Pointing the People to Christ

pointing to Christ

 

“… That joy is mine, and it is now complete. He must become greater; I must become less.” John 3:29-30 Continue reading

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Do not ‪give ‪up ‪on ‪the Church!

Revitalize your Church b

“…we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.” Ephesians 4:13

Too many Christians have given up on the church, and this is too bad. Yes, it is imperfect and full of problems; so, what relationship is not? But, we can overcome all that and grow to do what Christ has called us to do. It means we surrender to win, as we are not only to give of ourselves, but also freely receive gifts and love and care from others without our pride getting in the way.

Our living faith that God gives and builds on along with our efforts are hinged on each other–not in our salvation, but in our personal growth.

Even the private aspects of faith building require mutual efforts and support, so we need church to keep us growing. We can’t build an effectual faith on our own without a church family.

Scripture warns us against negating our spiritual development or neglecting what God gives. If we refuse to allow His work, then our faith and the future He has for us will not be received.

If we leave the Church, our salvation (if it was for real in the first place) is still intact, but we limit our sanctification and cut ourselves off from God’s reward for being faithful. We will fall to bad or natural consequences for refusing His guidance or the fellowship of others (Psalm 137: 5-6; 147:2; Isa 62:5; Gal. 6:24; Heb. 10:10; 13:9-25; Rev. 21: 2-4, 9-27).

The challenge for us is to be mutual effort to our purpose of presenting who we are in Christ, personally and mutually, telling what He has done for us, and responding to Him with passion and conviction, letting go of the fears that hinder us.

We must be excited so when the alarm clock buzzes early on Sunday morning, we jump up, eager about what lies ahead. When adults are energized, it usually becomes contagious to the kids; then, the tyranny of the morning becomes a bounding and fun time looking toward the worship, learning, and relationships ahead. The early church gave us a map for what we can do even in the face of tremendous odds-like the three hundred Spartans heading off the attack of the two hundred thousand plus Persians or our American Alamo. We have the God-given ability to shake off our fear as Gideon did; then the mundane will give rise to excitement, boring will develop into fun, and dread will turn into service.

Then, we can go beyond our pedestrian level of the Christian walk into a transformed, heavenly walk that infects those around us.

Then, the disease that causes division and hurt will cease and the damage and fears that keep us from growing and serving are removed. 

What makes a Church Healthy or Unhealthy?

This comes from a big problem we have in most churches today, that is the tendency of leaders not effectually growing in the Lord and thus do not practice their faith and this dispenses down to the congregation.

And the outcome is a church that has missed its point and reason for being; as its people, who Christ has brought in, go without being taught or discipled because the pastors and leaders are not being taught or discipled.

Being mature means you know not just Who Christ is, but His impact has gone deep and has occupied all aspects of our life and faith. Life is all about Him and not about selfish ideas or perceptions. We have gone to His throne and His priestly duty has been received, our Milk, and then the meat is feasted upon, His wondrous precepts and Truth. So our faith is real, personal, fully transformed and becoming fully engaged followers of Christ seen by a life well lived.

If we want to be an impacting Christian pastor or lay leader in a church that impacts its community and world, we have to be eating the meat of God’s precepts with passion and conviction, in love and in truth and then sharing it with others.

for more, see the research here: http://www.churchleadership.org/apps/articles/default.asp?articleid=44960&columnid=4545

The Consequences of not Knowing the Bible

The Church, as well as the airways, is becoming more and more filled with bad, false teaching from faulty models of biblical interpretation! 

At the same time, more and more Christians are not delving into the Bible for their spiritual nourishment, rather swapping it for “feel good” books that do not properly instruct and/or turning on the TV for the false teacher crowd-or else doing nothing at all for their spiritual growth. Bible studies, Bible based small groups where God’s Word is sought, delved into, discussed and used as challenge and talking points for a life that is transformed are shrinking and/or missing from most lives of Christians and absent from most church programs and happenings.

Endeavors that remain are being attended less and are lacking value and promotion. Additionally, we have the problem of busyness; church leaders-even pastors-are too busy to bother with Bible reading, thus leading from pride and presumption. The people in the pew are so overwhelmed in life, work, family life, and even at church that the Bible, which could solve their problems by showing them their call and God’s precepts, is the last place examined. In many American churches, we have lost our instruction book to the detriment of the Christian community’s spiritual formation, as well as the ability to know and model Christ to the community and world at large, leaving the people in the pew spiritually bankrupt and the neighborhoods with bad models of Christ and thus unreached.

When we do not garner our spiritual nourishment from God’s Word, the Bible, and instead trade it for our whims and mind-sets, we cheat ourselves and weaken our churches, holding back Christ’s work in us and our church’s life; we neuter God’s potential work to those around us too.

Thus, we swap what is good, legal tender for that which is counterfeit and thus leave nothing in our spiritual wallets but confederate notes that are worthless and thus of no spiritual or fruitful value to spend for life and ministry. To counteract these evils and stop Bible illiteracy, we must feed from God’s glorious and wondrous buffet of precepts for our faith and knowledge.

What can we do about it? This is actually easy; just take the time to read it through. Read and know the Bible!

It just takes minutes a day, less than half of a half-hour TV sitcom, to know our Lord and grow in Him for an effectual, transforming life and to dig out what He plainly and abundantly has for us so we have His spiritual spending power. Our reading of the Bible is not meant to merely learn its trivia; rather, we are to be rehabbed in Christ, be changed, renewed, and transformed.

We must take this remarkable currency of His remarkable and astounding precepts and spend it for our spiritual improvement and then for kingdom building. But, what gets in the way of our good buffet and spiritual currency? Simply ignoring God by ignoring or misusing His Word. 

What does Bible illiteracy give us? Shallowness and pretentiousness! These rotten fruits have taken our churches hostage, leaving our pews filled with ignorant, hurt, disconnected children of God who do not know His love or His ways and who make pathetic faith decisions and bad life choices, creating more dysfunction and stress in their lives and homes, and a church that is inept, dysfunctional, and impotent, with an incapacity to know and glorify the very Lord we are to be all about.

 

The Problem of Bible Illiteracy!

Hebrews 3:12-13; 4:1-2; 5:11-6:3; James 1:22-25

From our research and experiences, we have discovered big problems in our churches, the sheepfold of God’s chosen and precious creation. 

The sheep are getting skinnier and dumber (the people of God)! And, many of the shepherds (leaders and pastors) tend to be merely puffed-up, directionless, arrogant, imperceptive halfwits leading their flock away from the prime pasturelands of our Lord to rather feed on the garbage piles of the world and in turn, crafting obtuse sheep with inadequate nourishment and a lack of proper care. They are ignoring our great Shepherd and thus are relying on the way of the wolf and not on the way of our Lord!

The problems, as we have seen slowly creeping into the churches over the last one hundred years, are these: First, the mainline denominations were hit and sunk. Then, the Pentecostal communities (not all of course, but many) were hit and are like a listing ship, leaning into the ocean in a bad storm.

Now, the torpedoes of worldliness, trend setting, misguided management styles, and pride have set their targets on the conservative churches too, replacing the good food of the Shepherd for cheap chow and showmanship.

Therefore, the sheep have food poisoning and thus are too sick to move and do for our Lord. The main problem is not just the lack of Bible knowledge and understanding; it is the lack of even getting into the Bible. It is the refusal and laziness of not encountering our Lord and Savior through His primary communication platform: His Word, the Bible!

We are seeking anti-intellectualism at one end of our church spectrum and shallow seeker-ness at the other.

We are becoming overly scholarly to the determent of any impact from God’s Word, totally ignoring His precepts and replacing them with ours. Both spectrums give mere “sermonettes” that have no substance or effectual teaching. They give no kind of challenge or discipline that is necessary for authentic Christian growth, thus creating small-minded pew sitters who can’t even find their way around the Bible or even know the difference between John the Baptist and John the Disciple. While other churches may say they are Bible and conservative orientated, they too have moved away from the Bible with a fixation on business and consumer models for ministry, seeking a consumer approach to church, relying on strategies for growth instead of the pursuit of love, trust, and obedience to our Lord. Or, they are, as James tells us, merely reading the Word, not doing as it says (James 1:22). 

Remember, God desires us to be transformed agents of His Work and Word!  

How is your church accomplishing this? If it is not, your church is not following the Lord, it is not following The Person; rather, you are following a person or trend or worse! 

What does Bible illiteracy give us? A failed church and a meaningless life. As our churches give what they think are eloquent and edifying discourses, they are, in fact, delivering empty words and the image of a divine bell hop, not the Holy LORD whom we worship, lean on, and learn from and with whom we discourse.

 

 

Building a Church that Points to and Honors Christ PVIII

Incarnational Churches are aware of their Eternal Covenant  

Because of Christ’s incarnation, work, and sacrifice, He takes the place of our debt of sin and fulfills the old covenant and the blood sacrifice, which was temporary and flawed, to atone for our sin. Now, we can go directly to God, person-to-Person. God renews His relationship with us, His people, and gives us an age of grace in Christ by faith alone (Ex. 24:8; Deut. 30:11-14; Psalm 37:31; 40:8; 119:11; Isa. 51:7; 55:3; 61:8; Jer. 31:31; 32:40; Ezek. 37:26; Rom. 6:9; Heb. 8:8-13; 9:11-22). 

A Name for Jesus in the Hebrews text is our Great Shepherd, meaning He is the One who leads, equips, and guides us—as we all desperately need. It is our call to hear His voice and obey as a good sheep does in order to be fed and not be eaten by predators. And who and what are our predators? Our wayward ways of all infighting by our pride, and the fact that when the sheep go unfed, they bite each other. For us to be in the safety of faith, we not only need to be in Christ, we have to obey Him. This is a result of our intimate relationship with Him that is synergistically touching all those who come into His Home. We know Him, He knows us, and we do what He says. We are concerned with what concerns Him, and we act accordingly. Like sheep, we can’t lead others or ourselves without being forever lost and unfed (Psalm 23; Isa. 63:11; Jer. 23:1; 31:34; Ezek. 34:6-16, 31; Hos. 6:6; John 10:1-8; 16:13-15; Rom. 10:7).  

For our church to work well, we need to be taught and encouraged to grow so we can be our best, to reach out and to worship and function in humility and encouragement.  

In so doing, we support and remind one another to remain in Christ and not fall away. We do this as we honor the superiority of Christ and hear God’s call so we can venture into Christian maturity. The bottom line of an Incarnational Church is that we are not just the means of the communication of the Message of God; we are also the message to those who do not know Him. Because we are His work, we are His Gospel in action as an example that communicates far more than any book, program, or speaker or evangelist. We present and demonstrate not just the Jesus who lived, but also the Jesus who lives in us (Col. 1; Phil. 2:13; 2 Pet. 1:3).  

The Incarnational Church produces a fellowship filled with real purpose and inspiration because we are rooted in the life of our Lord. As a result, people are treated in the parameters of Fruit and by people of character, as maturity is sought so everyone feels loved, appreciated, treasured, and encouraged because they are so—discipled and involved by mentoring before they are deployed in ministry. This is what a “Christ life” looks like before “Church life” is fully engaged. Thus, the leadership top down is producing a church authentic in spiritual maturity by its involvement in Christ so that the people are inspired to be devoted, as in caught up in Christ and with one another to be more worthy in and for the faith. In so doing, we are all making Him known in the world too. The key to making this happen is how people are cared for before they are deployed; the equipping and encouraging must always continue. The antagonist to this is our pride, apathy, or manipulation, seeking to connive, posturing ones agenda over others, and/or absent from God’s precepts, call, or love. The Incarnational Church shows the kind of direction that sees Christ glorified as our tempers and temperaments come in line with His guidelines. So our church—your church—is a collection of imitators of Christ so we go in the direction of the possibilities of His lead. And, we can indeed do this if we dare stretch beyond what we think we can do or where we can go, and seek where and what Christ has for us, even with our limitations and frailty (John 14:21-22; 1 Corinthians 12:7; Colossians 4:2-5; 1 John 1:2). 

Hebrews ends with this final exhortation: pray and live honorably so God may produce even more in you. Remember your fellow Christian workers and pray for and support them. May the God of peace who saved you continue to equip you. May you produce effectual fruit for the glory of Christ, our Great Shepherd. To God be the glory!

Building a Church that Points to and Honors Christ P VII

Incarnational Churches live as a response to what Christ has done for us!

If you love Jesus, then you are to love others too. Hebrews is almost written as a letter of recommendation to encourage the hearers to continue in the faith and not give up, and to obey their leaders, because if they do not, they will face dire problems. What they were going through then was nothing like what would come later. The author, inspired by God, advised them (and us) to “shape up” so we could grow through it with joy and not melt in bitterness. Our living faith, that God gives and builds on along with our efforts, has more of a purpose than most of us will ever see or realize. Take God’s warning about negating your spiritual development or neglecting what He gives or where He calls. If we refuse to allow His work, then our faith and the future He has for us will not be received. We will limit our sanctification and cut ourselves off from God’s reward for being faithful and fruitful; we may even fall to bad or natural consequences for refusing His guidance or the fellowship of others. Just think about how many churches in the U.S. close each year—over four thousand. Thus, we have to see our call to be responsible for one another so each can encourage and equip others, helping them when they slip or are about to slip (Psalm 137: 5-6; 147:2; Isa 62:5; Rom. 12-14; Gal. 4-5; 6:24; Eph. 4-5; Heb. 10:10; Rev. 21: 2-4, 9-27). 

With responsibility comes obedience and listening—a call to obey your leaders.

This may not be popular in a day when we are conditioned to challenge and even disrespect authority, but here we are called to respect authority and to care for and keep careful watch over the people as shepherds, because leaders will be held to account. So, to make our church incarnational, make a group effort with some top down leadership, so we can heed the call and submit to those in authority with value and respect. In this way, we can thrive, enjoy orderliness, and learn from others. In contrast, a person with a lack of faith will not respect others because the emptiness where faith is supposed to be is filled with pride and even self-destruction, worry, and stress that lead a person nowhere good. This, of course, does not mean we submit to dictatorial or dysfunctional leadership (Isa. 21:8; Jer, 23:4; Ezek. 3:17; 33:6; 35:7; Hab. 2:1; Acts 20:28; Heb. 13:7; 1 Pet. 5:2-4; 3 John 9-10). 

Christianity is community; we are all mutually dependent upon one another and must act accordingly with goodness to one another so we can show Him effectively. 

As Christians, we are all priests to one another as we collectively rely on Christ and minster to one another. In the desire to pursue Christ and His precepts, we must be careful that we honor Him and not cause others to stray from Him. This must include our devotion and surrender to Christ, for only in Him—by Word and Prayer—and being held accountable by others will our conscience be clear. Even in the face of struggles and hardships, we can live honorably, by our mutual respect and focus on God as comfort! In contrast, if we just live our lives with the attitude of how things affect “me” and not “others,” then we are living with the devil, and not with God (Rom. 15: 33: 16:20; 2 Cor. 1:12; 13:11; Phil. 4:9, 18; 1 Thess. 5:23; 2 Thess. 3:16; Heb. 4:16; James 1:27)!