How Can the Church Impact Our Communities

In his book “Core Christianity: What is Christianity All About?” Elmer Towns utilizes chapter nine to teach us about the purpose of the church. The church was created to continue the ministry of Jesus Christ on earth. The Holy Spirit was sent to the believers to aid them in spreading the good news of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection. The church exists to create a community of believers who are reaching the lost and discipling new believers. Unfortunately, the church has not always been successful at the task. There have been many times throughout its history where the church has succeeded at freeing those in bondage, feeding those who were hungry, protecting those being abused, and sharing the good news of God’s forgiveness of sin. Today, the church in North America finds itself dealing with an identity crisis. We became so consumed with creating an alternative culture to our society that we convinced the world we were irrelevant. And now the church is faced with the dilemma of breaking back into the culture. But how do we convince our society that we are here to help?

I believe the first task at hand will be dealing with our differences and our disagreements. Christianity is a reasonable religion, and because of this we do often find ourselves in debate and discussion over some points. These discussions are important and even healthy for our faith, but we cannot allow secondary arguments to become dividers. By this I do not mean we must all agree on everything, but that those things of which we disagree cannot become greater than the things that unite us. Of this I am not speaking of primary things. There are foundational principles of Christianity that believers must not waiver on, but it is the secondary (and sometimes even tertiary) things that we must not allow to create divisions of animosity and anger between believers. Jesus said the world would know us by our love for one another. But what the world sees is a divided religion that cannot agree on the small things. The truth is we need to accept that the teachings of Jesus allow for a great diversity within the body of Christ. The words we read in our Bibles are not as important as the accuracy of the message, our styles of music are not as significant as the praise that it should encourage, and we have not all been called to champion the same causes. We all have differing gifts, abilities, and passions that are to be used in ministering the gospel of Jesus. It is ok that some prefer an organ playing our music, there is nothing wrong with praising God with a rock band, and many have found themselves led to the feet of the Father while listening to a praise team. The Bible does not speak against these things, and within the covers of scripture Christ’s church is allowed to be diverse. Elmer Towns writes, “The glue that bonds them as a community is their transformation by Christ – Christ indwells each one, and they share this common experience with one another (102).” When we unite, not under the same roof but under the same message, we will reach the world.

Once we unite against the enemies of the gospel, and by that I mean Satan and his minions, we would begin to experience a revival in North America. Why is it that our society continues to degrade into immoral behavior? Why do we see depravity all around us, despite our pleas? Why do they not hear our screams and threatening of God’s coming judgment? The simple truth is because they do not understand that we care. The world only sees a group of people who want everyone else to conform to their way of life. And for the most part that is our fault. Instead of love we have leveraged our power, our numbers, and our governmental system to keep so-called Christian values in a position of prominence. And now, we have lost all of those things. America may have been founded on Christian principles, but the America of today is a long way from a Christian nation. Jesus did not instruct his followers to impose him on their society and they were never encouraged to enforce his teachings on those who did not believe. Jesus taught that all of his followers are to live life openly and seek those who are in desperate need of God’s love. Towns writes, “To Christianize a nation is not to pass Christian laws, or force Christian baptism on everyone. Christianization does not start at the top and move down. Rather when Jesus Christ transforms individuals, they begin living for Christ in their homes and in their churches; then they begin to influence the larger society (124).” We are to teach God’s laws, humanity’s need for redemption, and Jesus’ success as our salvation. We do this by earning an audience with those around us. The church has been equipped to meet the needs of the abandoned, the hungry, the abused, and the lost. When we stop focusing our time and effort on enforcing our belief, we will see that the world is very open to the idea of Jesus followers. Jesus followers not only share the good news of Jesus, but meet the needs of society. It was not often in Jesus’ ministry that he had a receptive audience without first meeting someone’s physical needs. If we want the world to hear what we have to say, we must first make sure they realize our motive is love.

In closing, the church has become very misunderstood but much of the problem is our own doing. I spent this post talking about our shortcomings, but the church has been successful on many fronts. I believe on these two things we are in need of repentance and revival. We cannot allow our differences to make us opponents and we cannot view the world as our enemy, it is our mission. Through loving each other and those around us, we can find opportunities to meet the needs of those who are destitute. And in those moments of love, the gospel shines the brightest.

Reference:
Towns, Elmer. “Core Christianity: What is Christianity All About?” 2007. AMG Publishers. Chattanooga, TN.

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Bible Essay: The Biblical Narrative

A narrative is a historical story that provides an account of events that took place in the past so that the reader may gain knowledge and direction in the present. Much of the Bible is composed of narratives accurately depicting events in the history of God’s chosen people. Narratives serve a very distinct purpose in Christianity. “If you are a Christian, the Old Testament is your spiritual history. The promises and calling of God to Israel are your historical promises and calling (Fee, 89).”

The narratives contained in the Bible were written to teach the readers about events in the past, and it is important to realize we should never allegorize the OT narratives looking for hidden meanings. These events took place in history just as they are recorded. The OT narratives are not stories to better illustrate something about Jesus (Fee, 92), and neither should they be viewed as fables that teach moral lessons. The characters are real historical figures with many flaws and they sometimes make poor decisions. The description of their life events are what actually happened and not necessarily what should have happened (Fee, 92). The narratives purpose is to inform the reader of how God has orchestrated events throughout history to achieve his desired outcome. Sometimes the OT narratives illustrate what is taught clearly and firmly elsewhere in scripture. A truth is not taught in the narrative, but the narrative may be used to further support or illustrate a truth from another section of scripture (Fee, 106).

The OT narratives are a vital resource for Christians. We may easily read how God, the biblical hero, has orchestrated events through history, independent of those who follow him, to guide history to where we are today. “Narratives are precious to us because they so vividly demonstrate God’s involvement in the world and illustrate his principles and calling (Fee, 105).” The narratives offer great insight into the past, but we should never abuse them to try and teach directives they do not contain.

Persecuted Church of China

More often we talk about China’s abortion rate, and we forget about the Christians who are facing real persecution. In China, Christianity is regulated by the state and only state sponsored home churches are allowed to meet. This of course means the government has the opportunity to regulate these churches activities. The secret churches risk everything to meet together for Christian fellowship.

Please join me today, as we pray for those in China facing increased persecution. May they stay faithful to their Lord, and may he bless them for their faithfulness.

http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2013/february-web-only/how-china-plans-to-wipe-out-house-churches.html

Who Should Tend to the Poor?

President Barack Obama signs legislation in th...

Those who oppress the poor insult their Maker, but helping the poor honors him.

Proverbs 14:31

The re-election of Barack Obama as President of the United States has led to much discussion on how welfare may or may not have been a contributing factor in his re-election. And with the warnings of a “Fiscal Cliff” being reported every half hour (unless you pay attention to the cable news networks. Then you see it every thirty seconds), welfare cuts seem to be inevitable.

Both sides have strong arguments about federal welfare programs. Many in our country find themselves unable to support themselves (look up the number of single mothers whose incomes fall below the poverty line), and the aid they receive from Uncle Sam provides the resources they need to care for their children. However, our country is facing a financial crisis. One that may place our federal government in the same situation these families find themselves in.

One side argues that we can not turn our back on the poor no matter the cost. They see America as a beacon of hope, and if we cannot care for our own that hope may be lost. The other side is often painted as uncaring and unsympathetic. I do not believe that to be the case. They simply see the fact that if you make five hundred dollars a week, your expenses for a week cannot be six hundred. You cannot support yourself or anyone else if expense is greater than income.

At this point maybe you are wondering which side of this disagreement I am on. I can tell you I have no clue how the federal government should work this out. I do not know if there is a solution that will fix the situation Washington is in. Maybe we should stop looking to Washington to sort things out.

The church exists to help the poor, disfranchised, the hated, and the forgotten. Jesus left us with the task of loving those who society would rather forget. We are the ones responsible for caring for them. At some point in our history Christians in America decided that the federal government should take care of those in need, and it has contributed to the bankruptcy of the US. We stopped caring for the needs of those around us and focused on our own.

Five Loaves and Two Fish

Today I hear a lot of Christians on both sides argue over how to handle the situation. But everyone seems to be waiting for Washington to devise a solution (which is ironic for those who consider themselves conservative and want less federal involvement in their lives). We need to stop waiting on the Feds to solve the issue. Church we need to step up, perform the work The Lord Jesus has given us, and then so many will not be dependent on federal assistance.

If you want to really help those in need help them directly and stop paying the government to do it. We can do a better job if we apply ourselves.

If you want the government to stop wasting your money on failed programs, start taking care of those in your area. I agree with you that government wastes more than it spends. Lets show them how to accomplish something.

It is time the church starts a revolution. One that accomplishes not the work of our forefathers, but the work of our Holy Father.

So, what are some of your ideas for assisting those in need?

5 Signs You Glorify Self, Paul Tripp

I want to share this great blog by Paul Tripp about self-glorification. It is true that we sometimes struggle with the temptation to get caught up in our little “celebrity” within our churches when we lead from the front.

“May he use it to expose our hearts and to redirect our ministry.”

5 Signs You Glorify Self

A Christian Response to Election Day 2012

Image Source: CNET

I Have Tried to Stay Out of This

So I have attempted to stay out of the political discourse over the past few weeks. Those who know me personally know this has come with great difficulty for me. But I have learned over the last few years that my political views are insignificant in comparison to the question of the Gospel. Yes I have an opinion on the morality of abortion; I have an opinion on the government’s use of our tax dollars, and I voted this election year based on who I believed would be the best leader.

Gospel Relevance

I do believe all of these things to be important. I do believe the election of the leader of the Free World is important to our daily lives. But I do not believe they supersede the importance of spreading the Gospel. God created man in his own image and blessed us with intelligence, rationality, a sense of morality, and creativeness. God created within us a sense of eternity and a need to be part of something greater than ourselves. He created the love that exists within us, and he did all of this so that he could enjoy our companionship. However, our companionship would be worthless if we were not granted the ability to choose to love God.

So he has allowed us to choose, and he has set parameters on what he constituted as loving him. God chose to show us how much he loves us in that while we were willing to live meaningless lives apart from him, he sent his son to die displaying the extent of his love. Some people question why God would choose such a bloody and painful method, but the severity of the sacrifice demonstrates the magnitude of God’s love for us. Jesus taught that belief in his sacrifice is enough to pardon our rebellion, and that by confessing him as savior we are granted eternity with God.

Wait… I know, you thought this was going to be about politics.

My view of the Gospel does speak into my political belief system. Here is what I believe; it the responsibility of a believer in Jesus Christ to keep his commands. We have been entrusted with instructions on how to live our lives as his followers. He was very clear when he described what it means to be a disciple. It is our commission to love those around us. We must love them whether they agree with us or not. Who they voted for, where they go to church, if they spend Sunday in a bar, if they have chosen a same-sex relationship, how many abortions they have had, or if they deny the very existence of God are not exemptions. We have been commanded to love them. Jesus said that by our love for one another they will recognize us as his followers. It is our responsibility to love one another. Jesus was asked what was the greatest of the commandments and he said to love God with everything that we are AND to love others as we love ourselves.

If we, The Church, were to practice what Jesus taught, would we not have a better platform to speak with those around us about the Gospel? We would not be hindered by stereotypes of hatred and intolerance. If the Church were to focus on spreading the Good News of Jesus Christ first we would see less opposition to our beliefs. People would want our churches to be in their neighborhoods if we clothed their children. They would be excited to see a church move to town if we were feeding their hungry. They would praise God for his relief efforts if we took care of the widows and orphans. As long as we sit in our large buildings demanded the rest of the world to adhere to our moral beliefs we will be asked to politely shut the door and shut our mouths.

And who knows; if the church took care of the hurting, the poor, and the hungry maybe there wouldn’t be a need for the government to do it and maybe young girls would come to our doors instead of Planned Parenthood’s. But greater than that maybe this country would stop requesting that God (would) Bless America, and maybe we would start saying America Bless God.

So, Our Response?

Pray. We need to pray for the man who was just re-elected as the President of the United States of America. We need to pray that he is successful at helping our country to heal from her wounds.

Pray for our divided nation. With the vote totals being so close in the past few Presidential elections it is clear that our country is divided by two ideologies that have a difficult time co-existing. We must find ways to unite and succeed, but I believe that begins with prayer for understanding, and cooperation.

We need to pray for our churches. In the past the church has flourished under persecution, and if the re-elected administration chooses to further alienate people of faith we will need to be prepared. We need to pray that the church loses its focus on politics and refocuses on Jesus and his Gospel.

Conclusion

Whether you supported the president’s campaign or the GOP ticket, one thing is for sure. The man in office owes much of his achievements to God. If your man won, show a little grace to those who do not share in your ideology. They believe they are right just as much as you believe you are. If your “side” is going to lead than be a leader worth following.

If your team is licking its wounds today don’t be a sore loser. None of us believe you are moving to Canada (they have a federal health care system by the way) or Mexico (come on, they have fewer jobs than we do). Take a deep breath, and relax. The King is still in control. And remember, there is always next time (well… if there is a next time).

 

Related Posts

Do Not Worry About Tomorrow

God Doesn’t Need a Believer in the White House

 

 

The Narrow Way

“Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few. Matthew 7:13, 14

Some people think Christians take pleasure in these verses. They believe we carry them around like a badge. The reality is that as believers in Christ Jesus these verses should scare us to our very cores. Jesus says that many will choose the way that leads to destruction, but few will follow the path that leads to life. Have you ever stopped to think of what salvation is? I explained it to a friend the other day; this is basically what I said,

“God created this world as a beginning for our eternity. He created mankind to love, but he has given each and every one of us the ability to choose acceptance of his love or to reject it. Those who choose God’s love will one day be snatched away from this temporal zone, and experience the perfected life that God has always planned for us in his presence. However, those who do not choose God’s love will not be permitted into everlasting perfection. Instead they will be placed with the rebellious angels and Satan in the abyss. All of this… this is just the beginning. This isn’t real.”

Have you seen the movie The Matrix? The lead character, Neo, is offered a choice. Continue his existence as it is, or experience real life. All he had to do was take a red pill. Our faith is not all that different from the red pill of The Matrix. Believing faith in the Lord Jesus’ sacrificial atonement for our sin will open our eyes to the real world, and allow us to escape that which is not. But Jesus taught that only a few would accept this faith, but many would follow the path that leads them to destruction. Even worse, Jesus knew that some would take his offer and corrupt it. Creating something just as terrible, but also deceptive.

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’ Matthew 7:21-23

Do you assume that everyone who attends worship service on a regular basis at your church is a follower of Christ? Do you ever look over the crowd and wonder who has placed their eternal livelihood in the hands of Jesus? Sometimes I sit in the balcony at my church and I look over the crowd. I wonder if Billy Graham is correct in his assertion that only 15-25 percent of those attending church on Sunday are actual born again believers in Jesus. Can it be that all these people standing during this worship set, with arms lifted high, eyes closed,… could they still be lost in their sins?

Reading Jesus’ words… it should wake us up. How can we go-about church “as normal” knowing many will miss the narrow way that leads to life? We can’t. Jesus spent all of his time, all of his effort trying to share the Gospel with the world around him. He made sure that every interaction, every conversation was an opportunity to share God’s love with those who were around him. This is the job he has given the church. This is our calling. It doesn’t matter if you are a pastor, a teacher, a deacon, if you care for the infants at your church, if you are a lawyer, a CPA, a dentist, a mechanic, a shoe salesman, work at a fast food restaurant, are on a football team, basketball team, soccer team, or if you are a student in school your calling is to be God’s witness to those around you. Your appointment as a believer in Jesus Christ is that of an ambassador. You have been entrusted with sharing the good news of Jesus with everyone around you. We have all been given this responsibility. Not that you must preach from the street corners, but that you are to model your life after our savior and allow his love to flow out into the world around you. You… We have been shown the way, and it is our responsibility to point others in the right direction.

Could the Decline of the Protestant Majority Be a Good Thing For the Kingdom of God?

A new study by the Pew Forum has gained a lot of attention lately. The study found that Protestants are not the majority in the United States of America. The news may come as quite a surprise for some, but many who have been following the trend saw this coming. The question is, should we be worried?

Farewell to the American Protestant Majority

I have really come to enjoy Dr. Moore’s writings on his blog and those published on the Christian Post. When I saw this headline on the CP I was intrigued. As I came to the end of the article I realized that Dr. Moore is correct. The spreading of the Gospel of Jesus Christ has been hindered by the abundance of false Christian beliefs.

Frankly, we should be more concerned about the loss of a Christian majority in the Protestant churches than about the loss of a Protestant majority in the United States
Read more at http://www.christianpost.com/news/farewell-to-the-american-protestant-majority-83158/#WxQWJu21XCZsiISp.99

Dr. Moore makes an excellent point. We should be more worried about how the church is misrepresenting Jesus than we should be concerned about the decline of those who identify themselves as Christian. If the church is corrupted by false doctrines that spread quickly due to affiliation with churches… the outcome is the same.

Sometimes animists, Buddhists, and body-pierced Starbucks employees are more fertile ground for the gospel than the confirmed Episcopalian at the helm of the Rotary Club. Accordingly, evangelicals will engage the culture much like the apostles did in the first century-not primarily to “baptized” pagans on someone’s church roll, but as those who are hearing something new for the first time. There may be fewer bureaucrats in denominational headquarters, but there might be more authentically Christian churches preaching an authentically Christian gospel. Read more at http://www.christianpost.com/news/farewell-to-the-american-protestant-majority-83158/#WxQWJu21XCZsiISp.99

My sister once asked me why a church would focus on world missions when there are so many hurting in our own cities. My answer to her was that when Christians go to the ends of the earth to help others, it allows us an opportunity to share God’s love in practical ways and to share the Gospel of Jesus. But when we do it in America, most have heard it and are desensitized to it. It is hard to share the Gospel in America because many affiliate themselves with being a Christian although they show no signs in their lives of real relationship with the father.

Maybe Dr. Moore is correct. Maybe the decline of the Protestant Majority will be good for the spreading of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

God Doesn’t Need A Believer In the White House

White House

In the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, that the word of the Lord by the mouth of Jeremiah might be fulfilled, the Lord stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia, so that he made a proclamation throughout all his kingdom and put it in writing:

“Thus says Cyrus king of Persia: The Lord, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth, and he has charged me to build him a house at Jerusalem, which is in Judah.”

Ezra 1:1-2

This king of Persia was not a follower of God when he took the Persian throne. Like many other rulers of this world, he was a man of authority that God used in His plans for Israel, the Messiah, and His coming Kingdom. Notice God did not place a follower into power, but He worked through a man who did not know Him. Instead, God used his followers (such as Daniel) to influence this king.

 Sometimes we get too caught up in the political climate of our culture. Of course we as Americans want representation with similar minds to our own, but sometimes we must trust that God knows what he is doing. Believers must accept that the person placed in power was placed there by God, and rest in the fact that God will use him or her to fulfill His plans. God’s will is not dependent on who is in charge. I am sure that no one expected Xerxes to spare the Hebrews when Esther pleaded for their safety. When King Herod called for a census that forced Joseph and Mary to Bethlehem he was unaware that God was fulfilling prophesy. No one expected Constantine to declare Christianity the official religion of the Roman Empire. These examples and more, God used. God still reigns. And God is in control.

Thank you Father for your faithfulness. Thank you for your Grace and your Mercy. You alone are God, and no one can stand against you. We see in Your Word and in history that you have orchestrated the events that have led us to our present day. We know that this sinful world has produced many horrible things, but we also know that you have led men and women to stand against those evils! Sometimes in your name and sometimes not. Thank you for the peace that come from knowing this. Whether our rulers are the ones that we agree with our not, we know that there is a God in Heaven who knows how the story ends. All of history, the present, and the future are contained in your pen, oh Lord. You control my destiny, and no matter where it leads I will praise you!

Missional Blogging

Take a moment and humor me. I want you to clear your mind (for some this may take longer than others, but take your time). Stop worrying about that work project due this week or that grocery list that you have been compiling, and allow yourself to begin a new thought process for a few minutes. I am going ask you to use your imagination.

Imagine you live in a place where your faith is not in the majority. Try to visualize that you live in a place where your belief in Jesus Christ actually makes you an outcast. Imagine that you must be careful of what you say about your faith in public, because most of the people in your country are hostile to your belief system. Your faith may cost your family nourishment, shelter, or other necessities of life that you normally take for granted. Picture what it would be like if you could not speak of your faith at work because others who have are now unemployed and unable to find a job. Could you sleep at night if an entire city block just down the street from your home was looted and burned because the businesses and homes were owned by Christians? How would you handle having to walk your little girl to school and back every day because people prey on Christian girls and the authorities ignore the incidents? What if, you were no longer able to meet in a church because men had started waiting outside the church and harassing those who attend the worship services?  Now imagine that you have been forced to  lead and host the worship service because your pastor is in prison, serving a six-year sentence because he was holding these services in his home. And in this gloomy picture visualize that all of the scripture you have to read to your fellow Christians are Romans Chapters 8 and 9…

I know, for many of us this is hard to imagine. Most of my readers (and all of my followers) are American. Unless you have visited a country that is intolerant to Christianity you probably have little to no concept of what close to 200 million Christians go through every day. The scenarios that I started this article with came from headlines about the persecution of Christians around the world. (If you would like to learn more about Christian persecution visit: www.persecution.com). Contrary to popular belief, Christianity is the fastest growing religion in the world. It is estimated that in the previous ten years; one million churches have been started, and the last 30 years may have seen the strongest growth rate of the Christian Church in the world.

While I do believe Romans Chapters 8 and 9 would be my scripture of choice if I were living this scenario, it is very sad to know that many of these 200 million Christians may never have the opportunity to read more than a chapter or two of the Bible. Being able to freely read and study God’s Word has profoundly shaped my life. It offers support and encouragement, instruction and insight; there is knowledge and wisdom, and a love story that has no equal. I cannot imagine my life without at least one of my Bibles to read daily.

I first learned about the persecuted church through Voice of the Martyrs, and recently after attending one of David Platt’s Secret Church simulcast I had begun researching into persecuted areas. To be honest, I have not been passionately looking for ways to help my persecuted brothers and sisters. My zeal only led me to researching the facts. But I could not help but wonder what can we do to help? (Visit www.persecution.com for opportunities to help those in need).

If I were to compile a list of ways to help the persecuted church; one thing that would never have made my list would be blogging. But I recently learned that God is using Christian blogs to empower His Church.

I recently came across a blog called Life Reference by Don Merritt. Actually Don came across Studying the Way and was gracious enough to like one of my articles. Trying to be a good WordPress blogger, I visited his blog and found a wealth of informative Christian teaching and writing. Don is a Sunday school teacher at his church, and like me, has a passion to teach the Word of God.

While reading about Don and his blog I came across a reference to the amount of people from foreign nations who visit his blog on Sundays. Don pointed out that in many of these countries, the Gospel is illegal. He feels very humbled by the fact that people who are being persecuted for their faith have found a means of spiritual nourishment through his blogging. Don didn’t set out to reach the persecuted church by blogging, but the persecuted church has found a way to obtain scripture through blogs like Don’s. I spoke with Don about writing this article, and I asked if I could share his story. He asked that I emphasize that he has in no way created this phenomenon nor does he take credit for what is taking place. God has provided this opportunity.

I found Don’s story to be very exciting. The Church is currently trying to find ways to get the Bible to the persecuted church so that they may grow in the knowledge of our Savior.  And I find it moving to see God allowing Don to share his Sunday school notes with our brothers and sisters who live in persecuted areas of the world. God has led persecuted Christians to find his notes and use them to learn about Jesus! Doesn’t it just make you want to rejoice!

This news has brought me new purpose in blogging. It is an opportunity to assist faithful brothers and sisters in receiving the Word. Studying the Way is not about making much of me, but about spreading the good news of Jesus. Our goal should always be to share the Word of God with anyone who is seeking it. I praise God for what he has already been doing, and we should all pray for those who continue to log onto Christian blogs looking for the Word of God.

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