Monday, December 14, 2009
I belong to a Southern Baptist Church and feel like my beliefs are comparable to the Baptist Faith and Message (www.sbc.net). With the name "Baptist" in the denomination, there must be some great importance on the theological meaning of this act. There is so much in God's Word about baptism, that I believe we overlook it. We also need to look at some history of theologians and what they said....starting with Martin Luther, a major player in the Reformation, who stood against infant baptism which was and is the practice of churches; who sought true understanding of baptism:
"Baptism is first of all a sign of the death and resurrection of the believer with Jesus Christ. But it is much more than a sign, for by its power we are made members of the body of Christ. Baptism and faith are closely tied, for the rite itself without faith is not valid. But this does not mean that one must have faith before being baptized, or that infants capable of faith ought not to be baptized. To come to such conclusion, Luther declares, would be to fall into the error of believing faith to be a human work, something we must do, and not a free gift of God.
In salvation, the intiative is always God's, and this is precisely what the church proclaims in baptizing infants who are incapable of understanding what is taking place. Baptism is not only the beginning of the Christian life, but also the foundation and the context in which the entire life of the believer takes place. Baptism is valid, not only when it is received, but throughout life. we are told that Luther himself said, "I am baptized", when he felt sorely tried. In his own baptism lay the strength to resist the powers of evil."
*taken from The Story of Christianity by Justo Gonzalez, Volume 2, page 34
So, what is your understanding of baptism? Where do you get that understanding from?
I want to blog about this in the coming months to explain what I have found.
I hope that you will dig in with me!! God Bless, Brian
Thursday, October 22, 2009
DO WE HAVE THE WRONG "KINGDOM" AGENDA OR WHAT?
From Fox News (www.foxnews.com) Reporting: Pastor Marc Grizzard claims the King James version of the Bible is the only true word of God, and that all other versions are "satanic" and "perversions" of God's word.
On Halloween night, Grizzard and the 14 members of the Amazing Grace Baptist Church will set fire to other versions of the scripture, as well as music and books by Christian authors.
“We are burning books that we believe to be Satanic,” Pastor Grizzard said.
“I believe the King James version is God’s preserved, inspired, inerrant, infallible word of God… for English-speaking people."
All other religious or Christian texts are sacreligious, the pastor insists. The list of books being burned will include works written by "a lot of different authors who we consider heretics, such as Billy Graham, Rick Warren… the list goes on and on,” Pastor Grizzard said.
Brian's comments: I am deeply saddened by this man and the so called godly leadership he is showing others in the church, in the community, and in the NATION now. Is he displaying the gospel to those who are lost? What is the focus here? This is how Christians are labelled by the actions of this man and others like him.
Do you sincerely want to start a REFORM movement amongst believers today? Here is the Bible verse we need to learn well..........."And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ." Ephesians 4:11-13 (NASB95)
The key action verb here is to EQUIP the saints. Teach them how to live godly lives by salvation by grace through faith and gifted by the Holy Spirit to have an incredible relationship with Jesus Christ. Teach them to be Great Commission Christians, to worship, pray, minister, read the Bible and live out its principles, be accountable, serve, love, and so on. There are people dying each minute that are going to hell and this guy is burning Bibles. He could be sharing the gospel in his neighborhood or have a ministry presence in the community.....but no, he will burn Bibles.
I have said this before, and I quote, Spiritual Leadership by Henry Blackaby.....Servant Leaders are to lead people to God's agenda. I don't think he takes this responsibility very seriously. EQUIP..EQUIP...EQUIP!!!
Tuesday, September 29, 2009
21 "You have heard that the ancients were told, 'YOU SHALL NOT COMMIT MURDER' and 'Whoever commits murder shall be liable to the court.' 22 "But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty before the court; and whoever says to his brother, 'You good-for-nothing,' shall be guilty before the supreme court; and whoever says, 'You fool,' shall be guilty enough to go into the fiery hell. 23 "Therefore if you are presenting your offering at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, 24 leave your offering there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and present your offering . 25 "Make friends quickly with your opponent at law while you are with him on the way, so that your opponent may not hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the officer, and you be thrown into prison. 26 "Truly I say to you, you will not come out of there until you have paid up the last cent. Matthew 5:21-26 (NASB95)
I just want to talk about the first part of this.....especially with MEN and ANGER. Ladies deal with it too, but I don't think as much as men do. (opinion of mine of course)
This passage says that Punishment is due: ANGER leads to this punishment!!
ANGER….AFFECTS YOUR JUDGMENT
Aristotle wrote: (384–322 bce), “are all those feelings that so change men as to affect their judgements, and that are also attended by pain or pleasure. Such are anger, pity, fear and the like, with their opposites.”
ANGER….YOU CANNOT CONTROL YOUR REACTIONS
Psychologists say that the goal of anger management is to reduce both your emotional feelings and the physiological arousal that anger causes. You can't get rid of, or avoid, the things or the people that enrage you, nor can you change them, but you can learn to control your reactions.
ANGER….leads to a LOSS OF CONTROL
Dr. Tom Stevens, psychologist from Cal Sate Univ./Long Beach has done extensive research in this area: Underlying anger is caused by a perceived loss of control over factors affecting important values. The values in the above examples might be pride, getting someplace on time, someone you love, money, or being treated "fairly"--we are frustrated about not getting what we want or expect. With anger, we usually think we know what caused the problem. We have some target(s) for our anger. It may be the person criticizing you, the person who cut you off on the freeway, an attacker, your boss, or even yourself. With anger, we may hope that a burst of energy aimed at the threat will defeat it. Or we may hope that a burst of energy will break the barrier stopping us from meeting our goal. For most situations anger clouds our judgment and creates extra stress. If anger prompts aggressive behavior toward other people, it can permanently harm relationships--especially with those we love. Prolonged or frequent resentment (mild anger) has been shown to be a significant cause of cardiovascular problems and heart attacks.
PROBLEM: The main problem WE HAVE IS FOCUS
The problem we have is “focus”: there are things around that can make you angry, but if you are focused on following Christ, instead of being a big ball of emotion and letting your selfish feelings control you, then where are you. (Last week’s verse: whether you eat or drink, do all for the glory of God) That is our problem today with people who SAY they are believers. We believe in Christ, but we don’t want to follow His will. Some of you are still living in the sinful nature you had before you came to know Jesus, you haven’t surrendered. If you blew up at anything before you knew Christ, (or physically or emotionally harmed someone), today because of Christ you are a loving peacemaker because that is his will: kind and compassionate disciples is who Jesus is leading. But if your sinful attitudes and behavior have not changed or at a moments notice you can easily dive right back to the sin, you have crossed a line in the sand my friends and you are not following the Lord, you are following your selfish desires and THAT IS NOT THE BEHAVIOR OF A DISCIPLE OF JESUS CHRIST.
Where are you today with this? How has ANGER destroyed your life and how has it messed up your walk with the Lord?
Wednesday, September 16, 2009
31 Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. 32 Give no offense either to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God; 33 just as I also please all men in all things, not seeking my own profit but the profit of the many, so that they may be saved. 1 Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ. 1 Corinthians 10:31 – 11:1
God has created us as unique individuals with different opinions, convictions, desires, perspectives, and priorities. At some point in life, you will have conflict with someone. It will be at work, at church, family reunions or in inner family circles, with friends, with neighbors, on the baseball field, at restaurants, and we could go on. God shares with us about how to handle conflict all over the New Testament. I think we need to seek His understanding of how we, as Christians, are supposed to handle conflict.
Abraham Lincoln once said, “You can’t please all of the people all of the time.” William Ellery Channing said, “Difficulties are meant to rouse, not discourage. The human spirit is to grow strong by conflict.” Paul has stated certain great principles that relate to Christian liberty. One of those principles is: "All things are lawful for me, but all things are not expedient." Also, "all things are lawful for me, but all things edify not." Now here is another one: "Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, and whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God." This is the test every believer should apply to his life. Not "should I do this, or should I do that," but "can I do it for the glory of God?" Unfortunately, there are Christians who don't even go to church for the glory of God. They go for some other reason -- maybe to criticize or to gossip. With a motive like that it is better to stay at home. Whatever a believer does should be done for the glory of God. That is very important. —J.
Three things we can take away from this:
I. Sinful Attitudes and Behavior
If we are to follow the Great Commandment given my our Savior, “Love the Lord with all our heart, mind, soul, strength, and love your neighbor as yourself”, then our focus is clear. We cannot love the world and love God, love our jobs, then love God, love our spouses and then love God….the point is to love God first and focus on Him totally.
WE HAVE A PROBLEM: WE FOCUS ON SELF. Roman unbelievers described: “The being filled with all unrighteousness, wickedness, greed, evil; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice; they are gossips, 30 slanderers, haters of God, insolent, arrogant, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, 31 without understanding, untrustworthy, unloving, unmerciful;” Romans 1:29-31 (NASB95)
WE HAVE A PROBLEM: WE FOCUS ON SELF. Roman unbelievers described: “The being filled with all unrighteousness, wickedness, greed, evil; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice; they are gossips, 30 slanderers, haters of God, insolent, arrogant, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, 31 without understanding, untrustworthy, unloving, unmerciful;” Romans 1:29-31 (NASB95)
II. Give no Offense….Serve
Here Paul divides the whole world into three groups: Jews, Gentiles, and
Some young people who were rebelling against "the establishment" came to me and said they had attended a certain church and were rebuked because of the way they dressed. They asked me if I thought the members of that church were all wrong. I told them I thought that both groups were wrong. Neither acted in love. The members of the church were wrong in criticizing them before others. On the other hand, these young folk knew their clothes and hair would be an offense to the members of the church. So none of them showed love toward the other. We are told that we are not to offend either the Jews, the Gentiles, or the
"These are the three divisions of the human family today, but one of these days the
“Therefore let us not judge one another anymore, but rather determine this—not to put an obstacle or a stumbling block in a brother's way.” Romans 14:13 (NASB95)
Why are we to serve them? We should please all men so that they may be saved!!! That’s the goal: keep the peace, lead in the example in Jesus Christ, so that mankind would be saved…our little example…for the world. This is how deep our discipleship is….how deep our calling…..how deep our understanding of God’s will for our life should be.
III. Be Imitators
Now primarily what we do we are to do for the glory of God -- "Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God." A Christian woman can wash dishes and sweep the floor to the glory of God. A Christian man can mow the lawn and dig a ditch for the glory of God. Regardless of what you are doing, if you cannot do it for the glory of God, you should not be doing it. As we live like this we are a testimony to the world -- that those who are lost might be saved.—J.
We should be pressed to lead and serve by example....to show others Jesus by our examples. Why? We are showing Christ through us. We are told to share the Good News and I am not taking away from that. We also, by imitating Christ, are showing others who He is with our attitudes, actions, behaviors, speech, passions and desires. Do we desire to imitate Christ in our daily lives? Don't just sit there....DO SOMETHING!!!!!
Thursday, September 10, 2009
How am I........is a good question to ask on each item. I am almost done with this book and it has challenged me and my leadership to see exactly what I am doing and where I am going. It's good to check your focus frequently!!
Monday, August 31, 2009
Jesus also taught: "Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always , even to the end of the age." Matt 28:19-20
Tuesday, August 11, 2009
The personal breakthrough this past week was in the area of vision. In the chapter on A Leader's Vision, one of the Blackaby's made the statement: "The world functions by vision. But God does not ask His followers to operate by vision. God's people live by REVELATION. Proverbs 29:18 is one of the most misinterpreted Scriptures in leadership and I have heard and read this many times. The popular translation is, "Where there is no vision, the people perish." (KJV) A more accurate translation in the Hebrew is "Where there is no revelation, the people cast off restraint." There is a significant difference between revelation and vision.
Brian's thought and small amount of wisdom: Our job as spiritual leaders is to lead God's people towards His will and agenda. That's it!! We are to get believers to realize that following your own vision is not what God wants. He wants us to follow His plan. Why would Jesus say many times to "Follow Me" (Luke 9:23) if that wasn't His plan. So that is what we are to do and the main quality in our lives as spiritual leaders is to lead by EXAMPLE. That is what Christ did, and leaders, that is what we should focus our lives on. Yes, we will stumble at times but only when we take our focus off of Jesus, the author and perfector of our faith.
Monday, July 13, 2009
I find it Interesting that there are divisions to how one would approach belief in the Bible. Just as we have Democrats, Independents and Republicans, I am afraid that American Christians have divided themselves also. We have those who believe in liberal theology, mainstream, and conservative fundamentalism.
They believe that the Bible is "with error" and written by man, not of God. So that means the virgin birth may have been a myth or story as well as Christ's teachings and so on.
The quote within this creed that stands out is "according to the Scriptures". Mainstream folk believe in the Scriptures but also believe in the Apostolic Church. This means that the Pope is a direct descendant of Peter and the apostolic tradition continues which includes that only those who are under this apostolic tradition....priests, bishops, archbishops, cardinals, and Pope can interpret and truly teach the Scripture. They have wrote an extensive statement of faith throughout history with their catechism of the church. So men do not have the freedom to interpret Scripture in mainstream Christianity. It must be interpreted for you according to apostolic tradition.
Wikipedia says it best: Through apostolic succession, the Church believes itself to be the continuation of the Christian community founded by Jesus in his consecration of Saint Peter, a view shared by many historians. It has defined its doctrines through various ecumenical councils, following the example set by the first Apostles in the Council of Jerusalem. On the basis of promises made by Jesus to his apostles, described in the Gospels, the Church believes that it is guided by the Holy Spirit and thereby protected from falling into doctrinal error.
Catholic beliefs are based on the deposit of Faith (containing both the Holy Bible and Sacred Tradition) handed down from the time of theApostles, which are interpreted by the Church's teaching authority. Those beliefs are summarized in the Nicene Creed and formally detailed in the Catechism of the Catholic Church.
So the reliance is not on the Bible alone, it is also included Sacred Traditions that have been interpreted by Church leaders of the past.
Fundamentalism: (defined from Merriam-Webster Dictionary Website www.m-w.com)
1 aoften capitalized : a movement in 20th century Protestantism emphasizing the literally interpreted Bible as fundamental to Christian life and teaching b: the beliefs of this movement c: adherence to such beliefs2: a movement or attitude stressing strict and literal adherence to a set of basic principles
Here is where the hardliners (some Protestant and mainly Baptist)come in with their belief of Scripture:
The Holy Bible was written by men divinely inspired and is God's revelation of Himself to man. It is a perfect treasure of divine instruction. It has God for its author, salvation for its end, and truth, without any mixture of error, for its matter. Therefore, all Scripture is totally true and trustworthy. It reveals the principles by which God judges us, and therefore is, and will remain to the end of the world, the true center of Christian union, and the supreme standard by which all human conduct, creeds, and religious opinions should be tried. All Scripture is a testimony to Christ, who is Himself the focus of divine revelation. (2000 Baptist Faith and Message...Southern Baptist Convention)
This statement is made to clarify and sum up the belief in Scripture and how it effects those who are conservative fundamentalists. Points to notice: "God's revelation to man" and "It is without error" and "supreme standard by which all human conduct, creeds, and religious opinions should be tried." If you believe in this statement as I highlight these past few viewpoints, then you are definitely a conservative fundamentalist. Long name huh?
Monday, July 6, 2009
That plumbline is the Word of God...the TRUTH....the main ISSUE!! This is to be our guide and what we are to carry in our heart and minds. This is the core of who we are as a disciple. We become so engrossed with what the media says is an issue or what we make issues according to our political beliefs and our passions when we need to begin with is the TRUTH!! That is our main issue. If God is saying this today, no wonder we are imploding as a nation, because His Word is not our plumbline. We should fear what would happen when we turn away from our Lord and come to Him in repentance for making His truth unimportant in our lives.
Here are some questions you may want to ask yourself: Do you spend time learning from His truths? Do you spend time reflecting on your life and God's truth impacting it? Are you leading your family according to God's truth? Do you teach your family God's truth? How has your life been changed according to His truth? How have you applied His truth to your life today?
Good to be back from vacation...My family and I missed you all!!
Monday, June 15, 2009
19 They went out from us, but they were not really of us; for if they had been of us, they would have remained with us; but they went out, so that it would be shown that they all are not of us.
1 John 2:19 (NASB95) John is writing here that "they would have remained"....if they really were part of us, part of the body of Christ.
Why does this happen:
3. We focus on numbers in the church. We are in a race instead of being concerned that one believer truly understands what it means to be saved. "We had the most baptisms last year or at youth camp we had 60 saved and so on." Our discipleship process is weak and we do nothing to fix it. New beleivers hardly have a chance because of our Las Vegas style of church today. Come on in, get saved and then do whatcha want, why, because we all are!! You got your fire insurance from hell and our church is growing!! AMEN!!! (note the heavy sarcasm here please)
Wednesday, May 20, 2009
Case Study: We live in a democratic country where we experience freedom and liberty based upon the dreams of our forefathers, what has been fought for by them and other free men and women throughout the years, and what has been established as our law to protect these freedoms in this country. What about the church? We have the freedom to worship who we want to, the freedom to assemble, and the freedom of speech to share the Good News of Jesus Christ.
I am talking to believers here: What is our freedom with sin? Are we free to commit any sin we want? We are free to be forgiven aren't we? Are we free to practice sin as believers behind closed doors and suffer "spiritual" illness because of our freedom of choice? Are we free to practice sin as believers in public? Aren't we free to tarnish the name of Jesus Christ when we sin in public and private...we have that freedom don't we?
Take a look at this passage of Scripture in 1 John 1: 6 If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth; (so if we practice sin we live in darkness and we cannot have fellowship with Him, we are lying about our relationship with Him and we deny the truth....Colossians 1 says that Jesus is the only one that can "save us" from the dominion of darkness)
7 but if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin. (here it is saying *imho* that if we walk in the Light guided by the Holy Spirit, we fellowship with other believers that are walking in the Light...so the standard is living in Christ Jesus and NOT SINNING)
When are we going to stop abusing our freedoms as believers and truly live under the authority of Jesus Christ? and truly follow His Word and live/dwell in it (John 8:31)? Will we continue to claim ignorance? Will we be too sensitive to acknowledge what sin truly is? Will we deny the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives as a Helper for our conscience? Man, we need to call sin....SIN!! It is what it truly is!! AND WE ARE ACCOUNTABLE FOR IT!!!!
So, what if a brother or sister in Christ were to hold you accountable (you have taken your freedom too far, you are insensitive to sin, you are not living according to Scripture)......hello, we would be enraged!!! Some have already stomped off from "that" church because of someone standing up for biblical morals and questioning others living in sin with it. They claim they have been bruised by the church. Did they really want to be held accountable in the first place?Church Membership does not cover this one and for the church today this is one of many UNTOUCHABLES that we don't address.
Paul writes "25 Therefore, laying aside falsehood, SPEAK TRUTH EACH ONE of you WITH HIS NEIGHBOR, for we are members of one another." Eph. 4:25 (NASB95)
And "11 Do not participate in the unfruitful deeds of darkness, but instead even expose them; 12 for it is disgraceful even to speak of the things which are done by them in secret. 13 But all things become visible when they are exposed by the light, for everything that becomes visible is light." Eph 5:11-13 (NASB95)
Accountability is firmly in Scripture and the Church is to expose sin, brother to brother, sister to sister in Christ, the family of God. Where has that gone to in Church today?
Monday, May 4, 2009
The proposal here is that when we think of evangelism, we still have the title of being a "Bible thumpers" hitting people over the head with God's Word to knock some sense in them. This is our evangelistic bite into unsaved folk. We are in such a hurry to get people to make a decision to know Christ, we have become rabid, not loving and engaging them with the gospel. We have created many evangelistic programs to endoctrinate us with an gospel presentation outline that is not personal, but quick and short. And when we get started, we rabidly want to finish as fast as we can spouting that we have presented the gospel. Many times have I been rejected by this method, because I have talked AT someone. Throwing it out there with no meaning or explanation.
Just last week, I had the opportunity to share the gospel with an adult and after I let him walk through a marked New Testament I asked him if he would like to know Jesus Christ as his personal Lord and Savior. His repsonse was that he really needed to think about his decision and read somemore about it before he did. This unsaved young man even owned a Bible and I urged him to read the Gospel of John and 1 John. Do you know that I was ok with his repsonse? I did not press him to make a decision and I seek to encourage him when I see him at church.
Gungor writes to close this chapter that we need to put down our bullhorns and quit talking AT people and start talking WITH THEM, engaging them in becoming a disciple of Jesus Christ.
That's all I have to say about that.....coming soon....Identity Crisis Final Number 10!!!!
Wednesday, April 22, 2009
Identity Crisis #9: Most churches today are all about "theotainment". This term is "theology + entertainment" as the body of Christ meet, and we obviously have the wrong emphasis in worship.
MUSIC IN WORSHIP
I believe that we have the emphasis in worship all wrong. We focus on music in worship as the do-all, be-all. This is why in the last 10-15 years, most churches have faced "worship wars" over what type of music we are to have in morning worship. The thought process is that if we play contemporary music, younger people will come to the church for worship and they will be drawn by this faster paced music with guitar, bass, and drums, etc. They will truly experience worship. You heard what I said....experience worship. We have taught congregations to "experience" not to "show worth" to our Lord and Savior. Henry Blackaby writes in his "Worship" discipleship series that worship means to "show worth" to something, and in a Christians case, that is God. IMHO, This is a giving attitude, not receiving.
So, we are equipping and making disciples that are coming to be spectators of experience not servants who are humbly bowing in the presence of an Almighty God. What is even worse is that when the worship wars are in a stalemate, we create two services to make everyone happy.
The first service being "traditional" for the older people and a second, later service for the younger group that is more "contemporary". I have heard at one church, they named the second service "High Octane." The older folks are mad at the younger folks because they can't be happy with hymns, and the younger folks are mad at the older ones because they can't pick up the pace. You have two services to please everyone and split the congregation in half over music preference. Next, we will need to build two fellowship halls, one for Mexican food and one for Italian........what???? (warning: heavy sarcasm noted)
I have heard it all. When I visit someone who has left the church in past experiences, the main focus is that "we don't like the music" or "we just need the pace to pick up a little more" or "I almost fell asleep during the song service" or "I didnt know they still made organs".
Ron Owens writes in "Return to Worship: A God Centered Approach" that in the context of a worship service, music should never be "music for music's sake". As worship leaders, we are there to assist the people, through the medium of music, to encounter God. We are not there just to sing and play songs. We are not there to perform or entertain an audience; we are there to use everything at our disposal to glorify God and edify His people.
What was the most important part of gathering together in the first Church in Acts: the preaching and teaching of the Gospel!! Acts 2:42 says: "They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles' teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer."
"On the first day of the week, when we were gathered together to break bread, Paul began talking to them, intending to leave the next day, and he prolonged his message until midnight. There were many lamps in the upper room where we were gathered together."
Acts 20:7-8 (NASB95)
Don't get me wrong, they praised God, but the most important part of the gathering was preaching and teaching. People gripe and complain when we have messages over 20 minutes saying that they are inconvienienced. What are we coming for then? To show worth and glorify the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit and to be under the teachings of our Lord. Music is a tool to accomplish that, plain and simple. We are not Hollywood churches that have to have a big bang to get worship started.
When was the last time your church confessed your sin together in worship? When was the last time your church read Scripture out loud in declaration? When was the last time you had a testimony of someones life change because of God? When was the last time you took notes from the teachings of God's Word through His messenger? Do you see an emphasis of prayer in the worship service? (I really have about 100 questions along this line that don't pertain to music)
Get off the big emphasis of music and the contention it is causing in God's church. Can you not see that Satan uses that as a weapon to divide the church and to cause disunity? The focus should be on glorifying Him and preparing for that all week personally at home or at work to what you will bring in worship corporately on the Lord's Day.
Tuesday, April 7, 2009
We live in a Christian tshirt and bumper sticker culture in church. Most are Christian's on the outside but not on the inside. We are Christians only on Sundays. That is all that is required of us to attend church and maybe Bible Study and we are checked off for the week.
#1: With his practical, positive, unpretentious, and down-to-earth teaching style, he has grown the church to an attendance of nearly two thousand each weekend.
What is the "growth" focus on? Physical growth, not spiritual. This is the key to the downfall to many pastors and churches. Some pastors like this one his ridden on the coattails and success of the physical growth of the church. The idea is that when you have critical mass, you can really do something. Like what, build more buildings, hire more staff, go on more trips, etc. I even had a pastor tell me once that physical growth equals spiritual growth. You get one as a result of the other? Do you really think so?
Which is better? Growth in numbers in Worship Attendance or in Attendance of Small Groups/Sunday School? If we are to make disciples, where is that really beginning at this church?
#2: The main priority of Pastor John Doe and his beloved wife Sally is the home. Their emphasis and commitment to their family have resulted in the strength and growth of XYZ Ministries and ABC Church. Currently, ABC Church is one church in eight locations.
The pastor and wife focus on their own family, not the family of God. But according to this statement, this results in the growth of the ministry and church they are in charge of. Shepherding the flock is the calling of the pastor. To care for the flock you have been called to not just physically, but mainly spiritually. Preaching and teaching the Word of God and the ministry of prayer is to be the means. The ends is to equip the saints. (Eph. 4:11-12)
Hey, we have eight locations because of this physical growth. Nothing is mentioned of salvations, discipleship through Bible Study, missions education and sending missionaries or church planters, ministries that people have been called to and are serving in, etc. The bread and butter of discipleship, the equipping of saints.
#3: What makes the BCD Denomination unique from other denominations is the fact that while it strongly affirms the clear teaching of the Word of God, it allows believers the personal freedom to have varying interpretations on theological issues that are not clearly presented in Scripture.
So, you be the disciple you want to be. You have the freedom to interpret how to be a disciple on your own....its your personal freedom. Nothing in this statement leads to interpret Scripture by the power of the Holy Spirit in your life. And to say that there are many interpretations of a passage of Scripture is absurd!!
We are turning our back on true discipleship!! In Luke 9:23, Jesus says that one should "deny yourself, take up your cross, and follow me." The Great Commandment says that we are to love the Lord with all of our heart, mind, soul, and strength, and to love our neighbors as ourselves. This focus is denying of ourselves type of focus, where you are submitting and serving to the Lord God with all that you are and serving others and putting them in front of yourself out of your love for them.
Changing our lives is taking up our cross. Facing temptations is taking up our cross. Working and living in the world is taking up our cross. Declaring the name of Jesus higher than any other name in our life is to face this evil world, go against the grain, and stand firm for Christ. But by taking up our cross is showing that we would die for Him if our life was required. Paul said it and was very clear on this matter!!
And finally, we are to follow our Lord no matter the cost. Forsaking All I Trust Him. The acronym for FAITH!! Hallelujah!!
Monday, March 30, 2009
"By this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments. The one who says, "I have come to know Him," and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him; but whoever keeps His word, in him the love of God has truly been perfected. By this we know that we are in Him: the one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked." 1 John 2:3-6 (NASB95) We are told to keep His Word and walk as Jesus walked. If not, John calls us liars, living in falsehood, working against God's Will which is not the truth.
Identity Crisis #6: We have treated the church as a age old company/business instead of an active mission/ministry of Jesus Christ.
Point 1: We have business meetings to decide how to or how not to spend money. The focus there is on maintenance of physical things we have and how to take care of them. We have to choose what has the highest priority and spend money painstakingly (i created this word..ha) to keep it maintained. Once again, temple mentality, not a living church mentality. What about bringing up something new such as a new building or a church sign, it becomes an item of contention. We get on the wrong "focus"..........You have read my crisis #1 on this issue.
Point 2: We have committees for everything....decorating, funeral, baptism, audio, parking lots, van and trailer, color of the toilet paper in the bathroom, etc. We have created too many boards to govern the church instead of focusing on the mission and ministry of the church and implementing a plan. Most churches I have been involved with do not even have an evangelism comm./team that concentrates on spreading the gospel to the community and beyond. The first century church in Acts spread the gospel to other cities and they were in unity about the sending because they understood their purpose as a church. It is written there in God's Word to send a lesson to us (church) about spreading the Good News!! At all costs, MAKE DISCIPLES!!
Point 3: Since we have our minds on maintenance not ministry, we have huddled inside our buildings. We do not send out ministers and missionaries to our communities and beyond. We have the business mentality as "you must come to us" at the building to see what we are about.
We don't cooperate with other like minded churches anymore because of what we have going on inside our buildings. We are not in tune with the needs of our community because we spend so much time planning events that happen with the 4 walls of the buildings we have. We are content with where we are and what we have and as long as people are giving to maintain the "status quo" then what else is there.
Point 4: Jesus was a servant leader, not a CEO. He did not lead with power, He led by example. Luke 19:10 says: "For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which is lost." This purpose shares what Jesus was about. This purpose is not confined to an office or a building. This purpose does not come with a large salary and medical/dental with vacation benefits. This purpose did not come with a huge house with a white picket fence and two fancy cars. Look at the word "seek". Why do you think this is first? The lost must be sought out....now that's a mission.
Let me ask you this question: Are you mission minded? Do you have a mission? I believe that the church does...to Make Disciples and to take the gospel everywhere. (Matt. 28:17-20 and Acts 1:8) Does this cost money?....maybe the cost of a Bible.
Wednesday, March 18, 2009
One of the fallacies of church life is counting the number of people present in Sunday School and worship to show what "we" have. A common question among pastor's is "How many are you running?" By doing this, we are identifying numbers as success so that we have created a "faithfulness equals attendance" mentality, which in my opinion is a WORKS salvation. Don't get me wrong, I am not presenting a case for NOT going to church.......hear me out!! Membership then is reduced to attendance and giving, not anything else. This is a major crisis.
If you are a believer and you are following the Great Commandment that our Lord taught, "Love the Lord with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength" then "love your neighbor as yourself"; you have a desire to worship the Lord corporately and to be around God's people in something that God created for worship, ministry, discipleship, evangelism and fellowship. I read somewhere that worship of the Lord as a church on Sunday is the sum of what you have done in worship individually all week. If the church is a living organism, then we are not just attenders, we are disciples that think, feel, repent, and praise, confess and show reverence and so on and we desire to be in the presence of the Lord "together".
Allow me to use the example of the Rotary Club........Look at the Rotary Club Membership Requirements:
Attendance: Attending weekly club meetings allows members to enjoy fellowship, enrich their professional and personal knowledge, and meet other business leaders in their community.
Service: By participating in local and international service projects, club members can volunteer their time and talents where they’re most needed. The four Avenues of Service are Rotary’s philosophical cornerstone and the foundation on which club activity is based: Club Service focuses on strengthening fellowship and ensuring the club’s effective functioning. Vocational Service encourages Rotarians to serve others through their vocations and to practice high ethical standards. Community Service covers the projects and activities the club undertakes to improve life in its community. International Service encompasses actions taken to expand Rotary’s humanitarian reach around the globe and to promote world understanding and peace.
Finding and keeping members: To keep clubs strong, every Rotarian must share the responsibility of bringing new people into Rotary. Even new members can bring guests to club meetings or invite them to participate in a service project. Keeping members involved in Rotary is another responsibility. Fostering strong fellowship and encouraging early participation in service projects are two of the best ways to sustain a club’s membership.
Dues: Club members are required to pay annual dues to their clubs, districts, and Rotary International, as well as the subscription fee to the appropriate Rotary magazine.
Leadership: Club members are encouraged to volunteer for leadership roles at the club level and beyond. To learn more about leadership opportunities in your district, see the district leadership seminar page and the club committees page.
They require you to be there (fellowship, enrichment, & knowledge), to be involved in service (Vocational, Community, & International), responsibility to bring new people (evangelism) and invite them to be involved in a service project (serve along side them), pay dues (i won't go there on that one....you should give to the Lord with a cheerful heart), and to volunteer to lead (servant leader mentality)!! Look at these and see what this civic organization requires.
What is required of the church member? What is the biblical basis of church membership? And how does this fit into the life of the New Testament church?
The biblical basis for church membership is in 1 Corinthians 12:12-14, "12 For even as the body is one and yet has many members, and all the members of the body, though they are many, are one body, so also is Christ. 13 For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit. 14 For the body is not one member, but many." (NASB95) We see the body imagery here as the body of Christ, the church, as we are to be members of the body as believers and children of God.
I believe that Mark Dever's book, Nine Marks of a Healthy Church, delivers a great presentation of these things: "The practice among Christians of church membership has developed as an attempt to help us grasp hold of each other in responsibility and love. By identifying ourselves with a particular church, we let the pastors and other members of that local church know that we intend to be committed in attendance, giving, prayer, and service. We increase others' expectations of us in these areas, and we make it known that we are the repsonsibility of this local church. We assure the church of our commitment to Christ in serving with them, and we call for their commitment to serve us in love and to encourage us in our discipleship." (page 36)
Finally, as a church member who is a believer of Jesus Christ and is living out their faith, when you belong to a Bible believing church, you are testifying your salvation to the church and to the world. So, as a unified church of believers, you are declaring that you visibly and verbally acknowledge Jesus Christ as Savior, King, and Lord in your life. Therefore, you are stating your salvation out loud to those around you in the church and in the world by the way you live, what you say, how you point others to Christ, your hunger for discipleship, etc.
So as we read 1 Cor. 12 and some helpful Dever's quotes, what are the requirements for church membership:
1. Church Membership is a COMMITMENT
2. Church Membership is a RESPONSIBILITY
3. Church Membership is a Testimony to SALVATION, individually and as a body of Christ
Compare this list to the church you are a part of and ask yourself, "Is this true of the church I belong to?" This is exhausting I know but I believe a large part of our identity crisis as a CHURCH!! I will continue on the three points of membership next time.......!!!
Wednesday, March 11, 2009
It has been too long that we have opened God's church, the body of Christ, to the culture of the world. The following examples I give you are from experiences I have had in my own life as part of a church. I have understood pastor's say that they are CEO's of the church. Since when has God called you to a high paying salary, a private jet, greediness, selfishness, and a holier than thou attitude. We are supposed to live the life of a servant, teaching and preaching God's Word humbly, and applying that teaching to ourselves as well as teaching doctrine, theology, and application to the congregation. Paul writes in Philippians 2 that we are to have the same attitiude of Christ...."humility and obedience", so we, pastor's, are to model this to the congregation and the community. Instead of preaching "you" to the crowd, we need to be preaching "we"....because we all are sinners that fall short of the glory of God.
In many churches, deacons have become boards of decision makers instead of servants of the church as we read in Acts 6. I am reading the translation of the Greek verb diakonew: serve, wait on; care for, see after, provide for; serve as a deacon. This board mentality is from a business or organization of the world and we like it so much it has to apply to the church. Go back to Identity Crisis #2; "we don't really know what church is." I have served at a few churches where deacons did no service, they made decisions for the welfare of the church...they were in charge. Didn't Jesus break up the argument of the disciples saying "Who will be first?"..."Who will be your #1, Jesus?" The answer is "The first shall be last." (Matthew 19:30)
Scripture is not the authority of the Church as God's Word. The attitude of Christ's church is "Just because God wrote it doesn't mean that it should apply to me" or "Just because it is in the Bible doesn't mean I have to follow it". We sit under teaching after teaching after preaching and our lives are no different, we havent applied anything!! We have let culture(worldly views) and politics guide our actions, we want to be politically correct. We have to side with one political party or the other. We think that we have to be stamped by the world by what we believe in....Democrat, Independent, or Repulican, instead of being identified as a believer of Jesus Christ, holy, chosen, and set apart.
Finally, the believers that make up the church. Folks, believers are to submit to God!! If we are believers, God's Word says we are to be pro-life, support marriage between man and woman for life, abstain from being drunkards, live Spirit filled lives not fleshly lives, stand against immorality, be just, and so on. This is against the world and culture we live in and the message it brings. We have been passionate about causes instead of being passionate about Christ in our lives. We are more passionate about success for ourselves than serving others. We are more passionate about griping about the world around us instead of being passionate about reading God's Word and applying the positive change it can make in our lives. We are more passionate about indulging in what the world offers than being passionate about changing our lives to sin less because it is Christ's desire for the believer. Martin Luther figured it out....and it changed his life in a major way. Aren't we called to be salt and light? To make a difference in the world becuase of our relationship with Jesus and to be a city on a hill that cannot be hidden?
What is it going to take? We are so far away from spiritual awakening because you cannot tell the difference between the world and the church. Is Henry Blackaby right? In his book, Holiness, "The spiritual condition of America depends on the spiritual condition of God's people." If it is, it depends on the believer of Jesus Christ to turn things around, to pray, to worship, to hunger for God's Word, to thirst for righteousness, to desire a close relationship with our Lord and Savior, to minister to others, to spread the gospel, to crave holiness, to be the example of Christ, to not forsake the meeting with the family of God.
We must get back to the roots of the early church in Acts where it all began.....Ed Stetzer said in a missional conference I attended: "We are called to be a first century church in a 21st Century world", not a 21st century church in a 21st century world!! We are hurting ourselves trying to be relevant, trying to fit in with the culture outside. Quit acting like the culture around us, quit letting the principles of the world into the called out, children of God, chosen, set apart, led by Christ, CHURCH!! Will the TRUE Church please STAND UP...for Jesus Christ and bow humbly and claim Him King!! Messiah!! Savior!! and Lord!! and claim ourselves as servants of Him who died on the cross for our sins because He loved us so much and submit to His plan, His will, His authority in our lives.