Blog Archives

A Biblical defense for online worship

As the COVID-19 coronavirus spreads around the world, government agencies are encouraging people not to gather in large groups, including movie theaters, concerts, sports events and houses of worship. However, many Christians have questioned whether it is appropriate for the government to tell them not to meet for worship. I believe there is solid Biblical grounds for Christians to meet only online for a season. Here are five reasons:

Online worship is meeting together! Hebrews 10:25 says not to forsake meeting together, which is why so many churches are meeting online! God’s word is still being preached, and Christians are staying in touch through this venue. Insisting that meeting together can only be allowed a certain way in times of crisis is legalism. Jesus said to worship in “spirit and truth” (John 4:24), and the apostle Paul reminds us to avoid legalism, living by the Spirit, not the letter (Romans 2:29). The good news is, that in today’s world, a small church with one cell phone can broadcast for free on Facebook Live. We can still gather together!

Online worship doesn’t tempt God. The devil tempted Jesus to jump from the pinnacle of the temple, to show His faith that the angels would protect Him. Jesus responded, “Do not test the Lord your God” (Matthew 4:5-7; Deuteronomy 6:16). COVID-19 is a highly contagious disease; risking exposure is not a faith that pleases God; it is tempting God.

Online worship is sound judgment. Yes, 2 Timothy 1:7 says God doesn’t give us a spirit of fear, but the same verse also says that God gives us sound judgment. Every medical expert in the world advises people to avoid physical gatherings right now. Let’s use sound judgment and listen to the experts.

Online worship is good citizenship. Romans 13:1-4 tells believers to submit to the governing authorities, who work for our good. Our government agencies have asked this of us for our good. This is not a religious persecution—people of faith are not being singled out. Online worship shows our respect for both God and the government.

Online worship shows love to our neighbors. Jesus reminded us in Matthew 22:39 that the second greatest command is to love our neighbors. If we insist on our rights to meet in groups, and then infect many around us who spread it to others in our neighborhood, we have violated this command. Don’t think this is not a real possibility. Just one patient, known as “patient31,” attended Shincheonji Church of Jesus, a mega-church in Daegu, South Korea, and she exposed 1,160 people at the church, which led to 2,418 people being exposed around that church’s neighborhood. Online worship is a way to love our neighbors.

Admittedly, online worship or even worship while “social distancing” should not be promoted as a permanent replacement for gathering physically together. After all, the Lord’s Supper just isn’t the same without being in the same room (although my church is going to observe the Lord’s Supper simultaneously online). Ecclesiastes reminds us that there is a “season for everything,” including “a time to embrace and a time to avoid embracing” (Ecclesiastes 3:5b). In this “time to avoid embracing,” online worship is a way for the church to, as my pastor, Dr. David Whitten says, “love God, love people, and serve both.”

What have you learned about pain and suffering?

After seven weeks of teaching my Bible class about dealing with pain and suffering, today I asked them, “What is the biggest take away you have learned about suffering?” As they talked, I began to summarize their thoughts on the whiteboard. Here is a list of their comments:

*We grow in faith through suffering.

*Suffering can be used as a testimony to glorify God.

*A diamond is formed under pressure; likewise, suffering develops character.

*Suffering is a process, and you have to let the process work you into a diamond. If you quit on God too soon, you just become a lump of coal.

*In the Holy Land, olives were pressed and crushed in a vat, making olive oil. Likewise, God allows us to suffer pressure, and God produces good things in our lives from it.

*We experience God’s presence in suffering– it draws us closer to God.

*Suffering forces us to make choices– will we be better or bitter?

*We must learn to see suffering in perspective: it is temporary and light compared to the eternal weight of glory God has for us (2 Corinthians 4:17)

*We are able to relate to others with similar suffering, and comfort them. (2 Corinthians 1:4).

*Suffering requires us to be obedient to share the lessons we learned with others, even though we might prefer to talk about other subjects. But when we talk about it, it helps others.

Five things Christians cannot do without the church

Article copyright by Bob Rogers

As a hospital chaplain, I often meet people who believe in God but don’t believe in the church. Some are angry with the church, and many just don’t have any motivation to be connected to a church. They are fed up with the hypocrites. I get that– I have been one of those hypocrites, and perhaps you have, too. They are tired of church fights. I get that, too. One guy told me, “I can catch hell at home; I don’t need it at church.”
Yet I submit that we need the church. (I’m talking about the people, not a building. The early church met in houses, and many churches meet in homes today.) In fact, there are at least five spiritual practices that a Christian cannot appropriately do without the church.

1. We can’t use our spiritual gifts without the church. The Bible teaches that the Holy Spirit gives spiritual gifts to all believers, but it is always in the context of the church. Romans 12:5-6 talks about how we are all part of the body of Christ as we have different gifts. It says in 1 Corinthians 12:7-12 that every believer is given a spiritual gift for the common good, because we are all part of the body of Christ. Prophesying, teaching, serving, giving, leading, showing mercy, and so many other spiritual gifts are either done among members of the church or together with members of the church.
2. We can’t show we are disciples without the church. Jesus said, “By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35). We are told to serve each other, teach each other, feed each other, pray for each other, encourage each other. I may know I’m a disciple but I can’t show I’m a disciple if I sit at home alone and don’t show love for fellow believers. No wonder Hebrews 10:25 commands believers not to forsake gathering ourselves together, but instead to encourage each other.

3. We can’t experience God’s greatest presence without the church. Matthew 18:19-20 tells Christians to agree together in prayer, and where two or three are gathered that way, God is there. God is real in private prayer, but this is a clear scriptural promise that God is present in a greater way when we pray together. No wonder the Psalmist proclaimed, “Better a day in Your courts, than a thousand anywhere else!” (Psalm 84:10).

4. We cannot appropriately pray the Lord’s Prayer without the church. Jesus gave us this beloved prayer, found in Matthew 6:9-13 and Luke 11:2-6, as a model on how Christians should pray. The repetition of the words “our” and “us” throughout the prayer is constant reminder that Jesus taught us to pray with other believers and for other believers. While a Christian may certainly pray this prayer alone, we cannot continue to pray this prayer with sincerity and remain alone.
5. We can’t take communion without the church. By definition, the Lord’s Supper is meal of Christians gathered together to remember the body and blood of Christ given for us upon the cross. In 1 Corinthians 11:17-26, the apostle Paul continually uses the phrase “come together” to describe observance of the Lord’s Supper. It says in 1 Corinthians 10:17 observes that by sharing the bread of communion, Christians are expressing their unity: “Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread.” Since we cannot take communion without expressing unity with the church, it follows that refusal to express communion with the church is a refusal to express communion with Christ.

Christ died for the church.
Christ is the builder of the church.
Christ is the head of the church.
Christ is the shepherd of the church.
Christ is the groom for His bride, the church.
Christ is coming again for the church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against His church!

How the Gospels contradict the “prosperity gospel”

Article copyright by Bob Rogers.

The Gospels contradict the “prosperity gospel.” The Gospel According to Matthew, Mark, Luke and John directly contradict the Gospel According to Kenneth Copeland, Creflo Dollar, Oral Roberts and Joel Osteen.

What do I mean by the “prosperity gospel”? Costi Hinn is the nephew of Benny Hinn, who made millions of dollars preaching this heresy (although he recently renounced it). Costi Hinn defines “prosperity gospel” teaching this way: God wants you to be healthy, God wants you to be wealthy, God wants your life to be comfortable and easy. If you don’t get these things, it is because of your “negativity” and lack of faith. (Costi Hinn, God, Greed and the (Prosperity) Gospel, Zondervan, 2019, p. 141). But is this what the Bible teaches? No! From Genesis to Revelation, the Bible teaches otherwise, but let me simply give five important verses from the Gospel writers themselves:

Matthew 5:10, NIV: “Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Jesus begins the Sermon on the Mount by reminding His followers that they might be poor, or mourn, or even be persecuted, but that will ultimately be a blessing in the kingdom of heaven. (The apostle Paul adds in 2 Timothy 3:12 that “everyone” who follows Jesus “will” –not might– be persecuted.)

Matthew 16:24, CSB: “Then Jesus said to his disciples, ‘If anyone wants to follow after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.’” (See also Mark 8:34-38; Luke 9:23). Just to clarify, Jesus is not talking about a 24 karat gold cross necklace.

Mark 10:21, CSB: “Looking at him, Jesus loved him and said to him, ‘You lack one thing: Go, sell all you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.’” That doesn’t exactly sound like Jesus always wants us to be wealthy, does it?

Luke 16:25, NIV: “But Abraham replied, ‘Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here and you are in agony.’” Uh, oh! According to Jesus’ story of the rich man and Lazarus, the “good things” in this life belonged to the bad guy, and the “bad things” belonged to the good guy. This inequality wasn’t corrected until the afterlife. Abraham reminded the rich man of it– perhaps Abe needs to also remind Kenneth Hagin.

John 16:33, NIV: “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” Could Jesus be any clearer than that? Of course, prosperity preachers will twist these words, implying that Jesus was promising you could “overcome the world” by getting healthy and wealthy here and now if you just send enough “seed” money to their ministries so they can buy a jet and go sell this to some more people. But the best interpreter of scripture is scripture, not Reverend Ike. Thus, Paul says, “It has been granted to you on Christ’s behalf not only to believe in him, but also to suffer for him” (Philippians 1:29, CSB).

Following Jesus doesn’t mean you have no problems– it means you have new problems from those who oppose Jesus. But Jesus encouraged us to take heart that we would overcome, not because we would get something now, but that later. Al Mohler said it best: “In the end the biggest problem with prosperity theology is not that it promises too much, but that it promises far too little.” We have overcome the world, because Jesus Christ is not focusing on this world: He has in store for His followers a new heaven and new earth, where there is no more grief, crying, or pain (Revelation 2:4). And that’s the gospel truth!

The reassurance of Jacob’s ladder

Copyright by Bob Rogers.

“We are climbing Jacob’s ladder,” repeats the beloved spiritual. “Every rung goes higher higher.” The last verses urge, “Keep on climbing, we will make it,” and finally asks, “Do you want your freedom?” I can just hear Southern slaves singing this as they pick cotton and dream of liberty from oppression. It must have seemed that God was not there, but they found hope in a vision of escaping one day.

Yet when we read the beloved story of Jacob’s ladder in Genesis 28, we find a reassurance not just for the future, but for right now. Jacob had left his father Isaac and mother Rebekah in Canaan, and was on a journey to see his relatives in Mesopotamia, and to find a wife.

Ancient pagans thought that a god only dwelled in the land where he was worshiped. If you left that territory, you also left that god. So what a surprise, when Jacob got a vision in a foreign land, of a stairway from the earth to heaven, and angels going up and down it. Then the Lord himself spoke, “I am the LORD (Yahweh), the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac” (Genesis 28:13). The God of Jacob’s father’s was not limited to a territory! The Lord continued “Look, I am with you…” (Genesis 28:15.

In amazement, Jacob named the place Bethel, meaning house of God, and said, “Surely, the LORD is in this place, and I did not know it” (Genesis 28:16).

What a reassurance to us when we feel that we are in a god-forsaken place, that there is no god-forsaken place, for God is omnipresent, always present, always here. He is not limited by time, place, or circumstances. Look around and see what God is doing right here, right now. Surely, the Lord is in the place where you are, but do you know it?

The women in Jesus’ family tree

The Gospel of Matthew opens with the family tree of Jesus, from Abraham through Joseph and Mary. In typical Hebrew fashion, it lists the men, not the women, who “begat” (KJV) or “fathered” each son. Yet of the 42 generations listed, Matthew inserts references to four women other than Mary, the mother of Jesus: Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, and Bathsheba (who is only called “Uriah’s wife”). Why are these women mentioned?

Matthew is writing to a very religious Jewish audience, and by inserting these names in the genealogy of the Messiah, he is showing us two encouraging truths.

All our welcome. All of the women were foreigners: Tamar was a Canaanite (Genesis 38:6), Rahab was from Jericho (Joshua 2:1-22), Ruth was from Moab (Ruth 1:4), and Bathsheba was a Hittite (2 Samuel 11:3). To a Jewish audience, he was reminding the Chosen People that God welcomes all people to follow Jesus as the Messiah and Savior of the world.

He came to save sinners. Three of the women were notorious for sexual sin. Tamar seduced her father-in-law Judah (Genesis 38), Rahab was a prostitute (Joshua 2:1), and Bathsheba committed adultery with King David (2 Samuel 11-12), which is why she is referred to by Matthew as “Uriah’s wife,” as a reminder of that adultery.

No wonder the angel said to Joseph in Matthew 1:21, “She will give birth to a son, and you are to name Him Jesus, because He will save His people from their sins.”

I’m so glad Jesus’ genealogy included those four women, because it reminds me that He includes me, a non-Jewish sinner in need of a Messiah and Savior.

Charles Spurgeon said in commenting on Matthew 1:21, “The first link between my soul and Christ is not my goodness but my badness, not my merit but my misery, not my standing but my falling, not my riches but my need. He comes to visit his people– not to admire their beauties but to remove their deformities, not to reward their virtues but to forgive their sins.”

Getting a 2020 Vision

Copyright by Bob Rogers.

I recently had my annual check-up with my eye doctor. She said that my left eye needed a stronger prescription. The goal is 20/20 vision, so I got new contact lenses and eyeglasses. With the onset of the year 2020, I expect we may hear many people talk about having a “2020 Vision.”

One of the most popular verses in the Bible about vision is the promise of Jeremiah 29:11: “’For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’” While we may only see a sea of sorrow around us, in this verse God says that He sees hope over the horizon– a seashore where we will safely land. Knowing this future is coming gives us hope to hang on.

However, there is a danger of taking this verse out of context. God is not a cosmic Santa Claus promising to hand out candy-coated lives without consequences. He is a holy God calling us to repentance. Notice that after the promise of “a future and hope” in verse 11, we read some requirements for its fulfillment in verses 12-14. The Lord says to call on Him in prayer, and He says to seek God “with all your heart,” and then you will find God and He will “end your captivity and restore your fortunes.” Thus, the vision is for those who seek out God and follow Him. In fact, Jeremiah 44:27 warns those who rebel against God that the Lord will be “watching over them for harm, not for good,” the exact opposite of Jeremiah 29:11.

In addition, the first part of this chapter gives a broader perspective to the vision of verse 11. God is not a quick-stop dispenser of immediate happiness; He seeks faithful followers who run the race of faith like a marathon, not a sprint. Notice that the earlier verses in Jeremiah 29 say that they would be going into exile in Babylon for 70 years—so long, in fact, that God told them to settle down in that new place, for they would be there a long time. Yet after telling them that the immediate future looked bleak, God said that He had plans for a hope-filled future! The same God who rescued them from slavery in Egypt after 400 years would rescue them from exile in Babylon after 70 years, and He will rescue you and me at the right time.

Don’t let this bigger picture of Jeremiah 29:11 leave you feeling in the dark. Instead, throw open the windows of your heart and mind to the light of a greater vision of what it means. It means much more than a surface-level promise for fleeting fun—it is a deep, abiding promise for an eternal faith in the Eternal God who has promised eternal life through faith in His Son, Jesus Christ (John 3:16). That is “a future and a hope” worth waiting for and living for, in 2020 and beyond

On Drew Brees and being indispensable

Article copyright by Bob Rogers.

It was the second game of the 2019 football season, and the New Orleans Saints were looking to get revenge on the Los Angeles Rams, the team that had eliminated them from going to the Super Bowl the previous year in a controversial game featuring a no-call by the refs.

Instead of getting revenge, the unthinkable happened. The Saints’ future Hall of Fame quarterback, Drew Brees, injured his thumb on his throwing hand, causing him to be sidelined for that game and for weeks on end. Backup quarterback Teddy Bridgewater finished the game, but the Saints lost to the Rams. Sports analyst Stephen A. Smith said, “The Saints are done without Drew Brees. Period.”

Fast-forward six weeks later, and the Saints have not lost a single game since losing Drew Brees! Teddy Bridgewater has stepped up to the task and led the team to victory after victory, allowing Brees to rest and rehab.

This sports story should be a valuable reminder to our own stories. Nobody is indispensable! In the Bible, when Moses died, the Lord told Joshua to put Moses in the past, and go conquer the Promised Land (Joshua 1:2)! When King Uzziah died after a long reign, the prophet Isaiah may have feared for the future, but God gave him a vision: “In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up…” (Isaiah 6:1, ESV). The king was dead, but the King of kings was still on His throne.

This sports story should be a valuable reminder to our own stories. Nobody is indispensable!

Richard and Henry Blackaby, commenting on how the prophet Elisha continued the work of Elijah, said it well: “God has limitless ways to accomplish His will… We deceive ourselves if we think we are indispensable to God. Service to the Lord is an honor He bestows on us, not a favor we do for Him. If you are mourning the loss of one of your leaders, do not despair. God has another leader, for He will see that His will is carried out. It may even be that He has been preparing you to be that leader” (Blackaby, Experiencing God Day by Day, devotional for July 29).

Don’t misunderstand me. I’m happy for Teddy Bridgewater and the New Orleans Saints, and I hope that Drew Brees gets to play again. But God is more interested in His saints than those Saints. So let’s keep these truths in balance: God may use you or me at any time He wants, but when He does, let us serve with humility and gratitude, and remember that none of us are indispensable or irreplaceable. I’m sure that Drew and Teddy would agree.

Guest post: The Saints robbed of the Super Bowl and the unfairness of life

saintsramsinterference

Article copyright by Larry Robertson.

(Below is a guest column written by my friend Larry Robertson, senior pastor of Hilldale Baptist Church, Clarksville, Tennessee.)

Perhaps you’ve heard by now that the New Orleans Saints got robbed of a chance to go to the Super Bowl, during the closing moments of the NFC Championship Game on January 20, 2019. Even the NFL admits that pass interference should’ve been called on Rams cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman and that the call would’ve most likely led to the win for the Saints…and a trip to the Super Bowl. But after the Rams player virtually assaulted Saints wide receiver Tommylee Lewis at a critical point in the game, no yellow flag was thrown.

This is not opinion; it’s a verifiable fact. Robey-Coleman even admits that the refs missed the call. But, per league rules, judgment calls like pass interference are not subject to video review.

Life’s not fair.

That’s one of the most basic life lessons that parents should teach their children, because they’re going to experience it soon enough on their own. At least if you’re expecting it (as much as you can expect the unexpected), the reality of it all won’t knock the breath out of you when you get kicked in the gut.

Life’s not fair.

In Genesis 39, Joseph was falsely accused of sexual assault by his employer’s wife but only because he refused her relentless sexual advances. Joseph did the right thing. Yet he was thrown into prison by his employer, Potiphar, who understandably believed his wife’s false narrative.

Life’s not fair.

“…But while Joseph was there in the prison, the LORD was with him…” (Genesis‬ ‭39:20-21‬). Life’s not fair; that’s true. But the LORD is faithful: He’s faithful in His presence…He’s faithful in His providence…He’s faithful in His promises.

I really believe that one reason some folk “lose faith” is that they mistakenly think that God’s will is always to manipulate circumstances for people of faith so that they get to eat cotton candy while riding unicorns through rainbows. And certainly no one will ever be able to push you down without a penalty! But that’s as false a narrative as Potiphar’s wife’s.

Read Romans 8:31-39. Read the list of hardships that Paul detailed. Take note, though, of verse 37. “…in all these things we are more than conquerors…” Not “in THE ABSENCE OF all these things,” but “IN all these things.”

Listen, life’s not fair. But the LORD is faithful. So, count on that…

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A Christmas Prayer

Nativity

God the Father, who gave us Your Son,

What shall I render You for the gift of gifts?

Here is wonder of wonders:

He came down below to raise me above,

was born, like me that I might become like Him.

Here is love:

when I cannot rise to Him He draws near on wings of grace, to raise me to Himself.

Here is power:

when Deity and humanity were infinitely apart He united them in indissoluble unity, the uncreated with the created.

Here is wisdom:

when I was undone, with no will to return to Him, and no intellect to devise recovery,

He came, God in flesh, to save me completely,

as man to die my death.

O God, as the watchful shepherds enlarge my mind,

to hear good news of great joy, and hearing to praise You,

Let me with Simeon clasp the newborn Child to my heart,

embrace Him with undying faith.

In Him You have given me so much that heaven can give no more.

———————————————————————–

Adapted from The Valley of Vision: A Collection of Puritan Prayers and Devotions, edited by Arthur Bennett.

Book review: “Letters to an American Christian”

LetterstoAnAmericanChristian

How should the faith of American Christians affect their politics?
Bruce Riley Ashford, professor of theology and culture at Southeaster Baptist Theological Seminary, answers this question in a scholarly yet readable way in his new book, Letters to an American Christian (Nashville: B & H, 2018). He uses the technique of imaginary letters to a young new believer, named “Christian.” Imagining he is responding to Christian’s questions and experiences as a new believer and college student in a liberal secular university, he covers a vast array of topics from a Biblical worldview, including church and state, free speech, women’s rights, racism, Black Lives Matter, political correctness, big government, judicial activism, gun ownership, gay rights, transgenders, environmentalism, immigration, nationalism, war and peace, and fake news.
The author frequently includes catchy quotations, humor and personal references to his fictional friend that make the scholarly portions of the book come across more human. Yet he is clearly a scholar, drawing from a vast reading and rooted in Biblical references and concepts. In his chapter on immigration, I was surprised that he made no reference to the Old Testament injunction to protect the “sojourner” and “alien” among Israel, since they were once sojourners in Egypt. His political views are self-described as “center right” (p. 211), and this comes across consistently, as he defends most conservative views, but does it with compassion and moderation. He is strongly critical of secular and liberal political views. He also criticizes alt-right, ultra-conservative views, especially those that are mean-spirited.
Few people are likely to agree with every position Dr. Ashford takes on so many topics, but most Bible-believing Christians will find his book thought-provoking and helpful in forming their own positions.

(Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of the book from the publisher, but I was under no obligation to write a positive review.)

Rising Tide: A Way to Understand Prophecy in Revelation

WavesOnSea

Copyright 2018 by Bob Rogers

For three decades as a preacher and teacher, I have studied and taught the Book of Revelation. I have sought to balance symbolism with the literal return of Jesus Christ. One of the thorniest questions has been, How do we understand the chronological sequence of prophecy in Revelation? The most helpful way to see it is what I call the “Rising Tide” theory. Let me explain why I think this, and then explain the theory.

The problem: As one studies the Revelation, we notice that in numerous places, the prophecies seem to describe the end times long before the end of the book. Revelation 6:17 speaks of how the great day of wrath has come, and that’s in the very first chapter of prophecy after the Lamb breaks open the seals! Revelation 11:19 says that God’s temple in heaven opened, preparing for the end, yet in the next chapter, Revelation 12, the gospel story is repeated from heaven’s viewpoint with the images of the birth and resurrection of Christ. Revelation 14:14-20 speaks of the harvest of God’s judgment (again sounding like the end), but then the following chapters revert back, coming to a climax in Revelation 19 with the rider coming on white horse (Jesus), the beast (antichrist) and false prophet cast into lake of fire. From that point forward, the chronology in chapters 20-22 appears to follow a direct line to the end, with Satan bound a thousand years, then thrown into lake of fire, and a new heaven and new earth, and invitation to respond.

The “Rising Tide” explanation: How are we to find a chronological order of prophecy in all of this? Instead of seeing the prophecies in chapters 6 and following as a straight line chronological order, I think we should interpret them like the waves during the rising tide of the seashore. That is, the prophecies appear to move near the end, then go back and repeat, each time coming close to the end times, just as the rising tide comes in waves to the seashore, receding, then coming farther in, receding again but eventually coming in farther and farther. I believe this interpretation honors the reality of the text, taking seriously the symbolism but also trusting in its truthfulness. Revelation is a powerful book, inspired by God to steadily wash over us with our need to have our names written in His book of life. By repeatedly warning us of the end, instead of just one description of the end, the constant waves of its truth have a greater affect on our hearts to fall down in worship before the Lamb of God, Jesus Christ.

 

10 church sayings and what they really mean

TalkingInChurch

Copyright by Bob Rogers

And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” – Matthew 27:46, ESV

 

From time to time, the Bible quotes a phrase, and then explains what it really means. Wouldn’t it be interesting if we did the same thing with what people say in church? Here are ten common sayings heard in church, and what they really mean:

 

Original language:

“We really appreciate the sound crew.”

Translation:

“The sound crew messed up again. Let’s stare at them together.”

 

Original language:

“I need to share a private prayer request.”

Translation:

“I’ve got some gossip to tell you.”

 

Original language:

“Can I get a witness?”

Translation:

“Since nobody clapped, will somebody at least say ‘Amen’?”

 

Original language:

“We are naming it and claiming it in Jesus’ name.”

Translation:

“We are using religion to try to get what we want.”

 

Original language:

“If it ain’t the King James Version, it ain’t the Bible.”

Translation:

“Don’t make me think; just tell me what to believe.”

 

Original language:

“Let me pray about that and get back with you.”

Translation:

“I don’t want to do it, but I don’t want to tell you to your face.”

 

Original language:

“When are we going to sing some hymns?”

Translation:

“The music is supposed to be about my wants and desires.”

 

Original language:

“All the preacher ever talks about is money.”

Translation:

“I don’t want the preacher to ever talk about money, because I feel guilty for being stingy.”

 

Original language:

“The Lord laid it on my heart to tell you…”

Translation:

“I want to use God to lay a guilt trip on you.”

 

Original language:

“Finally, brethren…”

Translation:

“This sermon is just getting warmed up.”

Five ways to keep people from tuning out your preaching

sleepinchurch

Article copyright by Bob Rogers

Just because a person is in the pew doesn’t mean he or she will listen. How do you keep them from tuning out? Here are five ways:

1. Be creative. “It’s a sin to make the word of God boring.” So said one of my seminary professors. I agree. If the congregation knows that every sermon will have the traditional “three points and a poem,” they may tune you out simply because you are predictable. Why not try a different approach from time to time? If the passage is primarily a story, consider telling the story dramatically. If the text seems to have two main points or five main points, why not preach a sermon with that many points? If the passage is poetry, consider using music or other art to illustrate the text. Jim Burnett gives more advice on how to be creative in your preaching here.

2. Speak their language. Sometimes people tune us out because we aren’t speaking to their mindset. Failing to do so is like speaking in English to a French audience. Many women tire of constant illustrations from sports, and the well-educated and young people especially tune out statements that come across as judgmental or condescending. The best way to speak the mindset of your congregation is to know your people. Spending time with them, listening to their stories and opinions, and learning about their hobbies and interests, can make all the difference in the pastor’s preaching. The preacher does not have to agree with them; in fact, sometimes he will need to challenge their thinking, but if he knows them and has earned their trust, he can speak in a way that they will listen.  Along these lines, the staff of Facts and Trends have compiled a useful article on how to engage nine different kinds of people with the Bible in this article.

3. Make messages on stewardship positive. One of the most challenging topics for ministers to discuss is stewardship. I have found it useful to do a stewardship emphasis by giving short talks on principles of giving early in the service, and then preach the main sermon on a different subject. This touches on stewardship, yet takes away the excuse that “all the church does is talk about money.” It is also important to keep the subject positive, praising and thanking those who give, and talking about the great ministry of the church that people want to support with their offerings. Todd McMichen has some helpful hints on stewardship messages here.

4. Learn how to defend the faith. Many preachers and teachers recognize the need for apologetics (defending the faith), but often feel inadequate doing it. When you prepare a sermon, stop and think what objections people may have. How might a non-believer or person from a different faith background disagree? Write down the questions of your imaginary skeptic. Then seek to give a reasonable answer to the objections of that imaginary person. A great resource is The Apologetics Study Bible, which has notes right in the text to answer objections of skeptics and explain responses to non-Christian interpretations of scripture. This article by Andy McLean should help, as well.

5. Preach with passion. Passionate preaching is not about using a loud voice; in fact, it may be a low voice. Passionate preaching is from heart-felt conviction. When the congregation can feel that you are deeply convinced of what you are saying, they will be impacted by the Spirit of God. This comes from being personally moved by God by the scripture, and bathing the matter in prayer. That is why there is no substitute for much study and soul-searching prayer in preparation for the sermon.

 

What’s your BHAG?

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Article copyright by Bob Rogers.

Motivational author Jim Collins coined the term “BHAG” (BEE-hag), or “Big, Hairy, Audacious Goal” to inspire businesses to have a great vision. For example, the BHAG of Microsoft was, “A computer on every desk in every home.” The BHAG of Ford was “democratize the automobile.”

In Romans 15:20, the apostle Paul stated his ambition: “It has always been my ambition to preach the gospel where Christ was not known.” In fact, Paul had a BHAG to accomplish it:

Bold. In verse 15, Paul comments that he had written them boldly. In Ephesians 6:19, he asks the Ephesians to pray for him to be a bold preacher. He was bold. He boldly stood before Greek philosophers, Roman officials, and hostile Jewish synagogues all over his world to proclaim Jesus. Do you have a bold goal for Jesus?

Holy. In verse 16, Paul desires to be “sanctified by the Holy Spirit.” Sanctified means to be holy (set apart) to God. A bold goal does no good if it’s not a godly goal.  Repeatedly in Leviticus, God said, “Be holy, because I am holy” (Leviticus 11:44; 20:8, etc.)

Acceptable. Also in verse 16, Paul says his ministry is “an offering acceptable to God.” Likewise in Romans 12:1, Paul urges Christians to offer themselves as living sacrifices, “holy and acceptable to God.” It matters not if our goals are acceptable to people, but it makes all the difference if they are pleasing to God. Are your ambitions acceptable and pleasing to God?

God-driven. In verses 17-19 Paul talks about God, not about himself. He speaks of his pride in Christ, not in himself; he says he doesn’t have anything to speak about except what Christ has done. Martin Niemoller was a German pastor who endured concentration camps in World War II. Two newspaper reporters went to hear him speak when he came to America, but they were disappointed. One said to the other, “Six years in a Nazi camp, and all he has to talk about is Jesus Christ.” May they say the same about you and me!

William Carey, the father of the modern missionary movement, said, “Expect great things from God; attempt great things for God.” What is your BHAG for God?