Posts filed under: Church/Ministry

 

As the Passion Week rolls on, we find ourselves at what has been called Tuesday.  Because of the difference in Jewish, Roman, and even our calendars today, being sure that the days of Passion Week line up today as they did back then is difficult.  The Gospels of the New Testament are also not written in a chronological manner, so this makes placing certain events on certain days even more trickier.

Even with all of the difficulties at hand, it is believed that the first “Holy Tuesday” was a busy one for Jesus Christ.  Tuesdays have always been interesting to me.  You are over everything from the weekend, but not close enough to the next weekend to really count.  It is believed that this Tuesday so many years ago held many confrontations with the religious leaders of the day (the Pharisees and Sadducees) over various topics for Jesus.

While those are important, there is yet another event that is attributed to that Tuesday that stands out like a flashing neon sign.  It is found in both Mark and Luke’s Gospels.  I would point to Mark’s account here.

Sitting across from the temple treasury, he watched how the crowd dropped money into the treasury. Many rich people were putting in large sums. Then a poor widow came and dropped in two tiny coins worth very little.  Summoning his disciples, he said to them, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others.  For they all gave out of their surplus, but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had ​— ​all she had to live on.” (Mark 12:41-44 CSB)

Jesus is sitting by watching people come and go as they bring their monetary offerings to God.  This is a practice that is still done some twenty centuries later.  The time of giving is a time of worship and devotion as one brings a portion of what the Lord has given to them for the use of Kingdom work.

Jesus notices those who were considered “well off”.  These are the ones that did not have to worry so much about how to pay the bills or where the next meal was coming from and so forth.  Jesus never condemns their giving, but He did make an interesting observation.  He noticed that as the large sums of coins were placed into coffers there was a notice that was sought.  It could have very well been that these people had deliberately brought many coins to be noticed as they “gave unto the Lord.”  I can almost see Jesus sitting there just shaking His head.

But then a “poor widow” came to give, and everything changed.  Jesus did not let this moment escape with teaching His disciples the principle here.  I can see Him rise to His feet and even point towards the widow (I know, pointing isn’t polite, but it’s Jesus…so).  He makes the statement to His disciples that this poor widow has given “all that she had to live on.”

God does not need our money.  The truth is it all belongs to Him anyway (Deuteronomy 10:14; Psalm 24:1).  God gives us an opportunity to express our faith and trust in Him by giving to Him.  We see this poor widow teaching all who would take notice a great lesson: It is not about the amount you give; it is the faith attached to it that matters.

Widows during this time period were seen as some of the most needy people in the world.  They were at the mercy of family members and friends to care for them.  This woman had a faith in God that moved her to action.  She understood that all that she had belonged to the Lord and came from Him.  She used this moment to express her dependence upon God… and God took notice.  God has this way of seeing what no one else can (or wants to).

As we proceed through this Passion Week, what is the motivation behind what you do for the Lord?  Is it to be seen (by Him and others) or is simply a way to say ‘thank you’ for what He has done for you?

Today is what has been commonly called the “Holy Monday” of the passion week.  It refers to the Monday that follows Palm Sunday where Jesus rode into Jerusalem for the final time before going to the cross.

One of the biggest events that took place on that Monday was a visit that Jesus made to the Temple that day.  Here is what happened:

Jesus went into the temple and threw out all those buying and selling. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the chairs of those selling doves. He said to them, “It is written, my house will be called a house of prayer, but you are making it a den of thieves! ” (Matthew 21:12-13 CSB)

Not your typical visit to church, eh?  Jesus didn’t go into the Temple for the ordinary worship.  He was on a mission.  Sadly, the worship of that day had become somewhat of a show.  There were those who were buying and selling materials that were used in the worship services, but these people many times took advantage of the worshippers by inflating prices and such.Jesus was not pleased with what was going on in the house of worship.  It was to be a place that was for people to come and draw nearer to God not be taken advantage of.

I often wonder if Jesus were to come into the doors of our churches today, would there be some “overturning of things”?  Would Jesus find what He intended to be there?  I certainly hope so.  I also hope that if He didn’t like what He would see that He would do the necessary “rearranging” that was needed.

As we draw nearer to the celebration of the resurrection, let us do an inventory of what is present not only in our churches but our own lives.  It may be time for some spring cleaning to take place.

 

Spiritual gifts is a topic that has intrigued many throughout the ages. There are various thoughts on how they work, are they still around, when a Christian gets them, and more. As the jacket of the books states, “pastor and author Sam Storms offers practical steps to understanding and exercising spiritual gifts in a way that remains grounded in the Word and centered in the gospel.”

I was interested in seeing what stance this book was going to take on the subject of spiritual gifts. In my experience, spiritual gifts is one of those topics that is very polarizing.  The forward written by Matt Chandler (whom I respect greatly) made me want to see what this book was about. 

The topic of spiritual gifts has interested me for some time. I have heard the arguments about how some spiritual gifts are no longer needed or in use today (cessationist view). I have also heard of those who believe that the gifts are all still in use today among the church (continuationist view). 

Sam Storms is one who holds the continuationist view, but presents his convictions with a strong use of Scripture.  He writes in the conclusion, “The foundation for the experience of spiritual gifts is and always must be inerrant truths articulated in the Bible. Any attempt to move forward apart from the parameters set for us in the [New Testament] will likely lead to experiential excess, theological error, and an unbridled fanaticism that will serve only to bring disgrace on the name of Christ and do damage to those very people you are trying to serve and help” (237).

The manner at which Storms takes the Word of God and uses it as the starting platform and guardrails makes this book and great and reliable tool.  The words and thoughts that are presented in this book are ones that are backed up with Scripture. 

One of the only issues that I had was that there was not equal attention given to the gifts mentioned in the book. I know that to write a full work on each gift would be too much for one book. I even get why Storms chose the gifts that he did in this book. I just didn’t get why three chapters were devoted to “prophecy” and one to the others. 

Recommendation

As for a recommendation, I would highly recommend Practicing the Power by Sam Storms to the Christian that is looking for answers to the question of whether some particular spiritual gifts are still at work today. I believe Storms gives some great insight and uses Scripture to show that you do not have to check solid, grounded in the Word theology at the door to believe that the Holy Spirit is still distributing the gifts that some think are long gone. 

Palm Sunday
Today marks the beginning of what Christians call “Holy Week.” This is a remembrance of the week leading up to the two most significant events in all of history: the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ. 

I cannot think of a more crazy week that has ever been. It is the ultimate emotional roller coaster. It starts out at a very high point and plummets to the lowest only to rise again even higher than before. I am going to attempt to blog each day this week with some thoughts tied to what is believed to happened on this corresponding day long ago. 

Palm Sunday

“When they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage at the Mount of Olives, Jesus then sent two disciples, telling them, “Go into the village ahead of you. At once you will find a donkey tied there with her foal. Untie them and bring them to me. If anyone says anything to you, say that the Lord needs them, and he will send them at once.”

This took place so that what was spoken through the prophet might be fulfilled: Tell Daughter Zion, “See, your King is coming to you, gentle, and mounted on a donkey, and on a colt, the foal of a donkey.” The disciples went and did just as Jesus directed them. They brought the donkey and its foal; then they laid their clothes on them, and he sat on them. A very large crowd spread their clothes on the road; others were cutting branches from the trees and spreading them on the road. Then the crowds who went ahead of him and those who followed shouted: Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest heaven! When he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was in an uproar, saying, “Who is this? ” The crowds were saying, “This is the prophet Jesus from Nazareth in Galilee.”” (‭‭Matthew‬ ‭21:1-2, 4-11‬ ‭CSB‬‬)

This is the account from Matthew’s gospel of when Jesus entered Jerusalem for the final time. What a day that was! The long-awaited Messiah was entering into Jerusalem to take care of the business that He was sent to do. 

We see the people standing along the road singing and shouting praises to God at the mere sight of Jesus. In my humble opinion, this should be a picture of what every Sunday looks like. As we recognize the Lord, we respond in the only appropriate manner: praise and worship. 

It is hard to praise the Lord when you do not see Him though. The only people that we see participating in this praise event are those that get a glimpse of the Savior. We do not read about those in their homes or busy running their errands of the day joining in this praise. 

Do you see Jesus at work around you? If He were to pass by through your city/town, would you be able to give Him the praise due Him, or would you miss it?

May our eyes be open today to see the work and presence of the King of kings. May we join in with others singing His praise: “Hosanna in the highest heaven!”

The Southern Baptists of Mississippi are pushing a campaign to get their members more involved in evangelism. This campaign is called “Tell Me, Tell Someone.” It is a good campaign in my opinion. It is one that any Christian can get on board with not just Southern Baptists. 

Along with this campaign, the leaders of the Mississippi Baptist Convention are hitting every county and prison in the state spreading the message of the campaign. This past Monday, the county that I live in hosted this rally. 

Dr. Jim Futral shared with the crowd that gathered at the Bruce town square about the importance of sharing our faith with others. In his message, Dr. Futral also shared some interesting stats with the crowd.

  • Mississippi has the most churches per capita of all the United States. 
  • Calhoun County has the most churches per capita of all counties in Mississippi. 

Honestly, I was not surprised at these stats. The state in which I have lived for some time now has churches scattered all over. The county in which I live has a population of around 14,000 (+\-), and there are 44 Southern Baptist churches along with many other denominations. The editor of our county paper shared that there are almost 100 active churches in our county. The joke of “a church on every corner” about rings true where I live. 

Dr. Futral also shared another stat with the crowd. I wish that I could say that this stat shocked me, but it didn’t. What was the stat?

  • No county in the state of Mississippi (including Calhoun County) has more than 1/3 of the population reached with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. 

The reason that this stat didn’t shock me was that I shared a similar stat with the Southern Baptists in our county a couple of years ago. I shared that a demographic study showed that 65% of our county’s population is considered “unreached with the Gospel.” 

While there may be a church on just about every corner, it doesn’t always mean that things are well. Our county has the most churches per capita over any county in the state, yet we also have over half of the population that is not being reached with the Gospel. We are really doing no better than those counties that have the fewest churches in the county. 

Just because there are groups that meet in a building and have a sign that shows their name has “church” in it doesn’t mean that things are happening. There should be an impact made on the community because of the presence of the church. I have often posed the question to our church that if our church was gone tomorrow would the community care or just go on about life as usual?

I pray that the numerous churches in our area will recognize the important task that we have to share the Gospel with those around us. A county that has close to 100 active churches should not have an unreached population of 65%.