Something that makes me thankful, as well as amazing and humbling me, is the way God continues to use our website and literature to help people. We have received letters and emails from people who have left cults after reading our articles, from Christians who have used our website as a learning resource before confronting unbelieving relatives, from missionaries who use our booklets to teach people in far-flung regions of the world, among many others. But the correspondence that stunned and humbled me the most this past year was from a Baptist pastor who is also an inmate in a state prison. In these letters, he tells of his pre-prison life of hypocrisy and sin, his incarceration, his conversion, and how God has now used him, with our publications, to build a church (presently consisting of fifty baptized members and expanding rapidly) that teaches the doctrines of grace in the prison, and the persecution he and the other members face. I found his letters so inspiring that I want to share some excerpts with you. To protect this servant of the Lord’s privacy, I have left out his name and edited out of the letters anything that might identify him, his specific crime, and the prison. I have also, for the sake of readability, made a very few grammatical changes and combined letters.
When I think back to my boyhood and teenage years in the 1950s and 1960s, I recall the effect of what seemed to be an unquestioned practice among women. Looking forward from any pew (except the very front row), in any church (my parents visited a number of churches); my view was that of ladies’ hats, large and small, and sometimes scarves. Women never entered the meeting without their heads covered, just as men universally removed their hats. Was this merely a social custom of the mid-twentieth century? Or does the Bible tell us that women should cover their heads, and men uncover their heads, during meetings of the church?
Jesus, in warning His disciples not to follow the prideful and hypocritical actions of the scribes and Pharisees, includes in His portrayal of their self-importance the fact that they “love the uppermost rooms at feasts, and the chief seats in the synagogues” (Matthew 23:6). I want to focus on the “chief seats in the synagogues.” What are they?
A. We live in an age when there are now churches that meet in bars and pubs. There are strippers for Jesus, and those who advocate pornography for Christ. Some few preachers now use foul language to appeal to the common man. Less extreme, but now ubiquitous, are Christian coffeehouses with preachers who seem more like stand-up comics, Jesus rock concerts, Christian meetings that resemble three-ring circuses with all of their derring-do and acrobatics, and Christian automobile racing. All of this is done with the aim of reaching people with the message of the Gospel. Is this what Paul meant when he said that he had become all things to all men?
A. I received this question just recently. It is a good one because it is based on a common assumption. The assumption is that the 120 spoke on Pentecost. Certainly, women were among the 120 (Acts 1:14-15), but women did not speak in tongues on Pentecost because only the twelve apostles spoke in tongues on Pentecost. Here’s why I say this.
A.This is certainly one of the most common questions I receive. I suppose it comes from questioners who have come to see that there is a discrepancy between what they see in their Bibles and what they see in the local churches they have attended. Years ago, I used to try to find churches in the person’s area that taught sovereign grace and, if I could find one, also taught New Covenant Theology. For reasons I will explain, I no longer do this. But I do have a recommendation for those who are looking for a church.
I used to do some freelance editing for a man who ran a Christian publishing, Internet, and speaking ministry. A few years before his death, he found that he was unable to, in good conscience, continue his membership in the church of which he had been a member and elder. Soon afterward, “Christian” forums had threads about him that went something like this: “Did you hear that so-and-so is no longer under the accountability of a church?” “What? Do you mean that he’s not under a church covering?” “This is outrageous! How can he continue his ministry while being unfaithful?” “Well, all I know is that as long as he’s not under the authority of a church, I’m not listening to him any more.”
It is common to hear people refer to the building in which the church meets as God’s House or the Lord’s House or something similar. Probably you have heard it: “It’s good to see you in God’s House today,” “We should be in the Lord’s House every Sunday.” Sometimes a loose reference is made to Scripture, such as Psalm 122:1: “Let us go into the house of the LORD.”