2009/12/16

TRUTH PERSONIFIED

According to the New Testament definition, what is the work of the church, and in contrast, what is the work of the saint? Where do their responsibilities overlap and which areas are unique to either the church or the saint? The first item that pertains to the church is that it is the keeper of the keys to the Kingdom of Heaven. Inherent in this definition is the church’s task of maintaining truth. The truth that we are challenged to maintain has little to do with the many items that theologians have attached to it over the centuries but rather the fact that there is one God. There is one Mediator between God and man and that person is Jesus Christ. If one maintains these fundamentals, many other aspects will fall into place in a timely manner. The church needs to return to the simplicity advocated by Christ. Christ stated that truth was a person and that he is that person. It is one’s view of Christ that determines their view of truth. The foundational question that the church must answer is, “Who is Jesus Christ?” The church’s response to this question must not be diluted or compromised. It must be maintained at all costs that Jesus Christ is the incarnation of God. God became flesh in the person of Jesus Christ in order that human beings would have a clearer picture of who God is. This is not to be turned over to the domain of the theologians but rather the church must seek the anointing of the Holy Spirit. It is the Holy Spirit who will guide the church into all truth. In following this statement of scripture, truth is not entrusted to human beings to debate and define. Rather it is revealed to humans through the Holy Spirit. It is intended to empower the church to acts, the equivalent to that recorded in the book of Acts. If the church is to experience the miraculous workings as recorded earlier, it must return to the simple teachings of Jesus Christ.

2009/04/15

Changing Approach

Jesus did not entrust himself to human beings because he knew what was in our hearts. Knowing the evil, jealous, and selfish responses of which humans are capable, God realized the necessity of providing people with a new heart.

Western Christians now live in an age when values have been destroyed, a concept of worth has disintegrated, and a sense of propriety has disappeared; leaving the difficult question, “How are believers to influence the world?” The approaches of the North American church in the 1940’s through the mid-1960’s were rendered useless by the sexual revolution and the open rebellion of the late 60’s through the early 1970’s.

Two responses to this unrest were the birth of the Moral Majority (the Religious Right) and the mega church. As Western culture continues to crumble at unprecedented speed, the church must again realign its resources to remain an effective influence in a disturbed time and culture.

This new approach must be Biblical and answer the question, “How does the Holy Spirit want to work?” If the church can get on board with the leading of the Holy Spirit, then it may be that the church can again see the tremendous work that was recorded in the Book of Acts.

A second aspect of this must be to heed the command to “GO”! It is imperative that the church center of operation become the streets, schools, and gathering places rather than the temple. Rather than “going” with a judgmental and divisive approach, the church must go with the love of God as our method of operation.

If we fail to remember the fallen state of the world, we tend to fight for moral issues. While these are important, the main issue is found in our living and loving as did Jesus. This is possible when the church is led by the empowerment of the Holy Spirit. If we enable a disillusioned people to see Jesus, then the Holy Spirit will convict them in the areas of moral behavior.

2009/03/11

A Different Standard

It is clear that the Republican positions are not the same as those of the Democrats. This is not a difficult concept to grasp. Many people would also readily acknowledge that God’s ways are not man’s ways.
This raises the question as to how astute are we at grasping God’s way. As we view the manner in which we practice our worship services, do we seek God and His presence as we plan these experiences? Or, do we watch other churches practice and plan according to what has been successful for them?
How do we know that the most successful church in God’s eyes is the church that we might choose to mimic? The two churches that Jesus lifts, of the seven in chapters two and three of Revelation, would not match many of today’s definition of a successful church.
Concerning the church in Smyrna, he states that he knows their “tribulation and poverty” and yet they are rich. The description continues, “Don’t be afraid of what you are about to suffer.” God views their wealth from a perspective that is unique from a human viewpoint.
The church in Philadelphia is identified as having “limited strength.” They receive their recognition from “keeping” God’s word and not having denied his name. Their accolades are not from a great program and an increasing attendance but rather their faithfulness.
The church in Laodicea takes pride in their accomplishments and they even brag about their wealth. Jesus’ response to them is that he will vomit them out of his mouth. He also admonishes them to purchase new clothing so that they will not be embarrassed or ashamed.
All too often we lift up the church that is able to build the largest buildings and oversee great programs. Their wealth is admired and they are held as model churches. It is an interesting contrast that Jesus challenged churches of this type and recognized churches that suffered and had limited strength.
This does not mean that larger churches are wrong and smaller churches are inherently right. It does indicate that all churches will be judged by the same standard and that is based on our faithfulness in the midst of suffering.

2009/02/26

Removing Routine

On any given Sunday, millions of people follow a habit of heading to church. What is the reason behind this routine? What is it that these people anticipate as they gather?
For those upfront, is it a performance from which accolades are expected? For those in the audience, is it to renew friendships or to maintain appearances?
It may be startling to some but “worship” is a verb as well as a noun. Because a person is seated in a place of worship, does not mean that they engage in actual worship. For worship to take place, those who are gathered must express praise and adoration to God. This entails more than just singing choruses or hymns and more than just an inspiring speaker.
Worship involves humbling oneself before God and acknowledging their dependence upon this divine being. Worship involves uninhibited expressions that are not orchestrated or rehearsed. Worship involves loving the people who are seated in the audience as well as those who are leading the framework of worship.
Worship does not concern itself with what a person receives but in what a person gives. If one leaves a ‘worship service’ concerned about peripheral items (length of service, style of music, or their personal comfort), it may be that the God they are worshipping is no larger than themselves.

2009/02/14

ABSOLUTELY NOT

The concept of absolute truth seems to be an abomination of Jesus' words, "Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free" (John 08:32 N.I.V.). In a western, logical approach, this becomes a futile exercise of pursuing knowledge and splitting hairs. In an eastern mindset, the word know would imply more than just gaining additional insight. Rather than increased information, the idea of intimate relationship would also be understood. If one understood Jesus from this perspective, then it is an intimate relationship with Him that would set a person free.

Instead of placing such emphasis on mentally grasping the concept of absolute truth, it could be understood that Jesus Christ is the truth. The challenge becomes to live in this freedom. In sharp contrast, an intense pursuit of a theological or a philosophical end--such as absolute truth requires restraints and divisions that divide not only followers of Christ but also followers of Christ from our neighbors. The saints become subject to rules and interpretations rather than to loving.

An intimacy with Christ would cause a person to love God with all of their heart, mind, and strength and in this same way to love their neighbors. The challenge facing the Body of Christ is not additional information (Paul states that knowledge puffs up) or Bible studies but simply living in the freedom of love.

2009/02/10

It's Not Just a Potluck Dinner

The western church has excelled in many regards but has not consistently met a key objective for the church--that of fellowship. Why is it that one of the most important aspects of church life has been replaced with a penchant for buildings, technology, education and programs?

In viewing Biblical fellowship, the bar is raised very high. In the seventeenth chapter of John, Jesus desires the fellowship that was enjoyed by all that comprises God prior to Jesus' coming to earth. This fellowship is to be at a spiritual level that includes confession, encouragement, intercessory prayer, and accountability.

The western concept of "individual" Christianity prevents consistent, genuine fellowship from taking place. Over time Christianity, has moved from a spiritual community which sustains and supports each believer to one in which the Christian often faces challenges with little or no input from the church. A few Christian friends may "pray" for us but all too often we left to act independently.

In our desire to build bigger buildings and first class programs, it must not be forgotten that fellowship is to be a key component. The interesting twist to this is that this must take place among believers. While many believers may desire this type of fellowship, all too often it is an afterthought and not an emphasis within church planning.

2009/02/02

Living Abundantly

This the fourth trip that I have taken that was intended to be of a serving nature and it was incredible. In retrospect, it seems that the previous trips were nothing more than positive experiences but this time it was amazing to see God intervene in so many ways.

Each of the trips (two to Honduras, one to Ghana, and this one to Liberia) opened my eyes to the marked differences in cultures and values. None of these countries enjoy the material accumulations that are common place to me but each of them live life abundantly.

The overwhelming, eye opening item that grabbed my attention is the spiritual poverty in which I live. Each of these people groups rejoice in the Lord and live in confidence of God's care and provision. They expect that each day God will influence their lives and work to make all things work together for His good.

The physical eye can see the absence of material goods in which they live, however; it is easy to miss the spiritual abundance which gives them direction. On each trip I have received more than I have left and this time God made it pointedly clear of me need to be fully dependent upon Him.

2009/01/19

LIBERIA BOUND

I am heading to Monrovia, Liberia, West Africa to train pastors. I will return to the blogging scene in early February. It has been an extremely busy January.

2009/01/13

Worship--It's Not Just for Sundays

Worship is a lifestyle rather than an event that we practice at designated times. Over the centuries, it has morphed from the type of experience that was revealed to Moses (in Exodus) and encouraged in many of the Psalms.
Paul gives an excellent example of how worship can be lived in I Thessalonians 05:16—18. Here worship is not defined as an action nor an activity but rather the spirit by which a person lives.
The first instruction is that we are to always be joyful. Happiness is usually associated with circumstances but the “joy of the Lord” is not connected with the conditions which surround us. Rather joy comes when one is immersed in the presence of God.
The second admonition is that we are to pray continually. This requires that our thinking always includes God’s thoughts. It is a reminder that a person cannot be angry at another person and be walking uniquely with God. Here the believer persistently responds as God would because the communication never ceases.
The final command is to give thanks in all circumstances. Rather than evaluating life from a human perspective, the believer is challenged to acknowledge that God is in control. The issue for the one choosing to be Christ-like is to respond as a saint rather than as would a normal human being.
If the believer is able to implement these three concepts in their conduct, it seems evident that worship will cease to only be an event that takes place at designated times but rather “praise will continually be on my lips.” When this becomes habitual, then worship is truly a lifestyle and not just an activity.