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The Reckless Penknife

Published on 10/10/20

The Reckless Penknife

A sermon by T. DeWitt Talmage

“When Jehudi had read three or four leaves, he [Jehoiakim] cut it with the penknife.”—Jeremiah 36:23

We look in upon a room in Jerusalem. Two men are there. At the table sits Baruch the scribe with a roll of parchment and an iron pen in his hand. The other man is walking the floor as if strangely agitated. There is an unearthly appearance about his countenance and his whole frame quakes as if pressed upon by something unseen and supernal.

It is Jeremiah in the spirit of prophecy. Being too much excited to write with his own hand the words that the Almighty pours upon his mind about the destruction of Jerusalem, he dictates to Baruch the scribe. It is a seething, scalding, burning denunciation of Jehoiakim the king and a prophecy of coming disasters.

Of course, Jehoiakim the king hears of the occurrence; and he sends Jehudi to obtain the parchment and read its contents.

It is winter, Jehoiakim is sitting in his comfortable winter house by a fire that glows upon the hearth and lights up the faces of the lords and princes and senators who have gathered to hear the strange document. Silence is ordered.

The royal circle bend forward to listen. Every eye is fixed. Jehudi unrolls the book gleaming with the words of God; and as he reads, the king frowns. His eye kindles; his cheek burns; his foot comes down with thundering indignation. He snatches the book from Jehudi’s hand, feels for his knife, crumples up the book and goes to work cutting it up with his penknife.

Thus God’s book was permanently destroyed and the king escaped. Was it destroyed? Did he escape? In a little while King Jehoiakim’s dead body is hurled forth to blacken in the sun and the only epitaph he ever had was that which Jeremiah wrote: “Buried with the burial of an ass” (22:19); while to restore the book which was destroyed, Baruch again takes his seat at the table and Jeremiah walks the floor and again dictates the terrible prophecy.

It would take more penknives than cutler ever sharpened to hew into permanent destruction the Word of God. He who shoots at this eternal rock will feel the bullet rebound into his own torn and lacerated bosom. When the Almighty goes forth armed with the thunderbolts of His power, I pity any Jehoiakim who attempts to fight Him with a penknife.

That Oriental scene has vanished, but it has been often repeated. There are thousands of Jehoiakims yet alive who cut the Word of God with their penknives and my object in this sermon is to designate a few of them.

The Reckless Man Who Rejects Part of the Bible

The first man I shall mention as thus treating the Word of God is the one who receives a part of the Bible but cuts out portions of it with his penknife and rejects them. Jehoiakim showed as much indignity toward the scroll when he cut one way as when he cut the other. You might as well behead Moses as to behead Jonah. Yes, sir, I shall take all of the bible or none.

Men laugh at us as if we were the most gullible people in the world for believing in the genuineness of the Scriptures; but there can be no doubt that the Bible, as we have it, is the same—no more, no less—as God wrote it.

As to the books of the New Testament, the great writers of the different centuries give complete catalogs of their contents. In the first century Polycarp, Ignatius, Clemens Romanus give a catalog of the New Testament books; Tertullian, Justin Martyr in the second century; Cyprian and Origen in the third century; Augustine, Jerome and Eusebius in the fourth century.

Their catalogs of the different books of the New Testament silence the suggestion that any new books could have been stealthily put in.

How many books are on this stand? You say three—two Bibles and a hymnbook. There are twenty men here taking a list of these books. Would it be possible for any man to come onto this platform and lay a new book on this stand and you not know it? Neither was it possible for anybody to put an additional book into this New Testament when all the Christian world was watching.

As to the books of the Old Testament, Christ sanctioned them by commending them to the Jews. If any part of the Old Testament had been uninspired, Christ would have said, “Search the Scriptures, all except that Book of Jonah,” or, “Search the Scriptures, excepting the Book of Esther.”

When Christ commends the canon of the Old Testament Scriptures to the people, He affirms its genuineness. There never could have been any interpolations in the Bible, for the Jews were constantly watching; and there were men whose lifetime business it was to attend to the keeping of the Scriptures unadulterated.

Besides this, the Bible has always had enemies. If there had been any attempt at interpolation, Celsus in the second century and Porphyry in the fourth century would have proclaimed it. Yet they never even hinted at anything like a want of genuineness, although they despised the Book.

Far easier would it be for a man in this day in insert a long paragraph in the Farewell Address of Washington, or an entire canto in Milton’s Paradise Lost than it would have been for any man at any time to insert a foreign, uninspired book in the Bible.

No, sir, I shall take all of the Bible or none. A man dies having made a will. The people who expect a part of the inheritance assemble to hear the will read. The attorney reads it until he comes to a certain passage of the will, when one of the heirs cries out, “I reject that passage.”

The attorney reads on and someone else says, “I reject that passage, while I accept all of the rest of the will.” The heirs go before the surrogate and the judge decides: “You must take this will as a whole or not at all. You cannot break a part of it and leave the rest intact.”

Now I say in regard to this Will of my Father, in respect to this last Will and Testament of our Lord Jesus Christ, that if we break any part of the Will we break it all and we lose our inheritance and go beggared through eternity.

By some shaft from Hell let the sun be cleft in twain until with shorn locks and dimmed eye he stumbles his way through the heavens, but shear not this glorious old Bible of a single lock. The same infernal explosion that sent up into fragments a single book would shock the whole system of truth. Fire one house in a solid square and into the whole block you hurl fiery destruction.

Take one star from a whirling constellation and the wheel of fire would crush on the highway of light; remove one orb from this constellation of Bible books that revolve in splendor about Jesus, the central Sun, and Heaven itself would shriek at the catastrophe amid the weeping of God!

No, sir, you shall not rob me of a single word of a single verse of a single chapter of a single book of my Bible. When life like an ocean billows up with trouble and death comes and our bark is sea-smitten with halyards cracked and white sails flying in shreds like a maniac’s gray locks in the wind, then we will want God’s Word to steer us off the rocks and shine like lighthouses through the dark channels of death and with hands of light beckon our storm-tossed souls into the harbor.

In that last hour take from me my pillow, take away all smoothing draughts, take away the faces of family and kindred, take away every helping hand and every consoling voice; alone let me die on the mountain on a bed or rock covered only by a sheet of embroidered frost under the slap of the night-wind and breathing out my life on the bosom of the wild, wintry blast rather than in that last hour take from me my Bible.

Stand off, then, ye carping, clipping, meddling critics with your penknives!

The Infidel Who Rejects All the Bible

The next man that I shall mention as following Jehoiakim’s example is the infidel who runs his knife through the Bible from Genesis to Revelation and rejects everything. The hostility existing that night in that winter house among those lords and senators exists yet.

The enemies of this Book have gathered themselves into clubs and have tried to marshal on their side chemist’s laboratory and astronomer’s telescope and geologist’s pry and mineralogist’s hammer and ornithologist’s gun and they have ransacked the earth and the heavens to see if they could not find arguments with which to refute the Bible and balk the church and clip the wing of the apocalyptic angel.

With the black hulk of their pirate craft they have tried to run down this gospel ship speeding on errands of salvation. They have tried to stab patriarch and prophet, evangelist and apostle with Jehoiakim’s penknife.

They say that the Bible is a very weak Book, filled with big stories and Munchausen adventures, and has no more authority than the shastra of the Hindu or the Zend-Avesta of the Persian or the Talmud of the Hebrew or the Confucian writings of the Chinese or the sibylline books of the Romans or the Koran of the Mohammedans.

But the Light of Nature is NOT Sufficient

Men strike their knife through this Book because they say that the light of nature is sufficient. Indeed! Have the fire worshipers of India, cutting themselves with lancets until the blood spurts at every pore. Found the light of nature sufficient?

Has the Bornesian cannibal gnawing the roasted flesh from human bones found the light of nature sufficient? Has the Chinese woman with her foot cramped and deformed into a cow’s hoof found the light of nature sufficient? Could the ancients see Heaven from the heights of Ida or Olympus? No!

I call upon the pagodas of superstition, the Brahminic tortures, the infanticide of the Ganges, the bloody wheels of the Juggernaut to prove that the light of nature is not sufficient.

A star is beautiful, but it pours no light into the midnight of a sinful soul. The flower is sweet, but it exudes no balm for the heart’s wound. All the odors that ever floated from royal conservatory or princely hanging gardens give not so much sweetness as is found in one waft from this Scripture mountain of myrrh and frankincense.

If you like the light of nature better than that of revelation, why do you not go and root in the ground with the Hottentot or go ride with the Laplander behind a team of dogs or go help the Mexican pick cochineal or go help the Arabs lasso the wild horse of the Turk hunt for gallnuts and meerschaum?

I bring China and India and Siberia and Ethiopia and Tartary and New Holland and Persia and Hindustan to prove before all the hosts of Hell and the armies of Heaven and the nations of the earth that the light of nature is not sufficient.

“What must I do to be saved?” Sweltering nations have knelt at the feet of the Himalayan Mountains for ages asking that question, but the mountains made no response. Not one of the old peaks stooped down to lift a single soul on its shoulder into the heavens. Still the people cry and still the mountains are silent—”What must I do to be saved?”

Nations in blindness and death have knelt on the beach of the Persian Gulf and Bengal Bay and Caspian Sea moaning out that question, but there was nothing in all the tumbling surf that responded. The winds mocked and the waves spit their spray into the face of the dying nations.

And so the cry went around the world, but the desert spoke not and the Alps were silent and the stars were dumb and all the caverns and hills and seas but echoed back the dismal cry, “What must I do to be saved?” The light of nature is not sufficient.

Reckless, Wicked Men Say the Bible Cruel and Indecent

Infidels strike their penknife through this Book because they say that it is cruel and indecent. There are things in Ezekiel and Solomon’s Songs that they don’t want read in their families.

Ah! if the Bible is so pernicious, just show me somebody that has been spoiled by it. A thousand dollars’ reward if you will show me a man who has been made cruel or obscene or reckless by the Bible. While you are trying in vain to pick out such a one, I will show you five hundred men in this audience who have by it been tamed out of rudeness and lifted up out of sin and enriched with innumerable virtues.

Some Reject God’s Word Because It Has Mysteries

Again, they strike their penknife through the Bible because it is so full of unexplained mysteries.

What? Will you not believe anything you cannot explain? Have you fingernails? You say, “Yes.” Explain why on the tip of your finger there comes a nail. You cannot tell me.

You believe in the law of gravitation; explain it, if you can. I can ask you a hundred questions about your eyes, about your ears, about your face, about your feet, that you cannot answer; and yet you find fault that I cannot answer all the questions you may ask about this Bible. I would not give a farthing for the Bible if I could understand everything in it. I would know that the heights and depths of God’s truth were not very great if with my poor, finite mind I could reach everything.

A plain farmer said to a skeptic, “The mysteries of the Bible do not bother me, I read the Bible as I eat fish. In eating fish, when I come across a bone, I do not try to swallow it; but I lay it aside. When, in reading the prophecies, I come across that which is inexplicable, I say, “There is a bone’; and I lay it aside. When I find something in a doctrine that staggers my reason, I say, “That is a bone’; and I say it aside.”

Alas! My friends, that men should choke themselves to death with bones of mystery when there is so much meat in this Bible on which the soul may get strong for eternity.

Some Reject the Bible Because Not All the World Has Received It

Again, the infidel strikes his penknife through this Book because, he says, if it were God's book, the whole world would have it. He says that it is not to be supposed that if God had any thing to say to the world, he would say it only to the small part of the human race who actually possess the Bible. To this I reply that the fact that only a part of the race receives any thing is no ground for believing that God did not bestow it. Who made oranges and bananas? You say, God. I ask, How can that be, when thousands of our race never saw an orange or a banana? If God were going to give such things, why did he not give them to all? The argument that the giving of the Bible to a part of the race would imply a wicked partiality on the part of God, and consequently that he did not give it at all, would prove that he did not give oranges and bananas to the people of the tropics, for that would be partiality. The fact is that God has a right to do as he pleases, and he is constantly partial in a thousand things. He gives us a pleasant clime, while he gives earthquakes and tornadoes to Mexico. He gives incomputable harvests of wheat to Sicily, but scant berries and polar bears, and the ungainly walrus, to the Arctic inhabitants. He gives one man two good eyes, and to another none. He gives you two feet; to another man no feet at all. To you he gives perpetual health; to another man coughing consumption, or piercing pleurisy, or stinging gout, or fiery erysipelas. He does not treat us all alike. If all the human race had the same climate, the same harvests, the same health, the same advantages, then you might, by analogy, argue that if he gave a Bible at all, he would give it to the whole race at the same time. If you say to me that the fact that the Bible is now in the possession of only a small part of the human family is proof that he did not send the Bible, then I say that the fact that only a part of the world has peaches and apples proves that God never made peaches and apples; and the fact that a part of the world has a mild, sunshiny climate, proves conclusively that God does not make the climate. Indeed, I will carry on your argument until I can prove that God made nothing at all; for there is not one single physical or intellectual blessing that we possess that has not been denied some one else. No! no! Because God, in his sovereign mercy, has given us a book that some others do not possess, let us not be so ungrateful as to reject it-blowing out our own lantern because other people have not a light; rending off the splinters from our broken bone because other people have not been able to get a bandage; dashing our own ship on a rock because other vessels have not a compass; cutting up our own Bible with a penknife because other people have not a revelation.

The Bible Is Incomparably Beyond All the Sacred Books of False Religions

Again, the infidel strikes his penknife through this Book by saying, "You have no right to make the Bible so prominent, because there are other books that have in them great beauty and value." There are grand things in books professing no more than human intelligence. The heathen bible of the Persians says, "The heavens are a point from the pen of God's perfection." "The world is a bud from the bower of his beauty." "The sun is a spark from the light of his wisdom." "The sky is a bubble on the sea of his power." Beautiful! Beautiful! Confucius taught kindness to enemies; the shastra have great affluence of imagery; the Veda of the Brahmins has ennobling sentiment; but what have you proved by all this? Simply that the Author of the Bible was as wise as all the great men that have ever lived put together; because, after you have gone through all lands, and all ages, and all literatures, and after you have heaped every thing excellent together and boiled it down, you have found in all that realm of all the ages but a portion of the wisdom that you find in this one Book.

The fact is that all the jar of hell's battering rams against this buttress of truth only proves the strength of the wall. All of the fleets of perdition have come sailing against this craft, managed by a few fishermen; but it has proved an ironclad able to sink with a few strokes the armaments of infidelity. One little Kearsarge thundering to darkness and hell a thousand flaunting Alabamas.

Let Voltaire come on with his acute philosophy; and Hume with his scholarship; and Chesterfield with his polished insinuations; and Gibbon with his one-sided historical statements; and Shaftesbury with his sarcasm; and Hobbes with his subtlety; and Blount and Bolingbroke with their armed hostility—yea, come on, Platonic philosophers, and German infidels, and Boston transcendentalists, and all ye helmeted sons of darkness. I charge upon you with a regiment of mountain shepherds and Galilee fishermen. Forward, ye inspired men, to the strife! Steady! Take aim! Fire! Their ranks waver! They break! They fly! Victory, through our Lord Jesus Christ!

I want no better proof of the divinity of this Book than the fact that it has withstood this mighty and continuous attack, and come down to us without a chapter effaced, or a parable riddled, or a miracle injured, or a promise scarred. No other book could have lived an hour in such a sea; no other force could have stood under such crossfire. This Book today is foremost. In philosophy, it is honored above the works of Descartes, Bacon, Aristotle, and Socrates. In history, it wins more respect than Herodotus, Thucydides, and Xenophon. In poetry, it far outshines the Iliad and Odyssey, the Aeneid, the Inferno, and Paradise Lost. It has been published in more than two hundred languages. The earth quakes with the quick revolution of its printing press. The best art has come to the illustration of its pages, to the adornment of its lids, to the setting of its type. Its scenes of glory and promise blossom on every wall, and thrill through the music of the oratorio and orchestra.

If infidelity is as successful in the next fifty years, in its war against the Bible, as it has been in the past fifty, the year 1950 will see the Bible in the possession of every man on the earth who has a hand to hold it. One wave of this Book above the throne of tyranny, and they shall fall; above the temples of superstition, and they shall crumble; above the wilderness, and it shall bloom like the garden of the Lord. Thou Prince of Books, we hail thee to thy coronation! the wheeling earth thy chariot! the bending sky thy triumphal arch! the great heavens one starstudded, cloud-striped banner!

Make the application of this subject yourselves. I have preached it that I might show you that we who believe in the Bible are not so verdant as people suppose, since we have a great many stout reasons for believing in it. I have tried, by my remarks, to raise the Book higher in your estimation. Take it into your heart! Take it into your house! Take it into your shop! Take it into your store! Though you may seem to get along quite well without this Book in your days of prosperity, there will come a time to us all when our only consolation will be this blessed Gospel.

A blind girl had been in the habit of reading her Bible by means of raised letters such as are prepared for the use of the blind; but after a while, by working in a factory, the tips of her fingers became so calloused that she could no more by her hands read the precious promises. She cut off the tips of her fingers that her touch might be more sensitive; but still she failed with her hands to read the raised letters. In her sorrow, she took the Bible and said, "Farewell, my dear Bible. You have been the joy of my heart!" Then she pressed the open page to her lips, and kissed it, and as she did so she felt with her mouth the letters, "The Gospel according to St. Mark." "Thank God!" she said; "if I can not read the Bible with my fingers, I can read it with my lips!"

Oh! in that last hour when the world goes away from our grasp, press this precious Gospel to our lips, that, in that dying kiss, we may taste the sweetness of that promise, "When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee." (Isa. 43:2)

How precious is the Book divine,
By inspiration given!
Bright as a lamp its doctrines shine
To guide our souls to heaven.
This lamp through all the tedious night
Of life shall guide our way,
Till we behold the clearer light
Of an eternal day.

Changing Clothes

Published on 04/25/15

by Siera Weber, written for MtTFC 2015

Some may wonder why the Church today is not as successful as she has been in the past. Before, Christianity used to thrive, drawing in thousands of souls;[1] now it is but a dusty relic of ages past. What has caused such a dramatic change? The reason can be summarized in one word: fashion.

For too long the Church has garbed herself in the dreary drapery of hell-fire and brimstone, sin and wrath to come. It is little wonder respective suitors have fled the Church, considering that “Thou shalt not” is stamped upon her brow and “Thus saith the Lord” is continually upon her lips. Cloaked in solemnity and grimness, she wanders through the world rather as a widow than as a bride. It is high time that the Church as a whole casts off her ancient robes and adorns herself in apparel trending in today's current age.

Success in this area is not as distant as it may at first appear. Already multiple churches are employing strategies to shine and polish the Church's Word-weary visage.[2] Yet complete and total success has not been reached by the entire Church. Stubborn local bodies of bigoted born-again believers still cling tenaciously to the dusty volume they claim contains “absolute Truth”. Such beliefs belie their ignorance, for any educated person in today's age knows that “Truth,” even absolute Truth, ebbs and flows with the fickle tides of current opinion.

It is amusing, is it not, that the Church claims to know the only way to Heaven[3] and the only source of Truth?[4] Her arrogance is appalling! Is not pride one of the sins that the God of the Bible claims to abhor?[5] Only when the Church humbles herself and respects the beliefs of other religions can she remove one of her first pieces of offensive clothing, which some call the Belt of Truth.[6]

There is much more to her ghastly garments! Once converted, Christians everywhere are expected to become a new person[7] and don what has been called the “breastplate of righteousness.”[8] Clearly the Apostle Paul and the Holy Spirit[9] were unaware that personal identity and self-esteem would become such delicate issues in the Church Age.[10] By claiming that Christians need to be “born again”[11] and put aside their old ways of life,[12] the Bible seems to be saying that we are not good enough on our own! But wait, the Holy Book has not yet ceased its attacks on human self-esteem. It further states, “there is none righteous, no, not one.”[13] Imagine the hurt such news causes people today, especially when all they need is to feel loved and accepted! The Biblical church goes so far as to claim that the human heart itself is deceitful![14] Now, perhaps people are not perfect, but certainly we are not all bad. Besides, anyone would seem terribly wicked when compared to the Bible's standards. Once converted, Christians are expected to live up to an immense standard of holiness.[15] Is it any wonder that the Church as a whole looks so weary all the time? White garments[16] are difficult to keep clean.

New horrors appear as one scrutinizes the revolting raiment of the Biblical church! Her feet must wear shoes prepared to spread the gospel.[17] This is not just any gospel, mind you, but a gospel that is deemed “foolishness” to the world.[18] To claim that the Church is the bride[19] of a Savior who died and then arose three days later is in and of itself foolishness.[20] Also foolish are the beliefs that this Savior died for the so-called sins of mankind,[21] that we, as “fallen” humans, cannot save ourselves,[22] and that this Savior is the only way to heaven.[23] It is little wonder that the Church, so ignorant of political correctness, is hated when she spreads her gospel message so bluntly.[24] Most certainly her poor feet ache by now.

Accessorizing the Church's garish garb are none other than a shield of faith and a complementary helmet of salvation.[25] The Biblical Church claims that, without the faith shield, pleasing God becomes impossible.[26] Obviously she does not understand that we as humans have much to offer God. What need have we for faith? Furthermore, she must have forgotten the disgrace of obtaining the helmet of salvation. God would have nothing from her, not her works or righteousness, but gave her the helmet as a gift of grace.[27] It is the modern age, an age of technology and achievements and progress! And yet the Church promotes the belief that God would have nothing from us. He believes us incapable of saving ourselves, and seeks only to give to us. He would have us view ourselves as nothing, reduced to criminals deserving of death.[28] Such a message has never been in fashion.

Even more offensive than her apparel is the brand the Biblical Church wears, by which all men may know she belongs to God. This brand is love: love for each other,[29] love for enemies,[30] and, most importantly, love for God.[31] This is not a permissive love, nor a love of emotion. It is a love of grueling sacrifice and denial of self.[32] It is completely foreign in today's culture, which is perhaps the reason that so few embrace it. Often members of the Biblical Church herself neglect this love, for it is a love of action rather than of words. It is a love that demonstrates itself in absolute obedience[33] and even death.[34] How could such a love ever be popular?

After the Biblical Church's outfit has been altered, efforts can be made to reconstruct her message. The Bible itself shows us that the Savior of the Church was disdained by the world.[35] Therefore, if He is to be the crux of the gospel, His image must be changed. Already some churches are finding solutions to the problem of Christ's lack of marketability. They present him as a Savior who rescues people from all of their perceived emotional needs. Self-esteem, personal fulfillment, happiness—you name it, Christ provides it![36] Little mention, if any, is made of God's righteous wrath and judgment. God's holiness is neither politically correct nor fit for mainstream audiences. By cleverly presenting the gospel as the Jesus-Plus-Everything-You-Think-You-Need package, open-minded churches are ushering thousands of people into their pews and recording fresh names on ever-growing rosters.[37] If only more churches were willing to so alter their image. Then, perhaps, they would see their numbers grow.

An issue with this revitalized gospel and rejuvenated image is that the Christian life after salvation still contains hardship and struggle.[38] It would seem that the Bible demands perfect obedience and sacrificial love from the Church,[39] traits of which no humans are predisposed.[40] God expects irrational devotion from His people. Therefore, discipleship too must be downplayed in churches seeking to draw in the world. This is not so difficult a task, however, once the main Gospel message—the driving force behind the “new life”—is done away with or merely altered.

It stands to reason that humans are naturally closer to their friends than to their enemies. The Biblical Church believes that the world is an enemy of God[41] and, consequently, an enemy of the Church.[42] Therefore the Church has a decision to make: win favor or win souls. If the Church's desire is to win the favor of the world and more people in her pews, then she must merely progress further upon the new path she has laid for herself. However, if her desire is to truly win souls, then she must surrender her claims to authority and submit again to her God and His plan for winning souls. Both souls and their harvest come at steep prices, however. Salvation of souls has never been in fashion.

[1]Acts 2:41.

[2]Gary Gilley, The Market-Driven Church-Part 2, (July 2000).

[3]John 14:6.

[4]John 17:17.

[5]Proverbs 6:17.

[6]Ephesians 6:14.

[7]2 Corinthians 5:17.

[8]Ephesians 6:14.

[9]2 Timothy 3:16.

[10]Gary Gilley, The Market-Driven Church-Part 3, (August 2000).

[11]John 3:7.

[12]Ephesians 4:17-24.

[13]Romans 3:10.

[14]Jeremiah 17:9.

[15]1 Peter 1:16.

[16]Revelation 19:8.

[17]Ephesians 6:15.

[18]1 Corinthians 1:18.

[19]Revelation 19:7-9.

[20]1 Corinthians 15:3-4.

[21]1 Corinthians 15:3, Romans 5:8.

[22]Acts 4:12.

[23]John 14:6.

[24]John 15:19; Mark 13:13; 1 Peter 4:14.

[25]Ephesians 6:16.

[26]Hebrews 11:6.

[27]Ephesians 2:8-10.

[28]Hebrews 1-2; Romans 6:23.

[29]John 13:35.

[30]Matthew 5:39-44.

[31]Matthew 22:37.

[32]1 Corinthians 13.

[33]John 14:15.

[34]John 14:13.

[35]Isaiah 53:1-6; Matthew 27:22.

[36]Gary Gilley, The Market-Driven Church-Part 4, (September 2000).

[37]Gary Gilley, The Market-Driven Church-Part 2,

[38]John 15:19; 1 Peter 3:17; Hebrews 11:36-38; 2 Timothy 3:12; 1 John 3:13.

[39]John 14:15; 1 Corinthians 13.

[40]Proverbs 21:10; John 3:19; Ephesians 2:3.

[41]Romans 5:10.

[42]John 15:18-19.

The Confessional

Published on 04/24/15

The Confessional

by Siera Weber, written for MtTFC 2015

Kings' Cafe was a cute little restaurant tucked away in the sleepier section of the town of Dimmesdale. Each day rows of cars squeezed together within the confines of the tiny parking lot, and more cars parked against the curb. Good food was not the reason for the thriving business. The real item sold at the cafe was privacy. Not only was the restaurant sheltered from all of the busyness of downtown Dimmesdale, but it also contained privacy within the building itself. Whatever was said in Kings' Cafe stayed in Kings' Cafe. No one feared inquisitive patrons. Almost everyone who came to the cafe wished to keep their business to themselves. Every Saturday, at least half-a-dozen men of the cloth would be calmly sitting with a member of their flock who was pouring out secrets for their pastor's (or bishop's) ear alone. It was often said that Kings' Cafe had more business than a Catholic confessional.

On March 10th, Dotty was manning the counter. First, Bishop Stevens walked in, followed shortly by Pastors Wilkes and Thomson from the Church of Christ. (Their church members often had two-pastor problems). Pastor Simson of the Lutheran church arrived punctually at 8:15 and ordered two black coffees, which meant he was meeting with Mr. Harvey the deacon for the third time that week. The new bishop from the Episcopal church came in and took a booth in the far left corner. Lastly, the hip young preacher from the non-denominational church—located in the old movie theater on Main Street—breezed inside and selected a booth close to the doors.

About fifteen minutes passed before others began arriving. Customers who had scheduled appointments with the clergymen shuffled to their booths as soon as they were inside the doors, while customers with no cares or concerns took seats by the counter. Dotty bustled amongst them all, taking and delivering orders, and then perched behind the cash register, waiting. At least one Saturday regular had not yet arrived.

About 10:15, when the first wave of customers began dispersing, Pastor Rick from Golgotha Baptist Church finally strolled into the cafe. “Mornin', Dotty!” he grinned.

“Well, it's about time Rick! Can I get you anything?”

“A coffee, please.”

“Sure thing.” As Dotty ambled away, Pastor Rick leaned against the counter and toyed with the napkin dispenser, lost in his thoughts. By the time Dotty returned, his cheery countenance had clouded over. “Uh oh. I know that look. Who's the victim today?”

Pastor Rick just sighed and shook his head. Dotty handed him his coffee. “Thanks, Dot,” he murmured before shuffling to his usual table. As soon as Pastor Rick began pouring his second spoonful of sugar into his coffee, the bell above the cafe doors jangled and a tall man strode into the cafe. He sauntered up to the counter and said, “Sixteen ounces of your blackest coffee, please.”

Dotty paused and stared at the man's face. Finally, her expression lit up and she exclaimed, “Well, well, Rafe Higgins, what are you doing back in Dimmesdale?”

“Just a short visit. Family and all that stuff. How have you been, Dot? Never left?”

“Nope. I like it here well enough. Hey, lemme get you that coffee and then we can catch up.”

“Maybe later. I'm actually here to visit a friend today.” Rafe turned and glanced around the cafe. Once his gaze rested on Pastor Rick, he smiled and waved.

“On confession day?” Dotty asked with a sly smile. “Now what have you been up to in the big city?”

“Aw, come on, Dot, you know me. We're just catching up.”

“Mmm hmm,” she winked. “Go on and sit down. I'll bring the cup to you.”

“Thanks.” Rafe sauntered to the booth and clasped Pastor Rick's hand firmly in his own. “How ya been, Rick?”

“Much better lately. You?” he asked, returning the handshake.

“Excellent, if I do say so myself.” Rafe settled onto the bench opposite Pastor Rick and launched into fifteen minutes of frivolous discussion. When Rafe finally paused to take a sip of his coffee, Pastor Rick asked, “How's Felecia doing?”

The mug froze against Rafe's lips. Slowly he set it down, his cheeks reddening slightly. “To be honest, we've called it quits. Irreconcilable differences.”

Pastor Rick nodded and changed the subject. They talked for twenty minutes more, when Pastor Rick finally brought up the question that had been burning in his heart. “Rafe, I know you hate it when I bring this up, but I have to ask. Where do you stand with the Lord?”

Rafe just smiled indulgently. “Far removed.

“Don't look at me like that, Rick. Would you rather I lie? Now, I knew you were going to ask. So I've thought about it all week. 'Why not just go ahead and do it already, Rafe?' I said to myself. 'It would sure make Rick happy, and then there's Susan and Lloyd. What could be so bad about it?' To be honest, I've felt a little bit behind since all of you jumped on the Jesus train. But for some reason, I've never been all that enthusiastic about it.

“Anyway, you know that I'm staying with Susan and Lloyd, right? Well, I was in the living room just reading the paper when Benny ran in. He's four, now. He was dirty from head to foot because he had been rolling around in the mud outside, and Sue was trying to get him into the bathtub. So, of course, he came in howling to Uncle Rafe to rescue him. And do you know what he said to me? He said, 'I don't want to get washed. I like myself the way I am!'"

“Don't look so dour. You can laugh if you want. I laughed. But I realized later that Benny described my thoughts exactly. I like the way I am, Rick. I'm fine.”

“Is Felecia fine?” Pastor Rick asked quietly.

Rafe sighed. “We never should have gotten married in the first place. I admit I made many serious mistakes. But she knew what she was getting into. Besides, it's the twenty-first century, Rick.”

Pastor Rick just sighed. “And Matilda?”

Rafe glanced at his mug again. “Matti's an adult, now, Rick. She doesn't need her daddy checking up on her.”

“Have you had any contact with her recently?”

Rafe shook his head and avoid Pastor Rick's eyes. He took off his watch and began massaging his wrist. “It's a crappy watch,” he explained. “It chafes.”

“I remember that,” Pastor Rick said, examining the watch. “She bought it for you, didn't she?”

“Yeah,” Rafe said quietly. Then he directed the subject to the recent construction on Main Street. The pair chatted for a little while longer, until Pastor Rick glanced at his own watch. “You expecting someone else?” Rafe asked.

“In a few minutes, yes. It's Saturday, you know.” Pastor Rick smiled weakly.

“Well, that's my cue.” Rafe stood and clasped Pastor Rick's hand again. “Good to see you, Rick.”

“You too,” Pastor Rick answered. Rafe clapped him on the back and left.

Scarcely three minutes later, a gaunt young woman trudged into the cafe, pulling her jacket tightly against herself. Once inside, the girl strode over to Pastor Rick, her mouth set in a firm line. She slid into the seat, looking guiltily resolved. She cleared her throat, and Pastor Rick nodded encouragingly.

“First of all, Pastor, I want to thank you for all the trouble you've gone through. I know I have a lot of problems and I haven't been easy. But to be fair I never wanted to come in the first place. It was Mom's idea.”

Pastor Rick nodded. “I know.”

The doorbell jangled.

“I know that you and Mom think I'm on the brink of disaster, and maybe I am. But I've thought long and hard about this, and—” she paused to take a deep breath, “I don't want anymore help, Pastor. I know it sounds silly and maybe even blasphemous, but—I like myself the way I am. I—I'm grateful, but I don't want your help anymore. My decisions are my own, and if they're the wrong decisions I'll take the consequences.”

Pastor Rick nodded. “I'm sorry to hear that, Matti, and I'm sorry I can't help you. I'll be praying for you. If you ever change your mind, God's waiting with open arms.”

“I know.” Matti stood and left, not noticing the man who was slumped dejectedly in the next booth. After a few moments had passed, Pastor Rick rose and scooped the watch off his table. He walked over to the next booth and gently laid the watch in front of Rafe. “You left this.”

Rafe's shoulders were shaking.

“Would you like to talk about it?” Pastor Rick asked quietly.

Rafe's voice shook. “Yeah. I want to talk about Matti. But first—” he sucked in a breath, “I want to talk about getting clean.”

Is That Love?

Published on 04/04/14

by Siera Weber, written for MtTFC 2014

He was an older man, though not as elderly as he appeared. He hunched over the table, shivering, as if his body were too worn down to maintain its own heat. His wrinkled face drooped with weariness and concern, and his hands shook as they reached for the coffee mug, hinting that perhaps he was in his eighties. In reality, he was only sixty-two.

A half hour passed, and the man did not leave the table. For most of that time he stared out the window, searching for someone. Several patrons in the restaurant would occasionally glance at him, but he was oblivious to any attention. His back refused to straighten. Constantly he would rub his temples and shut his eyes tightly, a grimace on his face. A waitress came to him twice, and both times he politely refused anything to eat. He had stomach problems, he explained, and he had forgotten his medication. He assured her that he was all right and was just waiting for someone. She left, but she would always find an excuse to walk past his table and make certain he was truly well.

About forty-five minutes after the man had started his vigil at the restaurant, a man in his mid twenties entered through the door. He possessed a vivaciousness and poise that made him stand out from all of the other patrons in the restaurant. Seemingly carefree and even jovial, he nodded a cheery hello to everyone he saw and whistled as he walked. It must have seemed strange that this happy individual went to the table of the melancholy old man and grasped his hand in a warm, hearty handshake. Somehow, his infectious grin grew larger.

“Hello, Pastor Rick,” the young man said affectionately.

“Hello, Tommy.” Pastor Rick smiled as tenderly as he would smile at any of his children, then waved a hand to the seat across from him. “Sit down, Boy. How have you been?”

“Great, I just got promoted yesterday, and now I'll get twice the pay. Nancy and I are thinking of a June wedding, and then—” Thomas rambled on for some time, and Pastor Rick hung on every word. However, as the boy—for he was still a boy to Pastor Rick—continued, the pastor noticed that little was said about some very important matters.

Once Thomas paused for a breath, Pastor Rick quietly asked, “And where do you go to church, Tommy?”

Thomas' smile froze, and his eyes drifted down to his former pastor's gnarled hands. Pastor Rick had been his friend from the time Thomas toddled around in diapers to the day he got his diploma. Never once had he spoken a harsh word to him or made him feel unwelcome in his house, and Thomas had returned the favor by doing his best to please his pastor. The last thing Thomas wanted to do was disappoint his former mentor, but he knew that any lies he told would be unconvincing. Sucking in a breath, he murmured, “I don't go to church anymore.”

Pastor Rick nodded slowly. He asked no questions, but Thomas felt compelled to give him the reason for his negligence. However, he knew the truth would hurt his old friend. “I don't go anymore because—it's not real.”

Pastor Rick raised his eyebrows at that statement, but he still allowed Thomas to do all the talking. “In Sunday school,” Thomas rushed on, “I learned a lot about the love of Jesus, and when I was little I didn't question that it was real. But as I got older, I began to notice the adults in the church, and I learned a lot more about this 'love.' I learned that Mrs. Banks and Mrs. White weren't friends anymore because of that incident at the potluck. I learned that the pianist and the song leader disagreed about everything from the choice of music to where the piano should be. I learned that the Jenkins believed that Christians shouldn't celebrate Christmas or Easter because they were pagan holidays, and so they left the church when no one would listen to them. I learned that Mr. Sikes believed Mr. Harvey was on the outs with God because he let his daughters wear pants. I learned that a lot of inconsequential things could turn into a source of conflict. Most of the issues I remember were never doctrinal. They were just silly things that got on people's nerves and escalated into arguments and then estrangement. I learned that the love of Jesus was just a children's song and that it doesn't apply to real life. If it did, those people would be able to overlook the unimportant things and get along; but instead, all they did was fight. I can't remember any of your sermons. The only prayers I remember are the ones Mr. Blake prayed because he sounded so in touch with God while he was praying, but after church he would kick God to the curb and start badmouthing every one of his dear 'brothers-in-the-Lord.' That's why I don't go to church; it doesn't work.”

His speech finished, Thomas sank against his chair and fiddled with the napkin dispenser on the table. For several minutes neither spoke. Only the gentle hum of the other patrons' voices filled the awkward silence. Finally, Thomas repeated quietly, “It doesn't work.”

Pastor Rick closed his eyes and pressed his fingers against his aching temples. Suddenly, Thomas became aware of how broken his pastor seemed, how aged he had become. “Look what they've done to you,” he whispered.

Thomas never did order anything. He sat with Pastor Rick for a little while longer, but there was no further conversation. Finally, Thomas stood, hugged the shell of his friend, and left the restaurant, the spring in his step gone. The wind outside whipped his coat and stung his eyes; that was why they were watering.

The meeting haunted Pastor Rick for the rest of the weekend and hung over him on Sunday morning. As he watched the pianist cast dagger eyes at the song leader and listened to Mr. Blake pray, his face twisted into a sad grimace. Finally, after the last note of the final song had been played, he shuffled to the pulpit and cleared his throat several times before speaking. “If any of you have a scrap of paper or a bookmark, you're going to need it today. Turn in your Bibles to Ephesians 4:1-3, and mark that page.” While he gave the people time to flip through the pages, he looked out over his congregation. They were not clearly divided; they sat relatively near each other in the pews. Yet there was an aura of tension between certain people, and he knew it would only worsen as time went on. “Turn to 1 John 4:7 and hold you place there before you turn to John 13:35. I need you all to really listen to me today. We've all committed a great sin, and now two young people about to start a life together are suffering or are going to suffer because of it.”

A murmur swept through the congregation, but Pastor Rick ignored it and began reading. “'By this shall all men know ye are my disciples, if ye have—if ye have love one to another.' Now flip back to 1 John 4:7.” Pastor Rick squinted at the blurring pages. “'Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God: and everyone that loveth—'” He stopped because he could no longer see the page. His eyes were flooding.

A Christian Perspective on Homosexuality

Published on 04/03/14

by Siera Weber, written for MtTFC 2014

Homosexuality has revolutionized our culture's view of masculinity, femininity, and marriage. Once a questionable and shady practice, it is now considered natural, permissible, and a civil right that is not only to be respected, but also accepted by all communities, including the Christian community. Hemant Mehta, the “Friendly Atheist” blogger, warned that failure to accept gay marriage would result in historical infamy for the Christian sect.[1] Despite the risk of historical infamy, many Christians refuse to embrace homosexuality because they believe that it is wrong. But is homosexuality truly a sin, or is homosexual activity only wrong when out of the confines of marriage? The laymen, scientists, and scholars of our culture have many varied opinions on this often debated topic, but the opinions of man can be misleading and dangerous.[2] Christians must examine what the Word of God, the only real standard of truth,[3] has to say on this controversial subject.

The Bible addresses the subject of homosexuality in both the Old and New Testaments. In Leviticus 18:22, God commanded, “Thou shalt not lie with mankind as with womankind: it is abomination.” In Leviticus 20:13, God instituted a seemingly harsh penalty for those who were discovered committing homosexual acts. Genesis 19 describes the destruction of Sodom, a city that God destroyed for its wickedness, including homosexuality. Lest anyone argue that the law of the Old Testament does not apply to Christians today, Romans 1:26-27 and 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 also clearly describe homosexuality as unnatural and a sin. Romans 1:26 declares, “For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use for that which is against nature. And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust toward one another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompense of their error which was meet. ” The word natural in these verses is a translation of the Greek word phusikan, which means “produced by nature, inborn.”[4] The word use in these verses is the translation of the Greek word xrasin, which is used specifically with a sexual connotation.[5] Romans 1:26-27 declares that homosexuality is biologically abnormal because it goes against the natural sexual functions of men and women—which is reasonable considering human anatomy and reproduction. In 1 Corinthians 6:9-10, Paul declares that those who are “effeminate” (Greek: malakos, “a person who allows himself to be sexually abused contrary to nature”)[6] or “abusers of themselves with mankind” (Greek: arsenokoites, “sodomite”)[7] will, along with other evildoers, be barred from heaven.

Despite the biblical evidence that homosexuality was not designed by God, some gay-rights activists and homosexuals have argued that homosexuality is a physical trait that cannot be changed. However, this is not the case. Not only is there little credible scientific evidence that homosexuality is an inborn trait,[8] but also it is possible for homosexuals to change, although the process can be excruciating and will often last for years.[9] Even if homosexuality were a natural inclination, it would not automatically be a right inclination. As sinful humans, we have many natural inclinations that go against God's Word.[10]

Even though the Bible has declared homosexuality a sin, our culture still embraces it, even to the point of legalizing same-sex marriage. Is the marriage union between those of the same gender legitimate in God's eyes? According to Genesis 2:21-24, which gives us the creation and institution of marriage, God designed marriage to be between a man and a woman. Nowhere in the Scriptures is a same-gender marriage even considered, let alone accepted. One of the practical purposes of marriage is to produce children and raise them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.[11] This cannot be done naturally by a homosexual couple because those of the same sex are unable to procreate. Furthermore, children that are adopted into a homosexual family cannot be brought up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord because homosexuals live a lifestyle contrary to God's Word. Not only does marriage have a practical purpose, but it also has a symbolic purpose. Throughout the Bible, marriage is used as a picture of God's relationship with His people. In the Old Testament, Israel is considered the bride of God the Father; and in the New Testament, the Church is considered the bride of Christ.[12] Same-sex marriage distorts that image and flouts God's original intentions for marriage.

How can our culture so readily scorn God's plan for sex and marriage? In mere decades, our society has moved from opposing homosexuality to openly lauding it. How is such a change possible? It is possible because our culture has willfully ignored God's literal signs in the heavens and earth. All of creation testifies to the existence of its Creator,[13] but our society has chosen to accept that chance produced the complex systems of the universe. Cloaking their arrogance in the guise of science,[14] scientists and laymen alike have reduced man to a merely mechanical being allowed to do whatever he wants, regardless of any moral laws the Creator has imposed on His creation. When a society rejects God's Word, God gives that society over to the depraved fancies of its members.[15] One of the results of man being turned over to his own sinful desires is homosexuality.[16] Because man will have nothing to do with God and the way He instituted marriage and sex, he has decided to replace God's plan with his own. The result is an idolatrous relationship that elevates the creature above the Creator.[17]

Because homosexuality is blatantly against God and His Word, how are Christians supposed to respond to those who profess to be gay or lesbian? First, we must remember that all sin is equal in God's eyes.[18] The sin of homosexuality is no better nor worse than adultery, fornication, gossip, lying, theft, disputing, or murder. Often, we make the mistake of emphasizing one particular sin, such as homosexuality, and then minimizing other sins that we consider minor. We should remember that every sin is serious in God's eyes. Second, as ambassadors on this earth for Christ, we need to live in a manner befitting God's kingdom in both word and deed.[19] If a homosexual sees sin in our lives, he will be less likely to accept Christ's message because our own deeds will declare our faith to be dead.[20] Third, we need to remember that a homosexual is the same as every other sinner. Satan has blinded him, and his heart has deceived him.[21] Instead of realizing that God is love, the homosexual turns to sinful sources to receive the acceptance and affection he craves. He does not realize that God is the only true source of satisfaction. Finally, we should proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ, for only the power of the gospel can truly change a sinner.[22]

Once hidden, now flaunted, homosexuality is a deviance from God's original plan for sexual relations that has been embraced by our culture. Homosexuality is not exonerated when practiced within the confines of marriage, for it ignores the foundation and purpose of marriage. As Christians, we are to stand firmly against homosexuality; and we are responsible to share why we must oppose it. We need to communicate in both word and deed the love of God, which is better and truer than any replica the homosexual community can conjure in its search for fulfillment. We need to tell of our God Who is “merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.”[23]

[1] Hemant Mehta, “The Debate Over Gay Marriage is Precisely What Christians Will Be Known For.” April 1, 2014.

[2] Proverbs 16:25.

[3] John 17:17.

[4] Matt Slick, “Romans 1:26-27 and Homosexuality.” Accessed on April 9, 2014.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Matt Slick, “Matthew Vines on 1 Corinthians 6:9-10.” Accessed on April 8, 2014.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Sue Bohlin, “Homosexual Myths—Exposed from a Biblical Perspective.” Accessed April 7, 2014.

[9] Sue Bohlin, “Can Homosexuals Change? —A Christian View of Homosexuality.” Accessed April 10, 2014.

[10] Jeremiah 17:9; Romans 11:32; Psalm 32:8.

[11] Ephesians 6:4; Proverbs 1:8; Proverbs 6:20.

[12] Jeremiah 3:14; Ephesians 5:22-25.

[13] Romans 1:20; Psalm 19:1.

[14] Romans 1:22.

[15] Romans 1:24,26,28.

[16] Romans 1:26-28.

[17] Romans 1:23, 25.

[18] 1 John 5:17; James 2:10.

[19] 2 Corinthians 5:20; Colossians 3:17.

[20] James 2:26.

[21] Jeremiah 17:9; 2 Corinthians 5:20.

[22] Matthew 28:19-20; Romans 1:16; John 1:12.

[23] Psalm 86:15.