Most Christian leaders admit that post-ministry time is one of spiritual lows. For instance, a Pastor once told me that people should leave him alone on a Sunday night; it’s a dark time that he feels no need to share. I understand this to some degree: Biblically speaking, Satan loves to point out to God how sinful we Christians are (think: the book of Job)… lucky for us, God loves to point out to Satan how forgiven we are (think: Joshua in the book of Zechariah). Yet we, who minister, get caught up in the crossfire: the collateral damage, so to speak. If Satan shows my flaws to God (as if God didn’t know them anyway) he doesn’t get the reaction he wants. Unfortunately, when he shows my flaws to me, I react perfectly for him. I feel downtrodden… I get (to quote the Pastor) “dark.” This is why post-ministry time is best for him to strike: leaders are sinners, and we know it. Personally speaking, whenever I preach it is always from the Biblical standard, not mine. O, what a chance for the Devil! But what a chance for us too: if your life is lacking the standard you preach (which, if you’re a preacher of any worth, must be the Biblical standard) it ought to be resolved in two ways:
Recently the questions were posed to me: How did I come to believe Jesus and why do I still believe Him? In truth, I can whittle my answers right down:
How did I come to believe Jesus? The Holy Spirit (John 3:1-8)
Why do I still believe Jesus? Well… the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:28-30)
: But I believe God works these things out a little more practically. So if I were to exchange Him as my answer for something else I believe to be true I’d say this:
How did I come to believe Jesus? The Church (Romans 10:10-15)
Why do I still believe Jesus? Well... the Church (Hebrews 10:19-25)
: To state it simply, I grew up in the Church and it brought me the opportunity to believe Jesus. I would even go further than some and say that the Holy Spirit caused me to believe: all glory for my salvation goes to Him.
But the way He did so was through the Church.
The first question is not enough though. There are many people who have grown up in the Church, having had similar experiences to me, but are no longer around. So the second question becomes very important (plus it’s also Biblical!): why do I still believe Jesus? Alas, the answer is exactly the same: because of the Holy Spirit through the Church.
This answer, dear Christian, is also your answer. There’s nothing unique about my situation.
In my time I’ve had many discussions about certain worship songs and their constant infatuation with talking about the me instead of the He. To be perfectly honest there have been Sunday mornings where I’ll refuse to sing certain lines.
The reasoning is this: if I know I won’t do it… I won’t sing it.
Even if I don’t know that I’ll do it, I feel uncomfortable about singing it. And then worship is ruined. There are actually songs that exist with lyrics about “lifting my hands” and there are some Christians out there who don’t lift their hands in worship. Now, is this right? Why would a Church sing songs that cut them out? That forces them to feel uncomfortable about how they worship? Why are we constantly singing songs about what we’re going to do anyway? Why are we singing any songs about what we’re going to do? And where we're going to go? And how it’s going to be? Is worship about me and what I’m currently doing or will do?
You already know the answer.
The impression I get from the Bible is that, primarily, worship is first and foremost about God - this is worship for everyone. But then, Biblical worship is reactionary or, to say it another way, it is about the doing - this is worship for the individual.
We have confused individual, reactionary, man-focused worship with congregational, God-focused worship.
Making matters worse, many people get their theology from worship songs and, shamefully, not from the Bible. So when you have songs that go, “do-do-do,” you get a theology that goes, “do-do-do.” And, after a while, you forget to sit back and remember: ahh… it’s all done.
In summary: lame worship + Biblically ignorant people = a disaster waiting to happen.
A disaster indeed.
In the 3rd century, Cyprian of Carthage famously said, “you cannot have God for your Father unless you have the church for your Mother.” There’s much truth in that statement.
There are three types of children here:
1) The child who scoffs at his Mother while proclaiming relationship with the Father. He won’t make it.
2) The child who’s Mother mothers too much. He might make it.
3) The child who loves both. He’ll make it.
The Scoffing Hypocrite
The child who scoffs at his Mother is the hypocrite. Rather than seeing the church as fellow sinners saved by grace, people who have been born again by the Holy Spirit and cleansed from sin by the atonement of Jesus, they just see the church as fellow sinners, who are always doing something wrong (if only they would listen to his wise counsel!). There are a few reasons for this: one is a commonality; the others are differences:
1) They are not fellows
2) Perhaps they haven’t been saved by grace
3) They are sinners (the common ground)
: There’s a ridiculously obvious truth they might be escaping here: that if the church they attend apparently sucks it’s probable that maybe, possibly, I don’t know, definitely (?), means they suck too. This is Church 101, people! Almost the first thing we Christians learn about the church is this: the church is the people; the people are the church.
This is why the scoffer is the hypocrite.
He sees the church’s faults (of which there could be many) but never speaks of his own (of which there are many). He speaks of how the church should act but he… he ne-ver acts. Would you trust a “doctor” who always prescribed the medicine, and never dispensed it? That’s not a doctor; it’s a fool. Beware of this person: he is not a fellow and he has no grace to give (for perhaps he was not given grace). He is a goat at best, and a wolf at worst.
But this doesn’t mean the Mother is perfect.
Have you ever been asked the question “if God is so powerful that he can do anything, can he create a rock that is too heavy for him to lift?”
It’s a logic game, and the reasoning goes like this:
God, if he exists, is omnipotent [can do anything],
Therefore, there can be nothing that he cannot do.
if something can be found that God cannot do,
then he is either not omnipotent,
and not really God,
or he does not exist.
If God can create a rock that God cannot lift,
then there is something he cannot do [lift the rock]
if he cannot create such a rock,
then there is something he cannot do [create the rock]
therefore, in either case, he is not omnipotent,
and not really God
or he does not exist.
A lot of people consider this argument to be fair reason to disbelieve God’s existence entirely.
We need AFEW good men.
What is AFEW? I just made it up.
It stands for Alien, Fatherless, Elderly, Widow. Have you ever noticed how often the bible talks about these folks? The Old Testament has numerous instructions to have a care and respect for foreigners, orphans and widows. I have added the aged members of our society to the list because I see a common trend in the list.
Consider the culture of Old Testament Jews. People relied heavily on family. Men had a responsibility to work to provide income for their family and women had a responsibility to deal with the needs in the home. There was no welfare system; a married couple would have as many children as possible so that they could be cared for when they were too old to work anymore, and if they were suffering hardship for any reason, they would go to members of their family, parents or adult siblings for help.
What does that mean for the widow and the fatherless? A woman who had lost her husband to illness or injury had to rely on her children for provision if they were old enough to work, assuming she had any children. Otherwise she would have to go to her parents or other family members for help. If she had no family to go to she might end up being forced to become a beggar or a prostitute in order to survive, her situation became even more desperate if she had small children who also needed care. The situation was similar for children that had become orphans, and for aged people who found themselves childless and alone.
It was considered a great disgrace for the relatives of such a person if they allowed them to suffer that kind of fate without doing anything they could, even to the point of becoming beggars themselves, in order to help.
What about the foreigner? Someone who was disconnected from their homeland, customs they understand and family and friends they could rely on? Having recently spent a year as a foreigner in another country, away from so much that I was accustomed to, and with only a small number of people that I could effectively communicate with, I have some appreciation of what that feels like. What would have happened to someone in that situation if they became ill and couldn’t work? They may not have had family to count on.
If you read the book of Ruth, you can see a situation like this in which a widow, Naomi, whose sons have died, and her daughter in law , Ruth, who is a foreigner, and also a widow, are cared for by a relative, a good man named Boaz.
George Carlin, who would have to be in the top 3 comics of all-time, once said: "I wanna live. I don’t wanna die. That’s the whole meaning of life: Not dying! I figured that out by myself in the third grade."
It is a shame, then, that both atheism (which people ascribed Carlin to) and agnosticism (which his daughter ascribed him to) give up when it comes to the question of death. Most of the answers that (another atheist comic) Ricky Gervais gives are to live a good life, be a good person, and enjoy it while it lasts.
Ironically, the Apostle Paul understood such sentiments. He even said himself, 'If the dead are not raised, "let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die."'
He only understood such sentiments apart from the resurrection of Jesus. See, Jesus died... and Paul hated Him... and then he met Him. This is what led Paul away from that type of hopeless thinking. No matter how it was philosophised, atheistic or otherwise, Paul could not deal with hopelessness.
He met Hope.
I agree with Carlin. In a very humanistic sense the whole meaning of life is not dying. Totally agree. But if there is no resurrection there is no meaning to life. None. And so for Carlin to even quip about meaning or for Gervais to even advise on the good life is nonsensical.
Pain? … Good?
There’s an illustration I remember from childhood, and it goes like this (I believe it was Mick “The Brick” who shared it with us kids in Church. I’ll use his example with my words):
Suppose the nerves in your hands didn’t work, and thus you felt no pain. Sure, it might give you advantages in a boxing match (provided you don’t get slammed too often), but what about in life? Why do you need nerves, why do you need pain?
To show something is wrong.
The illustration Mick used (from memory… and if it was him in the first place) is of a person he knew that would rest his hands places he shouldn’t… for instance… a barbeque plate. Unbeknownst to him, his hand was intensely, and rapidly, depleting. If only he could feel pain. Wouldn’t that be… good.
He was reliant on others to warn him.
The big idea is this: the goodness of pain is true for every sphere of life (physical, mental, relational, spiritual, etc).
Oh, boy … how ‘bout we test this out in the world of luuuurve.
Suppose, gentlemen (or the laaa-dies, as this works both ways), that you were quite fond of a woman. But, o, how strange, it seems there’s a bountiful of pain in that process. I’d like to submit then: something is wrong.
I would also submit: something is wrong, and maybe you’re the pain. Not her.
We hear a lot about tolerance and judgmentalism in society nowadays. I think the meanings of these words have been misunderstood, and that they are worth looking at more closely. Usually we hear these words used in the context of religious and racial issues.
Firstly I guess we should look at a dictionary definition of the words, using the Cambridge English Dictionary that is on the stand within arm's reach of my PC:
Tolerance, n. the quality of being tolerant; toleration; endurance.
Tolerant, a. Ready to tolerate; enduring; indulgent; favouring toleration.
Tolerate, vt. To allow or permit; to treat with forbearance; to put up with; to allow religious freedom to.
Toleration, n. Act of tolerating; allowance given to that which is not wholly approved; recognition of the right of private judgment in religion.
Judge, vi. To act as a judge; to pass sentence; to form an opinion; to estimate. -- vt. To hear and determine; To examine into and decide; To try; To esteem.
Judgment, Act of judging; Good sense, Discernment; Opinion or estimate; Mental faculty by which man (sorry girls, that's just what it says) ascertains the relations between ideas; sentence pronounced; A calamity regarded as a punishment of sin; Final trial of the human race.
Judgementalism is actually not in this dictionary, or any other I can find.
Judgmental can be found in a few places, but non-judgmental is easier to find... found it on Cambridge Dictionary online.
non-judgmental adj. If a person or thing is non-judgmental, they do not judge or criticize: a non-judgmental book/counselor. (The Samaritans is an organization that provides a 24-hour, non-judgmental listening service.)
So what's the point? Let's have a look at tolerance. Notice that allowing religious freedom is added at the end of tolerance – this is most likely in response to recent trends in the way the word is being used.
Christians are often criticised for being intolerant. What I understand this to mean is that we should accept and allow people to believe what they choose to believe, and not condemn them for disagreeing with us. Feel free to disagree with me if you like, but this is what I understand people to be saying to us when they accuse us of being intolerant.
It is a principle that our society seems entirely willing to embrace, that each person should be allowed to believe whatever they choose, whether it be that Jesus is God, and the only Way by which a person can go to heaven, or that the sky is green and Tuesdays are a figment of the collective unconscious' desire to be more closely aligned to the nature of the seven most malodorous types of cheese. What you choose to believe doesn’t matter, that you are free to choose it does, or so I am led to understand.
I have no problem with this principle. I believe, as I have stated elsewhere, that people must be able to think for themselves and make their own choices. Every person is free to believe as they choose, and should be willing to be responsible for those choices and stand by them. Christianity is founded on that principle. People must choose for themselves whether or not they will follow Christ. Christianity also has at its core that any human being who does not know Christ will therefore end up in hell on the basis of their choice to not follow Him who is the only Way to come to the Father. It's pretty simple really.
So is it intolerant of me to say that a Muslim will go to hell because they don't know Christ? Am I denying them their right to believe in their god or their scriptures? No.
Am I stopping them from participating in any part of their faith by making this statement? No.
Am I forcing them to change their mind and become a Christian? No.
Do I agree with them about the actual value of believing what they believe? Also no.
If I truly believe that Christ is the only Way, as He said He was, then I must believe that any other way is futile.
Do they agree with me when I say that Jesus is God, and the only Way to the Father? No.
As I understand it, the Muslim belief regarding Jesus is that He was just an ordinary human prophet like Moses and Elijah, and that the only true God is rightly called Allah (the Arabic word that simply means god), and not Yahweh (Jehovah is a mistranslation of the Old Testament name of God – it’s a long story).
Our two beliefs are mutually exclusive. If either of them is ultimately true, then the other is simply not. There can be no road between. Are we intolerant of each other? At times perhaps we are, but ideally we both recognise the other's right to believe as they choose. In essence, they have the right to be wrong if they like, but if they want to change their mind they also have the right to do so, and will be welcome to join us if they do.
The problem with the word tolerant is two-fold; firstly, the word implies putting up with something unacceptable, which is close enough to the truth, but it suggests that the other person's right to believe differently is unacceptable, which cannot be our attitude, and secondly, it is used to mean acceptance of the other's ideas as valid and true for them, which implies that all religion is relative and subjective, and ultimately it doesn't matter which is true. This also cannot be our attitude.
Each step she took
She takes one look
Left, right, to the world
Each eye she meets
The story she greets
Her mistakes, many
Every step the heart aches
Accusing eyes, she looks within
Accusing eyes cause for sin
To the Groom, no sway
Meet His eyes
She did step, she trusted Him
Who dare accuse the bride
Who is the Father’s pride
Of whom the Father gift the Son
To whom all things on earth belong
A strange arrangement
He calls her
No speech, she’s in His reach
A Friend walks the aisle
Comfort to glide
And, o, with joy
And the Groom can’t believe His eyes