423:  The Breathtaking View of Christ

423: The Breathtaking View of Christ

One of the major failures of the church today is to downplay the place of Christ when we come together to worship.  Yes, you heard right.  We, hopefully unknowingly, often relegate Christ to the back pew or the second chair.  And who do we elevate in His place?  Usually the pastor or, often, the worship leader.

And when we come together as a church we have a tendency to preach on the “what’s” and “why’s” of the Scripture and seldom the “how’s”.  Think about it.  We know we are commanded to “present our bodies as a living sacrifice” (Rom. 12:1-2), but are never told exactly how to do that.  Did you ever wonder why?

We are commanded to “walk according to the Spirit” (Gal. 5:16), yet are never instructed on how to do that.  We know what it means and why it’s important.  But for some reason, our pastors fail to take our hands and show us exactly how to accomplish this command.  Why?

Is it because practical Christianity is not in vogue today?  Or could it be we have become a church made up of those who can tell us what to do but have never experienced it themselves?  Are we more like cowboys driving cattle from the rear than a shepherd leading from the front?

What are we to do?


Seven Things the Church Failed to Teach Me

Recently I was reading a blog by Frank Viola that shared these seven things the church never taught him.  And I couldn’t agree more.  Consider the following:

  1.  How to practically live by the Christ who dwells inside me.
  2.  How to practically learn how to hear the Lord’s voice beyond “pray and read your Bible.”
  3.  That church-as-we-know-it is drastically different from church-as-God-would-have-it.
  4.  What the gospel of the kingdom is and how radically it can alter a human life.
  5.  How deep the tentacles of the world system go and how to break free from them.
  6.  That God’s presence is extremely subtle most of the time.
  7.  How to find Christ in the Scriptures, including the entire Old Testament.

So in 2019, I have committed to teach the church I pastor the “how’s” of the Christian faith and to answer these, and other, practical questions about living for Him.  Will you join with me as we explore the breathtaking view of our Lord together?

The following is a study on the Breathtaking View of Christ found in Colossians 1:15-19 and 2 Colossians 2:9-10.

To download the slides for this message, click – HERE

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Twenty Strange Pastor Criticisms

Twenty Strange Pastor Criticisms

For a little Christmas cheer, I’ve listed below the latest actual pastor criticisms from church members.  And a special thanks to Thom Rainer for these.

  1. “You didn’t send me a thank you note for my thank you note.”  Thank you.
  2. “You are too happy!”  I’ll make a point of being a total grump around you.
  3. “I will leave the church if you don’t put tissue seat covers in the bathrooms!”  Please flush on the way out.
  4. “I would be happy to take your wife to the store to help her select some appropriate clothes.”  Please do, but don’t return.
  5. “I guess I have to die to get you to wear a suit and tie to church again.”  The pastor did so the next Sunday.  He’s waiting on the member to hold up his end of the deal.
  6. “Every sermon you preach is better than the next one.”  Thank you . . . no, wait.
  7. “Why do we have to follow something an apostle wrote 2,000 years ago?”  Yep, that Bible is overrated.
  8. “The VBS hot dogs are too cheap.”  What?  We got them at LifeWay!
  9. “You don’t tell enough jokes when you preach.”  Yes, I do. I mentioned your name in my last sermon.
  10. “You need to stop talking about making disciples.”  Yes, that criticism came from an elder.
  11. “When you changed the name from Sunday school to small groups, you took Jesus and the Bible out of the church!”  I agree.  Read Hezekiah 4:11.
  12. “You didn’t give good advice about the family vacuum.”  Now, that’s important.
  13. “I heard you are going to cancel Christmas.”  Yes, I consulted with the Grinch.
  14. “I don’t like the color of your beard hair.”  Thank you.  I plan to dye it pink.
  15. “Your hair color is too dark for someone in your profession.”  Don’t worry.  The more I hear from you, the grayer it gets.
  16. “Just because it’s in the Bible, you don’t have to talk about it.”  I try to be selective.
  17. “Your wife used the wrong spoon in the coleslaw at the church social.”  Thank you.  She has agreed to be in timeout from church for one year.
  18. “We need to throw out the guitar to the streets. The piano is the only instrument that belongs in the church.”  Yep, that’s what the Apostle Paul said.
  19. “You ended a sentence with a preposition in your sermon.”  What is this criticism good for?
  20. “Your pregnant wife is faking morning sickness.”  I would be happy for you to watch her throw up.

Enjoy.

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You can read more of Thom’s church wisdom at his website, www.thomrainer.com.

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Profiting from the Holy

Profiting from the Holy

In Exodus 30 the Lord gives Moses, in great detail, instructions about how to make the holy anointing oil (Ex. 30:22-33) and the incense (Ex. 30:34-38) to be used in temple worship.  And He gives specific commands about each.  For the anointing oil He said:

Exodus 30:25-30 – “And you shall make from these a holy anointing oil, an ointment compounded according to the art of the perfumer.  It shall be a holy anointing oil.  With it you shall anoint the tabernacle of meeting and the ark of the Testimony; the table and all its utensils, the lampstand and its utensils, and the altar of incense; the altar of burnt offering with all its utensils, and the laver and its base.  You shall consecrate them, that they may be most holy; whatever touches them must be holy.  And you shall anoint Aaron and his sons, and consecrate them, that they may minister to Me as priests.”

God then tells His people the importance of what He has just commanded them to do.

Exodus 30:31 – “And you shall speak to the children of Israel, saying: ‘This shall be a holy anointing oil to Me throughout your generations.’ “

But there’s a warning.  What has been deemed holy by the Lord is not to be used for personal pleasure or gain.  Man is not to benefit from what is reserved for God alone.  He said, “This shall be a holy anointing oil to Me (not to you) throughout your generations” (Ex. 30:31).

The Lord knew then, as He knows now, how easily we can turn worship into something we like and forget about the One it’s designed to honor.  We play the worship music we enjoy, preach the sermons that make us feel good, and anoint anything we feel like anointing.  Our times together to worship the Lord often digress into something that makes us feel better about who we are and not about Who we belong to.

Listen to the warning God gives about making a profit from what belongs only to Him.

Exodus 30:32-33 – “It shall not be poured on man’s flesh; nor shall you make any other like it, according to its composition.  It is holy, and it shall be holy to you.  Whoever compounds any like it, or whoever puts any of it on an outsider, shall be cut off from his people.”

You are not to pour My oil out on whom you desire nor make some for yourself using the recipe I have given you.  This is for Me and Me alone.  “It is holy, and it shall be holy to you” (Ex. 30:32).

God gave the same command and warnings about the incense.  After detailing the specific combination of spices He desired, God then tells His children exactly where to place the incense and why.

Exodus 30:36 – “And you shall beat some of it very fine, and put some of it before the Testimony in the tabernacle of meeting where I will meet with you.  It shall be most holy to you.”

This incense is to be placed where God has chosen to meet with His people— a most holy place.   And “it shall be most holy to you.”  It is not to be used in your home, sold on Amazon, or used in any other way God has not specifically prescribed.  Why?  Because its purpose is to prepare a place for God to meet with man— a most holy place.  And not to make your car smell better.

Again, there’s a warning.

Exodus 30:37-38 – “But as for the incense which you shall make, you shall not make any for yourselves, according to its composition.  It shall be to you holy for the LORD.  Whoever makes any like it, to smell it, he shall be cut off from his people.”

You are not to make any incense for yourself for any reason.   Why?  Because “it shall be to you holy for the Lord.”  It’s not for you, just for Him.  And what happens if we choose to ignore His warnings and commands and personally profit from what belongs for Him alone?  He says the person who does this “shall be cut off from his people.”  They will no longer be covered under His covenant.  They shall be as a foreigner, an outcast to Him.


Cut Off From His People

Take a few minutes this Sunday and watch a couple of church services online.  Especially from a mega church.  How much of what you see is designed to glorify and worship the Lord?  And how much is planned to make the congregation feel comfortable and want to come back next Sunday?

Then go look at your own service this Sunday.  How much of what is done is for the benefit of you, or for the adoration of the Lord?  Is the “special music” for your enjoyment, or for His?  And speaking of music, do you even know what kind of music the Lord enjoys?  Is it traditional?  Contemporary?  Psalms only?  With or without instruments?  Does He enjoy loud guitars and a light show?  Or is that just for us?

And the message?  Does it lift up Him and His glory and attributes?  Or is it more about you and your problems and how the Lord can “get you through to the other side?”  Are you encouraged to verbally proclaim the beauty and majesty of the Lord or to turn to your neighbor and say, “You look good today?”

What kind of worship truly worships the Lord?  What type of service would He design if we ever took the time to ask Him?

These are some questions I hope you’ll think about before you head out next Sunday for church.  Because it’s supposed to be all about Him, and not about us.

Something to think about, isn’t it?

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How Bad Will it Really Get? – Part 1

How Bad Will it Really Get? – Part 1

Not Every Christian Will Suffer Persecution.  Will You?

If you’re alarmed and concerned about how bad the persecution of Christians and the church will get in America in the very near future, you’re showing yourself to be far more astute in understanding the “signs of the time” than most of the professing church today (Matt. 6:33).  Why?  Because it seems, at least in America, that we have adopted a “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” mindset regarding current events and how they may interrupt what we hold most dear:  our vacations, our retirement, our free-time, our video games, and our false sense of security in our immature relationship with Christ.

Oh, I’m sorry.  Did that last phrase sting a bit?  Did it seem somewhat unloving, maybe a little unkind?  Good.  It shows you’re not completely anesthetized to what is happening all around us.  And that’s a good thing.  A real good thing.

But to your question:  How bad will the persecution really get?  Well, that all depends on what kind of Christian you are and what kind of church you attend.

Let me explain.


We Will Not All Be Treated Equally

Not everyone will suffer the same under the coming persecution, just like they didn’t all suffer the same under Nero’s reign of terror during the first century of the church.  Nor did all Christians suffer the same under the persecution of the Third Reich.  Dietrich Bonhoeffer, for example, was martyred for his faith on Monday, April 9, 1945.  But just six days later churches all throughout Germany met in their own church buildings unmolested by the Nazis who murdered Bonhoeffer earlier that week.

How could that be?  How could one group of professing Believers suffer persecution at the hands of the Nazis yet another group freely worship with the permission and approval of the persecuting State?  How is that possible?

More recently, in September 2015, twelve Christian missionaries, including the 12 year old son of a ministry team leader, were crucified and beheaded near Aleppo, Syria for not renouncing their faith and converting to Islam.  If they caved into their fears, as some did, and renounced the Jesus they loved, they would be alive today.  But since they “rejoiced that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name” (Acts 5:41), they died a horrific death.  For those twelve, it was more important to obey God and not man (Acts 5:29) and, in doing so, proved the “world was not worthy” of them (Heb. 11:38).

Again, two groups of Believers.  One group renounced Jesus and lived and the other remained faithful to Him and died.  Both groups were not treated equally.  The severity of their persecution, and ours, is always contingent on one’s commitment to Christ.  Throughout the history of the church it has always been that way, and it always will.

Soon, in our own country, we will find pastors and true Believers punished for preaching the whole Word of God, especially the Politically Incorrect passages from Romans 1:26-27 that deal with the sin of homosexuality.  You heard right, the sin of homosexuality.  Those who refuse to compromise on God’s Word regarding sin, even politically protected and government sanctioned sin, will suffer persecution.  They will be fined for their faith in Him Who does not change (Mal. 3:6).  Many will lose their positions, their life savings, and even their homes for their unwavering faith.  They will be marginalized, vilified, mocked and ridiculed, they will be threatened and sued, they will be charged with a hate crime, arrested, and imprisoned for their faith.

And just like in Bonhoeffer’s day, while some are languishing in prison for preaching truth the culture rejects, others will be leading or attending churches deemed “acceptable” and “tolerant” by the very State that persecutes and imprisoned others in the Body of Christ.

What’s the difference?  What separates these two groups of Believers?

Simply this:  Desire.  A desire to live Godly in Christ – no matter the costs.


Those Who Desire and Those Who Don’t

In 2 Timothy 3:12 the Scriptures state, “All who desire to live Godly in Christ will suffer persecution.”  Note the condition and the promise.  It’s one of the if/then conditions and promises found in Scripture.  If you do this or meet this condition, then this will happen.

An if/then condition and promise means if we do our part, if we meet some sort of condition or requirement the Lord has established, then we have the confidence to know God will fulfill what He has promised to do.  We see these all throughout the Scriptures.  Remember the one from Romans we so often use when we share our faith with others?

If you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus, and (if) you believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, (then) you will be saved (Rom. 10:9).

Now, when it comes to persecution, the Lord gives us another if/then promise.  He says, “All who (what) desire to live Godly in Christ will (what) suffer persecution (2 Tim. 3:12).  That’s a promise from the Lord.  And that same promise is echoed by Jesus when He tells us not to be surprised, “If the world hates you, you know it hated Me before it hated you” and “If they persecute Me, they will also persecute you” (John 15:18, 20).

Let’s look at the if/then condition and promise again:

“All who (if you) desire to live Godly in Christ (then you) will suffer persecution.”

The Condition:  “All who (or, make it personal, if you) desire (or, will, wish, want, strive, make it your aim) to live (or, have your existence, your mode or manner of life) Godly (or, devoutly, reverently, obediently) in Christ…”

The Promise:  “(again, make it personal, then you) will (or, shall, most certainly) suffer persecution (or, distress, trouble, peril).”

As you can see, not all will suffer the same.  The defining characteristic of those who will be persecuted and of those who won’t, will be their innate “desire to live Godly in Christ.”  This desire, this longing, this passion to live Godly in Christ no matter the costs, come what may, is the hallmark of a committed Christian’s life.  They desire to know nothing but Jesus Christ and Him crucified (1 Cor. 2:2).  To live as a committed Christian, as a real Christian, is to boldly acknowledge Him before “kings and governors” (Matt. 10:18) and to not count our life as worth anything other than following Him and being faithful to what He has called us to do (Acts 20:24).  After all, isn’t that why He saved us in the first place?

When the darkness begins to fall and the persecution of the church becomes impossible to ignore, some Believers and churches will have that great desire to “walk as Jesus walked” (1 John 2:6) and renounce the deeds of darkness in obedience to Him (1 Cor. 4:2).  And sadly some, in fact most, won’t.  Some will suffer for the sake of their Lord knowing “this world is not their home” (Heb. 13:14) and they are simply blessed to be called ambassadors for Him, the One True King (2 Cor. 5:20).  Others will love their life in this world: their status, financial security, their ease and comfort, and will renounce their love for Jesus, in either word or deed, and continue to hold on to the lie of “Your Best Life Now.”  They will forsake their inheritance as a child of God (Rom. 8:16) for something far less and faithfully continue with the pageantry and charade of the life of a good Christian while the true Christians are rejoicing in the privilege of suffering for the truth, just like their Lord (Acts 5:41).

The stark difference between these two groups will be apparent to all.  Actually, it’s apparent now.  Can you tell the difference?

So you see, not all so-called Christians will suffer persecution at the hands of the State or by the hatred of our culture.  Some will live in ease and comfort, proudly bringing their Bibles to the approved churches, the ones that proclaim the virtue of tolerance for sin and promote a god created in the image of man.  But some will not compromise.  They will bend their knee to no one but the Lord Jesus (Rom. 14:10).  They will render to Caesar what is Caesar’s but they will not, under any circumstances, render unto Caesar what is God’s (Matt. 22:21).

In which group of persecuted do you find yourself?  Are you one of those who will be persecuted for the sake of Christ by desiring, above all else, to live for Him?  Or are you one of those who will persecute Jesus and His Church by feigning your loyalty to Him with false spirituality and loving your life in this fallen, perverted world more than you love the Lord?  Are you the righteous or the hypocrite?  Are you one who cries out, “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!” (Matt. 21:19).  Or will you, surrounded by an angry, Christ-hating mob, shout through your own apathy and indifference, “Give us Barabbas!  We have no king but Caesar!”? (John 18:40, 19:15).

Which will it be?  You can’t have it both ways, you know.  Persecution has a tendency of forcing those it confronts on either one side or the other.  Which side will you be on?

Remember, not everyone will be treated the same because of the name of Christ.  Only those who truly are His will be willing to endure suffering and persecution.  In fact, true Believers will embrace the honor to show the unbelieving world Who they belong to.

Do you belong to Him?  And, if so, how do you know?

That’s the very question we’ll look at tomorrow.

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For Part 2: Why is the Church in the Situation it is Today?

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Podcast 303:  Our Bonhoeffer Moment

Podcast 303: Our Bonhoeffer Moment

With our society and culture crumbling all around us it behooves the church to assess its commitment to Christ.  Are you hot or cold or lukewarm?  Is Christ on the outside of the church knocking, waiting, for us to open the door and allow Him into His church? (Rev. 3:20).

These are scary times.  But not unprecedented times.

In fact, it’s these very times that bring out the best in the church. It’s times like these where true men and women of God step forward to take their stand for truth.

It’s the time of Daniel, Elijah, John the Baptist and Gideon.

The following is a study on the call of Gideon.

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