Six Questions for a Potential Church

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church questions1

Have you ever had to look for a new church? Even with recommendations from godly friends, it can be hard to know which churches and pastors are doctrinally sound, and, of those doctrinally sound churches (because you certainly don’t want to go to one that isn’t doctrinally sound), which ones would be a good fit for your family.

There are lots of great articles out there with good, probing questions you should ask about the theology and doctrine of a church you’re considering. (I would recommend this one, this one, and this one. Also, make sure you understand these doctrinal issues and that the church you’re considering lines up with Scripture on these issues.) However, there are times when the answers to these types of questions don’t give you the whole picture of what is actually going on in a church on a day to day basis. In other words, sorry to say, a church can give you all the right answers on paper (or on their web site), but their practices don’t mirror those answers. Additionally, there are some non-doctrinal issues that are important to know about that questions about soteriology, baptism, biblical inerrancy, etc., won’t give you the answers to.

My husband and I are currently looking for a new church for our family. Since we are Southern Baptist and somewhat familiar with the handful of Southern Baptist churches we’re looking at, we already know the answers to the most important questions (the inspiration of Scripture, the divinity of Christ, the way of salvation, etc.) But I want to zoom in a little more on the finer points of belief and practices of these churches, so here are some questions I might ask the pastor of the church we would potentially join.

1. Which Christian authors have had the biggest impact on your life, beliefs, and ministry?

When I ask this question (and look over the pastor’s shoulder at the titles on his bookshelf), I’m listening for the names of authors and pastors, living or dead, that I know are committed to sound biblical doctrine. If I hear a name like Joyce Meyer, TD Jakes, Andy Stanley, Steven Furtick, Perry Noble, Rick Warren, Beth Moore, or any Word of Faith or New Apostolic Reformation personality, I’m going back to ask more probing doctrinal questions. If I hear multiple names like those, I’m outta there.

2. Are you/this church complementarian or egalitarian?

Now you may not be familiar with those terms but any Christian pastor should be. It is a current issue in evangelicalism, and it’s part of his job to stay abreast of such things. I’m not looking for a pastor to be an expert on this topic, but he should be familiar with the terms and have a working understanding of the issues at play as well as the applicable Scriptures, and he should embrace and practice complementarianism as the biblical position.

Because I have been given the right “on paper” answer to this question in the past only to find out later that the church’s practices didn’t match up with its profession, I will probably ask the follow up question: “In what positions of leadership are women currently serving? Do any of them hold authority over men or instruct men in the Scriptures?” If I hear that women are (or would be allowed to in the future) teaching co-ed adult Sunday School classes, giving instruction during the worship service, serving on committees in which they hold biblically inappropriate authority over men, etc., that’s problematic.

3. Can you give me some examples, from any time during your career as a pastor, of church discipline issues that have arisen and how you have handled them?

I’m looking for three things here. First, what does this pastor think constitutes a church discipline issue? If he thinks it’s necessary to discipline a female church member for wearing pants instead of a skirt, that’s an issue, because he’s disciplining someone who’s not sinning. If he doesn’t think it’s necessary to discipline church members who are unmarried yet cohabiting, that’s an issue because he’s not disciplining people who are sinning. Church discipline should only be exercised over unrepentant sinful behavior.

Second, is he afraid to exercise church discipline? Generally speaking, someone who has been a pastor for many years and has never handled a church discipline issue is either woefully ignorant of the biblical requirement of a pastor to rebuke those in sin, or he is afraid to rock the boat because he might get fired. Both of these are huge red flags.

Third, how does he exercise church discipline? Does he follow the steps outlined in Matthew 18 and other Scriptures with a heart to see the church member repent and be reconciled to Christ and the church body? Is he harsh and condemning? Is he firm enough in his resolve to carry all the way through to disfellowshipping a church member if necessary?

4. How much oversight do you (or an associate pastor or elder) have over the women’s ministry at this church?

With this question, I’m trying to find out how much the pastor knows about what’s actually going on inside the women’s ministry (if they have one) and how much responsibility he takes to make sure all teaching and activities are in line with Scripture. Does he research and approve all teaching materials before a women’s Bible study commences? Does a women’s ministry director have complete autonomy over all materials and activities? Are all of the women in leadership positions in the women’s ministry godly and spiritually mature? Would any of the women’s ministry leadership raise a stink if someone showed them from Scripture that a Bible teacher whose materials they use or a women’s ministry activity they enjoy is unbiblical?

5. Does the music ministry at this church follow a minister of music model or a concert model?

There’s nothing wrong with Christian concerts per se, but my husband and I feel strongly (notice, I did not say “the Bible says”) that the worship service is not the place for one. We believe that a minister of music, preferably one who is ordained to the ministry, should lead and take responsibility for the church’s worship in a pastoral role. He should be trained in the Scriptures, preferably at seminary, in order to rightly handle and apply them to the music portion of the worship service and other music programs. He should also be trained in music theory and conducting so that he is able to lead in the practical aspects of music.

By contrast, we do not believe that making the music portion of the service like a concert, in which a band gets up and plays in a dark room with a laser light show and a smoke machine and the congregation can sing along if they want to, if they happen to know the songs, and if they are able to follow the ad libbing of the lead singer, is conducive to worship. We believe this tends to make the worship band into entertainers and the congregation into spectators, whereas the minister of music model fosters an atmosphere of “we’re all pulling together to do the work of worship as a unified body.”

This is not about contemporary music versus hymns, it is about one worship model versus another. It is our conviction (again, not a biblical mandate, but our strongly held conviction) after more than two decades in music ministry ourselves, that the minister of music model – regardless of the genre of worship music used – is the one most conducive to strong, biblical congregational worship. So this is something we’re going to want to know about, even though it is not necessarily a doctrinal issue.

6. Do you preach topically or expositorily or both?

Topical preaching is when the pastor selects a topic to preach on (parenting, money, etc.) and uses biblical passages that apply to that topic to form his sermon. Pastors who preach expositorily usually preach through a book of the Bible from beginning to end before moving on to the next book.

Both are valid forms of preaching as long as God’s word is rightly handled and applied. However, it has been my experience that pastors who preach exclusively topically have more of a tendency to lift Bible verses out of their context in order to make them fit the topic they’re preaching. This is usually not as much of an issue for pastors who preach expositorily because they are simply preaching the Word, verse by verse, in its context.

Additionally, expository preaching gives church members a better understanding of Scripture and how it fits together, and exposes them more thoroughly to a wider range of biblical truth than exclusively topical preaching does. Therefore, I am looking for a pastor whose preaching style leans mostly towards expository, but who isn’t afraid to preach topically if he believes the church needs instruction on a certain topic.

 

So, those are some of the questions I’m thinking about asking. What questions would you ask when considering a new church?

Throwback Thursday ~ Not Gonna Bow: 5 Reasons Prayer in School Isn’t the Magic Bullet Christians Think It Is

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Originally published August 29, 2014Prayer In School

“We need to put prayer back in school!” It’s a well worn mantra that many Christians have been shouting from pulpits, in PTA meetings, and now on social media since the early 1960s when it was outlawed. No, we don’t need to put prayer back in public schools, and I think if Christians who think that the United States would revert to some idyllic 1950’s utopia by reinstituting classroom prayer would give it five minutes of serious thought, they would run as far as they could from the idea of prayer in public schools.

Now, just so there are no misunderstandings, when I say “prayer in public schools,” I’m not talking about things like a child saying the blessing over his own lunch, or a group of kids who want to pray together during free time, or an after school club that wants to include prayer. Those are all voluntary, private things that should, by all means, be allowed. When I say “prayer in public schools,” I’m talking about a teacher or a student or someone over the loudspeaker leading the entire class in prayer during class time. And we definitely do not want that. Why?

1. What’s good for the Christian goose is good for the Muslim/Mormon/Atheist gander.
There is no way in the current cultural climate -none whatsoever- that any court in this land will reinstitute Christian prayer, and only Christian prayer, in the classroom. And even if some well meaning judge did manange to do so, his decision would be overturned faster than you could say “amen.” You want prayer in the public school classroom? You might get Christian prayer, but you’re also going to get Muslim prayer, Mormon prayer, atheist prayer, Hindu prayer, Satanist prayer, and any other sect that comes along and wants to do prayer in the classroom. Do you really want your six year old faced with the choice of participating in a Satanic prayer or trying to get permission to abstain? Neither do I.

2. Why is it so important that we have prayer in schools?
Assuming you don’t work at a church or ministry, does your workplace gather all the employees at the beginning of the day and start with prayer? No? Has that been deeply detrimental to you personally or to your workplace? No? Then why is it so important that schools have prayer?

3. Post hoc ergo propter hoc.
This nifty little Latin phrase means “after this, therefore, because of this.” It refers to the faulty reasoning people sometimes use by assuming that because two events occurred near the same time or seem to be related, one of them must have caused the other.

Time and time again, I have heard Christians bemoan the moral state of this country and wail, “It all started when they took prayer out of schools!”

Post hoc ergo poppycock.

If the moral state of this country was so perfect before 1962, then how in the world did prayer ever get taken out of schools in the first place? No, things started going downhill in this country long before prayer was removed from schools. It was as a result of that moral decay that prayer was taken out of schools.

Saying that the removal of prayer from public schools created the mess our country is in today would be like someone sixty years from now saying, “When the Supreme Court legalized gay marriage nationwide, that’s when things started going bad for America.”

Because things are just so morally peachy right now.

4. It isn’t biblical.
It is not the job of a secular governmental institutition or employee to monitor or lead our children in prayer, and no one could make the case from God’s word that it is. Scripture tells us that leading in prayer is the job of Christian parents and the church.

Neither would it be biblical for the sake of unsaved children in your child’s class that you’re hoping will somehow get saved by someone leading a prayer every morning. That’s not how people get saved. If you’re concerned about lost children, teach your child how to share the gospel. Befriend the children’s parents and share the gospel with the parents yourself. It’s free, it can be done immediately, without waiting for court decisions (that won’t be coming anyway) and it’s biblical.

5. It’s hypocritical.
It is often Christians who exclaim the loudest, and rightly so, that the government should back off and stop trying to control, regulate, and meddle in every square inch of our lives. Yet with regard to prayer in schools, Christians talk out of the other side of their mouths and practically beg the government to insinuate itself into an issue it has no business touching. (Not to mention that the government does such a bang up job of handling things like this.)

Will those very Christians complain if the government reinstitutes prayer and then tries to regulate it just like they do everything else? And what about depending on the government for a handout of prayer when we are the ones who should be doing the work of teaching prayer and sharing the gospel? Isn’t that a sort of prayer “welfare” system?
Putting prayer back in public schools would be a nightmare of false religions and government regulations.

We don’t need prayer in schools. We need prayer in homes and in churches. We need people sharing the gospel with their friends, fellow students, neighbors, and co-workers. We need Christians to be the salt and light Jesus called us to be in the world we actually live in rather than pining away for an imaginary ideal that will never come to fruition.

Wednesday’s Word ~ Leviticus 26

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Leviticus

 Leviticus 26

“You shall not make idols for yourselves or erect an image or pillar, and you shall not set up a figured stone in your land to bow down to it, for I am the Lord your God. You shall keep my Sabbaths and reverence my sanctuary: I am the Lord.

“If you walk in my statutes and observe my commandments and do them, then I will give you your rains in their season, and the land shall yield its increase, and the trees of the field shall yield their fruit. Your threshing shall last to the time of the grape harvest, and the grape harvest shall last to the time for sowing. And you shall eat your bread to the full and dwell in your land securely. I will give peace in the land, and you shall lie down, and none shall make you afraid. And I will remove harmful beasts from the land, and the sword shall not go through your land. You shall chase your enemies, and they shall fall before you by the sword. Five of you shall chase a hundred, and a hundred of you shall chase ten thousand, and your enemies shall fall before you by the sword. I will turn to you and make you fruitful and multiply you and will confirm my covenant with you. 10 You shall eat old store long kept, and you shall clear out the old to make way for the new. 11 I will make my dwelling among you, and my soul shall not abhor you. 12 And I will walk among you and will be your God, and you shall be my people. 13 I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, that you should not be their slaves. And I have broken the bars of your yoke and made you walk erect.

14 “But if you will not listen to me and will not do all these commandments, 15 if you spurn my statutes, and if your soul abhors my rules, so that you will not do all my commandments, but break my covenant, 16 then I will do this to you: I will visit you with panic, with wasting disease and fever that consume the eyes and make the heart ache. And you shall sow your seed in vain, for your enemies shall eat it. 17 I will set my face against you, and you shall be struck down before your enemies. Those who hate you shall rule over you, and you shall flee when none pursues you. 18 And if in spite of this you will not listen to me, then I will discipline you again sevenfold for your sins, 19 and I will break the pride of your power, and I will make your heavens like iron and your earth like bronze. 20 And your strength shall be spent in vain, for your land shall not yield its increase, and the trees of the land shall not yield their fruit.

21 “Then if you walk contrary to me and will not listen to me, I will continue striking you, sevenfold for your sins. 22 And I will let loose the wild beasts against you, which shall bereave you of your children and destroy your livestock and make you few in number, so that your roads shall be deserted.

23 “And if by this discipline you are not turned to me but walk contrary to me, 24 then I also will walk contrary to you, and I myself will strike you sevenfold for your sins. 25 And I will bring a sword upon you, that shall execute vengeance for the covenant. And if you gather within your cities, I will send pestilence among you, and you shall be delivered into the hand of the enemy. 26 When I break your supply of bread, ten women shall bake your bread in a single oven and shall dole out your bread again by weight, and you shall eat and not be satisfied.

27 “But if in spite of this you will not listen to me, but walk contrary to me, 28 then I will walk contrary to you in fury, and I myself will discipline you sevenfold for your sins. 29 You shall eat the flesh of your sons, and you shall eat the flesh of your daughters. 30 And I will destroy your high places and cut down your incense altars and cast your dead bodies upon the dead bodies of your idols, and my soul will abhor you. 31 And I will lay your cities waste and will make your sanctuaries desolate, and I will not smell your pleasing aromas. 32 And I myself will devastate the land, so that your enemies who settle in it shall be appalled at it. 33 And I will scatter you among the nations, and I will unsheathe the sword after you, and your land shall be a desolation, and your cities shall be a waste.

34 “Then the land shall enjoy its Sabbaths as long as it lies desolate, while you are in your enemies’ land; then the land shall rest, and enjoy its Sabbaths. 35 As long as it lies desolate it shall have rest, the rest that it did not have on your Sabbaths when you were dwelling in it. 36 And as for those of you who are left, I will send faintness into their hearts in the lands of their enemies. The sound of a driven leaf shall put them to flight, and they shall flee as one flees from the sword, and they shall fall when none pursues. 37 They shall stumble over one another, as if to escape a sword, though none pursues. And you shall have no power to stand before your enemies. 38 And you shall perish among the nations, and the land of your enemies shall eat you up. 39 And those of you who are left shall rot away in your enemies’ lands because of their iniquity, and also because of the iniquities of their fathers they shall rot away like them.

40 “But if they confess their iniquity and the iniquity of their fathers in their treachery that theycommitted against me, and also in walking contrary to me, 41 so that I walked contrary to them and brought them into the land of their enemies—if then their uncircumcised heart is humbled and they make amends for their iniquity, 42 then I will remember my covenant with Jacob, and I will remember my covenant with Isaac and my covenant with Abraham, and I will remember the land. 43 But the land shall be abandoned by them and enjoy its Sabbaths while it lies desolate without them, and they shall make amends for their iniquity, because they spurned my rules and their soul abhorred my statutes.44 Yet for all that, when they are in the land of their enemies, I will not spurn them, neither will I abhor them so as to destroy them utterly and break my covenant with them, for I am the Lord their God.45 But I will for their sake remember the covenant with their forefathers, whom I brought out of the land of Egypt in the sight of the nations, that I might be their God: I am the Lord.”

46 These are the statutes and rules and laws that the Lord made between himself and the people of Israel through Moses on Mount Sinai.


The Holy Bible, English Standard Version Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers.


 

Questions to Consider:

1. Who is speaking, and who is being spoken to in this passage? (v. 46)

2. What does God require of Israel in verse 3, and what does He promise them in verses 4-12?

3. What does verse 14 say Israel might do that would bring about the consequences mentioned in verses 15-39? What are those consequences?

4. What is this type of agreement between God and His people called (42, 44,45)?

5. Does God promise us today these same types of blessings for obedience and punishments for disobedience?

The Redemption of Boredom ~ at Borrowed Light

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MikeLeake.net

MikeLeake.net

Have you ever noticed how many boring moments there are in life?…And if God can redeem our boring moments for His purposes, maybe we could start looking for ways to redeem them for His glory as well.

Pastor and blogger, Mike Leake, was kind enough to publish a guest post I wrote for today on his blog, Borrowed Light. Head on over and check out The Redemption of Boredom.

How can you capture those boring moments in life
and harness them for the furthering of God’s Kingdom?

Lesley’s Lagniappe ~ 3-24-15

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lagniappe

140630-facebook-emotions-1749_4f881e85b96bea3a796ae8d7e0ab44c4-1050x700The Nine Types of Christians You Meet on Facebook- Do you know Overly Spiritual Owen, Awesome Andy, or any of these others?

 

 

lightstock_75542_small_seth_magnuson__350_233_903 Reasons Women Need Good Theology- It wasn’t just men who were given the first commandment to love the Lord with all their heart, soul, and mind. God didn’t make this calling gender-specific. All his followers love him in this way. Women need good theology, just as much as men do. Here are three primary reasons why.

 

 

Top-10-Strange-and-Unusual-High-Heel-Shoes-2Top 10 Strange and Unusual High Heel Shoes- Ladies would you wear any of these? Which ones are your favorites?

 

 

My Generation Will End Abortion-

 

 

must-see-black-and-white-historic-moments-3840 Incredible Must-See Photos from Our Past- These photographs all tell stories about the historical figures or events that they represent. Once taken simply to document their present, they now help us witness the past.

 

 

pcapcusa2_325_205_90How to Tell the Difference Between the PCA and the PCUSA- Last week NBC news reported that the “top legislative body of the Presbyterian Church in America” voted to recognize same-sex marriage as Christian in their church constitution. With two Presbyterian denominations with similar names meeting on the same dates it’s easy to understand how a reporter could get them mixed up. So what exactly are the differences between the two?

 

 

house-nazareth-260x178Has the Childhood Home of Jesus Been Found?- The childhood home of Jesus may have been found underneath the Sisters of Nazareth Convent in Nazareth, Israel, according to archaeologist Ken Dark.

Missions Monday ~ 3-23-15

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Missions Monday is designed to expose you to some awesome missions and evangelism stories, resources, and information in the shameless hope that you will be moved to get more involved in supporting and participating in missions and develop a greater burden for sharing the gospel with those around you.

contextualization-meaning___280-222A Plea for Gospel Sanity in Missions (Part 3)- Please be very careful whom you support. Most of these Western workers on the field have been funded by orthodox, evangelical, Bible-believing churches who would be utterly horrified to learn of what those they support are doing on the field.

shutterstock_185310479-e1426589592846Prayer and Mission are Inextricably Linked- Evangelism is a spiritual work, so we must pray for the Holy Spirit to open doors and hearts. But how do we pray for evangelism? What do we pray for?

37-38_JoshuaProject_01Joshua Project: Bringing Definition to the Great Commission- Joshua Project exists to answer the following questions: Who are the ethnic people groups of the world? Which people groups are still considered least-reached and in need of a Church-Planting Movement in their midst? What ministry resources are available to help outreach among the least-reached?

Beautiful Feet Project-

BH5_0053_Lo-1024x683The Worship of Work- As you go to work this week, please pray for young professionals like Hai. Pray that they will see the need for much more than religion and will hear about Jesus.

amycarmichael_0Beauty for Ashes- She left her native Ireland and soon settled in India where she became involved in rescuing women and girls from temple prostitution, saving them from lives of utter misery…She penned many books and, through her life of service, convinced many other people—and women especially—to consider becoming missionaries.

Pastoral-Evangelism-2-podium_6204 Ways Pastors Must Practice Evangelism- With a little tweaking on #3, this is great advice for all Christians, not just pastors.

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Who’s Up for a Blog Swap?

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blog-swap

Hey, blogger-type people- if you’ve been around for a while, you’ll recall that I had a feature last fall called “Blog Swap.” I’m ready to get back in the saddle with it, so I’m on the hunt for bloggers who are interested in swapping guest posts.

I’m especially interested in content that’s a little different from my normal fare such as recipes, crafts, DIY, home schooling, singles, book/movie reviews, men’s interest, photo blogging, nutrition, exercise, etc., but content that’s similar to mine is welcome as well. Also, I’d love to hear from some of our male bloggers out there. Here are the blog swaps I’ve done so far so you can get an idea of how it works (check the comments section of each post for the link to see how the blogger I swapped with handled the swap on her end).

If you think you might be interested, click here to find out more, and drop me an e-mail at MichelleLesley1@yahoo.com.

Looking forward to swapping with you!

Six Reasons to Rejoice that Christ is Enough in Our Suffering

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christ is enough

It seems like so many people are hurting these days. There are personal hurts that come our way like health issues and broken relationships. Many of us are hurting because we’re watching someone we love suffer- an adult child going through a divorce, an elderly relative with Alzheimer’s. And the birth pains the world is going through – ISIS murdering our brothers and sisters in Christ, the rampant filth and debauchery that’s flooding our own culture here in the U.S., and so much more – make it burdensome just to inhabit the planet. It’s no wonder so many of us are limping around in pain just trying to make it through. Everywhere we turn, it’s bad news.

But for those of us who are in Christ, there’s also good news. Good news that trumps any piece of bad news we could possibly receive.

Good news: It’s OK for you to feel sad or overwhelmed during difficult times.

I know that may sound obvious, but sometimes we need to be reminded. We’ve all heard stories about a person who received the diagnosis of some terminal disease with a smile and a “Praise the Lord!” We’ve all run into that lady whose hair could be currently on fire who would brush off our concerns for her with, “Honey, I’m too blessed to be stressed!” And if that’s genuinely the heart of those people, that’s great. They can be very inspiring.

But that doesn’t mean you’re any less of a Christian, or that you don’t trust God, if your doctor tells you that you have cancer and you fall apart. Or if you get that devastating news and you don’t bounce back right away.

Whether we realize it or not, there’s often a subtle pressure we church ladies put on ourselves to walk into God’s house and paste on a smile and pretend like these devastating things don’t bother us. We think that’s faith. We think that shows that we completely trust God. But is that what faith and trust really mean?

Some of the greatest men and women of faith in the Bible were hurt deeply and mourned over that hurt.

God said David was “a man after God’s own heart,” yet look at so many of the Psalms he wrote, especially when he was running for his life from Saul.

I am weary with my moaning;
every night I flood my bed with tears;
I drench my couch with my weeping.
My eye wastes away because of grief;
it grows weak because of all my foes.
Psalm 6:6-7

Time and again, we see passages like that in David’s writings. God never rebukes him or tells him to just put on a happy face.

And what about Jesus? Remember the shortest verse in the Bible? In the story of Jesus raising Lazarus, John 11:35 says “Jesus wept.” The Bible doesn’t tell us precisely why He wept. Maybe it was for one of the same reasons we suffer- the personal pain of losing a loved one, the pain of watching Mary and Martha suffer, or the pain of experiencing a broken world where sin causes awful things like death and disease. But whatever the reasons for His pain, Jesus didn’t plaster on a fake smile and pretend everything was fine.

On the cross at Jesus’ moment of greatest anguish, when the weight of the sin of the world was bearing down on Him, and the wrath of God was being poured out on Him in all its fury, and Jesus was experiencing first hand that it was the will of God to crush Him, Jesus cried out from the depths of His soul, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?”

David, Jesus, and so many other faithful men and women of God grieved. God’s people hurt sometimes, and that’s OK. You do not have to smile and pretend everything is OK when it’s not. It is OK to be sad when you’re hurting.

But the second piece of good news is this:

Good News: We may grieve, but we don’t “grieve as those who have no hope.” 

Because those of us who are truly born again believers have hope. And His name is Jesus. And He is enough. Jesus is enough for anything you’re going through.

If you watch “Christian TV” or read a lot of the books you’ll find in Christian bookstores by preachers with shiny teeth and even shinier hair, or, heaven help you, if you’re on Facebook, the message you will often hear about suffering is this:

“The pain you’re going through right now is nothing compared to the size of the blessing you’re about to receive.”

or

“It’s never God’s will for you to be sick or in lack. If you just have enough faith (and sow a seed into my ministry), God will bless you.”

or

“Your words create your reality. If you speak positive words (I’m wealthy, I’m successful, I’m healed), you will attract those positive things into your life. If you speak negative words, negative things will happen.”

So if you listen to these guys, in addition to the difficult circumstances that are going on in your life, you now have the pressure of “I’m still sick. I must not have enough faith.” or “Oh no, I accidentally spoke a negative word! I’m doomed to a life of poverty.” or “I thought my blessing was right around the corner. Why am I still suffering?”

Don’t believe those lies. God doesn’t promise any of that malarky in the Bible, because our hope is not found in “everything’s going my way” circumstances. Our hope is found in Christ, regardless of our circumstances. Your circumstances may not get better. You may get that terminal disease and die from it. Your husband who left you for another woman may never come back. Your baby might be born with a disability. Sometimes circumstances don’t get better, but Jesus gets only gets better and better with each passing day.

God never promised you “Your Best Life Now.” He promises you Christ. And Christ is enough. And you can rejoice in that.

Why?

Because He knows what you’re going through.

Speaking of Jesus, Isaiah 53:3 says:

He was despised and rejected by men;
a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief;
and as one from whom men hide their faces
he was despised, and we esteemed him not.

There’s nothing you can go through about which you can honestly say, “God doesn’t understand.” Jesus has been there. He knows what it’s like.

Why can you rejoice that Christ is enough?

Because He loves and cares for you more than you could ever imagine.

Jesus, King of Kings and Lord of Lords, left all his glory behind. For you. He lived a sinless life. For you. He endured being hated, mistreated, and misunderstood. For you. He was whipped, tortured, and humiliated. For you. He took the nails. He took your sin. He took the wrath of His Father. For you. And three days later, He got up out of the grave. For you.

Jesus loves you. He hurts when you hurt. He wants to be the one you run to and pour out your heart to when everything is falling apart so He can comfort you with His presence and His word. He wants you to “cast all your cares upon Him, because He cares for you.”

Why can you rejoice that Christ is enough?

Because the One who went through it all FOR you will walk through it all WITH you. And when you’re too weak to walk any more, He’ll carry you through it.

In Matthew 28:20, the Great Commission, Jesus says,

“I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

In Hebrews 13:5b, He says,

be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”

Jesus isn’t going anywhere. He’s going to be right there with you no matter what.

Why can you rejoice that Christ is enough?

Because He sends you brothers and sisters in the faith to help you.

Church family is such a precious gift to us from Christ.

Matthew 25:36-40 is about the final judgment, and when Christ’s people stand before Him, He talks about how they have ministered to their brothers and sisters:

I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’

When we’re hurting, we allow our church family to minister to us because that is Christ’s gift to us. When we’re able, we turn around and minister to our church family out of love for Christ. We carry our brothers and sisters because Christ carries us.

Why can you rejoice that Christ is enough?

Because what He wants to do IN you is better than what you want Him to do FOR you.

You want Him to bring relief to a temporary problem. He wants to do the eternal in you- make you more like Christ. Romans 5:3-5 says:

we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

We rejoice in our sufferings because, through them, God makes us more like Christ. And, as Christians, that’s our number one desire- to be like Him.

Why can you rejoice that Christ is enough?

Because you have the hope of Heaven.

Some days the only thing that gets me through is knowing that this life with all its hurts and problems won’t last forever. One day all of this is going to be gone, and God is going to set everything right. In the scope of eternity, this life and the suffering we endure is so short. James says our lives are a “mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.”

2 Corinthians 4:16-18 says:

So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.

Revelation 21:3-4:

And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”

Keep things in perspective by keeping your focus on the hope of Heaven.

 

If you are in Christ, you have every reason to rejoice in the Lord, even in suffering, because Christ is enough: He knows what you’re going through, He loves you, He’ll walk through it with you, He has given you church family to help, He’s making you more Christ-like, and because you have the hope of Heaven.

He is enough, so rejoice. Because if Christ isn’t enough, what is?

Throwback Thursday ~ SoteriObamaGigliology and You

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Originally published January 12, 2013

Disclaimer: This article should not be viewed as an endorsement of Louie Giglio or any unbiblical theology he currently holds to.
soteriobamagigliology

Is Louie Giglio a living martyr or a coward? What do you think of our shiny new state church here in the U.S.? If you haven’t heard about The Giglio Imbroglio, allow me to bring you up to speed.gty_rev_louie_giglio_jef_130110_wblog

Pastor Louie Giglio was invited to say a prayer at President Obama’s inauguration ceremony later this month. Being a Christian pastor, it should have been expected that he would have preached at some point on what the Bible says about the sin of homosexuality. Someone with a pro-homosexuality group dug up a sermon  from decades ago in which he had done just that, and, yada yada yada, Pastor Giglio – pressured, or not, by the Inaugural Committee (that’s a little murky at the moment)— decided not to do the prayer. Ok, are ya with me? Good.

I’ve read a bit about this debacle over the past few days (though I have a few disagreements with some points, all of the articles hyperlinked above are excellent) and most of what I’ve read seems to be focused on Louie Giglio. But Louie Giglio isn’t alone on the stage of this little drama.

There’s another player. Our President.

Although all the details and communiqués were being handled by the Presidential Inaugural Committee, as President Truman used to say, “The buck stops here.” Right at the feet of President Obama. Ultimately, he is responsible for the “unvitation.” If he felt that the Committee was out of line in their statements or actions, he could have intervened. Instead, he has been silent, which implies consent.

Our President consented to the press release from the Inaugural Committee which said in part:

“As we now work to select someone to deliver the benediction, we will ensure their beliefs reflect this administration’s vision of inclusion and acceptance for all Americans.”

Translation: Louie Giglio’s Christian beliefs about homosexuality, which come straight from the Bible, do not “reflect this administration’s vision.”

Let me say that again. Christian beliefs about homosexuality, which line up with what the Bible clearly says, are opposed by our President.

Why is that important?

obama-in-church-2004-b654b48e648853dc_largeBecause our President believes he is a Christian.

And so do a lot of other people who share his beliefs on things like homosexuality and abortion.

If that describes you, before you get mad and stop reading, in fairness, hear me say something:

Sanctification (progressively becoming more and more Christlike) is a process. People who get saved, especially as an adult, bring a lot of entrenched opinions and thought processes with them to the cross.

Am I saying you have to become pro-life and anti-homosexuality (notice, I did not say anti-homosexual) before, or in order to, get saved?

No.

Am I saying that five minutes or a week after you get saved, you’ll be pasting “Choose Life” and “One Man, One Woman” bumper stickers on your car?

No.

What I am saying is that a person who has genuinely been born again has a God-created desire to know, trust, and obey God’s word.

Even if it’s hard.

Even if you don’t like it, initially.

Even if you don’t completely understand it.

The desire, inextricably interwoven with your love and affection for Christ, born in your heart when you were born again, exists.

Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come. II Corinthians 5:17

Do you have that desire?

Do you wrestle with the things in God’s word that are difficult for you –perhaps things like homosexuality- in order to understand, embrace, and obey them?

Or, do you war against the things you find in the Bible that you don’t like- rebelling against their inherent truth, rejecting them, twisting their meanings to suit your own opinions, and refusing to accept them?

If it’s the latter, you need to be afraid.

Be VERY afraid.

Because the Bible makes it clear that you aren’t saved.

By this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments. The one who says, “I have come to know Him,” and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him; but whoever keeps His word, in him the love of God has truly been perfected. By this we know that we are in Him: the one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked. I John 2:3-6

But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised. But he who is spiritual appraises all things, yet he himself is appraised by no one. For who has known the mind of the Lord, that he will instruct Him? But we have the mind of Christ.  I Corinthians 2:14-16

You adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.  James 4:4

Christians desire to keep God’s word, just like Jesus did. Christians lovingly call sinners to repentance from their sin and to faith in Christ, just like Jesus did. Christians think like Jesus did. Christians reject the world’s values rather than promoting them, just like Jesus did.bible

My dear friend, if you find yourself constantly battling against God’s word, I urge you, please examine your affections and the fruit of your life, thoughts, and behavior in the mirror of God’s word. It doesn’t matter if you’ve repeated a prayer, filled out a card, been baptized, taken communion, faithfully attended church, served as a teacher, deacon, elder, or pastor, had someone assure you of your salvation, or even if you just “feel saved”. If your life and heart don’t match up with what Scripture says is true of a Christian, you are not genuinely born again.

Please, turn away from your sin- all of your sin -and put your faith in Christ’s finished work on the cross, and in His bodily resurrection, as payment for that sin. If Cain taught us anything, it’s this: you can’t come to God on your own terms. You have to approach Him on His terms.

Or, to borrow from a mantra oft repeated by some in the homosexual community:

If you’re going to accept Him, you have to accept everything about Him.

Wednesday’s Word ~ John 14

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John 14

Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. And you know the way to where I am going.” Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.”

Philip said to him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.” Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? 10 Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own authority, but the Father who dwells in me does his works. 11 Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me, or else believe on account of the works themselves.

12 “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father. 13 Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.

15 “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, 17 even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.

18 “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. 19 Yet a little while and the world will see me no more, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. 20 In that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. 21 Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him.” 22 Judas (not Iscariot) said to him, “Lord, how is it that you will manifest yourself to us, and not to the world?” 23 Jesus answered him, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. 24 Whoever does not love me does not keep my words. And the word that you hear is not mine but the Father’s who sent me.

25 “These things I have spoken to you while I am still with you. 26 But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you. 27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. 28 You heard me say to you, ‘I am going away, and I will come to you.’ If you loved me, you would have rejoiced, because I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I. 29 And now I have told you before it takes place, so that when it does take place you may believe. 30 I will no longer talk much with you, for the ruler of this world is coming. He has no claim on me, 31 but I do as the Father has commanded me, so that the world may know that I love the Father. Rise, let us go from here.


The Holy Bible, English Standard Version Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers.


Questions to Consider:

1. Who is speaking, and who is being spoken to in this chapter?

2. What does it mean that “no one comes to the Father except through” Jesus? (verse 6) What does this mean for followers of religions which exclude Jesus or do not have a correct, biblical understanding of who Jesus is?

3. Some people say that Jesus was only a man and never claimed to be God. Does this chapter support or refute this idea? Which verses would back up your answer?

4. Does verse 14 mean that God will give you anything you ask for in prayer as long as you say the phrase “in Jesus’ name” when you ask for it? What does it mean to ask for something in Jesus’ name?

5. According to verses 15, 21, 23, and 24, what is the evidence that someone truly loves Christ as she claims to?

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