Occasionally, I come across an article stating reasons to either choose a church or make a decision to leave a church. The recommendations typically look something like this. Don’t leave for selfish reasons. Find a church that honors Christ, teaches the Bible and takes fellowship seriously. All that is well and good.
Over at Core Christianity, I thought this was a good list on 4 questions to ask when looking for a church;
What does the church believe about Scripture?
What is the church’s confession of faith?
Is the church man-centered or God-centered?
Is Christ faithfully preached each week?
But one thing I’ve discovered in my varied church experience and many years of being a Christian is that it’s not always that simple. You can have those standard elements present but there still be a hole. Just because the preacher uses the Bible doesn’t mean he’s being faithful to Scripture. Just because he quotes Bible verses doesn’t mean he’s preaching Christ. Just because people gather, doesn’t mean there is genuine love in the body. Just because there is evangelism doesn’t mean the church is being faithful to its whole task.
There’s also the varied expressions of church practice. Aside from the absolute essentials of the faith to which any Christian must be committed, there are questions to be asked about the way in which church is conducted. What does that church believe about the sacraments? The practice of spiritual gifts? The make up (liturgy) of the service? Continue reading
During Holy Week, I read a devotional centered around Judas’ betrayal of Jesus in John 13:21-32. The premise of the devotional was how much Jesus loved Judas, even though he knew he would betray him and he did. Here is a snippet that I think speaks to heart of the devotional;
It is one thing to consider what Jesus would do in our situations. It is quite another to put ourselves into his life situations. When we do this, we focus on Jesus and the contexts of his decisions, instead of our own. In John 13:26, Jesus is serving the person he had just identified as his betrayer. If we were in the presence of someone we knew had planned harm to us, could we do the same? Jesus served Judas, literally and figuratively, without resentment or any effort to “get even.” Now that is love.
Our brokenness can cause us to struggle with showing love. We could feel and behave as if an “other” was a personified WMD (weapon of mass destruction) aimed at us, making us feel MAD (mutually assured destruction) in response. But we do not have to wonder WWJD. We know what Jesus did. We have his road map. Yet, his path for us may still cause us some internal struggle. We need not, even as good Christians, ignore that struggle. It is part of the process. Even Jesus was “greatly distressed in spirit, and testified, ‘I tell you the solemn truth, one of you will betray me’” (John 13:21). However, his love was greater.
Now I gleaned from the gist of the devotional that Jesus is showing us how to love our enemies. However, I found this angle a bit short sighted. Yes, Jesus did demonstrate love for Judas and overlooked the offense. But to leave it at that kind of misses the point of what was transpiring. Jesus saw Judas. He saw the betrayal. He turned the other cheek. Why? Because he saw more than Judas. He saw us. He was set to offer himself over as a sacrificial lamb to redeem those whom the Father called into his kingdom. There was something more at stake than dealing with Judas but to be the deal for mankind so that we could know the Father and reflect his glory. Continue reading
If you’ve followed me for any length of time, you’ll know at times I’ve felt the pangs of singleness and wondered if the Lord would be so gracious to grant a simple prayer I prayed back in Fall 2004, a few months after my husband passed away. The prayer was that when it came to relationships, I had pretty much only known wrong and I desired to know something right. By right, I mean first and foremost a Christ-centered relationship, followed by mutual respect and shared values. Though I was married, it’s not something I’ve known and I’ll just leave it at that.
Recently, the Lord has been so gracious to bring a wonderful man into my life. Funny thing is that the prayers I had prayed for a godly mate had a diminished a bit as other areas in my life rose to the forefront and which occupied more of my prayers than this long-standing request. To be honest, I was getting to the point of wondering if God just wanted me to stay single and praying that I be content with that. Needless to say, this latest development kind of took me by surprise.
Little did I know this past Christmas eve Sunday, that tall, dark and handsome visitor to my church was there specifically to meet me. It wasn’t long after the service ended that someone came up to me and indicated this gentleman had been asking for me by name. I figured it had to do with my blog. Sure enough, I learned that he was visiting from out of town (though he used to live in the DFW area and attended another PCA church) and he was sent a link to an article I wrote. Shortly after that, his friend (playing match makers of sorts) sent him another article. Why? Because he knew the things I wrote about would resonate with this gentleman…and of course, he pointed out that I was single. Thankfully, I only knew at the time of our meeting that he had come across my blog and was very appreciative of the kinds of things I wrote about. I figured he just happened to be visiting the church and since he knew I was there, asked about me. I would come to find out several weeks later, after an initial “coffee” ask, phone communications and another trip back to Dallas, that he intentionally came to church that day to see if he could meet me. Continue reading
By now, the buzz around Black Panther is pretty evident. Not only has the movie busted the box office wide open by surpassing the $1 billion mark in just a few short weeks of release, but it is creating the same kind of iconic fandom garnered by Star Wars and Lord of the Rings. Not being a fan of the Marvel movie genre, at first I was ambivalent to see it. But as word got out, I got the sense that in a way, this would be more than a movie. I have seen it twice so far and loved it!
Now, I do think some folks are going too far and I’m speaking of Christians when I say this. After all, it is just a movie. I’m hearing of sermon and Bible study series being wrapped around Black Panther themes. I’m not sure why we have to do this. But I’m also mindful that Lord of the Rings baptized many a Christian message. For consistency sake, if LOTR was ok for sermon illustrations and such, then Black Panther should be no exception unless of course, the Christian message is being changed to accommodate the movie. That’s a problem!
One of the issues where I believe Christians will find their most strident objections, is the film’s portrayal of ancestral African religion. Yes, I did grunt on these parts. However, to get stuck on this point, robs the film of an overarching messages I believe the film communicates. Make no mistake, those messages are compelling especially in light of our current cultural milieu. Over at Kaleoscope, I wrote about the dueling paradigms at work in the movie that seems to provoke some questions worth asking today. Check it out. Link is here.
To be sure, this was more than a just a movie.
Continuing on with the series, having laid the foundation in Genesis in Part 2, Part 3 will cover God’s revelation of himself through the exodus from Egypt, the provision of the Sinai covenant, and the march towards the land of promise. This portion of the Bible shows how God is gathering a people to himself, and his expectations for them as his people. My main goal in this series is to demonstrate the cohesiveness of Scripture and seeing it as one seamless story. So as I move along, it’s important to keep the beginning of the story in mind to see what God is doing with respect to his creation.
With that, by way of review, from the fall of man, we must see God’s rescue of his creation as a unified plan beginning with the promise in Gen. 3:15. I also noted how God’s redemption is mediated through righteous representatives: Noah, Abraham, and his offspring and he is providing Through Abraham, God gave a specific promise for 4 things: 1) a land to live in; 2) numerous descendants; 3) blessing for himself; 4) blessing through him for all the nations of the world.
The tribes of Israel form and are allotted land. Their presence in the physical territory is meant to bring a blessing to surrounding nations. Does that still hold? The church has been divided on that issues. I’ll discuss that more when we get to the New Testament. Continue reading