Two, er, Four Heroes
“But It’s Our Job”; “Where Else Would I Be?”; Where Else Were They?
Identifying heroes is good business for any organization. Not necessarily the highest flyers, an organization’s heroes are its members who truly live the organization’s values. Identifying heroes is a way to (i) give heroes a well-deserved ATABOY, and to (ii) reinforce most important principles and ideals. In order to do that, this article is written about two four heroes of the Liberty Church of Christ.
Hero Theory – For the Birds
Roles and role players in organizations have been compared with different kinds of birds. The original organizational birds followed the DOPE acronym of the DOPE Personality Test.
- Dove – peaceful and friendly.
- Owl – wise and logical.
- Peacock – showy and optimistic.
- Eagle – bold and decisive.
Other bird-types have been added.
- Jays – cackling and annoying.
- Migratory Birds – flying from one idea to another without effective implementation.
- Buzzards – circling slowly while waiting for something to die.
- Angry Birds – you get the picture.
But who builds the nests?
The true heroes of the bird organization are the nest builders. Purposefully flitting about from here to there, nest builders are the worker bees (mixed animal metaphor), carrying twigs and pieces of twine, turning the raw materials into our place to live, and then doing the tedious, thankless work of keeping house. Without the nest builders, all of the other birds are just fly-by-nights.
Who are our nest builders, our value livers, and our heroes?
“But it’s Our Job”
Following last Saturdays’ Fall Festival, all of the workers were tired. The combination of steady business and bleaching sun took its toll. Although everyone enjoyed Fall Festival, many were ready to go home and roost, er, rest.
Among those who were ready to rest was Patti Davis. Thinking ahead – dreading ahead - to the next day’s luncheon and its desert assignment, she, like many others, was ready to skip it. The thought of cooking a cake was just about too much to bear. After all, who would notice one cake more or less?
Her granddaughter Hallie noticed, and Hallie spoke up. “But Nanna, it’s our job,” she earnestly said. Yes, a young girl understood and was highly motivated by a sense of duty. So to the store and then to the kitchen they went. The result was yummy, pumpkin-looking red velvet cake complete with icing. The result was really very much more.
“Where Else Would I Be?”
With even better reason to be tired, and with an even better reason to skip the whole thing was Peggy McIntosh. She had only been in the hospital Monday through Saturday – you know, the hospital, that comfy day spa where people go for rest and relaxation (not).
So where was she on Sunday morning? She attended the worship services of the church.
When asked why she was here, Peggy responded with her typical economy of words. “Where else would I be?” she replied. For some, the great reasons of others are not even accepted as decent excuses. Where else indeed?
Hold the Presses – Two More Heroes
Identifying heroes is dangerous business because there are always more heroes. This is especially true at the Liberty Church of Christ where we have so many who live the values of Christianity. After floating just one hero in front of last Wednesday evening’s Bible class, I was flocked by two more nominations. “What about…?” the class twice asked.
“What about Geraldine Frazier?” someone asked. Sister Geraldine has had some kind of an infection, and the medicine cure is about as bad as the problem itself, making her feel generally woozy and bad. So where was she last Sunday? She, too, attended the services of the church.
“What about Francis Petrie?” asked another. Sister Francis is struggling mightily to get around on feet that are worse for the wear. So what does she do? She gets her little feet underneath her and she gets herself to Wednesday night Bible study.
Conclusion – Birds of What Kind of Feather?
The following challenge is only for the most morally courageous.
Compare your “reasons” for living less than the highest values of Christianity with Hallie’s sense of duty, with Peggy’s brusque question, with Geraldine’s general wooziness, and with Francis’ simple, sweet determination.
For your examples ladies, we are thankful. We are also ashamed.
The Passover as an Illustration of the Relationship Between
The Old Testament and the New Testament
Understanding the relationship between the Old Testament and the New Testaments first requires that we reject the extremes. Some have concluded that all of the Old Testament applies just as much today as it did when it was written. Some have concluded that none of the Old Testament applies today at all. Both extremes are wrong.
Rejecting the extremes, the next challenge is to find the suitable middle. With its lessons about (i) the carryover aspects of the Passover, (ii) the shadow of Christ in the Passover, and then/now related to the Passover, the Bible's teaching about the Passover helps us find the suitable middle. This article uses the Passover as an illustration about the relationship between the Old Testament and the New Testament.
Something about the Old Testament's Passover carries over into the New Testament.
Major Old Testament References
- The Passover was instituted in Exodus 11-12, at the time when the last of Moses' plagues - the death of the firstborn - effected the release of the Children of Israel from Egyptian Bondage.
- More instruction about the Passover observance was given later, in Leviticus 23:4-8 and Numbers 28:16-25. The Passover was the most significant occasion in the annual Jewish religious calendar.
Major New Testament References
- Jesus, a devout follower of the Passover observance while he was alive, took advantage of the Passover to institute the Lord's Supper (Mt. 26:17+, Mk. 14:12+, Lk. 22:7+, Jn. 18:28+).
- In I Corinthians 5:7 Paul wrote of "Christ our Passover who has been sacrificed for us."
Shadows of Christ in the Passover
Two New Testament passages fit together to teach about one aspect of the relationship between the Testaments. In Hebrews 10:1, Paul said that the Old Law was a "shadow of good things to come." The same writer reiterated in Colossians 2:17 that the Old law contained shadows, but that "the substance belongs to Christ." By using the terms "shadow" and "substance," Paul taught that the Old Law contained hazy predictive images that were fulfilled in Christ and in the Christian system.
This misty, foggy predictive relationship is evident in the Passover. God was never really satisfied with the Old Testament's blood sacrifices (Ps. 51:16). These sacrifices served only for a time until their greater, substantial fulfillment came in Christ. "Not by means of the blood of goats and claves, but by mean of His own blood" he secured "eternal redemption" (Heb. 9:12). The slain Passover lamb thus predicts "Christ our Passover who has been sacrificed for us."
That Was Then, This Is Now
If the Old Testament applies just as much today as it did when it was written, then we should observe the Passover just like generations of Jews did between Moses' triumphal exit from Egypt and Jesus Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem. In this, the Passover takes its place along side Temple worship, the Levitical Priesthood, priestly robes, incense, and instrumental music in worship as exercises that were part of the Old Testament but that are not part of the New Testament. This is an excellent question for those who continue to cling to the Old Testament: why do Christians not observe the Passover and instead observe the Lord's Supper?
- Then they had a real lamb; now we have the "Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world" (Jn. 1:29).
- Then they had to repeat the Passover in order for its effects to continue; now "we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all" (Heb. 10:10).
- Then they ate unleavened bread and bitter herbs to symbolize the somber haste of the original Passover night; now we have unleavened bread to symbolize Christ's body and fruit of the vine to symbolize Christ's blood.
- Then they had an annual feast; now we have every "first day of the week" when Christians gather for Communion (Acts 20:7). As we do, the carryover shadows from then hover over what we do now.
Let's Keep Talking About Sunday Nights
What Do We Do?
Never intended as a series, we are still talking about Sunday nights because questions were asked. I have been asked what we do on Sunday nights. I'll expand the answer by also describing what we do on Wednesday nights.
Why We Do What We Do
No one is certain about when brethren first began attending Sunday P.M. and Wednesday P.M. services. What is certain are the motivations behind these meetings.
Two motivations drive Sunday P.M. services. The first is concern for those whose jobs or other life complications prevent them from attending Sunday A.M. services and participating in Communion. The second is the desire to worship more and be encouraged by the brethren more. This second motivation is in perfect harmony with Acts 2:46 - they "continued daily with one accord." Brethren in the first century sought to be near each other on a much more regular basis than we do.
The second of these motivation is the sole motivation for Wednesday gatherings. Brethren often say they are "recharged in the middle of the week." Recharging each other is the subject of Hebrews 3:13 - "exhort one another daily...lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin." These same motivations drive our Men's Prayer Breakfasts, Old Guys Eating Lunch on Thursday's, Women's Devotionals, Prime Timers, Brothers Keepers and so forth. Test yourself: do you require or resist opportunities to be with brethren?
In addition to the motivations and reasons listed thus far, some have also argued that these services possess a certain "ought" because of the authority of the elders. A measure of how seriously some take Sunday and Wednesday evening attendance is explain in this reason. Whether elders can create any extra-biblical "ought" is open to question, but providing extra opportunities for worship and genuine fellowship, and encouraging attendance is certainly within the purview of elders' authority.
What We Do
What we do on Sunday evenings and Wednesday evenings is a reflection of many of the things that the New Testament would have us do. Sunday evenings look a lot like Sunday mornings, with singing and praying (I Cor. 14:15), Bible study (II Pet. 3:18), and an opportunity to take the Lord's Supper. If you see worship and Bible study as drudgery, this does not sound very good to you. Test yourself: do you see worship as drudgery?
Wednesday evenings focus more on Bible study (II Tim. 2:15). From my experience, Wednesday evening adult Bible classes are the richest of the week. There is an old saying that contrasts Sunday A.M. "presence" from Wednesday P.M. "presence": "Sunday A.M. tired; Wednesday P.M. wired." For some reason, everyone is alert and focused on Wednesday evenings.
Why We Don't
Not alone in struggling with Sunday P.M. and Wednesday P.M. attendance (BTW - our Wednesday P.M. attendance is usually strong), the Churches of Christ are afflicted with many of the challenges that also afflict denominational churches. Why do our members not attend? This is a summary of several studies that explain why we don't.
- Modern culture has developed a very negative take on preaching, worship, and everything "church." It is decidedly not cool to seek the comfort of brethren and the comfort of the scriptures.
- Paralleling these negative attitudes is the emphasis on entertainment. Our worship experiences do not compare with the newest, the brightest, the loudest, and the hippest.
- Similarly, the youth culture has widened the chasm between generations. Younger people are automatically turned-off to spending time with folks who are not their age.
- Family time is at a premium now - just as it has always been (by the way - young families: it only gets worse). Now, however, some have decided that the only possible time for family time is when the brethren are meeting for worship and study.
- Frankly, "my life" is at the core of a lot of resistance to Sunday evenings and Wednesday evenings. But "If you find your life, you will lose it" (Mt. 16:25).
Let's Talk A Little More About Sunday Night
Where Did It Come From?
Writing last week's article about the importance of attending our Sunday evening services, I did not intend any follow-up. That changed when some good-hearted questions were asked. This article is written to answer one of those questions - where did the custom of Sunday evening services come from? Next week's bulletin will answer another question by describing what do we do on Sunday nights and on Wednesday nights.
The Chicken Or The Egg?
Unlike the eternal riddle about "What came first, the chicken or the egg?" there is no riddle about the background of Sunday morning, Sunday night, and Wednesday night. We place greater emphasis on our Sunday A.M. service because there is greater emphasis given to a primary service by the New Testament.
New Testament writers spoke of entire local congregations coming together at one time and in one place (I Cor. 11:17, 11:20, 14:23, 16:1-2). This worship service was given greater emphasis because that is the occasion (the first day of the week) when Christians are to share in the fellowship of the Lord's Supper (Acts 20:7). The first day of the week also coincides with the day of our Lord's resurrection (Mk. 16:9). This is the assembly that we are not to forsake (Heb. 10:24-25).
These passages do not describe a brief gathering. Included in them with the Lord's Supper are other worshipful behaviors such a singing and praying (I Cor. 14:15), preaching (Acts 20:7), and giving (I Cor. 16:1-2). Our primary Sunday assemblies were not developed from creative thinking. Instead, we do what we do because the Bible's books, chapters, and verses tell us what to do.
More Chickens, More Eggs
Just as there was a uniquely important assembly on the first day of the week, the New Testament also describes the earliest Christians as yearning for some kind of "day by day" gatherings (Acts 2:46, see Heb. 3:12-23). Seeking to implement these first-century "day by day" assemblings into today, Sunday evening and Wednesday evening meetings have been added. When was the first Sunday P.M. or Wednesday P.M. service? No one knows.
We do know that they were added for the best possible reasons. Brethren often speak of their need to be with other brethren, hear more of the word, and be strengthened with fellowship at other times during the week. These are the reasons for Sunday evening and Wednesday evening gatherings. Sunday evenings have the additional purpose of providing an opportunity to observe the Lord's Supper for those whose schedule prevented them from attending the primary service on Sunday morning (like some of our shift workers who evidence super examples by their determination to share in the Lord's Supper on Sunday nights with bleary eyes after pulling a long shift).
But Not Too Many More Eggs
While many dutifully attend "whenever the doors are open" (God bless them!), it is important to distinguish between what is commanded (a primary first-day service) and what have developed as very good opportunities, but as secondary opportunities. Promoting our additional times of genuine fellowship, worship, and Bible study as wonderful opportunities and not as woeful commands is, I think, the better route.
The better approach is to (i) highly prioritize the primary worship service, (ii) do your best to do the better, (iii) not think of yourself as worse if genuine necessity keeps you away from Sunday night or Wednesday night, and (iv) cautiously and conscientiously monitor your excuses about "genuine necessity." The weakness of the reasons to reject Sunday and Wednesday evenings (no, you are not more tired or busy than everyone else) is one of the strongest arguments in their favor.
Outside of purely religious responsibilities, we do not fall apart when life challenges us to set primary, secondary, and tertiary priorities. Neither should we fall apart when challenged to set aside time (less than 5% of the total hours in a week) for the Sunday morning assembly first and foremost, and for other important, but secondary, opportunities for praise, Bible study, and the mutual encouragement of brethren.
Let's Talk About Sunday Night
Graduating from high school and attending Sunday evening services have a lot in common. Neither are required. Both have benefits. This article is written to expand on the comparison.
High School Graduation
Graduating from high school is not a legal requirement. Here is the Texas statute.
A student (must) attend public school until the student's 19thbirthday, unless the student is exempt (exemptions are limited to disciplinary expulsions and placements in equivalency programs; home school is a kind of mandatory attendance).
Parents are horrified by this tidbit because they understand the many advantages of remaining in school. What are the advantages of high school graduation? Here are the top five:
- Students who learn more, earn more:
The U.S. Census Bureau estimates a person with a high school diploma will earn $9,634 more per year than a high school dropout. A high-school dropout is ineligible for 90% of jobs in America, including the military.
- You’re less likely to be unemployed:
High school completers are less likely to be unemployed than those who have dropped out of high school.
- College is suddenly within reach:
Virtually all post-secondary institutions, colleges, and universities require a high school diploma or GED.
- You’ll feel better about yourself:
Research shows that confidence and self-esteem are linked to your education level. Those with a high school diploma have higher levels of self-esteem than those who do not.
- You’ll increase your knowledge:
Learning more about math, science, English, history, and other subjects will help expand your knowledge of the world around you.
For every good old boy or computer geek who dropped out of school before graduating and then made a success of himself, there are hundreds of drop-outs who have painfully fallen on their faces. Maturity is often measured in terms of delayed gratification, the ability to resist a smaller immediate reward in order to receive a larger reward later. Enduring school until graduation certainly leads to greater rewards.
Sunday Evening Services
Just as graduating from high school is not a legal requirement, there is no religious requirement that forces anyone to attend Sunday evening services. Extra services developed from the desire for extra opportunities for worship, genuine fellowship, and Bible study. These are not bad practices, but we must not elevate our useful customs to the level of a book-chapter-verse command.
No one is horrified by this tidbit. Even so, there are some very good reasons for attending Sunday evening services. Give these some thought.
- Attendance on Sunday mornings, Sunday evenings, and Wednesday nights has long been considered a baseline for active involvement. I have never heard anyone suggest that attending "whenever the doors are open" is a substitute for other good works, or a make-up for bad works. I have heard of brethren being thankful for additional opportunities for worship, genuine fellowship, and Bible study.
- Attendance whenever the doors are open equals about four (4) total hours per week. Let's generously double that time to eight (8) hours per week to account for prep time (seriously, it's not that much). Eight hours is less than 5% of the total number of hours in a seven-day week (168).
- Surprising information for young families: yours is not the first generation that has found itself very busy. Raising children has always been highly demanding, totally involving, and wringingly hands-on (if it is done correctly). Grades, homework, extra curriculars, and etc. are not new (little league baseball began in the 1920s). Dedicated brethren have been raising active and well-rounded children, finding time for themselves and for family time, and still worshipping regularly for a long time now. Suggestion: pray for God to show you how.
- Who do you think is the biggest fan of skipping Sunday evenings? Who do you think is the source for every excuse? Who are you agreeing with when you decide that ceasing to attend Sunday evenings is your best bet? You know the answer (hint: it's not God).
- Do not be deceived into thinking that you have discovered some rich vein of Christian liberty when you conclude that you are better off attending only on Sunday mornings. "You...were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh" (Gal. 5:13, I Pet. 2:13). Do not misuse Christian liberty as a pretext for selfish indulgences.