December 28, 2003


After sternly rebuking Peter for allowing his human emotions to cloud his commitment to God's will, Jesus "called the people to Himself, with His disciples also, [and] He said to them, 'Whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel's will save it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul? For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him the Son of Man also will be ashamed when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels.'" (Mark 8:34-38).

Peter loved his Lord. He had acknowledged Jesus as the Christ, vs. 29. But Peter allowed his emotional love to block his intellect to the point that when Jesus revealed the up-coming crucifixion, Peter rebuked Him. Jesus, in turn, rebuked Peter for putting his human, emotional desires above the revealed will of God. The crucifixion was a part of God's eternal plan to redeem sinners to Himself. Of course, at this point in time, Peter did not understand that Divine plan. Later, under the direct guidance of the Holy Spirit, Peter understood the importance of the crucifixion, and that it was the only way the penalty of sin could be met, and the sinner go free. See 1 Peter 1:18-20.

In the context of this exchange between Jesus and Peter, Jesus took the occasion to remind His listeners that they must be completely committed to the will of God. He had spoken to them of this commitment at the time He had sent the apostles on the "limited commission" in Matthew, chapter 10. Now again, He reminds them that not all the consequences of following Him will be pleasant. By following Jesus they would lose some of their worldly friends. By following Jesus, they would sometimes alienate members of their own families. By following Jesus, they would be persecuted socially, financially, and physically. Many of them would even be persecuted to the death. Historians tell us that the apostle Paul and all the original apostles except John were eventually put to death for their undying commitment to Jesus.

No matter what consequences may be involved in following Christ, the consequences of not following Him are far more severe. He said, "Whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him the Son of Man also will be ashamed when He comes in the glory of. His Father with the holy angels." 

Anything a person loses by following Jesus is more than repaid in this life, and much more so in the world to come. See Mark 10:29-30.

--Clarence R. Johnson


Occasionally you will hear some well-meaning brother make the pronouncement that a local congregation should be run like a business. I shudder every time I hear it. The local church is not a business, so why should it be run like one.

Ideally, a congregation should be more like a family than a business. Wouldn't it be better if we treated older men and women like fathers and mothers, and younger men and women as brothers and sisters? If that concept sounds familiar, it's probably because you've been reading your Bible (1 Tim. 5:1-2).

In defense of the business approach, some argue that the church has "business" to attend to. Yes, it does, and so does a family! However, the fact that the church, or a family, must attend to its business does not suggest that we should adopt business management techniques simply because they have been successful in the corporate world.

I am not saying that it is wrong for churches to "borrow" ideas or methods from the business world, but let's not become like them. Let's resist the temptation to be so business-like that we lose the personal touch. Let me illustrate the danger of doing otherwise:

I heard of a congregation that was looking for a preacher to work with them. One man came and "laid a couple of samples on them" and was well-liked by everyone. Nevertheless, they scheduled another preacher to come "try out" the next weekend. Now, in business, they would want to interview as many candidates for a job as possible, but in the church that's not wise. If they had just gone ahead and asked the man they all liked to move there and work with them, every body would have been happy (and that's
rare). But if two men are being considered, invariably some will want the first and others will want the second. Now instead of everyone being happy, some are going to be disappointed.

Several years ago a good preacher was being considered by a congregation. It appeared they were about to ask him to move there, until one man said, "I think we should try out some more men." When another man asked "Why?" he said, "Well, we don't have to take the first turkey that trots by." Like in the corporate world in which he was an executive, he wanted a "preacher parade" before deciding which one he would like.

When some in one congregation thought it was time for a change in preachers, they asked that a "Preacher Evaluation Questionnaire" be filled out anonymously by all members. This practice is really popular in the business world today. Superiors, subordinates and peers are asked to evaluate an employee and the information is used to determine whether promotions or other changes should be made. The problem in using that approach in the church is that it can possibly violate a principle set forth by the Lord (Matt. 18:15). We cannot solve our problems hiding behind anonymity.

The whole concept of a preacher being treated as an employee rather than a full-fledged member of the congregation is a symptom of the businesslike approach to church matters. It's no wonder churches feel justified in firing the preacher for just about any cause if, like in business, he's only an employee. Of course, some preachers nurture this attitude by using churches as career stepping stones or by making unreasonable salary demands. If all of us treated the church more like a big family, Christians would be looking for ways to do what is best for one another. That's called love!

--Al Diestelkamp, Think on These Things, Vol. 25, Number 3


[Editor's Note: This editor found the following article both interesting and edifying. For the sake of our readers who may not know, in the warm climate of ancient Palestine, the year provided for two growing seasons. Their "new year" began in what to us is September, so the "early" or "former" rain came in autumn. The rains that came in the spring were, to them, the "latter rain." The economy of the Israelites depended largely on the success of their crops, their flocks and their herds. When their sins caused God to withhold from them the "former" or "the latter rain," the resulting famine left them in deep trouble. Since our calendar begins in January, to us, the spring rains ("April showers") would be the "former" or early rain, and the rains which come in late summer or early autumn would be the "latter" rain. -CRJ] 

Spring had come early. The usual May frosts had not appeared, the early rains had come, and gardens were growing well. But by the middle of June, the grass was brown and garden plants had ceased to grow. There had been no latter rain.

Then, late one Sunday evening, the latter rain came, gentle and continuing. I sat on the porch for two hours and watched the flowers, plants, shrubs, and even the birds, as they literally seemed to reach out for the rain. My thoughts went back to God's people in the land of Canaan - "I will give you the rain of your land in his due season, the first rain and the latter rain..." (Deut. 11:14).

The same Sunday evening, visiting brethren had worshipped with us, and when the assembly was over, they remarked, "We haven't heard a good Bible sermon like that for a long time." These were mature Christians who had seen the early rains of bygone years, but they were still hungering and thirsting for the living water that could give eternal life (Mt 5:6; John 4:l0ff). 

As I watched the latter rain of mid-June, my mind went back to another time in the history of God's people, portrayed by the language of Jeremiah - Therefore the showers have been withholden, and there hath been no latter rain..." (Jer. 3:3).

While "God sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust" (Mt. 5:45), as far as I am able to determine, all references to the "early and latter rains" are applied to God's people. And in most instances, the references have a spiritual as well as a literal application.

The prophet Amos says, "Behold, the days come, saith the Lord God, that I will send a famine in the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the Lord" (Amos 8:11).

The principle of the early and latter rain declares the possibility of apostasy. Without the latter rain, the former comes in vain. "Be patient therefore, brethren, unto the coming of the Lord. Behold the husbandman waiteth for the precious fruit of the earth, and hath long patience for it, until he receive the early and latter rain" (Jas. 5:7).

God's people may survive for a season without latter rains for their gardens, but they cannot survive without latter rains for their souls. And this paints a sad picture, when, in the words of the old song, "the living well is so nearby." May the words of the prophet be ours, as he says, "... Let us now fear the Lord our God, that giveth rain, both the former and latter, in his season: he reserveth unto us the appointed weeks of the harvest" (Jer. 524).

We all embrace the early rain,
Without it naught can grow or live;
The farmer soweth but in vain
If skies do not their blessing give;
But once the roots have had a taste
Of Nature's nectar we call rain,
All early efforts go to waste
If clouds do not return again.
God's breath was mingled with the dust
And life was born we know not how;
But cultivate that soul we must,
Though not with rake or hoe or plow;
Begotten by the word of God
We hope for fields of golden grain,
But all is lost in tares and sod
If God withholds the latter rain.

--P.J. Casebolt, Searching the Scriptures, Vol. 32, Number 11


Clarence R. Johnson
Phone: (717) 361-6212

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