Tag Archives: the church

Use It! (I Corinthians 12-14)

Paul reminds me that being part of God’s Church isn’t like being a member of a country club or going to a matinee at the local theatre. Being part of a church means doing my part with the gifts and abilities God has given me.

It means working behind the scenes, or getting out there and teaching a Sunday School class. It means reaching out to visitors, or sitting quietly with a hurting brother or sister. It means being the Church, not just going to church.

I hope you’ll read this portion of Paul’s letter to the church in Corinth. I hope you’ll asses your abilities and talents, define what it is you enjoy doing. I hope you’ll discover your spiritual gifts God delights in giving His children.

Then I hope you will use what God has given you, and serve in your church fellowship in an orderly way, in a way that honors God and points people to the Savior. I hope you – and I – will be the Church God intends for us to be, His body with all the parts and pieces working together, reaching lost people for the glory of God.

Church (Acts 3)

That early Church is a model I think the Church in 2020 needs to revisit. Let’s see what the Church looked liked after Pentecost:

  1. They devoted themselves to studying God’s Word. They didn’t do book studies or use Bible helps. They devoted themselves to Scripture. Today we use videos and music, programs which are viewed as important as God’s Word, and sometimes more important. I remember disagreeing with a pastor of mine concerning his focus on the kind of music we were singing. I felt his focus was in the wrong place. His words, said with smirk, “Oh, you’re one of those people who think preaching is the most important part of a worship service.” I think the early Church thought that was the case, according to this chapter in Acts.
  2. They fellowshipped, enjoyed meals together. We Baptists are famous for our pot-luck dinner. But that’s been stopped in 2020. Have we lost an important aspect of being God’s Church?
  3. They devoted themselves to prayer. I learned to pray as a teenager by attending Wednesday evening prayer meeting. I started out with sentence prayers, then felt more comfortable praying aloud. Today, I doubt there are many teenagers attending prayer meetings. My own church schedules Youth Group during our prayer meeting. Prayer meetings aren’t fun. Most churches don’t even offer them any more. I know there are prayer warriors among us. But would you say the Church is devoted to prayer in 2020? They were in the early Church.
  4. They were filled with awe. They saw answers to their prayers. I don’t think the emphasis here is on the miracles the early church saw. I think the emphasis is on the awe they had for God Himself. Yes they were no doubt in awe of the miracles, answered prayer, changed lives. But I wonder if we have lost our awe of God and replaced it with a friendship? Have we become so familiar with God we’ve ceased to bow before His holiness? When was the last time we have stood in awe of WHO God is, and not just because of what He does?
  5. They were together, like minded, and they cared for the physical needs of each other. Today’s Church is often involved in good causes outside the local church, while some of our own number are hurting. That’s not the example of the early Church. Yes, we are called to go to the uttermost parts of the earth, but not before we take care of those closest to home.
  6. They met together as a group of believers every day. Some people today find it hard to get to church for an hour a week, and woe to the preacher who preaches past that hour. We’ve eliminated Sunday evening services, Wednesday services, and offer online and alternative meeting times to make it “convenient” for people to go to church. People stay home and allow their kids to stay home if the service isn’t entertaining enough, or the music not rocking enough. Is that what we see here in the early Church?
  7. They were friends outside of the four walls of the local church. Here’s why that is important:
  8. They enjoyed the favor of all the people, not just church-goers. They took their love of God and love for each other into the community and demonstrated Christian relationships and joy. The result?:
  9. The Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved! The example presented by those early believers drew lost people to God.

That early Church was the Church within the walls of their meeting places, and outside them. They were devoted to God and obedient to His will. They worked together, worshiped together, grew together, and people noticed.

Makes me wonder what people are noticing about the Church in 2020.

Complete Unity (John 14-17)

When Jesus prayed for those of us who believe on Him through the Apostles’ message, He asked the Father this:

May they be brought to complete unity, to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. (17:23b)

I believe we need to hear His prayer today, to pray those words ourselves, and do what Jesus wants us to do. Our world, our nation is so divided. What about His Church?

Jesus wasn’t asking the Father to make Democrats get along with Republicans or Chinese get along with Americans. Jesus was praying for the Church, believers, we who call ourselves Christians.

What do Christians have in common? Jesus.

On what do Christians need to have complete unity? That Jesus is God, that He died for all and rose again to life so those who believe can live, that He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life, and no one goes to the Father except through Him.

We Christians need to have complete unity over the fact that sin as described in Scripture is sin, punishable by death. We need to agree over God’s grace to repentant hearts through the blood of His Son.

The Church needs to demonstrate complete unity in our love for one another, not just people who vote like we do. Methodist believers loving Baptist believers loving Presbyterian believers loving Quaker believers loving Catholic believers, united by our love for Jesus, and our obedience to His Word.

The world is watching. Are they seeing complete unity among we who name the name of Jesus? If not, why not?

A Really Big Deal (Matthew 14; Mark 6; Luke 9)

It occurred to me today that when Jesus fed the five thousand, He used what was given Him. He took the meager portion of bread and fish, and made a meal of it for all the people. He didn’t add a salad or dessert. The meal they ate was a direct result of the food placed in Jesus’ hands.

Sometimes I think we are timid about serving God because we feel what we have is not enough. Or maybe we look at the gifts and abilities God has given us, and tuck them away because we think they are unimportant and insignificant compared to what others seem to have.

But how can you know what God can do with your offering unless you give it to Him? Who in their right mind would have looked at the hungry crowd, then at the five loaves and two fish, and thought: “This will do.” No one!

But placed in the hands of Jesus, it was more than enough.

What spiritual gifts have you been given as a result of your relationship with God? What abilities and talents were you born with? You might think they are no big deal. And you might be right in your own power. The disciples couldn’t feed that crowd on their own, either.

But place your gifts and abilities in Jesus’ hands and watch what a big deal He makes of them. Watch as He takes what you give Him and multiply it over and over. Watch how He takes you and uses you to feed, to nourish, to bless a multitude.

That’s a really big deal!

The Choice (Esther 1-5)

Mordecai would not bow or pay honor to Haman, even when the king had commanded it. Haman didn’t like being disrespected, so he plotted to kill, not only Mordecai, but the whole Jewish race because of it.

Mordecai still refused to bow.

I haven’t seen the movie “Infidel” yet, but I think I need to. It’s about a Christian journalist who is arrested and sentenced to death in the Middle East because of his faith. I understand it looks at the persecution of Christians, and I think it probably ought to be seen by all of us who think it can’t happen here in the good old USA.

I listened to a FOX News interview with the star of the movie, Jim Caviezel. What he said in that interview came to mind this morning as I read about Mordecai’s unwavering stand.

Mr. Caviezel quoted from Ronald Reagan’s “Time for Choosing” speech (1964). Reagan said we were (and I believe we are again) facing the choice between providing for our children “the last best hope of mankind on earth,” or choosing to set our children on a path to destruction.

My friend, I believe it will take Christians refusing to bow.

Caviezel said something that hit me. He pointed a finger at liberal, tolerant churches, Christians, priests and pastors, and said the problem with our “policy of accommodation is appeasement” and plays right into the hands of the enemy. He cautions us that when Satan delivers his final blow “our surrender will be voluntary…We will be so weakened from within spiritually, morally, economically,”our surrender will be seamless.

As I read about Mordecai’s courageous stand, and consider what is happening in our world today I want to encourage all of us who know Jesus as our Savior to stand. Our enemy wants to make us afraid when Jesus tells us we have nothing to fear. Look at God’s promises in His Word and believe them. If we are faithful, HE WILL BE FAITHFUL!

Caviezel said, and I agree, that maybe it’s time we “tell our enemies there is a price we will not pay, a point beyond which evil will not advance.” Do you know where that line is drawn in your life? Are you ready to take that stand?

It’s time to make a choice. Are we with God or not? Are we going to stand for Truth or not? Are we going to speak up or go along with the crowd?

Let’s pray for each other. Let’s pray for our pastors, priests, teachers, parents, children and great-grandparents. Let’s pray for voters and lawmakers, Republicans and Democrats. Let’s pray that God will move in the hearts of people and find us willing to bow only to Him.

Let’s choose God while we still have that choice.

Despite Their Fear (Ezra 1-3)

Have you ever considered the possibility that we in the US have become a nation of whiney, angry victims? We’ve become reactionaries, emotional cripples, entitled, tantrum-throwing thugs. And a world that once envied and admired us, now looks at us as people to be pitied, or at least as the biggest joke ever.

It’s hard to take a stand for the Truth when that stand could offend someone who lashes out verbally, or even physically. People have been killed for wearing a hat someone didn’t like. To disagree is to invite violence.

So what are we to do? The Truth we as Christians possess is an offensive message. If we are to share the Gospel, we are to show people their need of a Savior, point out sin in their lives, help them realize they are without hope unless they conform to the demands of God.

Them’s fighting words.

Some people, in light of the present climate, seem to think silence is the answer. Keep your faith to yourself, let others believe what they want to believe, stay under the radar. Other people appear to be going along with the crowd rather than ruffle feathers; be tolerant, be loving, be accepting of all beliefs, don’t offend by calling things like abortion or homosexuality sin.

But what does God want us to do? Jesus Himself warned that we would be hated for following Him, and reminded us that they hated Him first. Jesus didn’t tell us to change the message, or to keep the message to ourselves.

GO!

Make disciples.

The Jews had been commissioned to rebuild the temple in Jerusalem. The only ones glad about that, however, were the Jews. The opposition tried to discourage, threaten, and intimidate the Jews out of completing their mission. But look at what God tells us in Ezra 3:3,

Despite their fear of the peoples around them, they built the altar on its foundation and sacrificed burnt offerings on it to the Lord, both the morning and evening sacrifices.

The Jews didn’t fight back. They didn’t get into Tweet wars. They simply carried on with what they knew they were to do – and they did it openly and honestly. I think God would have us do the same.

Christian, let’s continue to build God’s Church by revealing God to those around us, by sharing the Gospel no matter how afraid we are that it will offend. Let’s continue to worship God in spirit and truth, and to love our neighbors enough to talk about the hard things.

Despite our fears.

Unrecognizable (2 Kings 16)

I am shocked at the nerve King Ahaz had in regard to the Temple of the Lord. He had been to Damascus, and liked their place of worship (which, by the way, was a pagan temple). So he went home to Jerusalem and had an exact copy of the Damascus altar built, put it right next to the altar of God, and proceeded to offer the “right” sacrifices upon it. He ordered the priests to use both altars.

The king didn’t stop there. Do you remember how carefully God had given the blueprints for His Temple? No detail was too insignificant in His design, and the Temple had been built according to God’s specifications.

Ahaz decided to make changes. He redecorated the Temple and removed much of what God had placed there. Read about it. It’s appalling.

And here is what has my blood boiling today. Ahaz did all this, “in deference to the king of Assyria.” (verse 18)

I haven’t stood on my soapbox much lately, but my blood is boiling. As shocking as what Ahaz did, we’ve done the same.

Now, I know God didn’t ordain order-of-worship, or worship styles. But let’s look at what we’ve done in our own remodeling of the Church. We removed hymns, taken crosses off the walls. We no longer have altars, we have stages. We’ve thrown organs into the trash, and removed the word “sin” from our vocabulary. We’ve taken steeples off our buildings, and given our fellowships cutsie names to hide our denominational affiliation. We’ve removed “Reverend” in front of our pastors’ names and encouraged them to come to church in ripped jeans and dirty sneakers. We no longer have Sunday evening or Wednesday worship services, and many churches have removed the choir loft.

I had a teenager tell me that her peers did not come to services on Sunday because they didn’t like the name “Sunday School.” Her parents agreed with her. Let’s change that hour to “Life Groups.” That’ll bring in the kids! Really?

Why all these changes? Were they done in deference to God? Hardly! The God who told us we have to be set apart, cannot be honored when we try to fit in. The God who is serious about sin cannot be honored when we refuse to talk about it.

These changes were done in deference to unsaved and unchurched people, like Ahaz making changes in deference to a pagan king. And none of the changes made in the last thirty years has done anything to strengthen the Church.

Growing up, church was the single most important activity in my life. We arranged our weekly schedules around our church’s schedule, not the other way around. Our priorities were: Sunday School, Sunday morning worship, Youth Group an hour before Sunday evening worship, Bible quiz practice an hour before Wednesday evening Bible study and prayer time. Does any young person devote half that time to God these days? Do any adults?

No. Church, for many, is nothing more than another social gathering, no more than an hour or two a week, and only if there isn’t something better to do like baseball games and fishing trips. The Church that once was is unrecognizable today.

That makes me angry, and sad. I can only imagine how God views the redecorating of His Church.

 

Unity (Psalm 133)

My reading plan had me reading three verses today. Not three chapters. Only the three verses of Psalm 133. To be honest, I’ve never really given this psalm much consideration before. But today, I’ve sat here for some time pouring over each word. And, in case you are tempted not to look up the Scripture to for yourself, here it is:

How good and pleasant it is when brothers live together in unity! It is like precious oil poured on the head, running down on the beard, running down on Aaron’s beard, down upon the collar of his robes. It is as if the dew of Hermon were falling on Mount Zion. For there the Lord bestows his blessing, even life forevermore.

I don’t know anyone who enjoys going to a family reunion when there is feuding going on between family members. I can’t imagine anyone who likes going to work when there is tension between co-workers. I’ve known people who quit going to church because of in-fighting and back-stabbing. And it’s a sad household when people who live in the same space harbor ill-feelings, hold on to differing opinions with resentment, or live separate lives.

“Good and pleasant” hardly describes any of those scenarios. Yet David tells us when brothers live together in unity, it is exactly that – good AND pleasant. (verse 1)

David is talking to the family of God, so he’s not advocating tolerance of sin in order to keep the peace. He’s not even suggesting we take a deep breath and stay quiet for the sake of unity.

I think, when he uses “precious oil” as a picture of unity, He’s talking about the Holy Spirit. When he speaks of the dew he talks of a place where God blesses, nourishes and refreshes His children. I think David is reminding us that the true unity of believers comes when we have one heart, one soul, and one focus – the truth of Jesus Christ.

I love that in verse 2, when the precious oil (which is often used in Scripture to denote the Spirit of God) is poured, it overflows. It runs down the collar of the robe. It’s not applied in droplets, but it is poured out like a bucket dumped over the head.

We can try to be tolerant, accepting, progressive, open-minded or whatever. We can learn to keep our opinions to ourselves for the sake of unity, and compromise all day long to keep the peace. But true unity of believers is not something we manufacture.

David tells us in these three short verses that it is truly good and pleasant when the Holy Spirit flows freely in and through us.

For there the Lord bestows his blessing, even life forevermore.

May it be true in your heart, your home, and your church fellowship. May the world, that is anything but united, see the unity in God’s children and be drawn to the Savior because of it. May the Holy Spirit, poured out over all believers, flow over into our world, for Jesus’ sake and for His glory!

Gatekeeping (I Chronicles 9)

Reading about the men who were assigned the position of gatekeepers for the Tabernacle, God’s house, convicts me. These men protected every inch, inside and out, day and night. No side or entrance was without someone making sure no unauthorized person had access. The treasures of God housed within those canvas walls were cherished and diligently covered with protection at all times. The Presence of God was guarded carefully.

Which makes me wonder how diligent I am about guarding God’s dwelling place in 2020. And according to I Corinthians 6:19, I am God’s dwelling place, His temple in the twenty-first century. Sadly, my gatekeepers aren’t always on the job.

Sometimes my heart isn’t protected from the enemy, or from unauthorized influence. I know there have been times when I’ve left a door unguarded, and allowed a thought, or a philosophy, or action enter because it looks harmless enough. Or maybe because I just wasn’t paying attention, the evil gets a free pass. Have there been times I’ve given the enemy access to God’s temple called Connie because others seem to think it’s ok and have given the enemy access to their hearts first?

Then, knowing God’s Church today is made up of individual temples like me, I have to ask myself how diligent I am about protecting her. Do I stand up for the truth of Scripture, do I hold my teachers and pastors accountable? Do I boldly stand up for what God has expressly stated as right, and just as emphatically reject what He says is wrong? Am I doing the job of gatekeeper over the treasures of Holy God, His Son Jesus, and the gift of grace?

Or am I a slacker? May God give me courage to be the gatekeeper He deserves. May I guard my heart, and the doors of my church with a boldness that honors Him and keeps His dwelling place pure.

The Presence (Exodus 39-40)

The book of Exodus ends with a description of the Presence of the Lord. Moses and the people had done everything God told them to do to make a beautiful dwelling place, fit for the King of Kings. And when it was done, God showed Himself to the people in all His power and glory.

May we do everything God has told us to do to build His Church, the place where He dwells on earth today. And may his Church, you and I, be fit for the Presence of the King of Kings in all His power and glory.