Weekly Bulletin Articles
“How we travel to someplace determines how we feel about that place.”
The above quote comes from writer Eric Weiner on Travel with Rick Steves. During his interview, Mr. Weiner also commented upon the connection between traveling and travailing. “To travel is to travail,” he said. He was speaking in the context of taking a long train ride and feeling differently about his destination as a result of his journey. But my thoughts went to much more consequential things.
As followers of the Way and sojourners upon earth, we are all travelers. It is certain that how we travel determines our destination. If we walk “in newness of life” (Romans 6:4), “in the light” (1 John 1:7), “in the truth” (2 John 1:4), and “in love” (Ephesians 5:2), by God’s grace we will dwell with him for eternity. Peace, joy, rest, and utter amazement will be ours forever.
If we walk in our own ways (Acts 14:16), according to the flesh (Romans 8:4), in idleness (2 Thessalonians 3:11), or in darkness (1 John 1:6), then we reject the sacrifice of Christ and earn for ourselves the judgment of God (Romans 6:23). Pain, horror, loss, and constant dread will be ours forever.
The two destinations could not be more diametrically opposed. One holds the promise of the personal presence of the Provider of all that is good (1 Thessalonians 4:17; Revelation 7:15-17; James 1:17). The other is the absolute absence of anything good (2 Thessalonians 1:9; Matthew 22:13; 25:41)
Yet within those absolute places, it appears that there is room for degree.
“I tell you, it will be more bearable on that day for Sodom than for that town. Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you Bethsaida! For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago, sitting in sackcloth and ashes. But it will be more bearable in the judgment for Tyre and Sidon than for you. ” (Luke 10:12-14).”
The powerful demonstrations and explanations elevated expectations. Later in Luke, Jesus expands upon the relationship between knowledge and responsibility.
“And that servant who knew his master’s will but did not get ready or act according to his will, will receive a severe beating. But the one who did not know, and did what deserved a beating, will receive a light beating. Everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required, and from him to whom they entrusted much, they will demand the more” (Luke 12:47, 48).
While ignorance is not an excuse, it does seem clear that those who know Jesus and reject him will incur a worse judgment (Hebrews 10:26-31), and those who abandon the Lord will find themselves in a worse state (2 Peter 2:20-22).
In a state of absolutes (joy or sorrow, peace or pain, delight or depression), how can we experience degrees? Perhaps it is how we have traveled.
Those who sacrificed all, who gave up family, friends, and freedom will appreciate the gifts of heaven all the more. Those who have plumbed the depths of suffering while walking with their Savior will find his personal comfort that much more soothing. Those who have grown from infants (1 Peter 2:2), to fully mature (Hebrews 5:14), who have drunk deeply at the well of living water (John 4:10, 14), will be more prepared to fathom the flavors of the tree of life.
The opposite must also be true. Those who have turned from walking with the Lord will spend eternity in agony knowing exactly what they lost. O what soul-crushing agony to have looked upon the Saviors face, to have stepped in his glorious light, only to turn to self and destruction!
The details belong to God, but this seems clear, how we travel will impact not only our destination, but also how we experience it.
Travel well, my friends. The travail is worth the triumph.
Serious talk. Guys, I’m a little bit scared. When my elders announced we would be resuming class at the church building on Wednesdays, of course I was excited. BUT—and here’s what I debated sharing publicly because I’m embarrassed—there was a part of me that was disappointed about “having” to be at the building Wednesday again. Disappointed.
Why? Because it’s been over 3 months since the church met together for Bible study. I’ve grown accustomed to coming home from work, eating dinner with the family, and then relaxing in the living room watching some sort of canned Bible study on my TV (with my family). I’ve officially gotten out of the habit of the family getting ready for Bible class and driving to the church building on Wednesdays.
So there was a part of my heart that was actually disappointed—bummed—over the “burden” of going back to Bible study.
And that scares me.
Of course I’m taking my family back. That’s not a question. I’m excited! (And I’m the preacher, so I kind of need to be there!) There’s no danger of me or my wife “falling away.”
I’ve just gotten out of the habit. And psychologically, my mind has grown accustomed to it. I don’t like this about my heart. And in my prayers, I ask God to rid my heart of sinful desires like this (like the desire to stay home when I can assemble, which is a heart problem).
Here’s another scary thought to me: What if I was 18? That time was an impressionable time for me. I look back, and I sometimes think I could have gone one way or another with my faith. I would have been vulnerable to this if this happened to me then. I NEEDED the assembly—every assembly.
What if I was 5? Or 10? Or 13? Kids that are that age are going to remember this. And we have deprived them of assembling with the saints in some major, important ways.
What if I was a new Christian? What if I was a weak Christian?
If I felt disappointment in my heart, think what others may be feeling at the thought of “going back to church.”
I still think the churches, collectively, did the right thing in postponing their assemblies for a number of weeks. But elders did this to better assess the situation. At first, because of the unknowns, the virus was a major concern. And it still is a concern. But over 3 months later, at what cost?
This virus isn’t going away any time soon. At some point, we need to think, “What is the end game?” Am I willing to be absent from the assembly of my church family for another month? Three more months? Six? 2021?
(Why even go to church anymore? Let’s sell the building and do everything online! Is that what some of us are good with??)
At some point, we have to ask: what’s a greater threat to the church: a virus? Or the effects “scattering” is having on the church after months of isolation?
I don’t want to oversimplify things. But if your conscience isn’t as burdened over this anymore, then—I say this kindly but bluntly as your brother in Christ—you have a heart problem. The virus is no longer the biggest danger in your life.
God designed His church to be an ASSEMBLING church. Online “worship,” while I’ve been thankful for it, will never be a substitute. His people need to be willing to take a little bit of RISK to follow His plan and ideal. We need to have a little bit of FAITH—not that God will miraculously protect us from getting the virus—but that assembling with His people is more pleasing to Him than cutting ourselves off from the church.
Let’s take safety measures. But I need “church.” I need to be in relatively close proximity to my brethren. I need the friendships. I need the encouragement. I need the congregational singing. I need the classes. I need the accountability. I need to hear YOU—in person—push me to keep going, “and all the more as we see the Day drawing near.” Let’s not give Satan one more inch.
(Although I don’t agree with this statement, “I still think the churches, collectively, did the right thing in postponing their assemblies for a number of weeks.” the problem that this brother is concerned about is very real. Mike)