My own Church

Ever since I graduated from New England Bible College, I have been asked a few variations of the question, “When are you going to get your own Church?” Even one non-believer echoed that saying, “If you ever get your own Church, that’s the one I’ll go to.”

I cannot help but be baffled at statements such as these. My own Church? What does that even mean?

Whose Church is it Anyway?

There are some inherent issues if the local Church “belongs” to anyone. And although no-one would outright say, “I own this place” many of us fall into the trap of believing that because we have vested interest in the property of the Church, it is in some sense ours. If I paid for half of the construction process, if I have been given an office space, if I’m allowed to store anything within the walls of the building, this place all of a sudden belongs to me. Likewise, the thought behind what people have been asking is, “When you are the pastor of the Church- you’re the boss, you’re in control, the buck stops with you.”

Now, the Pastor and Elders of any Church must have a degree of ownership: they are to shepherd the flock that is among them (1 Peter 5.1-2) and they will give an account for their faithfulness just like everyone else. However, everyone in the Church needs this mindset: “I have vested interest in this place because I have chosen to put energy and resources into it and the family that gathers here, but I am not the final authority of the Church–this Church is not mine.

But it is mine

As true as that is, we also need to come to terms with the idea that the Church we gather with is ours. I already have a Church of my own. It is a beautiful congregation (not merely a building we meet in) that I get to pour my life into (and that gets to pour into me!) and it, like every other congregation, is a work in progress.

This may seem to contradict what I said above, but if we understand our place in the body of Christ then we know that we do not own the people, building, resources, etc, but we (as a body) have stewardship over what we have been given and we are charged by Christ to “bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” (Gal. 6.2). This means loving the people here and guarding them from the attacks of the evil one- regardless of whether I am the lead pastor, youth director, or fellow minister of the gospel (that is, member of the Church).

Ultimately, she’s is Christ’s

The key to more fully understanding my place in the Body of Christ is remembering that this Church is simply a small part of the Bride of Christ. So before this church is mine or anyone else’s, she is Christ’s. Christ laid down His life for her and will one day bring her home to be with Him.

This should motivate my belief, and thus action, in the areas mentioned above. If the Church–if my church– belongs to Jesus the Christ, then I must “have this mind… which is mine in Christ” (Phil. 2.5). This will motivate me to put my church before myself in all things and desire her holiness above all things.

Is this your attitude in regards to your church? Do you have a church that you can have this relationship with?

Beyond Happiness

Happy WeddingIn the past few months, this post has made its rounds. The article’s point is to state that marriage is not about you and your happiness but about your spouse’s happiness and your children having a good set of parents to raise them.

Good, but incomplete:

While I agree that we need to have an outward focus in our marriages (otherwise we’re blatantly selfish) I think that it can be (notice I didn’t say definitely is) equally selfish make the happiness of your spouse and kids the center of your marriage. This goes along with the adage- “Happy wife, happy life.” Do I want a happy life? Of course! Then I am going to make my wife happy! Whatever it takes– because I want a happy life!

Happiness, in and of itself, is easy. If my wife’s happiness was to be the chief focus of our marriage, I would have little trouble getting into the right patterns and habits to make her happy all the time. I would give her whatever she wanted, never challenge her opinion, and if she were wrong about something or caught in a sin, I would let her be wrong rather than challenging her and risking her temporary happiness.

Don’t get me wrong, happiness is a wonderful thing! If my goal were the opposite of making Emmalie happy, that would be a very bad thing. It is not wrong to desire the happiness of our spouses, but there is something that is beyond happiness to which we must aspire.

Beyond happiness is holiness

Holiness, not happiness, should be the goal of our marriage. If I look to make my wife’s holiness my goal then I am going so much further than the fleeting pleasures of happiness– I am encouraging in her something of a greater eternal benefit. I would argue that this is what we are told to do in Ephesians 5.22-33, and 1 Peter 3.1-7. In Ephesians Paul compares marriage to Christ’s relationship with the Church (and tells us that marriage is meant to be a picture of that relationship). Here, he speaks of the sanctification of the Church through Christ’s work on the Cross.

Husbands: If you are to love your wives as Christ loves the Church, you are to pursue her sanctification (holiness) beyond her (or your) happiness. Pursuing her holiness is, in this case, how one “loves his wife as his own body.” You strive to take care of your body, don’t you? Focusing on temporary happiness at the expense of leading in righteousness is akin to eating all of those sweets at Christmas that later led to horror and discomfort in your bowels. We need good, fulfilling food; so do our wives. Nourish your wife. Cherish her. Aid her in holiness. Don’t give her only what tastes sweet if it will lead to the sourness of un-righteousness.

In 1 Peter we see that wives are commanded to submit to their husbands. Whatever you think about the idea of submission, know this: the purpose of this submission is the salvation and sanctification of the husband (1 Peter 3.1,2). Is your husband an unbeliever? Win him over with your grace, kindness, and compassion for him. Show him that the Spirit works in you and makes you submissive. Is he a believer? Encourage his growth in Christ by your submission to him. Show him what submission looks like so that he will continue to have a good example for submitting to Christ.

Marriage can bring a whole range of emotions: happiness, sorrow, anger, and joy. But if our goal is mutual holiness then even the sad moments of hurt and pain will be used to advance that goal. Aiming for happiness, even if it is the happiness of your spouse, is aiming too low.

Our Great God

Not to us, O Lord, not to us, but to your name give glory, for the sake of your steadfast love and your faithfulness! Why should the nations say, “Where is their God?” Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases. — Psalm 115.1-3

“Men, why are you doing these things? We also are men, of like nature with you, and we bring you good news, that you should turn from these vain things to a living God, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and all that is in them. In past generations he allowed all the nations to walk in their own ways. Yet he did not leave himself without a witness, for he did good by giving you rains from heaven and fruitful seasons, satisfying your hearts with food and gladness.” –Acts 14.15-17

Our God is in the heavens…

How great it is to know that our God is not like those things that man creates! God dwells in holiness apart from us and does that which seems right to him. He set things in motion and made them work the way they do. In reading the rest of the above Psalm, one sees the opposite of this God: those idols that man makes and worships. They see nothing, can do nothing, and are ultimately worthless. In the end and even now, although God’s people can see the “gods” that are created by man, we are the ones who will ultimately ask, “Where is your god?”

That’s right… your god is nothing.

And what proof does our God give us for the spreading of his fame? Does he rely solely on man to accomplish his work?

No.

He sends his people out to accomplish his will and spread his gospel. He became man himself, so that those who believe in him will not be forever separated from him, but see eternal life in his Kingdom. He gave us his Word, which, by the power of his Holy Spirit, moves in his Church and convicts us of sin, righteousness, and judgement.

But at the most basic level, God has used his created order to display his greatness. He waters trees, upholds and sustains life, perpetuates the cycle of the universe, and gives us the food and drink that we need. This, all for the sake of his name being glorified.

Come to Jesus– the one true God, the one who satisfies souls, the one who created all that we see. Your gods are nothing compared to the greatness of the one true King.

Articles on Modesty

Every summer modesty seems to be a big issue in and around the Christian Church. Where ever you fall in this conversation, I would encourage you to watch and read some of the following articles. I have posted two that I agree with and one that I have issues with along with some side thoughts. Enjoy, and remember your responsibility in the Church

Modest Swim Suits:

This is the article that many in the blogo-sphere have been reacting to lately: http://www.qideas.org/video/the-evolution-of-the-swimsuit.aspx.

In it, we are given a technical explanation of why Ms. Rey has designed her swim suits to be the way they are. Her big idea is: Let’s protect the guys around us from falling into temptation. I enjoyed the video and think there is a lot in it we can learn from.

One Response:

From the same web site, one can find this article: http://qideas.org/blog/modesty-i-dont-think-it-means-what-you-think-it-means.aspx (Christianity Today also had some, um, “insight” : http://www.christianitytoday.com/women/2013/june/dont-blame-bikini-blame-bikini-culture.html)

All I can say about these two links is that even though they have some decent thoughts regarding biblical texts about modesty, they focus way too much on “feel good emotions”. They both talk about how bikinis (and bikinis are not the main thing we should be talking about) allow women to enjoy the world the way we were meant to enjoy it. How else can women feel the sun and the ocean splash against them as they should! As one person said, the same argument can be made for frequenting a nude beach… but that is beside the point.

The point is that we are meant to enjoy the world he has created, but we are called to holiness and encouraging others in their pursuit of holiness, which means that we care about the thoughts and actions of others.

What I wish I had written:

No woman is obligated to dress modestly, but I am deeply thankful when they do because I see it has a gesture of Christian love, like someone turning down a cold beer for a Pepsi, all because they know that their friend is struggling with alcoholism. Modesty is best understood not as a compulsory act motivated by hate or blame, but a conscious decision based on strength and love.

This comes from the best response I have found: http://www.christianitytoday.com/women/2013/july/why-i-tell-my-daughters-to-dress-modestly.html?paging=off.

Yes, he is a man. Yes, I am a man. But that does not negate our ability to comment on this situation. The reason I love this man’s response to the situation is that he comes at it from a more solidly biblical view of taking care of our fellow believers (he quotes much of Romans 14 in the process).

Personally, I find conversations with bikini clad (or super short-short wearing, or cleavage-exposing, etc…) women very difficult and try to avoid them at all costs. For this reason, I am glad to be married to a woman who is pleased to care enough about God and me that she takes modesty and appropriateness seriously–asking me constantly if it’s OK to wear what she is wearing. The Church needs mature women like that who are willing not only to care about God in that way, but to encourage younger women to do the same– for the sake of their brothers everywhere.

What I’ve been up to and why you haven’t heard from me

It’s that time of year again where I lament the fact that I have been missing out on posting lately. In fact, I almost had a post in time for Easter, but it didn’t come together when I wanted it to. So for now, you’ll have to settle for this year’s installment of “Where’s Jakob?” And no, I won’t be wearing a red and white striped suit while hiding among mythical creatures in strange environments.

Church

There are many exciting things happening with the Church in general and the youth ministry in particular. I have been working with the music teams every other week for almost a year now, and we have seen some good growth and connective-ness in the teams and individuals on them. We’re glad to be serving in this way!

Likewise, although the youth group remains small (numbers wise) we have had great chances to partner with other Churches to do fun and constructive events (snow camp, tubing, community service, etc).

School

Emmalie and I will be graduating at the beginning of May; she with an AA and I with a BA in Biblical Studies. We have been working hard at finishing which means many a long night working on homework and trying to squeeze time in together. With the end in sight, we hope we can finish well and continue to serve God as greatly as possible.

Life in general

I am still employed with the Home Depot and Emmalie remains at the local nursing home as the receptionist. The cool thing, though, is that she will be beginning a part time job as the Church secretary in mid-April. We’re excited about this and are looking forward to her extended ministry within the Church (she already teaches Sunday School faithfully!).

The Calling

Lastly, I have been working with the Gospel Alliance on the Calling Youth Conference for the greater part of this year. This is a one-day conference being held at our Church (FBC in South Portland) next Saturday which will hopefully see a good number of youth leaders, students, and even their parents as we seek to encourage and discuss the idea of the message of Jesus being the one thing that restores the brokenness of the world. (Shameless plug, for more information: www.callingyouth.com . There are free books involved as well: http://gospelalliancene.com/free-books-for-all-who-attend-the-calling/).

Thanks for listening in! As I mentioned, graduation is in May… we’ll see what happens at this blog site then!

Being a blessing

Two elderly couples are sitting at two different tables at the same restaurant. Both couples are professing Christians who are involved in their respective local Churches. Both frequent this restaurant quite often.

One couple (the ones I happen to be sitting with) is jovial: laughing with the waitstaff, smiling, and sharing concerns about the Church while expressing their desire to remain faithful there. The other–seated a table away– not so jovial. I don’t know the exact nature of their conversation, but I do know the response the waitress gives: “I am sorry… for that I do apologize.” This apology, as marked by the look on her face, was not for something she had done but for something they had complained about. Something meaningless and unimportant; it is just food, after all.

And how do I know them to be believers? As they leave they excitedly greet our dinner companions and it’s explained that this couple was there when our host came to Christ.

I wish this was an anomaly, but it isn’t. I have been in multiple situations where I have witnessed professing believers (once right after an Easter morning service) enter the community and trash Christ’s name through their attitudes–meanwhile wearing their “Church” clothes.

Our gracious host

Christmas is coming. This is a time where the Church remembers in a special way that Christ didn’t count equality with God something to be grasped but made himself nothing and became a man for the sake of dying a humble yet terrible death on our behalf. We sometimes miss the part about humility–and us having the same mind.

Our host that night didn’t. True, our waitress was also slightly emotional, but for a different reason; our host handed her this letter to the editor he had once written:

I am writing relative to a hard-working group of people in our society today. My wife and I enjoy dining out frequently, and we notice the hard-working waiters and waitresses who serve the public in our local restaurants. We watch them try to be pleasant, courteous and efficient as they work. We see them try to give service as they serve food, clear tables, carry heavy trays and deal with unhappy costumers. They work hard for the minimum wage (which is lower than the state minimum). We also feel there are many people who do not leave the proper gratuity (at least 15 percent) that is expected today.

We know there are days and weeks set aside to honor nurses, teachers, secretaries and other service people. This is a fine thing to do. They deserve it. We also think of those faithful wait-people who deserve to be honored for a job well done.

Passing on humility

Christ came to call us to be part of His Kingdom through His death and resurrection. What does that resurrection do for us? Well, for starters, it affects our attitudes so that we are no longer walking in the ways of the flesh but in the Spirit with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Gal. 5.22-23). But these attitudes are worthless if left unexpressed. Our responses must be kind and good, gentle and loving, and spoken with patience and self-control. If they are not, is Christ glorified? If we recognize our failures, is He glorified in our apologies to the victims of our words? Many of us who are in Christ would do well to check our hearts and invite more of the Spirit’s control whenever we interact with unbelievers.

Maybe then we can do as this gentleman did–recognize the good that others are doing and respond with love and admiration to them.