Wednesday, August 17, 2011

What the Church is, what the Church is not.

There is a chruch down the road from my house that has this on it's marque: "The church is not a hotel for saints, it is a hospital for sinners." This doesn't sound bad at first glance. But what really is the function of the church? Who really belongs in it?
For starters, the chruch is not a building. It is not programs or services. It is not full time staff, paid or unpaid. It is not people who claim to know Christ. The church is a people group as much as hispanics describes a people group regardless of their place of residence. There are not any unbelievers or false prophets in the church as their lack of allegience to Jesus automatically excludes them. And there is no need for a building or leader, as we already have a leader in Christ and the Holy Spirit.
Jesus said, "For where two or more come together in my name, there I am with them." and "But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you." If these things are true then why is almost every church in America set up like a funnel? All teaching, leadership, and council comes though or has to be approved by the pastor. Jesus is supposed to be the head of the church. Everyone has equal access to His truth and guidance. We as church members are all supposed to be recieving from Him equally. Yes, everyone has different gifts. But when did the pastor get elevated to such a position of authority? 
The word pastor that we see in Ephesians 4:11 is poimen. It is used only once in the entire Bible. ONCE! The word simply means shepherd. Biblically speaking, a shepherd is the loweliest of postions. It is often left to children! And that word does not mean teacher. The other positions mentioned in that verse are apostles, prophets, evangelists, and teachers. And these are positions Paul says are given to everyone.
We live in a slothful, lazy society. We like everything to be handed up to us on a silver plater like we are a bunch of princes and prinicesses. Think about the typical Sunday morining for most "Christians". They show up to a building they had no part in building. They walk in the doors and are greeted and given bullitens like they are congressmen entering the house or senate floor. The sit in chiars or pews they did not arrange, set out, or maintain. A band serves up for them pre-arranged music. The lights go up, the lights go down. The air is conditioned hot and cold. A man stands up front tells them whats right, wrong, and what God's revelation for the week is with no ability to question or challange him in the moment while everyone else is soaking it up. Then they are dismissed until they are welcomed again. People brag about their churches missions, outreach, and youth groups. But what does the massive majority of attenders have to do with what goes on with the function of this "church". 
I think Jesus had it right. If we ever had an example of what church is supposed to look like it was Jesus and his diciples. He spent day in and day out with them. He lived with them ,ate with them, worked, played, preached, and weeped with them. And, there was only twelve of them. Now, if God himself only saw fit to take on twelve apprentices where do we get the gall and arrogance to take on hundreds, if not thousands? 
Christianity is not a buffet. You don't go though at you own pace, pick out what you like and call it a meal. It is meant to be life consuming. You are a follower of Christ and then __________. Fill in the blank. And just as Jesus entrusted His task of dicipleship to His diciples. So should we. If a man has an anoiting from the Lord to be an Apostle then he should take on no more than twelve men under him. And their lives should be so entwined that they are insepreable. And when those are qualified, should go on to do the same with others. This is how diciples are to be made. 
Now, for the role of the gathered believers in this, aka the Chuch. The Church is simply a gathering of believers. It may be big, it may be small. But it is not the teaching, preaching, worshiping corporate outlet. There should be many teachers, preachesr, prophets, and apostles. The church should assemble together and anyone who has a word of prophecy, teaching, or worship should share it. And we should all look together to Christ for guidance. This gathering should happen in homes or parks or public spaces. There is no reason for there to be so many multi-million dollar buildings with the word church on them scattered across the country. I'm sure the exact amount of money spent would be staggering and sickening. We were never charged with setting up shop and getting comfortable. 
The church is not a hotel for saints, because we are not supposed to be stationary in this life. And it is not a hospital for sinners because the gathering of believers is not for unbelievers. Unbelievers are to be won in the streets, in our homes and workplaces. We are to preach the message of Christ to everyone. Those who see the truth and repent are to be welcomed into our lives and homes to be dicipled. Then, as diciples, join the gathering of believers. 
Don't take my word for it. Go back, with an open mind, and re-read the New Testament; more specifically the epistles. It is obvious that what we call church is nothing like what the early church had. Nor is dicipleship anything like the model Jesus gave us. This impersonal, rush'em in - rush'em out dicipleship is shallow and useless. Abandon the buildings. Stop depending on these Walmarts of Christianity to serve up your spiritual needs at a low low price and to take care of all the gruling, dirty details. Stop being isolationist and bring people into your lives and homes. Seriously, have them sleep on your couch if you don't have an extra bed for them. Live together, work together, play together, worship together, pray together. Heck, act like you are all of the same family! We are on this Earth for one purpose and one purpose only: to know Jesus and obey Him. We will be spending eternity doing things His way one way or another. It is about time we started practicing that in this life.

Feel free to comment or ask questions! 

Monday, August 8, 2011

Don't believe it! Because you can't prove it.

"The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood." - John 1:5

I've been involved in debates from time to time over orgins of life, scriptual veracity, theology, and many other topics orbiting around the issue of God. Some debaters are good speakers, some bring compelling evidence, and some are just convinced and cannot see beyond that. I believe with all of my being that God created life knowing what would happen before it began. I don't think it is out of control or He stepped in after things started going haywire and is now trying to recover something that was lost. He gave us this life with all the information in it on purpose. It seems perfectly logical to me that if you have a God who desires free will that he wouldn't overwhelm us with evidence for Himself and thereby leave us without a choice. There is enough evidence to go either way in any of these areas of debate. It really depends on what you want to believe. 

I didn't start our believing in God. You could say I come from a Christian background, but nothing was ever taught in my home and we rarely and inconsistantly attended chruches of all persuasions. I have always been an analytical person. I don't easily accept things that don't make a lot of sense. I started my spiritual journey believeing there was a force out there bigger than me, but wholly secular and evolutionist outside of that. Most, if any, that knew me as a young man would not recognize me on paper. I don't intend to spark up a debate on here. I do enjoy the intellectual exercise that a debate brings purely for athletic purposes, if you will allow me to use that word in that way. But, I have no desire to convice anyone of anything; and I don't think Jesus did either. Romans 8:28-29 says,  
"And we know that in all things God works for the good of those that love Him and are called according to His 
purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers."
and in Matthew 13:11-12, 
"He replied, “The knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven has been given to you, but not to them. Whoever has will be given more, and he will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him."
These verses show that we can only know the truth of God by being given it. It cannot be taken or discovered. They also show that God already knows who will accept Him and who will not and that He is only interested in the ones He will be spending eternity with. When you read Jesus' interactions while on this Earth there are obviously two camps. The diciples who He painstakingly explains things to. And everyone else, who it seems He is only saying the things He did so that there is evidence against them, not so that they will understand. I think we should do the same. 

Don't be caught up in the rehtoric and endless arguments. I have been watching Creation/Evolution debates on youtube tonight and have posted some links below. The evidence is there but it doesn't matter what you say because you are not actually debating science with these people. You are debating theology because by accepting Intelligent Design/Creationism they must accept a Designer/Creator and that is what they refuse to do. Most want to skip the extremely basic and foundational science that pulls the rug out of underneath evolution right off the bat and transition into a mocking tone talking about a God in the sky, supernatural, and the Bible.

Every man and woman will be judged by the motivations of the heart because many 'moral' issues could be labeled either good or evil based on your reasons for doing so. Not everyone in the world has access to the wealth of information that we do and they will be judged accordingly, but we here in the US have no excuse. There is no explaination for life other than evolution or a creator. If it can be proven that it all started by a designer, then it behooves you to search out who that designer is and what he wants. Jesus said in Matthew 7:7,
          "Ask and it shall be given, seek and you shall find, knock and the door shall be opened to you."
Evolution is a religion as much as Christianity is. It interprits the data to support itself and takes great leaps of faith in the face of opposition.  Open you heart and mind and ask yourself why you enter the arena with a predisposed bias. Why is one or the other so repulsive that you will not even consider the evidence? Is it you hatred of God and desire to be the master of you own universe? It is frightening to think that we will be held accountable for all of our actions, words, and thoughts. Hatred of the truth  doesn't make it any less true. If I told you there is an office 500 feet above the peak of Mt. Everest would call me a liar and say it is impossible? Or would you see if a foundation had been laid on top of the mountain? And if a foundation is there, is there a first floor? And so on. If the foundation is gone there is no need to look for the upper floors of theology. But if the foundation is there don't scoff at the 50th floor before you examine if everything in between is evident and factual. You must either pass by or go through everything in between before you can discredit the higher tenants of a idea. And you must start at the begining, because if the foundation is wrong or gone the whole house of cards comes down. 

Feel free to comment or ask questions!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Manufactured miracles

"The single greatest cause of atheism today is Christians who acknowledge Jesus with their lips, then walk out the door and deny Him by their lifestyle. That is what an unbelieving world simply finds unbelievable." -Brennan Manning

This is a very familiar and used quote. I got it from the intro to 'What if I stumble' by DC Talk. It is a simple and very evident truth to everyone but Christians apparently. Though much could be said about the dual lifestyle that many "Christians" live, I don't want to talk about the good and the evil that is there. I want to talk about the good and the good that isn't there. 

Let me start with this:  I 100% believe the Bible and all the miracles there-in. I absolutely believe in Jesus and all that He did and have no qualms in my spirit. I believe in everything Jesus did. It makes sense to me. But when I look around at the Christians today trying to be like Jesus it just looks like a joke. When Jesus launched His ministry, and ever as far back as when He was twelve years old, everyone knew there was something different about the way He lived and taught. They said He taught as one with authority. Everyone is familiar with this concept. If a 6ft. 6in. 250lb man stepped into a crowd, drew a line, and told no one to cross it there wouldn't be a lot of takers on that challenge because he has the obvious authority to back up his implied threat. If a 5ft. 6in 140lb man did the same he would have to jump up and down screaming at the top of his lungs, red faces, drool running down his chin, blood shot eyes with a general look of crazy mixed in there to get even a remotely similar reaction as the larger man. Many in the Church are the second man. Jesus is the first. 

The word for all this is hype. To over do everything to make people believe you've got more going on than is the case. When I first moved to Arkansas eight years ago I attended an Apostolic Pentecostal chruch. They believed that speaking in tongues was a sign of salvation and then reverse interprited that to mean that if you didn't speak in tongues you weren't saved. They 'took authority' over demons and diseases. They prayed blessings over people affairs and travels all to no avail. The poor youth of this chuch were so desperate to not go to hell they would shout out nonsense and play all the games the Church taught them just to prove they had Jesus. And if you asked them I'm sure they would have swarn that the Holy Spirit made them do it but you could see a look of guilt and fear in all of their eyes.

Why pray for everyone to be healed, rich, and popular? It may not be what God wants and you give people a false sense of hope and who and what God is by doing so. There is harm in it. I was at IHOP(International House of Prayer) this last Sunday and was getting over a sinus infection that had caused me to lose my voice. The people sitting next to us took it upon themselves to pray that God heal me and restore my voice. I didn't have the heart to turn them down, maybe I should have. God very well could have been the one to cause me to lose my voice. I am rather outspoken and have stepped out of line on occation. Maybe God just wanted me to be silent for a weekend. Maybe it was just a bug, who knows? But this I do know: I trust God to take care of me and lead me where I should go because no matter what I do I am not strong enough or wise enough to even know what is good for me, much less what His will is. So anything that happens to me, good or bad, is His will. 

Jesus said you know a tree by it's fruit. An obvious sign of true believers throughout history and the Bible is miracles and answered prayer. We all want to believe that God hears us and that we are approved in His eyes. But we are so prideful and full of self-love that we can't see the obvious conclusion that our lives present: We are not what God wants. We are not only signing our own condemnation by sitting in willful blindness, but are destroying the faith of the non and new believers around us. When we preach messages on prosperity, protection, security, and peace we are pledging something we cannot deliever and making fools of ourselves in the process.

First of all, God not only will allow you to suffer, He means for you to. Dispite what psycologists of our day would say, children need physical, painful punishments. It is how God has always dealt with His people. It wasn't because of first covenate, second covenate business. The blood of Christ has nothing to do with God trying to get your attnetion because of your on-going sins. God has struck people with disease, disaster, ruin and death in response to their actions all the way back to Adam and Eve. Suffering builds character. Say, just as Job did, "The Lord gives and the Lord takes away. Blessed be the name of the Lord." 

Second, it comes with a reward, Earthly and Heavenly.  God knows everyday before it begins. He has planned this all out from the beginning. If you trust in Him, be thankful for all that comes your way. You have no idea where it could lead and what good will become of it in the end. The trials and fire of life bring purity. It is only though intense and sustained heat that gold can be melted so that the dross with rise to the surface and can be removed. If you are a going through a trial, it might be because of something you did. But, it might not. For all we can tell Job didn't do anything wrong to deserve what he got. Actually, God said he was the best of the best, no one else like him. So why did God do that to him? Because all though Job wasn't defunkt, he was incomplete. The Lord used it to build something in Job. 

I am so sick of hearing testamonials about how God took away people's ingrown toe nails. "We prayed over it and BOOM. Two weeks later it was all better. Amazing!" I can't tell you how many prayers or 'healing' services I have witnessed with people praying over every kind of affliction and sorrow with zero results. The miracle isn't in how God micromanages our lives. The miracle is in how He will erradicate evil in and around us without erradicating us. 

Please, Please! Stop pretending like you have a direct link to the Holy Spirit's stock pile of power. You don't. Trust in God. All things come from His hand. Petition the Lord with your cares and concerns. But when He gives, be thankful. And when He doesn't, be thankful. Stop spiritually jumping up in down in the chruches trying to convince everyone you are powerful just so that you can stroke your own ego.

Feel free to comment or ask questions!