In John 3:3, Jesus told Nicodemus that a person must be born again to see the kingdom of God. In response Nicodemus asked, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” (vs 4) From this response we can see that Nicodemus thought that Jesus was referring to a physical birth. To this misunderstanding Jesus responded, “Most assuredly,…unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.” (vs 5) When Jesus said, “…born of water…” He was not referring to the physical birth. The water which Jesus referred to was baptism. One is born of the water and the Spirit when he obeys Mark 16:16 and other such passages. How do we know that the baptism mentioned in Mark 16:16 was water baptism? Consider some bible examples: The eunuch in Acts 8:36 knew that water was necessary. He asked, “See, here is water. What hinders me from being baptized?” In Acts 10:47, Peter asked the question, “Can anyone forbid water, that these should not be baptized…?” Lest someone think that it is the water that saves a person, we must remind ourselves of what Peter said. Peter explains that it is not the water that saves a person; instead, it is his obedience to God’s command. (I Pet. 3:21) A person is saved by the grace of God when he is born again of the water and the Spirit. If you have not been born again, then please choose to be born of the water and of the Spirit. – by John Duvall
In this arrangement we have been examining that Jesus’ introduction to the world was a troublesome one, and we have been taking a gander at various attributes of His introduction to the world that we now and again disregard in our admired imaginings.
In the wake of talking about the outrage and inconvenience of Christmas, I need to wrap up the arrangement today by taking a gander at the threat encompassing the introduction of Jesus.
THE DANGER OF CHRISTMAS
In those decent Hallmark cards it beyond any doubt appears as though Jesus is bounty safe, yet Matthew 2 demonstrates to us the peril that was included in this story. There we find out about the visit of the insightful men and there is a great deal about the savvy men that we don’t have the foggiest idea about, a ton of things we ordinarily think about that won’t not have been valid.
Were there three savvy men? We don’t have a clue; we regularly expect that there were three in light of the fact that there were three presents specified, yet the Bible doesn’t really give us the number. Likewise, in the event that you read painstakingly, the insightful men weren’t there with Jesus right when he was conceived. Matthew 2.11 says “And going into the house they saw the youngster with Mary his mom… “, so when the insightful men saw Jesus, he was no longer in the trough and was rather in a house.
The astute men were from “the east”, most likely Babylon or Persia; they would have been celestial prophets, devotees of the stars.
These men come to King Herod in Jerusalem and they ask him, “Where is he who has been conceived lord of the Jews?” And Herod is harried by this, since he really suspected that he was the ruler of the Jews, and he surely would not like to have any opponents for the position of royalty. Indeed we know from history, Herod was really an entirely loathsome person, and to secure his energy, he killed his own particular spouse, a few of his children, and some different relatives too. As it’s nothing unexpected that he needs to dispose of this child ruler that had been conceived.
So Herod brings the main ministers and recorders together with a specific end goal to realize where the Christ, the Messiah, should be conceived, and they direct him toward Micah 5.2 and say that he should be conceived in Bethlehem.
At that point Herod gets back to the savvy men, urges them to scan for Jesus, and after that to return and let him know where He is the point at which they discover Him. What’s more, the astute men do discover Jesus, yet they’re cautioned in a fantasy not to disclose to Herod anything, thus they go home an alternate way. In the meantime, a holy messenger of the Lord appears to Joseph in a fantasy in Matthew 2.13 and cautions him that Herod needs to kill Jesus, so amidst the night, Joseph gathers up his significant other and baby child, and they escape to Egypt. They leave the nation.
Sooner or later, Herod understands that the astute men aren’t returning and that they’ve deceived him. Irritated, he chooses to execute all the male youngsters in Bethlehem and in the entire encompassing area who are 2 years old and under, just to ensure.
Thus catastrophe and grievousness enters homes all finished, as moms have their child young men torn from their arms, fathers observe vulnerably, and warriors draw their weapons, doing the requests of a deadly crazy person.
You don’t see this in the Christmas cards, yet the introduction of Jesus was a hazardous time.
Risk IN OUR LIVES
Much the same as we attempt to cover up the risk in the Birth of Jesus, a great deal of times we attempt to do that in our lives also.
To be completely forthright, the majority of us don’t really confront a ton of risk in our lives. It may be distinctive on the off chance that you are in the military or fill in as a policeman or fire fighter, yet those are vocations; once in a while do we confront peril on the planet today for the reason for Christ, unless you’re a teacher (where threat can be an undeniable thing).
What we do confront however, is the truth of living in what is known as a post-Christian culture. Living in a general public like this doesn’t place us in the way of a similar sort of life-and-passing peril we discussed in conjunction with the introduction of Jesus, however it means that Christians can confront social and maybe financial aftermath for attempting to live as per the lessons of the Bible and imparting those lessons to others. I don’t believe there’s any precluding that some from securing lessons of the Bible reason a lot of reaction with our general public today. Now and again in can be simple for us to feel like we get singled out only to believe what the Bible says.
Be that as it may, I think Christians about the main century would take a gander at the “mistreatments” we experience in our nation today and sort of laugh, since it’s in no way like what they needed to manage. At any rate for the time being, nobody here is in threat of being nourished to lions in the Coliseum or being executed and having their heads utilized as lights in the sovereign’s garden.
What’s more, to those Christians, our siblings and sisters of two centuries back, the scholars of the New Testament didn’t instruct them to cover up the perils of the Christian life:
They didn’t instruct them to maintain a strategic distance from abuse at all cost…
They didn’t instruct them to battle against it…
They didn’t instruct them to raced to Facebook in challenge…
They instructed them to be prepared for it, to be readied, in light of the fact that it was coming…
These early Christians were reminded that Jesus was aggrieved and slaughtered, and that if that transpired, at that point most likely His supporters could hope to confront trials and abuses also. Also, the same goes for us. In any case, in the event that we do confront trials and mistreatments for the reason for Christ, that is alright: it’s an indication that we’re doing it right.
Try not to attempt to evade the risks of the Christian life. Try not to keep running from the abuses. Be set up for them, and commend God when they come. Be a living penance for Him.
Determination A DIFFICULT BIRTH INDEED
The introduction of Jesus—as it truly might have been—was a troublesome birth. It doesn’t generally fit in a youngsters’ story or on a Christmas card. However, for us, that is uplifting news! It demonstrates to us best practices to experience our troublesome lives!
The outrage of Jesus’ introduction to the world advises us that we don’t need to fear the embarrassment in our lives or the wrongdoing on the planet. Jesus has defeated sin! He needs to remove it from you on the off chance that you’ll let Him! His blood can rinse the transgression of the world, on the off chance that we’ll share it!
The distress of Jesus’ introduction to the world advises us that solace is not so amazing. It’s not God’s objective for your life. Try to carry on with an existence that is awkwardly dedicated to God!
The threat of Jesus’ introduction to the world helps us to remember the likelihood—nay, the probability—that we’ll confront trials and mistreatments as we endeavor to take after Jesus. Try not to attempt to maintain a strategic distance from them, don’t fuss about them; commend God through them.
Acclaim be to God for the quite troublesome birth of His Son!
We proceed with our discourse on the introduction of Jesus, and what we’re truly underscoring in this arrangement is that it was a troublesome birth. It is not as slick and clean and Hallmark-y as we have made it. To begin with, we discussed the Scandal of Christmas, and today, I’d get a kick out of the chance to take a gander at another part of it.
THE DISCOMFORT OF CHRISTMAS
We know from Luke 2.1-7 that Joseph and Mary had made a trip to Bethlehem in light of the fact that a registration was being taken. Joseph needed to return there in light of the fact that it was the city of his precursors, as that is the place they were the point at which it was the ideal opportunity for Jesus to be conceived.
As voyagers, and particularly as explorers expecting a birth, they required a place to remain. It would have been perfect to remain with relatives, yet evidently that was impossible, despite the fact that they were in Joseph’s tribal home. The hotel at Bethlehem wouldn’t have been a Four Seasons or a Hilton; it would have been an unassuming spot to remain. In any case, even that wasn’t an alternative.
So Jesus was conceived in a trough.
What’s more, we have some imaginative portrayals of this which look quite decent and welcoming: agreeable and warm-looking straw, satisfying brilliant light, grinning individuals, and well disposed creatures. Possibly a little drummer kid there giving melodic excitement out of sight…
As a general rule, researchers feel that, most likely, the trough would have been situated in a buckle. That is likely what might have been utilized for an outbuilding or stable around there back then. Dim, possibly sodden and icy, most likely foul—this is the place Jesus was conceived. Not an agreeable place.
Uneasiness IN OUR LIVES
Much the same as we attempt to cover up the distress in the Birth of Jesus, a ton of times we attempt to do that in our lives also.
I trust the Bible shows that God needs a great deal of things for your life. He needs you to be spared, he needs you to blessed, he needs you to be upbeat (which is not quite the same as you being “cheerful”, however that is a post for an alternate day); I don’t surmise that God needs you to be agreeable.
Solace is a major piece of what we need—a decent warm house, pleasant things, the most recent innovation to make life less demanding, associations with our loved ones that make us can rest easy, decent get-aways and bunches of cash put aside for retirement, sermons that put a grin all over and don’t call us to give up—we like solace, however God doesn’t call us to be agreeable.
In the event that you consider the lessons of Jesus important, they don’t prompt an agreeable life. A satisfying life? Yes. An intentional life? Beyond any doubt. A favored life? Completely! Yet, not an agreeable one.
Love your adversaries…
Look for first the kingdom…
Watch over poor people…
Lecture the gospel…
Deny yourself, take up your cross and tail Me…
On the off chance that you consider them important, the lessons of Jesus will flip around your life—they will disturb your objectives, re-organize your needs, and change the very focal points through which you see life.
Try not to bashful far from distress!
Give of your methods (to the congregation, to those in require, to philanthropies) to the point that it harms, that it makes you less agreeable.
Concentrate the parts of Scripture that are troublesome and unsettling.
Compel yourself to associate with that Christian sibling or sister who makes you insane and make sense of how to love them.
Offer your confidence, regardless of the possibility that—particularly in the event that—it makes you anxious and makes your heart race.
Try not to modest far from the uneasiness of life.
For a few people, Christmas is tied in with investing energy with family, and the giving and accepting of presents, however for others, Christmas is additionally a festival and recognition of the introduction of Christ. When pondering the introduction of Jesus, I believe recall that it isn’t a tall tale in a storybook. The introduction of Jesus was a genuine chronicled occasion with genuine verifiable individuals, and it’s an occasion with a considerable measure of unpleasant edges to it. A considerable measure of times in our brains I think we get a kick out of the chance to smooth out those harsh edges and transform the tale of Christ’s introduction to the world into something from a Hallmark welcoming card, however it truly wasn’t that way.
It was a troublesome birth, however I believe it is ideal for us that it was a troublesome birth, since it encourages us to perceive how to better experience our troublesome lives.
THE SCANDAL OF CHRISTMAS
The introduction of Jesus—the Incarnation, God getting to be tissue—was astonishing. It was supernatural, and it was unbelievable until the point that it happened. It was the initial phase in Jesus turning into our High Priest, Someone who comprehended what it resembled to live as a human, yet to do as such splendidly, without wrongdoing.
Furthermore, a major piece of this inexplicable occasion was the way that Mary the mother of Jesus was a virgin when she ended up plainly pregnant.
Presently for us, this is history. We trust that it happened, we acknowledge it as reality, and we regularly hear her alluded to as the Virgin Mary (growing up I realized that Mary was a virgin loooong before I comprehended what that word really implied). What I’m attempting to state is that we are so acquainted with the possibility of Mary being an unwed virgin that I think we tend to disregard how huge of an embarrassment this would have been for her.
The blessed messenger Gabriel appears to Mary in Luke 1.26-38 and discloses to her that she will bring forth Jesus. The Bible says that Mary is pained, and she’s likewise confounded in the matter of how she will conceive an offspring while she is as yet a virgin, so Gabriel reveals to her that it will occur by the energy of the Holy Spirit.
I think we get the primary insight of outrage in Luke 1.39, where it says that Mary “ran with flurry” to visit her relative Elizabeth, who is six months pregnant with John the Baptist. It’s practically similar to Mary is attempting to escape town to conceal her pregnancy. She goes through three months with Elizabeth, apparently until the time that John is conceived, and I get the feeling that while there, Mary is empowered by Elizabeth and grapples with what it going on and starts to celebrate God for it.
At that point she returns home. What’s more, if leaving town to visit Elizabeth had effectively concealed her pregnancy to this point, it’s likely not shrouded any more. Now, individuals can likely observe that Mary is pregnant.
What’s more, we’re not by any stretch of the imagination beyond any doubt of the course of events, yet perhaps it’s now that we have Matthew 1.18-19:
“Presently the introduction of Jesus Christ occurred along these lines. At the point when his mom Mary had been promised to Joseph, before they met up she was observed to be pregnant from the Holy Spirit. What’s more, her significant other Joseph, being a simply man and unwilling to put her to disgrace, made plans to separate her discreetly.”
Presently, there is some foundation data here that we have to know. In Jewish culture around then, a man and a lady would be locked in to each other, and this would be thought to be a coupling engagement. They would be alluded to as a couple, despite the fact that they weren’t in fact hitched yet, and despite the fact that it would have been viewed as indecent for them to have sexual relations.
In the event that a lady like Mary was found to have had sexual relations amid this season of engagement, it would have been considered infidelity, and under the Law of Moses, she could have been stoned to death.
That is the gravity of the circumstance that Mary would have been in when she was “observed to be pregnant.” And simply stop for a minute and envision the discussion that more likely than not occurred amongst Joseph and Mary when he discovered. Keep in mind, these were genuine individuals, from numerous points of view not all that altogether different from you and me. They were likely both genuinely youthful (some gauge that Mary would have been between 14-16):
Joseph… I’m pregnant.
What?!? Mary, I can’t trust this! How right? Who’s identity, the father?
All things considered, the Holy Spirit. I’m as yet a virgin, Joseph! I haven’t been unfaithful to you!
(Furthermore, I can simply picture the expression all over)
The Holy Spirit?! No doubt, right.
And after that, we get the opportunity to see the character of Joseph. You know, I think God picked the natural guardians of Jesus deliberately. He didn’t pick rich guardians or intense guardians, or individuals from the social first class, yet he picked precisely. He chose quality individuals to bring up His Son. Joseph, in spite of all the mistake and grievousness he more likely than not been feeling, chooses to demonstrate Mary empathy and separation her discreetly so she won’t be put to disgrace and face the discipline for infidelity.
And after that a heavenly attendant appears to him in a fantasy and says, “No truly, this is an extraordinary birth, a unique youngster who has been brought about by the Holy Spirit.” And starting there on, Joseph’s ready. In any case, and still, after all that, in a residential area like Nazareth, I’m certain that the babble and the bits of gossip about outrage would have continued.
Outrage IN OUR LIVES
Indeed, much the same as we attempt to cover up the embarrassment in the introduction of Jesus, a considerable measure of times we attempt to do that in our lives too.
In some cases we do this by putting on an overcome face and attempting to imagine like we have everything in perfect order, as we don’t have any transgression or issues in our lives that we require help with. In any case, every one of us are a wreck. We as a whole have issues and issues in our lives. The way to managing the embarrassment, with the wreckage in our lives, is not to cover it up and imagine it’s not there, yet rather to address it, apologize of it, and desert it.
In any case, at times we additionally attempt to expel outrage from our lives by having nothing to do with individuals we consider to be wicked or shameful. What’s more, let’s get straight to the point, it’s actual that awful organization defiles great good and that we shouldn’t endure sin in the congregation, yet Paul is clear in 1 Corinthians 5.9-10 that keeping in mind the end goal to be out on the planet and go-to people to Christ, will interact with some outrageous things (since that is the means by which the world is).
Try not to misconstrue me—none of what I am stating here is intended to make light of the significance of sacredness in our lives, or to make light of the earnestness of transgression. In any case, our reality is a transgression ridden, shocking spot, and now and again that wrongdoing and embarrassment can even crawl into the congregation.
However, in the event that will develop as Christians, in case will help our reality, in case will spare souls, we can’t fear the embarrassment.
Thanks so much to San Diego Strippers for sponsoring my blog.
Why Churches Die
Written by my friend David Padfield
It is entirely possible for a group of God’s people to die. Near the end of the first century our Lord told the church at Sardis, “I know your works, that you have a name that you are alive, but you are dead” (Rev. 3:1). Out of the seven churches mentioned in Revelation, only this congregation and the church at Laodicea seem to be lacking in outward foes, but they both had inward trouble to deal with. They were not plagued by emperor worship, the Jews or the Nicolaitans. Viewed externally, the church at Sardis looked peaceful and acceptable, a model church — but from the Lord’s viewpoint it was spiritually dead. The truth is that the church was so lifeless that it was not even worth attacking. Like some that Paul spoke of, they had “a form of godliness but denying its power” (2 Timothy 3:5).
“This church has the reputation of being alive, but the Lord sees it as it actually is — dead. Apparently this church, like the one in Ephesus, had begun with enthusiasm and a burning zeal for Christ and truth, but now it was dying of ‘dry rot,’ an internal deterioration. As the widow who gives herself to pleasure ‘is dead while she liveth’ (1 Tim. 5:6), so this church had sunk into spiritual inactivity, possibly to the level of the world, while yet maintaining an outward impression of love and piety. This describes many churches today that have a reputation of soundness and activity, but inwardly are decaying and dying.” (Homer Hailey, Revelation: An Introduction And Commentary, pp. 144, 145).
There are congregations throughout this country that are every bit as dead as the church at Sardis. Like Sardis, some of them have good reputations and a great past. They assemble every Lord’s Day and observe the “acts of worship” described in the New Testament (Acts 2:42). Sometimes they point back to the past and take pride in the fact that some “great” preachers used to work with them. But, like in The Wizard of Oz, you can pull back the curtain and see them for what they really are: spiritually dead.
In our society when a dead body is found and the cause of death is not immediately known, the county coroner will order an autopsy. An autopsy will not only give the immediate cause of death, but will also list the “contributing causes” of death. In this article we are going to do an autopsy on a dead church and look at the immediate cause of death and some contributing factors.
Over the past twenty years I have had the opportunity to preach in meetings with many different congregations — some of which were dead and did not even know it.
In local congregations seldom is the “cause of death” easy to see. Most of the time it is not a single item that killed a church — it was a combination of several things that brought about their demise. I think of several congregations I know of that used to have large numbers of people assemble together every Lord’s Day, but now struggle to keep the electric bill paid. As an outside observer it seems to me that all of the “dead” churches I know have several things in common, and it is these elements that I want to examine here. Some of these elements might be classified as “causes” and others as “effect.”
Neglect Of Bible Classes
Bible classes are an expedient way to teach the story of the Bible. In Bible classes teachers can adapt the material they present to the age level and understanding of the students in their class.
Preaching from the pulpit can not be as specific, since in the same audience you might have college graduates sitting along side of high school drop-outs, babes in Christ sitting beside well-grounded Christians, those who diligently study their Bibles daily sitting by some who won’t open their Bibles again till the next Sunday.
Some congregations conduct their Bible classes in a hodgepodge manner — teachers are allowed to teach what they want whenever they want. It is not that they are teaching error, but as a whole the students are not being given the “whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:27).
Some of the Bible class books brethren use are nothing but fluff, even though they were published by well-known brethren. It is not that they contain false doctrine — they do not contain any doctrine! This is why the brethren here in Zion have invested a great deal of time and money in developing our teaching program. Our teachers prepare all of their own class books and teaching material. The church here owns three copying machines to keep up with the demand for printed matter. Yes, it would be “cheaper” and easier to purchase printed class books, but, as everyone who has ever taught anything knows, the teachers who prepare their own material get the most out of a class. The brethren here believe that saving our children is far more important than saving a few dollars.
When a congregation neglects the Bible class program, it produces untaught Christians. Where will future elders, deacons, preachers and teachers come from, if not from a local congregation? The future of every congregation is in their own hands, not in some college operated by our brethren (cf. 2 Tim. 2:2).
Visitors to our assembly who have children usually want to see our classrooms. If they see nothing but neglect they will go elsewhere (if they care about their children).
Neglect In The Pulpit
There are some congregations that would be content if the preacher never left the four gospels in his sermons, and sadly, there are some preachers who are willing to comply! There are some passages in the Bible that are very difficult to understand. The epistles of Paul contain doctrines “in which are some things hard to understand, which those who are untaught and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures” (2 Pet. 3:16). The Revelation, one of the most difficult books in the Bible, contains a blessing for the one who “reads and those who hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written in it” (Rev. 1:3).
The purpose of our preaching is to explain the Scriptures. In the days of Nehemiah, the Levites “read distinctly from the book, in the Law of God; and they gave the sense, and helped them to understand the reading” (Nehemiah 8:8). As Paul preached the gospel of Christ in Thessalonica, he “reasoned with them from the Scriptures, explaining and demonstrating that the Christ had to suffer and rise again from the dead” (Acts 17:2-3).
Dead congregations usually have a history of “short-term” preachers, i.e., men who only stay two or three years before moving on. Sometimes this is because the men they asked to work with them are lazy — they have a three year supply of sermons and when that is exhausted they find it easier to move on than to study.
Lazy preachers can get by with just a few hours work a week — they reach into their file cabinet on Saturday night to find out what they will preach in Sunday morning and can spend the rest of the week playing golf or reading USA Today. They never write an article, class book or prepare any original material. Some of these men are great at having tea parties, but they usually do not know the epistles from the apostles.
Sometimes churches have a high turnover of preachers because the church is full of knuckleheads and unrepentant sinners (cf. 3 John 1:9-10). I know of a few congregations who have had five preachers in the past ten years — some men did not even stay a full year. When the truth is taught and the local Diotrephes gets his toes stepped on, the easiest thing to do is to kill the messenger (cf. Acts 7:54-60). Bickering among brethren is an infectious disease (James 3:1-12).
Neglect in the pulpit usually results in a lack of stability in a congregation and no consistency in public teaching. A new preacher does not even get a chance to know the brethren or the town before the moving van pulls up, and brethren end up hearing the same “milk” of the word without ever having the opportunity to savor the “meat” of the word (Heb. 5:12-14).
Lack Of Joy Among The “Saved”
I use the word “saved” in an accommodative sense, for if there is no joy in your life I sincerely doubt if you are really saved to begin with.
Recently one of the children at this congregation showed me a piece of sour candy he had just purchased (the candy even had a warning label on it). When that little boy put the candy in his mouth he made a terrible face that reminded me of some Christians I have known over the years. They sit in the pew as if they are at a funeral and when they leave they stick out their hand and you are not sure whether you should shake it or pray for it. This lack of joy is easy to spot and the “Christianity” they offer no one in their right mind would want.
As churches go, I am not sure if this lack of joy is a “cause” or “effect” of a congregation’s death.
Joy is a part of Christianity. Christ is to be received with joy (Matt. 13:20). “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and hid; and for joy over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field” (Matt. 13:44).
After going out on the limited commission, “the seventy returned with joy” (Luke 10:17). Jesus told the apostles, “These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full” (John 15:11). While on this earth, He told them, “Until now you have asked nothing in My name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full” (John 16:24).
There is joy in heaven over a sinner who repents (Luke 15:7).
After the resurrection of Christ, the disciples worshipped the Lord and “returned to Jerusalem with great joy” (Luke 24:52). When the people of Samaria received the gospel, “there was great joy in that city” (Acts 8:8).
The apostle Paul tells us “the kingdom of God is not food and drink, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Rom. 14:17). Joy is a part of the “fruit of the Spirit” (Gal. 5:22). As Christians, we can even “count it all joy” when we “fall into various trials” (Jas. 1:2).
King David had sinned grievously against God by committing adultery and murder. In humble repentance he prayed, “Restore to me the joy of Your salvation, and uphold me with Your generous Spirit” (Psa. 51:12).
What happens to a congregation filled with saints who have lost the “joy of their salvation”? They end up losing their children and scaring away anyone who is even remotely interested in the gospel. Who would want a “religion” that makes people so miserable? In the end, they lose their own soul as well.
Neglect Of The Meetinghouse
This is more an “effect” than a “cause” of death. I realize the meetinghouse is just an expediency, and that we are not even required to have a meetinghouse to assemble in. I also realize the most beautiful building in the world is not a sign of spiritual vitality or the Lord’s approval. However, it has been my observation that “dead” churches usually meet in unkempt or decaying buildings — I am not talking about the cost or size of the building, but how well the brethren maintain it.
Why is an unkempt meetinghouse a “dead give-away”? The meetinghouse itself was purchased with the Lord’s money, and the way brethren treat the meetinghouse is a reflection of their attitude towards the Lord.
Think of the Old Testament tabernacle and temple — both constructed with the finest materials and put together with the greatest of care. Our meetinghouse is neither a tabernacle nor a temple, but it is a place where God’s people assemble together for spiritual purposes. The building is not “holy” in any way — but it was purchased with “holy” money (i.e., the Lord’s money).
Paul told Titus to “adorn the doctrine of God our Savior in all things” (Titus 2:10). While this passage is specifically talking about “adorning” the gospel by our lives, it also teaches us to present the gospel in the best light possible.
Several years ago a congregation asked me to come work with them. I drove to their meetinghouse to have a discussion with the elders about the work there. When I pulled into the parking lot I noticed the sign in front of the building was severely damaged, not from a recent storm but from years of neglect. First impressions are lasting. My first impression about this congregation was that the brethren just did not care about how the rest of the world viewed them or the Lord.
Sometimes parents allow little children to mangle some of the free Bible tracts in our tract rack. When I see such disfigured tracts I throw them away — the greatest message in the world deserves a better presentation than we often give it.
What is the harm in allowing the meetinghouse to decay? It shows a lack of appreciation for what we have and a lack of concern for things belonging to our Lord. Like the Jews in the days of Zerubbabel, it shows that we have more interest in our own houses (cf. Hag. 1:1-5).
Is there any hope for a “dead” church? The Lord extended some hope to the church at Sardis, providing they would “hold fast and repent” (Rev. 3:3).
Our victory lies not in the past, but in the future (cf. Rev. 3:1).
by F.L. Booth
The road I’ve traveled the past few years
Is broad and easy but full of tears.
It beckons gaily, yet brings no hope
For peace of mind or a way to cope.
It says so subtly, Come follow me,
I’ll take you places you want to see.
The road leads nowhere, and paved with lies,
Deceives the heart and destroys the prize.
Now over yonder there lies a road
That’s built with promise to ease the load.
The way is narrow and sometimes steep
Where mountains rise up from canyons deep.
There’s joy and blessings for those who dare
To tread its pathway each step with care.
The sun shines brightly and flowers bloom,
While birds sing sweetly dispelling gloom.
I’ll pray for courage to change my course,
The Lord forgives and provides the source.
My family beckons and points the way,
Their love will follow my steps each day.
I’ll chart the high road that winds above,
The Lord calls softly with tender love.
I’ll take the hand He holds out to me
And trust His wisdom to set me free.
How do we know that there are 12 inches in one foot and three feet in one yard? It is because our society has a “standard” of measurement. Webster defines a standard as, “something established by authority, custom, or general consent as a model or example”.
The Need For Standards
In every facet of life, we recognize the need for standards. Go to the fabric shop and ask for a yard of material, they will give you 36 inches. If a shop is not giving a full 36 inches of material, then they are not selling a yard and are cheating their customers. Stop at the gas station to fill up your car and notice the stickers on the pumps signed by the state commissioner of agriculture. Those stickers say the pumps meet the standards of delivering gasoline by the gallon and metering the fractions of gallons correctly. Standards are important. Where no standard exists, confusion reigns. If the designers of a stadium decide to put first down markers every 12 yards instead of every 10, then teams playing in that stadium used to the 10 yard rule are at an extreme disadvantage and may become confused as to how they are doing in the game. If there were no standards for medicines, people would be overdosing or under-dosing, risking possible death. There must be a standard in order to achieve and maintain harmony and unity in our society.
The Need For A Standard In Religion
A standard must also exist in matters of religion. If there is no standard, any doctrine or practice could be considered legitimate, and that would lead to utter confusion. Many people in the religious world fail to recognize the “standard” God has put forth for pleasing Him. We are not talking about matters of judgment such as what color to paint the meeting place, whether or not to have a drinking fountain, a kitchen facility, or any such thing. What we are talking about is the doctrine which we practice. Paul told Timothy that, “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works” (2 Timothy 3:16-17). We know that God is not the author of confusion (1 Corinthians 14:33), and as such gives man an infallible standard by which to conduct his manner of life (Philippians 1:27). The Corinthian brethren were given the admonition to “speak the same thing” (1 Corinthians 1:10). In this reading, Paul also points out that the result of not speaking the same thing leads to division, which is displeasing to God. The peace of God that is to rule in our hearts unites us in one body (Colossians 3:15) because we have the same standard which we can go by. When one rejects the the inspired standard, strife and division occurs.
Our Plea For Unity Based Upon God’s “Standard”
Often times, members of the church of Christ are accused of being divisive. However, the exact opposite is true. We believe in uniting men under one standard – the Bible. Our plea and prayer is for unity, but unity based upon the “standard” of God’s truth (John 17:17). If individuals will adhere to this inspired standard, peace and unity will reign. God does not base our service to Him on our opinions of what He likes or dislikes. He does not reveal one thing to one and something else to another. Rather, God has given us His “standard” for unity.
Some in the church today cry for unity, but do not accept God’s “standard”. The question is, who causes division when such is opposed? Is the “standard” governed by the one who believes there are 36 inches in a yard, or the one whose yardstick is only 30 inches? Brethren, let’s never stray from the “standard” of God’s inspired and infallible Word (1 Peter 4:11).
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God is the designer of society. He has declared his design to be that man is to be accompanied by a helper. This helper is not to be of the animal kingdom nor is it to be another man. God specially designed the right companion for man. He presented her to man and man called her woman. Verse 24 brings the reader to Moses‘ present. No doubt there were many perversions of human relations that the Israelites had encountered and were yet to. Fornication, adultery, homosexuality, bestiality are all condemned by God here. All these are against God’s plan for man.
On the opposite extreme of loose sexual standards is the excessive shame put on children by some parents, religious leaders and societies. For whatever reason there is the attempt made to make a couple feel that what is good and right in the marriage bed is illicit if for any other reason than to procreate. However, we read here that when God put the first couple together they were naked and were not ashamed. They were under God’s tutelage and God did not teach them to be ashamed.
I remembering hearing Francis Chan say (at the Tulsa Workshop) that he often wondered and asked God why he didn’t do great things in his life like he did with Elijah on Mt. Carmel.
I often wonder those same things. I believe in and worship the same God as Elijah. What makes him so special that he got the front row seat to an awesome spectacle like he did? I guess there’s probably a lot of answers to that question. Most I probably haven’t thought of.
But I want to change the subject just slightly. Even though I sometimes I feel like God isn’t doing the big stuff in my life, doesn’t mean he’s not doing some stuff in my life. You remember that movie on Mt. Carmel had a sequel. It was set on Mt. Horeb (aka Mt. Sinai). Elijah and God were the main characters again. But the plot was very different. I imagine that Elijah went to Mt. Horeb with some pretty big expectations of God; probably something like he just did on Carmel or with Moses many years earlier. Instead what he got was God revealing himself through a gentle whisper. Not exactly the pyrotechnics he was looking for.
Still yet, I think there’s a profound message revealed from God in that gentle whisper. “Not only am I present in the big deal stuff that grabs all the headlines and attention. But I’m also here with you as we walk together through life each day.” Right after that God sent Elijah “back the way he came” to go and take care of some stuff that he had called him today.
You know, there’s something peaceful and yet at the same time powerful, to live in the moment with God walking by your side.
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Wade Hodges shared these comments recently on his blog. I appreciate his insight and candor. As a “younger” preacher, I appreciate his thoughts and am so grateful to work with a Church family that loves Christ and shows that love to my family and I every day. I am blessed and fortunate to work with Shepherds that value the little talent I have and have the patience and courage to let me run a little. I realize that some aren’t in the same position. In fact, I’ve been there. So I have a little more sensitivity to this topic. Talented young preachers represent the future growth of the Church. They need to be given the opportunity to serve now while their gifts are developed and sharpened. The congregations that take on this burden are providing a great blessing to the Church. Here’s his thoughts.
1. Please don’t continually remind him of how young he is. He knows this and is sensitive about it. He’s probably trying his hardest to get older every day. Look! It’s working. Starting every compliment with the phrase “For a young preacher” negates the compliment.
2. Please don’t use his age as an excuse to dismiss his ideas. Debate his ideas based on their merit, not his age. Old people have bad ideas too and their age has nothing to do with it.
3. Please don’t hold his age against him. It’s not his fault he’s young. Sometimes older people resent younger people because their energetic idealism reminds them of who they once were. They regret the kind of person they’ve become and they turn their pain on the youngster, taking it upon themselves to break him down. He’s not cynical yet. He’s not broken. He’s not yet been humiliated. Don’t worry, life will take care of this. I don’t think Jesus intended for the church to be the hammer used to beat down young ministers. (By the way, there is a difference between beating down someone and giving them loving feedback that can help him grow. See next point.)
4. Sometimes churches are willing to take a risk on a young preacher because he is a gifted communicator and they’re willing to put up with his youth because they’re mesmerized by his gift. If your young preacher is a gifted communicator, don’t cut him any slack because of his gift. Encourage him to develop the rest of his ministry skill set. The better speaker he is, the more likely he is to think he’ll be able to get by with his silver-tongue alone. He may be right. But trust me on this one, he’ll find long-term ministry more fulfilling if he learns to show love for others in ways beyond preparing and preaching great sermons.
5. It’s unlikely that a young preacher is going to spend his entire career with his first church. He’ll probably only be there for three to five years. Accept this fact without using it as an excuse to resist his ideas. Churches are sometimes hesitant to let a young preacher lead them anywhere because they assume he’s only going to be around for a few years. If that’s the case, then why bother hiring him in the first place? Let him start developing his leadership skills. Give him a chance to make a difference without giving him carte blanche. What if more churches saw working with a young preacher as an opportunity to help develop a future leader for the good of the Kingdom, rather than just being determined to keep him from doing too much damage while he’s there?
6. Treat him the way you would want someone to treat your son or daughter in a similar situation. He’s got parents too and if you are too mean to him you run the risk of having his mom come and beat you up. (It might do a few churches some good if they had to answer to the parents of the young preachers they’ve mistreated.)
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