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.

Idolatry and True Worship

Worship by nephilim919

I have been working on my book review of The Knowledge of the Holy by A. W. Tozer. But as I am flipping through the book looking over some of my favorite highlights, I am getting caught up in re-reading the book.

Tozer reminds us that Christianity is much more than a religion that dictates what you should and should not do. A follower of Christ is called to keep certain commands, but that is not the point of our faith. I am reminded of a catchy phrase; “The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.” (Thanks to Don Merritt at Life Reference, I now know the originator of the quote is Lee Iacoca). That main thing is God himself.

Church attendance, Bible reading/study, tithes and offerings, singing hymns and worship songs, prayer and quiet time… These are all very important to our Christian lives, but we cannot make the mistake of allowing these acts to become the very gods that we worship! It is possible to slip from the true worship of God and begin to worship idols in our lives that are made of precious acts of worship. The acts can never become greater in our lives than the one that they should be directed toward.

Do we attend church servicesto be known by God as good individuals. No we gather because our worship of him deserves a corporal setting. We go to services because there are others who God has called us to serve as an act of worship to him. We read our Bible not to achieve little gold stars on our record, but to better understand who God is and how he may guide our lives. We give not because God needs our money or so we can receive greater than we gave, but because by giving we place God first in our lives. We sing not to impress God with the gifts that he has given us, but because his greatness stirs a desire in us to let down our guard and allow our emotions to well up and praise as loudly as we can. Prayer should never become the time that we list our wants and cares to God without stopping to observe the fact that our pleas are going before the throne of our righteous King. Our prayers should always be more about God than ourselves.

Is it possible that we sometimes trade the worship of the one true God, for idolatrous acts of service/worship that become lesser gods? These acts were never intended to be our way to God, but our response to God. When you begin to understand the importance of God, a desire to know him more develops. He has left us much information about who he is, and we cannot mistake these acts as our God.

Stop for a moment and think on your understanding of who God is. If you do not get lost in a myriad of thoughts… ask yourself are you worshiping the one true God. He is a being that exists outside of space and time. Not a higher form of man, but something else completely. We are part of the creation, but God is the creator. He is not the same as us. Our thoughts of God should be so extraordinary, so high that when we stop to think of God our hearts should cry out in praise. There is no other response to a being of such magnitude.

I am going to go back to my book review now, but I had to share my thoughts with you as I spent some time wondering about God.

Was Jesus Married?

A few years ago when Dan Brown‘s book The Da Vinci Code was being made into a movie, I remember learning of this discussion by the major news media. At the time it had caught me off guard. I enjoy learning about my faith, and I had never heard a discussion regarding whether Jesus was married or not. Once I began to ponder the question, new questions formulated in my mind. “Why wouldn’t Jesus have married?” “Is there any conflict created if Jesus had been married?” “Would Jesus being married change my faith?”

Cover of "The Da Vinci Code (Two-Disc Ext...

Cover via Amazon

Recently the question has resurfaced. Yesterday morning one of my local television channel’s posted a link on Facebook to this story in the Washington Post. And by that afternoon media sites all over were talking about the supposed proof that Jesus was married. Here is the first article that I read:

The Washington Post – Health & Science

And the Cycle Begins Again…

It seems odd that these stories and accusation resurface so often. Those who are trying to push this view of Jesus are doing so to prove the Gospel to be false. The Bible makes no mention of Jesus being married, and I see no reason for the Bible’s omission of Jesus’ marriage unless it did not take place. The Christian faith believes marriage to a be a holy institution that was a gift to Adam and Eve and all of mankind. Jesus being married would not be sinful or destructive of the Gospel.

Not Just a Man

However, Jesus’ life had much more purpose than simply living a normal human life. Those who try to press that Jesus was married are doing so because they wish to prove that he was human and not God. In the Gospels, Jesus blatantly teaches that he is the divine Messiah, and God. Jesus came to earth to fulfill the Law and to be the sacrifice for our sins. Although a marriage would not have kept him from his work… I can’t imagine he would marry knowing the pain that his wife would go through when he died a martyr. The reason some are trying to prove that Jesus was married is because they do not want to believe that there is a God, they do not wish to believe that Jesus was divine. It does not fit into their world view to believe that Jesus was resurrected from his death and burial. They want to believe that Christianity is a fairy tale that was created to control society. They believe that if they can make Jesus a normal Jew, they can strip him of his historical importance, deny his sacrifice and resurrection, prove the Bible false, turn our early church leaders into snake-oil salesmen and finally be rid of Christianity. After all if Jesus was not divine than all who associate themselves as his followers are wasting their lives.

There are many problems to their way of thinking. One, the Bible is made up of 66 manuscripts that are THE most verifiable documents in history. Both the Old and New Testaments have been proven to be accurate by history and archeology.

Two, the early church leaders did not make up Christianity’s beginnings to control society. If they were they did a poor job of crafting the story. There is WAY too much incriminating evidence that would have been humiliating to the early church. You read stories of the disciples failures and mistakes… propaganda does not include such stories.

Three we know that Jesus lived and we know that the tales of his miracles were believed by those who hated him. His miracles and statements about being God are why he was murdered on the cross. His very execution can be seen as proof to his claims. We also know that the Romans could not explain the disappearance of his body. We know that hundred reported to have seen Jesus in his resurrection and many saw him ascend from earth.

Not Just a Good Story of a Good Man

The Gospel of Christ is not a fictional epic that was made up and passed through the centuries as a good story. It is not like the mythologies of Greece. We know that Jesus lived, died, was resurrected and ascended. With all of the accumulated knowledge and proof of the Gospel, it is laughable to say that one writing on a papyrus supposedly written during the 4th century (That is three to four hundred years after Christ by the way, for those of you using CE instead of AD). To say that one writing is as important as the volumes of information that we have from the time that contradicts what this one piece says, is asinine.

This is similar to saying that we now have proof that Abraham Lincoln was a vampire hunter because this past year a film was distributed that said he was. Or that John F. Kennedy started the moon race because he knew transforming robots had crash landed on the moon’s surface. Both events happened within two hundred years from present day, and both of these stories have documentation that is more easily found. .

Here is an article that was published yesterday that raises questions on the authenticity of the papyrus.

Washington Post – Fraud

Don’t allow these stories to cause you to experience an emotional reaction. These stories have two objectives. One, to place doubt in those whose faith is not yet strong. And two, to cause hateful reactions that prove Christians to be… well, hateful. Try to remain calm, and allow this news to open doors of compassion for a hurting world.

UPDATES

Christian Scholars Not Fazed By ‘Gospel of Jesus’ Wife’

Smithsonian Channel Cancels Program due to Scholarly Rebuke

30,000 Bibles for China

China and Taiwan outline map

The non-profit ministry, Bibles for China has a group of four people preparing for a trip to China where they will distribute 30,000 Bibles into rural China. It is believed that between 80-130 million Christians may live in China, and the government imposes restrictions on the Church’s activities. Bibles for China’s trip and Bible distribution has been approved by the government.

I love this quote,

“People would grab me and hug me and cry all over my shirt. The emotion that was packed into them receiving a Bible after having prayed for it for years, was unbelievable,” Werner said.

If you would like to partner with Bibles for China in providing Bibles to rural China, you can visit their website at www.biblesforchina.org/about . $5 donates a single Bible to a Christian brother or sister who desperately hungers for the Word of God. 

Keep the four missionaries in your prayers, and do not forget to pray for your persecuted brothers and sisters around the world.

http://www.christianpost.com/news/bibles-for-china-prepares-to-deliver-30000-bibles-to-eager-christians-81224/

Why All The Arguing?

There are some things that we as Christians MUST dig our heels in and fight for. Some things are too important to compromise on. As an example, the Salvation Message of the Gospel. We can not waiver on the message of God’s Grace.

There are some things, however, that are more tradition and preference than Biblical theology. Does the Bible foretell that a single translation will one day be completed and that all others are Satan’s attempts to water down the Gospel? Does the Bible tell us that God prefers hymns, traditional, or contemporary music in our church services? Come to think of it, does the Bible instruct us to have church services? These things are tradition and preference. None of the choices go against anything in the Bible (our only source for God’s will). But some people become too passionate about these things and are too critical of their brothers and sisters who disagree. I have seen bumper stickers that attack Christians who disagree on some of these matters. This is not Biblical, and it is not helping. It is spiteful, arrogant, and uncalled for.

Romans 14:1, Welcome all the Lord’s followers, even those whose faith is weak. Don’t criticize them for having beliefs that are different from yours.

Romans 14:4, What right do you have to criticize someone else’s servants? Only their Lord can decide if they are doing right, and the Lord will make sure that they do right.

God has big plans for his Church. There are things that we are supposed to be accomplishing. We have become so distracted by our little disagreements that we have lost sight of our mission. We need to put our differences aside. Stop criticizing each others’ preferences, and start changing the world again. We must remember that we will give an account some day of what we have or have not done.

Romans 14:7-8, Whether we live or die, it must be for God, rather than for ourselves. Whether we live or die, it must be for the Lord. Alive or dead, we still belong to the Lord.

Romans 14:12-13, And so, each of us must give an account to God for what we do. We must stop judging others. We must also make up our minds not to upset anyone’s faith.

Romans 14:17-19, God’s kingdom isn’t about eating and drinking. It is about pleasing God, about living in peace, and about true happiness. All this comes from the Holy Spirit. If you serve Christ in this way, you will please God and be respected by people. We should try to live at peace and help each other have a strong faith.

Brothers and Sisters, let us stop this arguing about things that have no eternal consequences. Let us focus on pleasing God in our own lives, sharing the message of His love with the world, and helping one another to grow in our faith.

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