Tag Archives: Religion and Spirituality

What Underground Churches Don’t Worry About

In a sermon I preached not long ago, I made mention of the fact that you never see “First Baptist,” “Methodist,” or “Community Non-Denominational” plastered above an underground church. When all one wants to do is worship God without being imprisoned or killed, denominational distinction is one of the least of their worries.

That led me to think of other things that an underground church might not worry about:

  • The color of the carpet
  • The font on the church bulletin
  • Whether or not they sing a hymn or a praise song
  • Whether or not the pulpit is made of wood or etched glass
  • Business meetings
  • Bible Versions
  • Post-graduate or seminary training
  • Projection screens
  • Padded pews
  • Pews
  • A family activity building
  • Gold or silver communion accessories
  • How long the worship lasts
  • What people wear
  • Parking

No, I don’t think underground churches ever have time to worry about all these things. They are more concerned with fellowship, encouragement, prayer, reading God’s Word in any version they can get their hands on, and keeping each other alive.

Does having things over which to argue make us more spiritual?

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Filed under Christian Living, Christian Unity, God, legalism, Uncategorized, worship

Re-Examining the Divorce Controversy

The following subject comes up periodically, requiring me to give a biblical explanation.  Therefore, for those who may not have done much study on it, let us consider the question of divorce and the pastorate.

My Story

I will never forget the phone call I got from a church in Rome, GA over 20 years ago. Someone on the other end of the line was part of a search committee looking for a new pastor.  They had gotten my resume and were impressed enough to give me a call.  Everything was going well until they asked a very pointed question, “Bro. Anthony, does your wife have a spouse that is still living?”  With an undeniable tone of frustration, I replied, “Yes, ME.”  

Unfortunately, this would not be the last time something like that happened.

What I encountered on the telephone that day was not unusual, nor unexpected, but it stung. You see, even though our (then) pastor told me marrying Valerie would “put the final nail in the coffin” of my ministry hopes, I chose to marry a woman who had been divorced – and there were consequences.

However, I was aware the scripture (1 Tim. 3:2) being used against me was lacking in exposition, and it was ultimately up to God whether or not I pastored a church.  So, after much study, I felt peace that what I was doing was right (but it didn’t hurt when the late Dr. Spiros Zodhiates gave us his approval).

But let me be clear about a few things…

wedding picture fourFirst,  I have never been divorced, so for me the whole argument of 1 Timothy 3:2 should be moot.  Second, my wife was left with no choice but to divorce; furthermore, it happened before she was a believer.  Third, my wife’s ex-husband remarried and divorced again before I even met her. By all accounts my wife was free to remarry, so both she and I were clear from any “adultery” issues.  

Also, I am “the husband of one wife,” and Scripture NEVER said a bishop “must be the husband of one wife who was the wife of only one husband, ever.” Just a minor observation.

So, what DOES the Bible say?

1 Timothy 3:2 says,  “A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife...”  Also, verse 12 says, “Let the deacons be the husbands of one wife...”  The difficulty with these verses is not what is being said, but how it is interpreted.  

Is Paul telling Timothy that in order to be a pastor, deacon, or elder in a church, you must have only been married once?  Could it even be possible that Paul is saying that a man of God MUST have a wife, because being single would disqualify one from ministry?  These are things that have been debated for centuries.  

Some believe that a pastor, deacon, or elder should have never been divorced (or married to a divorcee) . Others believe that in order to be a proper leader, one must be married.  Still, many commentators believe that the proper rendering of the Greek is “one-woman man,” implying faithfulness and character over the number of wives.  

In reality, what the Bible says is one thing, but as William D. Mounce put it, “The Greek gives us a range of possibilities, but our theology is going to determine our interpretation.” 

I think there’s another way to look at it…

Take a look at 1 Timothy 3 and read through verse 12.  The best I can figure is that there are between 16 and 17 qualifications for the bishop, and between 6 and 8 for the deacons.  All of these are preceded with a literal or an implied “must be,” as in “must be blameless,” or a “must have.”  How does this affect the argument that an elder “must have” only been married once, never remarried, or never divorced?    

Think of any great man of God you know that has stood behind the pulpit and faithfully proclaimed the Word of God.  Has he always been blameless?  Has he always been on his best behavior?  Did he ever get drunk, covet, lose his patience, or curse his wife or children in anger?  Was he ever a novice, a beginner subject to pride? If so, then according to the logic of some, he should never be able to preach or lead in God’s church, for just as a man “must be the husband of one wife,” so he also must be “blameless, vigilant, sober, well-behaved, given to hospitality, patient, never greedy, and always in control of his house and children.”  

Do you see it?  If your interpretation leads you to believe that the bishop must have only had one wife – ever – then the same hermeneutic (the study of the principles of interpretation) should apply to the other “must be’s.”  

  • Must be the husband of one wife” = never divorced.  
  • Not a novice” = never been a beginner in the faith.

Doesn’t make sense, does it?

1 Timothy 3:1-12 is in the present infinitive tense (i.e., must be / dei einai).  The requirements listed are ones that describe a man of character and faithfulness, of sobriety and gravitas; not a beginner or one untried and unproven.  What I see is a list of requirements that may not have always been present in a man, but should be NOW, after God has done a verifiable work in his life.  In other words, the Bible says a bishop “must be,” not “must have always been,” or “must have never done.”  

Paul said, “and such were some of you:  but ye were washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.” – 1 Corinthians 6:11

Here’s my point…

I believe that there are plenty who are sitting back or hiding out because someone has convinced them that they are used up and un-usable.  For example, I can think of men right now who, for whatever reason, are divorced.  Yet, these men, now Christians, are sold-out, God-fearing, faithful, Spirit-filled fathers and husbands with proven testimonies and unimpeachable character.  Sadly, however, because of mistakes made when they were young, unsaved, and stupid, they cannot serve as deacons, much less as pastors.  

On the other hand, I can think of several pastors today who were once murderers, drug dealers, fornicators, extortioners, and abusers of mankind (do I need to explain that last one?). Yet, only because they don’t have “divorced” to add to the list of past sins, they are accepted and given full authority as leaders in the church. 

Sad.

It’s time the body of Christ re-examine this issue in the light of GRACE.

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Filed under baptist, Divorce, General Observations, Independent Baptist, legalism, Relationships and Family, Uncategorized

What Underground Churches Don’t Worry About

In a sermon I preached not long ago, I made mention of the fact that you never see “First Baptist,” “Methodist,” or “Community Non-Denominational” plastered above an underground church. When all one wants to do is worship God without being imprisoned or killed, denominational distinction is one of the least of their worries.

That led me to think of other things that an underground church might not worry about:

  • The color of the carpet
  • The font on the church bulletin
  • Whether or not they sing a hymn or a praise song
  • Whether or not the pulpit is made of wood or etched glass
  • Cassette tapes or CD’s
  • Bible Versions
  • Post-graduate or seminary training
  • Projection screens
  • Padded pews
  • Pews
  • A family activity building
  • Gold or silver communion accessories
  • How long the worship lasts
  • What people wear
  • Parking
  • Youth activities
  • Revival Meetings

No, I don’t think underground churches ever have time to worry about all these things. They are more concerned with fellowship, encouragement, prayer, reading God’s Word in any version they can get their hands on, and staying alive.

Yet, it would seem we think we are closer to God than the underground, persecuted church because, after all, we have more things to worry about.

Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; that they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. Jesus  (John 17:20-21)

Maybe we should concentrate more on what really matters…”that the world may believe.”

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Filed under Christian Living, Christian Unity, God, legalism, Uncategorized, worship

Just Be Thankful You’re Alive

It is a little after 1 PM in the afternoon, and I’m sitting in our van reading my Bible. Not long from now I will go back to work and drive the school bus, completing my afternoon routes. 

As I was reading I came across a verse in the book of Lamentations, and I thought I would share it with you. 

Lamentations 3:39 (CSB) Why should any living person complain, any man, because of the punishment for his sins?

Here the idea is that if you have been punished for your sins by a Holy God, and are still alive, you have nothing to complain about! Seriously, too often we gripe and moan about the circumstances which we must endure, and yet those circumstances are so often the result of our own sinful decisions. Is it not a wonderful thing that we are so loved by our heavenly Father? He does not pour out on us the punishment we deserve, because he is rich in mercy. We are alive! We should be grateful!

Let us search and try our ways, and turn again to the LORD. Let us lift up our heart with our hands unto God in the heavens. – Lamentations 3:41-42

There are so many things in this world we could complain about. So often those who complain the most are the ones who have the most. But if there’s anything worth rejoicing about, it is the fact that we serve a God who is rich in mercy. We don’t deserve anything good, no matter how small or insignificant; we deserve judgement. 

However, if I just turn back one page in my Bible I can read verse 22, where it says, “Through the LORD’S mercies we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not.” And, thankfully, they are new every morning! 

If you are reading this, then you are alive! Why not take a moment and praise Him?

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Filed under Bible Study, God, grace, Uncategorized

Monday Monkey Re-Run

It’s a Monday and some of you need a smile. It’s been a while since this was last posted (3 years, actually), but it’s worthy of a re-run.

One of the greatest country songs to come out of Nashville in the last, oh, 20 years was Jesus Take the Wheel.

This video is not meant to make fun of that song, so I hope Carrie Underwood doesn’t hate me when she sees this (But I hope she does see this).

This episode/edition of “Monday Monkey” pays tribute to Jesus Take the Wheel, while at the same time making fun of Monday-morning drivers. It was only the second video I’d ever made with the monkey, but it remains my favorite – I just wish it’d been longer.

“There’s a Monkey at the Wheel”

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It’s All About Being “Real”

The Following was written six years ago in May, 2011. Sort of a “squeeze” from the past 😉


Have you ever been completely spent? Worn out? Empty? I have. As a matter of fact, I woke up this morning feeling like a squeezed out tube of toothpaste.

Yesterday was a great day. I was blessed to be able to preach in the morning, the afternoon, and the evening. The only problem is that when you go all day, preaching your heart out, by the end of the day you’re exhausted. When I got up to drive the school bus, I looked at that tube of toothpaste and said, “That’s me.”

Over the next couple of hours a thought came to me: how can you tell when a tube of toothpaste is empty? Usually, it is flat and rolled up. The compacted tube shows evidence that all of its contents have been used – there’s nothing left. Then what about the hard, stand-up kind?

These new containers for toothpaste are deceiving. Unlike the old-fashioned tubes, they do not compact and show any visible signs of being empty. They always look full. Then it hit me – what hypocrites! Those new-fangled containers are just putting on a show and never give any hint of being used up. In other words, they’re not “real.”

I want to be “real.”

This is not a lesson on hypocrisy. This is not a lesson on being a whitewashed tomb full of dead men’s bones. This is about being “real.”

Too often, especially in ministry, we are forced to put on a façade, thereby making ourselves appear to be something we’re not. It’s not meant to be hypocritical. It is meant to spare others from the truth of our own inadequacies – our own emptiness. Sadly, because we don’t want to be a burden or a disappointment, we endure the emptiness…the loneliness…the fatigue. Being “real” is risky.

There are limits to how much dirty laundry a pastor can air in public without losing his ministry. There are limits to how vulnerable he can be around others. But may it never be said that we have to pretend to be something we are not. We are human. We have weaknesses. We have limitations. We can feel “used up.”

Fortunately, unlike a tube of toothpaste, we can be refilled. And for that matter, even a seemingly squeezed out tube always has just a little more to give. God gives us what we need, when we need it.  The important thing to remember is that we shouldn’t try to act full, when we are empty. When we do that, that is when we act in our own strength. Let us then admit our weakness and emptiness, and in turn our heavenly Father will refill us with what will bring Him glory. Who knows, maybe it is our emptiness He wants to use most.

“And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.” – 2 Corinthians 12:9-10 KJV

Just keep it REAL.

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Filed under Christian Living, General Observations, legalism, Preaching

Happy Resurrection Day!

Happy Easter!

For the Christian, this is the day we remember the most important event in historythe resurrection of Jesus Christ.

There have always been those who don’t believe, of course. But ever since that first morning when the women showed up to an empty tomb (Matthew 24), untold numbers have staked their eternity on the testimony of those who “heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life” (1 John 1:1).

As a matter of fact, one cannot call himself a true Christian if this day means nothing, for unless one “believe in his heart that God hath raised him [Jesus] from the dead,” he cannot be saved (Romans 10:9). The resurrection is so important to the Christian faith, “if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain” (1 Corinthians 15:14 RSV).

I don’t know about you, but this is one case where all my eggs are in one basket; my eternity depends on it.

Again, have a happy Easter. He is RISEN!

Easter Morning Sunrise over Chattanooga

 

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Filed under Christianity, Easter, Faith