Thursday’s Column: Captain’s Blog
This post is for the lady across the street. She works at the gas station. This post is for Charles. That’s the guy we always call when the office printer breaks down or a leaky roof needs repaired. This article is for my family. My family means the world to me and if my life can help ensure an eternal future together (and I mean every one of them) then I have accomplished something truly great. This post is for my wife. My wife will be in heaven with me— she must be! The truth is, this post is for the faithful child of God, the disgruntled member in the pew, the discouraged elder, and frustrated preacher— this post is for people. It’s for the new child of God that is still dripping wet from the waters of baptism, to the battle-hardened Christian with years of faithful service. God drew a line in the sand long ago after humans fell from grace and separated ourselves from Him. On one side of that line you have the lost. Their sheer abundance in our communities and the world has caused many congregations to become numb to their horrific eternal state. Still, on the other side of that line you have the faithful. No, not the uncommitted pew-warmers, but the faithful. Sadly there are those inside the church that are on the wrong side of the Divine line. Often they blend in with the faithful because they look and act like the faithful do. This is nothing new, but elderships still scratch their heads over stunted growth and disappearing members. Preachers lose their voices as they pound evangelism and outreach from the pulpit. The reservoirs are being depleted by years of drought.
You’ll hear a lot of this kind of talk in some men’s meetings as the guys will sit around the table. After drinking coffee and filling their bellies with biscuits and gravy, it’s common for them to kick back and discuss what’s going on in the church. Obviously there are some big issues! So, who’s to blame? In an attempt to unmask the villain, one middle aged man exclaims, “if the leaders would _______”. A couple of his friends, who have clearly visited this topic a few times, nod their heads in approval. Another gentleman, with a white mustache, grunts as he repositions himself in his tin folding chair. Talk like this is uncomfortable, and it’s exhausting for many of them. The head hog at the trough clears his throat to let the others know he’s about to offer his respected opinion. He squints his eyes, leans back, then makes this statement. “It’s really society, you know. People just don’t go to church like they did when I was growing up!” Following this declaration, most of them will give their affirming “Mmm”’s and “exactly rights.” It’s at this point the tragic generational blame game begins. The wheels spin for a while, then everyone gets up and goes back to their homes to enjoy the rest of their Saturday. Tomorrow morning they dress up in their suits and ties and drive to worship. At worship they sit in the same spot, as the service carries on in it’s usual order.
In a world full of people intent on destroying and demonizing one another, the church needs to be the church— now more than ever. Our communities, friends, family, and nation need us to be the church. That starts with you and me. Paul said, “Encourage and build one another up…” in 1 Thessalonians 5:11. We can’t do this enough, and we can’t overstate it’s importance. Who have you encouraged and built up this week? How will you do it today? The church is God’s way of improving people, and the church is God’s perfect project— for people.
Has your job been deemed “essential” during our mitigation efforts against COVID-19? If not, you are likely either working from home or are facing a difficult financial situation as we await the reopening of our economy. Noting the choices made by certain people in positions of authority about essential and nonessential workers, however, makes this whole process of determination seem…capricious.
Mike Rowe, a man who made a name for himself doing the “dirty jobs” other people refused to do, stated his opinion was that there was no job that is nonessential. Appearing on a cable news program, he said, “Right now, there is this fascinating conversation going on on your network and all the networks, where we are making a distinction between essential workers and nonessential workers.” Rowe continued, “…there’s something tricky with the language going on here because, with regard to an economy, I don’t think there is any such thing as a nonessential worker.” 1
Rowe did admit that certain positions are greatly needed during a pandemic. Hence, we have greater need for a doctor now than a center fielder for a Major League Baseball team. “I just wanted to make the point that, when we talk about the economy, all work is essential,” Rowe stated. “Maybe it’s a distinction without too much of a difference, but in my mind, there is no such thing right now as a nonessential worker.” 2
Rowe makes a good point. For a healthy economy, every able-bodied person of age, must work. When person “A” earns a paycheck, he spends it in person “B’s” store. Person “B” can then provide for his own family. The property taxes person “B” pays allows person “C’s” child to go to school. In other words, the economy is something in which we all play a role, whether we appreciate our role within it or not. Yet, we see what happens when we purposely shut down a country to mitigate a virus. All the financial gains about which our country boasted for the last few years was wiped out in six weeks!
This isn’t a message about the economy or politics or Mike Rowe. It is rather about the harmful consequences we bring about by rashly judging what’s essential and nonessential without considering the bigger picture. When you have extra time, enter in the words, “baptism” along with “essential” and “necessary,” into your internet search engine of choice. I did. I found one page that proffered “101 Reasons Why Water Baptism is Not Necessary to be Saved.”
Fortunately, we have the book of Acts, also known as the “book of conversions.” Acts has many examples of people who, having heard the proclamation of the Gospel, submitted to baptism. It is a troublesome book for the one seeking to discount the necessity of baptism’s role in salvation. For this reason, such practitioners of a perverted gospel must say, “Baptism is an outward sign of an inward faith.” In other words, all these people were baptized to show their salvation rather than receive it.
Even if we only had the example of Paul’s conversion in the book of Acts, we would have enough reason to prove why baptism is not only necessary but essential. Paul was a man, made miserable by his newly acquired knowledge he was a sinner. He prayed fervently for three days. If one could “pray through” then Paul should have been able to have done so. And yet, when the preacher Ananias arrived, he saw the pathetic state that Paul was in and said, “Now why do you delay? Get up and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on His name” (Acts 22.16). Did Paul not realize he was saved and needed only to perform a ritual to confirm his salvation? If true, Paul was the most miserable Christian about whom we read in the pages of the New Testament during those three days he prayed and fasted.
We might make a tough judgment call because of a virus and shut down certain sectors of our economy since we believe them less essential during a health crisis. Ultimately, though, we realize even those deemed “nonessential” do play an important part in our economy, as Rowe suggested. We need them if we are going to climb up out of this trillion-dollar deficit hole this crisis has made us fall into.
Likewise, people may capriciously proclaim baptism nonessential. However, one wanting total restoration to the innocence lost in Eden must also know a demon’s faith (James 2.19) is not only insufficient to save but fatal (Mark 16.16).
1 Shiver, Phil. “’Dirty Jobs’ Star Mike Rowe: There’s No Such Thing as a ‘Nonessential Worker’.” The Blaze, Blaze Media LLC, 2 Apr. 2020, www.theblaze.com/news/mike-rowe-non-essential-worker.
Interestingly, Paul says, “For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us” (1 Corinthians 5:7). Jesus, as a faithful Jew, had observed the passover throughout His public ministry (John 2:13; 6:4; 11:55), but He knew that the one recorded in Matthew 26 would be different. He told His disciples, “You know that after two days, the Passover is coming, and the Son of Man is to be handed over for crucifixion” (2). On that Passover, He would be sacrificed for us. Jesus of Nazareth, an unblemished (1 Peter 1:18) male (Mark 8:31; 9:31), was killed (Acts 2:23). His blood is applied (Romans 3:25; 5:9; Ephesians 2:13; Hebrews 9:22; 10:19; 12:24; 13:20; Revelation 1:5; 5:9) to the obedient (Hebrews 5:8-9) and is the difference in spiritual life and death (John 6:53-54). As we do every Sunday, this Sunday, which the world recognizes as Easter, we will commemorate the sacrifice of Jesus as part of our weekly worship (Acts 20:7; 1 Corinthians 11:23-29).
Jesus was arrested on Thursday, crucified on Friday, lay buried all day Saturday, and arose on Sunday. Today, New Testament Christians commemorate this sacrifice every Sunday. The unleavened bread represents His body, and the fruit of the vine represents His blood. The God of perfect foreknowledge made these “emblems” part of the Passover feast which Israel celebrated the night they left Egypt, and it predated the first covenant (Exodus 20). The physical passover lamb sacrificed by Israel had significance to them in their generation and it was to be handed down to their descendants. But, God was drawing a picture that night that would be completed the moment His Son said “It is finished,” bowed His head, and gave up His spirit (John 19:30). We celebrate and rejoice because He died, was buried, and rose again! May we never let this sacrifice lose its significance to our past, present, and future.
Some of the wealthiest companies, Apple, Hewlett-Packard, Amazon, Mattel, Google, Tesla, and The Walt Disney Company, started in the quaint, quiet haven of a garage. Often, they had little more than an idea of a product or service, but they refused to stop until they achieved success. These rags to riches stories intrigue us and fire our imaginations.
Have you thought about the “start up” that began in heaven? It was conceived in the eternity before time. A couple of millennia ago, a poor couple staying in an obscure little village laid a newborn baby boy in an animal trough. This Child continued to grow and become strong, increasing in wisdom; and the grace of God was upon Him as He kept increasing in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men. Nothing more is said about this amazing adolescent until He is thirty years old and began sharing new ideas and promising the thing every person in every place in every generation absolutely cannot afford to be without.
Though He was executed for His radical claims, thoughts, and actions, His followers refused to keep what He had to offer hidden. Many of them gave their lives to advance this cause, they believed so much in it. Most of them were poor, uneducated, and ordinary people, but they relentlessly carried His offer to every creature under heaven. People began to describe their efforts by saying these men have turned the world upside down!
And indeed they have. Those who heard the Man who started it all shared it with those who shared it until this ultimate hope went everywhere. Today, multiplied centuries today, their work lives on. Taking that same, original plan, written down in one Book, people of every race, color, country, and economic strata continue to start from nearly nothing and grow in extraordinary ways.
No wonder! That newborn is God in the flesh. What He came to offer is the eternal salvation of our souls. Where He offers it is in His body He calls the church. Anyone can have it, if they are willing to give Him everything they are and have. At this very hour, there is an untold number of men, women, and young people who desperately want what He has to offer, but they need to know how to get it. That’s where we come in. He is counting on us to share His offer today, while there’s time for them to take advantage of it. If we truly believe in the power of it, nothing will keep us from getting this indescribable gift to the masses!
The Ford automobile named for Henry’s own son made its debut in 1957 after unprecedented hype. They had started planning and developing the Edsel back in 1955 based on consumer research, polls, and interviews. Ford thought it had tapped into the heart of the buying public with a car that would win its heart. It turned out to be a disaster in every way one can measure such–it was too big, too unreliable and poorly-made, too unattractive, too expensive, and, well, too weird. Even the name is strange. When Ford’s marketing department polled people about how they liked the name, many asked, “Did you say ‘pretzel’?” (info from “The Flop Heard Round The World,” Peter Carlson, Washington Post, 9/4/07). While today the Edsel has become a collector’s item, selling for as much as $100,000 or more, it will forever live among the automotive lemons’ Hall-of-Fame lineup that includes such stellar machines as the AMC Gremlin, Ford Pinto, Chevy Chevette, Yugo GV, and De Lorean DMC-12.
Marketing can be a mean business. Especially is it risky when you take a proven, respected name and attach it to something that dishonors and degrades it–like “Ford” and “Edsel.” So many researchers have sought to identify why the Edsel was such a colossal failure, but the answer often goes back to the problem that “with too many hands working on the Edsel, the project had no direction” (“The Edsel Proved Why You Should Never Design A Car By Committee,” Chris Perkins, Road & Track, 1/23/17).
What does all of this have to do with God and the Bible or Christ and the church? Well, several things.
The Ford Edsel became the focus of a great many studies by the likes of John Brooks and Bill Gates. Its failures helped many industries, not just the auto industry, learn from its basic mistakes. I think there’s insight in it for the greatest “business” of all–i.e., soul-winning. May we get the greatest name (Jesus) to the greatest audience (the world) through the greatest message (the gospel)! That’s a guaranteed recipe for the greatest success (salvation)!
The longest anyone has ever gone without air is 22 minutes. The longest anyone has ever gone without food is 74 days. But when it comes to water, our bodies can only last so long without it. Water is one of the most essential parts of the human body. It makes up two- thirds of our bodies. The common answer for how long the average person can go without water is about 3 days, but it actually varies from person to person. In strenuous conditions you can lose up to 1.5 liters of sweat an hour, but in comfortable conditions an adult man can go a week or more without water.
Andreas Mihavecz, an 18-year-old Austrian man, may have survived the longest without drinking water: Police accidentally left him in a holding cell for 18 days in 1979. It’s a fuzzy record, though, since he allegedly licked condensation off the walls of the prison. The point is this, water is essential to physical life. What does scripture have to say about water? I’d like to notice two brief ways that water is used in scripture.
Water is mentioned as a way to salvation (John 3:5; Acts 2:38). John 3:5 says, “Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.” What happens if we are not born of water and the Spirit? Eternal life will not become a reality. Water itself is not what saves, but the process of obeying the holy command of God. A very well known quote is this, “My faith is not in the water, but in the One that told me to get into the water.” Water is what gives us eternal life, but only through the act of baptism.
One of the cool attributes of water is that it has the ability to take on impurities, and it
can also release them when it evaporates and becomes purified. What happens at baptism? We are lowered into water and our spiritual impurities are taken away and we come up pure.
I stumbled across an article one time that said this, “Thirst Drives Sailors to Drink Sea Water.” It was July 30th, 1945 and the Battle Cruiser USS Indianapolis was returning home from a mission. On the way back it was struck by a Japanese torpedo. Sadly this ship didn’t make it home. In fact, in just 12 minutes 300 men died and 900 were in the water.
Those in the water went on to endure 4 days and 5 nights in the water. No food, no water and under the blazing sun of the pacific. Of the 900 that went into the water, only 316 survived the lack of water and the shark attacks. One of the survivors was the chief medical officer. He recorded his experiences and said this, “There was nothing I could do, nothing I could do but give advice, bury the dead at sea, save the lifejackets, and try to keep the men from drinking the water. When the hot sun came out, and we were in this crystal clear ocean, we were so thirsty. You couldn’t believe it wasn’t good enough to drink. I had a hard time convincing the men they shouldn’t drink. The real young ones…you take away their hope, you take away their water and food, they would drink the salt water and they would go fast. I can remember striking the ones who were drinking the salt water to try to stop them. They would get dehydrated, then become maniacal. There were mass hallucinations. I was amazed how everyone would see the same thing. One man would see something, and then everyone else would see it. Even I fought the hallucinations off and on. Something always brought me back.”
A lot of times people think, “There is no way that this won’t save me.” How couldn’t I be saved if I’m sprinkled with water? Or if I say a prayer asking Jesus into my heart? Whatever it is, they look at salt water and think it will quench their thirst, that it will save them. But God has told us what to do, and it is up to us on whether we listen or not.
Water is also used as a metaphor describing a way to strengthen our resolve. Isaiah 43:2 says, “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you. And through the rivers, they will not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be scorched, Nor will the flame burn you.” Water here is used as an example of trials and hard times. These waters help us to lean on Christ. We can have comfort in Him. But what is the point of these trials? God can’t use us if we are filled with sin and imperfections. Through these trials and hard times we are purified and God is able to use us.
Water is essential for survival, as every living thing would die without it. Did you know that 97% of water is undrinkable? Thankfully God designed the ocean to evaporate and rain down on us as purified water. When water freezes it gets lighter and floats, saving arctic sea life from getting squished under the weight of the ice.
What does the tired athlete ask for after he performs? Water. What is the word you hear from the traveler lost in the desert? Water. What do you hear from the sick and feverish man laying in his bed? Water. What does the wounded soldier on the battlefield cry for? Water. How beautiful it is that we come to the Living Water for nourishment. We must ask ourselves, Are we quenching our spiritual thirst with the one and only true source?
One of the more difficult passages to understand in scripture is found in II Thessalonians 2. This chapter talks about a figure known as the Man of Lawlessness. Theories abound concerning his/its identity which, thankfully, is immaterial to our salvation and will not be the focus of this article. I would prefer to focus on the apostasy (also translated “rebellion” [ESV] or “falling away” [KJV]) preceding the appearance of the man of lawlessness in our passage.
Paul wrote to the church in Thessalonica because some false teachers, evidently posing as Paul and Sylvanus (2.2), had convinced several members that they had missed out on the second coming (2.1-3). Paul begins by telling them not to believe anything other than what he had already taught them (2.2, 5) and rehashes a proof he taught in person (2.5). Before the second coming, two things had to occur: 1. The Apostasy, 2. The Man of Lawlessness. This would not be a sign of the second coming but an event that would be obvious (2.8, 9) and of unknown duration, eventually brought to an end by the appearance of Christ (2.3, 8). Clearly this had not happened yet or it would be an irrelevant comfort or proof to the Thessalonian church.
Whoever/whatever the man of lawlessness may be, no one argues that its advent is preceded by the apostasy (2.3). The construct of the original language seems to describe this apostasy as being a major, far-reaching event rather than an isolated or regional one. Regardless of the timing of its advent (as in, has it happened or is it yet to come?), the apostasy was or is to be a tragic event.
The word is ἀποστασία which means, “Defiance of established system or authority” (BDAG 121). Keeping the context in consideration this apostasy is an event characterized by a mass “falling away” from the church. It is a tragic event. To quote a great fictional philosopher, “Today is not that day.” It is easy to get caught up in the doom and gloom of current events and think, “There’s no hope.”
Bear Valley Bible Institute recently released their annual report on the work being done through its mission efforts. This is just one school and one evangelistic effort among hundreds, but the church is doing great work in a world that seems to falling apart. Last year alone over 800 preachers were trained and over 3,000 people converted. Again, this is just one great effort among many. The soil is still fertile. There is still work for us to do. There is still hope. When we get overwhelmed by the political chaos in our own country or stressed about events overseas, let’s remember this: this world is not our home, and with our limited time here there is still so much good to be done!
The book of Jonah is a unique book in the Old Testament. Unlike other prophetic books, God chooses to focus on the prophet himself rather than the message being preached by him. While many lessons can be pulled from this four chapter book, there’s one in particular that we can all benefit from hearing from time to time. That lesson is that in order for true change to occur in our lives there must be a genuine transformation of the heart.
The book begins with God’s call to Jonah to preach to the wicked people of Nineveh and then closes with God’s response to Jonah’s anger at the penitent hearts of the Ninevites. Between these two divine speeches you read about the prophet’s incredible experience in the belly of a great fish. Many artist’s have painted pictures of Jonah desperately trying to keep his head above the waves while a terrifying monster breeches the surface with its mouth wide open preparing to swallow him. While this may be the image that comes to mind, Jonah gives us an interesting detail in his prayer. He recalls how the waters closed over him and he eventually reaches the sea floor where he is helplessly tangled in the weeds. While the murky waters cloud his vision his fate seemed very clear. Jonah admits that he called out to the Lord provoked by his great distress and this mental plea was a desperate attempt to preserve his life. God answers this cry by sending him a slippery savior. Jonah, while known to be a little on the dramatic side, will later recall how it was in the moment when his life was fainting away that he “remembered the Lord.” God saved a blatantly rebellious man who in no way deserved that salvation but He also allowed Jonah to reach great depths and come face to face with his own spiritual reality. Jonah was a long way from God, but not geographically.
Before Jonah became soaked by the stormy seas, he was soaked in a sin problem that had taken root in his heart. God allowed Jonah to physically experience rock bottom so that he could acknowledge some spiritual issues that distanced him from God. While Jonah may have desired to run from God, he came to the conclusion that being away from God was not the relief he thought it would be.
As traumatic as this event was, Jonah seems to emerge from the belly of the fish with lingering spiritual issues. Though he preaches to the city of Nineveh, there is still anger and hatred dominating his heart. The last chapter gives us a glimpse of this as he directs this anger towards the very God that saved him. In order for true change to occur, there must be a genuine change of heart. While low points can help us examine our heart health for a moment, relentless determination to live life differently is the key to success. A hopeful reminder for anyone who may find themselves in the depths of sin, there is no place too dark where God is not able to hear your prayers.