Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Church Types

I read a lot of books, articles, etc. In being an avid reader, it seems that my mind is always turning a churning. I chew on ideas and concepts all of the time. Some of my best ideas have been birthed out of reading something and thinking it over for a time. This blog entry is birthed out of several articles that I've read in Christian Standard and the Lookout, a book I'm reading on the "Reformissional Church" (not to be confused with the "reformation" church or churches).

Postmodernism has ushered in a new era in the life of the church. The golden years of the church no longer exist (if they ever did in the first place). In this new age of secularism and "forward thinking", relativism is king and tolerance is applauded. If everyone just let's everybody do and believe whatever they want, then we're all happy, right?! If someone wants to murder another person, that must be okay as long as it's okay with them. And most normal civilized people with any type of heart or compassion would stop me there and say, "Hey preacher, you just stepped one foot over the line." But my reply to you would be, "Who drew that line?" There's only one true answer to that question and we all know the right answer.

Today, the church finds itself as one of many options for a "belief system". Culture is throwing many options for "faith" at the people, and everyone is setting up their own belief system. This swing toward a man-centered theology versus a God-centered is alarming and the church has much to be concerned about if we wish to remain relevant to our culture of tolerance. The greatest thing we have is the truth. And most people, even the postmoderns, ultimately want to know the truth.

Through this time in church life and history it's interesting to see how the church will respond. There are several different types of churches that will respond in several different types of ways:

1) The assimilating church is the first type of church. This church tries to prevail by making itself relevant to the prevailing culture by adopting some of the culture's characteristics, using 1 Corinthians 9:19-23 as its justification. The problem with this type of church is that it tends to become so focused on relevancy that it's seduced and assimilated to the culture. The church then loses its biblical purpose for existence.

2) The protecting church goes to the other extreme of the assimilating church and wants to boycott current culture and set up its own little parallel culture. It's a form of separatism and the "holy huddle" mentality. It's a circle the wagons and protect mentality. Isn't the purpose of the church to make disciples and doesn't that mean that we have to engage culture?

3) The unchanging church just ignores the world around it. This church believes that it has nothing to do with the world or culture. Enough said on this one, you get the picture. (Amish, Anabaptist, some Mennonite sects, and other conservative extremes of denominations)

4) The battling church sees the two opposing worldviews and equates them as enemies in a battle. This church declares war on the culture and tends to pick fights with...well...just about anyone. It becomes more about the war than the result. Many times these churches try to bring about change through political means and advocacy groups or para-church organizations(the Moral Majority, Pat Robertson, etc.) This church is great at polarizing people rather than trying to bring them to the Lord into togetherness.

5) The influencing church doesn't necessarily want to be the best church in the community. It wants to be the best church for the community. It loves the people who are stuck in the culture and tries to talk about differences between truth and lies in order to influence change. It is involved in culture to facilitate change. It seeks to influence rather than battle.

Hopefully this will make a person look inside their church and ask, "what type of church are we?" And if we are all honest, it will only take a jiffy to figure out where your church really is. Perhaps for some, you may find your church somewhere in between a couple of these descriptions. Regardless, let's consider the book of Acts and see what and how church is really supposed to be. That's what I'm praying and hoping for Oakwood!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

What's With the Gifts?

Where did Christmas gift giving come from? If we go back to the first Christmas story when God sent Jesus to earth, we recall that Jesus was given three gifts by the wise men or Magi, which serve as the inspiration for all our Christmas gift giving today.

Tomorrow night I'm going to be sharing "The Gifts of the Magi" as my Christmas Eve devotion. The Magi presented Jesus with gold, frankincense, and myrrh. These gifts were very prophetic for they spoke of our Lord's offices of King, Priest, and Savior.

GOLD: This carries obvious significance. It's a gift fit for royalty. It says to the Christ child, You will be a King. Throughout history gold has been considered the most precious of metals and the universal symbol of material value and wealth. It was used extensively in the construction of the Temple (see 1 Kings 6-7, 9; 2 Chron. 2-4). It was also a symbol of nobility and royalty (see Gen. 41:4; 1 Kings 10:1-13; etc.). Matthew continually presents Christ as the King, and here we see the King of the Jews, the King of kings, appropriately being presented with the royal gift of gold.

FRANKINCENSE: Frankincense was a costly, beautiful-smelling incense that was used only for the most special of occasions. It was used in the grain offerings at the Tabernacle and Temple (Lev. 2:2, 15-16), in certain royal processions (Song of Sol. 3:6-7), and sometimes at weddings if it could be afforded. Origen, the great church Father, suggested that frankincense was the incense of deity. In the Old Testament it was stored in a special chamber in front of the Temple and was sprinkled on certain offerings as a symbol of the people's desire to please the Lord.

MYRRH: This is perhaps the most mysterious of the gifts. It is a resin produced by a small, tough, scraggly tree that grows in semi-desert regions of North Africa and the Red Sea. Myrrh is an Arabic word for bitter, and it is considered a wound healer because of its strong antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties. Myrrh was also a perfume, not quite so expensive as frankincense but nevertheless valuable. Some interpreters suggest that myrrh represents the gift for a mortal, emphasizing Jesus' humanity. This perfume is mentioned often in Scripture, beginning in Genesis (37:25; 43:11). Mixed with wine it was also used as an anesthetic (Mark 15:23), and mixed with other spices it was used in preparation of bodies for burial, even Jesus' body (John 19:39).

Those were the Magi's gifts to Jesus. Gold for His royalty, frankincense for His deity, and myrrh for His humanity. Some strange gifts for God's Son, but very significant for foreshadowing His future life. Once again, seems like God thought of everything (because He did)!

Merry Christmas to all! Keep Christ at the center of your Christmas season!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Sad & Funny

So, for those that didn't know, the snow didn't make it last week. The weatherman, well, missed it by a mile. (Actually about 90 miles). Anyway...time for a good a pastoral humor kind of way.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Snow Tomorrow

I guess that being an Iowa boy makes you like snow. I always look forward to it. Tomorrow it looks like we're going to get something in the way of snow, and I'm excited about that. I love winter, cold weather, and especially snow. I'm always praying that God would send us some more. I'm thankful that me and my girls will get to see some white stuff tomorrow!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Do Churches Have a Shelf Life?

I just read an article from the December 5, 2010 issue of the Lookout called "Local Churches Have a Shelf Life" written by Bob Russell. I just read it a few minutes ago so I'm still pondering a bit. The title jumped out at me, so let's start there. Do churches have a shelf life? He shared a statistic that, sadly, few churches retain a vibrant ministry for more than a century. I can see that from a lot of angles. Even just the architecture and usefulness of their facility can drastically change in 100 years. (We do have electricity widely available now). Bob then went into the warnings to the churches from Revelation. As I read I began thinking that the shelf life on a church is directly related to its effectiveness in ministry. Too many times churches want to rest on the laurels of their past and the "glory days" of their context. When churches do this, it's a death sentence.

It's been said, "Death comes when memories of the past exceed vision for the future." And I believe those sections to the churches in Revelation end with, "He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches."

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Take a Look at the Birds

The headline on the front of today's newspaper read "State Economy May Not Recover till 2014". I'm reading that and I'm thinking, really....

It was just a few months ago that the sky was falling down, remember that? But the sky didn't really fall down after all. It's still up there. Now, I'm aware of the economy's current condition, and I know that we are not in the "glory days" of booming economic growth right now. It's obvious that there are still people struggling financially. But so many times I think that we get caught up in the doomsday talk and we begin to worry.

Worry is nothing more than saying, "God can't or won't take care of me through this circumstance. So, we worry. We worry and try to come up with our own game plan. We try to control things that ultimately God is in charge of. Jesus said to not do that. He told us to look at the birds to remind ourselves of His sovereignty and provision.

During the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus gave several illustrations as to why we should not worry, and one of the examples He chose to use was that of birds. Speaking outdoors near the Sea of Galilee, maybe Jesus even gestured toward a few birds flying by: "Look at the birds. They don't plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them. And aren't you far more valuable to him than they are?" (Matthew 6:26).

Birds don't have the promises that we have. Birds aren't promised eternal life. Birds are not created in the image of God. Yet do birds ever look worried to you? Have you ever seen a stressed out bird wondering where they will find their next meal or if they'll have a job in the morning? Every morning, like clockwork, they are up at the break of dawn, singing away. Jesus was saying, 'You see, the birds are fine. You can be fine. If God takes care of birds, won't He take care of you?"

That doesn't mean the birds don't go out and get their food. Some eat vegetation. Others eat seeds. Some eat fish. The rest hang out at McDonalds and wait for you to drop your fries. Then there are those thieving birds, the sea gulls, which hang out at the beaches and wait for you to go into the water so they can fly off with your lunch. Birds take care of business, but they don't worry about it. As one poet wrote,

Said the robin to the sparrow, 'I would really like to know
why those anxious human beings rush around and worry so."
Said the sparrow to the robin, 'Friend, I think that it must be
that they have no Heavenly Father such as cares for you and me."

If God takes care of the birds, will He not take care of you as well?