Life & Death Reminders

This week I have again been reminded of some of the fundamental truths of life that, without certain events taking place, I would have surely missed them. As we journey through this life we get so caught up in the everyday details that we fail to recognize some of  the more important things that God wants to teach us. But He has a way of using things outside our normal routines to do just that or, at the very least, remind us of the truths that we have almost forgotten. And He has done that for me this past week.

Here is truth number one. Physical death is imminent unless our Lord returns. This week Reassurance had the opportunity to minister to someone who has been advised that they have a terminal illness and time is short for them. But as we shared our time and our music with him, I was reminded that we all are terminally sin sick and only Jesus has the cure. And we need to be about the business of sharing that cure with others. And this leads me to truth number two.

Truth number two is this. Life is precious and time is valuable. This week we attended the Honors Day ceremony for the graduating class that our grandson is a member of. And next week will be Graduation Day for all of them. But as I watched the presentation of awards and scholarships it was obvious that these kids were excited that this part of their journey was ending. But I wondered to myself if they realize how precious life is and that the way they use their time will have a major impact on their successes and yes, even their failures. In a way, life is just beginning for them and they all have their own dreams of how they want life to be. I was reminded that many years ago I was in the same position as they are but little did I know that events in my life would alter the course I had chosen. God certainly had other plans for me and I’m so thankful that He intervened in my life to direct me on the path He had for me. I hope and pray that these kids, and especially our grandson, will allow Him to do the same for them.

Some of us are growing and some of us are fading but we still have lessons to learn and a great teacher to share His truths with us. And for that we should be thankful. To God be all the praise and honor and glory forever and ever! 

Whosoever Will

I have noticed a disturbing trend that is beginning to occur on social media, especially Facebook, and I want to make everyone aware of it. In the last couple of months I have read posts by several people that seem to be using the social media to push their obvious favorable view of reformed theology. For those of you who are not familiar with that term, I’m actually referring to Calvanism. Some of the posts are certainly for a the purpose of trying to convince someone that it is the only acceptable theology in today’s world because it is the only true theology. Some of the posts have been out of sincere ignorance that they would be a help to someone else. And the fact is, I have not heard one person voice any rebuttal or read one word of rebuttal by anyone. I don’t know if it is because it is so subtle that others are not seeing it or that those who do see it don’t consider it a problem. But for the record, it is a problem for me.

I’m not one to carry on a debate on social media or debate theology at all because it serves no real purpose. But I’m certainly opposed to anyone who uses social media to prey on people who may not be knowledgeable of the scriptures and thus are misled by that person’s post. And for that person I say that you need to study God’s Word in its entirety and in context instead of hanging your hat on a few verses in one book of the Bible. 

I agree with the words of one our local pastors; “When you remove whosoever will from the gospel, you have just perverted it.” And friends, a perverted gospel is becoming more common place. I believe the Bible teaches that Jesus died for all, shed His blood for all, paid the sin debt for all, and desires that all men come to Him in faith and repentance. But all men have a choice to make because He did that. When a man rejects Christ he has brought condemnation on himself and becomes without excuse. Jesus paid it all!

I am so thankful that my parents raised me to believe that John 3:16 says it all. I am so thankful that other folks in my life reinforced the same gospel and the good news became real to me. I am so thankful for a godly Sunday School teacher that told us the story of His death on the cross because He loved us so much. And I thank God that he spoke to me as young boy and I said yes to His call. His precious gift of salvation came to be a reality in my own life.

So if I seem to be frustrated and on the defensive you can understand why. God desires that all men come to Him but knows that all won’t. So I don’t won’t to hear about unconditional election, limited atonement, or irresistible grace. I just want to hear “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life”. And that is the true theology. To God be the glory forever and ever!

He’s Everywhere!

Tonight’s post is coming live to you from Desoto, Missouri, a small town just south of St. Louis. Becky and I are on a weekend getaway, something we very seldom get to do. We spent most of the day today at Six Flags walking around and watching all the young folks enjoying themselves. Later in the afternoon we went downtown St. Louis and made a short visit to the Gateway Arch. It has been nearly forty years since we first saw the arch and it still remains an unbelievable engineering feat. Man has accomplished many things that on the surface seem to be impossible but we must not forget that the talents and abilities along with the knowledge are simply gifts from God. He is the creator and sustainer of all things and all that we are and all that we have and all that we do that is good comes from His bountiful grace. Man has accomplished nothing on his own!

Later in the evening we had dinner at a local restaurant the specializes in Mexican food and it was as good as any we have had anywhere. And as we were driving back to the condo we saw a beautiful site that most people have never seen. We actually saw what is commonly called a shooting star and it seemed we could almost reach up and touch it. As it fell it left a train in it’s wake and it was extremely bright. We had never seen anything quite like it before. And as I watched it finally disappear, the thought came to me that God had placed every star in place and named them one by one. And when one falls it is not without His knowledge and even his direction.

With all of this said, I know you are not that interested in our short vacation excursion but there is a point to all of this. As we watched those people at the amusement park today, we saw God’s handiwork in each one of them. As we gazed at that mighty arch this afternoon we saw God’s willingness to bless folks with abilities to perform great things. And as we watched that star and the beautiful trail of its final voyage we saw God’s hand in control of HIs universe. In other words, when we stop and look around us, we will see Him who is Lord and Master over all. He’s everywhere! 

The Real Thing

It has been a very busy week for me as Spring brings with it quite a number of tasks that need to be done to prepare for the Summer ahead. Back to mowing grass, weeding shrub beds, cleaning gutters, washing windows, and making the pool ready for the swimming season. It also seems my job has brought with it a whole different set of tasks that has required a great deal of my attention not only this past week but the week before. All of this has left little time to prepare this week’s post so, like last week, it will be short but it will be to the point.

This evening our quartet, Reassurance, had the honor of ministering to and worshiping with the group of fellow believers at Pleasant Ridge Baptist Church. It is a small church in the Petersville community with small numbers yet with a worldwide outreach. They presently have folks on the mission field in Honduras doing short term work. In spite of their small numbers they are playing a role in making the Great Commission a reality. And it is sad to say, but there are other much larger churches that don’t take serious the task at hand. I think a lesson could be learned here.

But what I really want to point out tonight is the character of these people and many others like them in small churches everywhere. As we minister in these places we find out how much these people love Jesus and are not afraid to voice it and show it. There is no facade or mask they hide behind.  They just live their life as if it is natural to serve Him because of what He did for them. It takes me back to a time when you could find this in just about every church and it really didn’t matter what the “denomination” was. I don’t know for sure what has happened but I would venture to guess that the church has become so much like the world that you can’t tell the two apart. I think that there are a whole lot more people “playing” church than we really want to admit. God help us!

I long to see those earlier times again. I want to be around those kind of people that we were with tonight. I love seeing the love of Christ in their faces and experiencing it in their actions. Thank you God for using this small group of believers to remind me what real Christianity looks and acts like. Make me more like them. 

Rising and Reigning

This evening’s post is relatively short as we prepare to celebrate Easter Sunday. I just wanted to remind all of us how important the resurrection is to our faith. So hear it is. 

Tomorrow is the greatest holiday celebrated in the world of Christianity because it was the final nail in the Devil’s casket. From the beginning, if there was one, Almighty God had a plan to reconcile man to Himself. Before He created man, He knew man would lose his innocence by giving in to his own pride. But He had prepared a way for us to return to His fold like sheep who have gone astray. It was a plan that included a perfect sacrifice, One that would become sin for us so that we could receive His righteousness. The man Jesus, God’s only Son, conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of a virgin, living a sinless life, dying on a cruel cross, being buried in a borrowed tomb rose on the third day just like He said, just like God planned, defeating death and hell, ascended back to Heaven and sat down at the Father’s side awaiting the time to return for His bride and begin His reign forever and without end. What a glorious day was Resurrection Day!

With that said, I also want to pass on something I received from my pastor after last week’s post. He had read it in SBC Voices and I think it is a great addition to the series on satellite churches we just completed. I have included it in the following paragraphs. 

The Shepherd and the C.E.O

Below is a comparison between the Shepherd and C.E.O. I pray God moves in our hearts and we reflect the heart of The Good Shepherd.

  • E.O. Leaders use people for progress
    • Shepherd Leaders love and invest into people
  • E.O. Leaders see friendship and pastoral work as an obstacle to success.
    • Shepherd leaders see friendship and pastoral work as success.
  • E.O. leaders see accountability as a challenge to their authority.
    • Shepherd leaders see accountability as caring for their heart.
  • E.O. leaders know how to work the system and manipulate to get their way.
    • Shepherd leaders know how to work through things with others to get God’s way.
  • E.O.  leaders build a talented team to carry out their vision.
    • Shepherd leaders build a talented team to cultivate the church and each other.
  • E.O. leaders see other churches as competition.
    • Shepherd leaders see other churches as family.
  • E.O. Leaders use the Bible to reveal their vision
    • Shepherd leaders use the Bible to reveal Jesus

I believe that this speaks volumes and like I told my pastor, it is apparent to me that there are not enough Shepherds and way too many CEO’s. I also pray that God moves in our own hearts so that we can reflect the heart of The Good Shepherd, the very One we celebrate tomorrow.

Thank you Brother Mark for sharing this.  

One Church, One Lord!

We have spent the last three weeks discussing what I refer to as satellite churches in an attempt to determine if their presence have a real place in the evangelical church world of today. However, as I have previously pointed out, the real question is whether or not their existence is supported by scripture and then what are the real motives behind the start of one. As we close out this series tonight, I will be the first one to admit that I don’t have all the answers but I certainly have my opinions as everyone else does. But I endeavor to base my opinions on what the Word of God says because it is the authority.

In last week’s post I listed a few potential motives that could be involved in the rapid growth of these churches. And I use the term “church” rather loosely in this case because a believe it lacks several things that meet New Testament criteria. From the information I have gathered, there is no resident pastor for the local congregation and there are no serving deacons/elders that have been selected by the local congregation just to name a couple of concerns. It doesn’t appear that to me that there is an avenue for the believers to use their God-given spiritual gifts to edify the church body. I do not know how tithes and offerings are handled and who is accountable for the stewardship of them. I don’t know how systematic group bible study is conducted and how discipleship of new believers is undertaken. So I am rather skeptical about the bible based validity of these organizations and the motives for their being established.

I will certainly admit that I am very old-fashioned in my ideas and convictions regarding the  structure and purpose of the local church. I believe local evangelism is number one, outreach to the rest of the world with the gospel through missions is next, and the necessity and criticality of the spiritual growth of believers through fellowship and bible study is essential. I will also admit that the dramatic growth in communications technology has brought to the table some new ways to conduct business but I’m not sure it is all that useful in the church world for anything but sharing the gospel. And even then it will never take the place of face-to-face interaction and one-on-one witnessing. So, for me, I am so thankful that I have a wonderful church family that comes along beside me to bear my burdens but also hold me accountable for the way I live my life.

In closing, I would like to point out that as we look at God’s Word there are things that seem to lend themselves to a different interpretation and/or formation of differing opinions by folks but we need to be careful that we don’t take something that in the great scheme of things is nonessential and try to build a theology on it. We certainly need to stand firm on the essentials of correct theology and make no apologies for it. But sound theology is not based on opinion but on the authority of God’s Word.

Well, I warned you that this would be an interesting series and I think it has proved to be such. Most of the time, discussing something like this leads to more questions than answers. There is one thing is for sure; there is coming a day when everything will be revealed and answers to questions we have had will be available. However, I doubt we will care about many of those answers because we will be so caught up in the presence of Jesus that those questions won’t matter. Can I get an amen?  

A New Church???

This week we continue our discussion about satellite churches and how they appear to be growing in number and in participation. The main interest here is whether they are first of all, biblical, and then if they are a necessity in today’s church culture. Last week the following question was posed: Why would a church a number of miles away feel it necessary to rent a large meeting room, hold a meeting, televise it by closed circuit to the home church, and call it a church worship service, especially in an area where numerous local churches exist and many of them strong churches that are preaching and teaching correct biblical doctrine? This question then leads to the concern as to what are the real motives for establishing these satellite churches and this week the intent is to point out some potential motives that may be behind them. At this point the writer is not trying to arrive at a final answer to the question, just point out some possibilities to consider.

So let’s start first with what all of us hope would be the motive behind the movement. That is this. It is a sincere and honest effort to share the gospel with more people than just those in the area in which the main church resides. In other words, it is an attempt to follow the Great Commission that is outlined in Matthew and Acts, to evangelize the larger area and then ultimately the world. We all understand that this is not just a suggestion but a commandment from our Lord himself. From the recent past point of view this includes local missions, state missions, missions across our own country  and of course, missions in foreign countries. However, these mission efforts occur through a born again believer that God has called for that purpose and that missionary is supported by a local church or group of local churches. There are also other mission oriented organizations that do short-term excursions in foreign countries to provide, medical, dental, and other services to the people there in addition to sharing the good news of the gospel. Hopefully this finds an end in that area with a new church established that will be led by a local pastor. So if this is the real motive for organizing a new satellite church it could be a reasonable assumption that it is a good thing.

But now let’s take a look at some other possible motives. One of the most obvious ones that comes to mind is money. We’ve seen many television evangelistic programs that have brought quite an abundance of wealth to the promoters and the evangelist. But we have seen many of them fail because of pride, greed, and other sins that became obvious and made public. And on the other side of the coin, there are still quite a few around that are raking in the cash. The same thing could very well be going on with some of these satellite church organizations. The Bible talks about bringing all our tithes into the storehouse and how the gospel preacher is worthy of his hire. That is, tithes are to be used to support the pastor and to meet the needs of the church and people who are in need. So the question here is this. “If the participants of the satellite church are giving their tithes there, are they aware of how they are being used and know who is accountable for the stewardship of the tithes?” We need to be reminded that money is the root of all sorts of evils and that has never changed.

What about the motive of power and prestige? We all have known some church leaders that have devised all kinds of programs and pushed various ideas that on the surface appeared to be for the growth of the church just to later find out that it was a personal agenda for them to feed their ego and make themselves look good. That’s exactly what was going on with the scribes and Pharisees in New Testament Days and I’m sad to say that things haven’t changed and there are more leaders out there than we think that fit this category.

Another motive to consider is centered around efforts to slowly move the church towards a different theology than what has been espoused and accepted in the past. All we have to do is look at what is happening in many of our local churches and see how the theology has shifted towards something other than what we’ve known in the past. I’m not saying that the past is always right but we need to be very careful about what we are hearing today. These changes normally are coming from someone who is seminary educated and most of what they have learned has come from someone else and not from their own personal study of God’s Word. And folks I believe this is one of the main reasons why so many local churches are slowly dying. So many believers are listening to what some man (or woman) says instead of studying God’s Word on their own and letting the Holy Spirit enlighten them. This could be the number one motive for why we are seeing so many of these satellite churches springing up around us.

Well, we have covered some of the possible motives but there may be others that come to your mind. Again, I am looking for a good answer to the question of the biblical validity and the necessity of these organizations. Next week we will attempt to take everything we’ve discussed into consideration and come to a conclusion of the matter. I don’t know that there is a “right” answer but each of us have an opinion and we will share ours next week. But remember, in most cases opinions are worth about as much as they cost and most of the time that is nothing. Just more food for thought.

      

A New Church??

Last week’s post “A New Church?” was centered around the growth of satellite churches across the country and the thought was to create a forum for discussion regarding the validity or necessity for their existence. I was hoping for comments from a number of readers but I received only one from a good friend and brother in Christ and I am certainly appreciative of his insights on the matter. However, since there was virtually no other response I must assume that the interest level is low concerning this subject. It may be that most people have not really put any thought into these questions or that they don’t think it really matters either way. But like so many other things that seem to be changing in our culture, I sincerely believe that these assemblies need to examined closer to see if they really meet the criteria for a local church. In the next few paragraphs we will pose some questions and raise some concerns that may or may not have been considered before.

First of all I want everyone to understand that what I’m calling a satellite church is not to be confused with a church plant sponsored by an existing local church. A church plant should arise out of a mission effort on a local church’s part and should be targeted in an area that is what we considered un-churched and has no local church or churches to speak of. In other words, it is an effort to take to the gospel to that area and it is born out of a heart for missions from the existing local church. It is really no different from a church sending a team on a mission trip to some overseas country except for the most part those are short-term efforts in spreading the gospel. In contrast, a church plant is considered permanent and has a God-called man on-site and accountable for all that goes on. So, I am certainly a proponent of church plants as long as the motives are pure.

And that is where I have somewhat of a problem with certain satellite church attempts. What are the motives. In my opinion the following is the main question that should be proposed and considered to determine what the real motives are. Why would a church a number of miles away feel it necessary to rent a large meeting room, hold a meeting, televise it by closed circuit to the home church, and call it a church worship service, especially in an area where numerous local churches exist and many of them strong churches that are preaching and teaching correct biblical doctrine? I realize that is quite a long question but it really sums up a concern that should be considered. If this question can be satisfactorily answered while meeting biblical standards, then it may be something valid for today’s times and needed more than we think. However, next week we will present some possible motives that may be behind all of this and we will also pose some questions regarding the qualification and administrative aspects of the organization.

I hope we can eventually sort it all out and come to a reasonable conclusion that is supported by God’s Word. Again, I would appreciate any comments or thoughts from any of you on the subject. Until next week, may God richly bless each of you. 

A New Church?

Tonight’s post will be quite different from the normal post we do. Instead of discussing a familiar issue of today’s times or presenting some topic of interest while asserting my opinion on the matter, tonight I going to attempt to raise interest concerning a subject and then solicit the input and comments from the readers. I will reserve my thoughts and opinions for a later time after others have had an opportunity to respond. I realize this is an unusual approach but I’m anxious to hear from you before coming to a final conclusion. However, as always, the standard for comparison is always God’s Word and so I remind everyone to respond in light of that. So, if you’re ready, let’s get to it.

The subject for consideration this evening is this: “Satellite churches. Are they biblical or not”? There has been quite an emergence of these on today’s scene and have appealed to many people and the numbers seem to be on the increase. But, as with anything else, a new happening like this always brings with it a number of questions that need to be answered according to the scriptures.  

You might not be sure what I mean by the term satellite church so let me take the time to explain what I consider a satellite church to be.  A satellite church is one that holds its meeting in a public and common location but has no local pastor or church leadership. The services are conducted from a remote location and seen on large video screens quite some distance away where people are assembled to participate. These meeting places can be community centers, private event centers, hotel convention centers, and even abandoned church sanctuaries. The events remind me of watching a Billy Graham Crusade on the other side of the world and considering that to be participation in a local church. Mind you, this is not a negative shot at at evangelical crusades because they certainly have their place in spreading the gospel. It is only an example of something similar to what I see as a satellite church.

It is my intent to provoke an interest in this subject and my hope that it will create a dialogue with comments or even more questions from you, the reader. If you will respond with your comments on the post itself, everyone who reads the post will be able to see your comments. They can even respond to your comment on the post. I believe this could be a great learning experience for all of us and I am excited to hear what you have to say. We will discuss the subject more fully in upcoming posts as comments are made.

I want to thank all of you in advance for your participation and I pray that out of this all of us will experience  some degree of spiritual growth and understanding. God has a way of using different means and methods to get our attention and teach us. May God richly bless each of you.

  

 

The Gospel Arrow

Several weeks ago our Saturday morning Bible Study group began the study of the book of Acts. We all know this book as the historical record of the beginning of the Church and then its expansion throughout the known world of that time as Paul conducted is missionary journeys. In the very beginning of the book Jesus told the apostles that the Holy Spirit would be coming and that they were to be His witnesses throughout the world. We then see the selection of the apostle Matthias to replace the traitor Judas. Then we see a spectacular event occur by the sudden appearance of the Holy Spirit just as Jesus had said. This appearance was a noise like a violent rushing wind. It filled the whole house where they were and then appeared to them as tongues as of fire that rested on each one of them. At this point the Bible says they were filled with the Holy Spirit and folks, when that happens, there is change that takes place in one’s life that becomes obvious to everyone around them. And so it was then.

The Bible says that they begin to speak with other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance. Now there have been many attempts to make this into something mystical, super-spiritual, or something other that what it really was. This was a miracle of the Holy Spirit that was not for the benefit of those speaking but for those who were hearing. The passage goes on to say that those listening were hearing them speak in their own language so they could understand what they were saying. I have no idea how many languages or dialects that were present here but apparently they were numerous. Can you imagine being able to hear someone speak in German, French, or Spanish but you hear it in English. And that without an interpreter, but straight from the mouth of the speaker. This is exactly what was going on that day and there were other there that began to mock them and accuse them of being drunk. But Peter speaks to their assertions when He stands to preach his famous Pentecost sermon. And this is where I want to spend some time.

Peter stood with the other eleven and began to address those present that were from Judea and those who lived in Jerusalem because he was speaking to those Jews that were thee for the Pentecost celebration. He explained that they were certainly not drunk because it was too early in the day but there was another explanation for what was happening. He then that it was the fulfillment of prophecy that was spoken by Joel many years before and quoted the Old Testament passage. At this point he began to preach his first sermon emphasizing who Jesus was and is; the risen and exalted Lord and Christ. And he brought home to them that they are the ones that nailed Him to a cross by the hands of the godless Romans who put Him to death. Peter concludes his dissertation in verse 36 of chapter 2 and it reads like this. “Therefore let all the house of Israel know for certain that God has made Him both Lord and Christ-this Jesus whom you crucified.” What follows after this is the topic of tonight’s post.

The very next verse says “Now when they heard this, they were pierced to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brethren what shall we do.”” Something wonderful begins right there and still continues today. That is the convicting power of the Holy Spirit. It is proof of the power of the preaching of the gospel. I love those words “pierced to the heart” because I still remember the day it happened to me. After hearing the gospel numerous times the Holy Spirit in His timing used His gospel arrow to pierce my heart. For the first time, as an eleven year-old boy, I truly realized that I was a sinner and was helpless on my own. I repented and put my faith and trust in what Jesus did at the cross. I may not have understood everything at that time but  I knew that He made a change in my life. And I have never gotten over it.

It may seem trivial to some but one of things that saddens me the most today is there doesn’t seem to be much evidence of being pierced to the heart. I can’t count the times I have been in worship services and heard a great gospel sermon preached yet there was no movement of any kind by anybody. And I wonder why that is. Is the convicting power of the Holy Spirit been diminished? Are people’s hearts so hard that the gospel arrow can’t penetrate it? Or is the gospel so watered down by the messenger that there is no power in it. Could it be there is so much of the world in our churches that we have become satisfied with the status quo? Maybe a combination of all of these things or even something else I haven’t mentioned.

I realize there have been all kinds of programs introduced to reverse this trend but it seems like nothing is working. We’ve moved away from traditional hymns of worship to a different type of music that so much of it doesn’t seem to have any message to it at all. We divided our congregations into traditional and contemporary segments based on our ages. We have compromised on various parts of God’s Word and have not taken a stand for the infallibility of it. If God said it, it is so. Period. We have even changed Sunday School in many churches to more life application stories that actual study expository study of God’s Word. And I still don’t see much “heart piercing”. I heard someone say the other day that the church has turned inward and is just ministering to itself. Outreach has become a thing of the past. No “heart piercing’ can happen that way.

It seems to me that we need to get back to the simple basics of our faith. We need to confess our sins so that we can then be used to be God’s instruments for sharing His love to the lost world around. We desperately need to spend more time on our knees in our private prayer closets and more time on our knees in the corporate environment. I guess the best way to put it is that we need revival! The real question is “Do we really want it?” God help us to have that desire again! We need our own hearts pierced again.