For the Love of Swine

For the Love of Swine

Matthew, Mark, and Luke all record a tragic event from Jesus’ life that occurred on His visit to a certain region whereafter He never returned as far as we know, all because the people there apparently preferred the presence of their swine, to the presence of the Savior (Please see/study: Matt. 8:28-34; Mk. 5:1-17; & Lk. 8:26-37).

Pigs or Jesus... some choose pigs.

Pigs or Jesus… some choose pigs.

We are all probably at least somewhat familiar with the story, and how Jesus arrived in the Gadarene (or Gergasene) region and drove many demons from a couple of men, out into a nearby herd of swine which then rushed down a steep hillside to their deaths as they drowned in the depths of the sea. Shortly thereafter, the herdsman, townsfolk, and inhabitants of that region begged Jesus to leave their area – which He did, never to return as far as we know. What a terrible, tragic, and soul-destroying, salvation-rejecting decision! But apparently they preferred the putrid presence of their pigs, to the perfecting presence of the Prince of Peace.

Why would I say such a thing? Consider… While they begged Jesus to leave their area, they were apparently quite comfortable with the presence of their pigs, as they had obviously, previously chosen to keep their pigs around for a while. And although these folks were likely of Jewish descent and knew that pigs were unclean to them as God’s holy and chosen people (Lev. 11:7, Deut. 14:8), apparently God’s commands didn’t matter all that much to them. After all, Matthew tells us there were “many swine” (vs. 30); while Mark tells us it was a “large herd,” (vs. 11), “about two thousand” (vs. 13). And such numbers would surely mean full coffers and large financial surpluses for those who kept the pigs close. Hence, the pigs had been wanted, coddled, protected and cherished… while the Savior wasn’t – and was therefore sent packing… quite likely never to return.

What has this got to do with congregations of the Lord’s church today? Much indeed. The simple fact of the matter is – whether some of the more sensitive amongst us might find it abrasive or offensive – that several times in the Scriptures themselves, certain types of people are undeniably aligned with, alluded to, and/or illustrated as… “pigs”… or “swine” that is. For example, in Proverbs 11:22 we would note that “As a ring of gold in a swine’s snout, so is a lovely woman who lacks discretion.” In Isaiah 65:1-5 we see those people who willfully rebel against God and His word, closely associated with swine and assorted other abominations; those who walk in accordance with their own thoughts and desires instead of His and therefore continually anger and irritate God. Those words of God are closely echoed once again – with severe judgments additionally pronounced – in Isaiah 66:1-5 and 15-17.

In the New Testament we would note that both Jesus Christ our Lord as well as the Apostle Peter referred to certain people as akin to swine. In both of these cases (Matt. 7:6; 2 Ptr. 2:22), we see that these are those people who simply will not humble themselves and accept, obey, and submit to God’s precious word. Those verses are NOT referring to those who occasionally fall short, make mistakes, and when they do, are sincerely willing to repent because they truly want to get and stay right with God no matter the personal cost or sacrifice. But these texts are referring specifically to those who have willfully, knowingly, and stubbornly chosen to reject and rebel against God’s word on certain matters, in order to do what they want no matter what, despite what God said. We would note from 2nd Peter 2 in particular, that these are those who, in their lust for greed (or power?) are willing to wantonly and knowingly support and promote false doctrine (vss. 1-3); who will speak evil of any spiritual edicts or subjects they don’t want to take the time to honestly and scripturally understand and/or obey (vs. 12); deceiving children of God who know, but resist God’s truth; who have willfully and knowingly forsaken the right way of God; and who stubbornly and persistently refuse to repent! This, while they deceptively seek to sneak back in to feast with the flock – not to repent, but for the purpose of dragging those still living faithfully to the word back out into the world with them (vss. 13-22)!

The first-century congregation of the church of Christ (Rom. 16:16) in Corinth had to learn this same lesson exactly (1 Cor. 5:1-13). Such abhorrent, willful, sinful and pig-style rebellion and behavior has never been acceptable to God nor will it ever be. The Corinthians had to make a choice just like the Gadarenes: swine… or Savior? One must go, and one must stay – for willful self-chosen sin, and the Savior of mankind, simply cannot long co-exist. This is the same choice that so many congregations of the Lord’s church must also face and make today; for not to face it, is still to make it. If or when any congregation’s main focus, preference, and priority, becomes ONLY the numbers and the financial landfall such numbers can bring no matter how much willful sin, rejection, rebellion, and worldly false doctrine such folks defiantly engage in as they trample the pearls of God’s truth beneath their dirty hooves before turning on the few still faithful, then, in reality… isn’t Jesus still being asked to leave?

 

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Mid-Missouri Bible Camp

Mid-Missouri Bible Camp

My apologies for no new articles this last week.  My wife, my son, and I were all out at the Mid-Missouri Bible Camp.  Fantastic time was had by all!  77 youths this year and the counselors and cooks were amazing as always.   There were two devotions every day, 2 additional lessons, and 1 class period for the boys and girls separately.

The young men did ten devotional lessons this week and did an outstanding job.  A couple of them had never done devotions before.  Despite a few nerves, they did an exemplary job.  Very proud of them for stepping up to be leaders.  May we all take the initiative to go beyond our comfort zones because we want to follow the commands of our Lord and be pleasing to Him.

The camp does a fantastic job of teaching the young folks and balances it with lots of fun in between to fill their day.  As always I am very pleased with their efforts to make the event modest, Biblical, and uplifting.  Thank you very much for the directors Eric Richardson and David Long for the time they spent in planning and organizing the week.

Mid Missouri Bible Camp Lesson on Friendship.

Mid Missouri Bible Camp Lesson on Friendship.

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Christian Servants: Deacons

Christian Servant: Deacons

There are so many things that Christians do that go unseen or unnoticed—oftentimes these are very essential works that are behind the scenes. Buildings are maintained, sick are visited, orphans and widows are cared for, programs are carried out, all because many Christians desire to be servants for Him. Oftentimes, these efforts never receive an official “thank you” from the pulpit. And yet, they still get done because of someone’s love for God. Most people are very familiar with the 80/20 rule. This is the concept that 80 percent of the work is carried out by 20 percent of the people. I have had the pleasure of meeting and even working with individuals who are in the 20% that work hard. Ironically, I can’t recall anyone who told me they belonged to the 80% who do little.

Servants choose to serve others whether they are recognized or not.

Servants choose to serve others whether they are recognized or not.

When it comes to rolling up sleeves and doing work some individuals would rather take a pass. It’s hard for me personally to understand that disposition. As someone who regularly reflects on what Christ did for me, I have a burning passion to serve Him and be a better Christian with each new day. There are many weeks that I feel like I have not done enough! I would hope that all who wear the name “Christian” have a genuine desire to serve Him. One special group of individuals within the church actually wears the name “servants.” The word deacon is derived from the Greek word diakonos, which is commonly translated “servant.” These are men who have been selected to serve in particular capacities—usually taking advantage of specifics talents or fulfilling specific needs. Paul addressed his letter to the church at Philippi and included the deacons in his salutation (Philippians 1:1).

Here’s what I intend on teaching my children about deacons.

In the September/October 2005 issue of The Futurist, the writers analyzed how we spend our time. Although almost every American would argue they don’t have much free or leisure time, this study clearly demonstrated that we have roughly 35 hours per week of leisure time. That’s approximately 5 hours per day that is frequently eaten up using the computer, watching television, reading, socializing, playing sports, or just relaxing. Consider for one moment what would happen if 5 of those leisure hours were given back to the church, and 10 were dedicated to family. How much stronger would our families and church families be if we all devoted more time to them? Whether you ever wear the name “deacon,” I expect you to use the time God gives you wisely and fulfill that role of being a busy servant.

God in His infinite wisdom designed an office in the church to help meet the needs of members in the local congregation. The specific qualifications for these men can be found in 1 Timothy 3:8-13. It is my prayer that my sons will long to serve as these special servants. These are men who are charged to take care of the physical welfare of the local congregation, which then allows the elders to focus on the spiritual welfare of the congregation. Consider what happens if elders are so busy worrying about building and grounds maintenance or audio/visual issues that they don’t have time to consider the spiritual welfare of the congregation. In Acts 6 we see an instance where the widows were being neglected. The Twelve called the disciples together and asked them to select “men of good reputation” (vs. 3) who would allow the Apostles to continue studying and praying.

Understand that “deacon” is a description—servant—rather than a title. Far too often men get so caught up with titles and their “area/territory’ that the work never gets done or things get bogged down. Occasionally men will argue over who is supposed to do something or make matters entirely too complex. For instance, in one congregation your mom and I attended, the elders asked the deacons to look into what it would take to create visitor parking places. This request came up several times over a period of a year in men’s business meetings. (They actually formed a committee about it). One Sunday afternoon following yet another business meeting I called the elders and asked if I paid for it out of pocket could I just do it? Two hours and approximately $20 dollars later the task was done.

The office of deacon is a special office of service and one that I hope your heart will desire. Whether you wear the name “deacon” or not, stay busy serving Him.

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