Post-Flood Church Services

August 23, 2016 at 3:55 pm | Posted in Social Media Shares and Mass Emails, The Flood | 4 Comments
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

It didn’t take long. The good feelings and perceived unity generated when people of various skin colors, ethnic backgrounds, political persuasions, and economic classes put their differences aside and came together to help each other survive and rebuild after a catastrophic flood, started eroding faster than the banks of the tributaries and bayous around the Amite River – beginning on the following Sunday morning.

It seems that some local churches, despite doing everything they could to help their church members (our first obligation) and neighbors, and despite devastation to their own buildings, managed to clean out enough debris, and to dry out the mold-producing moisture just enough, to have a worship service to thank the Lord for sparing us from what we truly deserved (greater damage and destruction) and to praise Him for Who He is.

Some of the complaints sounded like this:
“I can’t believe they are having a church service while people are hurting and need help!”
“People need their homes cleaned out, while these so-called ‘Christians’ are singing and praying!”
“Jesus would be helping people. He wouldn’t be attending church after a disaster!”

I will admit that the church I attend was one of the ones that did have a Sunday morning church service on the Sunday after the flood. We did not have one on the Sunday of the flood, because on that Sunday our church building was in the middle of a newly-formed lake roughly the size of our whole parish, and because our church building had several feet of water inside it! Before the flood waters had even finished rising our church members were out rescuing people and trying to help. Two of our pastors and our church secretary lost their homes and most of their possessions, along with about 75% of the residents in our parish, including many of our church members and families. Those of us who barely stayed dry began to provide shelter, food, and clothing, and began the time-consuming and costly process of debris removal and salvage for those without flood insurance. A huge percentage of the homes affected were in “non-flood” zones, and therefore did not have flood insurance. And, yes, many of us worked hard on our church building, too, since it is our ministry headquarters, and since we believe that, as good stewards of the property that God has given us to manage, we owe a duty to protect it so it can be used for future ministry – including the most important part of ministry: the proclamation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We also needed the property to be a staging area for the distribution of food, clothing, and other necessities.

That Sunday morning service was special. People with dire physical needs came and were helped. They also received comfort and were helped spiritually. For this we do not apologize.

Many of our church members went right back to work that same day, helping each other and others in our community. Anyone who would begrudge us ninety minutes of prayer, singing, preaching, and worship after one of the busiest and most traumatic weeks of our lives, has greatly misunderstood what the Bible teaches about the purpose of the Church.

He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens, that he might fill all things.) And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:

Ephesians 4:10-12

Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.

Hebrews 10:25

As for this idea that, by trying to preserve our church building and by having a church service while others were working on their homes, we were doing what Jesus would not have done, let me remind you to be very careful playing the “WWJD” card that has become so fashionable in “Pop Christianity.” People tend to be very selective and biased in claiming to know what Jesus “would” do, when, in reality, we are far better off looking in the Bible and seeing what Jesus actually did do.

No offense, but the family who lost literally every worldly possession they had in the flood, but who live in 21st Century Livingston Parish, Louisiana, is still far better off than a Jewish family, under Roman occupation, in 1st Century Nazareth on their very best day. Yet:

And when they had fulfilled the days, as they returned, the child Jesus tarried behind in Jerusalem; and Joseph and his mother knew not of it. But they, supposing him to have been in the company, went a day’s journey; and they sought him among their kinsfolk and acquaintance. And when they found him not, they turned back again to Jerusalem, seeking him. And it came to pass, that after three days they found him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the doctors, both hearing them, and asking them questions.

Luke 2:43-36

He was “in the temple.” Not helping other families carry their belongings, not providing food and water. In the temple.

Now when Jesus was in Bethany, in the house of Simon the leper, There came unto him a woman having an alabaster box of very precious ointment, and poured it on his head, as he sat at meat. But when his disciples saw it, they had indignation, saying, To what purpose is this waste? For this ointment might have been sold for much, and given to the poor. When Jesus understood it, he said unto them, Why trouble ye the woman? for she hath wrought a good work upon me. For ye have the poor always with you; but me ye have not always.

Matthew 26:6-11

Jesus did not condemn those who gave their resources to be used in worshiping Him, even though there were always poor people who could be helped with material and physical needs.

People read about Jesus healing on the Sabbath and going about the countryside helping and miraculously feeding people, and they somehow get the idea that Jesus would be opposed to church attendance, but:

And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all manner of sickness and all manner of disease among the people.

Matthew 4:23

Jesus did both. He attended worship services and He ministered throughout the land. Do you think there were people who were not hungry, who did not need help, while He was teaching and preaching? Of course there were! It is a peculiar brand of legalism which condemns Christians for focusing on church when a disaster strikes, but gives the critics a pass when things are normal. If you are tempted to criticize our church for having worship services during a flood recovery effort, you also need to be just as hard on yourself for preparing for a Spartan race or taking a family vacation while there are homeless people living under bridges in Baton Rouge and beggars on every street corner in New Orleans. Self-righteous hypocrisy can cut both ways, can’t it? I would not condemn those who skipped church that Sunday morning, under these exceptional circumstances, so they could bless people in need, but neither would I criticize those who assembled to worship.

Finally, as our pastor pointed out on that first Sunday morning after the flood, we do have something of a Biblical precedent. Noah, upon exiting the ark with his family and the surviving animals – before he began rebuilding and even before they began repopulating – made a point of stopping to worship:

And Noah went forth, and his sons, and his wife, and his sons’ wives with him: Every beast, every creeping thing, and every fowl, and whatsoever creepeth upon the earth, after their kinds, went forth out of the ark. And Noah builded an altar unto the Lord; and took of every clean beast, and of every clean fowl, and offered burnt offerings on the altar. And the Lord smelled a sweet savour; and the Lord said in his heart, I will not again curse the ground any more for man’s sake; for the imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth; neither will I again smite any more every thing living, as I have done.

Genesis 8:18-21

The King’s Trial, Execution, and Victory

July 22, 2016 at 1:36 pm | Posted in Matthew | 3 Comments
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

There came unto him a woman having an alabaster box of very precious ointment, and poured it on his head, as he sat at meat. But when his disciples saw it, they had indignation, saying, To what purpose is this waste? For this ointment might have been sold for much, and given to the poor.

Matthew 26:7-9

The Disciples accused the woman with the alabaster box of wastefulness, but Jesus defended her. The one who was really guilty of “wastefulness” was Judas Iscariot, whom Jesus called the “son of perdition.” Judas wasted his opportunities, and betrayed his Master. He was not a martyr or an innocent tool of providence. He thought that he could “use” his place in the earthly ministry of Jesus for profit. Remember, things are to be “used;” people are to be “saved.” Things “used up” for the glory of Christ are not “wasted.” The King will be loyal to those who truly worship Him.

In Matthew Chapter 27 the King was placed on trial. The charges were: misleading the nation; forbidding the paying of taxes; and claiming to be king, as shown in Matthew 27:11-26. This third charge is the one that Pilate dealt with because it could have been a threat to the Roman Empire.

Pilate found no fault, because he understood that Jesus was claiming to be King of a Kingdom “not of this world.” However, Pilate chose to yield to the people and not to the true King.

At this point, King Jesus demonstrated His meekness and submission and strength. For His willingness to submit and for the strength that allowed Him to endure this tremendous, indescribable humiliation, we who know Him as Savior shall be eternally giving thanks.

He saved others; himself he cannot save. If he be the King of Israel, let him now come down from the cross, and we will believe him.

Matthew 27:42

It was ironic for the people to claim that they would like to have a king who would save himself and not others. That’s how warped their idea of kingship had become.

Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land unto the ninth hour. And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? that is to say, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? Some of them that stood there, when they heard that, said, This man calleth for Elias. And straightway one of them ran, and took a spunge, and filled it with vinegar, and put it on a reed, and gave him to drink. The rest said, Let be, let us see whether Elias will come to save him. Jesus, when he had cried again with a loud voice, yielded up the ghost.

27:45-50

Jesus was crucified at what we would consider to be 9:00 a.m. He was on the Cross for three hours until noon. At noon darkness covered the land – not a coincidental eclipse or a sandstorm, but a supernaturally produced darkness. Then it was dark for three hours. To the extent such a thing can be said to have occurred in “time,” this is believed to have been the time when Christ was “made sin.”

And the LORD said unto Moses, Stretch out thine hand toward heaven, that there may be darkness over the land of Egypt, even darkness which may be felt. And Moses stretched forth his hand toward heaven; and there was a thick darkness in all the land of Egypt three days:

Exodus 10:21-22

My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? why art thou so far from helping me, and from the words of my roaring? O my God, I cry in the daytime, but thou hearest not; and in the night season, and am not silent.

Psalm 22:1-2

Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in his hand.

Isaiah 53:10

The King’s victory was yet another proof of His Kingship. In earthly governments, such as the Roman Empire of that time, it is common to see the principles of realpolitik and “might makes right,” but with God His might and His right flow from His Divine nature, so that He can never be overcome by, or with, wickedness.

In the end of the sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, came Mary Magdalene and the other Mary to see the sepulchre. And, behold, there was a great earthquake: for the angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat upon it. His countenance was like lightning, and his raiment white as snow: And for fear of him the keepers did shake, and became as dead men. And the angel answered and said unto the women, Fear not ye: for I know that ye seek Jesus, which was crucified. He is not here: for he is risen, as he said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay.

Matthew 28:1-6

The angel sat upon the rock, bearing witness to the King’s Resurrection, but we bear witness today by standing upon the Rock and speaking forth the truth of Scripture.

Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen.

Matthew 28:19-20

The King commands us to be active, making not just converts, but also disciples: making learners and doers. We are not called to be, or to make, mere spectators.

How Tall Was Jesus?

October 21, 2011 at 10:20 am | Posted in Bible Studies, Biblical Teaching, Luke, Q&A | 20 Comments
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

When I first became the teacher of an adult Sunday School class my biggest worry was that somebody in class would ask a question for which I didn’t have an answer. So I would tend to “over-study” in preparation for class. Even if we were going to be covering something really simple (Does Jesus say you should love your neighbor?) I would be prepared to do a complete exegesis on the Olivet Discourse and to defend my position on infralapsarianism versus supralapsarianism – just in case. Well, after a few weeks, I stopped worrying about that. I came to realize that I had more pressing concerns than somebody asking a difficult question and putting me on the spot. My bigger concerns had to do with just trying to keep everybody awake for 35 minutes – or trying to make sure the people who preferred the chairs to be arranged in a circle didn’t physically attack the people who preferred to sit classroom-style. Instead of being afraid that someone would ask a difficult question, I actually began to hope that anyone would ask anything – which would at least indicate that someone was listening or had read the lesson. Finally, it happened.

A particular fellow stayed after class one Sunday morning and came up to me as I was shuffling my notes back into my folder. Oh boy, I thought, maybe he wants to know about modalism or the Sabellian controversy! But instead he said in a gruff voice, “Hey you’re one of them Christians – one of them ‘church people.’ How tall do you think Jesus was?”

Of course, I had no idea. And although I don’t think Jesus’s height bears a tremendous significance on the essentials of the Christian faith, I did promise to study the matter and get back to him.

And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man.

Luke 2:52 (emphasis added)

From the time Jesus was 12 years old He “increased in stature.” Presumably, this means that He “grew up” physically. So, however tall He was at 12, we can assume He got taller as He got older. The last part of that verse, which says “with God and man,” appears to apply to the part about Him growing “in favor,” but I suppose it might also apply to “increased in stature.” If Jesus grew “in stature with other men,” that would not tell us definitively how tall He was, but it would lead us to suppose that He reached an “average” height – similar to other men.

And they crucified him, and parted his garments, casting lots: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, They parted my garments among them, and upon my vesture did they cast lots.

Matthew 27:35 (emphasis added)

The Roman soldiers cast lots (gambled) for Jesus’s clothing after He was stripped and crucified. They did this partly to fulfill Old Testament prophecy, but it is unlikely that the soldiers in their own minds even knew this prophecy, much less that they knew the Divine hand of God was causing them to fulfill it. It is also unlikely that they cast lots hoping to win a valuable souvenir or a Roman Catholic “relic.” More likely, they were hoping to obtain some free clothing. (Clothing was relatively expensive back in those days.) From this, we might infer that Jesus was physically around the same size as the average Roman soldier.

In that same hour said Jesus to the multitudes, Are ye come out as against a thief with swords and staves for to take me? I sat daily with you teaching in the temple, and ye laid no hold on me.

Matthew 26:55

When Jesus was arrested, He pointed out to His persecutors that He had been among them openly, and the fact that He referred to His teaching as the means by which they might have recognized Him and arrested Him sooner, rather than by His physical appearance, may mean that there was nothing especially noteworthy about the way He looked.

Then took they up stones to cast at him: but Jesus hid himself, and went out of the temple, going through the midst of them, and so passed by.

John 8:59

It is possible that when Jesus escaped being stoned in the Temple He supernaturally camouflaged Himself, but it is also possible that, during the confusion, He simply blended in with the crowd and got away, which, if He was of average height and appearance, would not have been terribly difficult to do.

For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.

Hebrews 4:15

If Jesus, during His earthly life, was tempted in all the ways in which we are tempted, might not that have included the temptation that comes with being made fun of for how we look? This does not really tell us anything about His height, but it does tend to support the idea that Jesus was not especially physically attractive. We know from the Gospel records that He was not a wimp, but He was gentle. Great stature (height or size) is usually associated in the Bible – especially in the Old Testament – with sin or great wickedness. (See Genesis 6:4-5; Numbers 13:30-32; I Samuel 17:4.)

These are only clues at best, but it seems that there was nothing glaring or especially attractive about Jesus’s physical appearance.

For he shall grow up before him as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground: he hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him. He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not.

Isaiah 53:2-3 (emphasis added)

Regardless of whether Jesus was tall or short according to the standards of His day, we know that God looks at men’s hearts more than their outward appearance. Jesus was a giant when it came to righteousness and love. He did not intimidate people with His physical size. He was “tall enough” to bear our sorrows, griefs, and sins and to nail them to His Cross.

While we don’t have a detailed description of the physical appearance of Jesus during His days on earth, we do have something of a description of how He will look when He returns to set things right once and for all:

His head and his hairs were white like wool, as white as snow; and his eyes were as a flame of fire; And his feet like unto fine brass, as if they burned in a furnace; and his voice as the sound of many waters.

Revelation 1:14-15

By the way, that explanation did not satisfy my friend who stayed after class to ask me about it, and I suppose he went down the road to another church where the preacher got “a rhema word from God” and told him without a doubt that Jesus was five foot eleven and a half. Oh well, you can’t win ’em all.

The True Shepherd Vs. The Evil Shepherd

May 3, 2010 at 10:27 am | Posted in Zechariah | 10 Comments
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

In Chapter 10 Zechariah revealed the image of the flock and the evil shepherd.

For the idols have spoken vanity, and the diviners have seen a lie, and have told false dreams; they comfort in vain: therefore they went their way as a flock, they were troubled, because there was no shepherd. Mine anger was kindled against the shepherds, and I punished the goats: for the LORD of hosts hath visited his flock the house of Judah, and hath made them as his goodly horse in the battle.

Zechariah 10:2-3

In Chapter 11 he preached an “action sermon” about the true Shepherd.

Three shepherds also I cut off in one month; and my soul lothed them, and their soul also abhorred me.

Zechariah 11:8

He got rid of three unfaithful shepherds. Shepherds carry a crook (for guiding) and a rod (for protecting).

And I took my staff, even Beauty, and cut it asunder, that I might break my covenant which I had made with all the people. And it was broken in that day: and so the poor of the flock that waited upon me knew that it was the word of the LORD. And I said unto them, If ye think good, give me my price; and if not, forbear. So they weighed for my price thirty pieces of silver. And the LORD said unto me, Cast it unto the potter: a goodly price that I was prised at of them. And I took the thirty pieces of silver, and cast them to the potter in the house of the LORD.

Zechariah 11:10-13

When Zechariah quit, they only paid him 30 pieces of silver, the price of a slave. He got disgusted and gave it to a potter in the temple. This reminds us of Judas who sold out the Great and True Shepherd for the same price, and wound up buried in a potter’s field.

Matthew attributes this prophecy to Jeremiah.

Then was fulfilled that which was spoken by Jeremy the prophet, saying, And they took the thirty pieces of silver, the price of him that was valued, whom they of the children of Israel did value;

Matthew 27:9

The reason may be that Jeremiah is the major prophet and Zechariah was a minor prophet, or it may be that Zechariah referred to Jeremiah’s prophecy when he did what he did.

A foolish shepherd does not feed his flock.

And the LORD said unto me, Take unto thee yet the instruments of a foolish shepherd. For, lo, I will raise up a shepherd in the land, which shall not visit those that be cut off, neither shall seek the young one, nor heal that that is broken, nor feed that that standeth still: but he shall eat the flesh of the fat, and tear their claws in pieces.

Zechariah 11:15-16

Instead he feeds himself with the flock, which is a mark of the Antichrist.

Contrast the true Shepherd:

Awake, O sword, against my shepherd, and against the man that is my fellow, saith the LORD of hosts: smite the shepherd, and the sheep shall be scattered: and I will turn mine hand upon the little ones.

Zechariah 13:7

This prophecy is fulfilled when Jesus is referred to as equal with God.

Then saith Jesus unto them, All ye shall be offended because of me this night: for it is written, I will smite the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock shall be scattered abroad.

Matthew 26:31

But all this was done, that the scriptures of the prophets might be fulfilled. Then all the disciples forsook him, and fled.

Matthew 26:56

This also refers to the scattering of the Jews after A.D. 70 when Rome destroyed the temple.


Entries and comments feeds.