Who Is The Church For?

I think the church today is making the same fundamental mistake that Israel made back in the Bible days! God’s purpose for choosing Israel to be His peculiar people was so that Israel might introduce and show God to the world! But instead of fulfilling that task, Israel became introverted and tried to keep God as her own peculiar treasure. Instead of being a conduit to share God with the world, Israel became a pool and tried to isolate God and herself from the world! Not understanding that God wanted to use her to reach the world, Israel concluded that her selection by God meant that she was better than the rest of the world and that God’s favor was for her exclusively.

churchliquorIsn’t that exactly what has happened to the church today, especially in America? Visit any urban city in America and you will observe an interesting phenomenon. In most locations, you will find a church building on many city blocks. However, within those same city blocks, you will also find buildings that provide housing for illegal drugs, prostitution, and liquor stores! In some locations, the church house and the house of ill repute are even situated next door to one another! You would think that one would offset the other! How in the world can they seemingly peacefully co-exist?

I think there are several reasons for this happening. First, just like Israel in the days of old, the church today has misunderstood her calling. Instead of being “for the world,” most churches today are mainly for themselves! And many of the ones who are evangelistic are making the fundamental mistake of trying to be like and liked by the world in a futile effort to win the world!

The Bible is clear on this subject and we should use the Carpenter from Galilee as our model. Jesus said; “For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:45 ESV) Jesus did nothing for himself, but rather his whole life was for others! He was born for others! He ministered for others! He performed miracles and healings for others! He was crucified for others! He died for others! Early that 3rd-day Sunday morning, he was raised from the dead for others! And one day, he’s coming back again for others! Yes! Jesus, the Head of the church, was for others! And just as Jesus was for others, the church should be for others!

The church will be what God called her to be, have the power and influence God ordained for her to have when she comes to the realization that she does not exist for herself but rather for others! Real power will return to the church when church members repent of their selfishness and come to the realization that the church does not exist primarily to serve them. Real power will return to the church when church members come to the understanding that they are members of the church so that their talents, time, treasure, gifts, and abilities might be used to fulfill the church’s mandate to reach, save and serve others for sake of Jesus and the Kingdom of God!

 

 

The One Thing That Christians Should Stop Saying: A Guest Post by Scott Dannemiller

I ran across this post by Scott Dannemiller during my daily reading! It’s a message we all need to hear:

I was on the phone with a good friend the other day. After covering important topics, like disparaging each other’s mothers and retelling semi-factual tales from our college days, our conversation turned to the mundane. “So, how’s work going?” he asked. For those of you who don’t know, I make money by teaching leadership skills and helping people learn to get along in corporate America. My wife says it’s all a clever disguise so I can get up in front of large groups and tell stories. I plead the fifth. I answered my buddy’s question with, “Definitely feeling blessed. Last year was the best year yet for my business. And it looks like this year will be just as busy.” The words rolled off my tongue without a second thought. Like reciting the Pledge of Allegiance or placing my usual lunch order at McDonald’s. But it was a lie.

Now, before you start taking up a collection for the “Feed the Dannemillers” fund, allow me to explain. Based on last year’s quest to go twelve months without buying anything, you may have the impression that our family is subsisting on Ramen noodles and free chips and salsa at the local Mexican restaurant. Not to worry, we are not in dire straits. Last year was the best year yet for my business. Things are looking busy in 2014. But that is not a blessing.

I’ve noticed a trend among Christians, myself included, and it troubles me. Our rote response to material windfalls is to call ourselves blessed. Like the “amen” at the end of a prayer.

“This new car is such a blessing.”

“Finally closed on the house. Feeling blessed.”

“Just got back from a mission trip. Realizing how blessed we are here in this country.”

On the surface, the phrase seems harmless. Faithful even. Why wouldn’t I want to give God the glory for everything I have? Isn’t that the right thing to do? No. As I reflected on my “feeling blessed” comment, two thoughts came to mind. I realize I’m splitting hairs here, creating an argument over semantics. But bear with me, because I believe it is critically important. It’s one of those things we can’t see because it’s so culturally engrained that it has become normal. But it has to stop. And here’s why.

First, when I say that my material fortune is the result of God’s blessing, it reduces The Almighty to some sort of sky-bound, wish-granting fairy who spends his days randomly bestowing cars and cash upon his followers. I can’t help but draw parallels to how I handed out M&M’s to my own kids when they followed my directions and chose to poop in the toilet rather than in their pants. Sure, God wants us to continually seek His will, and it’s for our own good. But positive reinforcement? God is not a behavioral psychologist.

Second, and more importantly, calling myself blessed because of material good fortune is just plain wrong. For starters, it can be offensive to the hundreds of millions of Christians in the world who live on less than $10 per day. You read that right. Hundreds of millions who receive a single-digit dollar “blessing” per day. During our year in Guatemala, Gabby and I witnessed first-hand the damage done by the theology of prosperity, where faithful people scraping by to feed their families were simply told they must not be faithful enough. If they were, God would pull them out of their nightmare. Just try harder, and God will show favor. The problem? Nowhere in scripture are we promised worldly ease in return for our pledge of faith. In fact, the most devout saints from the Bible usually died penniless, receiving a one-way ticket to prison or death by torture.

I’ll take door number three, please.

If we’re looking for the definition of blessing, Jesus spells it out clearly (Matthew 5: 1-12).

1 Now when he saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to Him,

2 And He began to teach them, saying:

3 Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

4 Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.

5 Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.

6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they will be filled.

7 Blessed are the merciful, for they shall be shown mercy.

8 Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.

9 Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called the sons of God.

10 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

11 Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.

12 Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

I have a sneaking suspicion verses 12a 12b and 12c were omitted from the text. That’s where the disciples responded by saying:

12a Waitest thou for one second, Lord. What about “blessed art thou comfortable,” or 12b “blessed art thou which havest good jobs, a modest house in the suburbs, and a yearly vacation to the Florida Gulf Coast?”

12c And Jesus said unto them, “Apologies, my brothers, but those did not maketh the cut.”

So there it is. Written in red. Plain as day. Even still, we ignore it all when we hijack the word “blessed” to make it fit neatly into our modern American ideals, creating a cosmic lottery where every sincere prayer buys us another scratch-off ticket. In the process, we stand the risk of alienating those we are hoping to bring to the faith. And we have to stop playing that game.

The truth is, I have no idea why I was born where I was or why I have the opportunity I have. It’s beyond comprehension. But I certainly don’t believe God has chosen me above others because of the veracity of my prayers or the depth of my faith. Still, if I take advantage of the opportunities set before me, a comfortable life may come my way. It’s not guaranteed. But if it does happen, I don’t believe Jesus will call me blessed. He will call me “burdened.” He will ask,

“What will you do with it?”

“Will you use it for yourself?”

“Will you use it to help?”

“Will you hold it close for comfort?”

“Will you share it?”

So many hard choices. So few easy answers. So my prayer today is that I understand my true blessing. It’s not my house. Or my job. Or my standard of living. No. My blessing is this. I know a God who gives hope to the hopeless. I know a God who loves the unlovable. I know a God who comforts the sorrowful. And I know a God who has planted this same power within me. Within all of us. And for this blessing, may our response always be, “Use me.”

Since I had this conversation, my new response is simply, “I’m grateful.”

Scott Dannemiller

__________

 

Resources for the Christian Life

Christian life resourcesOne morning, during my morning devotional study of Romans 6, an awareness of the resources we have to live the Christian life overwhelmingly impressed me! I am convinced that the reason why many modern “Christians” are living such defeated lives is because they don’t know nor do they understand who they are in Christ! Nor do they know or comprehend the resources that God has provided for them to live the Christian life.

First, the true believer is “in Christ!” Paul used that terminology in his letters to indicate the position of the believer. To be “in Christ” is to be united with Christ. In explaining Christian baptism in Romans 6, Paul wrote that the believer’s old self died with Christ on the cross and the believer’s new self was raised with Christ when Christ was resurrected from the dead! Therefore, the Christian is to walk (live) in the newness of the resurrected life! That is what Paul was referring to in 2 Corinthians 5:17 where he wrote: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.” (NKJ) So the first resource for living the Christian life is the fact of our position “in Christ!”

Secondly, not only is the true believer “in Christ” but “Christ is in” the true believer! Paul wrote to the Roman Christians in 8:9; “You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him.” (ESV) Jesus told his disciples in John 14:16-20 “And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, 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. “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. Yet a little while and the world will see me no more, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. In that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you.” (ESV) The Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Christ, the Comforter, the Helper; all of these are synonymous terms to relate the fact that God is in the true believer! Do you see that O child of God? God is in Heaven, but God is also in you! God is in the true believer; leading, guiding, encouraging, empowering, and transforming! Whenever we feel disconnected and as if God is so far away, it is only how we feel! It is not reality! God is closer than the air we breathe!

Another resource essential for living the Christian life is the Word of God! The Word of God reveals the mind and the will of God! Jesus said it best with the Old Testament quotation in the wilderness during his temptation. He answered, (the devil’s temptation) “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.” (Mat 4:4 ESV) I want to encourage you to take time to read and study the Bible everyday! Study for yourself! Don’t just take mine, your pastor’s, or any other preacher’s or teacher’s word for it! You need to be like the Berean Christians in Paul’s day. The Bible says; “The brothers immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea, and when they arrived they went into the Jewish synagogue. Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so.” (Act 17:10-11 ESV)

There is no substitute for Christian fellowship as a resource for living the Christian life! In the Bible, there is no such thing as a “solo Christian!” The Christian life was not designed to be lived in isolation, separated from other people! Contrary to what many believe, you can’t be a good Christian, separated from other believers, watching T. D. Jakes or some other TV ministry at home every Sunday morning instead of having fellowship at a local church! Now, if you’re sick and you can’t get out, that may be a different story! But even then, you ought to be part of a local fellowship of believers who will come to fellowship and minister to you through visitations and practical ministry. All things being equal, every believer should be part of a local fellowship of believers! The Christian is part of the “Body of Christ!” No “body” has only one part. The church is not an amoeba; it has many members and each member needs the other members for mutual care and support!

I could go on and on, by mentioning prayer and many of the other Christian disciplines that are resources for living the Christian life, but I just wanted to encourage you to live a victorious Christian life by reminding you of just some of the resources at your disposal. Paul asked, “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, ‘For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.’ No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:35-39 ESV) No matter where you are in the world today, as you are reading this, as a child of God, I want to encourage you to live the Christian life with a sense of enthusiasm and confidence! You can’t lose with the stuff you use! Even when it seems like you are losing from the world’s point of view, you are still winning! How can you really lose if you are in God and God is in you? Be encouraged knowing that no matter what you are going through, God is working it out for your good! And what is “the good?” The ultimate good is that we might be conformed to the image of His dear Son! That’s what the Christian life is all about; making us, shaping us, molding us, into the image of Jesus! It all goes back to Genesis! Man was created in the image and likeness of God. Sin entered into the world and the image and likeness of God in man was marred and distorted. But Thank God for Jesus! Paul said of Jesus: “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.” (Col 1:15 ESV) So, if Jesus is the image of God and it’s God’s will to conform us to the image of Jesus, then ultimately, goal of being a Christian (“a little Christ”) is that through Jesus, the image and likeness of God be restored in us! Hallelujah! I love it when a plan comes together! Praise God for all He has done, is doing, and is going to do in our lives!

(Can) God Bless America (?)

american flagAs our nation celebrates its 238th birthday, I am intrigue by the number of church marquees I’ve seen with the message: “God Bless America!” But, at the time of this writing, 19 states and the District of Columbia have legalized same-sex marriage. In response to that, my question is: Can God bless America? The Bible says in Psalm 33:12; “Blessed in the nation whose God is the LORD.” The same Bible also has a passage in Psalm 9:17 that say: “The wicked shall be turned into hell, and all the nations that forget God.”

The Bible is clear: God will not bless sin! Look at where we are as a country! We have legalized the killing of the innocent unborn! The combination of drugs and guns contribute to America being one of the most violent nations on the planet! We have the highest incarceration rate and inmate percentage in the whole world! And now we are in the process of legally redefining the Divine institution of marriage! Can God really bless America?

There was a time in this country when everyone did not profess to be Christian, but at least they respected Christian values. All sinners didn’t repent, but at least they didn’t try to make themselves not sinners by redefining sin!

I know this is the land where everyone has a right to express their own opinion, but God’s Word IS NOT an opinion; it’s God’s Word and God’s Word is God’s Law! Can God bless America? Yes God can and God will; but only when and if America repents and truly becomes one nation under God!