The Bible is the Foundation

“It is fashionable in some academic circles to exercise scholarly criticism of the Bible. In so doing, scholars place themselves above the Bible and seek to correct it. If indeed the Bible is the Word of God, nothing could be more arrogant. It is God who corrects us; we don’t correct Him. We do not stand over God but under Him.” – R.C. Sproul

We live in a day and age where the Bible is often set aside in favor of dynamic personalities, self-help experts and self-proclaimed authorities on what makes a church. The Bible is swept aside in churches around the United States and certain passages are excluded in favor of church growth and tolerance. In 2015, the Presbyterian church (USA) affirmed homosexuality as a viable form of marriage in the church (Time Magazine, Nolan Feeney). They joined the Lutheran, Episcopal and United Church of Christ protestant denominations in nationally affirming the practice of homosexuality as Biblical and accepted by the church. This nation wide erosion of the Biblical definition of marriage and the condemnation of the practice of homosexuality is symptomatic of how many treat the Bible today. 1 Corinthians 6:9, Romans 1, 1 Timothy 1:10, Leviticus 18:22, Jude 1:7 (along with the account of Sodom and Gomorrah in Genesis 19) and others all speak of homosexuality as sinful behavior that cannot be redefined without ignoring the Bible.

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness – 2 Timothy 3:16

I recently attended a church worship gathering of a struggling evangelical, Bible believing fellowship. I was struck with how little the Bible was present in the sermon and how few people even had their Bible out during the service. The people spoke of the division and strife that had plagued the church over the years and I had to think to myself, “have you plugged into the power source?” The church is only going to be healthy and focused on the mission of Jesus Christ if the Bible is at the forefront of our attention.

The grass withers and the flowers fade, but the word of our God endures forever – Isaiah 40:8

The Word of God is made central when its people to dig personally and then corporately. Do you personally love the Word of God? How much time have you spent in your Bible today? Yesterday? This week? You spend time on what you love. If you love your wife, you will spend time with her. This principle is true with God as well (Matthew 6:24). The Bible stays central in a church if the people are hungry for the Word of God (1 Peter 2:2-3). Do you open your Bible during a sermon even if the pastor says nothing about opening it? Do you have casual conversations with peers in a non-church setting about what God is teaching you through the Bible? These are just a few ways in which we can read (pun intended) our desire for the Word.

How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to your word. With my whole heart I seek you; let me not wander from your commandments! I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you – Psalm 119:9-11

God promised Joshua that if he keeps the Word on his lips and at the forefront of his mind, he will be successful. This is true of our churches today. We NEED God to convict, teach and train us through His Word in order to grow mature in our faith (Heb 5:12). We must proclaim the full Gospel of God through his Word and not be afraid to preach difficult subject matter that may not be comfortable (Acts 20:27). A church that is committed to the entire Bible (not just in speech but in action!!!) and refuses to leave out certain topics or issues is a church that is well on it’s way to being healthy body of believers.

Check out this video for further reflection: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wOhkldCSs04

The Mission

“For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” – Romans 10:13-15

“This is your mission if you should choose to accept it…….” Every mission impossible movie has these words. The mission is always accepted and achieved somehow beyond all odds. We, as followers of Christ, have been given a mission as well. Matthew 28:19 calls us to “go and make disciples of all nations.” Not only are we to declare the glory of God and share his love with people but also being ready to come alongside brothers and sisters and train them in what it means to follow Christ. The ultimate mission of every Christian should be to make more Christians through evangelism and teaching. “This is your mission if you choose to accept it….”

Is this your cry today for your life? This is the model put forth in the Bible and this is the mission of the church. What about social justice and caring for the poor? Jesus did not hesitate to meet people’s physical needs but then he met their spiritual needs by calling them to repentance and belief in God. Our ultimate goal is to meet the spiritual needs of the people around us as that is the calling for disciples of Christ. Can we care for people on the street? Yes of course!! However, the Bible is very clear that the world is going to continue to fall into decay and sin and we are responsible to tell the world about the kingdom of Jesus Christ that is imminent.

“Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous works among all the peoples!”- Psalm 96:3

1st Grace is put in Dayton to minister to the spiritual needs of those around us in our immediate community. That is our mission. Why do we support missionaries then in China, Vietnam, Brazil, Central African Republic, Japan and the Philippines? Because we also believe in the spread of the Gospel to all nations and the power of unity in the body of Christ across the globe. We are not an island! We are blessed when we sow into the harvest of souls that is taking place around the globe (Matthew 9:37).

“Do you not say, ‘There are yet four months, then comes the harvest’? Look, I tell you, lift up your eyes, and see that the fields are white for harvest” – John 4:35

In 2 Corinthians we see Paul raising up funds to give to the church at Jerusalem. The church around the world needs to take care of each other. We support missionaries and do not hesitate to partner with other churches around us as the biblical model of the universal church and unity across the world should not be ignored.

Are you ready to share the gospel with people around you? Everyone who calls on the name of Christ is called to be a missionary. Start now! Equip yourself to be the change in your immediate vicinity. Get involved in worldwide missions and local missions for the glory and cause of Jesus Christ.

Worshiping Together

“You cannot find excellent corporate worship until you stop trying to find excellent corporate worship and pursue God himself.”- D.A. Carson

Today, every street corner has a church in America. We are inundated with all sorts of denominational and style choices which leads many Christians to go through a “church shopping” phase at some point in their life. Honestly, I hate that term. A church is not like a pair of shoes you can go “shopping” for. More importantly, is the means by which we decide on the local body we commit to when searching for a new body of believers. Do you decide on a church because of the music style? Traditional? Contemporary/Modern?Relevant? The programs for your kids? The dynamic way the preacher communicates? The friends that can be made? Or based on the lives being transformed through the ministry and genuine desire to follow  Christ exhibited through the people? We must approach corporate worship in the local church with an attitude of giving rather than getting. If you pick a church for selfish reasons, your commitment will be fickle and you will soon flit off somewhere else to “meet your needs.” Knuckle down and commit to one local church! Go all in with warts, sin and all. You need to come alongside brothers and sisters in Christ in faithfulness and give and receive accountability.

“And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, Not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near” – Hebrews 10:24-25

As the worship leader of an inter-generational church, I have had some conversations with older folks about contemporary music and some with younger folks about more traditional worship. In both cases, any complaint usually comes down to a wrong mindset about corporate worship in the church. A Sunday morning meeting is not for you to come and take in a “service” in the same way you would receive fast food “service” at Taco Bell. This is an opportunity to praise the Lord together through song, tithes and offering and participating in the preaching of God’s Word. It’s about preparing our hearts to receive from God (which a lot of times means giving and serving!) and hearing his name lifted up in whatever way! The means of praise does not matter, as long as the hearts of God’s people are focused on him above the accoutrements in worship gatherings that often take the place of God as the object of our worship.

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. – Romans 12:1

Check out this video….. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_-Zvl4rslQA

As Piper said, when we worship together it brings the presence of God and gives us power to continue in steadfast faith. Hebrews 10 calls us to stand firm to our confession within the context of verses 24 and 25. Our meeting together is not insignificant. It is a divine transaction when we as the church unite together in praise of our God and declare him worthy of all affection. It is a glorious foreshadowing of the endless worship we will be giving in the new heavens and new earth as the eternal Bride of Christ the church. HOW DO YOU PREPARE FOR CHURCH IN LIGHT OF THESE TRUTHS!?!? Many of us think nothing of staying out late Saturday, coming in late to church and allowing ourselves to get distracted during the worship meeting itself. Don’t miss out on what is happening by being nonchalant. Prepare yourself, engage and expect God to do awesome wonders when we worship together.

 

Raised to New Life

“And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” – Acts 2:38.

Being a Christian is a lot more than just attending church. Peter calls the first converts to Christianity to follow in the footsteps of Jesus in Baptism and repent of their rebellion against God. Many people around the world are attending church, praying before their meals and celebrating Christian holidays but they are living in an unrepentant state. Repentance is not only confession (Romans 10:9-10) but it is also a new set of priorities and behaviors that change overtime as we submit to the Spirit. Ephesians 4:22 calls us to “put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt.” This transformation is the evidence of our true conversion.

Are people getting saved in our church? That needs to be the heart beat and question of members of every church, not just 1st Grace. The book of Acts narrates story after story of the Gospel being preached and proclaimed and people responding as a result of their efforts. Our churches today need to be facilitating a continuation of teaching and training but also conversion of new souls saved for Christ. Yes, there are seasons of spiritual drought but we should be seeing salvation in people of all ages as a result of our evangelism and witness in the community regularly. If the power of Christ is working in a congregation, conversion is a crucial aspect of ministry that every church should be experiencing to a degree.

“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” – Matthew 28:19

Baptism is a step of obedience in the life of a new believer who is wanting to follow the example of Christ. Not only do people need to repent but they also need to be baptized!!! I recently had a new believer come and tell me when we were talking about being baptized,  “I’m not ready to be baptized yet and I can’t get my family to come so I am just going to wait.” I took some time to process the thought flow in that statement and I think there are a number of common misconceptions regarding baptism in the church. Here are a few of fallacies about baptism that I see as present in Christian communities in America.

  1. Baptism is something I take my time to decide to do

My question to the confessing adult believer who says this is “are you saved?” If the answer is yes, I believe the Bible is clear you should move for an immediate baptism. If you have truly decided to follow Christ and commit to a local body of believers, the act of obedience in baptism and commitment to a local church in church membership should follow almost simultaneously. When Philip converted the Eunuch, he baptized him immediately. When Paul believed and converted, Ananias baptized him immediately. “And now why do you wait? Rise and be baptized and wash away your sins, calling on his name.” – Acts 22:16

2. Baptism is a family event

This is true on a church family level but not necessary on a blood family level. Did Matthew, Mark, Luke or John document Mary and Jesus’ brothers and sisters present at his baptism? What about when the 3,000 gave their life to Christ at Pentecost, did Peter say “quick call your families and lets baptize you when it’s convenient for everyone’s schedules.”……Nope. Can your family be there? Absolutely. Mine was. However, is it necessary? No and your personal obedience to Christ should not rest on others decisions and schedules.

3. I want to baptize my child or infant

The fact that a parent is making the decision for the child in and of itself defeats the purpose of the act of obedience in the individuals life. If they are old enough to understand what it means to follow Christ, they confess him and become a member of the church, I would say they should be baptized. Otherwise, you should wait until the child professes Christ as their savior and understands what that means.

“Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.” – Romans 6:3-4

 

Plugging into the Power

“To be a Christian without prayer is no more possible than to be alive without breathing”     – Martin Luther

How often do you pray? Before every meal? When you are about to walk into a job interview or a test at school? When you are struggling to maintain peace with a child or parent? We have a direct communication line to the most powerful entity conceivable who genuinely wants to hear from us because he loves us. What a power source! WHY DON’T WE TAP INTO THAT?!?!

“And I tell you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you” – Luke 11:9

Israel was in exile and the people scattered. The northern kingdom was overrun by Assyria and Judah was abducted by the Babylonian empire and dispersed across the known world. After 70 years in exile, the people of Judah were allowed to return to the land under Cyrus. However, the walls and gates of Jerusalem were broken down and destroyed which left the people vulnerable to attacks and continuing pagan influence. Nehemiah, the king’s cup bearer and a Jew, was distraught over the current state of Israel and cried out to God through prayer and fasting. Because of his humility and persistence in prayer, he was given an opportunity and Nehemiah was used by God to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem. If you are burdened for something, pray about it and let God take you on an adventure!

“Call to me and I will answer you, and will tell you great and hidden things that you have not known.” – Jeremiah 33:3

I often struggle to pray when I am hurting or feeling guilty. These are the times we must pray and let God take the bitterness often stored in our hearts. Don’t be afraid to cry out in agony to God over the hurt and frustration you encounter in this life through prayer. At Gethsemane, Jesus lamented strongly over the cup of wrath that was about to be laid on him. His final words were “not my will, but yours be done” (Matt 26). God wants us to be in an intimate relationship with him where we can talk to him about everything and be released of all bitterness.

God promises us peace through prayer (Phil 4:6-7) and answers us, as we align our priorities to his will (John 15:7). He promises to answer our prayers that are spoken in belief (Mark 11:24). He promises to heal us when we pray in faith (Jam 5:16). He promises us deliverance from trouble (Psalm 34:17). If all of these promises are true and God answers us, provides a refuge and gives us peace, why don’t we pray more? Let this be a reminder and encouragement to engage in fervent, persistent prayer (1 Thess 5:17). Plug into the power source and start praying.