Your Questions Answered (Article + Podcast)

Initially, I started this blog specifically to answer questions I repeatedly received from people in my church and community. This format was just an easy way for me to answer a lot of people at the same time. I know, I know, that’s a very introverted thing to do. Also, it probably demonstrates my conversational laziness as well. I knew, too, that the questions being asked were pretty common questions in other church settings as well, which turned out to be truer than I realized at the time.

Often people will write with a question and begin by apologizing for being a bother. I always try to respond by assuring them that there is no such thing as a stupid question. And, if pastors can’t or won’t answer the difficult questions, they aren’t fulfilling their God-given leadership role (2 Timothy 4:2). There is a sentiment floating around asserting that we shouldn’t respond to questions asked in the spirit of entrapment. That is to say, a question designed to back someone into a corner and elicit a response that can be misconstrued or used against the answerer. I sympathize to a certain degree with that mindset. However, it’s worth noting that Jesus still responded to the Pharisees when they poised their poisonous questions.

Regardless, if we’re not careful, we will fall into the trap of viewing every questioner as bad intentioned when they are just uninformed or misinformed. Even the first apostolic sermon on salvation was preached in response to a question (Acts 2:37-38). Many years ago, I was influenced by the book by Conrad Gempf called Jesus Asked. That little book opened my eyes to something that should have been obvious to me as a prolific reader of the Gospels. Jesus avidly employed the Socratic method of answering questions with a question. Jesus rebuked with questions (Luke 8:25, Mark 8:21), provoked deeper thought with questions (Mark 11:28, Mark 12:16), and asked rhetorical questions (Matthew 21:31, Mark 8:19). It’s nearly impossible to find a passage where Jesus interacted with people that He did not ask a question or a series of questions. That illumination forever impacted my thinking on preaching, teaching, and engaging in thought with others.

I believe Jesus utilized questions for several reasons: One, it forced the other person to think and engage. Two, it introduced new lines of thought and brought clarity to issues. Three, it was more approachable than domineering. Four, it put the questioner on the defensive rather than the offensive. Five, it took Him out of the faulty framework of preconceived ideas contained within the original question. Six, it invited people to find Truth in answering His question rather than simply believing a declaration. There is a time for declaration, and Jesus made plenty of bold declarations (John 14:6, John 10:7). Still, there is also a time to ask questions and invite others to find the answers with us, which has always been the philosophy of Apostolic Voice.

That was a ridiculously long way of saying keep the questions coming. Sometimes your questions send me on a journey of discovery. Some questions are humbling because they show me how little I know about the Bible. In a recent podcast (click here to listen), I thoroughly enjoyed tackling some great questions from you folks. I’m posting that Q&A in written form for those who prefer reading over listening. Or for those who might want to easily reference back to this article in the future. No names are mentioned because I wouldn’t want to risk embarrassing anyone.

Q1: How should we feel about going to church when a threat or danger is at hand?

Before jumping into a biblical discussion of this topic, allow me to begin by pointing out the obvious: There is always a certain level of danger when we physically gather for worship. I know this question is likely referring to COVID-19. I think it helps if we put a few things into perspective. Here’s some simple math, 38,000 people tragically die in car accidents each year in the United States. Meaning, just driving to church has some inherent risks. Sadly, 28,000 people die of the common flu each year in the United States. Also, I think we have to weigh the physical and spiritual risks of not attending church.

Some Common Sense Observations

I’m not qualified enough to emphatically argue the suicidal impact of the shutdowns, but I have the common sense to know it’s been substantial. People have been alienated from friends, sequestered away from family, blocked from healthy social interaction, kept from education, hindered from church attendance (and church socialization). We’ve all been fed a steady diet of fear, politicized, marginalized, and handcuffed by despair with seemingly no end in sight. You can’t tell me all that hasn’t harmed people in ways we can’t even fathom right now. Books and studies will look back over these things and tell countless stories of tragedy. My heart breaks for children who endured 2020-2021 (and maybe 2022) during their most formative years. They will deal with neuroses and developmental disorders that go far beyond the ordinary. On the other end of the spectrum, elders who are certainly the most vulnerable to COVID-19 among us have suffered tremendous emotional pain and loneliness in their twilight years as we have tried our best to protect them. It’s truly sad.

The Long-Term Fallout of Fear

I’ve written about spiritual problems and solutions related to COVID-19 in the past (A Christian Manuel For Navigating Uncertain Times, Unmasked – Cogent Covid Thoughts). However, we are only just now seeing the overwhelming negative spiritual impacts of our churches being severely impaired and restricted for over a year and a half. An alarming 7% of past churchgoers claim they will not be resuming in-person services again even once the pandemic is over.[iii] That stat is probably higher because many who will not return to church aren’t willing to talk about it with pollsters. And the falling church attendance is minor compared to the spiritual devastation many people have experienced due to increased carnality and lack of accountability. Countless churches are reeling from that reality. Not to mention how the media has demonized worship or the social stigma of churches being labeled super-spreaders.

What Does the Bible Say?

Before jumping straight to “forsake not the assembling of ourselves together” (Hebrews 10:25), let’s go a few verses back and examine the context of that often-quoted verse. Remember, Paul (the writer of Hebrews, in my opinion) was no stranger to danger. He was beaten, stoned to death, imprisoned, and shipwrecked (2 Corinthians 11:21-33). The First Church met under threat of death, persecution, imprisonment, and more. So, Paul did not write from the Western standpoint of one who has never genuinely suffered for the Gospel or to gather. Hebrews 10:22-23 are admonishments to remain pure (holy), faithful, hopeful, unwavering, and uncompromising. Hebrews 10:24 is a call to think carefully about how we can encourage one another to do all of the above, love our fellow Christians, and do good deeds. All of that was Paul’s way of leading up to the importance of Hebrews 10:25, which is a familiar verse to most churchgoers.

So, when Paul said, “Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the Day approaching (Hebrews 10:25).” He emphasized the universal human need for the people of God to gather regularly if they are to remain strong in faith, love, and works. Paul (under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit) had already considered the intrinsic dangers of gathering in that apostolic command. Yet, he gave no caveats or wiggle room for the Church to use as convenient excuses. In fact, he doubles down by denouncing those who had already forsaken assembly and encouraging the future church to gather more often as the rapture draws closer.

To drive the point home, Paul continues in Hebrews 10:26-29 with a grave warning about sinful Christians and backsliding. Christians who willfully sin after receiving the knowledge of Truth have no further sacrifice for their atonement (Hebrews 10:26). They can live with terrifying anticipation of the fiery judgment of God because they become adversaries of God even while calling themselves believers (Hebrews 10:27). If people were put to death for breaking the law of Moses, shouldn’t we expect far more significant punishment for disrespecting the blood of Jesus, trampling the son of God, and insulted God’s grace (Hebrews 10:28-29)? These four verses aren’t randomly placed after Paul’s apostolic command to gather. They are a continuation of that discussion. Because gathering together is one of the most important and effective resources God has given to keep us from sin and backsliding.

Gathering together is one of the most important and effective resources God has given to keep us from sin and backsliding.

Full Transparency

To be fully transparent, I do believe in being careful and using wisdom. I’ve lost friends and loved ones during this pandemic. My church has experienced heartbreaking COVID-19 related deaths. My father almost died when he contracted COVID-19, and it turned into COVID-pneumonia. My church has socially distanced, rearranged seating, canceled Sunday School for over a year (to protect the elderly teachers), worn masks, sanitized the building, provided sanitizer to saints, launched a live stream, and canceled many services to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 during peak outbreaks. We’ve made hard calls and tried to use as much wisdom as humanly possible. But we also realize that fear cannot become hysteria, and our church is an essential service. Indefinite shutdowns are not an option, and any shutdown is the last resort.

Practical Considerations

There might be times when you should miss a church service. It should be a tough call on your part. Once missing church becomes easy, you’re in a downward spiral. If you have a fever or feel like you’re contagious to others, you should feel excused to stay home. Do your best to stay connected to that service remotely, either through technology or word of mouth. And remain accountable to your pastor or other saints (depending on your church’s protocol). Refuse to be that person who misses church and expects everyone else to call you. If you are a grown adult, you should keep yourself accountable to peers and leadership. If you are especially vulnerable (age, preexisting conditions, compromised immune system) and your church hasn’t canceled services, consult your leadership about it. Take extra precautions when you attend, wear a mask, keep a distance from others (wave hands, don’t shake hands), and ask to be temporarily excused from church responsibilities that might cause too much direct contact with people. Trust that your pastor is making godly decisions to keep you physically and spiritually safe.

There might be times when you should miss a church service. It should be a tough call on your part. Once missing church becomes easy, you’re in a downward spiral.

Refuse to be that person who misses church and expects everyone else to call you. If you are a grown adult, you should keep yourself accountable to peers and leadership.

If you have enough faith to go to the grocery store, you have enough faith to go to church. If you have enough faith to go to work, you have enough faith to go to church. If you feel comfortable being around people outside of the church, you should go to church. It really is that simple. The Church is an essential service for your soul. And if you are responsible for children, you should be factoring their spiritual well-being into your decision-making process too. Wisdom and caution are good things, but fear and hysteria are contrary to the Christian life.

If you have enough faith to go to the grocery store, you have enough faith to go to church. If you have enough faith to go to work, you have enough faith to go to church.

Wisdom and caution are good things, but fear and hysteria are contrary to the Christian life.

Power, Love & Sound Mind

In 2 Timothy 1:2-7, Paul charged Timothy to have peace (inner calm and spiritual well-being). Then, Paul praised the faithfulness of his godly mother and grandmother (2 Timothy 1:5). He reminded Timothy to keep the gift of God stirred up inside of him, which he had already received by the laying on of hands (2 Timothy 1:6). Then, Paul launched into a verse that we often quote, and you’ll quickly recognize it even though I’m citing the Amplified version: For God did not give us a spirit of timidity or cowardice or fear, but [He has given us a spirit] of power and of love and of sound judgment and personal discipline [abilities that result in a calm, well-balanced mind and self-control] (2 Timothy 1:7). Notice the entire context of Christian power, love, and soundness of mind involve things connected to gathering as the body of Christ. If we want power, love, and stability of mind, we must not forsake assembling together.

The entire context of Christian power, love, and soundness of mind involve things connected to gathering as the body of Christ. If we want power, love, and stability of mind, we must not forsake assembling together.

Q2: What age is appropriate for an apostolic to start dating?

My daughter Julia Lynn is fourteen, and she is lovely, talented, brilliant, sweet, introverted, kind, and godly. Needless to say, I have strong opinions and emotions related to this topic (you’ve been warned). Also, I’ve written an in-depth article on apostolic dating called 6 Dating Standards for Apostolic Singles. So, I’ll resist the temptation to repeat all of that here. If dating questions are relevant to you or someone you love, I recommend thoroughly reading that article. However, I did not specifically address this question in 6 Dating Standards for Apostolic Singles, probably because I had older singles in mind at the time. Still, this is a very relevant and essential question to answer. It’s a question that should be taken seriously and not frivolously.

Real Life Dating Principles

Let me lay some framework around my answer. The Bible clearly states that we should abstain from sex outside the marriage covenant (Hebrews 13:4). I also know that human nature makes that incredibly difficult, especially in our current culture, unless we have careful guard rails in place (1 Corinthians 7:2). Keeping that in mind, I do not support long engagements or dating for years on end. Also, I do not believe an apostolic should marry outside the faith. And I don’t endorse casual dating. I think all dating should be to find a godly person, marry that person, and serve the Lord together. Meaning, the moment you realize someone isn’t marriage material, that relationship should end. Never date just to cure loneliness, fit in, kill time, fulfill lustful desires, or any other reason outside of sincerely looking for a person to love for a lifetime in holy matrimony.

All dating should be to find a godly person, marry that person, and serve the Lord together. Meaning, the moment you realize someone isn’t marriage material, that relationship should end.

Never date just to cure loneliness, fit in, kill time, fulfill lustful desires, or any other reason outside of sincerely looking for a person to love for a lifetime in holy matrimony.

The Answer… Kinda

Because of everything stated above, I feel that it is unwise to date before seventeen. For most people, even seventeen is probably far too young to begin dating. Why? Because you shouldn’t date unless you are mature enough to realistically get married within a year or year and a half (at the latest) of dating an individual. Most people are simply not spiritually or emotionally mature enough to get married by eighteen or nineteen. You would be an extremely rare exception to the rule if you are that person. Furthermore, you can’t be the one to decide if you are mature enough to be dating. You must allow elders, parents, church leaders, and godly friends to make that assessment for you (and with you).

A Few Quick Guard Rails

Before you reach an age where you could realistically think about getting married, all your relationships should be kept on the friendship level, at arm’s length, and never exclusive. You certainly shouldn’t be spending time alone with friends of the opposite sex or engaging in long intimate conversations via phone, text, or social media. That’s basically the definition of dating, whether you call it dating or not. This answer is probably a little frustrating, but I don’t think there is a one size fits all age where everyone should start dating. Seventeen at the absolute earliest and probably early twenties is a good average timeframe to begin dating safely. But even then, I default back to an earlier dating guard rail, never date just to date or to cure loneliness. Only date an individual if you see real marriage potential in that person and have the approval of godly mentors around you. Never date secretly or without consulting godly elder mentors (not just your best friends and peers).

Love God First & Foremost

Again, if you’re interested in a more in-depth conversation about dating, follow this link (6 Dating Standards for Apostolic Singles). Don’t be that flaky, wishy-washy, needy person who can’t live without a dating relationship. Learn to love yourself and be happy with who you are before you start the long, complex process of loving someone else. Keep God first, and He will give you the desires of your heart (Psalm 37:4).

5 Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. 6 In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.
Proverbs 3:5-6

Q3: I’m sitting with a dying friend suffering with stage 4 lung cancer. I would like topics on learning to trust Jesus and faith.

First, let me say to you, and everyone suffering from similar pain, that I’m so sorry for your situation. I know the heartbreak and helpless feelings are difficult to endure. And we can be forgiven for wondering how and why awful things like this happen. The feelings of our infirmities touch God, and He draws close to those with broken hearts (Hebrews 4:15, Psalm 34:18). Sometimes the hurt numbs us to the presence of the Lord. Allow the Lord to draw close to you and give you the peace that only He can provide.

The feelings of our infirmities touch God, and He draws close to those with broken hearts (Hebrews 4:15, Psalm 34:18).

Encouragement from Mother

My mother has written and spoken about this subject beautifully from her suffering and fiery trials. I encourage you to read her article called Praising the Lord in All Things and listen to her talk about it in this conversation called Talking with Mom (Rebecca French) About Pain, Sickness, Parenting, Faith, Ministry, Pastor’s Wives, and People with Special Needs. She has a unique perspective and special anointing that ministers to the hurting. I know her words will help you and anyone suffering or watching helplessly while a loved one suffers. Know that you’re not alone, and ultimately peace always comes while we wait on the Lord.

Four Simple Strategies for the Brokenhearted

I could write a lengthy essay about how the rain falls on the just and the unjust. Or I could wax eloquent about how sin ushered pain and suffering into the human condition. And I could write philosophically about how God is good even when we don’t understand His plan. But I know none of those things will help you right now. But I do know a few simple things that have helped me through similar situations.

One, turn your pain into prayer. Tell God every hurt, disappointment, frustration, sadness, and ask Him all the difficult questions. He hears, cares, and answers when you call out to Him in desperation. When the pain is deep, don’t turn to anything other than God for relief. Two, keep connected to prayerful friends who will encourage you and pray for you. Our flesh wants to withdraw when hurting but resist that urge and stay (or get) closely connected to godly people. Three, find an encouraging Bible verse (if you don’t already have a favorite one) and quote it to yourself all the time. Write it down and read it. Write it over and over again. Put it on sticky notes all-around your house and car. Make it your screen saver on your phone. Let it penetrate past your mind and settle down in your soul. Four, don’t miss church. Again, it’s tempting to pull away when we’re hurting, but skipping church is like unplugging ourselves from the power source we desperately need. Bring your pain to the altar and anoint Jesus’ feet with your tears.

Turn your pain into prayer. Tell God every hurt, disappointment, frustration, sadness, and ask Him all the difficult questions. He hears, cares, and answers when you call out to Him in desperation.

Skipping church is like unplugging ourselves from the power source we desperately need. Bring your pain to the altar and anoint Jesus’ feet with your tears.

Q4: How many books will be opened on Judgment day? I only remember the Lambs Book of life. But as I have been reading, it says books. What are the books that will be opened?

Two passages of Scripture mention a plurality of books that will be opened on the Day of Judgment. The prophet Daniel described an apocalyptic vision (waking thoughts) and wrote, “the judgment was set, and the books were opened (Daniel 7:10)”. He was alluding to a courtroom scene where everything was rightfully placed, the court was called to attention, and the books were opened. In this particular context, the books shown are books of judgment. The book of Revelation seems to be referencing the same future apocalyptic scene where there will be a great white throne of judgment (Revelation 20:11-15). If these two passages are describing the same future event, John the Revelator (the writer of Revelation) received more details in his vision:

12 And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works. 13 And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works. 14 And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. 15 And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire (Revelation 20:12-15).

The Book of Life & Books of Judgment

There are at least three books described in this vision. The names of all believers are listed in the book of life (Revelation 20:12). The “earth dwellers” names are not in the book of life (Revelation 13:8; 17:8). The first set of books mentioned appear to be the same books Daniel saw in his vision (Daniel 7:10). But John saw an additional book of life, and God revealed that anyone whose name is not in that book would be cast into the lake of fire (Revelation 20:15). That will be the final eternal sentencing by God upon each individual human.

According to What They Had Done

The lives of all who did not obey the Gospel and live according to God’s eternal Word will be completely exposed before God. Every selfish and defiant act and ungodly thought will be called into account. Even the secret sins, which it seemed no one knew about, will be brought to light and judged (Luke 8:17, Romans 2:16). All will be judged individually for their works according to God’s standards and principles, with consideration for motives and opportunities (Luke 12:47–48), which indicates differences in the sentencing and degree of punishment but not in the duration. The torment of the lake of fire is unquenchable. It will last forever (for a detailed examination of what the Bible teaches about Hell, consider reading What About Hell? – Everything You Need to Know).

It appears to me that the names written in the book of life will not be judged by what they had done. Instead, they will be judged by what Jesus had done for them. However, the names listed in the judgment books (we have no idea how many books there will be) will be adjudicated based on their works. And because all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, that will be an unwinnable case for them (Romans 3:23). Furthermore, it appears that hell will bring forth the dead who are unsaved before the final judgment (Revelation 20:13). Meaning, the Day of Judgment will be more of a formality than an actual legal proceeding. The unsaved will have already tasted Hell, and the saved will have already experienced a sample of Heaven’s splendor.

The names written in the book of life will not be judged by what they had done. Instead, they will be judged by what Jesus had done for them.

A Final Possibility

Some scholars speculate that one of the judgment books mentioned might be the Bible itself. In my opinion, it would make sense for one book to be a record of every individual’s earthly conduct contrasted to God’s divine law recorded in Scripture. If God judges us according to our deeds, the standard of judgment will also be present, which is the Word of God. I have no problem accepting that as a possibility. All speculation aside, I just know my name needs to be in the book of life.

Q5: In Genesis 6:1-4, are the “sons of God” fallen angels, and did they marry and reproduce with the women of the earth? If not, what is the explanation of those chapters?

Genesis 6:1-4 is one of the most highly debated topics among saints and theologians alike. I’ll give my humble opinion on the subject as best I can. There are two (some would argue four) possible answers to your question. First (and most plausibly), the “sons of God” mentioned in Genesis 6:1-4 refer to the godly “sons of Seth” marrying the heathen daughters of Cain. God’s covenant people are often referred to in the Bible as “God’s sons” (Exodus 4:22, Deuteronomy 14:1, Romans 8:14). This view would explain why God eventually forbade the Israelites from marrying Canaanite women (Exodus 34:16, Deuteronomy 7:3).

Most plausibly, the “sons of God” mentioned in Genesis 6:1-4 refer to the godly “sons of Seth” marrying the heathen daughters of Cain.

Demonic Offspring

However, it is a widespread opinion that the “sons of God” mentioned in Genesis were fallen angels marrying mortal women and producing giants. Although, you should know the word Nephilim or giants could mean giants in the sense of their fame, strength, or renown and does not necessarily refer to actual giants in the sense of height. There is some credence given to this idea in Peter’s epistles and the epistle of Jude (Jude 6, 2 Peter 2:4). I don’t believe this view to be accurate. Proponents of this view still leave us with more questions than answers.

Final Possibility

It would be far more plausible, in my opinion, to say demon-possessed men married and produced wicked offspring rather than believing literal angelic (spiritual beings) married and had half-human half-demon offspring. As best we can tell from Scripture, actual angels (or demons) are incapable of doing such a thing. Otherwise, Satan and all the fallen angels would most certainly be doing just that regularly trying to wreak havoc in this world. They do not, and that alone is enough to convince me that such a thing is impossible.



Unmasked (Cogent COVID Thoughts)

COVID has revealed tons of things, both good and bad, that need to be considered as we move into the future. The following cogent COVID thoughts have been swirling around in my brain for several months. I’m making a conscious effort to only mention things that will be relevant even after the virus itself is gone.

Unmasked: Our Religious Freedoms Are in Jeopardy

2019 seems like the distant past, but somehow, I can vaguely recall certain things that happened way back in the good old pre-COVID days. A particular memory keeps pushing its way to the forefront of my brain; it’s a conversation I overheard between two friends. Friend number one commented about the world’s increasing hostility towards the Church and his concerns about maintaining our freedoms. Friend number two considered this to be the silliest viewpoint a modern Christian could hold. He accused friend number one of nursing a persecution complex. I agreed with friend number one. There was an awkward silence and we all just agreed to disagree.

Today we have churches fighting their state government and the United States government for the right to simply have church. Startling numbers of churches are permanently closing their doors. And, pastors have been fined, harassed, and incarcerated for failing to comply with shutdown mandates. We are seeing the single greatest onslaught against religious freedoms in the history of the United States. COVID unmasked the animosity towards Christianity walking the halls of power at the state and federal levels. The waters are being tested and a stronger wave of discriminatory action towards Christianity is just around the corner.

This unmasking is probably for the best. Maybe it will shake some of us out of our naiveite and call us back to effectual fervent prayer (James 5:16). But one thing is for sure, antichrist spirits are only one pandemic away from stripping us of our freedoms. And for the non-religious folks out there, my freedom to worship won’t be the only freedom taken. They’ll come for something you care about eventually. If you dance with the devil long enough you will get burned.

“…antichrist spirits are only one pandemic away from stripping us of our freedoms.”

I’m not trying to stoke fears or be negative. I believe this is a great opportunity for the Church to reach the world with the Gospel. Jesus said, “Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid (Matthew 5:14)”. We usually think of this as a challenge to let our light shine as bright as possible, and that’s fine. We say things like don’t hide your light. However, Jesus compared the Church to a city set on a hill that “cannot” be hidden. That word “cannot” is translated into English from two Greek words, ou and dynatai, which means …does not have the ability. We could accurately translate that verse to say, “You are the light of the world. A city placed by God on a hill that does not have the ability to be hidden”. The Church is purposefully designed and carefully crafted by God to be set apart (that’s what holiness means) and brightly shining into the darkness. The true Church can’t hide, blend in, be comfortable in, or conform itself to, the world. So, as the world gets scarier the light of the Church will draw hungry hearts to itself as never before.

The true Church can’t hide, blend in, be comfortable in, or conform itself to, the world.

Unmasked: Christian Hypocrisies

My dad (Dr. Talmadge French) made a comment last night during midweek Bible study that is startlingly true: Many people are more influenced by their TV than by their pastor. Taking that thought even further, I’ve noticed throughout this pandemic how quickly we all allowed government officials to have absolute authority over us. Officials told us to wear masks and we all went out and bought masks. They told us to close businesses and stay home and we did. They told us to stay away from people and we did. They told us not to touch people and we did what they told us to do. They told our kids to stay home from school and learn online and they did (my kids still do). They told sports to shut down and they did. It drastically impacted our dress codes, our vacations, our social lives, our finances, and our education.

Many people are more influenced by their TV than by their pastor.” -Dr. Talmadge French

Why did we fall in line so quickly? We fell in line (almost universally with a few exceptions) even when the “experts” disagreed. We fell in line even though the facts were (and are) difficult to decipher. We made great personal sacrifices. For some people, it will take them years to recover and some will never fully recover. I believe we did it because we perceived those sacrifices as being a greater good than the pain. We sensed the urgency and we pulled together. Perhaps some operated from raw fear, but even that fear wasn’t pure selfishness, it was born out of concern for others as well.

I’ve watched people faithfully wear masks and stay indoors for months who have never allowed their pastor to have any real influence in their lives. COVID unmasked a barren wasteland of hypocrisy in many professing Christians. They make all types of excuses for why they won’t listen to their pastor: He’s too intrusive, too cautious, too demanding, too blah blah blah. The reality is they are more than willing to comply when they think the stakes are high. They just don’t think biblical issues are that important. They don’t really consider sin as important or judgment as immanent. Furthermore, they do believe in authority they just don’t want godly authority.

Unmasked: A Realistic Path to a One-World Government

Prophecy pundits typically point to nuclear warfare or some type of World War III scenario as the catalyst which will bring the world under one global government (Revelation 13:1-18, Revelation 17:13, Daniel 2:44, Daniel 7:24, 1 Thessalonians 2:1-17). While possible, there wouldn’t be much left to govern after massive nuclear strikes around the world. However, this pandemic unmasked how easy it would be for a full-blown epidemic to usher in a one-world government. I can envision several epidemic scenarios where the people of the world would willingly give up their freedoms without a shot being fired or a bomb being dropped.

I can envision several epidemic scenarios where the people of the world would willingly give up their freedoms without a shot being fired or a bomb being dropped.

Think of the panic if people were dropping dead in the streets of an unknown and incurable virally transmitted disease. What if one government magically had the cure and would only give it to people who surrendered unconditionally to their authority? This virus could be manmade or not, it doesn’t matter because the opportunity for dominance could be leveraged either way. Even now it isn’t hard to imagine a world where individuals would not be allowed to buy or sell without having some kind of chip or government-issued ID proving they are virus-free (Revelation 13:17). COVID revealed a realistic path to the End Times that doesn’t sound like nonsensical conspiracy theories.

It isn’t hard to imagine a world where individuals would not be allowed to buy or sell without having some kind of chip or government-issued ID proving they are virus-free (Revelation 13:17).

COVID revealed a realistic path to the End Times that doesn’t sound like nonsensical conspiracy theories.

Unmasked: Disregard for Localized Pastoral Leadership

In many ways, the foundations of biblical Church government and the United States government are similar. And, that isn’t by accident, the founders modeled the Bible in numerous ways when crafting the Constitution. For example, individual states were originally intended to be autonomous yet governed and united by the Constitution. The federal government was limited and designed to have minimal interference in the affairs of local governments. Similarly, the Early Church was designed to be locally governed by pastors who were united by adherence to the Holy Word of God. Christ remained the head of the Church while bishops only intervened in local church matters when the Word was being disregarded. Biblically sound apostolic organizations follow this paradigm. Pastors are given leeway to govern their local flock as long as they remain doctrinally sound and morally pure. Most decisions are best made by local leadership because they are connected to the specific personalized needs of their congregations.  

So, COVID hit and local pastors were forced to make tough calls without any precedence to lean on. They were deluged with lots of convoluted “facts” being thrown at them from every direction. Some pastors closed down their gatherings and some remain closed. Some waited a little longer than others to close in-person gatherings. A very small number of pastors never closed at all. Some are fighting to reopen. Some did outdoor services, and zoom, and Facebook meetings, and anything else they could do to keep a sense of connectedness. In other words, local pastors did the best they could do for their flocks. They prayed, agonized, sought wise counsel, researched, and listened to the needs of the saints. The average pastor is working harder this year than in most previous years of ministry. They’ve diligently strived to do the right thing for their local assemblies and to please God.

The average pastor is working harder this year than in most previous years of ministry. They’ve diligently strived to do the right thing for their local assemblies and to please God.

Yet, regardless of what decisions local pastors made they were met with unrelenting condemnation at every turn. Facebook “pastors” went completely nuts commenting and criticizing from the comfort of their sideline seats. Pastors clashed with pastors over “right” pandemic protocols. Saints defended their pastor’s decisions by attacking other pastors’ decisions. Or worse, some saints threw their pastor under the bus and sided with a pastor who doesn’t even know their name. I expected worldly cultural commentators to aim their blistering attacks on church leaders, but I admit the infighting took me off guard.

The lack of civility, respect, charity, grace, and dignity in these public disagreements is deeply disturbing. But setting that aside, the complete disregard and disrespect towards localized church government was the real shocker unmasked by COVID. Doesn’t it make sense that local pastors would take different approaches based on the needs and facts on the ground in their community? Wouldn’t we expect different churches to adopt various approaches based on their surroundings? Why would our way be the only way? Looking back, I think every honest pastor wishes they had done at least one thing differently. Zero people had all the right answers in 2020.

It would be helpful moving forward to reestablish the authority of local church leadership in a global, information-saturated world. Anyone with the slightest understanding of ministry understands real-world decisions are complex and vary from place to place. Rarely do cookie-cutter policies work properly in every church. Regardless, lets at least try to recognize in extremely difficult times that no one wants what is best for a local church more than its local pastor. Let’s give them some grace and trust they are seeking God for the flock He entrusted to them.

No one wants what is best for a local church more than its local pastor.

Ep. 53 | Prayer, Revival & Spiritual Warfare with Joe Campetella (Christmas Edition of Gross-Good-Great with Talmadge) Apostolic Voice with Ryan French

International Evangelist and Pastor of Christian Life Center (www.clcflagler.com) in Palm Coast, Florida, Joe Campetella joins Ryan for a dimension shifting conversation about prayer, revival & spiritual warfare. This episode will help take your prayer life beyond checking your watch every five minutes to really entering the presence of God. Ryan and Joe define revival and give achievable steps to get to it. And Joe gives a perception-changing answer on how to best engage in spiritual warfare and walk-in Apostolic authority. The Holy Ghost literally moved during this discussion between friends. Finally, Ryan and Bubs taste and rate White Chedder Snowflake Cheetos and Ghirardelli White Chocolate Sugar Cookie Squares for a brand new Christmas edition of Gross-Good-Great. Program Note: Joe Campetalla and Ryan co-wrote the popular Apostolic Voice article titled Should Christians Dye Their Hair? which you can read here. Also, show notes and a related article are available here at http://www.ryanafrench.com. — Send in a voice message: https://anchor.fm/apostolicvoice/message Support this podcast: https://anchor.fm/apostolicvoice/support
  1. Ep. 53 | Prayer, Revival & Spiritual Warfare with Joe Campetella (Christmas Edition of Gross-Good-Great with Talmadge)
  2. Ep. 52 | Unusual Thanks, Completed (New Poem) & Gross-Good-Great (Special Thanksgiving Family Edition)
  3. Ep. 51 | The Beginning of the World (Creation vs. Evolution, Good vs. Evil, Light vs. Darkness, Oneness vs. Trinitarianism) with Steven Waldron
  4. Ep. 50 | That Will Preach! (Sermon Seeds, Study Habits, Preaching Helps, Outreach, Church Planting, and Revival Miracles) with Jeremy Mills
  5. Ep. 49 | The Artificial Face (Cosmetics, Make-Up, Body Modification & The Great Cover-Up) with Timothy Hadden

Kanye West Might Be Sincere (But Sincerity Alone Is Not Salvation)

If you’re a social media user it might feel like a non-stop Kanye West extravaganza has taken over your feed lately. The frenzy from all directions has been palpable. Many people in my inner circle didn’t even know who Kanye was until a few weeks ago. For me, his name was associated with lyrics and artists that I purposely avoided because of the vulgarity, sexuality, violence, and substance abuse they promoted.

This article is late in the making. Frankly, I just didn’t care about the Kanye kerfuffle until the noise escalated into a fever pitch. Beyond that, lots of people have already been contributing wise words to the ongoing (seemingly neverending) conversation. One of my favorite Apostolic bloggers, Search of Kings has a must-read article about the “Kanye Conversion”. Others have convincingly commented that Kanye’s sincerity might be less suspicious if he would remove all his old music from circulation. I’ve noticed several people expressing frustration at the Apostolic hype over Kanye’s new album Jesus Is King, by pointing out the lackluster support Apostolic artists typically receive. We Apostolics do tend to demean our own and glamorize (perhaps even idolize) artists who are distinctly non-apostolic.

Speaking of idols, the flip side of the coin is the ardent, almost breathless support many Christians have afforded Kanye’s new album. It reeks of an adolescent desire to finally be accepted by the “cool” kids. The internet is littered with comparisons of Kanye’s conversion to Saul’s transformation into Paul. Others dream of stadiums packed with people who would never listen to “Jesus” music being deeply impacted by Kanye’s newfound faith. Many elders felt this way about Elvis Presley in past decades. I still frequently hear people mention how sincere Elvis was about his Christian (perhaps even Apostolic) faith.

So, the speculation about Kanye’s sincerity has become a lightning rod of controversy. For what it’s worth, I think Kanye might be sincere. Admittedly, I don’t really know if he’s sincere or not. I struggle to know if people around me are sincere sometimes. I’ve never met Kanye and I doubt anyone reading this has either. Sincerity is a hard thing to judge in a short period of time. It’s even harder to judge from a distance. Even Paul had to undergo many years of scrutiny and training before he was fully accepted as a new creature in Christ Jesus. That’s one of the reasons Paul wrote to Timothy and said, “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth (2 Timothy 2:15)”. Regardless, Kanye’s sincerity or lack thereof is a moot point. Why? Because sincerity is not salvation.

Yes, sincerity is a good thing. I like sincere people. Most of us are drawn instinctively to sincerity. In fact, sincerity is so compelling we often trust sincere people even when they are completely wrong. Sincerely incorrect people can unintentionally do great damage to their circle of influence in countless ways both big and small. For example, it took thousands of years for doctors to finally realize that bloodletting was actually more likely to kill than to cure patients (read this disturbing article, 7 Unusual Ancient Medical Technique). Last year statistics shockingly revealed that over 800,000 people died because of medical devices prescribed to them by very good and sincere doctors (read that article HERE). Lets not even start thinking about how many sincere judges and juries have sentenced innocent people to prison or death (How Many Innocent People Are Sentenced to Death? and A Leading Cause for Wrongful Convictions: Experts Overstating Forensic Results). Clearly, in certain situations, sincerity without correct information is extremely dangerous.

We easily understand that principle when it comes to the physical, but we’re a little fuzzy when it comes to spiritual things. We don’t just want doctors to be sincere, we want them to be sincere and correct at the same time. Frankly, the latter is far more important than the former. But when it comes to spiritual leaders and influencers we’re a little less cautious. Maybe its time to consider that we Christians are overly concerned with sincerity? Perhaps we’ve elevated sincerity above biblical sanctification? Is it possible many Apostolics, either consciously or subconsciously, equate sincerity with salvation? Do we believe that sincerity without biblical salvation can save us? If so, we are doomed to become just another variation of the Catholic church. The Catholic church now officially teaches that Muslims, Jews, and really any sincere person can be saved without converting to even the mushy Catholic perversion of the Gospel (Catechism of the Catholic Church paragraph 1260).

If the prescription for sin is the blood of Jesus it can only be accessed via the Gospel of Jesus Christ (John 14:6, 1 Timothy 2:5, Acts 4:12). At the heart of the Gospel is the teaching that we must undergo our own spiritual death, burial, and resurrection just as Jesus did physically (Romans 6:3-8Galatians 2:20Colossians 2:12-13). There is one recorded instance in the Bible where bystanders clearly asked a question about salvation (Acts 2:37). Peter gives the most concise biblical answer in the following verse and everyone in the early Church followed that apostolic foundation for salvation. The apostle Peter preached: “…repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost (Acts 2:38).” That precise formula is the only way to be birthed (John 3:31 Peter 1:23) into the Kingdom of God.

Essentially, repentance is our spiritual death (Galatians 5:24Romans 6:11Galatians 2:201 Peter 2:24Romans 6:6)baptism in Jesus’ name is our spiritual burial (Romans 6:3-4Colossians 2:12-13), and the infilling of the Holy Ghost is our spiritual resurrection (Romans 6:5Colossians 3:1Romans 8:8-14). Furthermore, the infilling of the Holy Ghost is first evidenced by supernaturally speaking in unknown (previously unlearned) tongues (languages) just as they did in the book of Acts (Mark 16:17Acts 2:4Acts 10:46Acts 19:6) and every time from then on. And, baptism is only salvific when done in the name of Jesus (Acts 4:12Colossians 3:17Acts 2:38Acts 22:16Galatians 3:27Acts 10:48Romans 6:3).

After we are obedient to the fullness of the Gospel all the old sinful things pass away and we become a new creation in Christ Jesus (2 Corinthians 5:17). We walk in agreement with the Spirit (Galatians 5:16). Meaning, God not only saves us from our past sin, but He also empowers us with His own Spirit to live righteously (2 Peter 1:3-4). The extra good news of the Gospel is that God doesn’t just save us and leave us the same: He saves us, changes us, dwells within us, and continues to strengthen us daily.

Having said all of that, I am far more concerned with Kanye’s salvation than I am his sincerity. I hope he’s sincere and that his sincerity leads him to salvation. Otherwise, his sincere religious error will probably do far more damage than good. Furthermore, any sincere, yet theologically incorrect preacher is more dangerous than any charlatan could ever hope to be. Charlatans are eventually exposed, but sincerely wrong people fight with misled convictions that are deeply influential to others.

Let me leave you with a passage of Scripture to ponder where Paul addresses the issue of zealousness for God without a proper understanding of God’s word. This passionate sincerity without knowledge will cause them to be lost unless they learn to walk obediently to God’s plan.

Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved. For I bear them record that they have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge. For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God (Romans 10:1-13).

Hey, if you’re looking for awesome Apostolic music check out Nathan + Rachel. You’re welcome!

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Right, Righteous & Self-Righteous Judgements (Knowing the Difference)

I’m ashamed to say that I was exposed in a moment of self-righteousness the other day. It was a moment of critical, mean-spiritedness over a situation that I knew little to nothing about. Ouch. It hurts to type those words. And then, as is often God’s way, I happened across two articles (here and here) that sent conviction running down my spine like an icy cold water challenge.

I frequently tell my church: Feeling conviction is not a bad thing. Uncomfortable? Yes. Fun? No. Necessary? Absolutely. The real danger isn’t feeling conviction but choosing to ignore conviction. Ignoring conviction for too long is essentially “quenching the Spirit (1 Thessalonians 5:19)” which leads to a hard and calloused heart, far removed from God. In fact, the ability to feel conviction is the hallmark of a true believer (consider King David’s confrontation with the prophet after his terrible sin with Bathsheba).

Let me clarify a few things right at the onset: I absolutely believe that a person must be confident and sure of their Christian faith. In no uncertain terms, God has called believers to be holy (Ephesians 1:4, 1 Peter 1:15-16, 1 Peter 2:9) and righteous (1 John 2:29, 1 John 3:7, Matthew 5:20, Philippians 1:11). Furthermore, righteousness is not just a state of mind; it is manifested in lifestyle and actions. For example, Paul commands us to “Flee youthful lusts (action): but follow (another action) righteousness (2 Timothy 2:22)”. We can and must “…rightly divide (an action that demands an action) the word of truth (2 Timothy 2:15)” and “judge [with] righteous judgment (John 7:24)”. In other words, godly people have a right to discern right from wrong, righteousness from unrighteousness, good from evil, etc. To say otherwise is, well, unrighteous.

However, we all know immature Christians who use “judge not that ye be not judged (Matthew 7:1)” as a mantra to justify every sinful and sin accommodating action. It’s fairly safe to say that Matthew 7:1 has become modern Christianity’s favorite verse. The implication is simple, don’t tell me what to do because only God can do that. This drives sincere Christians crazy and gives others (sometimes unintentionally) a false sense of biblical authorization for all kinds of unrighteous behavior. Furthermore, the “only God can judge me” crowd should really let that thought sink in because God will judge our every action. That alone should cause us to consider our lifestyles carefully.

So, was Jesus really condoning bad behavior, spiritual timidity, or telling us that no one has a right to call a spade a spade? If that is the case, Jesus contradicted the entire Old Testament, every other relevant event of the New Testament, and his own actions to boot. Remember the overturned tables in the temple where Jesus made a righteous judgment saying, “…ye have made it a den of thieves (Matthew 21:13)”?

Obviously, Jesus was not advocating turning a blind eye to sin or telling us that we cannot make spiritual judgment calls about ourselves and others. However, the verses immediately following bring clarity to the whole discussion: “For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again. And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye (Mathew 7:2-3)?”

The basic meaning here is that we are to judge ourselves before we judge others. There is an unrighteous and unholy brand of judgment that we can quickly allow to fester in our spirit that is harmful, hypocritical, and ungodly. If we condemn others for things we are doing ourselves, we bring condemnation upon ourselves (Romans 2:1-3). If we judge hastily, callously, contemptuously, carelessly, wrongfully, or prematurely we are guilty of judging with an unrighteous judgment. God will judge those who judge others in such a way in that same way (Luke 6:36-38).

Here’s a difficult question that God often drops into my heart like an atomic bomb during prayer, “Do you want to be right for the sake of being right or for the sake of being righteous before Me?” Here’s another cringe-inducing thought; you can be right and unrighteous at the same time. Yet, in many ways, that is the very definition of being self-righteous. I want to be right for the sake of helping others and pleasing God, not just to win arguments or rack up spiritual points. As a believer, I have the right to make judgment calls, but I want to do so righteously for the right reasons with the right attitude. Sadly, I often fail. Thankfully, I have wonderful godly people surrounding me who make righteous judgments about my unrighteous judgments and aren’t afraid to tell me so.

Some Introspective Questions:

  • Do I enjoy it when others are harshly judged?
  • Do I enjoy arguing more than truly helping?
  • Am I quick to judgment without having all the relevant facts?
  • Do I elevate my opinions above the Bible?
  • Do I judge myself as harshly as I judge others?
  • Am I doing the same things that I criticize others for doing?
  • Do I pray for the judgment or for the conversion of sinners?
  • Am I willing to admit when I am wrong?
  • Do I make judgments from a place of humility or superiority?
  • Do I realize that all righteousness comes from God?
  • Do I care for sinners or callously condemn sinners?
  • Am I manufacturing self-righteousness or exampling godly righteousness?
  • Am I jumping to conclusions or executing godly discernment?
  • Do I judge from a place of knowledge or from a heart of wisdom?
  • Am I unwilling to make righteous judgments for fear of confrontation?
  • Am I justifying sin with my silence?
  • Does my unwillingness to righteously judge harm my witness?
  • Will I accept righteous judgment as easily as I dispense righteous judgment?
  • Do I exemplify godly mercy in my interactions with people?
  • Have I replaced mercy and grace with acceptance of sin?
  • Do I righteously judge sin or unrighteously justify sin in my own life and in the lives of others?