"...and I will dwell in the House of the LORD forever!"

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Snake Handling Christians?

For the last year, we have been dissecting and discussing the Gospel of Mark during our Sunday Morning Bible Classes at Riverside. This Sunday, we conclude our study with Mark 16: 9-20. It causes much debate and curiosity, to say the least. 

A couple of weeks ago, Mark Wolford, a Pentecostal Preacher in West Virginia, died after a rattlesnake bit him in an outside, traditional Pentecostal worship service. During the service, Wolford passed around the rattlesnake for everyone to hold, and read Mark 16: 17-18, “And these signs will accompany those who believe: In my name they will drive out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up snakes with their hands; and when they drink deadly poison, it will not hurt them at all; they will place their hands on sick people, and they will get well.” After he read the passage, he told the audience, “Anyone can do it who believes.” How strong was Wolford’s belief? When it was his turn to hold the snake, the snake bit him, and Wolford died eight hours later.

You can develop your own interpretation of this passage. I believe the ability to drink deadly poison, and pick up snakes without being hurt, was similar to the “miraculous” gifts listed in 1 Corinthians 13 such as speaking in tongues and prophecy. Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 13:8 that these “gifts” no longer exist, because “prophecies will cease” and “tongues will be stilled.” I also think we have to contextualize Jesus’ statement. In these verses, Jesus is speaking to the eleven remaining apostles. One could argue that only the apostles would have the ability to drink poison and avoid the dangers of snakes. You might disagree with me, and that’s fine; many do.

However, this we can know for sure—God gives us a brain, and He expects us to use it. What makes this even more tragic is that Wolford’s father died the same way years ago at the age of thirty-nine. He also believed that if he had faith, snakes couldn’t touch him. A snake took his life.

We can’t test God just to confirm our ambiguity. Didn’t Jesus say, “Do not put the Lord your God to the test”? (Matthew 4:7)

My sympathy goes out to the Wolford family; but I also pray for all Bible students, including myself, that we may humbly, and logically, seek after the true interpretation of God’s word.

Monday, June 11, 2012

A Friendly Church?

I recently read an article that evaluated the “friendliness” of a church. I thought some of these “ways” were too good not to share. Granted, they are fictitious, and extremely “unfriendly”, but they make a very powerful point.

When the sign out front says, “For Members Only”.

When the parking lot signs say, “Unauthorized Vehicles Will be Towed at Owner’s Expense”.

When the church lobby signs say, “No Loitering”.

When in worship you say “Praise the Lord”, and the guy in front of you says, “We Don’t Do That Here”.

When at fellowship, coffee is $1.50 a cup and donuts are a $1.00 a piece with a limit of two.

When the church’s motto is “We’re Getting Smaller but Purer”.

Are we concerned about making guests feel welcome? Are we serious about true, heartfelt worship? Do we long for fellowship with our brothers and sisters? Are we devoted to growing the Kingdom within our own community? Hopefully, the answer “Absolutely” immediately comes to your mind, but here’s the reality—the friendliness of a church is defined by the friendliness of its members.

How friendly are you?