From the monthly archives:

August 2008

The Purpose of the Church

August 25, 2008

purpose_of_the_church

Christianity means community through Jesus Christ
and in Jesus Christ.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Christianity means community through Jesus Christ and in Jesus Christ.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Have you ever been wounded in a church?  Have you ever been mistreated, abused, or sorely treated to the point you wonder where the love is?

I have.

In fact, I have not been in a church that has not hurt me.  I have been talked about, lied to, gossiped against, slandered, and treated more like a slave than a saint.  I have been ignored when I hurt, made fun of when I’m sad, and misunderstood when I am alone.

But to be honest, through all of the lack of love I have witnessed, God has used those same things to teach me grace, forgiveness, and humility.  Through all of the spots, stains, and wrinkles, I love the church.

Others do not.  In fact, I have heard from several lately who have written off the church because of hypocrisy that is certainly evident.  It has caused me to examine my commitment to make sure I’m not more committed to a man-made monument rather than to a God-ordained movement.  Rick Howard would say, “God begins a movement, Man builds a monument, and soon it becomes a mausoleum of dead men’s bones.”  How true.  And I for one don’t want to be fooled.

So I offer to you some thoughts to you concerning the church, His church.  Here is what the Bible says is the purpose of the God’s church.  How does your church stack up?

The church is to make know the manifest wisdom of God… “This is my life work, to bring out in the open and make plain what God has been doing in secret and behind the scenes all along.  Through Christians like yourselves gathered in churches, this extraordinary plan of God is becoming know and talked about even among the angels!” Ephesians 3:8-10, The Message.

It is a marvelous fact that God has put His Word in the mouths of men in order that it may be communicated to other men.  When one person is changed by the Word, he tells another who is also changed.  The church of Jesus is the mouthpiece for the marvelous and miraculous Word of God.

This is not about preaching on Sunday morning.  I have learned more from the give and take of Godly fellowship than sitting and listening to a sermon.  If you are counting on preachers and pastors to exclusively preach the gospel you are lazy and uninvolved.  Get busy.  It’s your job as well as mine.

The church is to be a reflection of Jesus’ love… “For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as the Lord does the church.” Ephesians 5:29

No one is allowed to attack and belittle my bride.  Of all the graces God has given to me, Jan is the most precious of all.  She is my best friend and confidant and no one is allowed to put her down or make fun of her.  And she knows it.  She trusts that I will keep her safe because she is precious to me.

And the church is to Christ what my bride is to me.  He protects and loves her.  He waits expectantly to receive her into His embrace.  His words to her are tender and caring.  Yet so often the bride of Christ ignores the wooing of the Master and pursues the attention of the world instead.  Like a bride who expends all her energy on a wedding instead of preparing herself for marriage, the church often appears to have her eyes on the wrong goal.

Watch a bride whose heart is to be the delight of her soon-to-be husband.  When that husband is submitted to God and seeks to love his bride as Jesus loves the church the whole relationship comes alive.  The church is to respond to Jesus’ love and reflect that love through service and an open invitation to the world to “come and see.”

The church is to serve as the body with Jesus as the head…”And He is the head of the body, the church…” Colossians 1:18

It is unnatural for the body to disobey the head.  If there is an erratic, independent, self-producing cell in the body, it is called “cancer.”  If a body does not respond when the head gives orders, it is called “paralysis.”  If there is unwillingness or an inability to obey it is called a “sickness.”  The body does what the head commands and the two work in a unison that is marvelous to behold.

In the church there is a divine order and it is this.  Jesus is the head and everyone else is to serve the head.  The church does not need leaders; the church needs servants who are Godly examples.  Paul chose the word “slave” more often than not to describe his calling in the church.  Pastors and elders are to be the chief servants in the church and by their example are to lead all others.  When submission to both the head and body are minimized, the church is incapable of fulfilling the mission God has called us to.

Enough of sinful and cancerous independence!  Enough of haughty rulership!  Strive to submit to Jesus and His body.

The church is the household of the living God…

“I write so that you may know how to conduct yourself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth.”  1 Timothy 3:15

Bonhoeffer wrote, “If we do not give thanks daily for the Christian fellowship in which we have been placed, even where there is no great experience, not discoverable riches, but much weakness, small faith, and difficulty; if on the contrary, we only keep complaining to God that everything is so paltry and petty, so far from what we expected, then we hinder God from letting our fellowship grow according to the measure and riches which are there for us all in Jesus Christ.”

You would not allow a family member or an uninvited guest who came into your home to constantly criticize the decor, food, or other family members.  Yet for some, dissecting the church and her people are the favorite pastime.

Yet the church is “God’s household.”  The statement does not mean that God lives in the church but that the place He loves to receive and give to His family is in the multitude of weekly gatherings that lift up His name and seek to please Him.  Stop trying to complicate it with a mystic view of the church.  When people gather to praise God and receive from Him, it is church.  The problem is not what is to be considered church as much as the conduct that goes on in the church.  Learn to conduct yourselves properly because God’s church is the storehouse of His truth.

There is a special awareness of spiritual reality that is going on in the world right now.  This year has begun with excitement and anticipation due to events that are open invitations to non-believers to hear the gospel.  And it is the church of Jesus – the body of Christ, the reflection of His love, the storehouse of His manifold wisdom – that is uniquely designed to care for them.

If you’re still stuck in old wounds, you’ll miss out on participating in the grand design of God.  Give up your hurts, forgive and be forgiven, find your place in the church and serve God.  And when you see Him face to face, you’ll do it without regrets.



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Remodel

August 18, 2008

remodel

Years ago, we bought an old house that was the classic fixer-upper.  But the real problem was with a baby on the way, the tiny house was instantly too small.  That meant that along with the remodeling was the necessity for adding on.  Ever the economists, we found a used lumber yard and began buying old lumber, hauling it home, and re-nailing it in place.
It was the longest and hardest project that I have ever tackled.  Not only was it difficult to cull the wood from the lumber yard, but each board had to be retooled into a useable piece of wood.  I vowed to never do it that way again.
Years later, we built our own home with the help of many friends who oversaw my amateur carpentry.  They would tell me when I needed to hire a job done or do it myself and lend a hand in the evenings and on the weekends.  But the best part was that it was  all new wood.  No nails to pull or paint to strip.  And even thought it was a tough and stressful six months, we accomplished more in those months than in the year that I spent picking through the ruins of old houses and reconstructing our first home.
What I learned was this.  Even though it might look easy, remodeling is the hardest type of construction there is.  And used lumber?  It is the toughest building material to use!  While a house becomes dilapidated by neglect, it is almost easier to tear it down and start over than to try to fix what is wrong.  The time and money saved on building from scratch many times out-weighs the rose-colored idea of restoring a long neglected house.  Take it from me.  I’ve been there.
Now let me apply this scenario to you.  Recently, I’ve been working with some folks who have had a life changing experience with the Lord.  Yes, they have been saved, born again, and will carry their decision to follow Christ into eternity.  And even though there are the ups and downs of being a new Christian, the joys of discovery are far beyond the difficulties of learning to walk.  It is what I would call ‘new construction.”
Tragically though, along with the joys of “new construction” has been the inevitable “remodels” that are a constant in church life.  Now don’t misunderstand.  I am not talking about minor repair work or spiritual upkeep or even the occasional “adding on” that takes place in all of our lives.  After all, we all need to expand our spiritual homes and do the constant maintenance that makes for a comfortable abode.
What I’m talking about is the restoration of destroyed lives.  Lives that have placed great effort in constructing a nice facade while the inside of the building has been sorely neglected.  Lives run down by the secret sins so often hidden behind the closed doors of our soul.
Sooner or later, the roof crashes in or the floor buckles under the weight of rotted debris.  The need for restoration becomes obvious.  It is just a shame that the neglect has gone on so long.
Let me speak very plain about what causes the foundations to rot under so many today.  When I say “secret sin” I am referring to those things that we think we are getting by with but instead eat away at the foundation of our lives like hungry termites.  Things like pornography, adultery, alcohol, drugs, and immorality are certainly the most common supposedly hidden sins.  But below the obvious are what drives them into the soul with the force of a sledge hammer.  Things like pride, anger, lust, and selfishness are the dry rot of many a Christian life.
Many try to ignore the signs of swarming sin that infests their spiritual home.  The restoration is costly and difficult.  The tearing down and cleaning out is painful.  And no, this kind of dilapidation cannot be glossed over with plaster and shiny new paint.  Too often, it takes a wrecking ball of pain to even begin the work.  Having to retool the abused building blocks of faith is much more difficult than you can imagine.
So don’t let it happen to you… or your spiritual neighbor for that matter.  Don’t think for a moment that the termites of sin will go away on their own.  Don’t just keep emptying the buckets that catch the rain from the sin soaked roof.
Get to work now and repair before you have to restore.  Because diligent soul maintenance now will keep your spiritual house from being condemned later.

Years ago, we bought an old house that was the classic fixer-upper.  But the real problem was with a baby on the way, the tiny house was instantly too small.  That meant that along with the remodeling was the necessity for adding on.  Ever the economists, we found a used lumber yard and began buying old lumber, hauling it home, and re-nailing it in place.

It was the longest and hardest project that I have ever tackled.  Not only was it difficult to cull the wood from the lumber yard, but each board had to be retooled into a useable piece of wood.  I vowed to never do it that way again.

Years later, we built our own home with the help of many friends who oversaw my amateur carpentry.  They would tell me when I needed to hire a job done or do it myself and lend a hand in the evenings and on the weekends.  But the best part was that it was  all new wood.  No nails to pull or paint to strip.  And even thought it was a tough and stressful six months, we accomplished more in those months than in the year that I spent picking through the ruins of old houses and reconstructing our first home.

What I learned was this.  Even though it might look easy, remodeling is the hardest type of construction there is.  And used lumber?  It is the toughest building material to use!  While a house becomes dilapidated by neglect, it is almost easier to tear it down and start over than to try to fix what is wrong.  The time and money saved on building from scratch many times out-weighs the rose-colored idea of restoring a long neglected house.  Take it from me.  I’ve been there.

Now let me apply this scenario to you.  Recently, I’ve been working with some folks who have had a life changing experience with the Lord.  Yes, they have been saved, born again, and will carry their decision to follow Christ into eternity.  And even though there are the ups and downs of being a new Christian, the joys of discovery are far beyond the difficulties of learning to walk.  It is what I would call ‘new construction.”

Tragically though, along with the joys of “new construction” has been the inevitable “remodels” that are a constant in church life.  Now don’t misunderstand.  I am not talking about minor repair work or spiritual upkeep or even the occasional “adding on” that takes place in all of our lives.  After all, we all need to expand our spiritual homes and do the constant maintenance that makes for a comfortable abode.

What I’m talking about is the restoration of destroyed lives.  Lives that have placed great effort in constructing a nice facade while the inside of the building has been sorely neglected.  Lives run down by the secret sins so often hidden behind the closed doors of our soul.

Sooner or later, the roof crashes in or the floor buckles under the weight of rotted debris.  The need for restoration becomes obvious.  It is just a shame that the neglect has gone on so long.

Let me speak very plain about what causes the foundations to rot under so many today.  When I say “secret sin” I am referring to those things that we think we are getting by with but instead eat away at the foundation of our lives like hungry termites.  Things like pornography, adultery, alcohol, drugs, and immorality are certainly the most common supposedly hidden sins.  But below the obvious are what drives them into the soul with the force of a sledge hammer.  Things like pride, anger, lust, and selfishness are the dry rot of many a Christian life.

Many try to ignore the signs of swarming sin that infests their spiritual home.  The restoration is costly and difficult.  The tearing down and cleaning out is painful.  And no, this kind of dilapidation cannot be glossed over with plaster and shiny new paint.  Too often, it takes a wrecking ball of pain to even begin the work.  Having to retool the abused building blocks of faith is much more difficult than you can imagine.

So don’t let it happen to you… or your spiritual neighbor for that matter.  Don’t think for a moment that the termites of sin will go away on their own.  Don’t just keep emptying the buckets that catch the rain from the sin soaked roof.

Get to work now and repair before you have to restore.  Because diligent soul maintenance now will keep your spiritual house from being condemned later.



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When God Is Silent

August 11, 2008

Where is God? I mean it. Where is He? I meet a lot of people who ask that question in one of a number of ways.  Most are well meaning, by the way, not heretical kooks who scream at the sky every time life gets to be a nag. You hear the question in hospital […]

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Pure Gold

August 7, 2008

It is gold, not silver. I had never noticed it before, but this morning, I turned to look at the sun coming up in the east and saw it for the first time.  The morning light rose through the thunderheads and the lining of the billowing clouds was gold, not silver. The morning sun did […]

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