Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Five Ways To Improve Your Gathering With The Body

The more I read, the more I listen, and the more I invite people to gather with me on Sunday mornings as part of a "church service" the more I discover how much  re-education believers need. Not only do I continue to discover how reticent believers are about gathering together in a designated corporate service, I continue to find how unsatisfied they have become with their corporate worship service. Not only do I find this tragic for individual believers but how this must grieve the God whom we have come to worship.

I have made several observations over time that I think most believers could utilize in order to make some dramatic improvements in their "Sunday morning experience." These improvements are relatively simple, contain no calories, and have helped me.

Re-think why you are gathering together on Sunday Mornings

There are quite a few believers who really don't know why we gather together on Sunday morning. I am not talking about why we worship on Sunday versus Saturday or any other day for that matter. Examine your heart and evaluate why you attend your Sunday morning worship service.

Some, albeit a few, attend because they are afraid of the consequences if they don't. They view God as an angry or crotchety old man who will zap them if they fail to show up each week.  Others attend their services because they hope that God will either be pleased with them or will love them more. Many will show up this Sunday simply from routine or rote habit. After all, they go every week and so they attend because that is what they do each Sunday. Similarly, some will show up simply because they are expected to. Of course some show up because they are guilted by either the preaching or someone else from a passage like Hebrews 10.

Why do we gather together? What is the purpose of gathering each week? Acts 2 tells after the Holy Spirit indwelt the fledgling band of 120 or so disciples and apostles, that Peter preached a message which resulted in   3,000 people being born again. Those individuals were baptized and added to the 120. They then devoted or continued together with the apostles. The word "continued" is an imperfect tense verb and means that they kept on continuing with the apostles. These new believers had entered into a new "life" and they wanted to learn as much as they could.

Colossians 3 tells us that we gather to worship God. We are told in verse 16 that we are to "sing Psalms and hymns, and spiritual songs with thankfulness in your hearts to God." The problem we face is that "worship" is not simply preparation for preaching. Worship is the function of every believer. Worship is not left to Sunday mornings but when we gather, a purpose is to worship God.

Ephesians 4 also tells us a little about the purpose of gathering together, we gather in order to be equip to do the work of the ministry. We gather to minister our spiritual gift to one another. If you are not there this Sunday then you are unable to minister to me in a way that promotes my growth and maturity. We also are taught sound doctrine or teaching so that we are not batted about by false teachers or teachings. We are to nurture one another.

When one changes their thinking about why we gather from routine or duty to the realization, that when one walks into the designated building, room, or location, one is there to first worship our holy majestic God in a manner in which He is worthy, but we are also there to minister, nurture, develop, and care for each member present. Gathering together is to be a joy, a pleasure, and spiritual experience and not a chore.

Prepare your heart and soul to gather in your Sunday morning devotion

The greatest danger that those of us who have daily devotions or quiet times with the Lord face is that our devotions become routine or mechanical. We are always on guard against the onslaught of dullness, emptiness, and the dryness that can infiltrate and invade our special time with God. Mixing of what we do and the varies parts of our devotion can help prevent our quiet times from becoming mechanical. 

Use your Sunday morning quiet time to prepare you heart for the service to come. Search your heart for unconfessed sin. Learn how to truly worship God privately. Begin focusing on the nature and character of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Take an attribute of God and focus on that attribute. 

I realize that some of you are moms with young children or possibly older. I know that it is difficult to get yourself up and ready and then everyone else ready in order to be on time. There can be allot to contend with on Sunday mornings prior to gathering with the body. (We use to get four little girls up and ready every Sunday morning) Use what ever precious time you can carve out in the morning prior to the demanding of your time and attention by others to ready yourself for worship.

Arrive early rather than just a few minutes prior to the service beginning

I know anymore that this is easier to say than to do. It seems strange to me to hear so many people, including believers who tell me that for such important things like their daily job or the gathering of the body they "fall out of bed", run a comb through their hair, a toothbrush across their teeth, and arrive minutes before they are to begin work or worship.

If you are early you can come in and find a place and quiet your mind and soul. You can read scripture, pray, and begin to think thoughts of God and His majesty. At times you can even minister to others who are their by using your spiritual gift to edify, comfort, encourage, or help them.

Don't arrive early enough pick up on the latest gossip and news! Start spiritual conversations; pray for the Elders who lead and the Elder who be preaching/teaching. Pray for those who are there that God will open their hearts to the truth of His Word and fill them with Himself. Pray for those who are not believers.

Make it a point to be an active listener

Just as the Worship Leader, the choir, the ushers, and the teaching Elder are to be prepared to speak, sing, or serve, you as a member and worshipper must be prepared to listen. Listening is an activity that requires practice and personal involvement. Listen for God's word and encouragement in the songs that you sin. Listen intently and actively to the exhortation that is given from the Word. Don't merely sit while checking in and out of the message hoping it is soon finished. Listen carefully for the message directed to your heart. Listen for:
  • Sin (s) to Confess. Ask the Holy Spirit to use the passage to illuminate any and all sin that you may be guilty of or are harboring in your heart.
  • Promise to Claim. Listen as the Word is unpacked and unfolded for a promise in the passage from God that you can claim and fasten your hope upon.
  • Attitude to Copy. Listen as the Word is taught and observe the attitude (s) of the author or the audience. Is someone in the passage demonstrating humility, faithfulness, patience, love, mercy, or peace? Let God address your heart about the attitudes that you many need to ditch or develop.
  • Command to Complete. Listen to see if there is an imperative or a command in the passage that is being preached or taught. Is there something that you need to stop or begin. What would God have you to do as a result of hearing this message? What changes are you going to make in your thought life, your speech, your conduct, or your activities. 
  • Examples to Consider. In conjunction with any commands to obey or complete, listen carefully to the passage at hand and see if God is leading you to follow certain examples in the passage. Is the passage that you are actively listening to sharing an example of sacrificial love? How can you follow that example and become a dispenser of sacrificial love those around you?
Every message must have a main point, a proposition, a specific thought that is exhibited in the passage. There maybe several supportive points, examples, illustrations, and et. cetera in the passage. However, all these supportive points support the one main idea of the passage. Listen actively and carefully for that main idea. Listen how the supportive points under-gird and support that main idea.

Focus on God in every element of the service

This may sound like a "gimme" but it is important. Most people have come to believe that somewhere in the bulletin it says, "At the sound of announcements, the offering, specials, moments of silence, prayers, and anything else I forgot to list TALK. It is unfortunate that we develop the attitude that there are certain things in the "order of service" that are important and certain things that are not important. That is tragic.

Arrive as we said earlier even to greet folks and to find a place to wait expectantly as the service begins. Then focus on God and his character on each part of the service. From the call to worship, through the singing, and even in the announcements, seek to focus on God. Rather than disturbing and distracting others around you and missing out on something that God may bless you with, stay focused. 

Well there you  have it. These ideas are certainly, at least I don't think, original with me. They aren't very theological or earth shattering. They are offered for your consideration in the hopes that they might perhaps enhance your regular gathering together with the body of Christ. After all, the writer of the letter to the Hebrews states, "Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as it the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near." (Hebrews 10:23-25, ESV) (Emphasis is mine)

Why do you think people have trouble attending worship services?

What do you see as the reason we are to gather together?

How would you critique one or more of these suggestions?

Monday, May 30, 2011

Prayer in place of Bacon

Monday's Quote:
"0h brother, pray; in spite of Satan, pray; spend hours in prayer; rather neglect friends than not pray; rather fast, and lose breakfast, dinner, tea, and supper - and sleep too - than not pray. And we must not talk about prayer, we must pray in right earnest. The Lord is near. He comes softly while the virgins slumber." Andrew A. Bonar

Sunday, May 29, 2011

The Phenomenal Growth of the Kingdom Part I

The Parable of the Mustard Seed
Matthew 13:31, 32 * Mark 4:3-32 * Luke 13:18, 19

The Smallest of Seeds

Jesus tells two more parables concerning the Kingdom of Heaven. In the first parable he tells his disciples that the kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed and in the second parable he tells his disciples the kingdom of heaven is like yeast in flour. We shall look at the parable of the Mustard Seed this week and Lord willing we will examine the parable of the yeast next Lord’s Day.

These two parables are like the old 45 RPM records that had an A side and a B side. These two parables form a pair to teach the growth of the Kingdom of God. Matthew places these two parables together in chapter 13 possibly for topical reasons. Luke, on the other hand places these parables in the so called “traveling narratives” which range from Luke 9:51-19:27, which may have been the historical order of the parables. It is safe to assume that Jesus probably taught these two parables at the same time to make his point.

In the land of Israel in the days of Christ the mustard seed was a proverb representing the smallest of all things. It was possibly not the smallest seed in existence. The cypress seed apparently is smaller than a mustard seed. The mustard seed was universally used as a type of anything that was extremely small. This analogy would have been well known when Jesus taught it. For example; the Rabbis taught about “a spot of blemish as small as a mustard seed.” The Arabs have a phrase about “faith weighing not more than a grain of mustard seed.”

In Matthew and Mark the point teaching is teaching is that in time the smallest see grows into the largest of herbs. It is interesting to note that mustard was not a garden plant. Due to its size, particularly its height, it was planted in fields, and typically at the edge of a field. A mustard plant grew to about 7 or 8 feet high and its branches resembled the branches of a tree. There is a story of a traveller in Israel who claimed to have “up rooted” a mustard plant of over 12 feet in height.

Because they plants are relatively tall and have many strong branches, birds often nested in the upper branches. Apparently the birds loved the little black seeds that they picked out of the pods.

Lesson number one from this parable is that although the Kingdom of Heaven is starting very small, insignificant, and almost indiscernible in its beginning, its end will be very large and great. What were the disciples and the Jews expecting? They were looking for a political kingdom, with a political and militarily leader who would raise an army and overthrow Rome and establish the blessings of the kingdom. Jesus was seemingly insignificant. He was just one man preaching that the kingdom of heaven was at hand. No crown, no armies, and no visible means to vanquish Rome, this did not look like the Kingdom promised to them by the prophets.

The disciples may have been discouraged and even bewildered. They may have hoped for so much and here was so little. Not only was so very little happening that resembled the establishment of a Kingdom, Jesus was facing some very serious opposition.

The Birds and the Branches

Jesus goes on to say that the birds will come and make their homes in the branches of this mustard “tree.”  In Jesus day, a very common way to depict a great empire was to picture it as a great tree with many branches.

It seems Jesus has made reference to the Old Testament passages of Daniel 4:12, Ezekiel 17:23, and 31:6. It seems that Jesus is telling the disciples that despite the fact that the Kingdom of Heaven is beginning so insignificantly it is like the smallest of seeds, it will grow to provide safety and benefit to every kind or type of people.

The reference to Daniel was well known to Jesus disciples because it referred to Nebuchadnezzar’s dream of a tree that grew to be so tall and strong that its top reached to haven. Under that tree the animals of the field found shade. Birds of all types and kinds came to perch and make nests in that tree. The Ezekiel passage reads, “Thus says the LORD GOD: I myself will take a sprig from the lofty top of the cedar and will set it out. I will break off from the topmost of it young twigs a tender one, and I myself will plant it on a high and lofty mountain. On the mountain height of Israel will I plant it, that it may bear branches and produce fruit and become a noble cedar.  And under it will dwell every kind of bird; in the shade of its branches birds of every sort will nest.”

The kingdom may seem unimportant and even insignificant in AD 28. But hang on; the message preached by this carpenter-turned-preacher will make a major impact on the world. From this tiniest of seeds, this preacher and 11 disciples will develop into a very significant and great kingdom of God. It will be so great that people of every kind, tribe, tongue, and nation will become a part of this kingdom and bask in its benefits.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Luke-The Beloved Physician

Luke, the beloved Physician greets you, as does Demas. (Colossians 4:14, ESV)

This week we get to examine a snapshot of the life of my favorite bible character, Dr. Luke. Luke is my persoanl favorite second only to Jesus Christ Himself. He is my favorite character for at least five reasons:

  • He left his home and medical practice to enter into the ministry of the gospel with the Apostle Paul
  • He traveled with Paul and faithfully endured the hardships and deprivations right along side of Paul.
  • He took great interest in mentoring, discipling, and confirming a new convert in the gospel of Jesus Christ in two volumes - The Gospel of Luke and The Acts of the Apostles
  • He willingly served in a leadership capacity when Paul asked him to for approximately 7 years.
  • He was at Paul's side, faithful to the end, when the aged Apostle was beheaded for the gospel
The background of Luke is rather obscure. There are those who think that Luke was from Philippi while there are others who think that Luke was from Antioch of Syria. Most believe Luke to have been a Gentile. While a few believe he was a Jew. There are a few who think he might have been a slave. Many slaves were highly trained and skilled in medicine in order for families to have personal physicans. Tradition tells us that Luke was a proficient painter. It is reported that Luke painted portraits of both Mary and Jesus. Luke seems to have been very modest and humble. 

Paul probably came into contact with Luke initialy because of his profession as a physician. The Apostle certainly had health issues. Tradition tells us he had some sort of eye problem that needed treatment more than once. Paul had been suffering from a severe illness when he was in Galatia. We find Luke attending to and accompanying Paul when Paul arrived in Troas. Throughout the remainder of Paul's life Luke was in frequent contact with Paul. We believe that more than likely Luke treated Paul as a personal doctor.

It is also believed that for Luke to have accompanied Paul on his journey to Rome as a prisoner that Luke had to be a "slave" of Paul in order to have booking on the ship. This of course is speculation.

(The following is an excerpt from "Yokefellows," Pastor John LaVier's book about the companions of the Apostle Paul.)

"Luke joined the other three, Paul and Silas and Timothy, at Troas and is mentioned for the first time in Acts 16:10. This meeting was not happenstance, but most surely providential. In spite of Paul's untiring zeal and arduous labors we are not to think of him as being strong and robust. It was far otherwise, for he was in bodily presence weak and often subject to the infirmities of the flesh. To read the account of his sufferings in II Corinthians 11:23-33 is to wonder how he survived at all. But his precious Lord, the One who can be touched with the feeling of our infirmities, gave him sufficient grace for his need and then in love provided him with a personal physician. That was dear Dr. Luke, a companion whose friendship gave Paul inner strength and whose medical skill contributed to his well-being." 

Luke was also a faithful man of God. Paul established the church at Philippi with Lydia, her household and the Philippian jailer and his household. When it was time to go on, Paul left Luke with the Philippian Church. Luke remained in Philippi for approximately 5 years helping that church and strengthening it. I wonder if that is why this single church was so frequently generous with the Apostle Paul as far as monetary support. Luke probably encouraged them over and over to send support to his beloved friend and companion, the Apostle Paul.

To say that Luke was both medically trained and had a great medical interest would be an understatement. Luke makes mention of a number of illnesses, symptoms, diagnosis, and medical conditions throughout his two volume set of historical writings. He frequently used technical terms that only trained physicians and health care workers would use.

Luke was faithful to the very end of Paul's life. Luke was with Paul throughout Paul's first Roman imprisonment and he was with Paul in the last imprisonment. It was probably during this two year period that Luke wrote his gospel and the historical narrative called the Acts of the Apostle. Even when everyone else had been sent off on assignments or had actually forsaken Paul, Luke was there. Can you catch the pathos in Paul's phrase: "Only Luke is with me." (II Timothy 4:11)

Luke probably walked alongside of Paul holding his hand or arm and talking with the aged apostle while Paul was being walked outside of town to the place where he was beheaded. Luke probably took charge of the body and arranged Paul's burial.

Tradition says that Luke lived a very long and active life. It is thought he died about AD 74,  at the age of 84. This would have been about 6 years or so after Paul's death. It is thought that Luke may have died in Greece.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Today's Word...

Word Study: Maintain
"And let our's also learn to maintain good works for necessary uses, that they be not unfruitful." (Titus 3:14, KJV) 

The English Standard Version has chosen to translate the Greek word προιστημι  (pro-is’-tay-mee) with the English word devote. Pροιστημι is used 8 times in the Greek New Testament.

The KJV and the NKJV translate this Greek Word as "maintain." The NASB translates προιστημι as engage while the NIV and ESV translate it as devote. The RSV translates it as "apply."

Webster's Seventh New Collegiate Dictionary (1969) defines maintain as 1: to keep in an existing state, preserve from failure or decline; 2: to sustain against opposition or danger, uphold or defend; 3: to continue or persevere in, carry on, keep up, 4: to support or proivd for, bear the exspense; 5: to affirm in or as if in argument, assent.

The Englishman's Greek Concordance of the New Testament (page 665) shows that προιστημι appears again in KJV text in:

Romans 12:8 - "...he that ruleth with diligence..."
I Thessalonians 5:12 - "...and are over you in the Lord..."
I Timothy 3:4 - "One that ruleth well his own house..."   
                   5: - "...if a man know not how to rule his..."
                   12 - "...ruling their children and their own..."
                   5:17 - "Let the elders that rule well be..."
Titus 3:8 - "...be careful to maintain good works..."
           14 - "...learn to maintain good works..."

New Thayer's Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament (page 539) says this word means: 1: to set or place before,  2: to be over, to superintend, preside over, rule, to be a protector or guardian, to give aid, to care for or give attention to."

The New International Dictionary of New Testament of Theology (Vol 1, page 197) tells us that προιστημι is only used by the Apostle Paul in his writings, particularly in the Pastoral Epistles. The NIDNT also gives us the idea that it is a New Testament principle that believers are not to be without fruit. Hence, Paul's emphasis to Titus to cause the believers in Crete to always be learning how to maintain good works that lead to fruitfulness.

Marshall in The Pastoral Epistles states that the Cretians are to learn through practice, hence they are to begin to do something that they will "continue to maintain, or not let decline."

Therefore our word as a verb is a present, middle infinitive. The main verb in verse 14 is "learn." The people of God are given a command to learn. In this verse God's people are to learn three things; 1) to devote themselves to good works; 2) to help cases of urgent need; 3) to be fruitful for God's glory. 

Our word "maintain" therefore means that the people of God are to be actively learning how to continue in doing good works. Hence the meaning "maintain." This action or activity is to be done by each one of God's people on an on-going basis.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

What Numbers Are Important to You?

What numbers or statistics are important to you? What do you or your church record? Naturally, many churches carefully count attendance, decisions, or baptisms. Do you count or record the number of people that you or your church are personally and regularly discipling? Of course this answer would run the gauntlet - some would state that they don't record any numbers while others record every statistic properly.

What does Jesus expect of us? What was His last command? "...as you are going, make disciples..." Unfortunately when some people, whether it be pastor or pew, read this they think it reads, "Evangelize." This would make as much sense as a Mother and Father upon staring down into a baby crib and saying, "Well we have done our part! You are on your own now. Our job is finished."

As noted before, the only direct verb or command in verse 19 in the "Great Commission" is to make disciples. Unfortunately too many sermons, lessons, and devotions have centered on the single word "go." It is true that "go" is a verb, however, it is a participle, a helping verb that describes a part of "make disciples."

This may come as a surprise to many but Jesus came to this earth for at least two purposes. He came to die on the cross while taking the sins of the elect upon himself. He also came to make disciples who would be witnesses of His death and resurrection in order to propagate His message. Jesus did both. He connected his death with the mission of teaching and mentoring men for approximately three and 1/2 years.

Jesus taught, prayed for and with, and modeled His life and teachings to these men. If Jesus had not died on the cross there would have been no salvation for any of mankind. Just as true, had there been no disciples in place to carry on the words and works of Jesus the message of the cross would have died with the last disciple.

We must evangelize! We must share the gospel. We also must disciple those new "babes" in Christ. We must teach them and model for them the principles that Jesus both said and did. Our mission and/or ministry includes both- we must share the gospel and we must train and develop those evangelized. The numbers of evangelized souls might be impressive but are meaningless if we don't have the same "numbers" of evangelized as we do those who are being discipled. Both numbers are important to Jesus!

What about you?

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

W is for Wonder of Wonders

Wonder of Wonders
(Gregg Metcalf)
April 18, 2011


He’s the Wonder of Wonders
The Bright morning star
He is greater than thunder
Or the universe so far
He’s greater than everything
Every creature is under
Let all of creation sing
He’s the Wonder of Wonders

Verse One

Bow low your heavens, O Lord and come down
Touch the mountains and they will all smoke
Stretch out your hand to things that are around
You made all things by the words that you spoke

Verse Two

Sing oh saint of the splendor of His glory
Speak of the might of His awesome deeds
Tell of His ways with the deep blue sea
Tell of his greatness to all of His seed


He’s the Wonder of Wonders
The Bright morning star
He is greater than thunder
Or the universe so far
He’s greater than everything
Every creature is under
Let all of creation sing
He’s the Wonder of Wonders

Verse Three

For He and He alone is the Lord over all
wisdom springs from out of His Word
to him every lip shall sing every knee shall fall
While I live I will sing praise to my Lord


Sing to him you saints for all of your days
He is the Lord and He’s worthy of praise (because)


He’s the Wonder of Wonders
The Bright morning star
He is greater than thunder
Or the universe so far
He’s greater than everything
Every creature is under
Let all of creation sing
He’s the Wonder of Wonders

Copyright Gregg Metcalf, April 18, 2011

This was an alternative for the letter W for the A-Z Challenge. I chickened out on posting it and posted W is for Worship instead.

Anybody want to add music to this? Looking for either typical hymn or true southern gospel ballad with steel guitar and significant piano. Will share copyright and sales.

2010 A-Z Challenge: W is for Where Would I Be?
2011 A-Z Challenge: W is for Wonder of Wonders

Monday, May 23, 2011

Are You Serious? Really?

I am grieved in my heart by the reaction of many who claim to be evangelical Christians to the fact that the rapture of believers did not take place as predicted by Harold Camping of Family Radio, Oakland, CA. Much of the reaction included imprecatory wishes of his demise and banishment from earth. People who know the Lord do not react like this.

Hopefully, Harold Camping will be long gone from this Earth by the time the next prediction comes around. Given his age, he probably will. And hopefully soon.

I hope he gets sued or something....how terrible.

This guy man.. he's hiding now and family radio shut down cause they are idiots. we should take people like this and throw them off the earth.

it should be the end of HIS world.

But I Don't Support Him At All I Hope He Gets Sued For Emotional Distress.

Yeah, what happened to the 2011 business. I just found out about this stupid may 21 **** like yesterday. I am still alive and really ******. I vote we form an angry mob and hang this muthaf***.

You have got to be kidding me? Is the way those who claim to know Christ are to think in their heart? Is there no grief for the deception?

First of all, why is anyone surprised? More importantly why is anyone disappointed? I can understand if Camping's followers are disappointed. Some spent their life savings on helping him spread his false teaching. Many changed their life-plans and priorities in order to warn friends, family, and strangers of coming judgement.

Those of you who know the bible should not be disappointed or surprised. The Bible is very clear that no one will know the day that Jesus Christ will appear in the clouds to take his bride to the Father's house. The scripture is clear that we should watch, wait, and work and not be concerned with the timing of the event. If anything we should be disappointed at midnight every day that our home-going didn't take place today.

Paul warned his beloved protege Timothy that many would come and deceive the ignorant. "...evil people and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived." (II Timothy 3:13, ESV) Evil  people, people who are impostors will deceive people because they have been deceived. Harold Camping is an evil man and an impostor. He has proven by his teaching to have been deceived and he has deceived hundreds of thousands of people around the world. His "teachings" did not and do not line up with the bible.

Sincerity, passion, and meaning well are not qualifications of a bible teacher. A bible teacher must work diligently and study intensely to be an accurate teacher of biblical things. Teaching the bible is a very sacred, holy, magnificent, and exacting work. James warns his readers not to become teachers without great thought for they will be judged with a greater judgment than non-teachers.

So, what should we do? What is our proper reaction? Again, Paul told Timothy what to do; "But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Jesus Christ. All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work." (II Timothy 3:14-16, ESV)

"...the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths." (II Timothy 4:3-4, ESV)

Do not turn from sound biblical teaching. Do not turn to teachers who tell you what you want to hear. Find teachers who work hard at teaching and then compare their teaching with the Scripture in prayer, meditation, and humility. The word of God is complete. God said what He meant and He meant what He said. Do not add to it, take away from it, or attempt to find hidden codes, secretes, or new information in order to prove a new and novel teaching. There are no bible codes, hidden meanings, or secrets that say one thing but mean another thing.  The scripture must be taken literally (except when obviously figurative), within in its historical and contextual background and in accordance with the grammar and syntax of the Greek, Aramaic, or Hebrew language.

You can certainly have confidence that you can read and understand the bible if: first, you are a true believer and child of God; second, you have not grieved or quenched the Holy Spirit who indwells believers as their comforter, down payment, and teacher; third you prayerfully, diligently, actively, and in accordance with proper hermeneutical rules; and fourth you compare Scripture with scripture. Camping will tell you he did that.

Camping's problem, other than possibly not being a believer, is that he read things into the scripture and spiritualized them rather than taking them literally. He made passages say what they needed to say in order to support his theory. He did not check his hypothesis with scripture, the apostles, the long accepted teaching of the of the church, and with other godly men who have gone on before him to see if his hypothesis was correct.

What will become of Harold Camping? At this moment, I for one do not know. He may be shamed from the radio, public access, and from teaching. His credibility is non-existent. He may cry error, foul, mistake and carry on like a tear-shedding Jimmy Swaggart unscathed. It doesn't matter. If Harold Camping disappears, Satan is locked and loaded with the next deceiver and false teacher. I think at least he needs to resign or be fired from Family Radio and never given a pulpit again. But alas, There will be a proliferation of deceivers and false teachers, especially as the time of judgment approaches.

Watch out! Be sober-minded, exercise discernment, study diligently and seek the help of well-tested pastor/teachers who have the gift of teaching who can help you with difficult passages or doctrines. Encourage one another, edify one another and do not forsake the gathering of yourselves together as you see the day approaching!

I love of all you who read this blog - my love for you is shown in its greatest manner by seeking to accurately interpret and teach Gods' Word for His glory and your good.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

The Work of The Enemy

Matthew 13:24-30

The first key to interpreting and understanding the parables is to realize that they have nothing to do with the church age or the church. Many invalid, mixed up, and even ridiculous interpretations and applications have been proffered by mixing these two entities. The Kingdom of Heaven or Kingdom of God and the Church are not the same. Scriptural references to these two entities should not be mixed either.

The second key to interpreting and understanding the parables is to remember that the Jews have been waiting for the restoration of their Kingdom. God had promised to renew or restore the Kingdom in a much grander way. The disciples have come to believe that Jesus was the Messiah that would establish this promised kingdom.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Out of the mouths of babes...come the darndest things!

One of the longest running TV programs was a program called "House Party." It aired every week day afternoon from 1952 until 1970. This program was hosted by none other than the incredible Mr. Art Linkletter.

At the end of each show, Mr. Linkletter would interview children. It is estimated that Mr. Linkletter interview some 20,000 children. He liked to say "although kids came in different shapes, sizes, colors, and backgrounds, they all said the darndest things!" Sometimes, Sunday School kids can say the darnedest things also.

When I was Pastor at the Mirror Lake Baptist Church in Federal Way, WA, my wife taught the 5 and 6 year old Sunday School Class. Naturally she had a class filled with the cutest little girls and boys.One Sunday the lesson was about the time Peter and John were arrested for preaching the good news about Jesus. Not only were they arrested they were beaten and put in jail. My wife stressed the point that sometimes people who belong to God can have bad things happen to them for doing the right thing. Peter and John went to jail for Jesus. (Acts 4)

Well, in the middle of her lesson, one of the cutest little 5 or 6 years, a daughter and granddaughter of some long time church members stood up and in a very informing voice told Irene, "My daddy has been in jail." After a pause and an inquisitive look on her face, she continued while shaking her head from side to side, "But I don't think it was for Jesus." Needless to say Irene had a tough time keeping a straight face as she segweged out of that one! I still think it is one of the most hilarious things a child has said.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Clement of Rome

From the earliest extant records that we have, it seems Clement is considered to be the third pastor of the church at Rome. He seems to have followed Linus and Cletus (Anacletus). We know nothing about either one of these men. They are simply names that were found on a list. Clement would probably be nothing more than a name on a list but he wrote an epistle, or letter to the believers in the church at Corinth. Clement's letter has been preserved and exists today.

Tertullian states that Clement was installed as pastor of the church in Rome by Peter. Clement was known to be a prominent member of the church in Rome in the late part of the first century, between Ad 96-100. Jerome considered Clement to be the fourth pastor of the church. Jeromes' reckoning included Peter as a pastor, but there is absolutely no record of Peter having anything to do with the leadership of the church at Rome.  Irenaeus is recorded by Eusebius as stating Clement followed Linus and Cletus, thereby becoming the third pastor of the Roman Church.

The only writing that we know to be authentically from Clement is his letter to the Corinthians. The value of this letter is seen in the fact that Clement asserts the authority of the Elders as rulers of the church. His basis of this assertion was that, "on the grounds that the Apostles had appointed such." This letter and assertion was in response to the actions of the Corinthian church when some Elders had been dismissed by the church. Clement's letter was the first document aside from the New Testament to affirm the apostolic appointment of Elders as the ruling body in individual local churches.

The Liber Pontificals names Clement as the third pope of the church. We know this not to be true due to there being no validity to the offices of Bishops, Cardinals, and or Pope. The word επισκοπη (ep-is-kop-ay’) is synonomus with the term πρεσβυτερος (pres-boo’-ter-os) or  ποιμην (poy-mane’). The bible knows nothing of a separate office of "bishop" that has authority over individual local churches or pastors. Clement in his letter uses the term Elder and Bishop interchangeably as the officers of the local church.

According to a 4th century document, Clement was eventually banished by the Emperor Trajan and was forced to work in a stone quarry. Legend states that Clement was put to death by being tied to a anchor and thrown from a boat into the Black Sea. However, neither Jerome nor Eusebius saying anything about his death or martyrdom. Clement is usually symbolized by an anchor and a cross.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

The Self-existence of God

Attribute of God:  Self-Existence!

Novatian said, "God has no origin." Although we would agree with very little else of what Novatian believed, he was absolutely right on this point. This very idea distinguishes that which is God from whatever is not God.

God is self existent. Everything else in this universe is created and therefore necessarily had an origin. There is not one thing material or immaterial, corporeal or incorporeal that is self-caused. We are taught that anything that exists must have had a cause that antedates it and was either equal to or greater than itself.

Almost every child at some point asks the question, "Where did God come from?" This question shows that even in the youngest of minds everything that exists stems from a cause. Everything is created by some cause.

It is extremely difficult to wrap our mind around the concept that God has always existed with having had no beginning. In our finiteness we find it unsettling and even uncomfortable to imagine anything that is so indescribably self-existent, self-dependent, self-sufficient and who is responsible to one one. Philosophy and science are proof of the antagonism toward God. To quote A. W. Tozer the reason is, "that they are dedicated to the task of accounting for things and are impatient with anything that refuses to give an account of itself."

Frederick w. Faber tried to capture the idea of a God who is independent of both matter and space in these lines:

Timeless, spaceless, single, lonely,
Yet sublimely Three,
Thou art grandly, always, only
God in Unity!
Lone in grandeur, lone in glory,
Who shall tell Thy wondrous story?
Awful Trinity!

Regardless of far back into time we can force our minds, God had no beginning. Since God is infinite and we are finite we can not go back far enough and imagine what it really means that God has always existed. We want to start His existence at some point due to the problem of not being able to understand infinity.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

What Should We Learn From Harold Camping?

Harold Camping is a false teacher. Harold Camping is a heretic. Harold Camping of Family Radio, Oakland, CA is leading people into deception and lies of the Devil. Before you cry foul, Paul made it very clear in a number of places including Romans 16: "Now I urge you, brethren, note those who cause divisions and offenses, contrary to the doctrine which you learned, and avoid them. For those who are such do not serve our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly and by smooth words and flattering speech deceive the hearts of the simple." (Romans 16:17-18, NKJV) The KJV is a bit stronger when it says, "mark and avoid..." (Let me add I don't think his false teaching is motivated by greed)

Paul gave explicit instructions to both Timothy and Titus to stand against false teachers. The New Testament is replete with warnings and admonitions to avoid false teachers and false doctrine. We are told to be wise, to be sober, to study, and to exercise discernment. We are warned in a number of ways to determine, detect, and defend against those who rise up and teach false doctrines.

There is a most amazing passage, at least amazing to me in I Corinthians 11:19. "For there must be heresies among you, that they which are approved may be made manifest among you." Under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit Paul made it clear that heresies are ordained of God for the express purpose of showing to us who the true teachers are.  As much as my heart grieves for Harold Camping and for all of the concern for his soul that I have, I thank God for him. I thank God that as God ordained him to be a false teacher for the purpose of showing those who are true teachers of the Word of God. Having said that I think are at least seven lessons that we can learn from Harold Camping, False Teacher. They lessons are as follows:

1.  We need to constantly be reminded that the Lord Jesus can return at any moment. There are no signs nor warnings to precede the catching away of the church. Any moment the bridegroom can return for His bride and we need to be ready. We need to believe this. We need to live like we believe it. We need to live like this fact is true.

2.  We need to preach coming the coming judgement of God on this fallen world. Judgement will begin with the people of God, the Israelites. It will continue upon this earth and upon the unrepentant and wicked nations of this earth. God will one day pour out His fury, His full wrath, and judgement on this earth and the inhabitants that refuse to repent. People are asleep and the church has fallen asleep. Judgment is coming, repent and be saved!

3.  We need to stop being side-tracked. We need to stop being side-tracked over whether we have contemporary or traditional songs, series on how to be sexually fulfilled in marriage, how to have better this and that and preach that Christ is the only Ark that will save us from the coming judgement of God. We need to exalt the name of the Lord Jesus Christ above all things.

4.  We need to study diligently and handle the word of God very carefully. It is God's word. It cannot be handled flippantly, incorrectly, or inaccurately. The Word of God needs to be given the authoritative place in our lives and churches that it once held. The bible is the word of God, not a book of suggestions and theories on how to have the best life now.

5.  We need to plead with every friend, family member, every neighbor, co-worker, and stranger to be saved, to save themselves from this untoward generation. Yes, God is sovereign over salvation, and I don't back down from the Doctrines of Grace, but unlike some I don't know who the elect are and not being hyper-Calvinist I am going to preach the gospel to every creature.

6.  We need to stop being so cowardly and mealy-mouthed and make it clearly known who the false teachers are. Mark them and avoid them. Charge them as Paul said to Timothy to teach nothing but sound doctrine. Reject false teachers. The Doug Pagits, Joel Olsen's, Brian McClarens, Perry Nobles, and the TBN crowd are false teachers. Run from their teachings.

7.  We need to remember that we are in a war. Satan will camouflage himself and parade about as an angel from heaven. Demons impersonate people. Devils tell lies. We are not doing battle with flesh and blood but with spiritual enemies, principalities, and demons. Put on the full armour of God! Stand ready for battle.

There may be many more lessons that we can learn from this false teacher. We can certainly start here. I take no pleasure in writing this post nor reminding you that Camping is a false teacher deceiving those whom follow him. My heart breaks for his deception and the deception of his radio audience. His passion and sincerity does not belay the fact that he is a deceiver. Why do I think he is a false teacher. Let me give you four quick and short reasons.

1.  He has set a date before and was wrong. No one knows when Christ is returning for His church or to establish His Kingdom.

2.  He has spoken against the church of Jesus Christ, whom Jesus Himself said would be forever victorious and even the gates of hell would not prevail against the church. The church is triumphant and is the instrument that God uses today to carry out His perfect will. Yes, many individual, local churches are a mess.

3.  He has allegorized scripture rather than utilizing proper rules of hermeneutics for interpretation. He has mishandled the most precious word of God. He has failed at the task of interpreting the Scriptures.

4.  He has twisted various scriptures to say what he wants it to say in order to prove his point. He has read into Scripture rather than allowing it to speak clearly.

One final thought. How do you know I am not the false teacher and Harold Camping is correct? I will be here, Lord willing, (I could die at any moment) on the 22nd to share the good news of the gospel with anyone who would love to visit with me.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Some Gave All?

I opened my email this morning (on the 10th, I write my posts a week in advance) and discovered another one of those chain-letters forwarded to me by a very close friend. I usually read them or in some cases like this one I view them and then I discard them. I do not forward any tof these chain-letters. If you  have not gotten your blessing, promises, pot-of-gold, double rainbow, or if seven years of bad luck has plagued you it is because I deleted your forward and did not send it on.

Now let me say three things if I may, first of all I am not saying to stop sending me things if you wish. Some of them have been interesting, informative, and even inspirational. A couple, such as this latest one has even been the basis for a post. I am just saying beware if you are the superstitious kind and don't want the chain broken; I will break it.

Second, usually, these chain-letters are filled with maudlin, sappy, tear-jerking themes set to just the right musical background to draw upon your emotions in order to enlist you in their particular cause or crusade. These chain-letters have a tendency to play upon your fears, suspicions, frustrations, and patriotism.

Third, much of what is sent is just simple propaganda with little support or evidence of accuracy or validity. Granted they might all be based on something true but by the time they get to me, the maudlin emotionalism has embellished them beyond recognition.

This latest one was no different. At least in the intent to play upon emotions with the hope of convey a point. This one came with the instructions which read: "Please listen and watch this …If you don’t feel a tear coming in places…or feel a few “goose bumps”…or sit in silence at the end …then ??? And... Please listen to the music and the wordsThe song is quite moving . I never heard it before."

Now, let me say first, that I am a former Marine. That's right a Jar-head, a leather-neck, or a bon-a-fide member of Uncle Sam's Misguided Children. Semper Fi! Once a Marine, Always a Marine! First to Fight - First to Die! Oops, sorry about that, I got carried away.

Second, I couldn't wait to join the Marine Corps as Viet Nam was winding down in order to go "kill" my share of "commies" and do my bit for the good ole USA. I volunteered for gunner's school to be a door gunner on a Huey Helicopter. (Thank God He is sovereign and wiser than me - I didn't get the billet, but was sent to FT. McClellan Army Depot where I became a 5711 - Nuclear, Biological, Chemical Warfare Specialist) All I am saying is I love our military and I am pro-military.

Third, I have had some 39 years to develop, mature, think, mull over, and rethink somethings from the day I walked into that recruiters office at 17 years of age. I had previously bought all the hoop-la about fighting for our country, dieing for Mother, apple-pie, and the flag, and ET Cetera. I was willing to give my all and was proud of and thankful for those who had given their all.

The song in this video is not bad. The chorus goes: All gave some/some gave all/some stood through/for the red, white, and blue/and some had to fall/and if you ever think of me/think of all your liberty and recall/some gave all.

Not a bad chorus, certainly very good sentiments. So, you say, why the post? Because I am troubled at best and offended at worst with the line, "some gave all." Really, its the word gave that bothers me. Did they really give all? Or, was their all "taken?" Yes, if you allow for the fact that many of those who died in all of our wars since 1776 bought into and believed that they were fighting for liberty, the American Way, apple pie and the flag, you could then say they gave all. I think it was really that their precious life was taken from them by someone on the other side of the battle field.

You say what do you mean? I believe that when the constitution was drafted each state was responsible to provide a militia or an army to protect its citizens from invasion by foreign or domestic enemies. I am not sure we have a mandate to travel the world to enact or enforce policies. Setting aside 9/11 for a moment, we have not had a foreign country or enemy invade our shores demanding that we rise up and defend our country, our citizens, our freedoms, or our American Way. 

We have sent troops around the world to help rescue various countries, governments, and regimes. We have sent our troops to their death fighting to establish or enforce policies that were or had been determined by those in power within the Federal Government. I have never been made privy to the decisions that our government has made in regards to the policies that have been determined which have resulted in sending our troops into harms way around this world. I think we have fought wars, engaged our troops somewhat empirically in order to force our decisions on others. I don't know why FDR entered WWII (other than Pearl Harbor) or why Truman entered the Korean Conflict, or why Kennedy entered the Viet Nam Conflict, or why Bush sent troops to Afghanistan or Iraq. It wasn't to defend our liberty, the American Way, or our freedom. Those things weren't being threatened. As long as we maintain a superior armed force and have the will to fight to win, we probably don't have to worry about our freedoms, liberty, or the American Way being taken from us.

Truthfully, we should be more concerned about the Federal Government which is controlled by a minority of left-wing wackos taking away our freedoms, liberty, and destroying our American Way of life. We have more to fear from them than we do any other country. American won't be destroyed from any enemy or army from without, it will be destroyed by enemies from within.

This brings me back to may point and to a conclusion. I don't know think those who made the ultimate sacrifice and died gave their all. I think their all was taken from them by politicians and bankers who desire to establish and enforce their clandestine policies under the banner of America, Mother, Apple-pie and the flag. The question is would I enlist today like I did on October 17, 1972? No. I have no desire to go topple a government, hang a sitting President, or prop up a government that seemingly cannot stand on its own. I would not go nor would I encourage friends or relatives to enlist. (I would not defy a draft order nor would I recommend anyone else to do so - a lawful order is a lawful order)

However, if a foreign enemy invaded our soil, particularly my beloved Washington state, I would be the first to rally to the cause. Now, would be the time to join up, fight for right, and to fight for America, the flag, apple-pie, and motherhood. Until then bring our troops home, reward them well, train them continually for the scenario that we hope never comes true.

So, the photos of the Marines were wonderful! I love the Marine Corps and still stand when either the Star Spangled Banner or the Marine Corps Hymn is played. I love our troops and those who enlist to provide a military to protect our borders. But, I choose to first, not to buy into the fact that many of our troops gave their all, rather than their all was taken from them and second, I won't forward the chain-letter. Yep, I deleted it.

The preceding opinion is mine and mine alone. Only one email chain-letter was harmed in the making of this editorial. This is why I stay out of politics and stick to theology.

Government: Friend or Foe?

Gas prices are rising
Unemployment at an all time high
Recession the greatest since 1929
Skyrocketing Federal and State budget deficits and debt
House and Senate divided over budget issues
Increased bombing in Libya
Immigration out of control and beyond fixing
US and Pakistan relations "shaky"

Yikes! Do I dare include any more headlines from today's paper? What is our government doing? Even with our system of redress and the right to cast ballots it is difficult to see change on the horizon. At times it seems there is so little the average American can do. Is there anything we can do?

Yes! However I fear that the greatest and most effective thing that we can do, we do so little. If we do it at all it often is inconsistent and impotent. What can we do? What should we be doing in addition to casting ballots, redress, and "salting" the political process? Praying.

"First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way." (I Timothy 2:1-2, ESV)

Travel back to AD 90 and ponder the "state of the union." Paul and Peter had been killed by Nero some 25 or 26 years earlier. Domitian was Emperor of Rome. Under severe measures he restored Romes traditional religion. He persecuted Christians severely. Times were harsh and Roman law was severe. What were the Christians to do?

Listen to heart of this former pastor of the church at Rome named Clement. Clement wrote an epistle, or a letter to the believers in the Church of Corinth when the savagery of Domitian was fresh in believers minds. Here is probably the greatest of all prayers for the Emperor:

"Thou, Lord and Master, hast given our rulers and governors the power of sovereignty through thine excellent and unspeakable might, that we, knowing the glory and honor which thou hast given them, may submit ourselves unto them, in nothing resisting thy will. Grant unto them, therefore, O Lord, health, peace, concord, stability, that they may administer the government which thou has given them without failure. For thou, O heavenly Master, King of the Ages, givest to sons of men glory and honor and power over all things that are upon the earth. Do thou, Lord, direct their counsel according to that which is good and well- pleasing in they sight, that, administering the power which thou hast given them in peace and gentleness with godliness, they may obtain thy favor. O thou, who alone art able to  do these things, and things far more exceeding good than these for us, we praise thee through the High Priest and Guardian of our souls, Jesus Christ through whom be the glory and the majesty unto thee both now and for all generations, and for ever and ever. Amen!" (I Clement 61)

The Church has always believed it a God-given duty to pray for those in authority over the kingdoms of this earth. The Church even brought its persecutors before the throne of Grace in order to obtain favor. Yes, utilize our system of redress and by all means use the ballot box. However, do not forget the most effective weapon that can ever be used against government to keep it in check - fervent, effective, and consistent prayer.

Do you pray consistent for government and government officials?

When you do pray, how do you pray for them? Their demise or their deliverance?

What would happen if Christians and Churches fall on their face across this nation regularly to make supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings for our national, state, and local leaders?

Monday, May 16, 2011

Faith requires Action!

1950American missionary and martyr Jim Elliot wrote in his journal: 'To believe is to act as though a thing were so. Merely saying a thing is so is no proof of my believing it.'

What does Elliot mean?
Why is this a valid statement?
What are you believing without acting upon?

Sunday, May 15, 2011

The Sower and the Seed

The parable of the sower and the seed is thought to be the first parable that Jesus used in his teaching ministry. It certainly contained elements that were very familiar to his listeners. Even if the majority missed the spiritual implication or point, they would have readily identified with a farmer sowing seed in his field and the various scenarios affecting the outcome of the projected harvest.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Lydia - Seller of Purple

"Friday's Features" 
 Segments of Christian Testimony

Fridays we will take a look at various men and women who have been used by God to shape Christian thought, theology, and teachings. These men and women have had a major impact on Christianity. Here we will attempt to honor them. We hope to expose you to leading Church Fathers, martyrs, pioneers, pastors and teachers of both the past and present.

"...whose heart the Lord opened, that she attended unto the things which were spoken of Paul." (Acts 16:14, KJV)

One of my favorite stories in the New Testament is the story of Lydia. I love the way it is written in the King James Version versus my beloved ESV - "Lydia...whose heart the Lord opened." It sounds so much more personal and poetic than, "The Lord opened her heart to pay attention..." (ESV) Who was this Lydia?

The Apostle Paul and his new protege Timothy, along with Silas left Lystra and traveled through the region known as Phrygia and Galatia. They had tried to cross over into Asia but they were prevented from doing so. We learn from Luke who recorded this event in the historical narrative "Acts" that the Holy Spirit actually prevented them from crossing into Asia to carry out Paul's plans. Paul, Silas and Timothy traveled to Mysia and tried to enter Bithynia and again the Holy Spirit would not allow them to do so. We don't know how the Holy Spirit  prevented them from entering Bithynia. It could have been a  lack of means of travel, bad weather, or even sickness. We only know that they were forbidden from traveling in that direction. Paul and Timothy traveled to Troas where they spent the night. In a vision Paul saw a man from the region of Macedonia who said, "Come over to Macedonia and help us." It was there in Troas that Paul met a medical doctor. In this brief meeting an affinity was struck that bonded Paul and Luke together for the rest of Paul's life. Luke, left his home and practice and joined the dynamic duo and traveled the next day into Macedonia. The gospel was about to invade Europe.

Paul, Silas, Timothy and Luke came to Neapolis and then traveled to Philippi. It was here that Christianity began in Europe. In Philippi Paul would soon start a vibrant church. The story of the founding of both this church and a Christian witness in Europe is so thrilling! Luke recorded that the little party of gospel preachers were in Philippi a few days. On the Jewish sabbath this little party went out to an area on the river where Jews gathered to pray. They sat down next to a group of women and shared the gospel.

[In order to build a synagogue in a city, ten devout Jewish men had to agree to meet together for prayer. There was no synagogue in Philippi, meaning there were not enough devout Jewish men who would agree to gather for prayer. Hence, as in the exile, Jews and God-fearers would gather on river banks for prayer.]

One of the women that they sat next two and spoke to was a woman named Lydia. She was from Thyatira and she sold purple cloth and dye. We don't know why she left Thyatira and came to Philippi - maybe a business appointment caused her to come there or maybe sales demanded that she make the trip. What we do know is that Lydia had a divine and sovereign appointment with the God who created her and salvation! Luke poetically and wonderfully says, "...whose heart the Lord opened."

Lydia could not will herself to avail herself of the salvation that Paul had been sharing. She could not choose to change her mind, heart, or dead spiritual disposition. God had to do that. God opened her heart. Lydia did not open her heart because she could not open her heart. Neither did you! If you are a true child of God it is because at the exact sovereign and strategic moment of God's choosing He opened your heart to respond to the quickening work of the Holy Spirit  which enabled you to respond in faith and repentance.

Lydia was regenerated by the Spirit of God and gloriously saved. She was baptized as a believer to demonstrate the work of salvation in her heart. The same message was preached to the members of her household which would have included relatives, children, and slaves. They too had their hearts opened by God and they were regenerated by the Holy Spirit and were baptized.

Lydia prevailed upon Paul, Silas, Timothy, and Luke to stay at Lydia's house for awhile. It is possible that they used her home as a base of operations. Afterwards when Paul and Silas were arrested and beaten and then finally released from custody, Lydia took care of them and nursed their injuries.

If you remember the Philippian jailer and his household, relatives, children, and slaves also were made believers by the quickening work of the Holy Spirit. They also were baptized. From Lydia's household and the Philippian jailers household a church was born. This church became very dear to Paul and ministered to him financially several times during his missionary career.

Thursday, May 12, 2011


Theological Terminology

Cerinthus was a gnostic teacher in the last days of John the Apostle. Cerinthus taught that God did not create the world and he denied the divinity of Jesus. He taught that Jesus was a man who at His baptism was empowered by the "Christ" which guided Him in His earthly ministry. Then merfe moments before the death of Jesus on the cross, the "Christ" left Him leaving a mere mortal man to die. Cerinthus took mysticism and Christian doctrine and mixed them together in an attempt to destroy biblical doctrine. The heresies of Cerinthus can be detected in the teachings of Jehovah's Witnesses, Christian Science, and Mormonism.

Cerinthus was a contemporary of John the Baptist who wrote his first letter to churches in Asia that he was responsible for while living in Ephesus and his second letter to warn the less mature in their Christian faith and doctrine about the false teaching being circulated.

Tradition tells the story of the fervor of John's opposition to Cerinthus when John discovered Cerinthus in the same public bath house as John causing John to run out of the bath house yelling, "Let us fly, that the thermae (steam) fall not on our heads, since Cerinthus, the enemy of the truth, is therein."

The benefit and blessing of Cerinthus to the church was that it caused the early church to wrestle with and define the character and nature of Jesus Christ. It also resulted in John the Apostle defining the character of God as involved in the redemption of sinners. What a wonderful scheme of God to allow a heretic such as Cerinthus to rise up and challenge the teachings of Jesus in order to inspire John to write an epistle that clearly delineated God's plan of redemption.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

What is the Mission of the Church?

"And Jesus came and spoke to them saying, 'All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go, therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, [even] to the end of the age.'" (Matthew 28:18-20, NKJV)

A mission statement is a formal, yet short written statement of the purpose of a company or an organization. The mission statement guides the actions and activities of the organization by delineating the immediate goal of the company or organization which serves to govern the decision-making process of the organization. "It (mission statement) provides the framework or context within which the company's strategies are formulated." [1]

Historically the mission statement, according to the Online Etymology Dictionary, was associated with Christian or religious groups. The OED gives the example that a "missionary" was assumed to be a person a specific religious mission. [2]

What is the mission of the Church? What statement, while formal and short, serves as the purpose, or reason for the existence of the Church? Does the Church need a mission statement?

First, let me say I am not talking about individual, local churches. Many local churches do not have a mission statement thought out and developed by the leadership of the church. With no definitive and written out mission statement to govern the church's decision making process, several things become apparent. First, the members of such churches do not know why the church exists and what is its primary objective. Second, decisions are often made that are counter-productive to the "perceived" mission of the church. Soon the church is seemingly traveling in a number of directions leaving confusion and very little accomplishments in its wake. Third, churches take on a "mission" statement by practice that is usually at odds with the actual mission given in the Scriptures.

Second, let me also say that the over-arching mission of any individual and church is to glorify God. Our duty or responsibility as believers and churches is to make known the magnificent, glorious, and marvelous character of the living God. (Isaiah 46, I Corinthians 10:31)

Third, let me say, that God has chosen to glorify Himself, or to magnify and make know His glorious character by redeeming a company of believers, adopting them as His own, indwelling them by means of the Holy Spirit, gifting them with a spiritual gift, and charging them to make known His character to the entire world, i. e. every tongue, tribe, nation, and peoples.

Initially God revealed His glorious character of Himself to Adam and Eve. After the fall, He made His character known through anthropomorphic expressions of Himself in a pre-incarnate form. He chose to reveal His nature and character through the nation of Israel. In keeping with His eternal decrees and secret purposes, God continues to reveal His glorious character throughout the Church which began on the Day of Pentecost.

The church has a holy calling and responsibility of revealing the nature and character of the living God to every   tribe, every tongue or language group, and every nation on this earth. I do not see anywhere in the Scriptures, either Old or New Testaments that state that this holy calling and mission requires that the good news of the gospel and/or God's glorious character be revealed to every living human being. God has never stated that He intended to reveal Himself to every living human being, but to people "..out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation..." (Revelation 5:9)

What then, is the mission statement for the Church? What statement, derived from Scripture governs the purpose and reason for the existence of the Church which is represented visibly and locally by individual and  local churches? What becomes the filter through which every decision, plan, program, goal, or ministry is governed by? We call it the "Great Commission." We find it in the last paragraph of Matthew 28.

Each local and individual church is charged with the responsibility of making disciples. Notice this is the main verb in this paragraph. "Go" is not the main verb. Go is a participle or supporting verb. The main verb tells us that our commission is to make disciples, the participles or supporting verbs going, baptizing, and teaching tell us what is entailed in making disciples. The word "Go" is not a command or call for a few people called "missionaries" to go, it is a participle that actually says "going, "or "as you are going," "while you are going" - make disciples. In your everyday life, as you conduct business, raise a family, build a home, develop a career, recreate...make disciples.

This is why churches peak and then begin to "die" at some point of their existence. Open the phone book, read newspaper ads, website slogans, or bulletin tag-lines and you can see how this mission statement has been replaced by everything and anything. You can read things like,"The fastest growing church, the friendliest church, the church where you are comfortable, the church where you can be yourself, the church that feels like home, the cutting edge church, the hippest church," and on and on and on it goes. These churches make decisions, develop programs, and pursue the latest fad in hopes of growing. These churches usually "feed" on the disgruntled church member, the consumer-oriented church member, the church-hopping member, or the disconnected church member in order to fuel their numbers.

What are we told in Matthew 28? The mission of the church is to make disciples. The Holy Spirit opens the heart of a lost individual when the gospel is preached and regenerates a repentant sinner. This newly saved individual is baptized. Then, the work of discipleship continues! The church is told to teach these new believers to τηρεω (tay-reh’-o), "to keep, to preserve, to hold fast to, or to observe" all the things that Jesus taught. This is dicipleship. Evangelism or sharing the gospel is only part of the entire equation.

There is nothing wrong with being a friendly, fast growing, welcoming, homey, hip, and whatever local church as long as the mission is not replaced by this desire. I would want people to think of the church that I shared leadership in was friendly and outgoing. I, also, want them to know that the over-arching thrust of our church is to make disciples. Families within our churches extend and give longevity to their blood-lines by having children. They raise these children in order to one day raise children of their own. Churches perpetuate their spiritual longevity by continuing to make disciples.

Look back to some of the greatest churches in history - the Jerusalem Church, the Church in Antioch, the Ephesian Church, where are they? Gone. Why? They left their first love and when they did they failed to continue to adhere to their mission statement. In other words, they failed to continue to make disciples. Your church may be 20 minutes old, 200 years old, or anywhere in between, but if it doesn't adhere to the mission statement in Matthew 28:18-20, it will eventually spiritually peak, and then begin to decay and die. In some cases a mere shell exists because someone refuses to give up and shut the door.

What is the written mission statement of your local church that serves as a filter or governor of every decision, program, or goal decided by the leadership?

[1]  ^ Hill, Ch., Jones, G. Strategic Management. Houghton Mifflin Company: New York, 2008. ISBN: 978-0-618-89469-7, page 11
[2]  ^ http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=mission