Heb. 13:17, “Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.”
In the life of each congregation of the Lord’s church, it is essential that we continue to appoint men who will lead the congregation as shepherds or elders. 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1 both give the qualifications of the men who are to fulfill this function of leadership in the church. As important as it is to find men who are mature Christians who meet the Biblical standards of leadership, one must keep in mind that this is only one part of what helps a congregation function as God design. Another part of having a faithful congregation is having faithful followers.
Heb. 13:17 points out that the congregation must be one that faithfully follows godly leadership. This passage teaches members of a congregation that they are to follow in such a way that they help their elders enjoy their job as shepherds. This is done in part of being good followers.
I am sure we have been in a situation at one time or another, such as at school or at work, when it seemed that there were “too many coaches and not enough players.” In situations like this, nothing can get accomplished, the same is true in the congregation. If the congregation did not have leaders to lead and followers to follow the congregation would debate every idea and situation that came along, and nothing would be accomplished.
Although it is true wise shepherds are open to suggestions, and advice, after all, Pro. 15:22 tells us, “Without counsel plans fail, but with many advisers, they succeed.” But with all the counsel and advice elders may receive, they still need to make a decision and give direction to the congregation. Sometimes shepherds must make the hard choices, (like how to deal with the pandemic). It is during difficult decisions elders need the understanding of the congregation and “good followership”; Heb. 13:17 puts it “Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.” Of course, Heb. 13:17 is not talking about following an eldership that wants to deviate from God’s Word of truth, and lead people away from God but as an eldership follows Christ, the congregation should follow them.
Being good followers helps the church to function with unity, with a single mind, and helps the whole congregation to function in brotherly love (see 1 Cor. 1:10).
It is essential to have godly men shepherding the congregation, but it is also essential that we have faithful members following Christ and our elders as they strive to help each member on their journey to Heaven.
Written by Mark T. Tonkery
Sometimes fear shows up uninvited. Perhaps that happens because it sometimes takes our hearts awhile to catch up to what our mind knows. Yes, we know God is in control. We know He is greater than the world. So why does fear show up in the presence of a lethal virus? When we hear about the world turning a little more against Christ and His followers what do we do with this uninvited sense of dread? I suggest we do the same thing the Israelites once did: act on faith despite the fear.
When the people of Israel returned from exile they set up their lives among many neighbors who did not love the Lord. Like in some places of the world today it was not safe to worship God. They knew it was important to rebuild the temple but they also knew that could get heavy objects thrown at them. So what did they do? “Despite their fear of the peoples around them, they built the altar on its foundation and sacrificed burnt offerings on it to the Lord, both the morning and evening sacrifices” (Ezra 3:3). Were they afraid? Yes. Did they let their fear stop them from publicly proclaiming God’s praise? No. They decided their faith was more important than their fear.
We find out later that they were afraid for good reason. Their idolatrous neighbors were both sneaky and mean. They did everything they could to prevent Israel from worshiping God. They sent spies, they wrote slanderous letters . . . the works. Our fear might also have a reasonable cause. Worshiping God just might get you persecuted. Getting thrown out of your house, losing relationships with family members, or getting demoted at your job are all outcomes that are not out of the question. Praying at your restaurant table might lead to your atheist waiter to spit in your food. Sure. But what is more important to you: your faith or your fear? Let us be strong and courageous! If we do become afraid I pray our fear does not cripple us.
Despite our fear of the peoples around us may we overcome and worship God.
Children's Bible Lesson on Abel
By Mark T. Tonkery
Ecc 3:1-3, states, “For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted; a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;”
For me, this must be a time for things to break down because I do not remember a time in my life when so many of our things have broken at once. During these past three months, our washing machine broke, our old desktop computer finally broke down for good, one of our house fans stopped working, one of our ceiling fans also broke, our garden house broke too, my glasses broke, and just this morning my alarm clock died; this is just the shortlist and not to mention all the things related to Covid-19. (I very thankful nothing major, expect the washing machine has broken, or at least not yet). Now I don’t know if it is because we have used these items more while we have been staying home or what the reasons are. (One elder I used to work with, would tell me I had too much stuff; maybe he is right).
Now with the way things are made today, very few of these items can be repaired, most can only be recycled or thrown away. Someone has made the commit that we live in a “throw-away” society; rarely do we or can we fix things and for that matter, it is almost as cost affect to buy a new product. Broken things in our eyes are not very useful.
But you know not everything in life that breaks needs to be thrown away. Vance Havner wrote, “God uses broken things. It takes broken soil to produce a crop, broken clouds to give rain, broken grain to give bread, broken bread to give strength. It is the broken alabaster box that gives forth perfume. It is Peter, weeping bitterly, who returns to greater power than ever.”
We have a God who uses broken things; He can even use people when sin has broken their lives. Have you noticed as you read the Bible that it is often the broken people, the rebels (Moses), the prodigals (son in Luke 15), and the outcast (Rehab) that God uses?
In fact, often before we can be used in God’s service we too must be broken. It is when we are broken, we have a greater appreciation for what God has done for us, we realize our blessings, and we are more useful in His Kingdom.
Psalm 51:17, tells us, “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, A broken and a contrite heart—These, O God, You will not despise.”
If your life is broken, come to Christ today, let today be a time to build up! Christ can rebuild our broken lives when we confess our faith in Him (Rom. 10:9,10), repent of our sins (Acts 17:30,31), put Him on in baptism for the remission of our sins (Acts 2:38) and continue to live faithful unto the Lord (Rev. 2:10).
We sometimes sing, “Bring Christ your broken life, So marred by sin. He will create anew, Make whole again. Your empty wasted years, He will restore, And your iniquities, Remember no more.” (Hymn, Bring Christ your broken life, by T.O. Chisolm).
Will you bring your broken life to Christ today?
Written by Mark T. Tonkery
Tonk Talk by Mark T. Tonkery
What I have learned from the Covid-19 Pandemic?
The coronavirus which started in China last fall and now has spread to over four million people, causing over 284,732 deaths worldwide (as of the writing of this article). This pandemic is still not over, and the effects will be felt for a long time. But as we deal with this virus, I wanted to share some things I have learned and observed so far:
- Covid-19 is like sin. Covid-19 has quickly spread around the globe, and although not everyone gets this virus dies, it has caused many deaths and has disrupted many lives. It reminds me a lot like sin, yet sin is far more dangerous. Rom. 3:23 states, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Remember, Rom. 6:23, “For the wages of sin is death…”. Everyone who sins dies the second death if one does not repent (Lk. 13:3,5).
- Covid-19 reminds us we can evangelize the world. It was about eight months ago, and no one ever heard about the coronavirus or Covid-19, now almost the entire world knows about it. Just think if we took the gospel of Jesus as seriously as we have taken the message about the Covid-19, we could reach the whole world with the gospel message of Jesus Christ. Remember Jesus tells us to “go into the entire world…” (Mk. 16:15), Covid-19 reminds us that a message can be spread throughout the world, in a relatively short time, what about the gospel of Jesus?
- Covid-19 has taught us to connect with people in different ways. Eight months ago, I would never have believed that I would be learning how to preach and teach over the internet. Now for the past few weeks, many Christians have assembled around their computers and cell phones, listening to God’s word preached. This situation reminds us of Jesus’ teaching in Jn. 4:24, “God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.”
- Covid-19 has taught me to appreciate what I have because you never know when it will be taken away. Now, I am not just talking about toilet paper, or eating at a restaurant, although that might apply. But for the past few weeks, we have been prevented from assembly with the Saints. This is a freedom we have in this country, but many Christians throughout history, and even in many countries in our world today do not have this freedom. Many Christians are persecuted, imprisoned, or even put to death for assembling in the name of Christ. May we realize what a blessing we have when we can gather with our brothers and sisters in Christ and not take it for granite. When we can meet may we make the most of it and appreciate what God has allowed us to have.
These are just a few things that I have learned, I am sure there will be many more lessons that will be learned as this pandemic continues. It is so easy, to be frustrated, and be discouraged during this time, but let us not give into despair. May we look at this situation and ask, “What can we learn from this?” Let us use this pandemic as a learning time and most important use it to draw closer to the Lord. Think about it! Mark T. Tonkery