Does the Bible Contradict Itself?

The short and direct answer to this question is, No… the Bible does not contradict itself.

But if the answer were so simple, then such a question wouldn’t gain much traction or keep making laps around the racetrack of theological and biblical discussion.

I might be worthwhile for the reader to take a moment to really think about the fact that Christians throughout history have not been complete idiots (well, at least not all of them). The point is: intelligent and careful readers have searched the Scriptures far more than you or I, and these men and women have not been so quick to throw the Bible out on the basis of unresolved contradictions.

Furthermore, non-Christian and critical intellectuals (and those who like to regurgitate their ideas and phrases) have been making this accusation against the Bible for at least the last 200 years. But Christians too have written many books and articles in order to candidly deal with the supposed contradictions (HERE is a great example).

The reader is charged with the responsibility of thinking carefully through the matter before walking away with a half-baked answer to suit his or her preconceived notions about the validity and trustworthiness of the Bible.

This subject is dear to my heart as a pastor, and it came up again as I was preparing to preach through Exodus 9. God’s fifth plague or strike against Egypt (beginning in verse 1) and God’s seventh plague or strike (beginning in verse 13) seem to contradict one another. They both refer to “livestock” in a way that seems impossible to harmonize. However, I’d like to argue that there are at least a few options for the reader to resolve this apparent contradiction without accusing the Bible of error.

In the fifth plague, we’re told “all the livestock of the Egyptians died” (Exodus 9:6), but a short time later (thirteen verses to be exact) we read about Moses warning the Egyptians to “get [their] livestock… into safe shelter” in order to avoid the falling hail (Ex. 9:19).

“And the next day the Lord did this thing. All the livestock of the Egyptians died, but not one of the livestock of the people of Israel died” (emphais added).

Exodus 9:6

Moses said, “Now therefore send, get your livestock and all that you have in the field into safe shelter, for every man and beast that is in the field and is not brought home will die when the hail falls on them” (emphasis added).

Exodus 9:19

So the question is, if “all the livestock of the Egyptians died” (Ex. 9:6), then where did all this other Egyptian “livestock” come from (Ex. 9:19)?

This is the kind of question Bible-believing Christians need to be prepared to engage with, and Bible-believing Christians need to be prepared to give some kind of an answer.

Christians believe the Bible is the inerrant word of God (at least those who are grounded in historic Christiantiy do). We do not believe there are any contradictions in the Bible. We believe the Bible (in so far as the text of Scripture is compiled translated faithfully) is an utterly truthful and consistent compilation of God’s trustworthy words.

So, what do Christians do with this apparent contradiction? Well, first, we don’t melt in fear… and we don’t run away.

We must first acknowledge that there are some passages in the Bible that do appear (at least at first glance) to contradict other passages. It is no surprise that someone antagonistic to the Bible would point to several Bible-passages and accuse the Bible of contradiction.

But, second, we must also remember that the Bible is fully capable of enduring skepticism. Bible critics are not new, though the modern ones often fancy themselves as more sophisticated than those who have come before. 

Marcion was a man born before the Apostle John died, and Marcion accused the Old and New Testaments of contradicting one another. He invented a whole theological system around his flawed perspective of the Bible, and he was roundly rejected as a formal heretic at the first official Christian council.

See two helpful introductions to Marcion and his recurring ideas in modern Christianty HERE and HERE).

Bible-skeptics have been around as long as the Bible. Satan’s first attack on humans was an attack on the word of God. The ancient snake asked Eve in the garden, “Did God actually say…?” (Genesis 3:1). And we hear the devil’s hiss in the mouths of others throughout history as well as today.

Third, when dealing with an apparent contradiction in the Bible, we must recognize that any supposed error we see in the Bible springs from our own misunderstanding or ignorance (or maybe some mixture of both). 

Let’s think about the apparent contradiction in front of us here.

Did “all the livestock” in Egypt die from some kind of disease (Exodus 9:6)? And, if so, where did the “livestock” in Egypt come from that died later from falling hail (Ex. 9:19-21, 25)?

One possible explanation is that the Egyptians kept some of their livestock “in the field” or “in the pasture” and the rest they kept in stalls or closer to their homes. A careful reading of Exodus 9:3 does allow for a specific “plague upon [the] livestock that are in the field.”

We might say the livestock that didn’t die from this fifth plague upon Egypt were those which were not out in the field, and these were the livestock later threatened by the seventh plague.

Another possible explanation is to understand the word “All” in Exodus 9:6 to refer to “all kinds of livestock” and not “each and every one of the livestock.” As a matter of fact, this is exactly how verse 2 seems to present it.

“behold, the hand of the Lord will fall with a very severe plague upon your livestock that are in the field, the horses, the donkeys, the camels, the herds, and the flocks” (emphasis added).

Exodus 9:2

From this perspective, one might paraphrase verse 6 by saying, “Death came to every kind of grazing animal in Egypt, but not a single cow died among the people of Israel.”

Still another possible explanation is to understand the language in the popular sense and not the absolute. In other words, “The quantity of livestock left in Egypt was nothing in comparison to what was there before.”

These are three possible explanations, and maybe you can see others.

I should note that I am heavily indebted to Philip Ryken for his consideration of this text and these options.

The point is: The Bible doesn’t contradict itself. And any apparent contradiction can be explained (usually pretty easily) if we will take time to think about it.

The practical application of this answer is that the reader must address the greater issue of what to do with the God of the Bible. Because the Bible truthfully and consistently reveals God as He is, the reader is responsible to seek God there.

FBCD Family Worship Guide 04/26/2020

FBC Diana members,

I want to encourage you to take time for Bible reading and study, prayer, and singing again this Sunday. Regular family and/or personal time devoted to such things is critical to our growth as Christians. You may use any structure that seems appropriate for you and/or your family, but I recommend following the outline below.

Scripture Reading

Read Psalm 146 aloud.

Prayer

Thanks/Praise. What do you see in Psalm 146 as a reason to praise or thank God? What specifically about God’s character or action is praiseworthy from this passage?

Confession. Think of ways you and others might have sinned this previous week. Think of specific ways sin was expressed in your home, in family life together, on your job, in your neighborhood, and in your community.  

Supplication. Here are some topics you might consider praying about:

  1. Pray for God’s provision for fellow church members and those in our community who are earning less because of public and business closures.
  2. Pray that God will graciously preserve the members of FBC Diana (spiritual health and vitality) while we are all deprived of the accountability and encouragement which the weekly gathering provides.
  3. Pray that God will draw many sinners to Himself in the midst of the current circumstances, which may cause some to think soberly of death and eternity.
  4. Pray that all Christians would be faithful witnesses for Christ in the world.
  5. Pray that US government officials would both protect life and preserve liberty, resisting the temptation to accumulate power during this time of uncertainty. 
  6. Pray for Perryville Baptist Church in Winnsboro, TX (Pastor Toby Goodman), Redeemer Church in Graham, TX (Pastor Ryan Bishop), and New Hope Baptist Church in Ore City, TX (Pastor Tony Pierce).

Discussion Questions

You might spend some time simply thinking and talking through Psalm 19. And you might also use the following questions to help guide your thoughts and discussion.

  1. What is Psalm 146 all about?
  2. What do you think it means to “put your trust in princes” (v3)?
  3. Why does the psalmist say we should not “trust in princes”? In other words, what can earthly rulers, governors, leaders, presidents, or kings not do?
  4. What do you think it means to put your “hope in the LORD…God” (v5)?
  5. How does verse 6 speak of God’s power and trustworthiness?
  6. How does verse 7 speak of God’s impartial justice and His compassion?
  7. How does verse 8 speak of God’s attentiveness to those who are humble and obedient? 
  8. How does verse 9 speak of God’s care for those who are vulnerable?
  9. What or who is the psalmist contrasting throughout this psalm and especially in verses 3-4 and 10? 
  10. Looking at this passage through the lenses of the New Testament (and especially the gospel), consider the following: 
    1. Read Luke 4:16-21. How does the Bible present Jesus as the fulfillment of God’s promises to heal, to liberate, and to grant favor?
    2. Read Ephesians 1:7-10. How did Jesus make a way for sinful people like you to enjoy the benefits of God’s love and favor?
    3. How should Psalm 146 make those who trust and follow Jesus Christ feel both unworthy and yet comforted?
  11. How might you or others be putting your trust in earthly helpers right now (government, healthcare workers, finances)?
  12. Do you do or watch or listen to or read anything that tends to grow your unhealthy (maybe even sinful) trust for earthly helpers? If so, explain.
  13. How do you know God is trustworthy to keep His promises to love and to ultimately deliver sinners like you from chaos and suffering?
  14. What are some specific ways you might shift your trust/hope away from earthly helpers toward the everlasting God who is both able and faithful?

Songs to Sing

Click on the links below to view lyrics, download song sheets, and/or listen to song audio.

All Praise to Him

Alas! and Did My Savior Bleed?

Praise to the Lord, the Almighty

See the Destined Day Arise

Scripture Reading

Read Psalm 147 aloud.

Prayer

Thanks/Praise. Offer thanks and praise to God for specific things that come to your mind today… maybe from recent personal experience or maybe from something in the Scripture or the songs or your discussion with others today.

Marc Minter is the senior pastor of First Baptist Church of Diana, TX. He and his wife, Cassie, have two sons, Micah and Malachi.

Connect with Marc on Twitter or Facebook.

FBCD Family Worship Guide 04/19/2020

FBC Diana members,

I want to encourage you to take time for Bible reading and study, prayer, and singing again this Sunday. Regular family and/or personal time devoted to such things is critical to our growth as Christians. You may use any structure that seems appropriate for you and/or your family, but I recommend following the outline below.

Scripture Reading

Read Psalm 19 aloud.

Prayer

Thanks/Praise. What do you see in Psalm 19 as a reason to praise or thank God? What specifically about God’s character or action is praiseworthy from this passage?

Confession. Think of ways you and others might have sinned this previous week. Think of specific ways sin was expressed in your home, in family life together, on your job, in your neighborhood, and in your community.  

Supplication. Here are some topics you might consider praying about:

  1. Pray for FBC Diana’s deacons and pastor.
  2. Pray for the salvation of our parents, our siblings, our children, and our grandchildren (both your own and the family of fellow church members).
  3. Pray for persecuted brothers and sisters around the world.
  4. Pray for teachers and administrators and school employees of all kinds.
  5. Pray that God will unite our church members in love for Christ and love for one another, even though we are not physically able to be together.
  6. Pray that our church members will reach out to one another and encourage one another with Scripture.
  7. Pray for Redemption Baptist Church in Nacogdoches (Pastor Wesley Burke) and for Shady Grove Baptist Church (Pastor Derick Walker) and for Erbil International Baptist Church (Pastor Mack Stiles).

Discussion Questions

You might spend some time simply thinking and talking through Psalm 19. And you might also use the following questions to help guide your thoughts and discussion.

  1. What is Psalm 19 all about?

Psalm 19 seems to have three parts:

  • Verses 1-6 are a prayer of praise, accenting the display of God’s glory in creation.
  • Verses 7-11 continue the prayer of praise, emphasizing the value and benefits of God’s special revelation of Himself in or by His word.
  • Verses 12-14 shift to a prayer of supplication, pleading for personal reformation and ongoing love and obedience.

Looking at verses 1-6, consider the following questions.

  1. How might the sky or heavens declare God’s glory?
  2. How does the psalmist particularly point out the beauty and strength of the sun as an evidence and illustration of God’s glory?
  3. What do you think it means when the psalmist says that the “speech” or “voice” of the sky is “heard” to the “end of the world”?
  4. How might Romans 1:19-20 be a correlative passage to this one?
  5. According to Psalm 19:1-6 and Romans 1:19-20, is there anyone in the world who truly knows absolutely nothing of God’s glory? Explain.

Looking at verses 7-11, consider the following questions.

  1. How does this passage describe God’s word (i.e. God’s “law,” “testimony,” “precepts,” “commandment,” and “rules”)?
  2. What does this passage say God’s word does?
  3. How does this passage teach us that God’s word is useful and relevant to every season and circumstance of life?
  4. How might 2 Timothy 3:16-17 be a correlative passage to this one?
  5. According to Psalm 19:7-11 and 2 Timothy 3:16-17, how should we prioritize our regular exposure to the Bible?
  6. What are some practical ways you can add Bible reading, memorization, and meditation to your daily routine (or give them more time or effort if you already do them)?

Looking at verses 12-14, consider the following questions.

  1. What is the specific request the psalmist makes in verse 12? 
  2. How does Scripture help us “discern” our “errors”?
  3. What is the specific request the psalmist makes in verse 13? 
  4. How does Scripture help “keep” us from “presumptuous sins” and help us to be free from the “dominion” of sin?
  5. What is the specific request the psalmist makes in verse 14? 
  6. How does Scripture help us our words and thoughts or feelings be “acceptable” to God?
  7. How does the psalmist’s focus on God’s particular attributes in verse 14 end this psalm on a hopeful and reassuring note?

Songs to Sing

Click on the links below to view lyrics, download song sheets, and/or listen to song audio.

Come, Ye Sinners, Poor and Needy

Dear Refuge of My Weary Soul

O Lord, My Rock and My Redeemer

Scripture Reading

Read Psalm 20 aloud.

Prayer

Thanks/Praise. Offer thanks and praise to God for specific things that come to your mind today… maybe from recent personal experience or maybe from something in the Scripture or the songs or your discussion with others today.

Marc Minter is the senior pastor of First Baptist Church of Diana, TX. He and his wife, Cassie, have two sons, Micah and Malachi.

Connect with Marc on Twitter or Facebook.

FBCD Family Worship Guide 04/12/2020

FBC Diana members,

I want to encourage you to take time for Bible reading and study, prayer, and singing again this Sunday. Regular family and/or personal time devoted to such things is critical to our growth as Christians. You may use any structure that seems appropriate for you and/or your family, but I recommend following the outline below.

Scripture Reading

Read Exodus 12 aloud.

Prayer

Thanks/Praise. What do you see in Exodus 12 as a reason to praise or thank God? What specifically about God’s character or action is praiseworthy from this passage?

Confession. Think of ways you and others might have sinned this previous week. Think of specific ways sin was expressed in your home, in family life together, on your job, in your neighborhood, and in your community.  

Supplication. Here are some topics you might consider praying about:

  1. Pray for widows and widowers among our church family and in our community.
  2. Pray for those who are fainthearted and/or discouraged.
  3. Pray for those who seem to be losing their battle against sin in their lives – pray for conviction, for strength, and for humility to reach out for accountability.
  4. Pray for our governmental leaders to wisely work to preserve and protect life.
  5. Pray for those who are working more hours and under more stress during the pandemic. Also, pray for those who are under more stress because of working fewer hours during this time.
  6. Pray that parents would disciple their children well, that husbands would lead their wives in Bible reading and prayer, and that singles would be welcomed into the discipleship activities of Christian families.
  7. Pray for God’s financial provision for our individual members and our church.

Discussion Questions

You might spend some time simply thinking and talking through Exodus 12. And you might also use the following questions to help guide your thoughts and discussion.

  1. What is Exodus 12 all about?
  2. Based on the beginning and ending verses of Exodus 12, how significant is this event to the history of the people of Israel? Explain.
  3. Specifically, what did God command His people to do on this first Passover (see verses 3-11)?
  4. What did God promise to do during this Passover night (see verses 12-13)?
  5. What was or were the distinctive mark(s) of those who were spared from God’s judgment on that Passover night?
  6. What does this show us about God’s judgment against sinners and His salvation for those upon whom He has lavished His grace?
  7. Why did God tell His people to continue an annual memorial of the Passover throughout their generations (see verses 24-27)?
  8. How might this instruct us about the responsibility God’s people always have to hand-down or pass along the meaning (and not just the practice) of religious activities?
  9. What might we learn from considering the specificity with which God commanded the people to observe the annual Passover? In other words, how might this affect the way we think about all religious activities (such as a Sunday church gathering, or baptism, or the Lord’s Supper)?
  10. How does the explanation of Israel’s departure from Exodus show God’s faithfulness to His promises (see Ex. 12:36 and Ex. 3:19-22; also see Ex. 12:40-41 and Gen. 15:13-14)?
  11. Read Luke 22:1-20. How does this passage scoop up the imagery of Exodus 12 and apply it to the person and work of Jesus Christ?
    1. How does this passage help us understand what it means that Jesus is the ultimate “Passover Lamb”?
    2. What judgment from God “passes over” those who trust in Christ?
  12. Read Luke 24:1-27. How does this passage help us understand the movement and aim of the whole Bible (including the Passover in Exodus 12) toward the events of Jesus death and resurrection?
  13. Do you think the death and resurrection of Jesus is central to the meaning, benefit, and hope of Christianity? Why or why not?

Songs to Sing

Click on the links below to view lyrics, download song sheets, and/or listen to song audio.

Jesus, Thank You

Come, Behold the Wondrous Mystery

Behold Our God

O Lord, My Rock and My Redeemer

Scripture Reading

Read 1 Corinthians 15:1-8 aloud.

Prayer

Thanks/Praise. Offer thanks and praise to God for specific things that come to your mind today… maybe from recent personal experience or maybe from something in the Scripture or the songs or your discussion with others today.

Marc Minter is the senior pastor of First Baptist Church of Diana, TX. He and his wife, Cassie, have two sons, Micah and Malachi.

Connect with Marc on Twitter or Facebook.

FBCD Family Worship Guide 04/05/2020

FBC Diana members,

I want to encourage you to take time for Bible reading and study, prayer, and singing again this Sunday. Family and/or personal time devoted to such things is critical to our growth as Christians. You may use any structure that seems appropriate for you and/or your family, but I recommend following the outline below.

Scripture Reading

Read Psalm 1 aloud.

Prayer

Thanks/Praise. What do you see in Psalm 1 as reasons to praise God? What specifically about God’s character or nature is praiseworthy? How might you praise God for what He has done in your life or for how He has shown you grace and care.

Confession. Think of ways you and others might have sinned this previous week. Don’t accuse others in your prayer, but do try to confess specific ways you and others have expressed sin in your home, in family life together, on your job, in your neighborhood, and in your community.  

Supplication. Ask for God’s help in various ways. Here are some topics you might consider praying about:

  1. Pray that fellow church members would have grace and patience with others in their home during this time of unusual confinement.
  2. Pray for those who are afraid, those who are weary, and those who are lonely.
  3. Pray for salvation for our parents, our siblings, our children, and our grandchildren (yours and those of fellow church members).
  4. Pray for our governmental leaders to wisely work to preserve and protect life.
  5. Pray for healthcare workers, for law enforcement officers, and for emergency workers of all kinds.
  6. Pray that God would help FBC Diana church members to look for ways to do good to one another and to disciple one another despite our social distance.
  7. Pray that FBC Diana church members would gladly part with what our world values in order to take hold of what God values.

Discussion Questions

You might spend some time simply talking through Psalm 1. And you might also use the following questions to help guide your discussion.

  1. What is the major theme or concept of this Psalm?
  2. How do these six verses provide a kind of introduction (maybe even an invitation) to the whole book of the Psalms?
  3. Starting with verse one, list all of the ways the psalmist describes the “blessed” person.
  4. What aspects of this description stand out most to you? Why?
  5. What do you think it means for someone to “delight” in God’s “law” (v2)?
  6. What do you think it means for someone to be like a “tree” that “yields fruit in its season” (v3)?
  7. How do verses 1-2 indicate the way in which “fruit” is produced in a person?
  8. Starting with verse four, list all of the ways the psalmist describes the “wicked” person.
  9. What aspects of this description stand out most to you? Why?
  10. What do you think it means for the “wicked” person to not be able to “stand in the judgment” (v5)? Whose judgment? And what does it mean to “stand”?
  11. What does it mean for someone to be included among the “congregation of the righteous”? And what does it mean for “sinners” to be excluded (v5)?
  12. How might you describe the two “ways” to live presented in verse 6?
  13. Is anyone truly righteous by God’s standard of obedience and love? Explain.
  14. Looking at this passage through the lenses of the New Testament (especially the person and work of Christ), how is it that sinners like you can be made “righteous” and called “blessed” (see Ephesians 1:3-10 and Romans 3:21-26)?
  15. Because our righteousness comes from Jesus Christ (Rom. 3:21-26), how might Psalm 1 help motivate Christians to:
    1. Rest and trust in Jesus for blessing or favor from God?
    2. Strive to live morally upright lives?
    3. Devote themselves to reading and thinking about God’s word?
    4. Rely upon God’s good care throughout all the seasons of life?
  16. How might Psalm 1 also warn Christians against laziness, practicing sin, and presuming upon God’s grace and forgiveness (see also Romans 2:1-11)?
  17. How might God’s warning to the “wicked” person in Psalm 1 encourage you to talk about the gospel, about Jesus, and about following Christ with others?

Songs to Sing

Click on the links below to view lyrics, download song sheets, and/or listen to song audio.

Jesus, Thank You

Holy, Holy, Holy

He Will Hold Me Fast

Scripture Reading

Read Psalm 2 aloud.

Prayer

Thanks/Praise. Offer thanks and praise to God for specific things that come to your mind today… maybe from recent personal experience or maybe from something in the Scripture or the songs or your discussion with others today.

Marc Minter is the senior pastor of First Baptist Church of Diana, TX. He and his wife, Cassie, have two sons, Micah and Malachi.

Connect with Marc on Twitter or Facebook.

Should Churches Disobey?

Should churches in America disobey the government’s directive to avoid social gatherings in order to slow the spread of COVID-19?

The short answer is, no… but some folks might disagree with me. So, I’ll offer the following to support my answer.

First, Christian churches are assemblies governed ultimately by the Lord Jesus Christ, and the Bible (which is the word of Christ) commands Christians to submit to governing authorities in all things. A couple of Scripture passages are quite clear on the subject, and I recommend that the reader look up each of the following citations in their context.

An excerpt from Romans 13:1-7 says, “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore, whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed… Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed.”

An excerpt from 1 Peter 2:13-17 says, “Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, or to governors as sent by him… For this is the will of God…”

Of course, there are exceptions, but one should not pass by these obvious and sobering commands too quickly. If we are prone to individualism and personal autonomy (and it is highly likely that you are), then we are probably looking for exceptions to the rule far more than we are sincerely seeking to follow the rule.

Second, Christians (including local churches) should normally obey the government in all things, but there are narrow exceptions to this general rule. God’s people are to obey God by disobeying their governing authority if (and only if) their governing authority commands what God forbids or forbids what God commands. In the Bible, we have examples of both of these. 

In Exodus chapter 1, we meet two Hebrew midwives who were blessed by God for disobeying the king or pharaoh of Egypt. The pharaoh commanded Shiphrah and Puah to kill every Hebrew boy when he exited his mother’s womb (Exodus 1:16), but these women let the babies live because they feared God more than their earthly king. God had already commanded the preservation of human life (Genesis 9:5-6), and no earthly king can overturn God’s commands.

In Daniel chapter 3, we learn about three men who were preserved by God even as they disobeyed the king of Babylon. Nebuchadnezzar was a famous Babylonian king, so revered by his people that they constructed a massive statue to be worshiped in his honor. When Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego refused to bow down before the image, they were sentence to death. God did save these men by His miraculous power, but their willingness to die before disobeying God’s command is a good and sober example to us all (Exodus 20:3-6).

In Acts chapter 4 we can read about two Apostles, Peter and John, who disobeyed their governing authority when they were forbidden to do what God commands. Peter and John were beaten by local officials for telling people about the exemplary life, the atoning death, and the glorious resurrection of Jesus Christ. These men were even threatened with further punishment if they continued their preaching, but Peter and John refused to keep silent because God had commanded them to proclaim of the gospel of Jesus Christ (Matthew 28:18-20; cf. Acts 1:8). They even prayed for greater boldness to tell more people about Jesus, and God gave it to them (Acts 4:24-30).

In each of these instances, God’s people were commended for disobeying their governing authorities, but only because their governing authorities were commanding or forbidding something in outright contradiction to God’s own instructions. If an earthly government or ruler forbids what God commands or commands what God forbids, then God is to be feared and obeyed above all others.

Third, and finally, Christians and churches in America aren’t being commanded to disobey God. In our case, the federal and state governments are not singling out religious institutions, nor are they specifically forbidding churches to meet together. Instead, government officials are calling upon all Americans (and citizens of specific states in many cases) to refrain from all social gatherings for a temporary period. Furthermore, the stated purpose for the temporary order is to preserve life, and local church pastors have no reason to believe otherwise. 

Time will tell how effective this governmental strategy has been, but for now, local churches should do their best to comply with these civil requests and orders. 

In almost all instances, God’s people are to give themselves to glad submission under the authority of their earthly governors or rulers. God’s people are to entrust themselves to God, knowing that there is coming a day when God will lay all hearts bare, and He will judge all things and all people rightly.

Marc Minter is the senior pastor of First Baptist Church of Diana, TX. He and his wife, Cassie, have two sons, Micah and Malachi.

Connect with Marc on Twitter or Facebook.

My Pastoral Prayer List

When my church gathers, we always pray.

As senior pastor, I understand that it is my responsibility to lead church member in prayer and to teach church members how to pray. I lead and teach in several ways, but one of the methods I have used for a while now is rotating through a list of topics for prayer.

If I am the one praying a prayer of supplication, I jot down several bulletpoints beforehand to guide my prayer, including a selection of topics from my prayer list. I use this list to keep me from praying the same things every time and to keep me from forgetting many things I ought to be praying for.

The list provides me with a variety of good and important topics, and rotating through the list ensures that I’ll hit on many of them over the course of a fairly brief period of time.

If I ask someone else to pray a prayer of supplication, I choose one or more topics from this prayer list and assign the topic(s) to the person. These people enjoy the same benefits as I do, and I am teaching them about what kinds of things they should be praying for by assigning them prayer topics.

This practice keeps our public prayers from becoming a laundry list of physical ailments or an opportunity for subtle gossip, and it also teaches our whole congregation how to pray and what to pray about.

My own pastoral prayer list is a compilation of topics I’ve borrowed from other pastors or added for myself. I cannot take any credit for creativity and insight you might find in this list, but I do take great comfort in the fact that I haven’t tried to reinvent the wheel.

Feel free to use this entire template or any portion of it to your own benefit or that of your church family.

General Topics for Churches and Communities

  • Pray for the regular preaching of God’s word.
  • Pray for elders/pastors and deacons.
  • Pray for husbands to bless their wives, and parents to bless the children in their charge.
  • Pray for those who are having a hard time integrating into the church family (making new connections).
  • Pray for widows and widowers in our church.
  • Pray for salvation for our parents, our siblings, our children, and our grandchildren.
  • Pray for us to live lives of both justice and mercy.
  • Pray for our younger members to regularly reach out to our older members to check on them.
  • Pray for those with prolonged chronic sickness.
  • Pray for those who are fainthearted and discouraged.
  • Pray for politicians and civil servants.
  • Pray for families and single members to build good relationships.
  • Pray for God to convict and draw to Himself those who are lost in immorality.
  • Pray for God to knit us together as a church family, despite our differences in age, life experience, and preferences.
  • Pray for us to rejoice in God’s work in other churches, and to speak of His work among us only with the deepest humility.
  • Pray for persecuted brothers and sisters around the world.
  • Pray and thank God for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way (1 Tim 2:1-2).
  • Pray about a point from the morning sermon.
  • Pray for intentional and growing discipling efforts among members.
  • Pray for evangelistic efforts (gospel conversations) with family, friends, and/or neighbors.
  • Pray for freedom from bondage to sinful thoughts, words, and/or deeds (greed, pride, anger, lust, idolatry, lethargy).
  • Pray for more godly men to take personal responsibility for the shepherding care of fellow church members.
  • Pray for our retired members.
  • Pray for us to have boldness in gospel conversations and conversions as a result
  • Pray for our children and teens.

Church Membership among My Own Church

  • Pray that people would see relationships in the local church as part of what it means to be a Christian.
  • Pray that people would understand the need to make their relationships here transparent, to ask and answer careful, loving questions.
  • Pray that people would expect conversations with other church members often to be deep, and often theological in nature.
  • Pray that people would think it important to encourage each other with Scripture.
  • Pray that people would see part of being a Christian as being a provider, and not a consumer.
  • Pray that people don’t see service in the local church as being primarily about meeting their own felt needs by utilizing their giftedness but about bringing God glory.
  • Pray that people would not see it as unusual when their lives become increasingly centered around the local church.
  • Pray that people would see it as unusual when a member’s life seems to keep church on the periphery.
  • Pray that people would see hospitality as an important part of being a Christian.
  • Pray that church members would be humble and quick to rejoice when we talk about other churches and their members.

Discipling among My Own Church

  • Pray that our congregation would care well for our youth, particularly, our teens, working to build discipling relationships with teenagers and coming alongside parents in the building up of their sons’ and daughters’ faith.  
  • Pray that our teenagers would be open to, and even seek out, discipling relationships with young adults in the church.  
  • Pray that parents of teenagers in the church would wisely and purposefully encourage and choose discipling relationships for their sons and daughters with members of our church.  
  • Pray that our church would be faithful in its members’ purposeful investment in the lives of teenagers inside the church.   
  • Pray that many of our members would make the discipleship of teenagers in our church one of their primary ministries

Financial Faithfulness among My Own Church

  • Pray that more of our members would give, and more would be able to give more.
  • Pray that we would be overwhelmed by how much Christ has given us.
  • Pray that we would give cheerfully, not out of guilt or obligation.
  • Pray that we would be wise in how much we decide to give.
  • Pray that we would give regularly, deliberately and proportionately.
  • Pray that we would gladly part with what our world values in order to take hold of what God values.
  • Pray that our church would be wise in how it stewards our gifts.
  • Pray that our giving would show God to be good, delightful, and generous.
  • Pray that God would bring to fruit the hopes that we have for every line in our church’s current budget.

Marc Minter is the senior pastor of First Baptist Church of Diana, TX. He and his wife, Cassie, have two sons, Micah and Malachi.

Connect with Marc on Twitter or Facebook.

Must a Church Assemble?

What is a church?

This question is usually reserved for punctilious theologians or analytical pastors. Many Christians simply take it for granted that they know what a church is, often having their own local church in mind, with all its present traditions and cultural peculiarities. But this kind of thinking often creates a definition of the church that is almost entirely bound to a particular society and a limited historical moment.

I am asking a question about the essence – not merely function – of what a church is. I am asking about the essential elements of a local church, that stuff that’s always included in the ingredients, no matter the date or geography.

I believe a church is a local congregation of baptized Christians who are associated with one another by their mutual agreement to enjoy and follow Christ together.

So, yes, a church must assemble.

Some of the content in my statement above is specific to my own ecclesiology (doctrine of the church) and not essential to a universal definition of the church. What I think is essential to a universal definition of the church are the aspects of locality and congregating – a church must assemble. 

In what follows, I want to explain the necessity of physically gathering as a church by describing the meaning of a couple of important words – local congregation.

First, geographically local.

A church is a congregation of local Christians, those geographically nearby one another. Local means narrow, confined, or limited to a particular area. In order for a local church to be distinct from the universal church, it must necessarily be confined to a specific space and time. You cannot have a local church simultaneously placed in Singapore and in Seattle any more than you can have a local church simultaneously meeting on Sunday April 12, 2020 and on Sunday October 22, 1578.

Such an idea would not have been necessary to explain before the modern-day notion of a virtual presence. Some readers will immediately dismiss me as an old fuddy-duddy when I say that virtual reality simply is not reality, but there is a slew of experiences you simply cannot have virtually. You cannot virtually consummate a marriage, sustain a concussion, run a marathon, watch the sunrise, give birth to a baby, and the list goes on. 

One essential part of a local church is its geographical locality – the congregation of Christians must actually be present (really, not virtually) to call it a church in any meaningful sense.

Second, a congregation.

A church is a congregation or assembly of local Christians. It is common to use the term “church” in reference to a building or even to an institution (the Presbyterian Church), but the New Testament never uses the word “church” in such a way. The Bible clearly understands the word “church” to refer most often to a specific gathering or assembly of Christians in a particular locality (the local or visible church; see 1 Corinthians 11:18 or 2 Corinthians 11:8) and occasionally to all Christians everywhere and from all time (the universal or invisible church; see 1 Corinthians 15:9-10). 

Once again, Christians physically gathered together simultaneously in one specific location is part of the essence of what a church is.

The necessity of physically gathering is not only essential to what a church is, it’s also the basis upon which the whole life and function of the local church is built. Furthermore, to disembody the local church is to depart from the historical Christian understanding of unity between the spirit and the body, the ethereal and the physical.

A church is, by definition and by necessity, a local (physically present) congregation (gathering of Christians).

Therefore, a church must assemble. A church that doesn’t assemble is no church at all.

Third, and finally, some begging questions.

Are you saying that a church is only a church when it gathers on a Sunday? 

No, I’m not saying that. A church gathers regularly, and afterward the members disperse. Between their gatherings, members are scattered about as individuals and small groups. But these are members of the church and not the church itself. The church is what we see when the members gather.

Are you saying that a church is only a church if all the members are present?

No, I’m not saying that. It is rare for every member of a church to be present on any given Sunday, even among healthy churches that take membership seriously. Some members are going to be sick, some on vacation, some will be visiting family or friends in another part of the world, and some are homebound until death or Christ’s return. And yet, the church that intends to regularly gather the whole of her members is a church, despite the fact that some of her members are not present. 

Are you saying that church members can’t do meaningful Christian stuff anywhere besides the church house?

No, I’m not saying that. Christians can and should give time and effort to all kinds of meaningful Christian activities everyday of their lives. Christians should devote time to spiritual disciplines (Bible reading, prayer, meditation upon Scripture, confessing sin, etc.). Christians should show hospitality, both to their fellow church members and to non-Christian neighbors. Christians should intentionally disciple other Christians, helping one another follow Jesus together. Christians can and should do all sorts of good Christian activities, but we mustn’t call any of this “church,” because that’s not what this stuff is.

Are you saying that extenuating circumstances (like a worldwide pandemic) should not keep a church from physically meeting together?

No, I’m not saying that. As a matter of fact, as I type these words, I am experiencing the sorrow of having to cancel the last two Sunday morning gatherings of the church I pastor. It has been painful not to meet together, and we are not planning to meet together again on this coming Sunday morning. But we believe not meeting together for a time is one way we can express love and care for one another and for others in our community.

In conclusion…

I am grateful for all the good Christians have done and are doing in the name of Christ in the world. I believe many Christians are providing a compelling witness to the world about what it means to love Christ and to love others. May many more Christians live productive and Christ-glorifying lives.

My aim with this brief article is to touch on one aspect of ecclesiology (the doctrine of the church), which seems to be almost entirely unknown to many in American Evangelicalism. Christians can and should do all manner of good things in the world, in whatever circumstances we find ourselves. But let’s be mindful of what we label “church.”

It may be that the temporary absence of the gathered church will stir our affections for what we are truly missing.

Marc Minter is the senior pastor of First Baptist Church of Diana, TX. He and his wife, Cassie, have two sons, Micah and Malachi.

Connect with Marc on Twitter or Facebook.

FBCD Family Worship Guide 03/29/2020

FBC Diana members,

I want to encourage you to take time for Bible reading and study, prayer, and singing again this Sunday. Family and/or personal time devoted to such things is critical to our growth as Christians. You may use any structure that seems appropriate for you and/or your family, but I recommend following the outline below.

Scripture Reading

Read Psalm 32 aloud.

Prayer

Thanks/Praise. What do you see in Psalm 32 as reasons to praise God? What specifically about God’s character or nature is praiseworthy? How might you praise God for what He has recently done in your life or for how He has shown you grace and care.

Confession. Think of ways you and others might have sinned this previous week. Don’t accuse others in your prayer, but do try to confess specific ways sin has recently been expressed (in your home and family life, on the job, in your neighborhood, and in your community).  

Supplication. Ask for God’s help in various ways. Here are some topics you might consider praying about:

  1. Pray for wisdom and courage for your pastor and others who are trying to lead and shepherd their church members well without gathering on these Sundays.
  2. Pray for persecuted Christians around the world who constantly face various challenges to their weekly gathering (i.e. not just during a pandemic).
  3. Pray that God would draw many sinners to Himself while people in our culture are generally more mindful of their mortality.
  4. Pray for our governmental leaders to wisely preserve and protect life.
  5. Pray that God would give efficiency and endurance to healthcare workers.
  6. Pray that God would help husbands and fathers to have a fresh resolve to regularly lead their wives and children in daily Bible reading and prayer.

Discussion Questions

You might spend some time simply talking through Psalm 32. And you might also use the following questions to help guide your discussion.

  1. What is the major theme or concept of this Psalm?
  2. How might you describe the words “transgression” and “iniquity”?
  3. What does it mean to have transgression forgiven or to have iniquity not counted against someone?
  4. In verses 3-4, to what “silence” referring? And why did “silence” make the psalmist feel so miserable?
  5. According to verse 5, when did relief from misery come to the psalmist? And what brought about that relief?
  6. Does confessing your sin to God and others bring relief? Explain
  7. If confessing our sin does bring relief, then why do you think we often avoid or resist confessing our sin?
  8. What do you think the psalmist is talking about in verse 6, when he says, “at a time when you may be found”?
  9. Verses 8-9 seem to be words spoken from God to the psalmist, rather than from the psalmist to God, like the rest of psalm 32. If so, what do you think God is instructing in verse 9 by saying, “Be not like a horse or a mule, without understanding, which must be curbed with bit and bridle…”?
  10. What are some ways you can learn well from God’s instruction and cultivate self-control in your own life?
  11. Verses 10-11 seem to lump together “the one who trusts in the LORD” and the “righteous” and those “upright in heart.” Why do you think these are contrasted with “the wicked” of verse 10?
  12. How does the gospel of Jesus Christ help us to enjoy the “steadfast love” of God and “be glad in the LORD” even though we are wicked sinners?
  13. How does the ongoing presence of God in the lives of believers (i.e. Christians) help them to live righteously and with upright hearts?

Songs to Sing

You might sing some familiar songs you like, and/or you might also sing the songs presented on the following pages.

Behold Our God

Come, Behold the Wondrous Mystery

He Will Hold Me Fast

Scripture Reading

Read Psalm 33 aloud.

Prayer

Thanks/Praise. Offer thanks and praise to God for specific things that come to your mind today… maybe from recent personal experience or maybe from something in the Scripture or the songs or your discussion with others today.

Marc Minter is the senior pastor of First Baptist Church of Diana, TX. He and his wife, Cassie, have two sons, Micah and Malachi.

Connect with Marc on Twitter or Facebook.

FBCD Family Worship Guide 03/22/2020

FBC Diana members,

I want to encourage you to take time for Bible reading and study, prayer, and singing again this Sunday. Family and/or personal time devoted to such things is critical to our growth as Christians. You may use any structure that seems appropriate for you and/or your family, but I recommend following the outline below.

Scripture Reading

Read Psalm 90 aloud.

Prayer

Confession. Think of ways you and others might have sinned this previous week. Don’t accuse others in your prayer but do try to confess specific ways sin has been expressed in your home and family life.  

Supplication. Ask for God’s help in various ways. Here are some topics you might consider praying about:

  1. Pray for those most at risk and likely most fearful during the COVID-19 pandemic.
  2. Pray for those in our community who are feeling lonely or depressed.
  3. Pray for church members who may be facing hard financial stress.
  4. Pray that church members will set good priorities and use their time well.
  5. Pray for lost/unsaved friends and family members.
  6. Pray for church members to be gracious with others as we all express various convictions about what to do with our time and how to respond amid the pandemic.
  7. Pray that God will graciously provide for our financial obligations and that we will be able to maintain our church budget during this time.

Discussion Questions

You might spend some time simply talking through Psalm 90. And you might also use the following questions to help guide your discussion.

  1. What is the major theme or concept of this Psalm?
  2. What do we learn about God from the opening verses?
  3. How might we benefit from meditating on the reality that the LORD is God from “everlasting to everlasting”?
  4. How do verses 3-6 teach us to think about the span of our earthly lives?
  5. Does your normal perspective of life differ from these verses? Explain.
  6. How do verses 7-11 call our attention toward that great day when all people will stand before the LORD?
  7. What do you think it means that “our iniquities” and “secret sins” are set “in the light” of God’s presence?
  8. Why do you think the psalmist asks the question he does in verse 11? What do you think he is getting at?
  9. What are the two prayer requests in verses 12 and 13?
  10. What does it mean to “number our days”? And how would doing that give us “a heart of wisdom”?
  11. What is the psalmist asking in verse 13: “Return, O LORD! How long?”?
  12. What requests do you see in verses 14-17?
  13. What is the ultimate biblical expression of God’s favor?
  14. What is the Christian hope expressed in verse 17?

Songs to Sing

You might sing some familiar songs you like, and/or you might also sing the songs below. The lyrics and audio are linked for your convenience.

Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing

O God, Our Help in Ages Past

How Firm a Foundation

The Sands of Time Are Sinking

Scripture Reading

Read Psalm 91 aloud.

Prayer

Thanks and praise. Offer thanks and praise to God for specific things that come to your mind today… maybe from recent personal experience or maybe from something in the Scripture or songs or discussion today.

Marc Minter is the senior pastor of First Baptist Church of Diana, TX. He and his wife, Cassie, have two sons, Micah and Malachi.

Connect with Marc on Twitter or Facebook.