I look at 'em.. well.. it's more than "look at 'em" it's more like "look for 'em".. I enjoy reading the signs of the churches that I pass on my way to wherever..lately I have been driving back and forth to a job that is pretty far away.. down little country back-roads- so I pass a LOT of old country churches. I love them! Sometimes , the signs tell me: " Established in 1873" , or " Gospel Singing This week- All are invited". "Pray for Our Nation" is a popular "posting"- and a GOOD ONE- we need to pray... without ceasing!You can always tell when a community is about to vote on the sale of Alcohol- That's when the CREATIVE stuff gets put on the sign..." Be not decieved- Wine is a mocker"... I saw one church sign that tried to get the voters to think WWPD- What would Paul Do? They summed it up like this :" PAUL VOTED NO".( I actually think Paul would have voted NO to using that Store brand Grape Juice for Communion- ca'nt you guys spring for some WELCH'S?). cool stuff.. you gotta admit.. Here's another one: " Walmart is not the ONLY SAVING PLACE", or how bout,"This is not your Aunt Gertrude's Church" ( hey !!!!wait a minute...MY AUNT GERTRUDE was a baptized, catechised, and sanctified Presbyterian- I WANNA GO to her church, thank you very much)... sometimes these signs make us smile, or laugh, or even CRINGE... yep sometimes the most blasphemous lines are posted on these structures ... like this one, " He feels the Nails, every time I fail" This is probably the worst.. because it goes against the very heart of the Gospel; The TOTAL PRICE was paid on the Cross- remember" It is FINISHED" ? This idea that Jesus suffers( or is sacrificed) over and over again for our sin is nothing short of heresy.. Dear Reader, IT IS DONE... The Lord Jesus took ALL of The Father's wrath upon Him , HIS blood was poured out and the Price was paid... there is NOTHING you can do to add to that payment- If you trust in Jesus alone for salvation, you need to get your eyes off yourself.. and look to Jesus... " stop thinking about what YOU DO.. it's not about that.. it's ALL about what HE HAS DONE...Once an old man at an airport was being witnessed to by some young enthusiastic college students. They were convinced that if someone was a true Christian, they would know the time and place when they trusted Jesus. They asked the elderly gentleman, " Sir, WHEN you were SAVED??" the old man thought for a minute.. scratched his head and said, " I think it was about 2000 years ago"!!! Dear Friends, this gentleman was SO right.. that's when it ALL happened... That perfect Lamb was slain and He secured the salvation of HIS people- Thats when we were saved.. and thats when He felt the nails... but He felt so much worse than the nails.... HE felt the Wrath of the Father.... for us... I LOVE those Church signs .. but sometimes I want to stop and "re-arrange some of the letters" how bout this... " Jesus Said........ It IS FINISHED" hey, I know it does'nt rhyme.. but it's a beautiful message, the most wonderful message that has ever been proclaimed...
Saturday, May 23, 2009
Saturday, May 9, 2009
I was thinking about my friend, Harold recently- He was the FIRST Christian brother who tried to tell me about Mysterion. You see , Harold and I were members of a church that was having some struggles( news alert- that happens sometimes) Some disagreements caused a rift between a couple of the Elders- and it was bothering Harold( by the way, I NEVER called him by his first name- he was older than me.. and I AM a southern boy- he was a MR. )Well, One Saturday night I was at Harold's house and we were talking about the recent problems at our church and he remarked, " You Know, we are having Communion at Church tomorrow.. and I really believe that God is going to do something miraculous.. and heal the relationships of those men" You see, Harold KNEW something.. He knew that God does something special for us when we celebrate HIS SUPPER.. it is a nurturing, faith strengthening ordinance- and that God wants to use that time to heal us and to meet with us in a special way.. it's a MYSTERY-mysterion.. or a Holy Secret that God reveals to His people. I did'nt know about "Mysterion".. I thought that Communion was just memorial... an empty symbol that just reminded us of Jesus' sacrifice.. I did NOT know that God wants to use it strengthen, heal , and nurture us.It's not only a Gospel Mystery, holy secret- It's also a Sacrament( more about this later).Thats the problem with so many believers today- they do'nt have a SACRAMENTAL VIEW of the CHURCH- thats why SO MANY are running to " The Shack" and all the books that seem to "bash" organized "religion"... They ARE looking for something that helps them to "connect" with God on a deeper level, they are longing for a "taste" of Heaven in this life, they know that their worship time at the church has not "fed " this hunger... so they run to and fro looking for something else.. they sense that something is mising at "church" and THEY ARE RIGHT.. and We( the Elders) of the local Churches are to Blame.. we have not properly encouraged a Sacramental view of the church. The Word, Sacramentum can refer to a Pledge, a downpayment, a sample, an oath, or a Holy Secret. In Reformed circles, we refer to Baptism and The Lord's Supper as sacraments. Augustine said that they were" Visible signs of an invisible grace" We believe that there is something special that happens when we participate in the sacraments. Remember when Paul told the church that they better be careful about celebrating communion( do'nt be using grape juice... not really.. just kiddin) Paul told them that their improper attitude caused some to "be sick.. and even some have fallen asleep( died)... DEAR READER.. if this was an EMPTY SYMBOL ,.do you think that people would be getting sick and dying??? NO... it is not empty.. it is filled with POWER... and it is one of the ways that God uses to strengthen us, to empower us, and to heal our wounded souls.. we in the Reformed Churches have said that we believe these things .. but we have not shown it by our actions... many in Presbyterian churches in this country celebrate communion only 4 times a year! Is this acting in accordance with the admonition of Jesus to " celebrate this often until I Come" ??Is this consisitent with the teaching that "we are feeding upon Christ SPIRITUALLY" with the Bread and the Cup- If We think "sacramentally" we will begin having Communion more often in our local churches... Believers will be strengthened by God, the "thing" that they have been longing for will be in their hands. as they feed upon Jesus and he gives them more Grace, more power, and a sense of His prescence.THIS IS WHAT"S MISSING... and we ( Elders, Pastors, leaders) are to blame... We MUST TEACH the truth about Communion, and we MUST observe it often- we told people that Worship at the local Church is the time when they will be strengthened and fed... and we have given them only appetizers: A few really upbeat modern sounding "praise songs", some "special music", a little of the Word, and a closing hymn... we leave them hungry...they go away yearning for more and we deny them the great feast that Jesus wants to give them- a SPIRITUAL FEEDING upon his BODY AND BLOOD"( Ok Bible scholars, I am NOT talking about transubstantiation NOR Consubstantiation.. GOOGLE some of this stuff- it will be fun).. NO WONDER people are TIRED of going through the motions. No wonder that they are longing for more... When God's people are FED and strengthened by the Sacraments(along with the WORD, and Prayer), they will experience the "more"... they will have a supernatural sense of HIS prescence..Their souls will be healed... and they will be equipped to "work through" the challenges that we face in loving each other with a forgiving, agape love.... THOSE ELDERS that Harold was praying for??? They eventually reconciled... I Believe the seeds of healing were planted that Lord's Day during Communion.... and Harold???? well.. he went to be with the Lord many years ago... and He is havingTRUE Communion with the One who gave His Body and Blood so that we might be forgiven and live forever... it's a Holy Secret.... but God has told you ALL about it... He spoke to us through His Son many years ago... and he is still speaking ... He is whispering this Holy Secret, this mysterion; to you right now... can you hear Him???
Sunday, May 3, 2009
In last weeks episode, we saw that all the fuss over " the Shack" was really unfounded- it's a Novel.. and I reminded you that YES, the author wrote the book as a way to deal with the questions, "Where is God when things are tough?- and "Does God REALLY love me?" The author did some creative maneuvers to show us that God is RIGHT THERE with us no matter what, AND YES , HE LOVES US WITH ALL OF HIS LOVE! I told you in part ONE that I enjoyed "The Shack".. SO.... here's part two- if you are going to read the book, you might want to change the channel.. because I have got to get a little specific about some things- do'nt wanna spoil it for ya!.. ok, I will look away for a sec.... ok..back...- I warned you-here goes:The Writer of the Shack ( and lots of other Authors I have been reading lately) have "problems" with "organized Religion".. you have heard the arguments: Too INSTITUTIONALIZED... too much like a business,,, blah , blah... People ran to "the Shack" because they believe that the "traditional", organized Church is too much like.. uh... well.. it's too much like an ORGANIZATION... but I HAVE NEWS FOR YOU- we ca'nt escape the fact that THE BIBLE TEACHES AN ORGANIZED CHURCH- yep.. I said it( well, I actually typed it) .. Now Dear Friend, you are going to have to do some work here for me, help me out - get your Bible out.. and research this.. remember Gentle Jesus , Meek and Mild?? He taught that believers would be part of an ORGANIZED group that would NEED to EXERCISE DISCIPLINE( ok.. I will "give you this one: Matthew 18).. yep that's right.. brothers and sisters WILL SIN( disappoint each other, gossip, go on EGO TRIPS in the Church... ok .. think about that person at Church that did YOU WRONG... insert their SIN here_______.) SO... Jesus says that you have to work together to RESTORE your brother and THAT TAKES ORGANIZATION... yep.. we gotta work together- ALSO be sure to read ALL the scriptures that TALK ABOUT: ELDERS, DEACONS, directions on HOW to USE MONEY THAT'S Collected, directions on how to observe the LORD's Supper, How to obey THOSE THAT ARE OUR LEADERS in the CHURCH( ok.. another free one - Hebrews 13: 17)... WHAT IS SUPPOSED TO BE Happening DURING A WORSHIP SERVICE!!!SOUNDS uh... well.. sounds ORGANIZED to me- (I am glad that these guys writing these books criticizing organized "religion"are not against ORGANIZED PUBLISHING FIRMS who publish their books.. we'd miss out on some good reading..). Get the IDEA???Dear Friends, The NEW TESTAMENT IS CLEAR : Believers are supposed to be part of a LOCAL body that meets together for Worship, they are to have "leaders" : Teaching elders, Ruling Elders, Deacons,.. SORRY FRIEND.. having coffee at Starbucks with fellow Jesus followers, talking about " The Shack" is NO SUBSTITUTE for the ORGANIZED,LOCAL BODY of Christ- !Friends, we are going to have problems with our brothers and sisters in Christ. We are still sinners. Why do you think that the New Testament is filled with admonitions about LOVING each other, being patient with each other, forgiving one another?? It's all part of HIS plan. It did'nt start with Constantine helping Christians build cathedrals after legalizing Christianity.. really it did'nt... .It's all in HIS WORD.. and thats another thing.. ( I'm "ranting" huh?).. The author says that we put God in a box- by insisting that OUR PARTICULAR INTERPRETATION of the BIBLE is correct. He says that we should'nt do that.. we are "putting God in the pages of a Book" .. but let me tell you something friends.. the writer of the Shack presents the TRINITY in HIS novel.. WHERE DID HE GET THE IDEA for this ONE GOD IN THREE PERSONS?? HIS INTERPRETATION ??? HE APPEALS TO SCRIPTURE TO TELL US WHAT GOD IS LIKE!!! why should we trust his interpretation of this doctrine?? the Jehovah's witnesses have THEIR own ideas about the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit...The writer believes the "Traditional" "orthodox" teaching of the Trinity that is taught in the Scripture AND was "formulated" at the Council Of Chalcedon( 451 a.d.- thanks Mr. Mac).. Wait.. whats that word?? COUNCIL?? sounds like an ORGANIZED meeting to me.. with leaders... and an agenda....can anything good come out of organization?? Dear Friends.. We MUST work together as believers.. in Worship, in service, in ministry, AND IN formulating what we believe about the Bible... . I am so Blessed to be a member of a Church that has a Confession of Faith.. it's not enough to say " I believe the Bible"- EVERYBODY says that.. we have to discover what we believe about specific doctrines and join with like-minded believers.. it's essential for our growth and for the growth of the Kingdom... I KNOW exactly what so many Shack "fans" are saying when they complain about "traditional" Church services being dead, cold,and powerless- believers have not"connected with God" in a meaningful way"In the NEXT installment( sorry, ...) I will tell you HOW THE LOCAL CHURCH MISSED THE MARK, what needs to be done to bring power, meaning and life-giving GRACE back to the local congregation. ok... here's a hint: " MYSTERION" ... yep that's your clue.. and remember Greek students : Granville Sharp's Rule is very helpful when you leave " the Shack"