Church Signs

I see more and more church advertisements, signs, and banners with the picture of a pastor or evangelist on them. What (or who) are these churches really advertising?

Now there were certain Greeks among those who came up to worship at the feast. Then they came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida of Galilee, and asked him, saying, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” (John 12:20-21).

Nosegay

A 1560 painting of a boy holding a nosegay in his hand.

After the Russian ambassador met King Louis XIV of France (1638-1715), he wrote, His Majesty stunk like a wild animal. King Louis bragged at the fact of only bathing twice in his entire lifetime because it was commonly believed that bathing caused illness.

For more than 500 years, Europeans ignorantly believed that washing the hands, face, and body was the source of illness and death. Superstition advised against bathing – especially in warm or hot water – because it allowed diseases to enter the body through the pores in the skin.

Instead of washing dirt, grime, filth, and disease from the body, wealthy Europeans turned to nosegay, meaning happiness for the nose. The nosegay was a small sachet of flowers and herbs, or cloth dipped in perfume, stuffed in the shirt sleeve or cleavage and sniffed when body odor became overwhelming. Rather than remove the cause of the odor, Europeans tried to cover their own stench.

In the Old Testament, God commanded the Israelites to frequently wash themselves; their hands, faces, feet, and bodies. Washing the dirt, grime, and stink from the body not only prevented the transfer of disease, but was symbolic of God’s forgiveness of sin (Numbers 8:7; Psalm 51:7).

Regular washing with water and soap is necessary for bodily health, but it’s powerless to purge the soul of sin. Christians can’t ignore the moral filth of daily sin, nor attempt to mask the stench with our own works. Instead, we regularly confess our sins to the ever-forgiving God and receive His gracious cleansing.

If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9).

A Good Church

The name on the building changed this week from Calvary Bible Church to Paradox Church. It’s more than a name change, the website says the congregation exists for “community, neighborhood, simplicity.” Gone is the work of Christ and the Word of God; the new congregation is about YOU.

What makes a good church? By today’s standard the answer is in what titillates and satisfies you, but here at Where Living Begins, we find our faith and practice in the Word of God.

Let us suggest 6 major characteristics of a good local church.

First, its purpose is the glory of Christ, not the benefit or satisfaction of its members (Ephesians 3:21). The church belongs to Jesus and is about Him. Is He exalted and His death, burial, and resurrection emphasized – not just one Sunday a year but in every service? Instead of Christ, is the Christian, works, or the Holy Spirit the focus? Is salvation through faith alone in Jesus alone preached in every sermon?

Second, the Bible is God’s perfect and all-sufficient means of growing His people  (2 Timothy 3:16-17). Is the Bible the only accepted source of truth, rule of faith, and standard of Christian living? Is the preaching of the Bible the major ministry? Is the Bible preached as God gave it; word for word, sentence by sentence?

Third, the pastor is concerned with equipping the saints to do the work of ministry (Ephesians 4:11-16). Does every member have an opportunity to exercise his spiritual gift or is the pastor and staff expected to do the work of ministry? Is the pastor actively working himself out of a job?

Fourth, it’s a gathering where God’s people worship Him through the teaching of doctrine, prayer, the Lord’s Supper, and spiritual one-anothering (Acts 2:42). Is the church seeking to be attractive and inviting to the unsaved? or does it gather for believers to worship in spirit and truth (John 4:24)?

Fifth, evangelism of the unsaved is a primary and individual function (Matthew 28:19-20). Is the congregation committed in prayer and finances to preaching the gospel at home and in foreign lands? Are individual believers regularly encouraged to share their faith with the unsaved?

 

 

 

 

 

Sixth, godly love is evidenced by obedience to Christ’s commands (John 13:34-35; 14:15). Does a love for God come first in the heart of the pastor and the people or are they occupied with each other?

No local assembly is perfect, but if you happen upon the perfect church, don’t stay or you’ll surely ruin it. Read through Revelation 2 and 3 to see what Jesus looks for and rejects in a local congregation. He’s not interested in size, the number of activities or ministries, the style of music, the pastor’s hip attire, the building atmosphere, or the kind of coffee served.

Time to Move

its-time-to-moveFor a decade I managed a real estate and property management company. I took calls all day long from people looking for a home to buy or a house to rent. Besides the cost, the next most important question I was asked was about neighborhood schools. Parents always prioritized moving to a home with a good school for their children to attend.

Americans move frequently. The statistic is that the average American moves to another house 11 times in his life. In 2012, the US Census Bureau reported that slightly more than 1 out of 10 Americans moved.

Since we move so often, do we prioritize having a good church nearby our new home? We prioritize schools, the work commute, or access to various amenities, why not where we will worship?

After all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you (Matthew 6:32-33).

Careful Words

idle-wordsFor every careless word men may speak, they will give account of it in the day of judgment. For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned (Matthew 12:36-37).

It’s been estimated that the average person talks enough each day to fill a book of 50-60 pages – a year’s equivalent of 100 books of 200 pages each! What many people don’t realize is that they will one day be judged by God for the very words they’ve spoken during their lifetime.

In Matthew 12:33-37, Jesus taught that fruit reveals the nature of a tree. A sick tree produces poor fruit; but a healthy tree produces abundant fruit. Then He applied it to the human heart.

What the heart dwells upon is expressed in words. Our words are a gauge of our heart; our words either justify or condemn us. Jesus said that each of us will have to give an account for every careless (useless, barren, vulgar, blasphemous) word ever spoken.

The Christian’s speech reflects God’s transforming work (Ephesians 4:29-32; 5:18-21); but the unbeliever’s worthless words will condemn him in the day of judgment (Luke 19:22).

Earth Day

The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof.

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. 

Then to Adam God said, “Because you have heeded the voice of your wife, and have eaten from the tree of which I commanded you, saying, ‘You shall not eat of it’: “Cursed is the ground for your sake.”

For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it in hope; because the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now.

The day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up. Therefore, since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be dissolved being on fire, and the elements will melt with fervent heat. Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells. 

And there shall be no more curse, but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it, and His servants shall serve Him.

Psalm 24:1; Genesis 1:1; Genesis 3:17; Romans 8:20-22; Second Peter 3:10-13; Revelation 22:3

Past Feeling

img_20170126_082553572Sorry to show you this, but it’s a callus on the bottom of my big toe. It’s been there as long as I can remember.

A callus forms by repeated pressure or rubbing on the skin. The skin then forms into a hard layer, completely dead and long past any feeling.

This is exactly how the Bible describes the soul of a person alienated from the life of God through faith in Christ Jesus.

In the futility of their mind, having their understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardening of their heart; who being past feeling, have given themselves over to licentiousness, to work all uncleanness with greediness (Ephesians 4:17-19).

Like the body in the graveyard is beyond hearing – no matter how witty your remarks or loud your oratory – only the One who conquered death can speak life where death reigns in the sin-hardened soul.

Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life (John 5:24).

Restless

Carson City is the capital of Nevada. It’s a beautiful small city with an old-West feel, nestled against the snow-covered Carson Range. Driving into Carson after hours of dead Nevada desert was like entering a paradise.

The friendly and overly-talkative hotel manager walked us from the front desk to our room. I opened the door, wheeled in our luggage and plopped myself headlong onto one of the two beds. I couldn’t bounce up fast enough. The bed cover was wet and smelled of urine!

I wadded up the bed cover, held it at arm’s-length, and with my head turned sideways marched across the parking lot to the front desk. We couldn’t wait to get moved to another room, a clean room, which was given to us free for our stay.

Like that room, life is full of filth in a filthy world. We live in a world that is being destroyed by man’s sins and is condemned under the curse of God. Yes, there is still extreme beauty and much happiness to experience, but as CS Lewis asked, Has this world been so kind to you that you should leave it with regret? There are better things ahead than any we leave behind. 

Sadly, many people have become used to living in the filth and now think of it as the acceptable standard. For the Christian, the sin, ravages of moral rot, and God’s curse upon this world only makes us restless to be in the perfect presence of Christ in Heaven.

We are always confident, knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord. We are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord (Philippians 5:6, 8).

True Greatness

rivals-2There was also rivalry among them, as to which of them should be considered the greatest (Luke 22:24)

Lots of people are turned off by the level of nastiness surrounding the 2016 US presidential election. We live separated from history and we’re prone to forget that politics became the world’s most violent sport long before Clinton and Trump.

We all want to be the best and win at something. We want recognition for what we do or who we are. This is the game of politics and it was played even by the disciples of Jesus jockeying for greatness on no less than three different occasions (Matthew 18:1; Mark 9:34; Luke 9:46; 22:24).

On the evening of the Last Supper, Jesus told His disciples that one of them would betray Him. They began arguing about who would do it and then argued about which of them was the greatest. Natural progress, eh?

In the midst of their political ambition, Jesus didn’t tell them to hug each other, change their Facebook status, or riot in the streets. His way is different; greatness is about quiet service in the background rather than titles or winning.

Earlier that evening Jesus had humbly washed their feet and served them dinner. I am the One among you who serves (Luke 22:27). He’s our example of true greatness.

Our Citizenship

German officer coat and hat 6.2016My son is finishing his third year of German language in high school. He loves it! Every conversation is littered with Deutch words and phrases. He listens to their music, follows German politics and politicians and is planning to move to Germany. It seems that everything he thinks of has a German slant to it. Fortunately he’s not scouring the internet for a German fraulein! … at least not yet.

Though the United States is his home and has been the home of his family for 6 generations, he keeps his mind and eyes on another land. It’s a land he’s never visited, but he’s heard about, read about, and has his heart set upon.

The Bible says of Christians: Our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ (Philippians 3:20).

It seems we often forget this truth because our minds, eyes, and hearts get too wrapped up in the things of this earth. We forget that Heaven is our true home and homeland. We fail to set our minds on things above, not on things on the earth (Colossians 3:2).

It’s hard not to be consumed by the things in the land where we reside and what we naturally know, but remember Christian friend, your citizenship in not in this world. Heaven is your eternal home.