Suppose the apostle Paul were to show up at the typical American church to check up on its fidelity to true Biblical doctrine. What would be his assessment of the mess going on today in Jesus’ Name?
* * * * *
Paul shook his head to clear it. The journey across two thousand years had been a bumpy ride, but here he was, sitting on the manicured green lawn of Golden Grace Cathedral. Unsteadily Paul rose to his feet, clutching a few scrolls he’d brought along.
What were those big bugs buzzing down the wide boulevard? People were sitting inside those metallic monsters, but appeared unhurt. They must be horseless chariots! How strangely dressed were all the people Paul could see! He almost scolded two teenage girls who slowed down to stare at him. Both wore droopy jeans with skimpy tops which showed off look-alike snake tattoos on their upper arms.
“Give him a quarter, Zoe,” her friend Gina said. “He looks awful hungry. Must be a wino from the park.”
Zoe smiled condescendingly at Paul. She handed him two dollars and said, “Here you go, mister. Don’t blow it on booze.”
Paul couldn’t understand her. He averted his eyes from her halter top and said “Thank you” in Greek, which of course, Gina couldn’t understand. But Zoe could.
“Awesome!” Zoe breathed. “He’s talking Greek, Gina, just like my mom and dad do at home. Do you savvy English, mister?”
Paul said something back in Greek. Zoe asked him, in so-so Greek, if he was from Greece, and how he managed to land in Victory Valley, California.
Paul told her he’d been sent all the way from Galatia to check on the progress of faraway churches. And, he wanted to know, what was that huge building he was standing in front of?
“Why, can’t you read?” Zoe said. “It says right here on this big sign: Golden Grace Cathedral. Man, it’s the richest church in Victory Valley.”
Paul frowned. “A church? God’s church is God’s people, Zoe. Are you and Gina believers? I’d tend to doubt it, judging from the way you’re dressed.”
Zoe laughed and told Gina what he’d said. “Believers? In what?”
“In Jesus Christ,” Paul replied. “Have you ever been told about the Savior Who died for your sins?”
Zoe stared dumbly at him. “What are you, mister? A preacher? Judging from the way YOU’RE dressed, you CAN’T be a preacher! If anybody looks like a preacher, it’s that rich guy over there by the front door of the church.” She pointed at the entry to the vestibule.
Paul tried to say more to Zoe about Jesus, but she said she’d heard enough religion from TV preachers. The girls saw their boy friends down the street and ran away to go meet them.
Paul approached a dignified character in a sharp suit. He looked down his nose at the much shorter Paul and said, “Anything I can do for you, sir?”
Paul, who spoke several ancient dialects, couldn’t understand him. But Greek was the universal language…supposedly. So he greeted the man in Greek, which caused raised eyebrows.
“Hey, are you a Bible scholar?” the strangely clad man asked. “But why is it necessary to show it off, just because you’ve fallen on hard times?”
Paul did not address him in English, just spoke more Greek.
“I gather you can’t speak English,” the man said at last in labored Greek. “You must belong to one of the many Greek families who immigrated to our community. But I truly am surprised to see you so poorly dressed, sir. Most of our Greek residents are upwardly mobile, like Zoe’s family. Her dad attends this church, but, sadly, she and her mother don’t. Their family split up last year due to irreconcilable differences. Have you anywhere to stay, sir?”
“Unfortunately, no,” Paul replied. “I have no certain dwellingplace. I was just minding my own business walking down the dusty road praying that God would send me to somebody who needed my help when I got caught up in a whirlwind and ended up here in this strange place.”
“Sort of like Philip and the eunuch, I suppose,” the man said, with an indulgent chuckle. “My name is Pastor Roberts. I’m senior pastor of this church. We built it just two years ago, back in 2008.”
“What does that number ‘2008’ mean, may I ask?” Paul replied.
The man must be loony, the preacher thought, but he ought to be humored. “Two thousand and eight years since the birth of our Savior…supposedly…. though the precise date is debatable.”
“Jesus began to build His church almost two thousand years ago,” Paul said. “And yet you say YOUR church just began to be built only two years ago?”
“It’s a mere matter of semantics,” said the pastor. “Oh, I forgot to ask your name.”
“Paul, or Saul of Tarsus, whichever you prefer,” the ragged visitor said.
“What are those rolls of paper you’re carrying?” the Pastor wondered.
“A few letters to some churches.”
“Mind if I see them?”
Paul spread out the scrolls on a table in the front vestibule of the church . Pastor Roberts grinned. “Such wondrously reproduced replicas of original Holy Writ! What treasures! Paul himself couldn’t have told the difference!”
“But I AM Paul!”
“Sir…are you feeling well?” Pastor Roberts asked. “I’ll take your word for it that ‘Paul’ is your name and you aren’t from around here, but I do know it must be a trial sleeping outdoors in this blistery heat, but…”
“I’ve felt better,” Paul admitted. “I haven’t had a decent meal in two days.”
The preacher’s mouth fell open. It was SO hot outside anybody could become delusional if they had to live, and starve, on the streets. “Never say we aren’t charitable toward the homeless, said the preacher. “You MUST accompany me to our food pantry in the Sunday School building. All we require is some personal ID and a signature, and we’ll get you fixed up with a sack of groceries in no time! If I had my way though, we’d dispense with all the silly red tape.”
Paul looked at the preacher like he was crazy. What was “red tape”? What was “personal ID”? What did those things have to do with showing kindness and compassion to the hungry?
When they entered the rear building Paul exclaimed, “First it was hot, now I’m cold! How did you ever manage to turn the hot summer into winter?”
Pastor Roberts winked. “ Our Digital Frigital Central Air Processor. Latest in atmospheric modification technology. And, boy, it sure did cost us plenty of tithe money!” He led Paul down a corridor till at last they reached a huge area full of shelves of canned goods and boxes. There was a big deep freeze where perishable goods were stored.
“Tithes?” Paul repeated several times, as if in disbelief. “You mean to say you resurrected the Old Testament tithe without God’s permission? And if you did, you said something about tithe money?”
“Sure did, Paul! How else could we keep this sheep shed from baking in 104-degree heat? And the laborer IS worthy of his wages. I sure as heck don’t preach for the fun of it.”
Paul gave him a stern look. “I NEVER take money or anything else from anybody in the name of tithing! I preach for a far better reward! You mean to say you actually CHARGE people to come and listen to you break the bread of God’s Word to them?”
“Not exactly, Paul, but I believe in proportional giving. Ten per cent of everyone’s wages is a pretty good deal. My preaching is well worth every penny people pay me. Besides, if I only took up freewill offerings, I’d have to shut my doors and auction off this property just to pay the tax bill.”
“Whatever happened to giving out of a liberal heart?” Paul wondered.
“LIBERAL?” The preacher’s eyes widened in shock. “That’s a dirty word around here, Paul. Ninety-five per cent of our people are conservative. That means we believe in suits and ties, SUV’s, deer hunting, flag-waving and keeping red meat on the table. Furthermore, we teach self-sufficiency and don’t believe in government welfare…though we do look after our own when the chips are down and people lose their jobs.”
Paul looked baffled. “Such futuristic concepts I can barely comprehend, and I am a very highly educated man. But really and truly, sir, has the church of Jesus Christ sunk to such a low level that tithes are collected today on money, when even our own Law never demanded tithes from the wages of laborers? You mean to tell me your people would not give liberally…uh….I mean freely, if some need arose, except through fear of breaking your ‘tithe law’?”
Pastor Roberts rolled up his eyes. “You’re living in a dream world, Paul! People wouldn’t even give me a dime just out of the goodness of their hearts!”
“If some brother or sister is hungry,” Paul said, “and a man or woman has food to share, or money to buy it with, but still refuses to help that needy one out of a heart of love, then that person should examine themselves to see if they really DO belong to Christ.”
The preacher grinned. “I’ll agree with you there.”
“But on the other hand,” said Paul, “the Word clearly warns in Proverbs: He that giveth to the rich shall surely come to want. God’s money must not be squandered on foolish things.”
“I do believe that’s in Proverbs 22:16,” Pastor Roberts said, “though admittedly I don’t preach on that verse very often. I’ll level with you, Paul. If I didn’t get tithe money, running our “Hands Extended” food pantry program would be near impossible. I need tithe money to run the lights, the fridges, the freezers, the electronic fly-zappers…”
“Then I can’t accept your food,” Paul said. “I will eat nothing made possible through that which is a stumbling-block before the brethren.”
Pastor Roberts laid a hand on Paul’s shoulder. “Paul, look. You’ve been roasting out in that hot sun for who knows how long! If you won’t let me fix you up a food box, at least come over to my place for a meal and a shower. After that I can drive you to the men’s mission where there are plenty of free beds available and access to social services and employment counseling.”
“On one condition,” Paul said. “If you’ll allow me to address your next gathering of the saints…through an interpreter, if one is available.”
“Oh, I know just the man,” Pastor Roberts said. “A Greek colleague of mine who’s sharp as a tack and speaks nine languages like a pro. All I ask is that you wear a clean suit and look your best for the meeting. Lately I’ve taken a lot of guff from my parishioners over alleged bad stewardship of church funds. So I want everyone to see what a good job our ‘Hands Extended’ Ministry is doing to help the less fortunate.”
Paul raised his bushy eyebrows. “Brother Roberts, I might be pitifully dressed and look hungrier than you do, but I doubt I’m the less fortunate one. If you’re robbing the saints of ten per cent of their wages, you ARE a bad steward of God’s Truth by misrepresenting it and you’re in deep trouble with God.”
The pastor looked miffed, but said, “I’ll rise above that cheap shot. It’s obvious to me you’ve been out in the sun way too long.”
The preacher decided to dispense with the paperwork. His guest was obviously in no frame of mind to fill out forms. “Paul, I still want to give you that food box. You don’t have to take the foods refrigerated with tithe money. But do please take some of our canned goods, macaroni, and stuff like that. People donated those items through freewill offerings.”
“I do hope I’m not being a burden on your church, Pastor. I’d rather do some free-lance tent-making than impose on anybody.”
Pastor Roberts winked. “Nonsense, Paul! Actually, you’re doing my people a favor, helping ‘em clean out their cupboards. Have you checked the dates on these cans and boxes? Anything I give you, I’d advise you to finish eating within six months.”
“I hope to be back in my own time by then, Pastor Roberts. But if this is where I’m needed the most, then so be it.”
“Now, Paul, do you have any specific nutritional needs we should take account of as we pick you out your groceries? Are you a vegetarian, for example?”
Paul frowned. “What sort of new religion is a ‘vegetarian’?”
“Someone who doesn’t eat meat.”
“Why should I refuse meat? Was your meat offered to idols?”
“I don’t think so, at least not our tuna, Spam and hot dogs. “Spam…oh, darn! I forgot, you said you’re Saul of Tarsus, so you must be a Jew and can’t eat pork products!”
“He who is strong in the faith believes he can eat all things, for he gives God thanks and the food is sanctified through prayer and thanksgiving,” Paul said.
“Okay, so you like your Spam,” the Pastor said. “Do you have cooking facilities to prepare Hamburger Helper?”
“Facilities? What kind?”
“Well, like a pot to boil water. A camping stove, maybe. Surely, even if you do live in Paradise Park you must have a few personal essentials squirreled away in a shopping cart.”
Paul shook his head. “Sir, I have nothing except the robe on my back. I possess all things, yet I have nothing.”
The man isn’t all there, the preacher thought. He rushed over to the lower shelf where snack foods were kept. “Here, Paul, a few carbs to keep your energy up. Here’s some cereal, dried milk, trail mix, army surplus MRE’s, raisins…I’ll even throw in some plastic bowls and spoons. You just mix a bit of the milk with a lot of water and it’ll help you swallow your cereal. Now to get you some crackers and cookies…”
“Slow down!” Paul cried. “All I know is Greek, Hebrew, Aramaic and Latin! You’re mixing avant-garde Greek with your own strange language!”
Why hadn’t the pastor thought of it before? If this man WAS more than a homeless Greek immigrant, a few questions might prove his origin, and that he really COULD read his own parchments. So Paul was given a pop quiz as every day items were pointed at and asked their name in the four Bible languages. Not only that, Paul recited bits of the Torah in Hebrew, some tractates of the Law in Aramaic, and a few lines of Romans in Greek. No two ways about it, this homeless guy was a genius who’d fallen on hard times!”
“Unless you’re a religious scholar, a scientist, or a lawyer,” the preacher said, “nobody bothers to learn those ancient languages anymore. Some of our nation’s richest preachers don’t even know a word of Spanish. But you’re a real whiz at those dead languages…er…sorry, what a dimwit I am! I forget Hebrew is spoken today in Israel, and, of course, you lived among Greeks, even if you aren’t exactly Greek yourself, Paul. Here I was, thinking you were just an unemployed guru living in the park because you’re dressed in a faded robe. Wow, you actually talk better than I do in those old languages! Paul, I’m mighty impressed! You must come home with me to spend the night. Tomorrow, I’ll take you to see the Director of the Regional Synod, Reverend R.V. Gristler, and maybe he can get you a position in our college tutoring our students who are having difficulty with our Cold Turkey Bible Languages course.
“Ah…Paul,” the preacher added, “Sometimes things happen to us that hurt us and cause memory to fade. Maybe you went through a traumatic divorce, or you fought in the military…”
“I never divorced anyone,” Paul said. “But I do fight every single day against the devil. Every Christian is called to be a good soldier…”
“That’s it!” Pastor Roberts interrupted. “There’s no shame in suffering post traumatic stress disorder. I’ve been through that myself, and believe me, it’s VERY hard to recover equilibrium in your emotions once warfare has taken its toll on your soul. I’ve interviewed hundreds of people before for positions at our church and seminary, and I know a theological expert when I meet one. Whatever you suffered in the past, Paul, it in no way reflects on your brilliant intellect!. Once we establish your true identity and recover your ID documents, educational credentials and work resume, you’ll be on your way!”
“Home, I hope,” Paul said wearily. He took off one sandal and rubbed his foot.
“We’ll get you some shoes,” Pastor Roberts said. “Tell you what. I’ll treat you to a shopping trip before we go home and we’ll stop by the pharmacy for some foot pads too. Looks like sleeping outdoors didn’t help your feet any.”
Paul looked terrified as Pastor Roberts drove him in his new Lexus SUV. “I don’t suppose you’ve ever traveled so fast before,” the preacher said.
“Why do all the women go around with their heads uncovered?” Paul asked. “And their garments cleave close to their skin, similar to the divided garment you wear.”
“This is a Western democracy, not a Muslim country, Paul. We do have a few Muslim ladies in the neighborhood, but their beliefs are different.”
There was one minor altercation in the mall parking lot, which left Brother Roberts a bit shaken. But they finally made it inside.
The mall was a world of wonders for Paul. Flashing lights, more scantily clad girls with tattoos, piped-in rock music, swiftly moving escalators ferrying shoppers from one floor to another. "I am in another world!" he breathed. Before long, Paul had a brand new pair of shoes and a fancy Sunday suit, courtesy of the pastor's credit card.
Paul’s jaw dropped when he and Pastor Roberts got home and he caught a glimpse of the huge parsonage with its immaculately landscaped flower garden in front.
“It is a palace!” Paul cried. “You must be a very important man in this city!”
“Hardly,” the preacher replied. “I don’t always get treated as if I’m of much significance.”
Once again Paul was impressed by the temperature change between the outside desert air and the air-conditioned interior of modern buildings. “My wife Kim went to an Inner Child Seminar for a few days and dropped our daughter off at her Mom’s,” Brother Roberts said. “So it’ll just be us three men tonight.”
After being initiated in the mysteries of the Roberts’ guest bathroom, Brother Roberts realized he'd forgotten to buy Paul a few duds for everyday wear. Paul got showered and changed into some old clothes belonging to Timmy, the preacher’s twelve-year-old son. Paul was much shorter (and thinner) than the preacher, so the boy’s clothes fit better. except for the very wide trousers, where a tight belt was needed. Timmy didn’t care. He had gotten too big for his britches and his old duds were destined for the church rummage sale anyway.
After navigating through a plate of leftover spaghetti with an unfamiliar dinner fork, Paul ate some ice cream, which caused him no end of wonderment, causing Timmy to roll up his eyes in disbelief. After the meal, Brother Roberts lingered with Paul at the table and told him all about the church’s Personal Enrichment program.
“We take the word ‘rich’ literally at our church, Paul,” the preacher said. “We believe heaven begins in the here and now, not just after you die.”
“I die daily,” Paul said. “My crown is laid up for me in heaven.”
Paul was shown to the den where Timmy was lounging in an Easy-Boy recliner, already engrossed in graphic murder and mayhem on TV.
“Timmy,” Pastor Roberts said, “give the clicker to Paul. He’s our guest.”
“Buzz off,” Timmy mumbled. “I got here first.”
Timmy’s dad got mad. He bopped Timmy with a couch pillow and ordered him to vacate the room at once or he’d have to mow the lawn tomorrow.
Timmy gave his dad a pudgy-faced scowl and flung the clicker on the couch where Paul was sitting. The unsociable teenager stormed off up to his room to watch the show on his own TV.
“What’d I do to deserve a brat like that,” Pastor Roberts muttered in Greek.
“Any man who cannot rule his own household well, how shall he take care of the church of God?” Paul replied.
Before the pastor could respond to that, Paul picked up the clicker and asked, “What is this? And who are those tiny people on that big tablet of glass, fighting and yelling nonsense at each other?”
“That’s just an old police drama, ‘Soul of Sin City,’” the preacher shrugged. “It’s all pretend pictures moving on film, and the blood is just ketchup.”
“It is MAGIC!” Paul cried. “Violent plays on a slab of glass without real people in them. Pastor Roberts, do you usually corrupt your son’s mind with wizardry?”
“That’s nothing,” Pastor Roberts said. “This old idiot box is ready for the scrapyard. Next week I get paid and we’ll get us some REAL wizardry, and I hope my Greek doesn’t fail me here: I’ve got my eye on a digital, ultra-thin widescreen high-definition wall-to-wall ‘Smart-TV’ with wireless internet access. And I’m also subscribing to ninety extra channels.”
Paul’s head wobbled from it all. “Too many wonders in the space of one day,” he said. “But why aren’t you content with what you have? What would be the advantage of getting an even bigger box of sin for your home?”
The pastor grinned slyly. “It keeps Timmy off the street, doesn’t it?” If that kid comes straight home after school and parks himself in front of the TV at least I know where he is and what he’s doing.”
“I just don’t understand how that thing could possibly help your son run the race and win the prize,” Paul said. “And what about teaching him to fight the good fight of faith?”
“Oh, our Timothy does run,” Pastor Roberts said. “He runs up a hefty food bill. He looks like a slow salamander but you just wait till his ‘Lowlife Larry” program comes on. Our little Timmy races in here to grab the remote and beats the rest of us to the TV every time. And if you want to see a fight, just wait till my wrestling show comes on and I have to wrestle the remote out of Timmy’s hand.”
Paul looked like he’d rather leave and sleep in the park. “Hey, wait,” the preacher said. “Some Christians don’t believe in watching anything but Christian stuff. Let’s turn Prey TV on. I think Brother Ben Buck just might be on at this time. Now, Paul, get ready for some REAL spiritual food! Don’t worry, I’ll translate.”
There Ben was, spiffed up in his “Salvation Suit” with its thousands of sparkling lights which were programmed by remote control to change color patterns to match the mood of Ben’s message. Ben looked youthful for his forty-odd years. His professionally styled feathered coiffure covered his ears. Ben’s mouth spread in a pearly white smile. “I once was a sinner but now I’m a winner!” he shouted. “Can ya shout ‘amen’, folks!”
“I do understand the word ‘amen’, Paul said in his usual Greek. But his bad pronunciation leaves something to be desired.”
“Plant a seed to meet your need!” Ben cried, flashing a large bill.
“That looks similar to the two pieces of papyrus those girls gave me,” Paul said. “Is that what you use for money?”
“It certainly is,” Pastor Roberts said. “Now Ben is telling his worldwide audience to keep on sowing when it gets rough going. Pay your tithe and your prayers will fly. Vow right now with a joyful shout and God will cast old satan out. What’s Ben saying now? When you’re back is slammed against the wall, go to the hole in the wall to withdraw more wampum and give it all.”
Paul frowned. “Do you and your wife believe these strange doctrines?”
“Sure do. Where do you think all my blessings come from? Now Brother Buck is pitching his miracle olive oil from Jerusalem. It comes in four different flavors, depending on what kind of miracle you need from God. Myrrh, cinnamon, mulberry, and cherry.” The preacher cackled and slapped Paul on his bony shoulder. “Clever guy, isn’t he? You and me, we aren’t as dumb as those other yokels watching this guy. I bet Ben buys a truckload of cheap cooking oil and mixes in a few fake flavors. ‘Ben the miracle man’ makes a big killing with that gimmick!”
“I’ve heard enough!” Paul cried, waving his hands. “Make the magic go away! After I preach tomorrow morning, I want to go home!”
“Back to the park?” Brother Roberts frowned. “You can’t be serious.”
“Anything is better than remaining around this Latter Day confusion! Your wife goes away for a few days to ‘touch base with her inner child’. You get your inspiration from a glass screen with demons dancing on it! You cussed out a woman who stole YOUR parking space! Your son has no manners, either. He disrespects you because you’re too slothful to train him up in the ways of the Lord like any faithful father would. Today the church is the building, not the people. Preachers sell lies in the Name of the Lord to rob the poor. You live like a king while others pay ten per cent of their wages to make it possible. You want more and more toys like a spoiled child.”
Brother Roberts felt like slugging him, but then he got a sly grin on his face. “Tell you what, Paul. Maybe you’re right, but there’s another church in a far worse shape than mine. What say I make arrangements for you to speak at their service tomorrow morning? All it’d take is a few phone calls…”
The preacher held a grudge against Pastor Vanderbilt across town. J.D. Vanderbilt pastored the other fancy church in Victory Valley, Miracle Manna Worship Center. Using his most conciliatory tone of voice, Pastor Roberts convinced the gullible Pastor Vanderbilt to let bygones be bygones. He spoke of a certain ‘Dr. Paul Benjamin’ in glowing terms, explaining that he was a Greek immigrant who was a decorated war hero, and the finest of Bible scholars with the equivalent of a post-doctorate in theology. Would Dr. Vanderbilt please allow Dr. Benjamin to address his congregation the following morning and share spiritual nuggets with them, if an interpreter came along?”
“Okay, Raymond Roberts,” said the other preacher, “but if anything goes wrong, I’m holding you personally responsible.”
Next morning, Paul and his Greek interpreter were chauffeured to Miracle Manna Worship Center. Brother Roberts was happy to see him leave. Knowing he was about to get even with his archrival for winning the Golden Steeple Award at the Pulpit Pilot Preach-athon, he bent double, laughing.
Once Brother Vanderbilt saw the diminutive, but dignified, Bible scholar in his brand new $5000 suit and shiny shoes, he tripped all over himself to make him feel welcome. Surely it would be good publicity for Miracle Manna Worship Center to feature a renowned guest speaker from the “developing world”.
Pastor Vanderbilt mounted the steep steps up to his colonnaded pulpit, straightened his collar and announced: “This morning we are honored to present a renowned doctor of divinity who is on worldwide missions tour. Dr. Paul Benjamin comes to us from Tora Bora.”
“That’s TARSUS, Reverend,” the interpreter whispered. “Oh…forget it!”
“Be that as it may, Dr. Paul Benjamin is his name, and he’s made his mark in theological dissertation all over the Middle East. Now his fame is being noised abroad in our neck of the woods and he’s fast becoming the best in the West, too. Dr. Benjamin, what do you think of the United States, this blessed bastion of liberty which is a powerful fortress of freedom shining the light of liberty throughout the earth?
Hesitantly the interpreter posed that question to Paul.
Paul raised his bushy eyebrows. “WHAT freedom?” he inquired.
“Why, the freedom to spread the gospel, Paul,” the preacher replied, once he recovered from his shock. “Because you’re in America you can say anything you like without being hassled by the authorities. We’ve heard how repressive other countries are.”
“Are you really and truly free?” Paul asked the congregation. “What kind of liberty is it when people are slaves of THINGS instead of to Christ?” Paul looked all around at the vast cathedral, with its arched ceiling, sparkling stained glass windows, velvety pews, imposing pulpit, teakwood offering table, and choir loft crafted from mahogany woodwork. He pointed at mysterious gadgetry he never could never have imagined in his own lifetime. “How much of your life’s work did you have to devote to acquiring all these things, and how many more material things will it take to make your shepherds content?” he began.
“So many of you are falling away from the true gospel originally delivered to the saints,” Paul continued. “The grace of God is being treated as a license to sin. What kind of pastor preaches Christian liberty while demanding ten per cent of a man’s wages to lavish on luxuries for himself? How can Christians be slaves to imaginary violence in a box and still claim to be free from the world and its affections and lusts? Why do little men appear in those boxes and demand big money from God’s people to buy magic miracle potions in a little bottle?”
The congregation was stunned. “That isn’t the worst of what I’ve seen in your Last Days earth,” Paul said. “My interpreter, with no sign of shame on his face, translated for me as one man among you proudly introduced me to his FIFTH “live-in partner”, as you call it. Some of your women and girls wear clothes so revealing that a brothel keeper would blush. I exhort you all to REPENT! Don’t you know the Lord Jesus is about to appear and punish your Sodom society? Why would you perish along with it?”
So much for freedom of speech. Just as it had always happened before after one of Paul’s sermons, a riot broke out. The interpreter barely escaped out the back door. Paul vanished. The congregation threatened to fire Pastor Vanderbilt for offending their enlightened ears with such outdated truths.
While a lot of the imagery is rather extreme - it definately serves its purpose. I have been living in Israel for 25 years, and relocated to the US 2 months ago. I was stunned last week when some members of our church talked about drive-through communion services and drive-in church services... as I read this story, I was again reminded by how far the church and we individuals have gotten from the basics.
I've been watching a TV series with my husband and step-daughters... could we be using our time better? Definately. I need to think twice how we watch and why...
I hope that the right people read this story and we are all challenged to take our faith more seriously.
Perhaps the next step would be for believers in Jesus to publically denounce these super mega churches which teach from the Bible but deny the divinity of Jesus, do not preach repentance from sin, and tolerate sinful life styles in the name of political correctness.
Amen to this story!