An Opinion on Youth Ministry

In March, I turn 35. I have been involved in Youth Ministry in some way since I was about 14, either as a participant as a leader. Even though for nearly nine years I have had the weekly responsibility of leading and preaching to the whole congregation, I have also dedicated four to six hours a week to the youth ministry. I thought I would give some of my thoughts on what works…

  1. Youth ministry has to be about God. Knowing Jesus is the most freeing thing in the entire world, and no one needs it more than a high school student. Being a kid is almost always a “me-centered” experience. Students are always worrying about a boyfriend or girlfriend, grades, reputation, the future, being happy, looking good, and on and on and on. When a student understands that God is real, it shows them that there is One who is more important than themselves. Students can be set free from the never-ending need to satisfy their ego. Instead they can serve others, think about the big questions of life, and worship a God who is big enough for them.
  2. Youth ministry cannot be about games. I am not sure where the idea came from that youth group is about playing games together. What a mistake! As soon as a student can drive, they can find a better way to have fun than go to church. Church is where we lead our students into a relationship with Jesus. It is the one thing we have that the world doesn’t, it is the one thing that the students actually need, and it is one thing we are commanded to do.
  3. Youth ministry needs to be a place where kids can be real. Students are coming from lots of different places and backgrounds. Most of them have terrible language when they are with their friends. They are by nature rebelling against parents and exploring the world around them. They are sneaking around, and if they aren’t experimenting with sex their friends most definitely are. Although we do not want to encourage this sort of thing, youth group has to be a place where they can be themselves. I try to consistently teach about the life God desires for them, but I also pick my battles carefully with regard to language and behavior. If they can’t drop a cussword around you without being severely reprimanded, how are they going to open up about things that are really far worse than that?
  4. Youth ministry needs to place high expectations on students. This may seem contrary to the previous point, but it’s not. Education Theory teaches that the number one predictor of student outcomes is the expectation level put on the student. Although they need to feel that they can be themselves, they also need to know that they are held to the highest standard. They can read the Bible daily. They can pray. They can be a moral exemplar in their friend group. This world tells us we should have a prolonged period of adolescence and immaturity, but when students get a taste of “Godly Ambition” they won’t want to waste their lives any longer on these empty things which don’t fulfill them.

If you have any other thoughts, I’d love to hear them! Please pray for all of the young ones coming up through the next generation. God bless, Pastor Brian


How Do I Trust God When I’ve Been Through Devastating Circumstances?

During a Q&A time with the youth last night, a young lady with a troubled past asked a question which cut straights to the heart of the matter. She said, “How can I trust God when he’s let me go through devastating situations?” Here, in brief, were some thoughts that I hope you too can find helpful in your journey with God.

  1. Much suffering comes as a result of abandoning God’s ways. Many times, our pain results from lying, gossip, anger, envy, jealousy, adultery, the love of money, or other types of sin. Sometimes deep societal problems exist because of the love of power and comfort at the expense of others. When I experience suffering due to people (or myself) having abandoned God’s ways, it causes me to trust God more. I see the beauty in following Jesus, and I recognize that it offers a path to wholeness and abundant life.
  2. “Natural Evil” helps me long for heaven. Some suffering is not the direct result of human sin. We have diseases, earthquakes, unexpected house fires, accidents, and other types of suffering. The Bible says that when humanity sinned, the entire creation was broken. It may seem unfair, but God allows this present world to go unredeemed in the present time. Again, this gives us the opportunity to follow Jesus and see the beauty of God’s ways. Jesus says, “Anyone who has two coats should share with him who has none.” Jesus calls us away from comfort and into the suffering of others. And hopefully, if you’ve been through some sort of “Natural Evil,” God’s people have offered you physical, spiritual, and emotional comfort in your time of loss. As a pastor, I get to see this happen quite often.
  3. Jesus went through devastating circumstances for us. If there is one thing we know for sure, it is that God cares. He sent his son to die, so that for us a perfect paradise would be secured. Because God in Christ was willing to suffer and die for us, we know that he cares and is with us no matter what we face. Reflecting on God’s love at the cross can help us face any trials.

A prayer: Lord Jesus, help us to trust you when this world is grim. You have overcome the world. You are the source of light, life, and love. Raise us from this present darkness and make us beacons of hope through the power of your Holy Spirit. Amen.


The Word of the Cross is Folly

              This past week I was reminded of a great, basic, and easily forgotten part of Christianity. Jesus is not on the cross anymore. I was at a camp, and the speaker said something like this: “We like Jesus on the cross. When Jesus is on the cross, we know where he is. We know what he is doing. We can predict the outcome.” When Jesus is on the cross, he is dying for the sins of the world. He is there for us to see. He is offering forgiveness to those who trust him. These are basic and beautiful truths, but we were reminded that he is no longer on the cross.               

When Jesus was raised from the dead, he began to act in unpredictable and exciting ways. He veiled himself from the two men who walked from Jerusalem to Emmaus. He appeared mysteriously in the room to the eleven disciples that evening. He visibly ascended into heaven. He shone a bright light and caused the conversion of Saul of Tarsus. People began speaking in tongues. He repealed the food laws in a vision to Peter. The Gospel began to reverberate and spread throughout the Mediterranean, all the way to India and Ethiopia. Nobody predicted it, and nobody was in control of it. It was God.              

I sometimes find myself wanting to control God. I think, “If God was real, he would do X, Y, and Z. He would show himself in this way. He would do this thing.” There was a time when Paul wanted to go to Asia, but the “Spirit of Jesus” forbid him (Acts 16:6-10). Just like Paul, I find myself with a vision for my future and sometimes Jesus slams doors closed. Often, he opens other unexpected doors for me to walk through. The path that I am on is not one that I have chosen, but it is the one that Jesus has for me. I trust that his path is better!               

The best thing about Jesus being off the cross is that he is with us in the journey. Jesus promised, “I will be with you always, even until the end of the age.” We don’t plan our path and ask Jesus to accompany us on it. We follow the path that Jesus has for us. We submit to him, listen to his voice, and follow him as best we are able. He is no longer on the cross, and this is much better for us. He is with us. His Spirit is inside us. He will never leave us on our journey. Lord Jesus, help us to remember that you are with us. You are walking beside us, and you have promised never to leave or forsake us. Help us to be open to whatever you have in store for us.

In Jesus’ Name, Amen.


Why I Love Christmas

I love Christmastime each year. I know a lot of you out there are bah-humbug types, ready for the season to end before it has even begun. I don’t care. I love Christmas, and I am gloriously unashamed of the magnificence of this unparalleled time in the annum. I wanted to give a top 7 list of why I love Christmas. Here we go.  

  1. Christmas is about priorities. We take some time off work. We clear out space for relationships, for family, for church. We turn off the TV to wrap some presents, or squeeze in a few hours here and there to think of what gifts would make people happy. We write a card to a friend, send an update to people on the state of our family. And we take off some work to make it happen, too.
  2. Christmas is cozy. I don’t know about you, but I take a couple extra trips to the coffee shop. I light up my wood burning fireplace and wrestle the kids on the carpeted basement floor. We cover ourselves with blankets while we sit on the couch and watch How the Grinch Stole Christmas.
  3. We spend money. I like spending money. I keep it pretty tight throughout the year, but this is the one month a year where I pull the goalie and spoil my family. I’m getting Luther and James a Nintendo Switch for Christmas. The review said that the new Mario Kart even had a way for the cars to autopilot, and that the littlest kids could play it. One mom said her four-year-old was laughing uncontrollably. I’m pretty psyched to spoil my kids a bit.
  4. I take some vacation. For me, work is a pretty constant grind from mid-August to the end of May. But even if I must put in some extra hours at work, I make sure that I can take some much-needed rest around Christmas. After the sprint to Christmas Day, I regroup for the next five-month push. I like to splurge on some really nice steaks that I cook for whichever family I happen to be staying with, and this year I am going to do some homemade buffalo wings for my in-laws too. My kids are ready to see dad, and I’m pumped for a week with them.
  5. Christmas is about Jesus. Really, this is the most important. Check these lyrics. ‘Mild he lays his glory by Born that man no more may die Born to raise the sons of earth Born to give them second birth Hark the herald angels sing Glory to the newborn king’ Just writing it causes tears to well up in my eyes. Christmas is actually about the big questions, the most important things, and a hope that lasts forever.


Thoughts Are Not Prayers

The Difference Between Thoughts and Prayers We’ve heard a lot about “thoughts and prayers” in the aftermath of the Las Vegas massacre. Many people offered “thoughts and prayers.” Some people were thankful for the “thoughts and prayers.” Others decried the uselessness of “thoughts and prayers.” To most people today, thoughts and prayers accomplish the same purpose. To say you are praying for someone, or thinking of them, is a way of showing solidarity with them and concern. It is a nice gesture of support and care to say, “I am thinking of you in your hardship.” For those without a religious faith, to use the language of thinking of someone is more honest than saying you are praying for them. Some people believe that thinking positive thoughts for someone else has its own effect, like the effect of prayer. When there is no action that can be taken on someone else’s behalf, sending good thoughts is the best many can do. Some of my unbelieving friends ask for “good vibes” as they enter a job interview or make a big move. Prayers are different than thoughts. There is a very big difference, from the Christian perspective, between thoughts and prayers. Prayer to the Christian is not simply a way of saying that you are supporting someone, showing them solidarity, or concern. Prayer is the act of interceding for a person or situation before God. The Bible says that because of Christ, we can go directly into the throne room of God and ask him for what we need. We believe that God will respond when we pray, and give us power and peace that are not achievable simply with our own thoughts. We might put it this way: Prayer activates God’s power. Thoughts activate our own power. Prayer as preparation for action. Several times in the Bible, prayer is preparation for decisive action. Nehemiah prayed before he set off to rebuild the wall of Jerusalem. The disciples prayed for 10 days before Pentecost. We know from Paul’s letters that he prayed before embarking on evangelistic crusades. Jesus himself prayed before going out to teach the crowds. We should not devalue prayer as it relates to decisive action. Prayer is invaluable in seeking the hand of God, aligning yourself with him, and drawing upon his power as you seek to accomplish things in his name. Prayer should precede action and never be used as an excuse for complacency! Prayer as the only option.                Sometimes in the Bible, prayer is the last resort of powerless people. The disciples prayed for Peter’s release from prison. Hezekiah prayed that Israel be spared from the insurmountable army of Senaccherib. In dire circumstances, may be the only available recourse from catastrophic loss. God welcomes such prayers and is often pleased to show his gracious hand to those who seek him. Prayer as accepting conformity to God’s will. Finally, many times we see prayer as a way of communing with God to conform and accept his will. The Lord’s prayer includes, “your kingdom come, your will be done.” Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane, “Not my will, but your will be done.” Paul prays for believers throughout the New Testament that their eyes be opened, that they would know God and the power of the resurrection inside them. Prayer can help us perceive the mind of God toward us. Christians, stop demoting prayer to thoughts! To my fellow followers of Jesus, let us commit ourselves to actual prayer. Too often we say, “I’ll be praying for you” and what we really mean is, “your situation is hard and I sympathize with your difficulty.” Instead, stop, and remember that God has granted us the right to come boldly into his presence, directly before the throne of grace, that we might come to Him in our time of need. If you want to show sympathy to someone, you could instead say, “That sounds extremely difficult. I am very sorry for what you are going through.” Do not substitute sympathetic feelings for actual prayer, where we come humbly before God and ask him to intervene. If we promise prayer as a Christian way of showing sympathy, we are really just showing our unbelief. To my unbelieving friends, please understand.                In our perspective, prayer is not the least we can do. It is often the most we can do. When prayers are truly offered, it is because the Christian in great humility sees great problems and needs that he knows he cannot address in his own power. The prayers are offered as an act of both love and faith, believing God will work invisibly and supernaturally to heal and guide us forward.


Attack on the Mosque

A Full-Bodied Christian Response to Terrorism Six times in the past year, vehicles have been used by terrorists against unsuspecting pedestrians for the sole purpose killing them. What happened today is scary, because it is the first time that the terrorist was motivated differently than the previous attacks. The previous five attacks were done by ISIS-related extremists. The sixth, which happened earlier today, was led by what seems to be a normal man, pushed to the brink by the news and his perception of the threat at hand. Darren Osborn, age 48, seemed by all outsiders to be a regular person, a father of four. Yet earlier today he screamed, “I am going to kill all Muslims” as he rammed his van into worshipers in front of a mosque, injuring ten and killing one. He is quoted as saying, “I’ve done my bit” and “I’d do it again.” It seems to me that he was retaliating. He took vengeance into his own hands. I’d like to spend this blog processing this from a variety of different angles with regard to Christian thought and theology. Also, I hope it goes without saying, I am saddened by the actions which took place today and pray for God’s comfort on the innocent Muslim victims.

  1. The principal of forgiveness.

One of the most fantastic things about Christianity is the way that it inspires its adherents to forgive those who wrong them. So, for the sake of argument, let’s say we find out in the next week or so that Darren Osborn lost a friend in last week’s attack on the London Bridge. How would God enable someone like Darren to approach it differently? When Charles Roberts killed five of ten hostages in an Amish community called Nickel Mines, the grandfather of one of the murdered girls responded, “We must not think evil of this man.” Further, at the funeral of murderer, the Amish outnumbered those related to Charles Roberts. The Amish even set up a fund to help Charles Roberts’ family. In Turkey, there were several missionaries who were teaching the Bible to some young Muslim men. The Muslim men had a secret plan to kill the missionaries, and then proceeded to torture them prior to finally slitting their throats. The wives of the missionaries, being interviewed on Turkish national news, repeatedly forgave the killers saying, “They know not what they do.” This was a direct quote from Jesus who forgave those crucifying him. This Easter, in Egypt at least 44 Coptic Christians were attacked by ISIS terrorists in a suicide bombing. The wife of one of the deceased told the press, “I’m not angry at the one who did this. I’m telling him, ‘May God forgive you, and we also forgive you. Believe me, we forgive you.’” Earlier in 2015, twenty-one Coptic Christians were beheaded, and similar messages of forgiveness came forth. Christians believe that that they must forgive their enemies, because God forgave us when we sinned against him.

  1. The role of the government.

               Another resource for such a situation is the Christian teaching that the government plays a unique, God-given role in establishing law and protecting its citizens. It is clear enough in Scripture passages such as Romans 13:1-7. There is also the formidable work of great scholars such as Abraham Kuyper, who recognized that the state was authorized by God to carry forth certain tasks. So imagine, for example, that there truly was a credible threat to peaceful citizens of a nation. Should they take matters into their own hands? The Christian can say, “No, God has given the government the authority to make that declaration. It is not my choice, I am not in charge of that.” A person of Larry Osborn’s persuasion, then, would be able to say, “God is in control of the laws of this land. The British government is not in favor of destroying the Muslim population. Although I disagree with this, I will submit myself to God.” This is an interesting line of thought. Hopefully a Christian would not, in the first place, think that destroying the Muslim population would be a good thing. But even if a Christian did come to that conclusion, other Christian principles would work to hold back that evil from coming to fruition. (There is more to say on the role of government, feel free to comment if you like for the purpose of dialogue).

  1. The Justice of God.

If you have been on this earth for very long, you have experienced anger. You have experienced evil firsthand, in one form or another, and you have been overcome with the desire to eliminate it yourself. Those coming face to face with terrorism, no doubt, have felt this stronger than I have. If we are going to not act, but simply allow the perpetrator to go unpunished, then we need a compelling reason, deeply rooted in our hearts, to forbear and not exact revenge. Christians should have this. God says, in his Word, several times. “Vengeance is mine, I will repay.” In the Bible, he deals with evil in several ways. Sometimes immediately, with human means (think Haman hanging from the gallows). Sometimes he deals with it after a long period of time, like God’s punishment of Israel’s sins in the Assyrian and Babylonians conquests. (Don’t know what I’m talking about? Check it out here). Finally, we know for sure that he will deal with it eternally as he judges sin and evil once for all at the end of time, and renders to each person what they deserve.   Christianity is a full-orbed system of thinking, with many intersecting lines of thought coming together to speak into any given situation. Here is a little as it regards the latest terrorism. Feel free to tell me what you think in a comment.   A Prayer: Heavenly Father, we need you to reign in our hearts if there is going to be a lasting peace. Please help in these tumultuous times, and guide us on your eternal path of love and peace. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.


Vacation to Work

Don’t Work to Vacation – Vacation to Work! What is the dream life? Early retirement and leisure? 10 weeks vacation? Plenty of time to do what you want? A friend of mine joined a mom’s group about a year ago, and observed that the most frequent topic of conversation was where each family would spend their next vacation. Last week, I wrote about what God says concerning vacation. Periods of rest and refreshment are not merely recommended or advised, but indeed are commanded in God’s word. It says that God gives the gift of sleep to the ones he loves. Although God does not tire or get weary, he rested on the 7th day as an example for us. Even so, I think that most of us today err on the side of valuing leisure too much. Many of us work hard so that we can vacation. But it should really be the other way around – we should vacation so that we can work hard. Our View of Work is too Small                The Bible begins with God making man to rule over the world. To subdue it, to study it, to engage in science (Gen 2:18-20), to engage in culture making (Gen 1:28), and to order the world. In Genesis 4:20-22, God records the creation of the first musical instruments and advances in metalworking. Work is the primary call upon a person’s life. This was the great truth reclaimed 500 years ago by Luther, when he de-mystified Christianity by reclaiming the value of ALL work. Before Luther, it was only the monks, priests, and nuns who did God’s work. But Luther, reading the Bible, said, “God feeds the world milk through the hands of the milk maid.” The Puritans carried on this tradition, emphasizing the importance of work training for their children from a young age. Work in our world can be an expression of selfish ambition. A way to get ahead, to differentiate yourself from others, to make a name for yourself, to get rich, etc. But it need not be that way. Work to the Christian need be nothing more than fulfilling the great commandment. Loving God – by using your gifts to order the world more righteously, and loving others – by using your gifts for the betterment of those around you. Let us not seek to escape from work, but to enter into it with all of our mind and strength, to the glory of God and the love of those around us. Our View of Leisure is too Great                The flip side of this coin is that our view of leisure is too great. The world constantly markets to us the good life. “Find your beach.” “Want to get away?” “The Happiest Place on Earth.” If we buy into what’s being sold here, we will think that most of life is meaningless toil simply to have a little bit of fun in between. One time, a fisherman told me he calculated how many more times he could go fishing in his life before he died. It made him sad to think of it. Perhaps what is sadder is that we would only find meaning in a small part of our leisure time, instead of the bulk of what we do 40+ hours per week. Leisure does not satisfy. If you look at the lives of the rich, you will find that many of them have arrived at sufficient wealth to spend life in constant leisure. However, they know that is ultimately boring and unfulfilling. That’s why you have Barb Corcoran or Robert Herjavec on Shark Tank trying to help others fulfill their dreams. That’s why people like Bill Gates spend their time trying to do good work in Africa. I received a scholarship from the founders of Generac brand generators, who after building a fortune through hard work then invested themselves in the lives of countless young students in engineering and the pastorate. They are still going as strong as they can at age 90. Ultimately, happiness isn’t about what you get. It’s about what you give. Jesus explained this when he said, “Those who gain their life will lose it, but those who lose their life for my sake will find it.” Let’s listen to him and seek to give ourselves away to God and others, and remember that our work might be the most important way we do this.


What God Says About Vacation

               Once, after I preached on the Sabbath, I had a man come up to me afterward to talk. He told me, “Pastor, I can’t just sit and rest. I feel guilty. I feel worthless. I have to be doing something. ” This is a man who worked 6:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. nearly 7 days a week, feeding cattle before church and going back to work immediately afterward. I replied by telling him that God says rest, and so he should follow what God says… A few months later, this man in his early 40s had a heart attack. No joke. I am going on vacation tomorrow morning. To say that I am looking forward to it is an understatement. My grind starts in early January and goes through the end of May. It begins with two huge meetings, the budget and annual meeting, continues with at least three out of town trips, on top of which we have our incredibly busy Lenten season, Holy week, then high school graduations, personnel reviews, and all of that on top of the normal ministry which we do year-round. So, without fail, every year at this point I am ready for a refreshing break. I am thankful that, in God’s Word, we find tons of reasons to take these breaks. I thought I would list some here, and a concluding thought for us to take with us as we all take a load off this summer (as best we’re able).

  1. The Sabbath rest. In the Bible, there is a weekly Sabbath, then a Sabbath every 7th year, and then a double Sabbath every 50th (although there is no evidence that Israel ever followed it). One of my favorite words is that the Sabbath day is a day for “refreshing” (Exodus 31:17).
  2. The Feasts and Festivals. One example is the Feast of Unleavened Bread. The Israelites did no work for 7 days after Passover. There were others Feasts and Holy Days where no work was done.
  3. Travels for Worship. Many people from all over the world came to Jerusalem for Pentecost. This, by definition, would have been time away from the grind to refocus on what matters and enjoy the company of family. Another example is Elkanah, who traveled to Shiloh to worship every year and make offerings (1 Samuel 1).
  4. Jesus’ Example. Jesus took extended periods away from work and ministry. Mark 6:31 is an example. After a brutal time of ministry, including the death of John the Baptist, they needed “a while” to rest. This was apparently above and beyond the norm. Elijah did this too after his showdown with the prophets of Baal – he took 40 days off (1 Kings 19:8).

So take a break this summer! Your time away is a gift from the God that loves us enough to let us rest. Those times away break the pattern of “work, sleep, work, sleep, work, sleep…” Paul wrote to Timothy that these things in our life are good gifts for us to richly enjoy. We experience parts of God’s good creation we don’t normally experience when we get away.


Chris Cornell

R.I.P. Chris Cornell Last night, one of my favorite musical artists and rock-legend Chris Cornell died at age 52. I’m going to eulogize him a bit, and share a few thoughts. He was a part of my own journey into me being me. When I was a kid, I was raised by my mom the majority of the time.  In the car, we listened to Madonna and Paula Abdul on cassette tape. I remember her playing REO Speedwagon, Elton John, Billy Joel and Blondie. I still know all the words to “In the Middle of the Night” and my third grade voice would harmonize with the songs as we drove back and forth to see grandparents in Cincinnati, down that long I-70 stretch from St. Louis. It is safe to say that mom wasn’t really into the “Rock & Roll” scene. So when I heard that grunge/rock music of the mid 90s, something awakened in me. These singers were men. They had gruff bass voices and scratchy falsettos and they weren’t trying to be pretty. Their music was laced with angst at a messed-up world. It resonated in a way that’s hard to describe with words. Some need that I didn’t know I had started to get filled. That music became a part of me into my teens, into my twenties, and even still today. (I just discovered MTV’s unplugged series from 1996 a year and a half ago and still listen to it regularly). Chris Cornell was perhaps my favorite of that era of vocalists. One thing which set him apart from much of the other music is that he introduced many Christian themes into his music. He was not proselytizing by any stretch. But he wrote songs that pointed to a Creator, to whom we could pray, to whom we should look for guidance. I believe he was searching. Here are some sample lyrics for those unfamiliar: “In my hour of need On a sea of grey On my knees I pray to you Help me find the dawn Of the dying day Won’t you light my way?” And also “Nail in my hand From my creator You gave me life Now show me how to live” So here I am on the other side of his death, doing a bit of grieving, a bit of processing. One thing that should be clear enough is that the whole celebrity-culture-world is broken in a deep way. How many of our favorite musicians and actors have died early? These people are poisoning themselves with drugs and ruining themselves with indulgent lifestyles. Yet in the next breath they are creating poetry and art that speak to good and beautiful things. It shows the truth of the imago dei, the Image of God that is in all people, and that simultaneously we are indeed broken and ruled by sin. Paul asked, “What benefit did you receive from those things of which you are now ashamed?” We can arrive at a great deal of truth through art, and poetry (and for that matter science, while we are at it). But unless that truth is met with heart change and obedience, it doesn’t do us much good. How many artists sing of the beauty of true love and commitment yet have several lovers and repeat divorces? The artist arrives at truth, and this should be celebrated! But it is another thing to live it out. There is one last song from Cornell, it’s actually my favorite. It’s “The Day I Tried to Live.” Here’s the second verse: “Words you say, never seem To live up to the ones inside your head The lives we make never seem To ever get us anywhere but dead The day I tried to live I wallowed in the blood and mud With all the other pigs… And I learned that I was a liar” The realism in his music was something that strikes me as deeply Christian. What a confession we see in these verses! For a day, he tried to be someone, but he failed. He was no better than anyone. And he made a liar of himself. What a tribute to reality. So I’m going to pray Chris Cornell’s words for all of the remaining rock and roll icons out there, and for anyone that needs it. I pray that God would light their way. I pray that they would find the one who can truly help them live, and make it so their best efforts aren’t just lies. I pray that God would help them find the dawn of the dying day, and give light to their paths.  Amen


The Ground Swallowed Them Up

Today I would like to write a simple blog post about a connection in the Bible I had never seen before. Maybe it will get your neurons firing. Maybe it will encourage you. Maybe you’ll see a side of 2 Timothy you haven’t seen before. 2 Timothy 2:17-19 reads, 17 Their teaching will spread like gangrene. Among them are Hymenaeus and Philetus, 18 who have wandered away from the truth. They say that the resurrection has already taken place, and they destroy the faith of some. 19 Nevertheless, God’s solid foundation stands firm, sealed with this inscription: “The Lord knows those who are his,” and, “Everyone who confesses the name of the Lord must turn away from wickedness.” If you look at verse 19, you will see that there are two quotes. These are from Numbers 16:1-5 and 26-32. The Numbers story is basically this: Moses was opposed by the sons of Korah. The sons of Korah clearly had selfish motivation, to gain power where God had not given it. So Moses arranged a showdown of sorts, and proclaimed that they will be swallowed up by the ground. And then we read, in Numbers 16:31, “31 As soon as he finished saying all this, the ground under them split apart 32 and the earth opened its mouth and swallowed them…” I have read 2 Timothy many times in my life, but I have always skipped this OT allusion. What’s the point? We learn that some of the trials Timothy was facing were from inside the church. Not only that, but we know what happens when there is selfish opposition to God’s leaders. The ground swallowing up the sons of Korah is an OT way of saying there will be a final judgment and separation of the righteous and wicked, as Jesus pointed out many times (Matthew 25:31-46). In the Numbers story, God’s people were called to depart physically from the false teachers, a wise move for anyone seeking to learn and follow God day in and day out. We learn that God will be with us as we follow his call, and will defend us in our ministry as he did Moses. There will be a terrible and fearful judgment for those that oppose God. Let’s just say that last week I was reminded of how rich a seemingly boring passage like 2 Timothy 2:17-19 could be. We find that a simple passage on false teachers, which most of us would read through quickly to get to the “good stuff,” is filled with a very vivid illustration which instructs us and should be taken quite seriously. A prayer: Lord Jesus, please help us to pay attention to all of Scripture, even its mundane details – for it is breathed out by you, and useful for teaching, rebuking, correction, and training in righteousness, so that we may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. Amen.