Where do you gather? (pt. 1)

There are many things that influence one’s choosing of a church family. Some look for good student ministries for their kids. Others desire one form of music over another. And many will attend (and become members) if they feel that the teaching is good and worth listening to. At the same time, some choose a church based off the community that exists there: do these people fellowship together? Maybe you have a combination of the four or have your own reasons all together, but one thing is for sure– our motivations are always in need of being checked.

Why we leave or stay

The author of Hebrews gives this command in 10.24-25:

And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.

Here, he’s assuming that we are going to have trouble being consistently committed to our church families, so he offers the motivation of the end: The Day is drawing near, and you need this family now more than ever. Don’t neglect them! But so often, we feel the “need” (read: sinful desire) to drift away from the church we belong to claiming that other churches have it “better.” A better music ministry. A better children’s ministry. Better sermons. Nicer people. The list goes on.

This has been on my heart for quite some time now and I have been encouraged by some other ministry leaders who have similar thoughts as I do. These have been men who are not in their “ideal” situation but are serving their local church family faithfully. Along the way in this short series, I will share some of their stories along with theological and philosophical reasons behind choosing a church family (spoiler alert: the goal of this is to encourage us to be more involved in our church and local communities and be less concerned with our “needs”).

With that said, I end with the following questions:

  1. Why do you attend the Church that you attend?
  2. How far do you have to travel to get to your church’s building?
  3. How is your commitment to that Church family (do you fellowship with others besides being in the building for an hour and a half on Sunday)?
More to come, but for further thoughts regarding this, see Ray Ortlund.
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What we do with the news

As many have taken to the web to discuss the very recent announcement regarding President Obama’s new (old- renewed) stance on Gay “Marriage,” I write merely to pass on information and confirm the solid Biblical standpoint from which we as believers should approach this issue.

Contradictory statements

As Albert Mohler wrote today, our president and country are in a tight spot. With so much on the line, much care has been taken to say the “right things” at the “right times”. Mohler expands on this by exposing some rough, contradictory statements; read his article here.

How does a Christian respond?

The gospel of Jesus Christ is the central issue at hand. One is not saved by becoming straight, nor is homosexuality  the sin that seals the deal on one’s condemnation. God has made us and called us to Himself so that we might be changed to be more like Jesus. This change in Christ is, as Jesus said, taking up one’s cross and following him. If we are becoming more and more like Jesus, we are to be dying to self day by day. This is the heart of this issue, and no amount of political persuasion will change people– only the blood of Jesus does that. To this end, both Collin Hansen and Jared Wilson have offered great, moving points. Read them both, preferably before reading anything else here.

In light of what they said, what should the Christian’s response to this statement be?

Kevin DeYoung gives the following five reasons for Christians to oppose Gay Marriage which you should click the link on and read before you comment on the following list:

  1. It’s been consistently voted against
  2. It’s not for the common good
  3. The word  Marriage means something and has meant something throughout history
  4. It further normalizes what until recently was, and still should be, considered deviant behavior
  5. Cultural pressure will not stop with a victory in redefining marriage

Prove it…

The last link I’ll add is in hopes to prove that contrary to the belief of some, the Bible nowhere declares its affirmation of homosexual marriage; it does not accept it as proper and cannot be twisted to claim otherwise. There has been much reading already, but please set aside some time for this article: The Bible does not affirm Homosexual Sex or Homosexual Marriage.

Still, love and respect

Rejection of homosexual marriage does not mean that Christians should reject homosexuals in general- just as the Bible’s rejection of gluttony does not allow one to reject those who are obese. There are actual people involved, not just theories and arguments; we should be still loving, still be honest, still be compassionate, just as we are still firm on the truth in the nation where we are permitted and encouraged to vote according to concience. What we hold to be true according to God’s Word affects our lives and we are to be at peace with others so long as it depends on us (Rom. 12.18).

What’s been done?

When dealing with conflict within the Church we wonder what the opposing parties are doing or have done to work out their problems. So Jack offended Jill by not picking up after himself in the Church kitchen and Jill got mad at him. Tempers flare, and communion plates fly as they start working through the deep seeded problems that they each have with each other. When the pastor steps in to sort it out, he may give them something like, “Five Steps to Working Through Conflict Among Believers”, but they need something deeper than the practical, at least at the onset.

What have you done to fix this? is a question we might ask. But there is a more important one that needs to be answered first: What has God done to fix this? God is a God of order and peace, especially among His people. So what has He done? Does He even care about your conflicts? Yes:

And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him, if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, became a minister.

God cares about your conflicts so much that He sent Jesus to reconcile us to Himself. And what does that do for us? It makes it possible to be reconciled towards others. So next time you’re enraged towards others in your family or the Church or anyone (!), remember what Jesus has already done about your conflict. He cared enough to die and raise again that we might have victory.

Feeling Guilty for being blessed

Every statistic stands against you. By virtue of where you live, how much money you make a week and what you had for supper last night, you are going to feel guilty. Could it be that you don’t have to live off of less than $2.00 a day? Or maybe you have a car (or bike) to get to work with- which makes you among the riches people in the world. It seems as though many non-profit organizations like to capitalize on these kind of statements. Is this good motivation to live simply and have generosity towards others?

Think of the Gospel

Jesus, who became flesh for the sake of sinners, and died that we might live, displayed generosity on a massive scale. He had riches abounding but considered it all loss for our sake (Phil. 2.5-11 and many others show this truth). And because of this Gospel- the truth of Jesus living again after dying for us and purchasing our lives from the dead- we are able and willing to be generous with our lives. Paul makes this correlation in 2 Corinthians 8.8-15 emphasizing the point that we become rich through the poverty of Christ and are called to make others rich through our abundance.

How far is too far?

Shaine Claiborne, a founding partner of The Simple Way is known for living in poverty for the sake of others. Whatever we feel about his ministry (and I haven’t always been as fond as I could be), we cannot deny that he is doing great things for others in the name of Christ. The Simple way gives everything away and serves the needy. Sounds great, right? But is there a time and place where we don’t need to give things away? Can we be generous and frugal at the same time? Wouldn’t wisdom tell us that?

Poverty and Prosperity Theology… is there a middle ground?

This is a great video that aired about a year ago. Listen in at about 8:45 for the relevant portion:

Maybe we don’t have to pursue suffering or riches; maybe we can be content where we are and serve in the way that God wishes us to serve. Maybe we can agree with Paul when he says in Philippians 4.11-13:

I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at length you have revived your concern for me. You were indeed concerned for me, but you had no opportunity. Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.

Abortion is evil

Now that I have your attention, I would like to turn it to a couple stories I have read recently.

The first is of a boy named Charlie: the real “boy who lived”. Born a mere 23 weeks into his mother’s pregnancy, he was not expected to live long at all. Now, five years later, he is a boy who is full of life. Read the whole story here.

The next is more horrific than what we usually think off when we hear of abortion (if that’s even possible). Have you heard of Pregnancy Reduction? What if you actually wanted a child but ended up with twins? Well, in some places it’s possible to have your wish after all. Read about Pregnancy Reduction here.

We have heard every excuse for why abortion should be legal. From “I was raped and shouldn’t have had this baby anyway” to the more selfish “I don’t have time/money for a baby”. None have sufficed to convince me of the necessity and ethicality of abortion.

So what are some reasons you mind give instead? Church, I can think of some great reasons to stand against abortion:

  1. Everyone is made in the image of God (including that child whose face has begun to form at six weeks).
  2. Your life is not about you, it’s about the glory of God- which possibly will include children.
  3. Adoption is a beautiful picture of God’s grace. We should be active in this area.
Let’s pray that we will be bold in the face of this brutality.

As we worship

Tomorrow, Christians around the world will gather together to worship God collectively in their local Churches. As I begin to think about this, I recall something I read in what I would consider a “Christian” Dear Abby. The woman was answering the question of tithing and where a certain lady should tithe her money. After a few paragraphs on the Old Testament origin of tithing and the fact that Christians aren’t commanded (yet are encouraged) to tithe (which she handled rather well), she went on to say something to this effect:

If you have been fed by televangelists, feel free to keep giving them your tithe. I don’t know if anyone can really answer where you should give your money to.

She didn’t encourage her reader to take part in the local Church or even try to find one. She acknowledged the fact th the woman should give to where she had been fed (good) but she neglected the advice of the woman’s friend which was to give money to her local Church (bad).

Brothers and sisters, this cannot be

Whatever your opinion of para-church organizations, T.V. ministries, and other national ministries might be, they deserve our prayers, and at times, our finances as they are our brothers and sisters in Christ. However, this should never be done at the cost of neglecting our local Church body. The command in Hebrews 10 to never neglect meeting together applies not only to the physical meeting, but also to our spiritual responsibilities to our fellow disciples that worship with us. So as you worship tomorrow, take these things in mind:

  1. Where do I worship and who do I worship with?
  2. Am I devoted to them in love and unity? What is hindering my love for them? Is it my sin?
  3. Do I give to my Church? Do I give well? Why or why not?
  4. Am I devoting more of my time to listening to others sermons from other Churches than I am to spending time in community with my Church family?

I’ll leave you with this request from Desiring God regarding John Piper:

While we encourage you to join us for the sermon, we encourage you even more to give primary attention to the preaching of your local church. In other words, we do not intend for John Piper’s sermon to replace the preaching of the Word from your pastor in your local church.

Around the block

I have decided to take a detour in my scheduled postings to show some things happening around the interweb. Here they are:

Bloggers

Some have been around for a couple months, others are just starting up, but here are some friends of mine that you should check out:

Josh Cousineau | Youth Pastor of East Auburn Baptist Church and Gospel Alliance Core Team Member. He blogs on Gospel-centeredness in youth ministry and seeks to share great resources with other ministry leaders.

Tim Sewall | My former co-author has a new site and is a much better writer than I could ever hope to be. Keep up with his blog as he’s very faithful in writing and you don’t want to miss what he says. Also, be sure to check out his Cave where creative writings will appear soon.

Stephen Brush | Stephen is great at sharing quotes and thoughts from many authors and speakers. He reads well, writes well, and reflects well on the truth of the Gospel. His are great posts to read and be encouraged by.

Albert Barnes | Albert is fairly new to the blogosphere, but his words are needed. He reads a lot and recently reviewed Crazy Love on his site. He has a great heart for Jesus and longs to see others get that heart as well.

Upcoming Conference

Planning for Lead 11 is in the works! Don’t miss out on this conference put on by the Gospel Alliance especially seeing who will be there this time! Seriously, you do not want to miss this weekend. So, save the date: Friday-Saturday, November 11-12, 2011 at East Auburn Baptist Church 560 Park Avenue, Auburn, ME 04210. Click over to see who will be there this year!