[forthright] A Lost Verse of the Bible?/Sunday in Pretoria

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From: Forthright Magazine <ba@...>
Date: Wed, 26 Jan 2005 16:00:05 -0600
Forthright Magazine
Straight to the Cross

COLUMN: Hands-on Faith

A Lost Verse of the Bible?
by Barry Newton

It has been said that the best place to hide
something is in plain sight. If those who teach
the Bible were to selectively tip toe through
Scripture to avoid offending current values,
Lamentations 2:14 could very well be a verse
hidden in plain sight. It reads:

"The visions of your prophets were false and
worthless; they did not expose your sin to ward
off your captivity. The oracles they gave you were
false and misleading." (NIV)

If people were to describe a sermon as being
relevant and meaningful for their lives, what
words would they use? I suspect that "positive,
uplifting, and practical advice" would often be
among the top contenders. Scripture does contain
an encouraging message that fills us with hope
which needs to be preached. But, how often would
"expose my sin" show up in such a survey? How
frequently are people appreciative and value a
lesson which might legitimately step all over
their toes?

If we roll the clock back to the seventh and sixth
centuries B.C., we discover a drama playing out
which provides a powerful lesson for today. God's
people loved to seek out a steady diet of positive
and affirming messages from their religious
leaders./1 Among other degenerative spiritual
conditions, their hearts had become corrupt with
greed as their lives were centered around the
drive to acquire more and more./2 Any message
which confronted their sinful state was offensive
to them; the only message they wanted to hear was
that positive affirmation of the status quo, "You
are OK. No harm will come to you."/3

Because God's people failed to repent, God was
left with no other choice. He had been slow in
pouring out his anger; however, the time had come
to end their rebellion. God crushed his own people
under the ruthless shoes of the Babylonians. From
the smoldering rubble left in their wake, the
sorrowful lament of Jeremiah rose up:

"The visions of your prophets were false and
worthless; they did not expose your sin to ward
off your captivity. The oracles they gave you were
false and misleading."/4

What makes for good Bible teaching? A faithful
proclamation of God's Word. Sometimes that message
will encourage us; on other occasions it will
convict us. The goal is neither to be made to feel
guilty nor to receive an uplifting slap on the
back, but to be brought closer to the will of God.
Then we will treat others and serve our awesome
God acceptably. In writing to Timothy, Paul
expressed similar instruction:

"Proclaim the message .... rebuke and encourage
... For the time will come when they will not
tolerate healthy teaching. Instead, to suit their
own desires, they will accumulate around
themselves teachers to say what their itching ears
want to hear."/5    

1\ Jeremiah 5:30-31    
2\ Jeremiah 6:13    
3\ Jeremiah 6:10, 13; 5:12, 31
4\ Lamentations 2:14 NIV
5\ 2 Timothy 4:2,3

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COLUMN: Reality Check

Sunday in Pretoria
by Stan Mitchell

"God is spirit, and his worshippers must worship
in spirit and in truth" (John 4:24).

One bright Sunday morning, a church in Pretoria,
South Africa, had a visitor. He was a mild-looking
man in his mid-twenties, a lawyer with wire-rimmed
glasses. But he wasn't impressed with what he saw.
He recalls seeing church members dozing in
worship, and he wondered how serious they were
about Christianity.

"They were not an assembly of devout souls," he
writes in his autobiography. "They appeared rather
to be worldly-minded people, going to church for
recreation and in conformity to custom."

What is stunning is not only how true this
evaluation was, but also how widespread. Frankly,
it baffles me how casually Christians take
worship. I wonder how those who make fun of the
"Five acts of worship" concept would feel about
the following worship activities: balancing the
checkbook; discussing the weekend's events with a
neighbor; transitioning from a momentary doze to
outright, open-mouthed, coma.

And despite the jokes about the level of interest
the sermon might deserve, the real problem is our
abysmal lack of respect for what is taking place.

Here we are in audience with the one great God, an
encounter like none other. The regularity of our
doing so should not diminish the power of its
impact. We might never get an appointment with the
President or a film star, but we can meet with the
ruler of all the earth any time! Nothing you do
this week will be more important than worship.
Nothing. By the way, would you like to know who
the scholarly lawyer was who went to church one
Sunday in South Africa? His name was Mohandas K.
Gandhi, who would later liberate a billion souls
from British Colonialism in what is now India and
Pakistan. How would the world have changed if
Gandhi had become a Christian?

Not only did that church miss an opportunity to
convince a great man of the truth of Christ. They
did something much more serious. They demonstrated
a lack of respect for the God they worshipped!

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