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Easter jazz

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Copyright by Bob Rogers.

“Who will roll away the stone?” Mark 16:3

“Who will roll away the stone?” the women asked as they approached Jesus’ tomb. Their Savior had died, their hopes were gone, and their heads hang in despair as the question lingered in the air. Can you relate to that?

We have stones that need to be rolled away, too. Our way is blocked with giant stones with names like cancer and COVID-19, stones with names like debt and divorce, names like shame and sorrow, and the actual names of people like the crazy co-worker, the insane in-law, the nosy neighbor.

Like the women that first Easter Sunday morning, we too wonder, “Who will roll away the stone?”

In many ways, the message of Easter is like jazz music. Jazz music originated with African-American musicians in New Orleans around 1900, and it often expresses discordant notes of pain that are then resolved with the swing of sweet notes of joy.  

Easter is like jazz music. The people loved Jesus for His compassion for the outcast, His inspiring teaching of love, and His healing of the sick. Imagine their despair when Jesus was arrested, flogged, spat upon, mocked with a purple robe and crown of thorns, beat upon the head, forced to carry His cross to Calvary, the Place of the Skull, and then the nails slammed through his hands and feet, and forced to hang there naked and suffering, No wonder Jesus cried, “My God, my God, why have You forsaken Me?” It’s bad enough when you and I feel forsaken by God, but here was the Son of God feeling forsaken by God! That despair was shared by Jesus’ disciples. The disciples were hiding out in a room, afraid for their future, fearing they would be next.

But that was on Friday. Very early on Sunday morning, everything changed. The stone was rolled away, an angel in white clothes had bright news, that although they came thinking they would see a dead corpse, instead they saw an empty tomb, because Jesus was crucified, but now He has risen! The One who had been nailed to a cross was now raised from the grave, the One who had been whipped was now being worshiped.

His story was also their story. The wondering women had their stone moved, the shamed Simon Peter discovered that his Savior was alive. Notice verse 7 says to tell the disciples “and Peter.” The frightened disciples became bold preachers of the gospel.

What a crazy change in three days! No wonder they were overwhelmed with emotion.

Verse 5 says they were “amazed” and “alarmed.” Verse 8 says “trembling” and “astonishment overwhelmed them” and that they were “afraid.”

That’s why I say Easter is like jazz— it moves from discord to resolution, from pain to joy, and it requires a certain mystery and faith. Somebody asked Louis Armstrong what jazz music was, and he said, “If you have to ask, you don’t know!”

But you can know the Easter jazz. You can believe in Jesus Christ. His story was their story and it can be your story and mine.

The apostle Paul put it this way in Ephesians 2:1, 4-6: “And you were dead in your trespasses and sins… But God, who is rich and mercy, because of His great love that He had for us, made us alive with Christ, even though you were dead in trespasses. You are saved by grace! He also raised us up with Him and seated us with Him in the heavens in Christ Jesus.”

Listen to 1 Corinthians 15:19-20, 51-52: “If we have put our hope in Christ for this life only, we should be pitied more than anyone. But as it is, Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep… Listen, I am telling you a mystery: We will not all fall asleep, but we will all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we will be changed.”

Easter does not mean that we will no longer have problems. The music of our lives will continue to have bent notes and broken cords. But because of His resurrection, the discord will be resolved with the sweet sound of hope for all of us who believe.

What stones do you need to have rolled away? What hope do you need to hear? Shh! Listen closely. I think I hear Jesus playing jazz!

How Christians can respond to rejection

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Copyright by Bob Rogers.

Everybody has to deal with rejection. Even Jesus Christ was rejected by his hometown of Nazareth. They didn’t like it when He declared His Messianic mission would include Gentiles, so they tried to throw him off the local cliff (see Luke 4:23-29).

In one of the greatest face-to-face confrontations in history, Jesus faced their rejection and “passed right through the crowd and went on His way” (Luke 4:30). That’s how He handled it, how do we?

Let’s be clear about something. You and I are not Jesus, so we first need to examine our own actions and motives in the light of scripture, to make sure our rejection isn’t a deserved rebuke for ungodly behavior. Peter writes, that if we are ridiculed “for the name of Christ” we are blessed, yet cautions “let none of you sufer as a murderer, a thief, an evildoer, or a meddler” (1 Peter 4:15-16). Most of us would be okay if he hadn’t added “meddler.” So before anything else, let’s take an honest look at why we are rejected.

If, after taking an honest look at ourselves, we know that our rejection is because we have lived for Christ, and done so with integrity, then what? Scripture tells us three ways that Christians can face rejection: rejoice, remember and rely.

  1. Rejoice (Matthew 5:10-12). Jesus concluded the “Beatitudes” by telling His followers that when we are rejected, we should rejoice: “Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for the kingdom of heaven is theirs. You are blessed when they insult you and persecute you and falsely say every kind of evil against you becaue of me. Be glad and rejoice, because your reward is great in heaven. For that is how they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” We naturally want to get angry, defensive, or feel hurt, but Jesus tells us we should rejoice, because it shows we are on the right side! The early apostles did exactly that! When the Jewish Sanhedrin ordered them not to preach about Jesus, they left, “rejoicing that they were counted worthy to be treated shamefully on behalf of the Name” (Acts 5:41).
  2. Remember (John 15:19-21). Jesus reminded His disciples, “If the world hates you, understand that it hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own. However, because you are not of the world, because I have chosen you out of it, the world hates you. Remember the word I spoke to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you.” So whenever we are rejected, we don’t need to be surprised; we should remember that we were told to expect that it comes with the territory.
  3. Rely (2 Corinthians 1:8-11). The Apostle Paul is a great role model for handling persecution. He explained how it taught him to rely on God: “We don’t want you to be unaware, brothers and sisters, of our affliction that took place in Asia. We were completely overwhelmed– beyond our strength– so that we even despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death, so that we would not trust in ourselves but in God who raises the dead. He has delivered us from such a terrible death, and he will deliver us. We have put our hope in him that he will deliver us again.”

Tony Evans says that whenever somebody rejects him because of the color of his skin, he remembers who he is in Christ. God says he is a child of the king. Thus, if they reject him, they are refusing royal blood in their presence. What a good example for us when people reject us because of our faith. Remembering that, we can rely on God, and rejoice!

Lost in New York without knowing it

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Copyright by Bob Rogers.

            When I was in the seventh grade, Dad was stationed at Fort Hamilton in Brooklyn, New York, in order to attend a nine-month Army Chaplain’s School. Almost every family on the post was there because of a chaplain attending the school. That meant all of the kids were “preacher’s kids,” and all of the families were new, because we would be transferred after a year and a whole new group would come the following school year. The school year was 1970-71. We could see the twin towers of the original World Trade Center under construction across the Hudson River. I went to Public School 104, which was in an Irish-Catholic neighborhood. It was a good school, with strict discipline and excellent academics.

            Soon after school started that fall, we learned that on Wednesday afternoons they had “release time.” This was when students got out of school early and could go to their house of worship for religious education, if they wished. On that first Wednesday, all of us Protestant chaplains’ kids, being brand new, simply followed our Catholic friends down the street to their church and went to catechism. Then we returned to school in time to catch the Army bus back to Fort Hamilton.

            Needless to say, the phones were ringing off the hook that night when we started telling our parents what kind of notebooks the nuns wanted us to buy for catechism. It only took one week for those chaplains and spouses to organize a Protestant religious education class for us to attend.

            But what really got some parents rattled was what happened to my little sister Nancy and some of her friends during their first “release time.” Nancy, who was in second grade, and a few other Protestant chaplains’ daughters, went to the Catholic class but they missed the bus ride home. Their parents had the military police frantically searching the streets of New York for them. Imagine: little girls from places like Kansas, Texas and Mississippi, all lost on the streets of Brooklyn! When the girls were found, they didn’t know they had been lost.

            Jesus said that he came to seek and save people who were lost (Luke 19:10). He told parables about a lost sheep, lost coin, and lost (prodigal) son, to illustrate how God goes to great lengths to find people (see Luke 15). Many don’t even know they are lost.

            Ironically, my sister Nancy now lives in Brooklyn. She lives there with her husband Alex, and she rides the subway like a native. She doesn’t get lost there anymore; it’s her home. Likewise, when people turn to faith in Christ, they too are no longer lost. Like my sister, they have found their home at last.

(This story will be part of my upcoming book about taking a humorous yet serious look at the Christian life, called, Standing by the Wrong Graveside.)

Top 10 signs you’re in a bad church

Copyright by Bob Rogers.

I’ll admit it, some people have bad experiences with a church. Here are the top ten signs you’re in a bad church:

10. The church bus has gun racks.

9. Church staff: senior pastor, associate pator, socio-pastor.

8. The town gossip is the prayer coordinator.

7. Church sign says, “Do you know what Hell is? Come hear our preacher.”

6. Choir wears leather robes.

5. During greeting time, people take turns staring at you.

4. Karaoke worship time.

3. Ushers ask, “Smoking or non-smoking?”

2. Only song the organist knows: “We Shall Not Be Moved.”

  1. The pastor doesn’t want to come, but his wife makes him attend.

If your church is that bad, you might want to look for another church. But the fact is, that there is no perfect church, because the church is made up of imperfect people. The phrase the Bible uses to describe us is “sinners saved by grace.” So before you give up completely on the church, remember this: “Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” (Ephesians 5:25, ESV). If Jesus considered the church worth dying for, then we ought to consider the church worth living for.

An unknown poet put it well:

“If you should find the perfect church, without fault or smear
For goodness sake, don’t join that church, you’d spoil the atmosphere.
But since no perfect church exists, made of perfect men,
Let’s cease on looking for that church, and love the one we’re in.”

(This article will be part of my upcoming book about taking a humorous yet serious look at the Christian life, called, Standing by the Wrong Graveside.)

Yes, Virginia, there are Thanksgiving songs!

Article copyright by Bob Rogers.

The season of Christmas is so celebrated in America today, that the holiday suffocates Thanksgiving! People replace their orange pumpkins with holly of red and green, earlier and earlier in November. When I suggested to a friend he might wait until after Thanksgiving to play Christmas songs, his reply was, “There aren’t any Thanksgiving songs, so I’m playing Christmas songs!” Here’s my reply: Yes, Virginia, there ARE Thanksgiving songs! (I can’t remember his name, so I’ll call him Virginia, with apologies to the famous 1897 editorial of The (New York) Sun, “Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus.”) Here are some Thanksgiving songs that are so awesome, they are worth downloading on Amazon Music, Spotify, watching on YouTube, or however you do it:

  1. “Thank You” by Chris Tomlin with Thomas Rhett and Florida Georgia Line is a fast-paced country song of reasons to thank the Lord.
  2. “The Thanksgiving Song” by Ben Rector is a joyful pop song listing specific things we do on Thanksgiving. Written in 2020, the last stanza thanks God because “we made through, I do believe, the longest year in history.” The official You Tube video shows the words on the plates, boxes of food items, etc. as he sets the table.
  3. “At This Table” by Idina Menzel is an soaring, inspirational pop song that invites everybody to gather together at the same table of love.
  4. “Thankful” by Josh Groban features a rich, melodic pop tune, with inspiring lyrics calling us to look beyond ourselves and be grateful.
  5. “What I’m Thankful For” by Garth Brooks and James Taylor is a country song of gratitude for faith and family.
  6. “My Heart Is Filled With Thankfulness” by Keith & Kristyn Getty has a beautiful Irish melody, a modern hymn, set to deep Christian theology of gratitude. I encourage you to watch this one on YouTube.
  7. “Thankful” by Kelly Clarkson is a sassy-styled pop love song of gratitude.
  8. “Thank You” by Keith Urban is an emotional pop song that reflects on how his wife rescued him from despair.
  9. “I Thank You” by Sam & Dave is a classic R & B love song.
  10. “Thankful N’ Thoughtful” by Sly and the Family Stone is a soul song that will have you dancing with gratitude.

Four 19th century biographies of Southern slavery

Recently, I’ve read four 19th century biographies and autobiographies of men and women who escaped slavery in the South. If you want to read about what slavery was really like in that time, these classic books will let you hear the stories in the words of those who experienced it.

Sarah Hopkins Bradford, Harriet, the Moses of Her People.

This biography, written by a white friend of Harriet Tubman gives a firsthand account of the amazing life of an amazing woman who bravely made so many trips to the South to rescue over 300 of her people along the “Underground Railroad.” The author is somewhat patronizing toward African-Americans, yet beautifully portrays the unwavering Christian faith that sustained Harriet through it all, and the events surrounding her that some call “supernatural.” Her story has recently been made into the film, Harriet.

Solomon Northrup, 12 Years a Slave.

The most dramatic story I have read of someone escaping slavery is that of Solomon Northrup, a free black man who was kidnapped in New York, and sold into slavery in Louisiana, where he suffered until his dramatic rescue. Northrup himself vividly describes his experiences, which shows the cruelty of slavery in the Deep South. The events surrounding his rescue will have you on the edge of your seat. No wonder this was made into an Academy Award Winning film!

Harriet Ann Jacobs, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl Written by Herself.

This account of a female former slave, using the name Linda Brent, shares graphic details of brutality and especially sexual abuse by white owners. There is a constant tension between Linda and her owner, Dr. Flint, whose affections she continually rejects. Although a true story published at the outbreak of the Civil War, it reads like a novel, and I read it quickly. It gives so many insights into slave life in the South, and even discrimination against blacks in the North.

Josiah Henson, The Life of Josiah Henson, Formerly a Slave.

This true story was the basis for Uncle Tom’s Cabin. I downloaded it and read it in one day. Henson was an industrious man with great leadership and organizational skills. The storyline moves quickly and is so emotional, that it overcomes the 19th century formal writing style. I highly recommend this short read to get a feel for the heartless institution of slavery in the South.

A Prayer for President-elect Joe Biden

Copyright by Bob Rogers.

Heavenly Father, our hope is in You, not our earthly leaders. But the Bible tells us that you place people in power and remove them from power, and that we are to pray for all those in authority, that we may live peaceful lives.

I pray that You will give President-elect Biden the wisdom of Solomon and courage of David as he seeks to lead our country. May he listen to You, not the voices of those who may seek to control him, and may he seek Your will, for the good of our nation.

Lord, he has promised equality for all and to root out racism; may he do just that. As he seeks justice and protection for the oppressed, may he remember the most vulnerable of all, the unborn. As he said that we are not just to keep the faith, but to “spread the faith,” may he respect and protect those of us who actively keep and spread our faith.

Help us, Father, to unite and heal as a nation; heal us both of the COVID contagion and the contagion of angry words. May we listen to one another and listen most of all to You. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.

How big is your Jesus?

Article copyright by Bob Rogers.

A lady told me that her granddaughter visited her church and saw the large stained glass window picture of Jesus. She said, “Granny, your church has a BIG Jesus!”

What a great statement! Does your church have a “big Jesus”? Are the sermons Christ-centered? Does your worship lift up His Name? Do the leaders prayerfully ask, “What would Jesus do?” before they do what they do?

Christian, what about your personal faith? Do you have a big Jesus? He’s not a little bitty idol that you put on the shelf and take out when you need a little favor. He’s not mini-god for minor problems. He is the Almighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace, Good Shepherd, Great Physician, the Alpha and the Omega.

The apostle Paul prayed that the church at Ephesus would have a big Jesus. Here is how he put it:

I also pray that you will understand the incredible greatness of God’s power for us who believe him. This is the same mighty power that raised Christ from the dead and seated him in the place of honor at God’s right hand in the heavenly realms. Now he is far above any ruler or authority or power or leader or anything else—not only in this world but also in the world to come. God has put all things under the authority of Christ and has made him head over all things for the benefit of the church. And the church is his body; it is made full and complete by Christ, who fills all things everywhere with himself. – Ephesians 1:19-23, NLT

Now that is a big Jesus! He is available to every church and every believer. How big is your Jesus?

Saturday, Day of Waiting

Article copyright by Bob Rogers.

Like Wednesday of Holy Week, nothing is recorded in the Gospels about what happened on Saturday. However, we know about the day because Mark 15:42 tells us that they buried Jesus before sundown on Friday, so they could rest on Saturday, the Sabbath. Nothing more is recorded until Mark 16:1 tells what happened on the first day of the week, which was Easter Sunday. (Matthew 27:62-66 does record that on Saturday, the Roman governor, Pontius Pilate, agreed to post guards at the tomb of Christ.) Saturday was a day of waiting and wondering what would happen next. They had no idea anything good was going to happen the next day. They just had to wait on the Lord.

Isaiah 40:31 (KJV) says, “They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength.” Psalm 27:14 says, “Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.” Saturday, the day of waiting, teaches us to wait on the Lord. Waiting can be excruciatingly hard.

We have all agonized waiting. Maybe you waited to get a job or get a promotion or get a date or get an important phone call or get a test result. Right now, the whole world is waiting—waiting for the coronavirus pandemic to subside. Many of you are sheltered in place, worried about your health, worried about your job, wondering when this will all end. This kind of waiting is very, very hard. This was how the disciples felt that Saturday before Easter when they waited. They wondered what was next, and they did not expect it to be good. After all, their leader had been arrested and crucified.

The Hebrew word for “wait” in Isaiah and Psalms is a word for a chord, or rope. The idea of the word is that God has thrown us a rope, and asks us to hold on, because He has the other end. That’s why “wait” in Isaiah 40:31 is also translated “hope” or “trust.”

What’s more, you and I know the rest of the story. We know that on Easter Sunday, they got news more wonderful than they could ever imagine, because Christ arose!

That is why we who are followers of the Risen Christ can wait on this Saturday, because we are Easter Sunday people. We can wait on the Lord, for even when we don’t know what the future holds, we know Who holds the future—His name is Jesus, and He has already conquered sin and death and the grave and hell.  We can wait in the uncertainty of Saturday, because tomorrow is a certain Sunday!

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.”