The Bible endorses monuments of some kinds and condemns others.
They erected a pile of stones a day’s journey from the Jordan as a reminder of God’s leadership during the Exodus. In fact, they even set up a similar pile in the middle of the Jordan so that, in times of drouth when the water level dropped, everyone would see that as a reminder that God led them through those dark days.
They set up a stone memorial and called it Ebenezer, “stone of help,” as a testimony to God’s provisions. They had no “graven images,” of course, but they had plenty of other memorials.
They tore down altars to false gods, statues of false gods, and relics used in worshiping those gods.
And they sometimes destroyed something that had been good and noble and holy. Yep. Sometimes, they destroyed a good thing.
Please read on.
Now, no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. (Hebrews 12:11)
You will know the name Jimmy Doolittle.
He flew bi-planes in World War I for the United States, and then barn-stormed throughout the 1920’s, thrilling auiences by taking risks you would not believe. He led the retaliatory bombing of Tokyo in early 1942, a few months after Japan bombed Pearl Harbor. He played a major role in the Allied victory over the Axis, eventually becoming a General. His autobiography is titled I Could Never Be So Lucky Again. It’s well worth reading.
Doolittle and his wife Joe (that’s how they spelled her name) had two sons, Jim and John, both of whom served in the Second World War.
The general wrote about the younger son:
John was in his plebe year at West Point and the upperclassmen were harassing him no end…. While the value of demeaning first-year cadets is debatable, I was sure “Peanut” could survive whatever they dreamed up. (p. 284)
Later, General Doolittle analyzes his own strengths and weaknesses and makes a fascinating observation:
These are days when heroes abound. Doctors and nurses and support staff wage war against an invisible enemy taking the lives of thousands worldwide. Equally heroic are the men and women who run the risks of infection in order to drive the trucks and stock the stores, serve the public, and keep us safe. Each is a hero.
“As his share who goes down to the battle, so shall his share be who stays by the baggage: they shall share alike” (I Samuel 30:24).
When Roland Q. Leavell returned home from the “Great War” in Europe–-i.e., the First World War–he had a problem. People wanted to hear stories of the war, of battles, of heroism. He had none.
Roland Q. Leavell was in his 20s, single, and with a bachelor’s degree from seminary. He had pastored small churches and had been sent to “the front” as a representative of the YMCA. In those days, there was no USO to take care of American troops overseas, and fledgling organizations and ministries were still trying to figure these things out.
According to Dottie L. Hudson’s book “He Still Stands Tall: The Life of Roland Q. Leavell,” based on her father’s diaries, Roland did a hundred small things in that war: He led Bible studies, he counseled soldiers, he ran a canteen, he taught French to a few soldiers, and he drove an ambulance. At one point, he inhaled poisonous gas the Germans sprayed into the air. The one time he shot a gun was as a joke, pointed into the air across no-man’s-land. “I guess I didn’t kill over 50,” he remarked in his diary.
And when he got home, people wanted to hear his stories.
“If I had said, ‘I will speak thus,’ behold, I should have betrayed the generation of Thy children” (Psalm 73:15).
Some questions need to be handled in private and not made public.
A friend who had not been to church in a while ventured back recently only to be slapped in the face by the sermon.
The guest preacher chose the Noah story from Genesis 6-8 for his sermon. My friend said, “He informed the church that he does not believe that story. He said it was impossible for Noah to have carried food on the ark for all those animals for a period of 90 days. And imagine the waste those animals would have produced!”
“He said the story was made up by old men to teach people that God punishes those who do not obey Him.”
One wonders what conditions prompted the leadership of that church to invite the enemy to fill the pulpit. That is precisely what they did and it’s who he was. Anyone undermining the faith of the Lord’s people in the Holy Scriptures is no friend.
My brethren, let not many of you become teachers, knowing that we shall receive a strict judgment…. (James 3:1)
To whom much is given, much is expected. (Luke 12:48)
When the pastor said God doesn’t put more on us than we can bear, some fellow said, “I know. I just wish He didn’t have such confidence in me!”
God’s best students are held to a higher standard and graded more strictly.
The ones with greater potential are dealt with more severely.
Ask any coach. The mediocre player gets a mild reprimand and slivers of the coach’s attention. Although he does poorly, the expectations on him were low. The star athlete, however, regularly gets reamed out by the coach and is constantly held to higher standards, stricter disciplines, and greater expectations.
“He who is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much….” (Luke 16:10)
“Let him deny himself and take up his cross….” (Luke 9:23)
Legalism is a bad term. It implies someone is living by a list of rules even though violating the spirit and intent of those rules.
Years ago, a lady in my church told of a conversation she had with her sister-in-law. They were Baptist (my member) and a Pentecostal of some type (the SIL).
The kids were off to school and they were sharing a morning coffee in one of their homes. The Baptist lit up a cigarette. The Pentecostal said, “Did you know that one cigarette will send your soul to hell?”
The Baptist: “Are you serious?”
The Baptist said to her Pentecostal SIL, “Then explain something to me. How is it you can hate your mother–I’ve heard you say it!–and you’re all right, but smoking one cigarette is going to send me to hell forever?”
She had no answer. (Note: We do not intend to imply all Pentecostals are this way, or that all Baptists approve of cigarettes. We do, however, approve of morning coffee with friends.)
I suppose it’s safe to say we all need some rules. And, the first of those rules should be, “While obeying the rules, don’t forget to love, stay humble, and walk faithfully with your God.”
Ruth Bell Graham once said many wives are frustrated from expecting their husbands to be to them what only Jesus Christ can be.
That same principle works on so many directions.
Many a pastor is disappointed in his Bible college or seminary education as a result of unrealistic expectations. Those theological schools buy into this error by periodic polling of their alums to ask, “What do you wish we had taught you? What subjects should we have included? What skills did you need for which you were unprepared?” Soon, the provosts and deans assemble a new package of courses and give it its own name–“Masters of Divinity with Specialty in Whatever”–and life goes on.
I guarantee you that the next generation of preachers will also produce a list of subjects their school should have taught. It’s the nature of the beast since life is always moving forward, cultures change, people are never static, and one more big reason. Maybe the biggest of all.
“He honors (God) who has mercy on the needy” (Proverbs 14:31). “He who has pity on the poor lends to the Lord, and He will pay back what He has given” (Proverbs 19:17). “The poor you always have with you, but Me you do not have always” (Matthew 26:11).
Scripture has a lot to say about God’s people caring for the needy. But it can be twisted and made to say something other than was intended.
A friend sent me a letter from a disgruntled church member who was complaining that after he lost his job the church did not pay his bills and support him. The friend says the church gave him a great deal of help and “I personally gave him money.” But it wasn’t enough for the guy, who is now slamming the Lord’s church and wondering “Where is Jesus after 2,000 years?”
I suggested my friend ask the guy how many needy people he assisted when he had a job.
I think we know the answer.
“A double-minded man is unstable in all his ways” (James 1:8).
No one said it would be easy.
A police lieutenant told me why he could never live the Christian life. “I have to be tough in this line of work. I have to use language that would peel the bark off a hickory tree in order to make myself understood to the people I deal with. I couldn’t do that as a Christian.”
Perhaps he needs to take a lesson from Kobe Bryant, the retired great of the L. A. Lakers, and Demario Davis of the New Orleans Saints.
According to an article in USA Today (December 19, 2018), Demario Davis lives by the code found in Kobe Bryant’s book. “The Mamba Mentality: How I Play” explains how Bryant adopts an aggressive personality, one different from his normal self, when he walks onto the basketball court.
Get that? Become someone else once you don the armor. Become a warrior who takes no prisoners. Then, later, showered and dressed, you return to the Clark Kent persona.
Most of us might have trouble pulling that off.
Demario Davis, who plays for the New Orleans Saints, told the reporter how that works out for him. “For me, it’s like, I have to ask for forgiveness for what I’m about to do on the field. And then when I’m coming in off the field, I’m asking forgiveness for what I just did on the field, because you have to go to a killing mentality. A Mamba Mentality.”
“Grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18).
“By this time you ought to be teachers, (but) you need someone to teach you the first principles of God, and have come to need milk and not solid food” (Hebrews 5:12).
A church leader was venting. “We have so many immature members. And the problem is, they want to stay that way!”
The leader said, “How do we deal with our discouragement? How can we keep from becoming Pharisees who constantly see their faults and not their potential? And how do we love those who cause so much trouble in the church by their immature actions?”
The letter concluded, “I feel like I’m in danger of becoming like the Ephesus church, the one which had lost its first love.” A reference to Revelation 2:1-7.
My first thought upon reading the question was: “You’re not alone, my friend. Every spiritual leader fights that same battle, although not to the same extent.”