Do they apply?

March 8, 2010 at 8:37 pm | Posted in Christianity | Leave a comment
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It seems that in the American church’s rush to appease the lost and the non believers (I was going to say pagans but that would probably offend someone), or their effort to bilk trusting, tested Christians of all the money they have by “sowing their seed”; the church has forgotten one of its greatest tools. Ok, I don’t think that they’ve forgotten it as much as they’ve tossed it aside for church growth plans and light-hearted, shallow events that bring people in based on their greed and have them leaving the same way (if they’re lucky). Now, any pastor can pick whatever they want to say and then go traipsing through the scriptures and cherry-pick whatever verses they want to support their “sermon”. To do this, of course, they have to twist the scriptures until they squeeze every last drop of life out of them; but the ends justifies the means even if the means completely destroys the foundation upon which the “sermon” should be built on.

This attitude bleeds to the flock of the “shepherd” over time until the entire group goes through the Bible picking out “life verses” and “claiming” specific verses as “theirs”. After awhile, the church is full of puffed up men and women who expect everything from God because they can string together a group of verses that have no real connection and then muster up their most faith filled voice to command Him to bring it to pass right now because they deserve it. Mix in the idea that we have to look blessed (whatever that looks like) and act blessed even if we don’t have two nickels to rub together and you’ve got a large portion of America’s churches.

So, what is this missing tool? What is the thing that would stop all of this nonsense? Hermeneutics. Continue Reading Do they apply?…

The purpose of the church

November 16, 2009 at 4:38 pm | Posted in Christianity | Leave a comment
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I have been thinking about this for awhile, but it becomes more apparent the more I study the scriptures. I’ve studied Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, 1 John, and now I’m doing a study on the spiritual gifts. In every study, I’ve seen a picture of the church, and when I compare the picture I see in the scriptures with the one that I see in America, they don’t match. It seems like the church in America (and other countries) no longer understands its purpose. No one seems to know what the church is about and this leads to a lot of busyness with nothing substantial to show for it. There are numerous churches who have many ministries and events but to what end? Certain churches are growing and the numbers are increasing but is this a proper gauge? When did it become all about the quantity of “Christians” in the church instead of the quality of the Christians as shown by the way they live their lives?
 
So, what is the purpose of the church? Well, first, you have to understand what the word church means. The word church is found only in the New Testament. It is the Greek word ekklesia and it means: church, congregation, assembly; a group of people gathered together. It can refer to the OT assembly of believers, a riotous mob, but usually to a Christian assembly, a church: as a totality or in a specific locale. In the NT a church is never a building or meeting place. So what does this mean? It means that the church is not the building you meet in whether it’s an actual church building or someone’s house. Instead, a church is the group of believers that meet in that building. Nowadays, it seems like people are more concerned about the state of the building than the state of the people meeting there. It is important to understand that it’s not just anyone who meets, it is the believers who meet. Those who are not believers are not part of the church.
 
Now that we have a simple understand of what the church is, what is its purpose? There are a few things that the church was designed for. The main purpose of the church is to glorify God. Many people would say that it is seeking the lost, but I disagree. As believing individuals, our main purpose in life is to glorify God. Why would that change when we gather together? If we do not glorify God, then it really doesn’t matter what we’re doing does it? There are other important purposes for the churches existence as well. A few of these can be found in Ephesians 4:11-13.
 
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.
There are some interesting things to note here. First, there are specific reasons why God gave the spiritual gifts and none of them have to do with someone becoming rich and famous. It’s not the point of this blog to go into whether or not some of these gifts still exist or not (I believe they do) so I’ll leave that for another time. Second, the church is for the equipping of the saints. It is not for sinners. That may sound harsh or unorthodox now, but it’s the truth. The church and its purposes completely revolve around born-again believers. But, today this is not what we see. So many churches have gone to “church growth methods” like the ones at Willow Creek or Saddleback in order to get numbers. In doing so, they’ve gone out to the non-Christians to ask them why they don’t come to church and then tailored their “churches” to suit those who are lost. It seems to be a very weak and very dangerous substitute for evangelism. Instead of going out into all the world to preach the gospel, many try to lure them in with wordly entertainments preach the precepts of men as the doctrine of God.
 
The fact that the church is for believers becomes even more specific though. There are many churches who are filled with believers, but they are still not fitting the purpose that God intended. Why? Because the saints are being entertained instead of being equipped. The churchgoers come to service on Sunday and hear a sermon series on the summer blockbuster movies or popular music icons (like U2) instead of hearing the unadulterated Word of God. They don’t hear the truth or how they can apply it to their lives so that they can grow in holiness. They don’t get the scriptures they need to defend the faith and fight the good fight. The sad thing about all of this is that it is now commonplace. If things don’t go this way, it is an anomaly.
 
The purpose gets still more specific though. The saints are to be equipped for the work of service. What service? Simple. Going out to preach the gospel to all creation, baptize them in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; and teach them to observe all the things that Christ commanded us. The equipping of the saints also facilitates the building up of the body of Christ so that we are unified in our faith and in our knowledge of the Son of God. This too has not happened. There are numerous denominations and each one of them is going to heaven while the rest are going to hell. We are obviously not unified in our faith. Thousands of Christian brothers and sisters are spurned and treated unbiblically because they don’t fit in the right clique. They are not able to exercise their gifts to glorify God because they aren’t related to someone in charge or because they don’t have the right kind of clothes, the right salary, or the right kind of car. Not only are we not unified in our faith, we’re not unified in our knowledge of the Son of God! There are many people who claim to be Christians who have a false view of Jesus or the gospel. They don’t believe that God is in control, that Jesus is the only way to heaven, or that the Trinity exists. Some don’t even believe that Jesus is God! And these are supposed to be BELIEVERS! Many churches have tossed aside what scripture says in order to embrace a man-made system that provides them the money, power, and prestige they want while neglecting the needs of the church and the lost!
 
From what I see in scripture, this is not how it’s supposed to be. The church is supposed to be like this. You are saved and you become part of a local church. The pastor-teacher teaches you the truth and shows you how to apply it to your life so that you can glorify God and grow in holiness. You are taught about the spiritual gift(s) that you have from scripture (not man made doctrine!).You then begin to use these gifts to glorify God. The church also makes it possible for you to learn how to evangelize and tell others about Jesus. You do this either by becoming an evangelist (if that’s your gift!) and traveling the world preaching the truth or by taking the opportunities presented to you daily as you go about your life. When someone responds to the gospel in repentence and faith, they become part of the church and the cycle continues. There is nothing about entertaining the lost at church. There is nothing about catering to those who hate God, but this is what is happening.
 
Part of the reason our country (and world) is in the condition it is in is because the church has left its purpose in order to pursue worldly things. Many “pastors” today seem to hope that the one or two lines they sneak in about Jesus in the middle of their sermon series on the Spice Girls will somehow be absorbed by osmosis. They seem to think (erroneously) that it’s enough. It’s not enough. Until the church gets back to fulfilling its God-given purpose and loses all of the other things that it has taken up in hopes of inflating its membership, it will never accomplish what it is supposed to…

When We Forget

June 22, 2009 at 3:41 pm | Posted in Christianity | Leave a comment
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It seems that, in a rush to be trendy, tolerant, and popular, a great number of people have forgotten who they are. Because they are so focused on the perception others have of them and they desire to be appealing to their target group, they have completely lost sight of what has made them special.

One group of people I feel have forgotten are Americans. Many Americans today look totally different and have a totally different worldview that Americans just 50 years ago. Some would call this “progression” but I would disagree. There are still a number of people who do remember, but their numbers seem to be dwindling. Today, the “leaders” of America are trying to change the nation into a socialistic government that mimics the European model found in many countries. These men and women are unscrupulous in their push to change the country. Because of this, I wouldn’t be sure that I would even call them Americans…

Let me explain a little more. America was founded as a haven for Christians where men and women could worship the God of the Bible without fear of the government restricting them (which is what was happening in Britain). Compare this to today where Christians are attacked and restricted while others are allowed to speak freely and act as they wish (committing the same actions that they accuse Christians of committing). This is evident in the desire to expand the “hate speech” legislation (why do we even have this to begin with?) to include speaking out against homosexuality by pastors (which would be a violation of the 1st Amendment of the Constitution – not that anyone cares…).

The founders of America made their dependence on God very clear. When George Washington was inaugurated, after his speech, those attending proceeded down the road to Washington’s church where they sang hymns, heard sermons, and prayed to God on behalf of the nation. Many of the early presidents declared national days of fasting and prayer. They knew that without God’s favor and grace their country would not survive. Today, America is burdened with a president and other “leaders” who turn their backs on God and openly support things that God calls abominations. Barack Obama said absolutely nothing on the National Day of Prayer (although he claims to be a Christian), but openly and proudly declared June to be LGBT month. Mr. Obama also openly supports the murder of thousands of unborn children a year through abortion and infanticide. This is not leadership and it is also not in line with the vision that our founding fathers had for this nation or what made it what it was…Mr. Obama recently gave a speech where he declared that America is not a Christian nation, denying the full history of the United States. Instead, he said that America was a Muslim nation, even though 78% of Americans claim to be Christians (whether they are or not is a different blog) and there are only 1.8-3.1 million Muslims in the country. I’ll readily admit that I’m not a mathematician but last time I checked, 78% was a majority. Not only that, but even if we take the highest number I heard, 3.1 million Muslims is far, far, less than what we would need to be the “third largest Muslim nation in the world”.

Our early leaders sought godly counsel and acted according to scriptural principles when dealing with others, whether in war or peace. That doesn’t mean they did everything right, but they based the things they did on scripture in an effort to glorify God in their words and actions. They never apologized for the actions they took because they were grounded in scripture rightly divided. Today, the vast majority of politicians take action and make speeches only to glorify themselves. They do nothing unless they will gain something from it (just look at all of the wasted tax money spent on the pork projects…). One glaring example of the focus on self is the fact that, throughout the 2008 election campaign, many hailed Barack Obama as a “Messiah”, some to the point of worshipping him. I have yet to hear any response from Mr. Obama denouncing this kind of adoration (he is a Christian remember…). Why? I believe that he thinks that he deserves it. This kind of attitude is both un-Christian and un-American.

It doesn’t stop with our leaders though. It seems that even the American people have forgotten what it means to be American. It used to be that Americans garnered respect because they were hardworking, honest, and consistent in the way they lived and how they conducted themselves. They were bold and caring. They stood their ground and rallied around the Christian ideals the nation was founded on. They never tried to be anything but Americans. Even though all of them came from other countries and celebrated their own heritage, they didn’t forget that they were Americans. They took just as much pride in being American as they did in having ethnic heritage. They also helped others to understand and adopt those ideals and bring freedom and democracy through their efforts. They stood on those ideals at home as well. They faced many ordeals and overcame many hardships because of the faith that was their foundation.

Contrast all of this with what we see today. The American people don’t know their history and don’t seem to know what it even means to be American anymore. Many seem to try really hard to be anything but American. Instead of garnering respect, Americans are laughed at and mocked. Those who have been charged with leading the country have not just dropped the ball; they’re not even in the game! No longer are the virtues and hard work of previous generations set up as standards. Now, many Americans are happier to lay around collecting welfare from the government (which is un-Constitutional by the way…) than working and taking pride in contributing to America in some small way. Americans are no longer consistent in their views either. American “leaders” speak out of both sides of their mouths, doing all they can to appease as many people as they can, not for any concern they have for they people they are supposed to be leading, but for votes and the hope to have a small place in history. No longer do we have men and women who are proud to be Americans and willing to stand on the principles of our forefathers, even if it means sacrifice. Instead, we have cowardly individuals ready to throw American values under the bus in hopes of gaining respect with those who would see us destroyed. We have men and women who spend most of their time apologizing for what American has done because they have no love for the country their supposed to be leading. Now, the heritage of individuals supercedes the pride that comes from being an American. Today, a large number of people are ready and willing to sell their liberties and freedoms for glass diamonds and plastic trinkets with result from the false promises of the “leaders”. Instead of facing hardships together and building strength and character through trials and tribulations, they run away from the tests to find their comfort zone in mediocrity. Instead of crying out to God for help, they thrust their hands out to the government in hopes of being bailed out. Faith is no longer a foundational pillar to lean on; it’s a second-class utility to be used to appeal to certain groups of people and help solidify the idea of “hope” in the minds of those who have certain religious beliefs.

I’ve just realized that I spent more time then I expected to on how I feel Americans have forgotten what it really means to be an American. While some of you may have stopped reading by this point, I hope that the rest of you will push on to the end to understand what I’m getting at. I truly believe that what I’ve written so far is true. I can’t help but think about Proverbs 30:7-9:

Pro 30:7 Two things I asked of You, Do not refuse me before I die:
Pro 30:8 Keep deception and lies far from me, Give me neither poverty nor riches; Feed me with the food that is my portion,
Pro 30:9 That I not be full and deny You and say, “Who is the LORD?” Or that I not be in want and steal, And profane the name of my God.

Is this what has happened in America? Has God’s blessing been so great that we have forgotten Him?

This brings me to the second group I want to address – American Christians. Now, before I go on, I feel the need (because of political correctness and how easily offended people seem to get) to say that not all American Christians are like this and not all non-American Christians are exempt from this group. In the end, the similarities between the church in America and the nation itself are not shocking, but they are definitely there.

I believe that many American Christians have forgotten what it means to be a Christian. Just like our nation, the American church looks to “church growth” models not found in the Bible to accomplish what it believes to be the tasks it has been commissioned to do. The men and women who “lead” churches have become unscrupulous in their endeavor to gain numbers and money. They have worldviews that are totally different from American Christians just 50 years ago. Instead of recognizing their need to depend completely on God’s provision, they put their faith in these “growth models” and other false doctrines. They no longer fast and pray to discipline themselves. They spend their time and effort trying to be relevant. Fasting and praying is too “old-fashioned”. They don’t seem to be concerned about God’s judgment or the punishment guaranteed to all of those who don’t receive the gift of salvation.

A growing number of these “leaders” openly support ungodly things. Many American “Christians” and their denominations support homosexuality (“Open Doors. Open Hearts. Open Minds.”) to the point that they allow gay “pastors” in their churches. According to the Bible, God sees homosexuality as an abomination (Lev. 18:22) and says it will keep people from entering heaven (1 Cor. 6:9). And yet, there are now entire American “churches” made of so-called “gay Christians”. This is a perfect example of what happens when you compromise scripture!

The early church leaders pushed themselves to preach the gospel in truth. To do otherwise was to bring shame on yourself and on God. To let others compromise the true gospel without saying anything would have been just as bad as doing it themselves. The early church knew that the gospel preached correctly is what glorifies God (not the size of your church or the number of congregants). Today, the “church” willingly compromises the gospel in order to gain money and influence. Many of those who claim to be Christian have no shame, no reverence for God and His Word, and no idea what they, as Christians, should be doing. There is no consistency in their beliefs, no hardworking attitude (just look at how many volunteer for different church “events”…), and no honesty. Pastors now copy others sermons and preach what people want to hear. They are no longer bold (Prov. 28:1) and would rather cave under pressure than uphold the scriptures and be called names. There is little effort to study scripture and share that truth with others (although I can’t help wonder how many would know Christian truth to begin with) Instead of clinging to Christ in hardships and trials (John 16:33), most run back to their comfort zone of sin. Christians are laughed at and mocked because they can’t give a sound answer from scripture for the simplest of questions. Like our political “leaders” the church “leaders” aren’t even in the game… No more working and studying to understand scripture correctly. Now, we can just write a blasphemous, scripturally unfounded book (think “Sex God” or “The Shack”) and become instant “biblical scholars”.

American “Christians” are willing to throw Jesus under the bus for fame, fortune, or to escape “persecution”. The sad thing is that 99.9% of American “Christians” don’t have a clue about what persecution really is (yet). They think that when their speech is attacked that it’s persecution. Compare this to what is happening to those who believe outside of the U.S. They are being crucified, cut down with machetes, burned, shot, and beheaded. None of this is happening in America. Christians in America thrust out their hands and lay hold of whatever new fad will make them a megachurch or whatever “doctrine” will allow them to shape a “God” that suits their lifestyles without expecting them to change at all instead of crying out to God for help. They chase people, not because they care or because they want people to be saved from hell, but because it will fill their churches and their coffers. Strength and character have been replaced by relevance and lack of wisdom. American “Christians” are no longer concerned with having the attitude of Christ.

Ok, so what attributes should a Christian (no matter where they live) have?

Joh 3:3 Jesus answered and said to him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”

1Jn 1:5 This is the message we have heard from Him and announce to you, that God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all.
1Jn 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;

Eph 5:1 Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children;
Eph 5:2 and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma.

Mat 16:24 Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me.
Mat 16:25 “For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.
Mat 16:26 “For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?

Mat 28:19 “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit,
Mat 28:20 teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

Mar 16:15 And He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.

Joh 8:31 So Jesus was saying to those Jews who had believed Him, “If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine;

Gal 5:22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,
Gal 5:23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.

This list is not exhaustive by any means but it is part of the list and much of it is lacking in American “Christians” today. As I said, not all American Christians are false converts but the numbers seem to be changing. Many people want the “benefits” of Christianity without actually getting saved. They want the good feelings and the fun events without the obedience and the sacrifice. Pastors would rather have the pride that comes from a packed church with at least one building project (for expanding the church) than have the peace that comes from knowing that they’ve preached the truth and left the increase and salvation of those listening to God. They ignore their consciences and take the easy route because it doesn’t require a backbone. Many of these churches are cold too. Not temperature wise, but the people themselves. They have painted smiles and hollow platitudes to offer newcomers if they speak to them at all. It reminds me of “Stained Glass Masquerade” by Casting Crowns. If true persecution comes to America, it will be the purifying fire that will show who is willing to serve the Lord and who is standing in His shadow. I pray that it doesn’t take real persecution for the church to wake up and stand up, but I’m afraid that’s the only thing left…

Packing the pews

October 9, 2007 at 3:14 pm | Posted in Christianity | Leave a comment
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The Church of England recently held a “Back to Church Sunday” event where about 2,000 churches encouraged their congregations to invite friends and family back to church. This was an effort to slow the shrinking church in England and resulted in a change in the services of many of the churches.

I’ve got to say that I’ve noticed a trend like this in the US too. Not so much a shrinking church, but a desire and concerted effort to “pack the pews”. It seems the local churches have become more focused on quantity and not quality. It’s become more about numbers in a day and age where the truth of the Bible needs to be proclaimed with a bulldog-like tenacity. The mentality of the modern church seems to be that if we pack the pews and offer all of these “seeker sensitive” programs, we’ll see everything happen at a much greater level and we’ll have more people to do the work of God. Continue Reading Packing the pews…


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