When our lives are over most of us like to be buried with our families. People in Old Testament times were no different – they wanted to be “gathered to their people” (Genesis 15:15, Numbers 20:24, etc.). Unfortunately, there were cases where the family gravesite was really far away.
Joseph had that problem. He died in Egypt, miles away from where he wanted to be buried. “And Joseph made the sons of Israel swear an oath and said, ‘God will surely come to your aid, and then you must carry my bones up from this place’” (Genesis 50:25). I don’t know if God gave Joseph a timetable for His plan, but the day God came to their aid was hundreds of years later. The people who promised to move his remains were long gone by the time of the exodus from Egypt. And digging up bones is . . . icky. I guess the people who were leaving had an excuse to not dig up bones if they wanted it. “I didn’t make that promise. Great, great, great granddad did. Not my problem.”
Also, I suppose it could be claimed that this promise was coerced. They were “made” to swear this oath. Joseph was the second most powerful man in Egypt. If he asks for something you say yes. There’s another excuse for anyone who wanted one. And yet, hundreds of years later, “Moses took the bones of Joseph with him” (Exodus 13:19). A promise was made before God – and when the time came the promise was kept. From what I read in Scripture nobody looked for any of the available excuses, they just did it because they said they would. This is a remarkable instance of keeping a promise across many generations.
How many of us have trouble keeping our own promises? Would we be so quick to extend our obligations to those connected to us? If your grandfather accidently orders more popcorn from the little girl who is fundraising than he can afford would you step in to fulfill that obligation? (And how grumpy would you be about it?) If someone at church tells someone who needs a ride to services that they will pick them up, but then their car breaks down, would you inconvenience yourself to go get them instead? I don’t think Israel would have been quite so blessed if they began their nation with breaking a promise. I love that they put themselves out to preserve the honor of their people.
If you have opportunity, especially as a Christian person, I encourage you to do the same.
Love keeping promises SO much that you’re even willing to keep someone else’s.
Like plants God has designed the church to grow. It grows when it has the right environment for growing.
Notice 1 Cor. 3:6, tells us, “I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth.”
So, what is keeping our congregation from growing? Well there are at least three things that prevent a congregation from growing. There maybe be other things, but I believe they would all fall in one or more of the following areas.
First, population of people. If a congregation does not have people, it will not grow numerically or relationally. The church needs people. We are in the people business, saving the lost and keeping the saved, saved (Lk. 19:20, and Eph. 2:10). Many congregations are not growing because the population of the area has declined. For example, in the Parkersburg area when Camden Ave. was at its largest the community’s population was also growing. For the last several years the area has seen a population decline. In the 1960’s the population of Parkersburg was over 45,000. Today the population of Parkersburg is around 29,000. This decline is going to influence the congregation in a negative way. On the other hand, if one would look at communities that have a growing population, then often the church in that area is growing as well. The population effects church growth.
Second, and connected to the population, is the economy of an area. This also effects church growth. People go where the jobs are. If an area has no good paying jobs, then they leave the area looking for work or if they cannot leave, they are forced to make whatever income they can, which is usually less. This influences the church because people will not have the financial resources to give to help support the work of the church. When the church is in a low-income area, it is harder to maintain a church building, support the minister, do evangelistic works, and mission efforts. Although some might argue that we really do not need money to do the Lord’s Work, to preach, teach, and minister to people; maybe there is a truth here, but the reality is we do live in a society that is money based and it can greatly influence the growth and work of the church. After all, it is hard to keep the lights on, repair a roof, or print gospel literature when there are no funds to do such work.
Finally, another essential part of church growth, is spiritual teaching and Christian living. A congregation can have hundreds, even thousands of people, it can be rich, and have members who are great givers in the congregation, but if the preaching and teaching of the church are not scripturally sound and its members are not living by the truth of God’s word, then the church is dead spiritually. Remember the example of the church in Laodicea, Rev. 3:17, “For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked.” Sin to the church, is like throwing weed killer on one’s garden it will destroy everything it touches. Sin is described in Mark 7:20-23 and 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 as those things that are contrary to the will of God. So, for the church to grow, we must stop sinning and live obediently to God. Jesus states in Luke 13:5 unless we repent all will perish. We must also understand that repentance is not just about helping the church grow but being made right with Almighty God.
What do you need to repent of? (Part 2 of this article will continue in next week’s bulletin)
After being plucked out of the water by Pharaoh’s daughter Moses grew up among the Egyptians. However, something clued him in to the fact that he wasn’t Egyptian by birth. In fact, he even knew about the one true God. I’m guessing his mother or one of his siblings had something to do with that somehow. However he found out, Moses began to identify less with the Egyptians and more with his own people. (And think how remarkable that is! The Egyptians were rich and his own people were slaves.) “He chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a short time” (Hebrews 11:25). When Moses sees an Egyptian and an Israelite fighting he comes to the side of the Israelite, killing the Egyptian and hiding him in the sand.
Those who know this story know that this effort was less appreciated than expected. Stephen shares, “Moses thought that his own people would realize that God was using him to rescue them, but they did not” (Acts 7:25). So Moses knows of God, and He knows God would want His people to be rescued from slavery. Moses’ plan is, apparently, to take the abusive Egyptians out one at a time. There IS a lot of sand in Egypt to hide bodies . . . but this was never going to work. Moses was trying to accomplish God’s purposes without God’s power. This leads to Moses getting banished to tend sheep in the desert, until he is “a very humble man, more humble than anyone else on the face of the earth” (Numbers 12:3). NOW God can use Moses to rescue the people. Now Moses knows he can do nothing without God.
Hopefully this is a lesson we can learn without forty years in a desert. We also are a people who know of God, and we have some idea of the work that God wants to accomplish. The zealous among us dive in and strive to accomplish great victories for the kingdom. But may I suggest a very wise thing to do first? We should humble ourselves and pray. We should pray for the strength of God in whatever we are trying to do. God is able to accomplish in moments what would take us more than a lifetime to achieve on our own. Are you about to begin some ministry? Fantastic! But if you want to avoid going about God’s work in all the wrong ways I suggest starting with a season of prayer.
Methuselah is recorded in the Bible as being the oldest man who ever lived. The Bible does not tell us much about Methuselah. He is only recorded three times in the Bible: Genesis 5:25-27; 1 Chronicles 1:3 and in Luke 3:37. His lineage and the number of years he lived, 969 years, is all we know about him.
As the year 2,020 approaches, there are many television documentaries that show the major historical events of the past 10 even 20 years. Just think of all the things that have developed in that much time. Our country has had four presidents. Children have been born. People have been married. People have passed away. Then think about how technology has changed in the past twenty years. The way we listen to music; CDs and now everything is digital, how to communicate with people; cell phones and social media, and even cars have advanced with technology.
Now imagine being Methuselah’s age; he was lacking 31 years of living for an entire millennium. I cannot even phantom that much time; can you? Methuselah could have planted a Redwood tree and watch it grow. Although I hope he did not do that. But I do wonder what he did during his life and if he lived life to its fullest? One preacher pointed out about Methuselah, “So far as we know, he never accomplished one worthwhile thing.” We may never know what he did or did not do.
Methuselah reminds us that there is more to life than “accumulating” birthdays. Notice what James 4:13 tells us, “…What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.” The wisdom of the Bible is life is short, and we are like a mist that is here today and gone tomorrow. So, we must use our life wisely. Then Psa. 90:12, reminds us, “So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.”
We don’t know how Methuselah used his life, but the Bible tells us how we are to use our lives for the glory of God. We must make the most of every day that has God blesses us with. Ecc. 3:12-13 states, “I know that there is nothing better for men than to be happy and do good while they live. That everyone may eat and drink and find satisfaction in all his toil – this is the gift of God.”
Our life is a gift from God. As we enter a New Year, may we realize the value of our life and do all we can to service and love our God who never changes.
Happy New Year!
Mark T. Tonkery
Read almost any business book, self-help book, or do a search on the internet on articles of how to be a better person and one will come across the word “integrity.”
The Bible is also full of examples of individuals who were people of integrity. People like Caleb, Ruth, Job, Paul, and many others lived their lives before God and people with integrity.
Willard Tate described integrity this way, “The word comes from the mathematical term “integer”, a number that hasn’t been divided into fractions. It’s a whole number. And a person with integrity is a man or woman whose life is not divided against itself [by lying, immorality, cheating, gossiping, stealing, drinking, or dishonesty] someone who enjoys wholeness and completeness” (Habits of a Loving Heart p. 96).
In other words, integrity is more than just telling the truth, it is living the truth, being a truthful person all the time. It is being what we say we are, even when no one is looking; not being hypocritical, deceitful, or untrustworthy.
Proverbs 11:3, teaches that, “The integrity of the upright guides them, but the crookedness of the treacherous destroys them.”
Dennis Waitley, in an article entitled, "Your Absolute Bottom Line," published in Priorities Magazine, shared this story that well illustrates integrity.
In the operating room of a large, well-known hospital, it was the nurse's first day on the medical team. She was responsible that all instruments and materials were accounted for before completing the final steps of the operation. She said to the surgeon, "You've only removed 11 sponges. We used 12 sponges, and we need to find the last one."
"I removed them all," the doctor declared emphatically. "We'll close the incision now."
"No," the rookie nurse objected, "we used 12 sponges."
"I'll take the responsibility," the surgeon said grimly. "Suture."
"You can't do that, sir," blazed the nurse. "Think of the patient."
The surgeon smiled and lifted his foot, showing the nurse the twelfth sponge. "You'll do just fine in this or any other hospital."
Dishonest people and practices have plagued our society. Companies, government, families, schools, and sadly, even in the church; people have been cheated, lied to, used, and have been victims of dishonest practices; yet this seem to be the norm today. But integrity should be one of the characteristics of the Church. Above all, honesty and integrity should be a characteristic of each Christian.
Jesus put it this way “One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much, and one who is dishonest in a very little is also dishonest in much. If then you have not been faithful in the unrighteous wealth, who will entrust to you the true riches?” (Luke 16:10-11). Think about it!
Written by Mark T. Tonkery