Love God. Link with others. Learn to follow. Live on mission.

Acts 1:8 ....and you will be My witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Why Did Jesus Take on Flesh?

by Ben Simpson

At the center of this and every Christian season is the baby Jesus wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.  This mysterious bundle of joy is none other than the eternal Son of God who took on flesh and dwelt among us (John 1:14).  That’s the very thing we celebrate here at Christmas—the enfleshing of the Son of God, the incarnation.  He was sent on a mission from the Father to save sinners, and one of the absolutely necessary things Jesus had to do to complete His mission was take on a flesh and blood body just like we have.  But, why was that so crucial?  Why did Jesus take on flesh? The Bible gives us at least ten reasons.
  1. To become like us in every way: 
Hebrews 2:16-17 tells us, For assuredly He does not give help to angels, but He gives help to the descendant of Abraham. 17 Therefore, He had to be made like His brethren in all things, so that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.
    It was the Cappadocian Father Gregory of Nazianzus who famously said, “That which was not assumed is not healed.”  Therefore, in order to sacrifice Himself for us and redeem every aspect of humanity, Jesus had be made like us in every way, which is impossible without taking on flesh.
  2. To become sympathetic to us: 
Hebrews 4:14-16 declares, Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. 15 For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. 16 Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
    Hebrews 2:18 also tells us, For since He Himself was tempted in that which He has suffered, He is able to come to the aid of those who are tempted.
    By becoming like us and living on this earth for 33 years, Jesus gained firsthand knowledge of our situation.  He became intimate with our temptations, joys, weaknesses, and strengths, of course, all the while never sinning.  Because of this experience on earth in the flesh, Jesus overflows with compassion and understanding.  He’s perfectly sympathetic to us.
  3. To become our brother
: Hebrews 2:11-15 relates the following to us, For both He who sanctifies and those who are sanctified are all from one Father; for which reason He is not ashamed to call them brethren, 12 saying, “I WILL PROCLAIM YOUR NAME TO MY BRETHREN, IN THE MIDST OF THE CONGREGATION I WILL SING YOUR PRAISE.” 13 And again, “I WILL PUT MY TRUST IN HIM.” And again, “BEHOLD, I AND THE CHILDREN WHOM GOD HAS GIVEN ME.” 14 Therefore, since the children share in flesh and blood, He Himself likewise also partook of the same, that through death He might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, 15 and might free those who through fear of death were subject to slavery all their lives.
    We also read in Romans 8:29, For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren.
    What a glorious thought!  Jesus Christ is our brother, which is made possible only by His incarnation.
  4. To be our obedient substitute: 
Hebrews 5:7-10 teaches us, In the days of His flesh, He offered up both prayers and supplications with loud crying and tears to the One able to save Him from death, and He was heard because of His piety. 8 Although He was a Son, He learned obedience from the things which He suffered. 9 And having been made perfect, He became to all those who obey Him the source of eternal salvation, 10 being designated by God as a high priest according to the order of Melchizedek.
    Only perfection gets one into Heaven, and we fall miserable short of that.  But, praise be to God, Jesus Christ obeyed for us.  He obeyed in our stead, as our substitute, in the flesh.  Therefore, we have the hope of Heaven through His perfect goodness.
  5. To be an example for us: 
Ephesians 5:1-2 states, Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children; 2 and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma.
    1 John 2:6 further instructs, the one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked.
    It’s good to not simply have somebody demand something, but to actually show what is demanded.  That’s why we should be so thankful that Jesus in the flesh became our example to us.  Because Jesus took on a body, we have a living, breathing example for how we are supposed to live in order to please God.
  6. To be made a perfect savior: 
Hebrews 2:10 declares, For it was fitting for Him, for whom are all things, and through whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to perfect the author of their salvation through sufferings.
    Jesus Christ was always perfect, but His perfection was demonstrated in the flesh.  From the day He was born until the day He died only to rise again, Jesus never ceased to honor the Father. Therefore, we can have absolute confidence of His perfection that makes Him the perfect Savior.
  7. To be a substitutionary sacrifice: 
In John 1:29, John the Baptist exclaimed about Jesus, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!  He was pointing to the sacrificial death that Jesus would die to propitiate God’s wrath toward sinners.  But, this sacrifice is impossible with a body.  A ghost or a spirit cannot be sacrificed.  In order to be sacrificed, Jesus needed a body, and it’s for this reason we read in Hebrews 10:5, Therefore, when He comes into the world, He says, “SACRIFICE AND OFFERING YOU HAVE NOT DESIRED, BUT A BODY YOU HAVE PREPARED FOR ME.
  8. To taste death for everyone: 
Hebrews 2:9 speaks to this truth, But we do see Him who was made for a little while lower than the angels, namely, Jesus, because of the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, so that by the grace of God He might taste death for everyone.
    Immortal beings by definition cannot die.  Therefore, the immortal one took on mortality when the Son of God took on flesh so that He could taste death for mankind.  Praise Jesus who died so that all who believe on Him will not perish, but have everlasting life.
  9. To become the only mediator
: 1 Timothy 2:5 says, For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.
    Holy God and sinful man need a go-between, and the perfect one is found in no person other than the God-man Jesus, being 100% God and 100% man.  Through His substitutionary life and death, which was confirmed through His resurrection, Jesus is now the bridge connecting God and man once again.
  10. To be the promise of our resurrection: 
1 Corinthians 15:20 tells us, But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who are asleep.
“First fruits” is a farming term that represents a promissory down payment.  Jesus’ resurrection is the promise that we who are His will be resurrected to life as well.  Of course, a spirit cannot actually be resurrected.  Therefore, Jesus taking on flesh is part and parcel to the doctrine of His resurrection.  Without flesh, He could have never died, and if He never died,  He could have never been resurrected, and if Jesus was never resurrected, we are still dead in our trespasses and sins (1 Corinthians 15:17).  However, since Jesus did take on flesh and since Jesus died and since Jesus was resurrected, we who believe in Him can be forgiven forever and spend that forever with our Father in Heaven.  Praise God that Jesus took on flesh!

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Sunday, December 15th Worship Schedule

Weather Announcement 

AM Sunday School and Worship services will be canceled due to weather conditions, tomorrow December 15th.  We will be meeting at 6PM for Discipleship Training and Kids Club activities.  Be safe cleaning out your drives, walks, and vehicles in the morning.

In Him,
Pastor Garret Rain

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Six Ways Millennials Are Shaping the Church

by Thom Rainer

Every new generation influences society in profound ways. Every new generation also affects churches in America. The Millennial generation is no different.

Those adults and youth born between 1980 and 2000 are large in number, nearly 80 million. They are the largest generation in America, and they will continue to shape much of what takes place in our nation. They are also setting the tone for American churches today.

I have written about Millennials extensively, so I thought it might be helpful for me to share some key ways this generation is already shaping the church. Here are six of the most profound shifts.

  1. There are fewer of them in church than previous generations. By our estimates, only 15 percent of the Millennials are Christians. No more than 20 percent of them are attending church once a month or more. While there are many Millennials in total, only one of five is in church today.
  2. The Millennials’ desires for relationships are affecting the churches they choose to attend. They will only go to churches where they can easily connect with others. Unlike the Boomers, they refuse to be worship-only attendees. They desire to be in more relational settings. Churches with healthy groups will be very attractive to Millennials.
  3. This generation is doctrinally serious. At least the Christians among the Millennials care deeply about doctrine. More and more Millennial Christians will be in churches that are deeper in doctrine both from the preaching and within the groups of the church.
  4. The Millennials are intensely community focused. They are more likely to be in a church where the leadership and the congregation care about and are involved in the community they serve. They are refusing to be a part of a church that acts largely in isolation.
  5. This generation is already affecting the size of the worship gathering. As I noted in my earlier post, worship centers will be smaller. The Millennials are at the forefront of this facility revolution. They will eschew large worship services for more informal and smaller gatherings.
  6. The Millennials will check the facts of church life. When the preacher states a historical fact, many Millennials will check its historical accuracy on their smartphone within seconds. They will look at church budgets with an eye for missional impact. This generation is somewhat of a doubting generation, and they have the resources to check anything said or offered by churches.

I have said on more than one occasion the Millennial Christians, although relatively small in number, will be great in influence in American congregations. We are already seeing that reality. And from my perspective, many of the changes they are bringing to churches are healthy and exciting.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Exposing Man-Centered Methods in Parenting

Gospel Parenting, Part 3 (by Jeremy Vanatta)

by Guest Blogger

As discussed in the previous article Beyond Behavior: Dealing with the Heart, parenting is no easy task because we are not just dealing with our children that sin.  We are also dealing with our own sinful hearts.  In order to discipline our children biblically, we must be aware of the ways in which our sinful pride manifests itself in our parenting.  At the end of the day, our sin is pride and can be rightly described as very much man-centered rather than Christ-centered.  Here are what seem to be the primary manifestations of prideful discipline in parenting.

1.  Anger: Unrighteous anger is probably the greatest obstacle to godly parenting.  I would also include the use of threats in this category because of their close relationship.  In just one outburst of sinful anger, we can destroy days or weeks of godly parenting.  Anger is a man-centered method of parenting because it puts the focus on fear of the parent rather than fear of God.  Using anger as a parenting method usually only leads to bitterness in the hearts of both child and parent.  Sinful anger is very critical, demanding, harsh, and the child will struggle to see any real love in dad or mom.  There is such a thing as righteous anger, but parents must be prudent.

2.  Humiliation: Humiliation in parenting is when the parent plays on the child’s emotions in order to induce “feelings” of repentance in the child.  The problem with the use of humiliation is that it produces only a worldly sorrow rather than a godly sorrow (2 Cor. 7:10).  Further, it only serves to debase the child and produce bitterness in them.  Remembering the Golden Rule is crucial for avoiding the humiliation of our children in the process of disciplining (Matt. 7:12).

  • 2 Corinthians 7:10—For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret,  whereas worldly grief produces death.
  • Matthew 7:12—“So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.”

3.  Delayed Obedience:  Another common mistake that Christian parents make is in substituting the requirement of biblical obedience for a lesser form of obedience that is delayed.  We would never want our children to be delayed in their obedience about crossing a street, touching a hot stove, or snorting cocaine because the damage will already have been done.  The same is true with all issues of obedience.  While grace should abound toward the child, parents must insist that their children do what they say, when they say it, with an attitude of respect.  Delayed obedience is really just a more subtle form of making threats.

4.  Bribery:  The use of bribery in parenting is the attempt of the parent to change a child’s behavior through the use of enticement.  The problem with this man-centered method is that the parent is appealing to the child’s sin-nature.  In effect, the child’s selfishness is being fertilized.  They are being taught to obey for the sake of getting something they want and not simply for the joy of knowing that they have done what is right.  Here we must make a difference between bribery and reward.  Bribery is always negative because of its aim to entice.  Rewards, however, can be a good way of showing grace and appreciation to a child.  Normally, rewards should not be pre-announced to the child but should be a kind of surprising-grace.

Undoubtedly, there are other man-centered methods of discipline in parenting, but these should help Christians recognize the more prominent ones.  By God’s grace, may we discipline our children in a Christ-like way.

Soli Deo Gloria,
Jeremy Vanatta

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

10 Reasons Church Leaders Should Continue Their Education

By Chuck Lawless

I admit my bias here. I am a seminary dean and professor, and I believe in education. Students help to pay my salary. They have become my friends, my mentees, my children in the faith. Graduates make me proud.

My reason for writing this post, though, goes beyond these thoughts. If we are doing the work of God, we must give our absolute best. I desire to be part of a team that trains and sends out the strongest leaders in the world—leaders who make a difference in the kingdom of darkness. Those leaders never stop learning.

With those thoughts in mind, here are ten reasons why leaders should continue their education:
  1. The Christian life is about growth. We are babies in Christ at new birth, yet called to continual growth and maturity (Heb. 5:12-14). Always, we are to be in the process of God’s conforming us to the image of His Son (Rom. 8:29). If we reach the point of assuming we've “arrived” and need no further training, we are instead neglecting our Christian responsibility.
  2. A willingness to learn is a sign of humility. Education is seldom easy. An openness to become a student again, to be held accountable for assignments, and to be evaluated by others is a sign of the kind of humility all leaders should exhibit. We need no more arrogant leaders, and the education process can sift out our pride.
  3. We always face theological issues. The authority of the Word of God, especially when evaluated against sacred documents of other world faiths, continues to be an issue. We must increasingly defend the truth that a personal relationship with Jesus is the only way to God. The doctrine of the Trinity is at times an issue when evangelizing around the world. Continued education can help us be better prepared to respond to these types of significant issues.
  4. We continue to confront new ethical and moral issues. When I started in ministry over thirty years ago, I did not imagine ministering in a culture that affirms same-sex marriage. Internet pornography was not even an option. Never did I envision ministering to Sally, who actually began life as Sam. Issues like these are not, of course, separated from our theology, and further education equips us to minister in this changing culture.
  5. The people we lead are frequently still learning. At least in North America, we often minister to educated parishioners. They are teachers, engineers, physicians, and accountants. Many of our congregations include professionals for whom continued education is assumed, if not required. Thus, they recognize the value that continued training offers for their spiritual leaders.
  6. Distance learning options allow us to continue education without leaving our ministry. Gone are the days when education required students to move to a campus. Today, the Internet offers unprecedented opportunities for continued training without evacuating significant ministries. Southeastern Seminary (where I serve) now offers masters and doctoral degrees – including the PhD – that do not require full-time residence in North Carolina. The relocation obstacle to continued education simply doesn’t exist anymore.
  7. Learning within a group of peers is important. Many opportunities for advanced training include small group, peer-to-peer learning that focuses on particular aspects of leadership. Few educational options are as valuable as these. Each student brings his/her own knowledge to the classroom, helping to build a community of scholars. Peers become not only classmates, but also prayer partners. Education thus becomes not only content-based, but also life-on-life.
  8. We often learn better after leadership experience. Learning apart from practical experience is not insignificant, but it risks becoming only theory rather than life application. Frankly, it’s easy to decide how to be a leader until you actually have to be one. The best students I know are those who leadership experience gives them a grid through which to evaluate concepts and programs. These students are those who choose to continue their education throughout their ministry.
  9. The discipline of learning is important. Let’s be honest: even leaders sometimes get lazy. We rely solely on yesterday’s learning to face today’s issues. We talk more about what we have read than about what we are reading. Personal preparation for daily ministry becomes more surface review than intense study. Continued education, on the other hand, challenges us to return to rigor and discipline.
  10. Continued education stretches our faith. The obstacles to further training are real. Too little time. Too few dollars. Too many years out of school. Too many other responsibilities. Too much risk of failure. Here’s the bottom line, though: sometimes we just have to trust God to help us do what He expects us to do.
What are your thoughts about continued education for church leaders?

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

9 Lessons for New Christians . . . And Old Ones

By Chuck Lawless

It’s been a long time since I became a Christ follower (39+ years ago), but I still think about what I wish I had known back then. You see, my first years as a believer were not easy. My family was not a Christian family. I was in my early teens, wanting to be faithful to God but also seeking to fit in with my peers. My church loved me, but discipleship was not intentional. I wish someone had helped prepare me for the journey.
If I were writing a new believer’s guide today for people like me, I would include a simple “lessons learned” section with at least these lessons:
1.     It’s okay to be a baby in Christ. Everybody in my Bible study class knew all the answers, it seemed. I watched as others found the Bible passage while I pretended to know the right page. Others knew the song lyrics by heart, and they knew exactly what to do at every church event. I didn’t know any of that – and I was both awkward and ashamed. No one told me that every believer begins as a baby in Christ.
2.     The Bible is not always easy to read. I was fascinated when I first started reading the Bible. Genesis was great, because I knew nothing about the beginnings of the world. The book of Exodus was equally exciting, filled with burning bushes, judgment plagues, dividing seas, and shaking mountains. But, then I reached Leviticus. . . . and I quit reading. I needed someone to help me when the reading became difficult.
3.     The Christian life will have ups and downs.  We usually learn this lesson the hard way. Because I did not know Christianity has mountains and valleys, I assumed that the “down” moments were the result of a lack of faith or an unconfessed sin. Sometimes that was the case, but sometimes God was stretching and testing my faith. Even the obedient believer can wrestle with a thorn – but I didn’t know that.
4.     You are not alone in your struggles. I was sure nobody else battled with temptation like I did. Nobody had sin lurking in the shadows like I did. Surely every other believer had conquered sin – at least, it seemed that way on Sunday. I was so certain of that truth that I didn’t dare talk to anyone about my struggles. The result in my life was continued failure and increasing defeat.
5.     The devil is real. In my young mind, the devil was a Halloween character rather than a supernatural enemy against God and His people. Because I didn’t recognize the reality of the devil, I thought I could win spiritual battles in my own power. Prayer was not important, and cries for the power of God were non-existent. I was losing a war I didn’t even know existed.
6.     Many people don’t pray well. The only prayers I heard then were prayers from the pastor, a deacon, or a Bible study teacher. The petitions were polished, eloquent, and deep (or so I thought then). I didn’t always understand the words used, and I was certain I’d never reach that level of praying. Little did I know these same folks often struggled in their private prayer life, and perhaps we could have helped each other grow in prayer.
7.     Some people won’t share your excitement. My Christian conversion was powerful. A friend had shared Christ with me, and I couldn’t wait to tell others about Him. I was at times obnoxious with my evangelism. Rude, even. I just couldn’t understand why anybody would choose not to follow Jesus. Had I known then that not everyone listens, perhaps I would have felt less defeated in my evangelism efforts.
8.     Churches are not perfect. I was unprepared for the tares among the wheat, the sin in the camp, the arrogance among the redeemed. It was years of discouragement before I realized that Jesus Himself had a fake in His group, and the apostle Paul loved a church as messed up as the church at Corinth. It took some time for me to learn that the church exists for the sick and the needy – that is, for people like me.
9.     God will always be faithful. Perhaps you learn this lesson only through the years, but I wish someone would have challenged me then to trust – and even memorize – these words: “I have been young and now I am old, yet I have not seen the righteous abandoned or his children begging for bread” (Psa. 37:25). God really does take care of His own. Always.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Four Thoughts from Non-Christians about ChristiansSeveral weeks ago, I wrote a post about how non-Christians perceive Christians.

By Thom S. Rainer

The article was based on an interchange with one non-Christian lady on this blog. I was surprised at the number of responses, including those from a number of non-Christians. I am grateful for all who responded.

A few Christians were concerned that I might be compromising my beliefs and convictions by writing the post. To the contrary, I still hold firmly to the exclusivity of the gospel and the mandate to evangelize. But, while I am convicted about the never-changing message of the gospel, I am concerned how we messengers sometimes treat others who don’t believe as we do.

For now, I have provided four examples of what non-Christians are asking of Christians. They were all comments at different points on my blog. Each section represents a different non-Christian.

Demonstrate Respect and the Interest of Others

I can certainly understand that it might be very uncomfortable for you to witness – as a technique for attracting potential followers, it seems very forced and artificial, and it renders any attempt to express real friendship towards the recipient seem insincere and not a little sinister.
I’m an atheist, so you may be tempted to disregard my views. However, I’ve been on the receiving end of numerous attempts to witness, and I’ve never felt that any of the people who made these attempts had my interests at heart, or would offer me the basic respect of considering the possibility, however faint, that I’d put genuine thought into my position; that I might be sincere in my lack of belief.
Try to put yourself in the shoes of your prey – I suspect that you’ll become better people for making the effort.

Don’t Condescend and Discriminate

First I want to thank you for posting this, for being forthcoming and for all the encouraging comments.
I use the moniker darb because I live in the heart of the Bible belt and am concerned about repercussions of being a public atheist. We are, after all, the most reviled groups in America, even behind Muslims. I am concerned about hiring bias. I am concerned about downsizing bias. I am concerned about my children being ostracized or bullied. I am concerned because I have seen it happen.
It is SO refreshing to hear the accepting attitudes I hear in these comments. I only wish I could be assured that these were majority attitudes amongst Christians. I wish that good folks like you would speak out against those who would discriminate against me. I wish I could be myself without fearing proselytizing, condescension or worse. After all, we are all just humans trying to make our way in this uncertain world.

Really Care about the Non-Christian and Show It

This is very much how I tend to perceive approaches from would-be witnesses. I’ve read several posts in which people (believers) have expressed the desire to witness through ‘show’ rather than ‘tell’ and I’d personally have a lot more respect for someone whose life expressed the spirit of their religious belief as opposed to attempting to fill that quota. The Christians I’ve remembered with fondness were those who actually cared about other people; the ones who appeared to express the legalistic, judgmental and relentless and cultish urge to convert were, honestly, kind of a pain in the —. Not people I respected or would want know.

As a non-Christian, I have to say that 90% of these comments continue to back up the point from the article. Most of them talk about “waiting to develop a relationship before witnessing” or something of the sort. There are over 20 major religions in the world, never mind the number of smaller subsets. Has it ever just occurred to Christians that we just don’t believe the same thing you do? That we don’t think you’re right? That we don’t, at any point, want your prayers or your opinions on how we should think? If Christians are going to be so narrow minded that they are only going to have relationships with people that think the same thing they do, or think that they are better than people that don’t agree with them, why would we want to have a relationship? If you can’t look past my religious preferences (or lack thereof) and see me as a PERSON, I’ll just hang out with my open minded, non-preachy friends.
Demonstrate Compassion and Respect

Here’s a bright idea: STOP PRESSURING OTHERS TO JOIN YOUR RELIGION. If someone doesn’t want to join your church, that doesn’t make them a jerk. They’re entitled to their own beliefs, just like you’re entitled to yours. I’m sorry if that sounds harsh, but if you really want the rest of the world to accept you, then you need to accept the rest of the world. Stop focusing on how many souls you can save and start focusing on being a good person. And by ‘good person’, I mean being compassionate and generous, not paraphrasing a book written three thousand years ago on a street corner.

I don’t hate Christians, but because of the way I’ve been treated in the past, I’m wary of them. If you want to be respected, then do some respecting in return.
What Do You Think?

What do you Christians think about these admonitions from non-Christians? What do you who aren’t Christians want to say to the Christian community?

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

The Fundamental Divergence: The War between Biblical Christianity and Popular Thought

A young couple sat in my office asking me to perform their wedding. As we talked, I realized that this perfectly nice couple was already living together. Each of us handles those situations differently. My concern is that my presence in a public wedding signifies in some way the blessing of God on the union. If a couple is flaunting the will and ways of God and then I confer God’s blessings on them, I am at risk of offending God. I shared this conviction with the couple. I would do a private wedding with family and a few friends (based on the “it’s better to marry than to burn” verse), but if they wanted a big public wedding, they would need to acknowledge their sin and take some specific acts to correct the problem.
Things got pretty chippy in my office that day. They were deeply offended at my assertion that their living arrangement was somehow sinful. How dare I suggest that they were anything other than “good people?” After they stormed out of my office, I sat there  thinking how much things have changed. These people walked into a preacher’s office, unashamed at their sinful behavior and left angry that I had the temerity to apply biblical standards to their lives.
What a rapid and dramatic shift we have seen in popular opinion and conviction in American culture over the last few years. Politicians are switching long held public positions on matters of sexual mores quicker than a Broadway costume change. Things that were once generally agreed to as being wrong and perverse are now considered acceptable, moral and good. Minds boggled, we watch as the world around us changes.
And we are left to wonder why. Why did things change? A lot of Christians are pointing fingers of blame. I have read articles by more progressive Christians who blame the intransigence of the Religious Right. I have seen more conservative Christians blame the church for failing to stand courageously in light of these cultural shifts. I am not sure what value there is to be gained from the assignment of blame concerning America’s cultural shifts.
But I do believe it is good for us to try to understand what is going on around us. We have seen a sea change not just in values and morals in America, but in the basis by which we determine values and judge morals. Not only have opinions changed, but the fundamental process by which we make decisions as well. However we got to this place, we need to understand the new world in which we live and take the steps we need to take to live for God’s glory in it.
Christians have debated the topic of whether America was a Christian nation and to what extent American culture reflected, or ought to have reflected, biblical values. Such an argument is archaic and obsolete now.  Popular thought is now no longer Christian, but is in fact diametrically opposed to Christian thought.
Here are some examples.
Concerning the Purpose of Life
Why are we here? What is the meaning and purpose of life?
Popular thought tells us that we are here to be happy, to be comfortable, and to enjoy life. The Bible tells us that we are here to glorify God and to honor him in all we do. 
Of course, some have tried to conflate these two ideas and hold that God is here to help us find happiness and contentment. The high priestess of American false religion, Oprah Winfrey, said on her show once that all religions have this as their goal – to help people find happiness and contentment.
And, though the Spirit does produce love, joy and peace in us, the call of Christ is not a call to fulfillment and contentment, but a call to die to self, to take up our crosses and to follow Christ. The attempts by prosperity theologians and some in the modern church movement to make Christianity a religion of self-fulfillment is not a variation of Christianity, but a denial of its core truth.
Are we here for ourselves or for the glory of God? We cannot have it both ways.
Concerning the Human Condition
What is the spiritual condition of a human being? Are we fine just the way we are, or are we flawed?
Popular thought says that you are who you are. Those who believe in God say, “God made you this way. Love yourself. Accept yourself. Be yourself. Don’t change for anyone or anything.” Self-affirmation and self-acceptance are the heart and soul of this thought process. But Christianity teaches that human beings are flawed and sinful. 
The Bible teaches that we are all sinners, flawed failures before God. God demonstrated his love for us by sending Jesus to die for us, even when were dead in our sins. God accepts us as we are, but does not leave us as we are. He indwells us with his Spirit to work on us from the inside out, changing us, transforming us, conforming us to the image of Christ.
So, popular thought looks at a homosexual and says, “you are who you are. No one should expect you to change.” Christianity looks at a homosexual and says, “God loves you as you are. He will save you from your sin and transform you to be like Jesus.” It is the same attitude we have toward heterosexuals living in immorality, toward the greedy and materialistic, the proud and self-centered, the dishonest, the gossip and liar – to all sinners.
We fundamentally diverge with the world because we believe that the human condition is flawed, that sin has  broken us. What we are is not what we ought to be. We all need to be changed. God loves us as we are – absolutely. And God loves homosexual sinners as much as he loves heterosexual sinners. If we have communicated anything else, we have sinned against God and confused the gospel. But while God loves us as we are, he also sets about to fix what sin has broken, to make us what we ought to be.
Of course, some churches and pastors are started to adopt the gospel of affirmation – God loves and accepts you as you are. But the gospel of affirmation is only true if you also proclaim the gospel of transformation – God loves you as you are and then will change you to be like Christ.
If we preach the gospel of affirmation without the gospel of transformation, we are denying the Cross and the Blood was that was shed there.
Concerning the Life We Live
How does God want me to live?
Popular thought, based on the gospel of affirmation, tells us that we live life to the fullest by asserting our individuality and simply being ourselves. “Follow your heart.” “Do what you think is right.” “If it comes from inside you, it can’t be wrong.” The Bible tells us not to trust our emotions, our thoughts or our own convictions. We are to “trust in the Lord with all our hearts and not lean on our own understanding.” Proverbs says that “He who follows his own heart is a fool.” 
If I am a sinner, I cannot trust my own thoughts or my emotions. I must repent of my rebellion against God and submit my mind to his Word and my will to his Spirit. I must not “be myself” or “follow my heart,” but I must seek to be like Christ and I must follow him.
When we try to turn Christianity into a “follow your heart” faith we deny the substance of it.
My Point:
I’m not sure exactly how things used to be, but I am confident that I speak the truth now: popular thought in America has fundamentally diverged from Christian conviction and Christian thought.
We believe that life exists for the glory of God, that we are flawed and need to be saved and transformed, and that to do that, we must follow Christ and submit our minds and hearts to his Word. The world disagrees at every point.
The world demands that we accept people as they are and affirm them as they are. That we can and should do. God demonstrated his love for sinners in an amazing way. He does not demand that we change to please him or clean ourselves up to be accepted by him. He reaches down into the muck and mire created by our sin and he lifts us out by grace – regardless of how deep the pit or how stinky the mire!
But when the world demands that we stop at affirmation, we must differ. We are saved by grace and accepted in Christ. But the call of the  gospel is to repentance and transformation. God accepts us as we are and then makes us what he wants us to be. We affirm sinners, but we also proclaim the transforming power of Christ.
It has become clear that the world will not accept our gospel of transformation, In fact, it infuriates them. They see it as judgmental, intolerant, even evil. But it is the heart of the gospel and it is not an issue on which we can negotiate or compromise. We are fallen human beings who need to be fixed by God’s grace and the Spirit’s power.
We need to proclaim this message clearly. We do not have to be angry as we declare this truth. Perhaps we can change our style, tactics and approach to do a better job of communicating the gospel of transformation. But we cannot compromise this truth without stripping the gospel of its truth and power. If the true gospel offends (and it does) then we cannot blunt the force of that offense. Biblical Christian thought diverges fundamentally from the popular thought of the world. If we conform to the world’s way of thinking, we may achieve greater popularity and acceptance, but we cease being biblical or even Christian.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Glorifying God at work -- no matter the job

By Barrett Duke  

While the Westminster Catechism is a document written by humans, it captures many important biblical themes. The answer to this first question is a good example. The Bible tells us: "Whatever you do, do all to the glory of God" (1 Corinthians 10:31) and "Rejoice in the Lord always" (Philippians 4:4).

Yet, many of us can't quite wrap this counsel around our jobs. We just don't see how our jobs can possibly be part of this glorifying and enjoying thing. It's funny, when you think about that, because most of us probably prayed that God would help us find our job, and most of us probably thank God for our job.

Many Christians don't think about their jobs as part of their calling to glorify and enjoy God because they don't fully understand their purpose in life. Many of us think that glorifying God and enjoying Him means singing praises, reading the Bible, and praying. You know, that personal, contemplative stuff.

That is certainly part of it. In fact, that part makes it possible for God's people to joyfully and effectively serve Him. But our jobs are actually places where we should also be glorifying and enjoying God. God made Adam and Eve and put them in the Garden to take care of it -- sounds like work to me, and that's before the Fall. 

Part of our purpose as humans, created in God's image, is to work. The Bible even has many unflattering things to say about people who are too lazy to work. Now, I know that for many people the workplace is not very conducive for worship or praise. Yet, when we understand that God made us to work, every workplace takes on new spiritual meaning.

The Apostle Paul even counseled the slaves of His day about how to think of their situation. He said, "With good will render service, as to the Lord, and not to men" (Ephesians 6:7). I doubt many of us can say our situation is as dire as a slave's in the first century. 

To get to this place in our own lives, we have to start at the Garden. God made humans to be producers. Forget all this stuff about humans as consumers. We are not at our happiest when we are consuming things. We are at our happiest when we are making things, doing things -- working. That's because in working, we are fulfilling part of our divine purpose, and at a subconscious level, we know it.

Consider what you do by working. Yes, you have money to give to ministry causes, and you can support yourself and your family, and you have some walking around money. But you are also making a contribution to the lives of others. By your service, someone else's life is made a little better. The restaurant worker helps someone relax and enjoy a meal. The businessperson provides a product that enhances lives. The sanitation worker removes the refuse that produces disease and sullies the beautiful. Every legitimate, moral form of work adds something to the benefit of humanity and helps God's creation fulfill its purpose.

We are workers together with God in both Gospel outreach and daily toil. Your job is part of God's calling for you. It's not merely a means to an end -- a paycheck. It is an integral piece of God's plan for your life as He seeks to extend His Kingdom and its influence throughout the world. You make a difference through your work. May God bless you as you serve Him today wherever you are and in whatever you do.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Ten Simple Strategies for Prayer

By Chuck Lawless
I know very few people who don’t struggle with prayer. We know we should pray, but doing so consistently and fervently is not easy. Most of our praying is reactionary – that is, in response to a problem – rather than proactive, lifestyle praying.
Sometimes we try to fix this problem by seeking to become a prayer warrior overnight. That approach seldom works, and we get discouraged. A better approach is to build your prayer life one step at a time. Here are some simple strategies for increasing your prayer:
  1. Establish some prayer “triggers.” Associate prayer with some daily activities, and then develop prayer patterns. For example, you might pray before you turn the ignition on your car. Pray as you cook a meal, clean a room, or walk on the treadmill. Let the “trigger” do what it’s intended to do: direct you toward prayer.
  2. Use the church bulletin or calendar as a prayer guide. Find the list of scheduled events for the week, and pray for each day’s activities. If the young people are meeting on Tuesday night, pray for them. If the praise team practices on Monday, intercede for them on Monday. Let the bulletin or calendar information guide your daily praying.
  3. Develop a “Focus on the Family” prayer strategy. Each week, focus on a different family in the church. Find out what prayer needs they have, and pray for them. Your small group might use this strategy to make certain every family receives prayer throughout the year. If so, be sure to pray for inactive families as well – only through prayer might they return.
  4. Follow the ACTS paradigm. This strategy was the first one I learned decades ago, and it is still an effective one. Build a prayer list based on Adoration (praising God for who He is), Confession (admitting sin), Thanksgiving (expressing gratitude) and Supplication (praying for others). The intentionality of this strategy will help you stay focused during prayer.
  5. Use a “Focused ACTS” strategy for one week. Use ACTS on Monday, but then focus daily on only one component during the rest of the week. On Tuesday, adore God throughout the day. On Wednesday, ask God to bring to light all of your sin so you might confess it. Thursday is for thanksgiving, and Friday is for praying for others.
  6. Do “drive by” praying. Use your time in the car to pray. Watch for church buildings, and pray for the pastors of those congregations. Intercede for children and teachers as you drive past a school. If you pass a “For Sale” sign in your neighborhood, pray for that family. Pray for your coworkers as you park each morning.
  7. Set some “prayer power points.” A prayer power point is a set time each day when you stop to pray. I find it best to set the alarm on my watch, and that reminder calls me away from my desk to pray. Just a few minutes set aside for prayer help me to re-focus for the rest of the day.
  8. Pray the “Model Prayer” of Matthew 6:9-13 daily. I would not want this strategy to become routine and repetitious, but Jesus taught us to pray this prayer. Start each day with this prayer. Pause long enough to meditate on each phrase. Let the words become a genuine conversation with God.
  9. Pray as you read the news. Whether you read the newspaper or read online, use the news to direct your praying. Intercede for countries in war. Pray for families affected by crime or natural disasters. Ask God to guide government leaders. Pray for missionaries in each country in the news.
  10. Send an email prayer to someone each day. Take ten minutes, pray for someone else, and send a written prayer to that person. This strategy doesn’t take long, and just a few sentences of prayer will encourage somebody unexpectedly.
Remember, you won’t become a prayer warrior overnight . . . but start somewhere. Becoming a furnace of prayer begins with just a spark.
What other prayer strategies have you used?

Monday, April 8, 2013

New Service Times - Coming Soon!

Sunday Morning Worship Times Changing

As of Sunday, May 5, 2013 we will be updating our morning service times.  From 9:30 to 10:30 AM we will be having Sunday School Classes for all ages, preschool to adults.  After Sunday School, Worship service will follow at 10:45 AM.

We look forward to seeing you at our new service times!