Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Present, Ready, Relevant

2018 sure flew by. It seems like every year goes by faster and faster. I suppose it could be because I’m older and older but that probably isn’t it because a lot of our church members are younger and they say the same thing. The fact remains, when we reached December, half way through the school year again, with Christmas in tow, it came as somewhat of a shock. Who knows what tomorrow will bring? What follows are some prediction based primarily in Scripture. People will continue to chase after that which makes them feel better. Some will go after speed of service or the praise of others, money, members of the opposite sex… a host of other things. Some will mock those who have found true meaning in Christ. Some will challenge the very fiber of proper living, arguing that fundamentals should be reinterpreted in light of a modern age. Some others, with the best of intentions, will become defensive and preach a truth that is only for this present age but will fade and die when the current dilemmas are replaced by new and future debates. Some things will stay the same. God’s people will remain firm. They will believe Him for His promises despite what appears to be a universal moral drift toward wickedness. God’s true people will do what God’s people have always done. They will wait for Him to act in His way and at His time. They will strive to walk in Righteousness. They will learn to walk closer with God. Do we change or do we stay the same? If we are not careful we are in danger of becoming the old guard, resistant to change in the face of reality. On the other hand if we are not careful we could be whisked along with a large part of conservative Christianity into, “fighting for what we believe in.” The fact is that the lies of this generation-the lies that they have swallowed and the lies that they have concocted- are not original, just repackaged. We must be new and being made new daily but we must not fall into the trap of fluctuating so much that historians could rightly dismiss our efforts as limited to this context. We must cling to the solid truths of Scripture while increasing our understanding of its application so that we are not left answer-less for a searching people. We must overcome the challenge of connecting with the people around us- a people more and more willing to allow division to exist. We must reach out to neighbors in a day when neighbors never see one another and willingly accept and embrace the distance between them. We must speak in a language that can be understood without changing the subject matter to be for or against the specific falsehoods we face. God does not care about, nor did He write the Bible to be, a good answer for the challenges of the opposition. The Bible is simply the truth, the truth about what happened, the truth about what happens, and the truth about what will happen. As we go into 2019 then, let us remain the same in the face of the tactics of the enemy AND become progressively better at applying Scripture to our everyday battles. Dozens of generations before us have had to adapt and to open themselves to God and His way. Far smaller numbers were successful than might have been hoped. Let us endure patiently and at the same time work diligently. In this way, we will be present, relevant, and ready.

Friday, December 14, 2018

Does a Christian Need Church?

I had a dear friend of mine disagree with me sharply as to whether the Christian needed to be in the church or not. We quoted some verses and the end of our conversation was that he was unconvinced. He went his way which didn't work out all that well and I went mine. He's working his way back into the church now. That doesn't mean I was right or that I am smart or anything like that. I am an ordinary person with a lot of flaws. I tend to believe that that is who God wants working for Him. We are supposed to bring our stuff and let Him deal with it. We are supposed to lay these things down at His feet so to speak. That being said, I could get some very important things wrong in my life time and indeed in my walk with Christ. Still, whenever you quote the New Testament or whenever you think about the actions of the apostles realize that these things were done in the context of the local church. These things were written to, preserved by, and enacted by the local church. The universal church was the the universal church because it was the sum of the local churches and those who were finding their way into the local churches. Each of us has Jesus to help us get along in life. But I don't read that He died for all of us and suddenly convert to Universalist theology. The church is the "it" that the gates of hell will not prevail against (Matt 16:18) and we are in this together. The church is not an organization and rules and democracy can easily screw up what God is trying to do in His people especially if people are not walking with Him in the first place. No amount of rules or democratic processes can make a group of people into a church. Jesus has to do that. Incidentally, Jesus seems to have the complete control over what church remains a church if you think about the "putting your lamp out," statements in revelation. That bottom-line is this, if we are His body and He is the head then we had better get working together under His direction. There's a reason why God did not put your parts in mason jars and connect them by long-range circuitry. You are meant to be a cohesive unit and so is the body of His people. These and other truths lead us to be loving, forgiving, merciful, and kind toward other members of the church while His holy nature leads us to subject ourselves to the accountability of others. He is a great God and Has designed a great system in which you may deny your need to participate (and that you are needed) and He allows that freedom. However, while He allows freedom, He has expectations. Whether it is New Heights Fellowship Baptists Church of Toledo or not, you are meant to function as part of a local body of believers. One of our Personal Trainers may be able to help you sort out which body, what is a body and what isn't, or you may just want to listen to the voice of God and let Him point you in the right direction. We are willing. He is patient. But it's time. Please accept the truth about Jesus Christ and begin anew today to live your life for Him.