Tuesday, May 29, 2012

The One Church

This Sunday morning, in the third week of our series on "Things Most Surely Believed" - I am preaching on the topic - "The One Church." I usually do not write articles on the same subject as the sermon, but I am making an exception.

Of all of the things in the religious world today - it may be that people are most confused about the church. Denominationalism is the main cause of this problem. Mix in a lack of Bible study, and the general notion that God is going to accept whatever we do as long as we are making an effort - and you have a perfect recipe for an absolute mess.

Young Christian families and even some older folks are leaving the one church in large numbers today for churches that appeal to the senses - "non-judgmental" - "fits our needs" - "always loving" churches in the community. People in the religious realm realize this so much that they are changing the names of their churches from denominaional or traditional names to names they feel are more open and inviting.

Along with the changes in name, they are changing doctrine as well. They would rather not take a stand on doctrine in order to increase their numbers. Homosexuality, adultery, wordliness, and the like will not be disciplined. Issues like worship, unity, and fellowship are so open to personal opinion that it does not seem to matter what is going on, as long as everybody is having a good time and feels like they experienced something when they attended.

There is nobody on this earth that wants people to go to heaven more than me. There is nobody on this earth that wants the church to grow more than me. There is nobody on this earth that wants people to enjoy being in the kingdom of God more than me. There is nobody on this earth that wants people to be loved and appreciated and accepted more than me. The Bible teaches that Jesus created an institution through His death, burial, resurrection, and commission that makes all of this a reality. It is called the church. It is His body. The Bible teaches that there is only one church.

Regardless as to what anybody says or does, what the culture dictates, or what people think - I know the truth and will preach the truth concerning the one church. If we love and respect God and want to obey Him we will not try to "do church" our way. There is a peace that comes with obedience and pleasing God that is greater than any "feeling" new churches offer.

I am so greatly blessed and humbly overjoyed to be a part of the church that Jesus built!

"And God put all things under Christ's feet, and gave Him to be Head over all things to the church, which is His body..." ~ Ephesians 1:22-23

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Second Chances

When Lazarus of Bethany died, it was a scene so heartbreaking that even Jesus wept (John 11:35). But Jesus also delivered his friend from the bonds of death, even though Lazarus had been dead for four days (John 11:39). His body healed and reanimated, the resurrected Lazarus was full proof of Jesus' deity (John 11:45).

Lazarus has to be on the shortlist of greatest possible interviews ever. I have often imagined the questions soon asked of him after Jesus raised him from the dead. "What was it like on the other side?" "How does it feel to experience death?" "What do you remember?"

The Bible does reveal some things about death. We know that Lazarus was still conscious after death. We know his soul left his body. We know he went into the Hadean realm. We know that he was unaware of the happenings of the world he left behind. We know he was in one of two places awaiting judgment, paradise or tartarus.

The Bible does not reveal which of the two places Lazarus went. If he went to Abraham's bosom (paradise), he was in a place of rest and peace, where faithful and godly people reside while waiting for the reality of heaven. If he went to torments (tartarus), then he was in a horrible place of punishment and pain, with no relief and no hope of any good thing, only the certainty of hell.

It occurs to me, that wherever Lazarus went - he must have been more motivated to be a disciple of Jesus than ever before. If he was able to get the smallest taste of the comforts only God's people can know, he would have known that being a child of God is worth every sacrifice on earth. And even though the Bible does not tell us, my assumption based on his friendship and support of Christ makes it seem more likely that he was in fact in paradise for this span.

On the other hand, if Lazarus went to tartarus, what a second chance to get his life right with God!

We will never get to experience what Lazarus did. No person has ever been dead for four days and come back to life except for him. But God does give us second chances. And if Lazarus were here, no doubt he could convince you what to do with yours!

"Or do you despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance?" ~ Romans 2:4

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

You Can't Take it to the Bank

"If you had a bank that credited your account each morning with $86,000 that carried over no balance from day to day...allowed you to keep no cash in your account, and every evening cancelled whatever part of the amount you failed to use during the day, what would you do? Draw out every cent every day, of course, and use it to your advantage! Well, you have such a bank, and its name is TIME! Every morning it credits you with 86,400 seconds. Every night it rules off as lost whatever of this you failed to invest to good purpose. It carries over no balances, it allows no overdrafts. Each day it opens a new account with you. If you fail to use the day's deposits, the loss is yours. There is no going back. There is no drawing against tomorrow." ~ Source Unknown

We probably don't think of time like we do money. We live in a society of consumers and therefore in our minds the importance of money has increased. If we value time, for many of us it is only because we believe that "time is money."

We waste a lot of time! For example, statistics show that each day gamers spend over 200 million minutes playing "Angry Birds." Since the game's beginning a few years ago, the world has wasted over 200,000 years playing this simple little game. This is only one example. We can talk about facebook usage, or television hours, or smoking breaks...and then we can get into some real numbers concerning unproductive time.

It is not wrong to take a break and play games. It is not wrong to entertain oneself or to stop working for a few minutes. But if we are honest, we will admit that there are a few things we spend too much time doing, and a few things we do not spend enough time doing.

There are two things in particular that we all need to do more. These will never be a waste of our time. 1. We need to read God's word. This is how He talks to us. 2. We need to pray. This is how we talk to Him. You cannot build a relationship with God without spending some time with Him!

We have only one life to live. We only have so much time to get to know God before He judges this world. If we know about everything else, but we have no relationship with the One who created us, we have wasted the time we have been given.

Time must be used wisely, and it must be used today. You can't take it to the bank!

"...redeeming the time, because the days are evil." ~ Ephesians 5:16

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

The Kitchen Table

Happy Mother’s Day to all of you moms out there! We hope you have a wonderful day with family and friends. I imagine that some moms will go out to dinner with their families. I also know that there are some of those moms out there who will insist on cooking and having everybody at the house. This is the way it usually was in my family. It usually meant going to Grandma’s on Sunday afternoon following worship.
            During my growing up years I remember sitting around the kitchen table. We did this in the morning at breakfast and again when dad got home from work. I can recall the square oak table and where I was positioned most of the time. I remember laughing, crying (when I didn’t want to eat my peas), and discussing life’s events around the kitchen table. These are the old scenes of childhood. The kitchen table was a place of fellowship, communication, nourishment, and love. My mother made sure of it.
            A few years ago I read an article written by a preacher friend of mine from Texas. The article was asking the reader to imagine a well-balanced meal being provided and set before a family at the table. But the children didn’t come to the table. The youngest said he didn’t like what was being served. Two other children missed the meal for a ball game down the street. Whatever the reason, something else took precedence. How do you think that made the provider feel?
            Family relationships have been given to mankind by God in order to help us understand who He is and who we are. Family dynamics speak volumes about the function and growth of the family. We can compare personal family relationships with the relationships that exist within God’s family, the church, to see if we are measuring up to the standard God has set for each family.
            Now imagine again the table being made ready. The children have been told to assemble and “Do this in remembrance of Me.” The table represents God’s greatest provision. Love and fellowship are there. Mercy and grace are there. It would seem that gathering around this table would be a great honor. It would seem that one would never want to miss it. Now hear the comments some use to excuse themselves – “…had a ball game.” “…didn’t like the meal.” “…had other plans.”
            In our home, the children ask permission from the parents to be excused from the table. They do not excuse themselves. This is how it was while we were growing up. This is how it will be for our children. Honor is given to the provider. Appreciation is learned. Love is available to all.
            I am thankful to my mother for always setting the table for me with the love and consideration that only a parent can understand. I am thankful to the Godhead for the table set for me to begin every week of my life. There is nothing quite like this table. There is nothing quite like the communion to be shared with those you love.

“He invites us in to His banquet table and His banner over us is love…”