“These in white robes–who are they and where did they come from?… These are they who have come out of great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb” (Revelation 7:13-14).
“How did you get here?”
The fellow across the table from me was making polite conversation, I suppose. We were taking a break in a deacon-training event I was leading at a church in an Alabama town, nearly 300 miles from home.
“I drove,” I said, and thought, “How did he think I got here? There is no airport within two hours. The train comes nowhere near here. Did he think I took the Greyhound? Or hitchhiked?”
Later, I decided he was asking the route by which I had traveled, there being four or five highways I could have taken.
“How did you get here?”
It occurs to me that when you and I get to Heaven, and begin meeting people right and left, finding out about their backgrounds and listening to their stories, no one will ask us this question. To ask how we got there would imply there are different ways to that place the Bible calls “The Father’s House.”
Let your mind dwell on that for a minute….
“I came by this religion.” “I got here by being really good.” “I imitated Jesus…or Mother Teresa…or my grandmother.” “I fasted and prayed and flagellated myself.” “I lived in the desert on a diet of ants and bugs to bring my body under subjection.” “I was sincere.” “My good works outweighed the bad.”
None of that foolishness.
“How shall they call on Him of whom they have not heard?” (Romans 10)
During one of my first weeks in college, the upperclassmen were allowed to harass us and treat us like serfs.
That was a long time ago and I have no bad memories of the experience, so it must not have been too dangerous or humiliating. What I do recall, however, is upperclassman Walter Maine ordering me to mop his floor.
The floors in our dormitory rooms were some kind of hard linoleum, as I remember. These days, I could clean his floor with scarcely a thought, seeing as how I have done our kitchen floor a few hundred times. You assemble the equipment, fill the bucket half-ful of warm water, add a little Mr.Clean, dip the mop in, squeeze it out good, and run the damp mop over the floor. Every 30 seconds or so, you return to the bucket, slosh the mop around inside, squeeze it out, mop more of the floor, and continue the process until the floor is clean. Then, toss out the water, rinse the mop with clean water, and rinse out the bucket, then store them.
But not for this 18-year-old farm boy in the fall of 1958.
“For those who have served well as deacons obtain for themselves a high standing and great confidence in the faith that is in Christ Jesus” (I Timothy 3:13).
I suggest you not worry about dissecting that and trying to grasp the fullness of its meaning, deacons. Just enjoy it. Believe it. Work to demonstrate its truth in your life.
All it seems to be saying is that when a deacon does his job well, God and the congregation are really, really proud of him!
I see deacons serving well all the time. They’re taking care of the church’s widows and dependent elderly, rallying to the support of their pastor, serving as the “event staff” when church projects need helpers, listening to disgruntled church members and helping them to see the wisdom of what the leadership is doing, and cooking breakfast for the monthly men’s meeting.
The title might be a little misleading. To not “worry” about something does not mean the pastor does not know about it.
A good staff will handle the minutiae of the ministry–the problems that arise that they are able to address without the involvement of the shepherd himself–in order to free up the pastor for his major assignment of church leadership.
The pastor who tries to micromanage his church is attempting the impossible and choosing to desert his post.
A wise pastor–who has the resources–can bring on staff capable and trustworthy assistants to free him up to do the three big, big things in his ministry: Preach/teach the Word, give direction to the entire church program, and care for his flock.
Someone–Sister Dee Structive or Brother Big Shott–is stirring up dissension in the church, accusing the pastor of this silliness or that foolishness.
On the surface, their criticism appears to be nonsense, and yet some people will believe anything negative. The congregation is disturbed by this business and outsiders are looking around for other churches to visit.
Somebody ought to do something and do it quickly.
We have said on this website that when someone in the church attacks the pastor and is stirring up strife in the church, a small group of Godly members should visit the troublemaker and do two things: a) ask “what’s going on?” and then b) listen to their complaint. If they have a legitimate beef, or if it appears they may have one, the members of the task force return to the pastor and, with his involvement, begin the process of dealing with it. However, if the individual does not have a sound reason for what they are doing, the visitors kindly but firmly ask them to “cease and desist.”
“Sister Structive, we are asking you to stop this now. It should end.”
To my surprise, several readers went found much to disagree with in this approach.
(This is a followup to the previous article: “The ability to teach.”)
That pastors should teach their people is a no-brainer. It’s explicit in the Scriptures and implicit in our being called “shepherds.”
A wise pastor will be creative in finding ways to teach his congregation, recognizing that many who will listen to his sermons are not coming to any class or small group, no matter how he browbeats them or how enticing he makes it. He will have to find other ways to teach them.
That’s what this is about, finding ways to teach the Lord’s people.
1) Pastors will teach in sermons, of course. But they should work at doing it well.
“An overseer (episkopos) then must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, temperate, prudent, respectable, hospitable, able to teach….” (I Timothy 3:2)
Most preachers would rather preach than teach.
Even the names say that, don’t they? We call pastors “preachers,” not “teachers.” And yet….
In seminary, we used up an entire class period one day trying to figure out the difference in preaching and teaching. By the end, we had given up.
Each of us has our own understanding of how they differ. Here’s mine.
Think of preaching as exhorting and proclaiming in order to change lives; think of teaching as imparting information and insights in order to inform the mind and change the heart.
Teaching can be an important but minor part of preaching, and exhorting may be one component of good teaching. But the major chord of preaching is proclaiming, and the major thrust of teaching is conveying insights and truths.
“A little knowledge is a dangerous thing.” (Is that in the Bible? It ought to be. Smiley-face goes here.)
Here’s one that is: “I am also convinced that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge, and able also to admonish one another.” That’s Romans 15:14, and we sure wish we knew whether the Apostle Paul had tongue firmly planted in cheek when he said this or was dead serious. It appears to us that the recipients of this Roman letter, as with so many of the others Paul wrote, were deficient in some areas of knowledge of spiritual things. We’re glad they were, of course, because in addressing these issues for them, Paul ended up instructing us.
One wonders what it must be like to be “filled with all knowledge.”
After all, “knowledge puffs up” (I Corinthians 8:1). Modern translations say, “knowledge makes arrogant.”
Ignorance does too, oddly enough. In fact….
Ignorance coupled with arrogance makes for a deadly combination. When you see that monster coming down the road, get out of the way because it bloodies everything it touches.
“This very night an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I serve stood before me and said, ‘Do not be afraid, Paul; you must stand before Caesar; and behold, God has granted you all those who are sailing with you'” (Acts 27:23-24).
I had planned my Bible study message for the little interdenominational group that meets each Wednesday in a local restaurant. I knew what “the Lord laid on my heart” and had gone over it earlier that morning during my walk.
And yet, that’s not what I shared.
Here’s what happened.
“If it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you” (John 14:2)
I have little trouble believing in God and about the same ease in believing in Jesus. I believe the Bible and am confident I’m saved and that my sins are dealt with forever and there is no condemnation for those in Christ. I believe every word in those grand old hymns we sing and never preach a thing I don’t believe with my whole heart.
The one thing I have the hardest time accepting is that after we die, some essential part of us remains intact and suddenly materializes in some celestial place called Unimaginable. And that there we will see our loved ones and our Lord and receive rewards for how we have lived this life and dwell there forever and ever in some kind of endless day.
Call it the Father’s House (Psalm 23:6 and John 14:2) or “a kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world” (Matthew 25:34), paradise (Luke 23:43), or home (II Corinthians 5:6-8), it’s still asking a lot from us to believe in Heaven .
It’s easier to believe that death ends everything. That’s how things seem.