Denomination Dictionary

In Genesis eleven, the story of the Tower of Babel, we read where God confounded the language of mankind. One of the lessons we learn from this true story is that language has the power to unify people. Sometimes for evil, but it can also unify people for good.

To be united we need to speak the same language, and equally important, we need to define the words the same way. Though we can use our smartphones to communicate with folks who speak another language, it’s challenging to communicate with people who speak the same language but use different definitions.

One of the complications of evangelism is the fact that the terms we use are defined differently in the denominations. It’s nearly impossible to communicate with another if we’re not speaking the same language.

So that we can evangelize more effectively allow me to provide a list of common Biblical words and what they mean to the person in a denomination.

CHURCH: A building where believers gather to worship, fellowship, have trunk or treat or play games.

What Does the Bible Say? The church is the ‘Called out.’ It is the group of people which God adds a person to when they have obeyed the Gospel of Jesus Christ. [ Acts 2:47]

The church is the body of Jesus Christ, and there is only one. [Colossians 1:18; Ephesians 1:22-23, 4:4]

One must be in the church to be saved for Jesus is the savior of the body (the church). [Ephesians 5:23]

CHRISTIAN: Any person who believes in Jesus, but not necessarily an obedient or repentant person.

What Does the Bible Say? A Christian is what scripture calls those who have obeyed the gospel of Jesus Christ and are faithfully following the doctrine of Christ.

WORSHIP: The feeling that one’s whole life pays homage to God. The activity one does to pay homage to God, as long as it feels good, includes mechanical music and is followed by a lunch. It is not necessary to follow the biblical pattern to ‘worship’.

What Does the Bible Say? Jesus said that the people who worship must do so in spirit and truth [John 4:24] which means that it is heart filled as well as scripturally authorized [Matthew 18:20]. He also said that it’s possible to worship in vain [Matthew 15:9].

BAPTISM: An outward sign of an inward grace.

What Does the Bible Say? Baptism is IMMERSION in water [Ephesians 5:26] which models the DEATH, BURIAL & RESURRECTION of Jesus Christ in obedience to the Gospel [1Corinthians 15:1-4; Romans 6:1-4; 2Thessalonians 1:8]. It is an essential part of salvation for the person AFTER he, Believes that Jesus is the Christ, Repents of their sins, and Confesses that Jesus is the Christ the Son of the living God [Matthew 16:16-18; Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; Rom 10:10].

GRACE: The free gift of salvation that Christ gave by dying on a cross. There is nothing a person can do to accept that free gift…except believe (unless you’re a Unitarian who thinks every person is saved without believing). Repentance is also not required, unless you’re a member of the church of Christ, in which case that person must repent of believing that repentance is an essential part of salvation. However, if you don’t bring forth fruit of the non-requirement of repentance, then you probably weren’t saved in the first place.

What Does the Bible Say? Grace is the gift of God [Ephesians 2:8], through Jesus as the perfect sacrifice, becoming the propitiation of our sins [1John 2:1-2]. Everyone can access this gift through HEARING the Gospel, BELIEVING, REPENTING of our sins, CONFESSING that Jesus is the Christ and being BAPTIZED into Christ for the remission of sins. [Romans 10:10, 17; Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; Galatians 3:27].

LOVE: An emotion one must have toward everyone regardless of their lifestyle which does not judge or condemn, neither does it try to convince others to change.

What Does the Bible Say? Love is PATIENT and is KIND [1Corinthians 13:4], but it also REBUKES (convince of right or wrong) and CHASTENS (discipline / instruction). “For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth.” [Hebrews 12:4-11].

These are just a few examples of the many Biblical words that have been redefined by denominations. My intention is not to mock, rather it is to point out that there is only one truth, and that truth is God’s word. The redefining of these words is causing many to be lead astray. Effective evangelism recognizes that the world is speaking a secular language different from the language of the Bible.

Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth. John 17:17

Advertisements

What do I do Now?

After a person obeys the gospel, the most oft asked question is, “what do I do now?” However, this question is asked by both the new convert AND the members of the local congregation. The new convert, full of joy and gratitude, has a desire to serve and to do what is right. The older members want to help them, but where do you begin?

For the answer, let us turn to Acts 2, the place where the church of Christ began.

41 Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls. That’s where we are with Margie, and all others who obeyed the gospel recently (a young man named Nick, was also baptized into Christ on the same day.) Nobody joins the church; the Lord adds to the church [47].

42 And they continued stedfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers. Here’s where we find our answer to the question, “what do I do next?”

Continue in the apostles’ doctrine. The Apostles’ doctrine is Christ’s doctrine. Jesus said to the Apostles, that in addition to making disciples, as one who has all authority, teach them “to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you” [Mat 28:19-20]. Paul said about his letters, “let him acknowledge that the things that I write unto you are the commandments of the Lord.” [1Cor 14:37]

So, the first thing we need to do is to continue to learn through study of the Scriptures what Jesus expects from us. The most effective way to do this is for the new convert and the “old” members to get together and study the scriptures. We need to note that “continue” means to do them. It’s not enough to learn what Jesus wants, we must obey Him [John 14:15]. We can also learn when we gather to worship on the first day of the week.

And Fellowship and in breaking of bread, and in prayers. The new Christians worshiped together. They had fellowship, which means that they were in partnership with one another. This partnership begins when we, “all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment” [1Cor 1:10]. The partnership also includes the collection of money for the work of the church. (As you continue to study, you’ll begin to understand the work God has given the church is to spread the Gospel, Teach the saints and practice limited benevolence). The Philippians gave money to spread the gospel, and were in fellowship in the gospel [Phil 1:3-7].

One of the parts of worship (there are 5 activities in sound worship) the disciples ‘broke bread’ which is to remember the death of our Lord and Savior, Christ Jesus. Commonly referred to as “The Lord’s Supper” the first Christians met on the 1st day of the week, Sunday, where they would take unleavened bread and fruit of the vine to commemorate His death. The Apostle Paul wrote the early Christians how to properly observe this important part of our worship [1Cor 11:23-34].

 

They also prayed. Prayer is the privilege of the saints. Christians are called saint in the Scriptures [Rom 1:7; Eph 1:1; Phil 1:1; Col 1:1]. In obeying the gospel through baptism, we have “put on Christ” [Gal 3:27] and have been given access through Him to the “throne of grace” [Heb 4:16]. Prayer is an incredible part of becoming a child of God. We know that God does not listen to sinners [John 9:31] but He hears us!

God is not our “genie in a bottle,” to gift us with everything we want like a spoiled child. Rather, He wants to help us in our time of need. It says in Hebrews 4:16; “that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.” Temptation doesn’t stop when we become Christians, neither do troubles & pains, “but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it” [1Cor 10:13]. So, all Christians need to pray.

Finally, let us note one more thing from Acts 2…

47 Praising God, and having favour with all the people. As you begin your journey as a new Christian, and every Christian, let us never forget from whom we received the gift of grace. We received it from God through Christ Jesus [Eph 2:8-10]. May we never forget, may it never grow old and may we never grow tired of praising God for His indescribable gift.

Thanks be unto God for his indescribable gift.

2Corinthians 9:15

Many ways to be successful

There are all kinds of ways someone can be successful:
You can gain influence and power
You can make a lot of money
You can change peoples physical & emotional lives.
However, none of that means anything if you have to sacrifice what matters most to achieve it.
Time with family
Giving back to your community
Spending time with loved ones
Your health
God.
For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? Mark 8:36
Jesus said that. Nothing in this life can be considered a success if we’ve failed to follow Jesus. He knew that we would become preoccupied with striving for success, but He gave us this warning to keep our priorities straight.
It doesn’t surprise me that people will exchange their salvation for earthly treasure. What surprises me is how cheap they sell it.
Jesus warned about this as well as He continued teaching…
“Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?
Whosoever therefore shall be ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation; of him also shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he cometh in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.” Mark 8:37-38
Let’s keep our priorities straight.

The Caterpillar

A noted French naturalist, Jean Henri Fabre, took a flowerpot and placed upon its rim a group of processionary caterpillars one behind the other to form a circle. He then placed their favorite food in the middle of the circle. Each caterpillar followed the one ahead, never diverting from the one in front. For seven days, these instinctively driven animals circled the flowerpot until one after one they started dropping dead from either exhaustion or starvation. To avoid death, all that was needed was to feast upon the food within their grasp. Unfortunately, the processionary caterpillars were locked in a cycle of following and were unable to extricate themselves from a path of death.

If you’re like me, this story probably hit a little too close to home. Many of us are caught up in the cycle of following even if it leads us to endless and mindless toil. We go to college, get jobs because that’s what everyone else does. After work, we come home, eat a little dinner, watch a little TV, go to bed and repeat. We call it, “the Rat Race.” Why? Because that’s what we see everyone else doing. For many, the only reason to go to work is to pay the bills. How miserable a life?

What’s true about life is also true about the religious choices. I’ve made a habit of asking people, who go to church, why they chose that one. Many say, “that’s where my family goes.” The rest choose a church based on size and programs, once again, looking at what others are doing rather than examining the word of God for the truth.

This processionary process also happens with churches themselves. I asked a member of a local congregation, who were looking to hire a youth pastor, “where did you get the idea of a youth pastor?” They realized they only know about the office of a “youth pastor” because of what denominations have done.

This reminds me of 1 Samuel 8. The nation of Israel desired to have a king. What reason did they offer to Samuel? They said, “now make us a king to judge us like all the nations” [v5b]. What they had forgotten was that they already had a King, His name is I Am. “They have rejected me, that I should not reign over them” [v7b].

If the reason for doing a thing is because that’s what everyone else is doing, then we’re destined to starve. Our moms where right when they said, “If everyone else wanted to jump of a bridge would you want to also?” Our Lord said it this way…

Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.

[Matt 7:13-14]

Human beings are different from caterpillars in that we can change our direction in life. Unfortunately, we often confuse motion with meaning or achievement. We find ourselves in ruts, often dug by others.

Yes, we all want our lives to have meaning, to have a purpose. God, our creator, gave us purpose, He showed us a direction. “Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man” [Ecc 12:13]. Before Jesus left this earth, He commanded, “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen.” [Matt 28:19-20].

We have a purpose higher than the 80-100 years we live on earth. We have an eternity to consider.

Spencer

PS. Do you remember in the experiment of the caterpillar how the food was within sight? The bread of life, God’s word, is never too far away that we’re unable to read it and be filled. [cr. Ac 17:27]

And Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst.

[John 6:35]

How Liberalism wins.

BEFORE WE BEGIN, for the purpose of this article, we shall use the simple definitions of liberal & conservative. Liberal means; “not opposed to new ideas or ways of behaving that are not traditional or widely accepted.”1 Conservative means; “the tendency to prefer an existing or traditional situation to change.”2

As it relates to religion, a conservative is one who wants to hold fast to the word of God. “If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God” [1Pe 4:11], means that we do not go beyond the text of the scriptures. We’re told to “Prove all things; hold fast that which is good” [1Thess 5:21], and “not to think beyond what is written” [1Cor 4:6]. [cr. 2Peter 1:19-21; John 12:48; 2Thess 2:15]. This is what the Christians here at Franklin & Juniper church of Christ in Borger Texas want to do, hold fast to the Word of God.

A liberal, therefore, is the one who believes that we have freedom to move from tradition and authority, and have the ability to adjust religious beliefs and practices for the culture. They believe that strict adherance to the word of God is legalistic and unloving.

Many folks will apply labels of “liberal” or “conservative” but those terms mean different things according to where you’re standing at the time. As for me, I start with the undefiled Word of God [John 12:48] and want to CONSERVE that purity in my life and the church. “Every word of God is pure: he is a shield unto them that put their trust in him” [Pr 30:5 (cr. Psalm 119)].

Have you ever wondered why folks with strong conservative values allow error to creep in and pledge support for these errors? How do the “grievous wolves” that Paul spoke about, appear and how do they lead astray so many, even causing division in the church? Paul warned the Ephesian elders; “For I know this, that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock. Also from among yourselves men will rise up, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after themselves” [Ac 20:29-30]. He also warned that Satan himself would appear as an “angel of light” and his ministers would appear as “ministers of righteousness” [2Cor 11:14-15].

I’ve noticed 3 arguments that are most often used in support of error. They are EMOTIONALIZE, DEMONIZE & CRITICIZE. Remember also, that change agents appear as “angels of light” [2Cor 11:14]. Let’s examine how this works, not with hate toward others, rather as a warning to all of us as we strive to do God’s will.

The 3 Arguments in support of error

EMOTIONALIZE: “It’s for the children” is the most oft used emotional argument to promote error. The users of these arguments seldom use scripture and when they do they “wrest the scriptures” [2Pe 3:16]. We saw it when denominations pushed for infant baptism. Truth teaches that babies are safe in the Lord [2Sam 12:23; Mat 19:13-14]. This argument continues to be utilized to go around the clear commands of God. We have to resist the urge to break God’s word when our emotions begin to burn. “Whether it is pleasing or displeasing, we will obey the voice of the LORD our God to whom we send you, that it may be well with us when we obey the voice of the LORD our God” [Jer 42:6]. Remember, our hearts can be (and often are) deceived [2Thess 2:10-11; 2Cor 11:14; Gal 1:8-9; Gal 6:7].

If there’s no success with this, they move onto…

DEMONIZE; The promoters of error demonize those that oppose them. While hanging onto the emotional argument, they malign the opposition. Paul faced this himself, “Have I therefore become your enemy because I tell you the truth?” [Ga 4:16] They’ll say we hate children, or are unloving, calling us “anti’s” & “legalists” because we say “I could not go beyond the word of the LORD, to do good or bad of my own will. What the LORD says, that I must speak‘?” [Num 24:13]

Then they will….

CRITICIZE; the opposition for doing things that they themselves are doing. The Apostles faced this very thing. They were criticized for preaching for gain, or for being arrogant, while the critics themselves were doing the very things they spoke against. “I wrote to the church, but Diotrephes, who loves to have the preeminence among them, does not receive us. Therefore, if I come, I will call to mind his deeds which he does, prating against us with malicious words. And not content with that, he himself does not receive the brethren, and forbids those who wish to, putting them out of the church.” [3John 1:9-10 (cr 2Cor 11 & 12)].

Many errors begin due to a lack of understanding on how to determine scriptural authority (or permissions). They also come due to a misunderstanding of the true work of the church. The work of the church is found in “the Great commission”; “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen [Mat 28:19-20]. It’s to TEACH the gospel and TEACH the new disciples to observe WHATSOEVER our Lord has commanded.

Please understand, I’m not against helping children, or being benevolent to strangers. I just want to do it God’s way. “And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him” [Col 3:17].

1 – http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/liberal

2 – http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/conservate

Flood Relief & Divine Pattern

EARLY ON AUGUST 11, torrential downpours dumped rain on the surrounding Baton Rouge and Lafayette areas. Rain fell at a rates up to 2-3 inches per hour and overall totals exceeded nearly 2 feet in some areas as a result of the system remaining stationary. Accumulations reached as high as 31.39 inches in Watson, Louisiana.

The Washington Post noted that the “no-name storm” dumped three times as much rain on Louisiana as Hurricane Katrina. It dropped the equivalent of 7.1 trillion gallons of water or enough to fill Lake Pontchartrain about four times. Hurricane Katrina, by comparison, dumped about 2.3 trillion gallons of rainwater in the state (though more in other states). The flood also dumped more water than Hurricane Isaac. According to the National Weather Service Hydrometeorological Design Studies Center, the amount of rainfall in the hardest-hit locations had a less than 0.1 percent chance of happening or was a (less than) 1-in-1,000-year event.

This flooding has caused heartache and hardship for some in our family of Christ. One congregation in particular, reached out to let brethren know of their plight. They requested help according to the pattern established in the New Testament, not through the institutions of man.

The pattern for aiding brethren in other areas has been established by Acts 11:27-30.Then the disciples, every man according to his ability, determined to send relief unto the brethren which dwelt in Judaea: Which also they did, and sent it to the elders by the hands of Barnabas and Saul.” (emphasis mine seb).

A famine had arisen in the days of Claudius that had severely stricken the Christians in Judea. The Holy Spirit directed Paul on how this relief should be made. Paul wrote about the contribution being sent by the saints in Macedonia; “For it hath pleased them of Macedonia and Achaia to make a certain contribution for the poor saints which are at Jerusalem” [Romans 15:26], so too, the church at Corinth [1Cor 16:1-4].

What we see from this pattern are individual saints (and local congregations) collecting money and sending it directly to the parties affected. No middlemen, no organizations that funnels off money for “operating costs” nor do we see a board of directors who can decide to send the money for a non-scriptural use (as we see with so many “charities”). What we see are saints fulfilling the need directly. The pattern is simple, clean AND EFFECTIVE, because it is the divine pattern from God.

As individuals, we have liberty to be a bit more broad with our benevolence. We’re able to give aid beyond just the saints, unlike the limitations placed upon the church treasury by the Holy Spirit [1Timothy 5:9,16]. If we can, we should be benevolent, being mindful of those times when we ought to refrain [Ga 6:10; 1Thess 3:10-12].

That being said, here is the note from the brethren in Louisiana;

_________________________________

STOP! The need involving Christians in Louisiana has been met.

With several families displaced by floods and facing reconstruction on the inside of their homes, the cost estimate was $500,000 beyond what that local church could do. However, THE NEED HAS BEEN MET.

I just spoke with one of the elders. Their biggest concern is returning the funds beyond what they need. I told him he’ll have to get a roll of stamps. He said, “Wilson, it will take rolls and rolls AND ROLLS of stamps…” He said, “We never dreamed there would be such an outpouring of help for us…”

He went on…

“Please spread the word that the need has been met and that we will do our best to return the monies not needed back to the source.” I am sure they will. But be patient. They have been flooded (sorry!) with overwhelming generosity.

Want Bible? Exodus 36:5: “The people were restrained from bringing any more…” Don’t tell me it doesn’t happen. It just happened in Gonzales, Louisiana…

God is good. And so are His people. Please “Share” the news

___________________________________

Praise God, the need was met for these folks within a few weeks, following God’s pattern of benevolence. I’m sure more can and should be done by individuals, and it can be done following God’s divine pattern for benevolence.

how do you know?

walk in truth

You say you walk in truth, but how do you know? 3 John 1:4

HAVE YOU ever noticed that when you ask folks about their church they’ll tell you that it teaches the truth? If that were true, then why are there so many denominations teaching different things regarding salvation, worship, godly living and sin? They will also tell me they read their bibles.

If I were to ask someone if they belong to a gym, or own a piece of exercise equipment, there’s a good chance that the answer will be “yes”. Do I need to tell you my thoughts about their answer when I can clearly see the results? LOL. [this coming from a man that owns an elliptical and frequents fast food]

You may think these two questions are unrelated, in fact they have more in common than you may at first realize. The only difference is that with the second question, the person has to admit their failure in “walking in truth” regarding their health. With the first question, they’re often ignorant of their spiritual health.

The Apostle Paul commanded the Corinthian church to “Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves. Know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates?” [2Co 13:5] But how are we to do this “examination”? Let me suggest 3 things we should be examining regarding our faith.

EXAMINE YOURSELVES

We’ve already read the command to examine ourselves, but how and to what? First, let’s never make the mistake of comparing ourselves with others, this is a big problem. Paul had said in the same letter “..we dare not make ourselves of the number, or compare ourselves with some that commend themselves: but they measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise.” [2Co 10:12] Our Lord told a similar story when he told us about the Pharisee that said, “..God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican.” [Lu 18:11]

No, other men are not the standard. The standard of comparison should always be Christ and His word. Paul also taught the Church at Corinth to, “Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ.” [1Co 11:1 (NKJV)]. So how does one walk in truth? You become a follower of Christ who said…

Joh 14:15 If ye love me, keep my commandments.
Joh 15:14 Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you.
Mt 28:20 Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you:
Mt 22:29 .. Ye do err, not knowing the scriptures, nor the power of God.
Mt 28:19 Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:

EXAMINE YOUR TEACHER

In order to know if you’re walking in truth you must also examine the information you’re receiving. I once had a math teacher that regularly made basic math errors because she wasn’t very good at math. How long do you think my parents kept me in that class? Yet we continually listen to people who are supposed to teach us biblical principles, making grievous errors because they don’t know, or don’t understand what they are teaching. [1Timothy 1:7]

I’ve met “bible teachers” that get upset when I ask questions about the bible, showing them scriptures for my assertions. I’ve met “bible teachers” that actually attempt to tear down the truth of the bible when I show them passages that teach the opposite of their own. A priest of a particular denomination even said, “We’re not encouraged to read the bible.”

The Apostle John himself wrote, “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world. [1Jo 4:1 (NKJV)] Paul was himself subjected to this “examination” by the Bereans in Acts 17:11 when they searched the scriptures daily to see if the things he taught were true.

If it’s good enough for them, it should be good enough for your teacher, preacher or pastor. None of them should ever be afraid of sound doctrine, IF THEY’RE TEACHING IT.

EXAMINE YOUR CHURCH

This third step is just as important as the other two. Scripture teaches that the church is the people, it never refers to the building. [Eph 1:22, 23; 1Co 12:12] Read what our Lord, Jesus said to the churches in Revelation chapter 2 & 3….

Re 2:4 Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love.
Re 2:14 But I have a few things against thee,
Re 2:16 Repent; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth.
Re 2:20 Notwithstanding I have a few things against thee,
Re 3:1 …I know thy works, that thou hast a name that thou livest, and art dead.
Re 3:16 So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth.

A teaching in scripture that is often ignored is the teaching about purifying the church. Paul told the church to “purge out”, referring to the man that was a member of the church at Corinth, but was living in unrepentant sin. [1Co 5:7]

When we assemble together, we must assemble IN HIS NAME. [Mt 18:20] To do something in His name means that in order to worship, we must do it by the Lord’s permission. We must worship “in spirit AND TRUTH” and His “word is truth”. [Joh 4:24; Joh 17:17]

CONCLUSION

It’s wonderful to hear that folks want to walk in truth, but desire is only the beginning, we must act upon that desire and obey God. In every case of conversion in the book of Acts, when folks heard the Gospel and had a desire for the salvation it provides, they all REPENTED AND WERE BAPTIZED.

That is the truth.

spencer

Evangelist at the Franklin St. church of Christ in Borger, Texas.

The Force Awakens

star wars

It’s been 32 years since Return of the Jedi, the final episode of the Star Wars trilogy that began in 1977 with episode IV A New Hope. Since the announcement of an episode 7, adults and children alike have endured a 2-year, Christmas like anticipation for the movie to finally arrive in Theaters, of which I am one.

Stories abound of fans scrambling to purchase tickets, pilgrimaging to theaters in droves, to be witness to the first public viewings. Folks have called in sick, one website offered a list of plausible excuses to use when you call off work, so as to be a part of this momentous event. Threats of “unfriending” folks from Facebook if they reveal any spoilers to those of us who have yet to navigate through the sea of people for one of the early showings.

This article shall neither bash those among the masses who make the trek to the early movies, adorned in their Jedi regalia, nor those who couldn’t give a rip that a new Spock movie just opened. (laugh if you got that joke.) No, just a comparison shall I draw. (laugh at that one too.)

I am curious about a few things, have we as a church ever posted online, for any amount of time, displaying our excitement for the coming day to worship our Lord and Savior? Or even better than that, the breathless anticipation of the Return Of The Christ? Oh how I long for the day we could anticipate the 1st day of the week, or His wonderful, triumphant return.

____________________________________________________
Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching. [Hebrews 10:25]
____________________________________________________
I can’t believe you missed it!

Has anyone ever excitedly said to you, “I can’t believe you missed it!”, when referring to the Sunday worship that you had to miss due to illness or work? Have they ever gushed out every single line from the sermon, every emotion and every point drawn? No? Yeah, neither have I. What I HAVE heard was, “Missed you on Sunday”, in that tone as if they were really saying, “what kind of sin kept you from the worship?” Worse than that are those that say, “missed ya on Sunday”, but really saying, “I had to be there, why weren’t you?”

To be sure, If I were given a $200 million budget and 3 years, I may be able to produce a sermon entertaining enough to draw in the numbers comparable to Star Wars. But alas, I do not. I have 6 days to produce 4 lessons (2 sermons & 2 bible Classes). Not counting the myriad of other personal Bible studies, calls and questions I receive. No, my budget is far less.

We have no authority to do anything of the sort. We are to “teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: 20 Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you:” [Matthew 28:19-20] We have no authority to draw anyone by any carnal lust whether it be food, entertainment or money. No, we have the Gospel to draw folks in, drawn in with a “true heart in full assurance of faith” [Hebrews 10:22].

Our Lord warned us about such things. “Jesus answered them and said, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Ye seek me, not because ye saw the miracles, but because ye did eat of the loaves, and were filled. 27 Labour not for the meat which perisheth, but for that meat which endureth unto everlasting life, which the Son of man shall give unto you: for him hath God the Father sealed.” [John 6:26-27]

He was pointing out that some will only come if you feed them with food, but they should be laboring for the spiritual food that brings about everlasting life. A preacher once said to me, “what a person is converted with, they are converted to.”

I have nothing against Star Wars or many other forms of non-sinful entertainment. The question I must ask myself, and you must ask yourself, is this; Do I care as much about the worship of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and His Triumphant return as I care about a movie?

Spencer Blackwelder
Evangelist, Borger, Tx

When Church is Boring 

church is boring

LET’S BE HONEST, sometimes we get bored, even at the worship. What are we to do, change it? But what would we change?

Denominationalism has taken on this problem of boredom head on. In an attempt to keep folks in the buildings (and their money) they have made some changes. I’ve told you about the hip hop church, but I’ve also seen “churches” adding coffee shops, gymnasiums and activity centers with pizza.

            We have, in our own area, churches for cowboys, churches for blacks (I abhor this idea), churches for old, churches for young, all in an attempt to make church more attractive to people. Many have embraced the idea of “churchitainment.” 

            We’ve come to a time where it’s hard to distinguish between a worship service and a concert. Dimmed lights over the audience and flashing colored lights on the stage. Worship leaders have become pop stars for the church. Preachers are becoming famous for proclaiming motivational messages rather than the “…whole counsel of God.” [Acts 20:27].

            Folks have now been trained to seek out churches based on their entertainment value over the spiritual truths it proclaims, unaware that the main work of the church is to teach God’s truth. [Matthew 28:18-20; 1Timothy 3:15]  

            Some of you may never go that far, yet still insist on change. In Recent times we’ve seen churches of our Lord introduce instrumental music into the worship, seeing no wrong with such. No, it didn’t happen overnight, hand clapping & cheering replacing the old-fashioned “AMEN”.

            If I wanted to introduce instrumental music to this congregation I would stop teaching that it’s wrong. Then after some time of never teaching on it, I would begin by speaking positively about the instrument, bringing lessons from the Old Testaments use of the lyre and the harps.

            Next I would suggest that it’s ok. I could even put together a mid-week instrumental service. After that has taken hold I would then move it closer to the first day of the week. Then I would turn the evening Sunday worship into a “contemporary” worship while keeping the “traditional” worship in the morning.

            After everyone was used to that I would then ask, “Why are we divided?” Suggesting that both worships be the same. I would appeal to your emotions and point to the successes of other congregations.

Nothing New Under the Sun

I hope you see, this is exactly how denominations have strayed from the truth. “..There is nothing new under the sun.” [Ecclesiastes 1:9]. Way back in the early history of the nation of Israel, they said, “Make us a king like all the nations.” [1Samuel 8:5] They wanted CHANGE, like the other nations. The problem was that they had REJECTED GOD. “And the LORD said unto Samuel, Hearken unto the voice of the people in all that they say unto thee: for they have not rejected thee, but they have rejected me, that I should not reign over them.” [1Samuel 8:7]

If you would like to reject God, by ignoring His will, we too can become like all the churches. God’s word said to “sing”. [Ephesians 5:19; Colossians 3:16] That which is specifically authorized makes all other choices unauthorized. Singing with the voice is the only authorized form of music for the worship.

“Where is My Honor?” 

            God asked the Israelites this question in Malachi 1:6. He asked because they had found “church” boring, speaking about their worship. He goes on through the prophet to quote what they were saying, “Behold, what a weariness is it!” They had even “snuffed at it”, [Malachi 1:13]. Even back then, folks found the ways of God boring and stopped following His commands for the worship.

            God proposed 2 changes to those that found it boring, turning up their noses at the worship: (1) Shut the doors, stay home and stop worshipping in vain, vs10. (2)He obviously would prefer them to repent, take it to heart and give honor to His name, lest He “will even send a curse upon you, and I will curse your blessings.” [Malachi 2:2]

            Please look closely, He never says to change His commands for the worship to accommodate our tastes, preferences or desires. Has God changed? Is He a new God that has no concern for how we worship? Jesus told the Samaritan woman, “God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.” [John 4:24]. He condemned the Pharisees; “But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.” [Matthew 15:9]

            I can shorten my sermons, fire them up a bit, making them more like motivational speeches instead of “instruction in righteousness.” [2Timothy 3:16] The song leader can select only upbeat songs and we can say more meaningful prayers. The real answer is not to change what God has authorized for our worship, (prayer 1Corintheans 11:24], vocal singing [Ephesians 5:19; Colossians 3:16], giving cheerfully [2Corintheans 9:7], preaching & the Lord’s Supper [Acts 20:7]), but to change our hearts as worshippers.

            To worship in “spirit and truth” is to worship with our whole hearts, loving Him fully, [Matthew 22:37] and to worship according to His command, according to His revealed word, for His word is truth. [John 17:17] When we read the New Testament, we find some Christians worshipping in error with regard to the Lord’s Supper. Paul said, “What? have ye not houses to eat and to drink in? or despise ye the church of God, and shame them that have not? What shall I say to you? shall I praise you in this? I praise you not.” [1Corintheans 11:22]

            Are we exempt from doing things God’s way? Can we change the worship because we find the “old paths” boring? Can we change the worship to attract more people? If you can find any passage authorizing these changes then let’s do it. The problem with making changes, it requires us to sin by ignoring God’s commands and these errors lead to more changes until we can no longer recognize the church found in the New Testament.

Someone once said, “WHAT PEOPLE ARE CONVERTED WITH, THEY ARE CONVERTED TO.” How about we just stay on the “narrow way”, which is the way that leads to eternal life. [Matthew 7:14]

Spencer Blackwelder
Evangelist for the church of Christ in Borger, Tx

Are we A Strong Congregation?

3-09-15 Eph 6_6

What do you look for in a strong congregation? The scriptures teach that a congregation is made up Christians in a local area who assemble to worship and to work together. Revelations 3:1 calls the church in Laodicea dead and in 3:16 is lukewarm. None of us want to be in dead or lukewarm congregations, so what sets apart a strong congregation from a dead one? 

They Love God

The first and foremost characteristic of a strong congregation is when it’s composed of Christians who, “…love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment.” [Mark 12:30]

The most powerful and effective motivation to obey God’s word is a sincere and deep love of God.

They Love God’s Word

A strong congregation loves God, therefore also loves His word. When I speak to “religious” people, one thing I notice is the lack of knowledge of God’s word and His patterns.

Weak congregations are short on giving; “…attendance to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine.” [1Timothy 4:13] Strong congregations consider FIRST what the will of the Lord is from His divine Word, for it is the truth; [John 17:17]. This enables them to worship in truth [John 4:24], Teach the truth [1Timothy 1:3] and do His work according to the divine pattern [Ephesians 4:12]. 

They Rejoice in the Lord

When a strong congregation loves God and His word, they will rejoice despite the difficulties that come from living on this side of the Judgement.

Paul warned the early Christians that life was tough, and not many others had a more difficult time than he. The Lord teaches, through Paul, to be content regardless of circumstance. [Philippians 4:11-13] The Lord also taught us to be prepared for trials that every Christian will face and to rejoice. [James 1:2; 1Peter 4:12] 

It is Growing and Working

Every congregation has folks that are at varying levels of their maturity. There are new converts, babes in Christ, some more mature, some struggling and overcoming sins and still others that are strong in their faith. [1Corintheans 8:12-31]

All of them, doing their own part in the body [Ephesians 4:11-12], are growing in grace and knowledge of the Lord [2Peter 3:18], so that the body grows [Ephesians 4:16], always abounding in the work of the Lord. [1Corintheans 15:58] 

It Follows the New Testament Pattern of organization

A strong congregation is striving to attain and to follow the New Testament pattern for its organization. [Philippians 1:1]

They have or are qualifying men to oversee as elders [Acts 20:17; 1Timothy 3:1-7; 1Peter 5:1-2], doing the same regarding deacons to serve under elders, [1Timothy 3:8-13]. In whichever state, the strong congregation has faithful men to see that the work of the Lord is accomplished never losing sight of the ideal. 

They’re Proactive

The strong congregation never waits. It continues to be zealous for good works [Titus 2:14; Revelations 3:19]. They want to be found doing and increasing in the Lord’s work [Matthew 25:14-30], never burying their talents or content with just getting themselves to heaven, because they want to others to be saved also [2Timothy 2:2].

What About the Church in Borger?

I bet, that as you read this article, you were also thinking about our congregation. I believe that we have a strong congregation. Perhaps not like the church in Smyrna which the Lord had nothing negative to say [Rev 2:8], but one that has the ability to overcome what is lacking [Revelations 2:7].

I feel that we are strong because we love God and His word, we rejoice and help each other during difficult times. We all desire for the truth to grow in Borger and that folks respond to the Gospel. I am grateful to you and to God for this local congregation.

That’s just my opinion, but what do you think? If you were to rate our congregation on a scale of 1-10, what number would you give us? If it’s not a 10 for being the best, why not? More importantly, what are you doing to change it?