Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Why I Invite People to Worship

This week we have had storms. Bad storms. I received a phone call Monday morning from my grandmother who lives in Arkansas. She told me that just a few miles from them a family they know lost their home because of the tornado that went through Vilonia, Arkansas. Even worse, the same family lost their home at the exact location 3 years ago. They are going to have to start all over...again! Remember to pray for the people who have been affected by these storms.

With all of the potential for danger in this powerful spring weather, I am reminded of the purpose of warnings. Why is your regular TV programing interrupted for storm updates? So that you can be safe and escape any possible disaster. A few weeks ago I was attending a gospel meeting where the preacher was literally begging and pleading people to respond to the message. He simply explained that he felt it was his duty to challenge people to repent. He said it was the same as if your house was on fire. If your house was on fire, you would not expect someone to come to your door and quietly suggest that you walk outside and take a look at the smoke. Instead they would bang on the door and yell and scream, "House on fire!" "House on fire!" In fact if they did not do this you would think that maybe they were mentally impaired.

While I do not walk the streets of my community yelling and screaming, "Repent now or go to hell!" - in my heart I will admit this is often what I am thinking. In the meantime I am painfully aware of my own sins. I am obligated to repent daily myself. I understand I need to remain humble and look in the mirror and live the Christian life. But listen! There are many people who don't even know the Lord. And there are many people, that although they may be part of some religious group or church, who don't practice the true teachings of the Bible. They may have never been taught the correct plan of salvation. They may be worshiping or organized according to human whims - sincerely religious and yet living in disobedience concerning the law of Christ.

This consciousness of the struggling spiritual status of so many people is what causes me to be more aggressive in my approach to evangelism. It may not be politically correct, but I am confident that it is Biblically correct to simply say, "Most people are lost." If people are not lost, then there is no need for the cross, the Bible, or the church. But all three came about by the will and plan of God. The Creator is doing everything He can to warn mankind. But individually we all have a decision to make - namely, to take shelter from the storm...to escape from a house that is burning to the ground.

If I ask you about your soul, don't be offended. If I ask you how faithful you are to the Lord, don't be offended. If I plead with you to study the Bible and obey the gospel don't be offended. In return I will promise not to be offended if you ask me these same questions or plead with me to change whatever I am doing in my life that is not pleasing to God. This is what people who care about each other do for one another. This is what true neighbors and friends are supposed to do.

So, I have a few questions for you, friend.
1. Would you like to come to worship the Lord with me?
2. Would you like to study the Bible with me?
3. Do you have any questions about God, the Bible, the church, salvation, et cetera?
If the answer to any of these questions is "Yes," then I am ready to do these things with you. I am sure it will be a blessing for both of us.

"Knowing, therefore, the terror of the Lord, we persuade men..." ~ 2 Corinthians 5:11
"And on some have compassion, making a distinction; but others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire, hating even the garment defiled by the flesh." ~ Jude 22-23

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

What Do You Want?

The greatest irony in the relationship between man and God may simply be this: 1. God does not need us, but He wants us. 2. We need God, but we don't want Him. No wonder why we struggle. Our priorities are often misplaced. This is what living in the world often does to those who were never created to live upon it forever to begin with.

What you want may tell more about who you are at your core than any other thing. So ask yourself while you are reading this article, "What do I really want from my life?" Do you want to live on the earth a long time? Do you want a certain amount of money or a certain house or car or occupation or retirement? Do you want to be known, popular, liked, appreciated, applauded? Do you want to spend your time recreationally or in service to someone else?

Now ask yourself a different question. "What does God really want from my life?" This seems to be a fair question, being that God is the one who created you. He made you, therefore He did it on purpose. He has placed you here temporarily for a reason. But are you acquainted with the reason?

It is a sad truth that most people struggle with understanding their purpose. Especially when all one has to do is read God's word. Psalm 102:18 - "This shall be written for the generation to come: and the people which shall be created shall praise the Lord." Isaiah 43:7 - "Even every one that is called by my name: for I have created him for my glory, I have formed him; yea, I have made him." We are also told we have been created to walk in the spirit of God (Isa. 42:15). We have been created for good works (Eph. 2:10). We have been created for righteousness and holiness (Eph. 4:24). We have been created in the image of God, that we might be in the family of God eternally (Gen. 1:26; Eph. 3:15).

When you look at what God wants for us, it is humbling to see how superior his wants are over our own. It seems then, that the prayer most needed is the prayer that says, "Father, please help me want from my life what You want from my life." If this prayer were offered every day, eventually that just might happen. When we pray earnestly and continually for something, it eventually identifies our purpose. Imagine how our lives might be transformed if we truly wanted what God wanted!

So I ask you once more, "What do you want?" If the day ever comes when what we want for us is the same as what God wants for us, perhaps then we will be children of God.

"For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts." ~ Isaiah 55:9

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

May I Choose Your Church?

May I choose your church? You don't mind do you? You don't care about the preacher that much do you, as long as I like his style and delivery? Do you care about the size of the church that much, the relative friendliness of the congregation, or the programs they may or may not offer? And as far as doctrine, does that really matter? I promise: no snake handlers. What about the worship? Does that matter to you? Do you care if they have a rock band or a choir or maybe neither? I mean, as long as I like the church, would you let me decide which one is for you?

I doubt that anyone would be very comfortable with letting someone else pick their religion or congregation for them. So here is the point. If it is not right for me to decide about the church, why is it right for you to decide? In the twenty-first century state of the religious world, one of the biggest errors that prevails is the consumer-like approach that appeals to the church of one's choice. Most people go where they feel "comfortable." The largest growing churches in population are "needs-based." They promise to serve you and make you happy. They promise not to hurt your feelings. They want to make sure that everything is just as you want it. Friends, I am sorry, but this is not the Bible's description of the church that Jesus built.

But a decision does have to be made. How does one properly choose when it comes to the church? The first principle involves realizing that it is not really your choice to make, because it is not really your church. The only person who ever referred to the church as "My church" was Jesus (Matt. 16:18). He purchased the church with His own blood (Acts 20:28). Members of the Biblical body of Christ do not even belong to themselves anymore, because they were bought at a price (1 Cor. 6:19-20). So in effect, no one has ever truly "joined" the church. We submit to the perfect will of God and He, by His grace and according to His own plan and pattern adds us to it (Acts 2:38-47).

There is only one map that will lead you to the church of God's choice. That map is the Bible. If a person is genuinely interested in finding the church that Jesus built, the only way to find it is to consult the New Testament. But our world is upside down! We want the church to determine what the Scriptures mean, rather than the Scriptures to determine what the church means! God's word came first. His word alone can accurately and authoritatively tell us about the church.

An honest Bible student by sincere and diligent study will be led to the church of the Bible. Here's a challenge: Do some serious Bible study. Study about the organization of the New Testament church. Study about the worship of the New Testament church. Study about the names of the New Testament church. Study about how people become converted to Christ and enter into the New Testament church. If you will study these topics with an open and honest heart, you may have to leave the church you currently attend. You may have to search from congregation to congregation until you find a church that is the Lord's church and not a church that was instituted or organized by the doctrine of men.

Jesus said, "Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven" (Matt. 7:21). He also said, "Every plant which My Father has not planted will be uprooted" (Matt. 15:13). Jesus is the only foundation and the only builder of the house of God (Acts 4:12; 1 Cor. 3:11). There is only one church (Eph. 4:4-6). It is the church of the New Testament. It is the church Jesus shed His blood to create. It is the church the apostles helped to establish on the day of Pentecost. It is the church organized according to the New Testament pattern. It is the church that wears a Biblical name. It is the church that has only as its doctrine the doctrine of Christ. It is the church that worships God's way, not man's way. It is the church that has no other desire than to belong to and to glorify Christ.

God is not going to ask the question I asked. He is not going to ask if He can choose your church for you. He chose His church for Himself. But He has extended to you the invitation to be a part of it. If that day ever comes when you understand what the Bible truly teaches about the church, it will be one of the most important days of your life. It will change everything. Obedience to that knowledge will bring inexpressible joy and a peace that passes all understanding. It will give your life true meaning and purpose, and the confidence of the hope of eternal life.

"There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all." ~ Ephesians 4:4-6