Tag Archives: the church

The Choice (Esther 1-4)

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.

If You Build It… (Exodus 25-27)

Sometimes when I read the intricate details of God’s plan for the sanctuary, my eyes glaze over. That happened today, and I was finding it hard to hear what God would say to me about these chapters. As I was praying, I felt God nudge me to take a look at what Warren Wiersbe had to say (With The Word; Oliver Nelson Books; 1991). Here’s what struck me this morning page 61:

“God could have made the whole tabernacle in an instant of creative power, but instead He asked the people to bring Him their offerings. They were privileged to make a sanctuary for God.”

I hadn’t thought about that. If God was so insistent on having the tabernacle done in such specific details, why didn’t He just do it Himself? He certainly had the power. Well, maybe He wanted His children to obey Him, to be a part of the process, to take ownership of God’s House.

The same is true today. God could build His Church today by miraculously changing the hearts of men, by using His power to force people into believing. But instead, He has asked us to go and make disciples. We have the privilege to make a Church for God, to obey Him, to be a part of the process, to take ownership of God’s Church.

Now, I’m not saying we have any power on our own. But God is asking us to be a conduit for His power to change lives, to save souls. That’s His plan. Yes, it takes time, effort, inconvenience at times. But God’s plan for building His Church includes you!

And sometimes the building of God’s church (small “c”) includes you, too. For instance, our church is in the middle of a building project. We have the land, we have readied the land, but we are a few hundred thousand dollars short of being able to break ground. Now, some of us are praying that God would move in the heart of a rich benefactor, that by some miracle the money will come so He can build His church on this island. We would absolutely give God all the glory! That’s not a bad prayer. And God is certainly able to answer that prayer today.

But God is asking us to build that church. It might require sacrificial giving, effort, inconvenience in the lives of we who are part of this fellowship of believers. But we have the privilege of building a church for God.

I think God’s plan is a good one, not that He’s looking for my approval. And I love the example the Jewish people lived, as they gave, and worked, and obeyed God in the making of what must have been a beautiful sanctuary there in the desert. Their obedience must have spoken to the pagan people around them, it certainly speaks to me today.

May I buy into God’s plan, and be a faithful worker in the building of His beautiful Church in 2020. As I think about it, I want to be faithful in contributing to the building of His spiritual Church, AND the church building that will house Frederica Baptist Church on the north end of Saint Simons Island.

Because I believe if we are faithful, obedient workers in God’s Kingdom, if we build what He has asked us to build, people will notice. If we build it… they will come.

 

December 16; Women Teachers

Philippians 3-4; I Timothy 1-2

I am a teacher. And I am a woman. And years ago I taught a Sunday School class of women… and men. But knowing that, my take on the subject might surprise you.

I recently was part of a conversation with some friends about whether or not women should be allowed to teach men in the church. I honestly can say I see both sides of the argument.

On one hand, Paul said he didn’t permit women to teach. On the other hand he didn’t say God gave him that order. On one hand there were women like Miriam, Deborah, and Anna described as prophets. On the other hand I don’t believe there is an instance when these women, or any other women, took part in the actual teaching of their prophecies during Temple worship. On one hand we see Priscilla teaching Apollos the truth about Jesus. On the other hand, she went with her husband to meet with Apollos privately, her teaching was not public.

On one hand we hear Paul say women should be silent in church. On the other hand, we understand the climate of the day and, in context, could interpret that as saying women shouldn’t interrupt the service by asking questions, rather than forbidding them to be the teacher. But, like one of my friends said, who determines which Scriptures we should blow off because of context, and which Scriptures should be applied today?

Besides, in the same paragraph Paul says he wants women to dress modestly without braided hair or jewelry, and he wants men to pray with their hands raised. Yet I don’t hear those things being talked about nearly as much as the phrase, “women should be silent.”  And it’s all part of what Paul is talking about in I Timothy.

Here’s the thing: I don’t think the issue is a matter of heaven or hell. Even though I spent a year as a teacher of a co-ed Sunday School class, I still prefer a man behind the pulpit. I see in Scripture that God places a hierarchy in the church, and He put men in positions of authority over women. It doesn’t mean women are less than men, or not as important in ministry. Jesus had a lot of women disciples who enhanced His early ministry by their support. I don’t think He’d describe them as less-than or unimportant.

I love teaching. And having the privilege of teaching women is such a blessing to me. If  I never teach another co-ed Sunday School class, I’d be ok with that, but I am not apologetic for teaching a co-ed class in the past. I guess I would say according to God’s hierarchy, men should teach men. But I really don’t think a man will be punished for sitting in a classroom taught by a woman.

Let me say something to men. Some of you need to step up. Sometimes, as was the case that year I taught Sunday School, the number of men willing to take on that responsibility is lacking. If God has given you the gift of teaching, you need to be teaching. Period.

And women, there are so many ways we can use our own gifts of teaching. Are you being obedient?

I pray for teachers of God’s Truth. It is a heavy responsibility. But it is also a glorious privilege. May we all, men and women, be sensitive to the Spirit’s leading not just in who we teach, but what and how we teach it. That’s the issue. I said earlier the “who” of who we teach is not a matter of heaven or hell. But the WHAT we teach is.

May God find us faithful.

 

 

November 28; For The Common Good

I Corinthians11:2-13:13

Not long ago I was part of a discussion concerning Spiritual gifts. Is teaching a Spiritual gift? Is music? What about sewing? Paul helped me understand.

There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but the same God who works all of them in all men. (12:4-6)

The apostle gives us three categories of Spiritual influence: gifts, service, and working. Paul said we are blessed with all three, given by the same Spirit.

The list of Spiritual gifts is specific: wisdom, knowledge, faith, healing, miracles, prophecy, discernment, tongues, interpretation of tongues, teaching, administration. (12:7-10, 28) These gifts can and should be used in service to God in the church. But they differ from God given abilities like music, carpentry, sewing, athletic, etc.

I believe Paul wants us to see beyond putting a gift or ability in a correct column. Look at verse 7:

Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.

Do you know what your Spiritual gifts are? There are online inventories that can help you identify them. I think we need to know the areas in which the Spirit has gifted each of us.

Have you identified your God-given abilities? I believe this is as important as knowing what your Spiritual gifts are. Ignoring them or denying them does not bring honor to to the Giver of those talents and abilities.

Then, knowing your gifts and abilities, how are you using them for the common good of your church fellowship? Paul talks about a healthy body with all the working parts. Is your fellowship crippled because you, as a toe, think what God has given you is not really all that important? Is your church trying to operate without an elbow or an ear because you would rather be an eye?

If you are a Christian, God has given you a Spiritual gift. If you are a human, God has given you certain talents and abilities. And Paul and I believe God has given you those things for you to use for the common good, the furthering of the Gospel in and through your church fellowship.

It’s not a matter of “if” you have gifts and abilities. It’s a matter of what you are going to do with your gifts and abilities for Jesus’ sake and for His glory.

November 11; It’s Thrilling

Mark 16:9-20; Acts 1-2

Yesterday’s Scripture had me reaffirming my belief in the resurrected Jesus. Today Peter reminded me of the Old Testament Scriptures, prophecies that were perfectly fulfilled in the life, death, and resurrection of the Messiah, Jesus Christ.

It must have been thrilling to have been part of those first few days at the beginning of the Church; the dramatic coming of the Holy Spirit, 3,000 people accepting Jesus in one day, then boldly being baptized in a public declaration of their faith in Him.

That act of baptism in itself is amazing considering they were aligning themselves with the very Man the Jews had just crucified a few short weeks before. Talk about thrilling!

But it is also thrilling to be part of God’s Church in 2019. Sometimes we get caught up in the negative, we lament the sin in our world, and wring our hands at the seemingly weakening of the Church.

But God is reminding me today that He is still alive and well and working in the hearts of all men and women in every corner of the world. Jesus still lives! The Holy Spirit is still present! Hearts are still being changed, and eternity is won every day.

Now that’s thrilling!