by the pestilence: but he that goeth out, and falleth to the Chaldeans that besiege you, he shall live, and his life shall be unto him for a prey.

Jeremiah 21:9

The sword, famine, pestilence (disease), and surrender had been previously given as choices, although none of them were “good” choices. All these were in keeping with the curses of the Deuteronomic covenant, but those who would go go out and fall down (surrender) before the Chaldeans would at least be spared. They would give their “life for a prey” – they would give up their freedom in exchange for continuing to breath. Surrender to God’s Word and His will would result in mercy. Rebellion against God and refusal to surrender to Him would mean conquest by earthly enemies who would delight not in mercy, but in subjugation, punishment, humiliation, and death. God does not want a partnership with rebels. He wants pride-destroying capitulation and total dependence on Him.

Poisoning the Wells

May 30, 2019 at 10:38 am | Posted in Social Media Shares and Mass Emails, Uncategorized | 1 Comment
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“Poisoning the well” is a term that refers to the attempt to strike first in an argument by creating a false dichotomy in which anyone who disagrees with a position has been labeled as having ill motives or some character defect by which they should be prejudged and should have their position disregarded. It is a type of logical fallacy – a sort of ad hominem attack-in-advance, and is often used – especially on social media – by those who are overly defensive and passive-aggressive. Here are some examples in the context of someone who is trying to start a new Christian ministry by attacking and dividing an existing one:

1. “We should pray for people, not criticize them.” This statement is intended to create the false and illogical assumption that anyone that criticizes anyone else’s ministry or ministry position can not be praying for them at the same time when, in fact, prayer, correction, and even rebuke, often go hand in hand in the Bible, and were often used by Jesus and the Apostles themselves (Luke 9:29, 55; Jude vv.17-20).

2. “I’m too busy praying about my sins to gossip about yours.” This piece of self-righteous drivel combines hypocrisy with virtue signaling. You are “too busy” to gossip, but not too busy to graphically design a sophisticated social media meme every day in order to proclaim your piety in comparison to your critics, who you’ve prejudged as idle gossips? This imaginary get-out-of-pride-free-card insults not only the motives, but the intelligence, of those with the ability to address division and false doctrine in a Biblical way. This is the equivalent of a spoiled elementary school brat folding his arms, pooching out his pouty lower lip, and saying, “If I criticize you it’s because I’m a humble and deeply repentant servant, but if you criticize me it’s because you’re just a mean old gossip-monger!” Double standard much?

3. “Some people just like to find fault!” Not the person who says this, though, right? Certainly this innocuous and bland statement of practical observation is not directed at those who are criticizing your methods and ministry, is it? Because if it were, then you would be quite the little fault-finder yourself, wouldn’t you? News flash: people who are serious about applying God’s Word in Christian ministry are capable of spotting, identifying, calling out, and warning against fault without “liking” it one bit. In fact, it grieves them to do so, although it is a clear Biblical calling for those with discernment (Matthew 16:22-23; II Timothy 2:14-19).

4. And, speaking of “calling,” a common tactic for those who are very selective in their use of “D words” while poisoning one ministry’s wells in the attempt to start a new ministry is to claim a divine mandate that overrides any opposing views. Among our Charismatic friends, this is called “having the anointing” or “getting a rhema word.” The Roman Catholic church calls it “papal infallibility” or “speaking ex cathedra.” Even the Blues Brothers adopted a form of it:

Blues Bros

But in Baptist and more conservative evangelical circles, those types of statements are deemed just a tad too outre’, so instead they are disguised under statements like: “God gave me this burden;” “God told me to start a new church;” “God laid it on my heart;” “God gave me this vision,” and so forth. Who are you to criticize God? This poisons the well of Biblical debate and criticism because it claims a special divine revelation to which only one party is conveniently privy. What if the Bible says you are disqualified from the title you’ve given yourself? Too bad, God told me it was okay. What if you are in rebellion against God’s visibly ordained pre-existing spiritual leaders? Too bad, God spoke to my heart, I’m just an aw-shucks country preacher trying to start a sketchy seeker-sensitive “temple,” “chapel,” or “worship center” (the best marketing studies show that flaky Christians absolutely hate the word “church”) in the local strip mall. How dare you question God’s anointed!

Things God Prepared in the Book of Jonah: A Worm and a Wind

May 24, 2019 at 10:34 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment
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In the Book of Jonah:

1. God prepared a great fish.
2. God prepared a gourd.
and
3. God prepared a worm.

Jonah was glad for the gourd that God prepared to provide shade, but he did not take advantage of the opportunity to repent. Therefore, the next morning God prepared a worm to take away Jonah’s shelter.

But God prepared a worm when the morning rose the next day, and it smote the gourd that it withered.

Jonah 4:7

Compared to the great fish which God had prepared to swallow Jonah, a little gourd-blighting worm seems like such a small consequence, but Jonah needed to be reminded just how inconsequential even God’s “greatest” servants are once they forget how great their God is and how truly dependent upon Him they really are. The Bible calls Job, David, and the patriarch Jacob and the nation descended from him worms. I have found, when preparing to preach the Gospel in public that Jonah 4:7 (“…God prepared a worm…”) is good verse upon which to meditate, as a reminder that what I’m about to attempt – proclaiming the glory of the Savior – is something at which I will fail miserably unless God manifests His own power through – or even in spite of – me.

4. God prepared a wind.

And it came to pass, when the sun did arise, that God prepared a vehement east wind; and the sun beat upon the head of Jonah, that he fainted, and wished in himself to die, and said, It is better for me to die than to live.

Jonah 4:8

Finding himself without shade on a scorching day, we might expect that a stiff breeze would bring Jonah at least a little relief, but it was not so with this special prepared vehement wind blowing in with the heat from the rising sun, and taking away all of Jonah’s strength to the point that he wished to die. Under extreme duress, God’s servants sometimes need a realistic experience of the fear of literal death to remind them of the necessity of dying to self spiritually in order live in the power of God. We tend to think of death as an ending, but God sometimes uses the death of self-confidence, self-reliance, and self-sufficiency to prepare us for a new beginning on the road to spiritual victory.

 

How to Deal with Flaky Church Attenders?

May 22, 2019 at 1:41 pm | Posted in Q&A | 1 Comment
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Question: Okay, so… there’s this couple that used to come to church faithfully for a long time, but then they stopped coming. Their church friends tried to encourage them, but nobody could really get a straight answer about why they stopped coming to church. They would just sort of mumble about not feeling connected, or going to a different church, or feeling let down by such and such church leaders, and things like that, but they wouldn’t be specific. People kept trying to follow up and encourage them for a long time, but finally just accepted that they weren’t coming back. Now, once in while, maybe a couple of times a year, out of the blue, they show up on a Sunday morning, and all their old church friends just go nuts. They fawn all over them, and tell them how glad they are to see them, and make a really big deal out of the fact that they’re back, but the next Sunday they’re not there again, and it may be five or six months before they’re seen again. My question is this: Is it right to make such a big deal over them when they show up, or should people just be polite, but have more of a wait-and-see attitude, unless they come for at least two or three weeks in a row?

Answer: That’s a tough question. I know it is disappointing when people leave the church for superficial reasons – especially young married couples who really need the blessing of fellowship and service in the Body of Christ. And, yes, it can be frustrating when (from a personal standpoint) it looks like people that we care about are being flaky about church attendance. However, it probably wouldn’t be wise to try to put a damper on anyone’s enthusiasm over their friends showing up at church – even if it can be kind of a set-up for disappointment. There may be a temptation to judge the motives of the couple you are describing as being attention-seeking, and to try the tactic of ignoring them when they come to church to see if they will come for several straight weeks until they satisfy their desire to be noticed, but I can’t find any Biblical support for that sort of judgmental speculation or pragmatism, and it’s usually not wise to judge someone’s inner motives. Probably the best thing to do is be happy when they do come to church, keep praying for them, and try to be happy for the people who are absurdly overjoyed to see them. Romans 12:15 says that we need to rejoice with those who are rejoicing (unless they are rejoicing in something evil – I Corinthians 13:6), so that seems to be the best attitude to have in this situation.

[One caveat is that there are people who wish they could come to church WITHOUT being noticed or fawned over, so when a big deal is made about the fact that they finally showed up, it has the opposite effect of making them not want to come back, but I honestly do not know how to combat that attitude. We can’t reasonably ask friendly church members to ignore guests or former members, and when friendliness is seen as a detriment instead of a benefit, there’s not much we can do about that.]

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