Friday, September 10, 2010

Test the Spirits

Something woefully lacking in the church today is the ability (and dare I say willingness) of the average Christian to test what they are being taught.  It's all part and parcel of the old "itching ears" that I've written about before (1 Tim 4:3-4).  The reasons for it are too numerous to mention, but the fact is it exists and it needs to stop if the church is to be used of God the way He wants to and the way we all want Him to.

In 1 Th 5:21 we are told, "Test everything. Hold on to the good." Then, in 1 Jn 4:1 we hear, "Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world."

Preachers and teachers today have done an excellent job of persuading the church to keep their mouths shut and to just accept what they hear.  Oftentimes people who question their pastors/leaders are labeled as rebellious, and they often take it as a personal attack.  However, that is not what we see in the scriptures.  In Acts 17:11 we see that testing teaching is actually a noble undertaking: "Now the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true." And this was no ordinary preacher they were testing - it was none other than the Apostle Paul!  If Paul was to be tested, then why should any preacher or teacher today feel slighted when their audiences do the same?

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Unified Leaderism

A sermon I heard the other day was about unity and how the church won't see God move like we want Him to until we get it.  The text was Acts 2:42 - "They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer."  The preacher read the part about the apostles' teaching and right away said, "See!  They were devoted to the apostles!  They were behind their leaders!"  No, it says that they were devoted to the apostles' teraching (ie the truth).  Why is it that almost every message on church unity centers around support for the leaders?  The church is so leader-centric that it makes me sick.  The vast majority of the problems at the church I used to attend over the last few years have been due to the leaders and their inability to play nice with the other leaders like the rest of the congregation is supposed to.  In most churches, the Senior Pastor sees the church as his own domain and guards it as such.  That inevitably causes power struggles.  Also, it eventually sucks all the zeral and creativity out of the church because everything depends upon the pastor and what he wants.  Zealous and creative people hate that and they finally get tired of putting up with it.  Of course, then they quickly become "problems" and are labeled as rebellious.

The church is going nowhere until we all get the same attitude toward leaders that Paul had.  Yes, honor them and treat them with respect because they have more responsibility.  However, as far as their relative importance: "As for those who seemed to be important - whatever they were makes no difference to me; God does not judge by external appearance - those men added nothing to my message."  (Gal 2:6)  And let us also look to Peter:  "To the elders among you, I appeal as a fellow elder, a witness of Christ's sufferings and one who also will share in the glory to be revealed: Be shepherds of God's flock that is under your care, serving as overseers - not because you must but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not greedy for money, but eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock." (1Pet 5:1-3)

Saturday, August 14, 2010

What is Love For God?

Not too long ago I heard a preacher friend of mine speak about how his life was revolutionized when he discovered a "truth" about his relationship with God.  He said he had been concerned that he wasn't doing enough for God, but God showed him that if all he ever did for the rest of his Christian life was to sit at God's feet and "love on Him", that God would be ok with that.  "After all," he said, "God made us 'human beings' rather than  'human doings'."  Nice cliche.

Although this could lead into a discourse on what God expects of us as Christians, right now I want to focus simply upon what it means to love God.  What is love for God?  I believe that for most people in the church today, it simply means having "warm fuzzies" for Jesus.  Some think the more emotional they get during worship, the more "in love" with Jesus they are.  Others think if they're really thankful for what God has done for them it proves they love Him.

Jesus said, " Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength." (Mk 12:30)  But what does that really mean?  The answer is fairly simple if we look to the Scriptures: "This is love for God: to obey his commands." (1Jn 5:3)  (Substitute "obey" for "love" in the verse from Mark and see how that changes your thinking.)  The preacher friend I mentioned earlier had it wrong.  You cannot do nothing but sit at God's feet and say you love Him.  And it really is not measured by emotions, warm feelings, or gratitude, as many believe (although we do develop an emotional attachment to those we truly love).  It is entirely possible to be "on fire" (or "passionate" as is popular to say in the church today) for God and still not love God ( Jesus said, "You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you:  `These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.'" (Mt 15:7-8)).  The emotional intensity of our worship often has nothing to do with our "love" for God.  Let's measure our love for God by how well we obey Him.

In the words of Christian artist Don Francisco, "Love is not a feeling, it's an act of your will."

Saturday, July 17, 2010

"Worship Isn't a Feeling"

If you've been around the Body of Christ for any length of time you've probably heard a sermon or two along those lines.  I know I have, and my experience tells me that those types of sermons typically come from ministers who are trying to explain away the fact that the worship in their churches is either dead or dying.

While I'll be the first to admit that there have been times in my own Christian life when I haven't felt much during personal worship times, I question the premise that, as a rule, you don't have to feel anything special during worship for it to be true and full of God's presence.  How can anyone spend any appreciable length of time in the presence of God and not feel anything?  The Bible says that even the rocks will cry out, and we certainly must have more feeling than a rock!  And though the achievement of a certain feeling should not be the goal or purpose of worship, the consistent absence of a tangible manifestation of the presence of the Holy Spirit upon one's senses during worship should be a cause for concern, especially in a group setting. 

Years ago there was a statement going around that said if the Holy Spirit were taken out of the world, 80% (or so) of the church services would still go on as scheduled.  It was disturbingly true then and, I believe, is still true today (although the percentage has crept upward I suspect).  What I find even more disturbing though, is the fact that most churches would rather make excuses and live with the problem than come clean, repent, and experience the fullness of God in their midsts again (or maybe even for the first time).

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Crisis of Faith

"However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?" Luke 18:8a.

This verse is frequently read and quoted in churches all over, but rarely does anyone stop to ponder the real import of it.  Jesus was referring to the last days when He spoke this, and those are the times in which we find ourselves today.  Considering this, it should come as no surprise that we find ourselves where we are as a church today.  We find ourselves in a crisis of faith, just as Jesus supposed it might be.

How do most of us react to this circumstance?  Unfortunately, we make up doctrines to cover for our lack of faith.  If we can't or don't have it, we say God doesn't give it.  If we can't or don't see it, we say God doesn't do it.  If we can't or don't hear it, we say God doesn't say it.  You get the picture.

It's not too late though.  We can, and should, repent of our faithlessness, take God at His word, and live the Christian life as the Bible says we should, rather than as our pride says we can't.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Rebellion in the Land

From the title of this post one might think I'm referring to worldly unbelievers shunning God, or the general godlessness we see in America today, but that's not the case. What I'm referring to is the fact that the body of Christ is in rebellion. We have become exceedingly good at making the Christian experience all about us, when in reality we are told to seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness. We excel at giving God what we want rather than giving God what He wants.

This should come as no surprise, because the scriptures say this will be the case. 2 Tim 4:3-4 says: "3 For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. 4 They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths." This is the time in which we now find ourselves.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Starting Again

I began this blog a long while ago, but wasn't very faithful in keeping it up. Now, however, I have a refreshed zeal and purpose to write. My goal is to present the truths of the word of God that much of the church has fallen away from, as the scriptures say will happen in 2 Tim 4: 3 For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. 4 They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.