Wednesday, May 18, 2011


For years now, churches have been fighting what many have deemed "worship wars". Many say that the Bible never mentions this concept, but the first homicide in the Bible was over how to approach God in worship. Perhaps that should have been a clue to us that this would be an issue!

Most debates about worship are really just indirect ways of talking about ourselves and our preferences in music, not God. Our discussions usually devolve into little more than spiritually camouflaged lists of preferences on how we'd like our worship service served up to us every week. It's worship as consumption rather than offering. It's more about human tastes than a longing to reflect the glory of the Almighty God. That's why I call it iWorship.

The iPod has forever changed the way people listen to music. No longer do you have to buy an entire CD for the one song your after. All you have to do is purchase the individual song that you like and download it in seconds. Wherever you are you can just pop in your earbuds and punch your personalized playlist, never having to hear something that is not your favorite.

I'm afraid that is how many of us approach worship today. We want to hear our personal playlist of worship tunes. It's almost like we've convinced ourselves that God likes what we like and He doesn't like what we don't like. It just so turns out that God's tastes are exactly the same as mine! Wow! How convenient!

In Revelation 4:1, John is invited to step through a "door standing open to heaven." What does he see there? A worship celebration like no other. God is clearly the object and focus of worship and He alone is receiving praise and honor.

Worship isn't about serving self. Worship is about seeing God and responding. The ultimate experience for us is being in His presence and expressing hearts of adoration, praise, allegiance, and gratitude for who He is and what He has done. And when we finally see Him in all His glory, we will gladly lay down whatever we have treasured in honor of a greater treasure...being with Him!

Monday, May 16, 2011

Love Wins Commentary

Hell and Human Dignity

Do Our Choices Make a Difference? By Chuck Colson
May 16, 2011

Unless you’ve been on vacation in the Himalayas, you have no doubt heard about the controversy surrounding Rob Bell’s new book, Love Wins: A Book About Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived.

Arguably, Bell’s tome is the first controversial Evangelical book of the Internet age: It was promoted by a “trailer” that appeared on many websites and dissected and condemned on countless more. Bell may enjoy the distinction of being the first person ever excommunicated via Twitter: one well-known writer tweeted “Farewell, Rob Bell.”
There are certainly important theological questions raised by Bell’s book, including whether anyone goes to hell forever.

New York Times columnist Ross Douthat understands this well. In a recent column Douthat, a devout Catholic, writes that doing away with eternal punishment “is a natural way for pastors and theologians to make their God seem more humane.”
The impetus behind this impulse is understandable: In the wake of incalculable human suffering, talking about hell seems cruel and the idea of eternal punishment for wrong beliefs doubly so.

The problem, Douthat reminds us, is that attempts to make God seem more “humane” also “threaten to make human life less fully human.” That’s because, he writes, “to believe in God and not in hell is ultimately to disbelieve in the reality of human choices.” If we can’t say “no” to God’s offer of heaven, none of the other choices we make in life have any real meaning, either.

Douthat’s point is reminiscent of something James Schall, a professor at Georgetown, wrote in his book, On the Unseriousness of Human Affairs. Schall began by noting that C. S. Lewis once said that “we have never met a mere mortal.”

Schall continued, human “lives are not insignificant. They are risks... We like to be optimistic and suggest that no one loses his soul. But if this is so, it is hard to see how anything is of much importance. If nothing we do, say, or believe can really make any difference, what is [the source] our dignity? We may do what we want with impunity. Surely this is not the order of God for our good.”

And it’s not. And that’s the problem with efforts to dull the hard edges of the Christian message. Attempts to justify the ways of God to men often only wind up interfering with God’s plan for man.

It’s hard to square our belief in free will with the belief that, ultimately, nothing we do when we’re able to exercise it has any bearing on our eternal destiny. In some way we become like the denizens of an ant farm: no matter how much we burrow, it doesn’t change where we’re going or not going, for that matter.

It may make us feel better to believe that everyone goes to heaven. But what happens to the concept of justice? Is not God a God of justice?

Like Douthat, I understand Bell’s objection to the presumptuousness of some Christians. Instead of making declarations about the eternal destiny of people we’ve never met, we ought to be working out our own salvation with fear and trembling.
Folks, beware. This book is high on the New York Times bestseller list. Books like this are obviously appealing. But that doesn’t make them true.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Comfort in the Church

I think it’s fairly evident that the society we live in is very self-centered, and this same characteristic can be present in a church. Whenever a local body of believers develops an inward focus, its fruitfulness in ministry begins to decrease, and each member’s Christian walk is hindered.

I attended my oldest daughter's piano recital this week at a local church. The church was nice, but dated. The stained glass windows in the sanctuary (some 20+ of them) each had a name at the bottom of the window. In memory of's lined the sanctuary walls. The names were actually in the stained glass. I must admit, I was saddened and totally caught off guard. I told my wife, "If you buy a stained glass window when I die, please put in loving memory of Jesus on it. That's what it should really be about."

It's not about you! And it's not about me. And it's not about personal preferences of decor, seating, music selection, or whatever makes one's church life enjoyable and easy. It's not about your memorial putting your name on some piece of God's church building.

Many believers want their church only to be cozy and comfortable. I can't stand that. They come to listen to a nice sermon, fellowship with friends, and have their needs met. But God never intended for the gathering of His people to be like a country club; He calls us to join an army that will bring the gospel into enemy territory.

An effective church—one that poses a real threat to the Enemy—is a body of discipled people who have been taught the truth of Scripture, trained for service, and helped to mature spiritually. But all this is accomplished for the purpose of going out into the world, not for becoming a self-contained sanctuary of Christian comfort.

The urgency of the Lord’s command and the desperate condition of humanity should motivate us to leave the safety of our Christian fellowships and deliver the message of salvation through Jesus. To avoid this responsibility is to miss the Father’s plan for your life and the opportunity to help build His kingdom.

None of us want to waste time or energy on trivial things and thereby miss the exciting fulfillment of God’s will. He has called us, not to a life of comfortable tradition, but to an adventure of obedience and holiness. We need to answer His call. We will be uncomfortable with the process, but the results will yield God's highest and best for our lives! And there may be many more in the Kingdom of God because someone allowed themselves to be a little uncomfortable...even in their "own" church.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Ties that Bind Real Churches

Have you ever noticed how different the individual members of the same family can be? One child may be melancholy while another is a live wire. One may be especially gifted in music, and another, who has no interest in music, may excel in sports. In some cases they look nothing like each other or even their parents. Yet the members of a family share a bond stronger than their differences.

In the same way, within the Body of Christ, churches develop their own unique personalities. Some may insist on formal worship services, while others thrive in a relaxed atmosphere. But the most important thing about a church isn’t the superficial things that make it different, but what it has in common with other Christian assemblies.

There are certain truths—fundamental doctrines—that every true church is committed to. These doctrines are unalterable; they cannot be compromised in any way. They are non-negotiable. Yield on any one point, and the church ceases to be a church. Here are five foundational truths that distinguish all authentic churches.

A High View of God
It is essential that a church perceive itself as a body of believers designed for the glory of God. Unfortunately, most churches today have deviated from that priority and developed a human focus: meeting man’s felt needs. Instead of faithfully proclaiming God’s sufficient Word to direct people’s minds toward God, church leaders respond to superficial needs with temporary solutions like psychology, self-esteem, entertainment, or a myriad of other diversions.

As a result, the church is no longer an organism that emphasizes knowing and glorifying God; it is an organization that tries to help people feel good about themselves. But if you know and glorify God, you don’t need to be concerned about your needs because “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” (Prov. 9:10). When your relationship with God is right, your perspective on your needs will also be right. That doesn’t mean we should ignore people’s needs—we are to be concerned about people the same way God is. But there must be a balance, and it begins with a high view of God.

We must take God seriously and exalt Him. Yes, we are to reach out to people with the love of Christ, but God must be the focus of our worship and our life.

The Absolute Authority of Scripture
A second non-negotiable truth is the absolute authority of Scripture. God reveals Himself primarily through the pages of Scripture; that is why we must uphold it as our absolute authority.

Because we believe Scripture is true, we must proclaim it with conviction and without compromise or apology. The Bible makes bold claims, and Christians who believe it ought to affirm it boldly.

Anyone who faithfully and correctly proclaims the Word of God will speak with authority. It is not our own authority. Insofar as our teaching accurately reflects the truth of Scripture, it has the full weight of God’s own authority behind it. That is a staggering thought, but it is precisely how 1 Peter 4:11 instructs us to handle biblical truth: “If anyone speaks, let him speak as the oracles of God.”

If the Bible is true, then it is also authoritative. As divinely revealed truth, it carries the full weight of God’s own authority. If you claim to believe the Bible at all, you ultimately must bow to its authority. That means making it the final arbiter of truth—the rule by which every other opinion is evaluated.

Sound Doctrine
Another non-negotiable for the church is sound doctrine. If you have a high view of God and are committed to Him, you will obey His Word. The content of God’s Word is sound doctrine.

Countless Christians today are vague about doctrine. Many pastors offer short sermons that might excite or make their congregations feel better, but they have little to do with truths that matter. We need truths that we can hold on to—truths about God, life and death, heaven and hell, man and sin, redemption through Christ, the ministry of the Holy Spirit and angels, the believer’s position in Christ, and Satan and his realm. You need to be able to read a biblical text, discover what it says, and draw out divine principles. God’s people need solid doctrine to build their lives on.

Personal Holiness
We must draw lines when it comes to personal holiness and be careful what we expose ourselves and our children to. We dare not lower our standards to those of the world. Christians are called to live a pure life, and we can’t compromise that.

Second Corinthians 7:1 says, “Having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.” A church must enforce that standard (see Matt. 18:15-17). That’s why we implement church discipline where I pastor. If someone sins, we confront him or her for their own good and the good of the church as a whole.

Many Christians aren’t as concerned about their personal holiness as they should be. Where are you in terms of holiness and real communion with the living God? Church leaders aren’t the only ones who should live holy lives. You can’t have a half-hearted commitment to God and expect Him to work through you.

Spiritual Authority
One more component that’s true of a biblical church is spiritual authority. A church must understand that Christ is the head of the church (Eph. 1:22; 4:15) and that He mediates His rule in the church through godly elders (1 Thess. 5:13-14; Heb. 13:7,17).

Hebrews 13 says to submit to those over you in the Lord, for they watch your souls. Follow their example. Paul says to “recognize those who labor among you, and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, and to esteem them very highly in love for their work’s sake” (1 Thess. 5:12-13).

I am one of many leaders at our church. I happen to be the one whom God chose to preach, but I am one elder among many. While there are variations in the giftedness of spiritual leaders, there is still an equality of spiritual authority among those the Bible calls elders or overseers. Such spiritual leadership is essential to the church of Jesus Christ. That’s why the church must be committed to training and obeying godly leaders.

There is room for diversity within the Body of Christ. But every true church is united by certain non-negotiables. Make sure you and your church are committed to these ties that bind you to God.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Moments That Make or Break

One of the challenges of life is that most of it happens in the mundane. You know, like today. Not much happening today. Today’s not special, spectacular, not wonderful, really no opportunities to be amazing today. Just get up and do the work.
But that is the treacherous nature of life; it’s that we fail to realize those big moments, those defining moments that come into our lives, and take advantage of them. Here are five moments that happen in the mundane. And depending on how you respond to them, they’ll make or break you.

The moment of temptation.
Temptation sneaks up on you because it starts small. It attacks your mind. You begin to think about how you’ve been slighted, unappreciated, maybe even cheated. And all of a sudden you feel justified in cheating yourself, cheating on yourself, quitting your commitments: you know, a thousand different temptations, a thousand different strokes. It’s how you respond in the moment of temptation that will determine how you can respond in the rest of your life.

The moment of testing.
Testing has to do with will. In the Scriptures it says “we get knocked down but we get up again.” That’s it, isn’t it? How strong is your resolve? It will be tested, and how you respond in that moment determines the depth and the quality of your life.

The moment of quitting.
Everyone faces a quitting moment. Think about a man and a woman standing at an altar, pledging undying love. They are married. But they fail to take into account, you don’t marry a perfect person. You aren’t perfect either and sometimes you feel unloved and unwanted, and the temptation to quit. That’s when you have to respond. You go to work and you don’t get the raise, or you’re passed over and you want to quit. You get discouraged and you want to quit. It’s pushing through those quitting moments. It’s the power to prevail, when everything inside of you wants to give up, that makes the difference.

The moment of opportunity.
Opportunity is a wonderful thing, but it doesn’t come with bells and whistles. It often comes as one choice among many. It takes wisdom to know which one is the right one for you. But it also takes courage to seize the opportunity of a lifetime during the lifetime of the opportunity. Windows open; windows close. Doors open; doors close. You have to go through them or the opportunity is offered to someone else.

The moment of choice.
Each and everyday, you have ultimate power because you and you alone make your choices. If you give up those choices, your life is ruled and run by arbitrary forces. For fear of making the wrong choice, some of us get stuck in a rut. Wrong or right, a choice needs to be made. And it’s your ultimate power: the power to choose.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Education & Obedience

I encounter many people today saying, "I just don't understand the Bible." Sadly, the fact is that many of those are Christians. It seems that I hear that comment more and more often. I can understand why those outside of Christ are unable to comprehend biblical concepts, but why are Christians struggling so?

I teach a couple of classes here at the church. Often I get the comment that I have a Bible College education and that you need to be a trained minister to understand this stuff. That's not the truth! I've met several trained ministers in my time who didn't really understand the word of God. They knew the facts, but there was no excitement for the Lord and His Word.

I think there is a link between education (knowledge of the Word) and obedience (doing what it says). Many today are professing Christians but not practicing Christians. When we act on what we read in the Bible we see it some to life and we begin to hear and understand the voice of truth better. If we don't obey what God has already revealed to us, then why would He give us deeper truths to deal with? "The secret of the Lord is for those who fear Him" (Psalm 25:14). Those who fear Him and obey His commandments are promised "a good understanding" (Psalm 111:10).

Living a fleshly & sinful lifestyle of disobedience to God clouds our judgement, diminishes our listening, and fogs our thinking. Although we have the "mind of Christ" (1 Corinthians 2:16), our sin keeps us from tapping into the richness of the truth and wisdom that God wants us to find in His Word.

Do you want to know the fullness of the Word of God? Then read it and study it. Meditate on it day and night. (Joshua 1:8 "Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful.") But don't stop there. Do what it says. Obey and submit to God's plans and ideas for the life that He created. As you read, look for His instructions. Then rely on the Holy Spirit to lead you down that path of obedience. When you educate and obey, He'll reveal even deeper truths to you and your understanding will grow. And an exciting thing that will happen very soon...your time in the Word will become a delight instead of a duty.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

May's Wallpaper

Here's a link to May's Wallpaper for the church. So cool. Great job Alan, worship minister and graphic designer extraordinaire!

Keep the faith!