Thursday, September 30, 2010

Questions about church (Part 2)

Continuing our series...

What does Jesus teach us about this topic?

Unfortunately the word “church” is rare in Jesus’ teaching and the Gospels. The word church only appears 3x and it’s in the Gospel of Matthew (Greek ekklesia = meaning a gathering) in two chapters (16, 18). Despite this, there is plenty to be learned about church from Jesus. Jesus’ life and ministry teach us what we need to know about church. Jesus defines in the Gospels who is in and who is out when it comes to the church. You enter into this group by repenting and believing in Him (John 3). He wants a group of people committed to following Him. He even says that if people follow and obey Him they are His true brothers and sisters (Mark 3:35). In regards to His followers, He says in Matthew 26:18 that hell won’t even be defeat them. Reassuring words.

The Sermon on the Mount gives a foundation for life in the church. It gives instruction on how to live as individuals and how to live as a community of believers amongst each other. So, while there isn’t direct mention of church, there is plenty of teaching on what this group of Jesus followers will do and act like.

Next week: Did Jesus have any roots? Was He involved locally as we are today in our local churches?

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Questions about church (Part 1)

Some questions about the church were asked a couple of weeks ago. This new series is my attempt to answer those questions. Your feedback and insight would be appreciated.

Over the next 4 or 5 weeks we are going to discuss the church. Here is what I have come to believe about the church. I owe a great deal of gratitude to IVP’s New Dictionary of Biblical Theology as it has greatly helped in shaping my view on the church and what it is.

Before we get to the questions let’s start at the beginning. Because we serve a God who is 1 God in 3 Persons we have been made for community. Our completeness if found in God and others. God, as seen throughout the OT, wants a people/community that is His. He did make us. Understanding this leads to a clearer understanding and appreciation of what God was attempting to do with Israel in the OT. He wanted a community of people to be solely dedicated to Him, to worship Him privately and together as the true God, and to share Him with others. These scriptures of God speaking to Israel help us understand this:

Exodus 19:5 says,
Now if you will obey me and keep my covenant, you will be my own special treasure from among all the peoples on earth; for all the earth belongs to me. And you will be my kingdom of priests, my holy nation. This is the message you must give to the people of Israel. (NLT)

Joshua 22:5 says,

Love the LORD your God, walk in all his ways, obey his commands, hold firmly to him, and serve him with all your heart and all your soul. (NLT)

Notice that these commands are given to a particular people. They are for the community. This is important because a lot of what God was trying to create with Israel is seen and adopted (there is more to it though) by New Testament writers as what God wants to create with His church as it begins with Jesus in the New Testament.

Next week: What does Jesus teach us about this topic?

Thursday, September 16, 2010

So You Don't Want To Go To Church Anymore (Part 2)

We continue with the review of So You Don't Want To Go To Church Anymore?

To be truthful, it’s precisely this kind of view (the one held by the character John in the book) that weakens the overall body of Christ. I found this view to be extremely selfish and built around the individual. There’s no commitment to your fellow brothers and sisters with this view. It’s all about you. You want to go to the 10am worship service, fine. You don’t, fine. Sure, it’s ok if they go to church and do church stuff, but they have no place telling you that you need to be there too. You have freedom in Christ!

This re-defining of what church is wouldn’t fly with the real New Testament authors (John being one of them). Their letters are written to local churches (which have structure and leaders) to strengthen their commitment to Jesus and each other. Paul even says in Romans 5:5 that believers belong to each other. Don’t tell me he’s just referring to the too-big-to-see Body of Christ and not the local church. He's writing to a local church. A statement like that implies obligation to your brothers and sisters in Christ because of your relationship with Christ. One couldn’t just drift off for a few weeks and not be held accountable for such an action. The early church depended on its members showing up.

By the way, there’s an extra section in the back of the book that is an article about why the author doesn’t go to church anymore. If you read it you’ll notice it sounds just like his character John.

Angela asked some great questions on last week's post that I wanted to re-post here and answer next week. They are:

Angela asked,

- What does Jesus teach us about this topic?

- Did he have any roots?

- Did he tell us that we should be connected locally somewhere?

- With the same people every week?

We'll answer and talk about those next week.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

So You Don’t Want To Go To Church Anymore? (Part 1)

I love sitting down with a warm cup of coffee to read a good book. Mostly I read books by authors I like and agree with. However, it can also be enjoyable to read books by authors you don’t know or who you don’t agree with. This can help strengthen your own faith and beliefs. That is the case for me with the book So You Don’t Want To Go To Church Anymore?.

At first I liked the emphasis in this book on life being all about living in a fresh relationship with God the Father and about hearing and responding to Him daily. That is so important and more Christians need to live like that. However, there comes a point where the discerning can see that the author(s) are trying to push their own agenda to the forefront in this book of what church should look like and be. At first they lead you into thinking that maybe house church is the answer, but that notion is quickly beat down. So, what is the answer to church? You can most clearly see that by looking at one of the main characters of this book, the apostle John.

The character that represents the apostle John is a drifter. He comes and goes as he pleases. He’s not connected locally to anything. No roots. He’s a sojourner who shows up unexpectedly to offer his wisdom and advice on how things should be done. You can challenge him all you want but he will have an answer to your questions. So, it’s no surprise that John has a dim view of the way church is done today. Church to John is all about hearing and responding to the Father. Sounds good right? Well, because of that John thinks you don’t need to attend a local fellowship that has worship services every Sunday at 10am. You just have to be listening for the voice of God and be obedient. Maybe God will speak to you in a coffee shop while with friends and then you can share that message with them and *poof* you have just had church. Maybe you’re at the bar and you start talking to someone about God’s love and *poof* you have just been in church.

Do you see anything wrong with this view?

Next week we’ll talk more about problems and implications of this view of church.

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Enjoying the Sabbath

I return to Sabbath by Dan Allender today. This was a great read this summer. More than anything it gave me new ideas about how to make celebrating the sabbath fun and refreshing for the whole family. Here's some review of chapter 7.

Chapter 7 focuses on abundance (previous chapters can be found below). There are a couple things around us that keep us from entering abundance.

1. Emptiness of an uncertain future.
2. Emptiness of an unrealized present.

Allender sees these as problems because, he says, “we are a nation that lives beyond its means, doesn’t provide for its future, and banks on its past to live excessively in the present.” True statement and why we live with uncertainty. We also feel like we are not living out the American dream, maybe we think we don’t even have the freedom to dream anything other than the American dream, so all that leads to an unrealized present. Together these two breed the trinity of envy, striving, slavery. This trinity leads us to, “envy them (those who have what we want), strive after our version of success, and slavery to the system that debases us.” Is there hope? Yes, the Sabbath can help free us from these.

This chapter is about abundance and abundance is about gratitude. God is sovereign and the giver of good gifts. Our good fortune is from Him. Are we grateful? Do we see the things we have been given as gifts from Him? One way Allender suggests that we can bring gratitude into our Sabbath is by writing or calling those who we have gratitude for and thanking them. Another idea to celebrate gratitude is to hear what your spouse or children have been reading in scripture the previous week. Ask them and allow them to share it with you. You can also show gratitude by preparing a meal as a family the night before the Sabbath and using the leftovers for your meals on that special day. The key is to be grateful for the gifts of food, friendship, and conversation. This chapter closes with Jesus’ words in Mark 2:27, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.”

I don’t know about you, but I have so much to be thankful for. I’m thankful for:
- the world around me
- the trees
- the air
- the stars
- the sun
- animals
- the variety of life around me.
- my family
- my wife
- daughters
- mom and dad
- my wife’s family.

All of this is such a gift! I need to enter the Sabbath with this kind of gratitude. I have been given so much by God. I really liked the idea of writing/calling someone you are grateful for. I was thinking I could rally the entire family together on the Sabbath and we could make a special card for a family member or friend we want to show gratitude to. A great time together and a great way to reach out as a family in gratitude.

Previous Chapters
- Chapter 1
- Chapter 2
- Chapter 3
- Chapter 4
- Chapter 5
- Chapter 6