Author Archives: andyrupert

The Right Thing at the Right Time

A few years ago, I took a job driving railroad crew members in a minivan. A late night or early morning trip had me somewhere on a Sunday morning with not enough time to get back home to go to our home church. So I decided to stay and visit a small church in the area. But there was this tiny problem in my mind. I grew up dressing up for church services and I was still in my jeans and a t-shirt. I shouldn’t have been embarrassed, but I was. What could I do?

Not many shops were open that morning — especially any that would have clothes to purchase. But there was a Rite Aid open at the time, so I went inside and bought a zip up jacket with the local high school’s emblem on it. I still didn’t feel very well dressed but it was all I could do at the moment. So, I headed over to the church and sat as far back as I could so as not to be noticed.

Then it happened. The pastor saw me in the back and pointed everyone’s attention toward me!

“Today we have Andy Rupert with us.”

[Oh how I cringed. I wanted to slip under the pew.]

“You may notice that Andy is in his work clothes.

[Can things get any worse???]

“That’s okay because it is good to see people who are willing to work in this day and age. Andy, would you open our service with prayer?”

What could have been an embarrassing situation was changed into a nice moment for everyone who was there that morning — including me. I appreciated that very much. And I never felt embarrassed to stop at that church when I was in the area no matter how I was dressed — all because a kind-hearted pastor diffused the situation before anyone could be embarrassed.

Now for the rest of the story.

Who was this kind-hearted pastor who diffused the situation? It was non-other-than Pastor Don Gallion who at the time was leading the morning service at Calvary Baptist Church of Willard … the church that I currently serve as the pastor. So remember this: You never know what a kind word or action can do in the life of someone visiting your church.

What do you think about the Bible?

What do you think the Bible is? Is it a good book to follow for morals? Is it a book from which we can pick and choose what we like or dislike? Is it good for children but not so much for adults? Is it helpful but not binding? Is it just the thoughts of a bunch of religious people trying to control people?

The Apostle Paul wrote this about the Bible:

“For this reason we also thank God without ceasing, because when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you welcomed it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which also effectively works in you who believe.”
– 1 Thess. 2:13 NKJV

The Bible was written/spoken by men.

In the beginning, there was no New Testament of the Bible. It was passed along by word of mouth and verified by the Old Testament scriptures. God sent out apostles like Paul to preach God’s message to people all over the world. No doubt, his spoken messages included topics like God’s view of man’s sin, God’s love for the world, the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus, and the need for repentance and faith in Jesus. These doctrines were later written down and compiled into what we now call the New Testament.

The Bible is God’s Word.

In the verse quoted above, Paul commended the Thessalonian believers for receiving his teaching as not just the teaching of men. The messages shared with them were not his own thoughts, but what was given to him by God. That is what the Bible is—God’s Words for mankind. (See also 2 Pet. 1:19-21; 2 Tim. 3:13-17.)

The Bible works in the lives of those who believe.

The response of the Thessalonian people was life changing as indicated in Paul’s description of them (1 Thess. 1:6-10). They turned away from worshiping idols to serve the one, true God. They became joyful people, model Christians, and effective speakers of the truth to many others in their area. The Bible is effective in the lives of those who hear it and especially in those who believe it and live by it.

Conclusion

The Bible is more than just a book written by religious people. It is a collection of God’s Words to people. In this book, God lays out his teaching about everything. It includes hard-to-take descriptions of our own sinfulness. But it also includes the cure for our sin — Jesus himself. If you have received Him, you understand the wonderful message of the Bible and have seen it change your life. It is God’s Word to us. So, read, believe, and obey it and you will discover the blessing of God’s perfect plan for your life. Then share it with others with the expectation that God will use it in their lives as well.

What are you?

Remember when people came to Jesus and promised to follow him but then made excuses for not continuing with him? (Matt. 8:18-22) One had to be reminded that it might not be comfortable. Another had to be willing to make Jesus more important than family. Those were tough decisions. I don’t know what happened to those two. But it seems like they were unwilling to give up what Jesus mentioned and really follow him.

Many people are happy to believe in Jesus and “get a ticket to heaven.” But when it comes to repenting/turning from sin, joyfully living for him every day, and following him no matter the cost, the group is decidedly smaller. The Lord is looking for men, women, and children who will turn to him not just to escape the coming judgment but who will keep on following him.

Look at the disciples. They didn’t have the easiest of lives. But they chose to follow Jesus and learned so much. They watched him for about three years and saw how he interacted with people, loved them, taught them, and pointed them away from their sin to a wonderful, new life that only he could provide. They knew that following Jesus would not be easy, but they learned that it was worth it because he changed their lives for the better.

I have a question for you. Are you a “Christian” in name only or a follower of Jesus? There is a difference. There will be a difference.

Those Who Came Before

“For in this the saying is true: ‘One sows and another reaps.’ I sent you to reap that for which you have not labored; others have labored, and you have entered into their labors.” – John 4:37-38

Jesus reminded his disciples that the spiritual harvest they would reap would be the result of those who had labored before them. This statement made me wonder two things:

(1) Who were those who labored before the disciples? Perhaps Jesus was referring to the prophets, John the Baptist, himself, or some unknown but faithful believers who had been actively serving and speaking for the Lord. Their efforts made the disciples’ work successful.

(2) Who are those who have gone before us? At our church there were pastors and church members who were here before us. At Peniel Bible Camp and the Ohio Bible Fellowship, there were faithful leaders, staff, and contributors who gave of their time and resources. Without their work, we would not have what we do today.

While you serve the Lord today in your church, camp, or ministry, remember that you are not alone. There have been many others who have made things possible over the years. Stop and thank God for the godly men and women who have gone before to make things successful today. And be faithful to continue the work that they began years ago.

Concern for the Lost

“If we shudder at the thought of a dying sinner appearing in all the blackness of his guilt before God, let us think more how we may turn sinners from their wickedness while they live.”
—W. G. Blaikie, The Second Book of Samuel (Minneapolis: Klock & Klock, reprint 1978), 61.

How does Romans 12:16-21 apply to political disagreements?

During the past four years, we have become a very divided nation. Topics in the news have included: collusion with Russia, impeachment, Black Lives Matter, Antifa, QAnon, white nationalists, election issues, Hunter Biden, COVID-19, and riots all over the country. Social media discussions about these topics have become rather heated at times. How then should Christians respond? Romans 12:16-21 seems to be a good starting place.

“Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.’ To the contrary, ‘if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.’ Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”

1. We should be peaceful whenever possible.

If God tells us to be harmonious, humble, honorable, peaceable, not vengeful, and not to be overcome by evil, that should be our modus operandi. The response or actions of other people should not change the way we respond. However, if we decline to follow God’s commands as here mentioned, we are no longer representing Christ but something else. No matter how great the political cause, disobedience in these areas can be detrimental to God’s greater purposes. We must do God’s work in God’s way to honor Him. Keep that in mind.

2. We should defend the US constitution and American law when possible.

One of the tricky things about being an American Christian is that we are both citizens of heaven and our country. We have responsibilities to both. Our first priority is to God but another priority is loyalty to our country. A good summary of this loyalty is in the oath I took when hired by the US Postal Service:

“I, do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God.”

When a politician, judge, or any other person tries to do something that goes against the constitution or laws, I should voice my concern and take lawful action to stop them. When an individual or organization seeks to limit someone’s ability to speak freely, I point to the 1st amendment and try to stop them from subverting lawful rights. When an individual or organization seeks to limit someone’s right to bear arms (for protection against criminals or tyrannical government), I point to the 2nd amendment and try to stop them from subverting lawful rights.

Conclusion

There are times where strong words and actions are needed. We must stand up for what is right and speak out against unlawful and evil activity. But, as Christians, we must remember that our normal way of doing things should be to seek peace, to be humble, to leave revenge in God’s hands, and to overcome evil with good. Let us be careful in our verbal and written responses to hot button topics. Winning a debate is not the only priority for Christians.

No effort of mine

“There is no life apart from Him. ‘He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son hath not life.’ No works, no efforts of ours, could ever produce divine life. You could not make yourself become a Christian, a child of God; you could not by any effort of your own, by any prayers, any penances, produce one spark of divine life within your soul. But the moment you receive Christ, you have receive Him who is the life. ‘God so loved the world, that he gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him, should not perish, but have everlasting life.’”[1]


[1] H. A. Ironside, Epistles of John and Jude, Neptune NJ: Loizeaux Brothers, 1931, 141.

Psalm 77 in English Rhyme

While reading a commentary on the Epistle to the Romans, the author took an aside to talk about the peace that comes from a spiritual mindset (see Rom. 8:6). When a Christian focuses on the Holy Spirit’s leading, he will experience peace because he is following God’s direction and plan. The commentator explained that this peace can be misunderstood as the absence of any trouble. That is not true as many believers in the Old and New Testament times faced difficult situations.

As evidence, the commentator pointed to the psalmist’s thoughts in Psalm 77. The following poem summarizes the thoughts of that psalm, and might also parallel what other believers have gone through at times. As you read it, you may be reminded of “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day.” I think this is well done.

The thought of God brought me no peace
But rather made my fears increase
With sleepless eyes and speechless pain
My fainting spirit grieved in vain
The blessedness of long ago
Made deeper still my present woe

Recalling days when faith was bright
When songs of gladness filled my night
I pondered o’er my grievous woes
And searching questioning arose
Will God cast off and nevermore
His favor to my soul restore?

These doubts and fears that troubled me
Were born of my infirmity
Though I am weak, God is most high
And on his goodness I rely
Of all his wonders I will tell
And on his deeds my thoughts shall dwell

William Hendriksen, New Testament Commentary: Exposition of Paul’s Epistle to the Romans, Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1980, pp. 249-50.

Your Current Influence

Recent events in the US have resulted in protests, rioting, looting, vandalism, murder, and arson. What should be the response of Christians during this time? While reading through the Proverbs, I came across one that gives a good perspective on how our choices affect those around us.

“By the blessing of the upright the city is exalted,
but it is overthrown by the mouth of the wicked.”

– Proverbs 11:11

Upright – These are people who want to do what is right, who want to please God and follow his wisdom.

Illustration – Daniel blessed Babylon with his presence by being, doing and speaking what was right despite the attempts of wicked people to destroy him. As the various kings saw his upright behavior, he was honored and promoted, and he proved to be a blessing to the people in that city.

Wicked – These are people who want to do what is wrong, who hate God, and rebel against his wisdom.

Illustration – King Manasseh of Judah rejected God. By his words and actions, he “seduced them to do more evil” (2 Kings 21). He degenerated so far as to burn his son in fire while worshiping an idol. His influence harmed those around him.

These two examples are extremes. That is the way proverbs are written. They show opposites to make a point. These illustrations show the possible outcome of living either uprightly or wickedly from real life examples.

Choice One – If you love God, his wisdom is evident in the way you influence your community. Doing right helps others, holds back evil, and points people to the Lord.

Choice Two – If you love wickedness, your thinking will affect the way you influence your community. Your words can promote lawlessness and the ultimate destruction of those around you.

Choose wisely.

How should I identify myself?

A lot of people talk about being [FILL IN THE BLANK]-Americans, nowadays. That word before the hyphen usually has something to do with where the person’s family came from. And that historical adjective might even refer to things that happened hundreds of years ago. I really don’t think that way. And apparently I am not the only one. Someone has compiled a list of strange things that Americans do. Here is one of them:

“Identifying as your heritage instead of your nationality. Americans will say that they’re Italian, German, Polish, etc. when they don’t speak the language and have no real connection to those countries anymore. In other parts of the world people just identify with the country they were born in or have lived in for a significant amount of time, regardless of their ancestry.”

https://www.buzzfeed.com/stephenlaconte/weird-things-americans-do-reddit

This is something I didn’t grow up thinking about. Yes, I did hear funny jokes about ethnic people. But most of them could apply to just about any other people group. Remember this one?

Q: How many [FILL IN THE BLANK]s does it take to screw in a light bulb?
A: One to hold the bulb and 3 to turn the chair.

I really don’t have a firm grasp of where my family came from. Sure, my brother traced the family tree back several hundred years, but it didn’t make me think that I was from another country. My only recollection about me is that I’m an American from Ohio. What happened hundreds of years ago has little to do with who I am today.

Realistically, the most important descriptor of me is “Christian.” That is really what makes me what I am today. Despite anything in my past or my family’s past, God chose to adopt me into his family. That is a wonderful thing and something that I would rather claim than any good or bad historical events that may have happened.

One more thing: When we think about who we are, our ethnic heritage really doesn’t matter for a Christian. Think about what the Bible says about this.

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. … After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could number, of all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, saying, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!”

John 3:16 / Revelation 7:9-10

IF God loved all people enough to send Jesus to die for their sins, and IF there are going to be all types of people worshiping God together in the future, why should I make my heritage a big deal? Maybe it would be better for Christians to talk about what God has done in their lives instead of a most-likely checkered past that doesn’t really make a difference today.