Friday, July 31, 2015

Unvoidable: Home Get-Togethers

The early church met in homes. They met simply. They met cheaply. They met for edification.

Does today's church have to meet in homes? I don't think so. However, God has given us in scripture a model for gathering simply as his body for the purpose of edification. This can likely occur just as easily in a coffee shop, park, or store front as it does in a home.

What we do not see in the bible is churches coming together in large groups on Sundays for the purpose of worship in large, expensive buildings. What happens today is foreign to scripture.

When we think about the family of God, we must ask ourselves whether or not we have any sort of road map to follow. Has God provided us with any sort of directions, or have we been left to simply figure things out on our own? While we are to follow the leading of the Holy Spirit, it seems as if today more and more Christians are blaming increasingly odd, bizarre, and just plain stupid behavior on the Spirit. What, therefore, are we to do?

We look in the bible. We see a model of church life. We follow the principles we see. It's that simple.

It is unavoidable that the early believers met simply. When they gathered, it was a family meeting. It was usually in homes. It was unstructured. It was for edification.

Home get-togethers is what we read about. The question is, "Will we follow the principle we see in scripture?"

Linking: Why is Religious Freedom at Risk?

Ryan T. Anderson asks and answers the above question with some good thoughts.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Unavoidable: A Family/Community of the Redeemed

Definitions are important.

How we define the church says a great deal about what we believe the church should be and do. When we look in the bible we see unavoidably that the church is a family. It is also a community. This family/community is composed of the redeemed. While the church we see in the bible certainly had its share of problems (see Corinth for example), it always described a group of saved people.

The book of Acts shows us a people that lived far differently from the world. They stood out both because of their holy living and their care for others. Simply put, they looked totally different from the surrounding culture. They were odd (in the good sense). When we read both Jesus' teachings in the gospels and the NT epistles, we see calls to radically different living.

As we turn our gaze to the American church we see something else. Sadly, what we see is something that looks a lot like our culture at large. Churches are comfortable. Churches are insulated. Churches are self-focused. Churches go with the latest fads. Many within the church (as defined as those whose names are on church membership roles) live as sinfully as the world does.

Is the church composed of the redeemed or is it not?

According to scripture, it unavoidably is.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Unavoidable: Jesus Christ is the One and Only Head

One of the most fundamental truths of church life is that our Lord Jesus is the only Head of His body.

"Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ" (Ephesians 4:15).

"And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent" (Colossians 1:18).

My guess is that the vast majority of Christians, if asked, would agree that Jesus is the Head of His church. However, in practice we see a far different picture. In this country headship within the church has become muddled. This is caused by the unbiblical practice of elevating pastors to positions of authority and prestige within the body. While the bible shows us nothing resembling modern pastors, most churches continue with this practice year after year.

If you attend a typical worship service you might not be able to figure out who the head actually is. On the one hand, Jesus will probably receive some form of verbal praise. On the other hand, one man will likely be front and center for the majority of the gathering. The pastor does most of the "important stuff" while pretty much everybody else sits quietly. This typical situation provides the strong message that the pastor is actually the head.

The bible states clearly and unavoidably that Jesus Christ is the one and only Head of His own church. Since this is the case, we ought to gather in ways that model this. No one person should be preeminent. Everyone ought to be involved. All must be on equal footing before God. The only person who should be recognized as being in authority is Christ.

Any deviation from Christ as Head is extremely problematic. This is why God made this truth unavoidable.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Unavoidable Church Principles

When I look around the church landscape in this country I see a mess.

This mess stems directly from Christians trying to live church life as they see fit, generally disregarding the bible whenever they feel like it. This phenomenon of ignoring scripture has opened a Pandora's box of all sorts of problems. When Christians try to do things according to their own wisdom, apart from what we see in the bible, the results are predictable. In the end what we have in this country is a church that is largely ineffective in either edifying the saints or proclaiming the gospel to the lost.

Most Christians look to the bible to inform what they believe about God and the gospel. And yet, these same people act as if what scripture says about the church is unimportant. This despite the fact that God has given us in scripture numerous unavoidable principles for church life. They are unavoidable in the sense that they are right there in writing. A fair reading points them out. In fact, the only way they can be avoided is by actively doing so.

Over the next few posts I'm going to be discussing these unavoidable church practices. I do this because the American church as it currently stands generally does whatever it wants whenever it wants. It is like a boat adrift. It needs to return to its mooring. That mooring is the bible.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Meme Sunday Begins Tomorrow!

Tomorrow morning I'm beginning a new feature on this blog: Meme Sunday.

Each Sunday morning I'll post a church-related meme. Why? Well, I like making memes, and sometimes memes convey meaning very effectively. Also, they are fun. These will be memes that I create (I won't be plagiarizing from anyone else). While I do not expect any of this to be earth-shattering, I'm still looking forward to it. I've chosen Sundays because, as we all know, that's the day that the church is most active (or passive if sitting in pews).

Feel free to comment, or simply enjoy the fun.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

A Church Budget Can and Should Be This Simple

I'm not generally a fan of church budgets. They are frequently complicated and self-serving. Too often they show what the church has become: a business.

Churches need better budgets. Well, I have a suggestion. Below is a simple and appropriate budget that I believe all churches should use:

40% to needy people outside the church
40% to needy people inside the church
20% to international missionaries

There it is. Simple and appropriate.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Christians Shouldn't Fly the Rainbow Flag Either

I've never seen or heard so much talk of flags. Why are flags even important? Do they matter?

They do, in fact, matter because they represent ideas. And as the saying goes, "Ideas have consequences."

As many of you know, I live in the American South. Thus, I see my share of confederate flags. They mostly fly at private residences. Over the past month or so the confederate flag has been all over the news. Opinions about this flag are wide ranging. Emotions run high almost whenever the topic is brought up. A few years ago I put my opinion about the confederate flag on this blog. The post is entitled Christians Should Not Fly This Flag.

There's another increasingly popular flag that also stirs the emotions: the rainbow flag. Generally speaking, this flag represents the homosexual community. If you fly the rainbow flag it means that you are supporting the homosexual lifestyle. I'm not surprised that secular society is now rallying around this flag. However, what bothers me is just how many self-professing Christians support homosexuality. It's as if they've never read the bible (maybe they haven't) or just don't care what it says.

Despite what some revisionist interpreters would like us to think, the scriptures are clear on the issue of homosexuality. The words penned in the bible actually mean what they mean. It is instructive that the entire church was in agreement that homosexuality is sin until just recently. To think that all Christians everywhere were wrong about this for 1900 years is very arrogant.

Because the bible is abundantly clear on this topic, followers of Jesus Christ ought not in any way support homosexuality as a valid lifestyle. Part of this is not flying the rainbow flag.

As a reminder:

"For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error." Rom. 1:26-27

"Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God." I Cor. 6:9-10

"Now we know that the law is good, if one uses it lawfully, understanding this, that the law is not laid down for the just but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who strike their fathers and mothers, for murderers, the sexually immoral, men who practice homosexuality, enslavers, liars, perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound doctrine, in accordance with the gospel of the glory of the blessed God with which I have been entrusted." I Tim. 1:8-11

Additionally, below is everything positive the bible says about homosexuality:

If you follow Jesus Christ, don't fly the rainbow flag.

Friday, July 10, 2015

A Fun Reformed Meme

This meme may have been out for a while, but I still find it funny. Part of what makes it so humorous is that it is accurate. I've been through all stages myself.

Having been raised in a Wesleyan-Armininan church, the idea of God's sovereignty over salvation seemed nearly abhorrent to me. However, once confronted with scripture (this about 10-15 years ago while in seminary) I quickly entered the shock and then denial stages. After a few difficult months, I moved on to realization and acceptance. Unfortunately, shortly after that I began that very annoying phase where I tried to convince other unsuspecting Christians that predestination is true. I was, as they say, a bit of a jerk. A cage would have been a good place for me.

I don't know about that last stage. I've never been much of a sage about anything.

A word of clarification: while I strongly hold to Reformed thinking as it pertains to salvation, I disagree with much of it regarding the life and function of the church. Therefore, I'm not really Reformed. Rather, I just love the Doctrines of Grace.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Questions and Answers

I've been gradually answering a series of questions that I raised back in May in the post entitled Sorry, But I Can't Stop Asking Questions. We've made it to July, and I'm still answering them. This is dragging on too long. Therefore, I'm going to finish the final six questions right now.

Why do so many simple church folks have poorly-defined doctrine?

Having swum in the simple church waters for a while now, I realize that a significant number of these Christians have fairly poor or at least poorly-defined doctrine. I'm referring to significant issues such as the gospel itself (obviously the most important), the reality of Hell, homosexuality, women's roles, etc. Why has this happened? While I'm sure many different reasons exist, the primary one may be that many simple church people tend to "go it alone" when coming to their own beliefs. They pick and choose whatever they feel comfortable with, not bothering to compare those beliefs to historic Christianity. I'm all for studying the scriptures to find what is true; however, this ought to be done in primarily in community as opposed to isolation.

One further thought: plenty of institutional Christians have poor doctrine. This stems from drinking the Kool-Aid of bad teaching from the pulpit. Denomination after denomination in this country has stated beliefs and practices that have little to nothing to do with the bible. Just take a quick look, for example, at the Episcopalian Church. They hardly resemble Christianity at all.

The truth is that poor doctrine exists everywhere. We must let the bible drive what we believe and come to those beliefs within the setting that is the body of Christ.

Why do churches spend so much money on themselves?

This is an easy one to answer. The institutionalized church has one great, often unstated goal: self-preservation. This is why it spends almost all of its tithes and offerings on paying its own bills. After paying the pastoral salaries and building expenses there is little left over to give to anyone in need. An additional factor is that American Christians like comfort; the buildings must be nice.

Why do churches deny any Christians access to the Lord's table?

I believe this is done with good but ignorant intentions. It also occurs not within the New Testament's model of a full meal, but rather during the ceremonial Lord's Suppers that feel like funerals.

Some pastors are afraid that non-believers will partake of the small cup of juice and the stale cracker. Therefore, they only allow "local church members" to eat it. In doing so, they are denying access to the table. What a mockery this is! Who is the pastor to deny access to the Lord's table to any believer? It is the Lord's after all.

Within institutional Christianity the entire Lord's Supper has become a big mess. It does not even remotely resemble the joyful family meals we read about in the New Testament. It needs an entire reformation.

Why do many Christians invest so much in secular politics?

The answer is that many believe that the USA is some sort of second Israel. "God is going to change the world through the red, white, and blue!" Wrong! God has never made any promises to America. Also, these Christians simply do not understand (or refuse to) that the church should function outside of politics. The church is a spiritual reality. It operates according to God's principles. To mesh with politics always brings harm and disappointment to the church.

Why do we divide over so many inconsequential issues?

We divide because we want to be right. We do not believe that we can stand united with other Christians who believe differently than we do on doctrines of secondary importance. Division is the easy thing to do; it's a much more challenging task to live peaceably with those who disagree with us. Also, we don't take God's commands for unity seriously; we act as if they are optional.

Why do we expect secularists to care about Christian principles?

I'm always amused when I hear Christians bemoan the state of our society. I cannot figure out why Christians think that a secular culture would care at all about what God has to say about anything. Frankly, what amazes me is that the USA is not worse off morally and ethically than it is. The fact is that man's heart is cold to the things of God until God works the miracle of regeneration. We ought to expect a lot less from society and a lot more from the church. The church alone can see with spiritual eyes. We alone should be caring for what God wants. We tend to hold society to too high a standard while we give the church a free pass. The church ought to be the beacon God intends it to be. Let's hold each other to a higher standard.

Monday, July 6, 2015

A Word About the Confederate Battle Flag from an American Christian Living in the South

Politics in a vacuum has little interest for me. However, when politics intersects with Christianity I take note.

Lately the Confederate Battle Flag has been one of the top stories in the news. I'm a transplanted northerner living in the American South. I love much about residing in Savannah, Georgia. One of the few things I do not like is the Confederate Battle Flag. I wrote about this almost two years ago, and I feel the same way about it today as I did back then. Click here to read my post. Agree or disagree?

Saturday, July 4, 2015

A Million Times NO to This Picture!

On July 4th I feel compelled to remind the church that our hope is not in politics. The last thing the people of Christ need is the cross wrapped in the American flag. Even less do we need to place hope in the Republican Party (or any other political party for that matter).

Our hope is in Jesus Christ and him alone. As Paul tells us in Philippians 3:20, "Our citizenship is in heaven." Peter reminds us in the first verse of I Peter that we are "exiles." This is not our home.

To place any hope in politics is to play the fool. It is pointless. Even worse is to somehow try to combine the church with secular politics. The two do not mesh. Whenever the church and state come together, it is well-known that the church becomes the whore of the state. The church does not purify the state; rather, the state contaminates the church.

I say a million times NO! to the above picture. Nations, including the good ole' USA, rise and fall. America is no different. It is the Kingdom of God that will last forever. It is there that we are citizens. It is also there where we must place our trust.