That’s My Old Church

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A man is rescued after many years on a desert island. As he stands on the deck of the rescuing vessel, the captain says to him, “I thought you were stranded alone. How come I can see three huts on the beach?”

“Well,” replies the castaway, “that one there is my house and that one there is where I go to church.”

“And the third one?” asks the skipper.

“Oh, that’s my old church.”  (Wikipedia)

How many of us could drive through our town or city and say the same thing?

There are definitely a few biblical reasons for leaving a church and moving on to another, but I am convinced that most of the time, it has nothing to do with biblical reasoning or issues.  And sadly, many of the stated “biblical issues” are not biblical at all.  They are just strong preferences.

Wonder how many churches in your area are splits off of another church, and sometimes sadly are a split from even another church?  Some church splits are due to personality clashes, arguments over a building project, music preference, translation issues, petty offenses, wrong interpretation of separation, perceived misconceptions, etc.

Then there are splits created by sins such as gossip, pride, sowing discord among the brethren, refusal to obey the biblical instructions of how to address conflicts, power-struggles, dictatorial leadership from pastors and/or deacons, unbiblical response to church discipline, bitterness, etc.

The point of this post is simply this.

  1. As spoken by Thom Rainer, “There is little good that comes from church splits.”
  2. God is bigger than any issue that creates a church split.  Why not trust God?  Everything man puts his hands to, he ruins.  The flesh profits nothing.
  3. Prayer and humility is the answer, not gang warfare.  We should be fighting in prayer not in corner groups, email or on social media.  Even in situations of doctrinal deviation, patience and prayer should be the overriding mode of operation.
  4. Remember that every church is made up of sinners, hopefully saved by the grace of God, in desperate, daily need of God’s grace, and purchased by the blood of Christ.  We are not our own (1 Corinthians 6:9-20).  We are to be growing in grace everyday (2 Peter 3:18).
  5. Whatever issue causes that split, because of a lack of humble resolution, it is the reason for the “new church” to start.  Is that a proper foundation?  Will it last?
  6. The greater testimony for Christ in our communities should be repentance, reconciliation and rejoicing, not division, discord, and death.
  7. Consider please the following passages of Scripture before ever being a part of a church split: Proverbs 6:12-19; 13:10; 15:6; Romans 12:3-21; 13:10-14; 15:1-3; 15:5-6; Matthew 16:18; 1 Corinthians 3:1-23; 10:31; Ephesians 4:1-3, 14-32; Philippians 1:12-18, 27; 1 John 4:7-20.

Sadly, the word “split” is more synonymous with “church” than the word “reproduction.”  With the first, there is usually death.  With the last, there is always life.  Paul sums it up correctly in 1 Corinthians 1:10-17.  May I suggest it this way—Are we of the _____________ version, or of ______________ism, or of _________________ denomination, or of ______________ college, or of ____________________ conference or . . . of Christ?

Oh that our eyes would ever be on Christ alone! (Hebrews 12:1-3)  When we stand before Him at the Bema, He is all that will matter.  It’s His Church anyway, not “my old church.”

 

 

 

It’s Sunday!

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Have you ever really given some concentrated thought to all that happens in a local church on Sunday?

Sunday is a day of joy, tears, praise, mistakes, sin, confession, forgiveness, sadness, misunderstandings, questions, conviction, conversion, repentance, greeting, fellowship, preaching, truth, testimonies, introductions, singing, forgetfulness, encouragement, edification, communication, conversation, mishaps, announcements, listening, sharing, praying, burden bearing, heartaches, grace extended, mercy given, satanic attack, war with the flesh, victories, laughter, fears, disgruntlement, giving, decision-making, meeting strangers, discipleship, hypocrisy, rushing to get there on time, and so much more.

So, with that in mind, how should we respond?

Without a doubt, before any believer pulls into the parking lot, he/she must spend time with the Lord in prayer!  If able, on your knees in humble, contrite, calling out, dependent prayer before you leave home.

The Church is the Body of Christ, the vehicle God is using today to accomplish His redemptive purposes in this world, and the target of Satan, the flesh and the world.  The Church is not in a defeatist mode because we are on the winning side (Matthew 16:18), and God will do great things in and through His Body (Ephesians 1-6).. But, to be able to work through all the aforementioned things, to accomplish God’s purposes and plans for the local church, we must be in tune with the heart of God, not our heart!

You see, prayer is the declaration of your dependence upon God, your surrender to God, and your life before God.

Matthew 17 records the inability of the disciples to heal a young epileptic lad.  The father brought his case to Jesus to which He replied, O faithless and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you?  How long shall I bear with you?  Bring him here to Me.  Jesus rebuked the demon and the boy was completely healed.  Jesus goes on to say that the disciples inability was tied to unbelief and a lack of prayer.

The whole goal of every local church Sunday gathering is to “bring people to Jesus; to help them move one step toward Jesus” for God’s glory!  Therefore, to work through all the stuff of a Sunday and not be a faithless generation, we must pray, . . . believing God.  He gives power to overcome our sin and weaknesses and gives power to energize our worship.  He can move mountains!

So, next Sunday in the midst of “all the stuff of a Sunday,” be sure to pray before you arrive at church, pray as you walk into church, pray with others in the foyer before church, pray at your seat, pray along with those leading in worship, pray while the message is being delivered, pray during the invitation, pray with some folks around you at the close of the service, pray in your small groups, pray for your pastors and leaders, pray, pray, pray, and when you have finished praying, pray!

1 Timothy 2:1-4 – First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.

Ephesians 6:18 – Praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints,

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 – Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

Ephesians 3:14-22 – For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love,  may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height— to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

Get Rid of That Flute! Trash That Trumpet!

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Music in church.

What God has created for an awesome expression of praise, worship, solace, joy, meditation, conviction, challenge, surrender, and discipleship is sadly a major source of division in the Body of Christ and has been for centuries.

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Music. I said it.

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You want to start a possible firestorm in a conversation?  Mention the word “music.”  Even writing about this causes me to cringe a bit.  There is much debate about the kind of music being used today in our churches.  May I kindly offer the following?

Often the cry is heard, “We don’t sing the old hymns in our church anymore,” or “I sure miss the old hymns,” or “These old hymns will die if we don’t sing them in church.”  No matter whether that is the case or not, may I ask, as I was reminded recently, “Do you sing hymns at home?”

The best place to learn the great hymns of the faith is at home.  Sing them at supper.  Sing them in the car.  Sing them around the fire pit.  Sing them during your family devotions.  Sing them on the way to church.  Sing them while holding your child in your arms.  Sing them while washing dishes.  Sing them at family gatherings.

On any given Sunday, a congregation may sing around 30 minutes. How many opportunities do you have at home each week?  Take advantage of those hours to disciple and worship with your family and guests.  Make your home a house of praise! I have a hunch your worship time on Sunday will be more Godward-focused and heart-expressed.

Sing praises to the Lord, who dwells in Zion! Declare His deeds among the people (Psalm 9:1).

I will sing to the Lord, Because He has dealt bountifully with me (Psalm 13:6).

Therefore I will give thanks to You, O Lord, among the Gentiles, And sing praises to Your name (Psalm 18:36).

Sing to Him a new song; Play skillfully with a shout of joy (Psalm 33:3).

Speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord (Ephesians 5:18).

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord (Colossians 3:16).

Thank the Lord He created music!  Sing!!

The Sum of It All

 

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Grace Baptist Church, Bluefield, WV (4th-6th Grade)

Ministry.  That really sums up my life.

Having grown up in a pastor’s home, that’s basically all I’ve known.

I have fond memories of moving from town-to-town in my school days.  (We lived in ten different towns and fourteen houses, and served in nine churches.) Although I did not like to leave my friends, I always made new ones in the next move.   And, oh the many precious souls who impacted our lives during those years!  How marvelous to see many precious ones of all ages come to the saving knowledge of Christ!  Oh, the joy of seeing answered prayer on so many fronts!

Of course, I remember many of the difficulties of ministry as well.  When I was in the third grade, the church took up a petition one Sunday morning while we were out of town and voted my dad out of the church. Why?  Because he preached salvation by grace through faith alone (Ephesians 2:8-9), and my mother played the piano with too much gusto, or as they said, “She put too many runs in the piano.”

I could write a year’s worth of blog posts about ministry, but . . .

Ministry . . . is Jesus (Mark 10:45).

Ministry . . . is the continuation of the life and ministry of Jesus Christ (Acts 1-2).

Ministry . . . is following Jesus (Matthew 28:18-20; Luke 19:10).

Ministry . . . is making much of Jesus—-He’s the issue; He’s the complete reason; He’s the “celebrity;”  He’s the cause; He’s the only -ism; He’s the message (Colossians 1:15-18, 27-28).

Ministry here on earth has its share of delights and disappointments, fun and failure, joy and jams, selflessness and selfishness,  relationships and rejections,  blessings and battles, etc.

The only way to see ministry biblically fulfilled and to run the complete race of ministry until the Lord calls you Home is wrapped up in one word:  submit (Galatians 2:20; James 4:6-8; 1 Peter 5:5-10).  Submit every facet of ministry, including what is mentioned in the previous paragraph and . . . yourself to Jesus everyday.

John the Baptist said it so well when he spoke of Jesus, “He must increase; but I must decrease” (John 3:30).

That sums up ministry.

Praise the Lord for the Interruption!

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Men’s Prayer Advance 2018, Roanoke, VA

Sunday evening while we were worshiping the Lord in song as a church family, I received a text from a dear church member whose husband was in the hospital in severe pain. As soon as the song was finished, we took the opportunity to pray for this dear man and his wife.

During my visit in the hospital today, I expressed my appreciation for her taking the time to send a text so we could pray.  Immediately she apologized with a bit of embarrassment for the interruption.

At that moment, the Lord brought something to my mind which I shared with them.  Prayer never interrupts our Heavenly Father. Prayer never interrupts the Throne of Grace (Hebrews 4:16).  Prayer never interrupts the work of God.  Prayer never hinders the goings on in Heaven.  Therefore, why should stopping to pray be an interruption in our church services.  We have, I’m afraid, come to the place that in too many of our church services/gatherings our formalism has drowned out the Holy Spirit’s leading to change the service order so we can pray.

When I shared these thoughts with this dear lady and her husband, he without hesitation declared, “AMEN!”

Our churches would be so much better off, enjoying the presence of God, seeing His power at work, watching souls come to Christ, believers being revived, and enjoying the blessings of unity around the Throne of Grace if we prayed more (Psalm 85:6; Acts 2:42; 12:5; 16:16; Ephesians 6:18; 1 Timothy 2:1).

Prayer is never an interruption!

Just Give Him Praise!

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Praise the Lord!
Praise God in his sanctuary;
praise him in his mighty heavens!
Praise him for his mighty deeds;
praise him according to his excellent greatness!

Praise him with trumpet sound;
praise him with lute and harp!
Praise him with tambourine and dance;
praise him with strings and pipe!
Praise him with sounding cymbals;
praise him with loud clashing cymbals!
Let everything that has breath praise the Lord!
Praise the Lord!  
(Psalm 150)

Steven Cole asks an excellent question, “I wonder how many of us could honestly say, ‘Praising God characterizes my life’?”

Personally, there’s something special about being around people who love to praise the Lord!

Such was the case Tuesday night as a group of us attended the Bristol Revival in Bristol, VA.  This is the first week for these meetings under the gospel tent.  With around 2,500 or more in attendance, the praise did flow!

What a blessed time it was to gather outside the tent with around 200 men to pray before the service. With men crying out to the Lord, hands raised in supplication (1 Timothy 2:8), it was a blessed time in the presence of God asking for the power of God to change hearts and lives through the preaching of God’s Word

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The praise and worship continued as the service began with joyful, full-hearted singing.  Once again, there was shouting, rejoicing, and brighten countenances all around.  These folks were praising God for Who He is and for what He had done!

What stood out to me were the young folks seated around me.  Next to me was a nine-year-old boy in our group who at one point nudged me on the leg and pointed to my hands.  They weren’t clapping with the music, and he did not want me to miss out on the blessing of praise!

In front of me were two young folk, ages 12-15, who seated next to their father, were more than engaged in rejoicing and making connections throughout the whole service.  It was a delight to see them so engaged.

The preaching of Evangelist CT Townsend was powerful and penetrating.  Oh the praise and joy that rolled as we were challenged to consider the blood that has redeemed us, reconciled us back to God, purchased our pardon, and set us free from our bondage to sin (Exodus 12; Ephesians 1:7; 2:13; Colossians 1:14-22; Titus 2:14; Hebrews 9:22; 1 Peter 1:18-19).

The praise continued as lost souls walked forward at the invitation to receive Christ as their personal Savior!  As their names and ages were called out, the believers rejoiced with those in Glory (Luke 15).

“Psalm 150 gives us the where, why, how, and who of praise. Praise can be expressed through singing and music (including clapping, dancing, lifting our hands, kneeling, lying prostrate, etc.), through testimony and thanksgiving, prayer, sacrificial service, and giving.” (Cole)

Is your life characterized by praise?  Are you obedient to Psalm 150:6?

God is eternally worthy of all our praise!

A dear friend of mine in ministry is often heard to say, “Just give Him praise!”

Watching the Body at Work

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As we entered the hospital room, we were greeted with the sin-curse of death.  Another child of God was soon to “drop this robe of flesh” and rise to meet the Lord.

With hearts touched by the reality in front of us, we surrounded the bed and read Scripture.  Then we broke into song.  “In the Sweet By and By,” “It is Well With My Soul,” “When We All Get to Heaven,”  “Blessed Assurance”  and a few more.

As we sang, one would be overcome by emotion for a bit and their voice would fade or quiver.  It was at that point that someone else would carry the lead.

After a song or two, some other folks dropped by and joined the bedside choir.

Standing there, I was reminded that this is how the Body of Christ operates.

First of all, we are to sing to one another. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him (Colossians 3:16-17).

Second, when a brother or sister is faltering, overcome by emotion, or in various situations of need, we do not criticize them, we just “take the lead” and help them bear their burden.  Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ (Galatians 6:2).

Third, what a  blessing it is when others refuse to just stand back and intentionally join the choir! Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord (Romans 12:11).

May I also add that the lady in the room next to us heard our singing which opened a later door for her to hear the gospel the next day.

To be a member of the Body of Christ and serve with others in His Body is the greatest privilege on earth!!

Snoozing in the Pew and in Life

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No doubt about it, I’ve contributed to too many folks’ early Sunday nap while I have been preaching on a Sunday morning.  I know how it feels.  You are tired, you try to stay awake, and in a moment, you see two preachers standing in the pulpit instead of one, and next thing you know, your head’s-a-bobbin’!!!  Then you look around to see if anyone saw you . . . especially the preacher!

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What concerns me so much more than this are the folks who sit week-after-week in a Bible preaching/teaching church and are never moved by the Word of God. They hear the truth, but in their heart they are snoozing in the pew.  The Word does not reach their heart and subsequently their will.

Perhaps they have never been born again. “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 7:21).

Perhaps they have been converted but need the exhortation found in 2 Peter 1:3-11.

According to God’s divine power, we have been given everything that pertains to life and godliness (1:3) including exceeding great and precious promises that enable us to be daily partakers of the divine nature (1:4).

Based upon this deposit and a personal, growing knowledge of God, we are then exhorted to be diligent!  We are to give every effort to add to our original faith the list of virtues found in verses 5-7.  Quite frankly this is simply maturing in the faith.

When you give diligence to this growth, then you as believer will not be . . .

Useless (barren, 1:8) This means to be stuck, stalled, ineffective, lazy and apathetic in your Christian life.  We are asleep.

Unfruitful (1:8) Too many believers remain spiritual infants throughout their Christian life (1 Cor. 3:1).  They are satisfied to stay on the bottle, drink milk, rather than feeding on prime cuts of meat in God’s Word (Hebrews 5:12-14).  They remain unfruitful because they are worldly wise not godly wise.  We are asleep.

Unseeing (blind, 1:9) We are unable to discern our true, present spiritual condition or to live with an eternal perspective.   We are asleep.

Unmoved (forgotten, 1:9)  There is never a day that should go by that we are not reminded of the pit God brought us out of through the gospel (Ephesians 2:1-9).  That same gospel should have a daily effect upon because Christ’s death, burial and resurrection touches every facet of our everyday lives (Galatians 2:20).  Are you asleep?

Then Peter adds that we are to be diligent in making our calling and election sure (1:10) In other words, your life should be lived in such a manner that no one would ever say, “I wonder if he/she is really a Christian?  Is he/she sleeping?”

The word sure (1:10) means “to show the receipt.”  Our transparent, honest walk with Christ should be a proof of purchase (a receipt) that we have been bought by the blood of Jesus Christ (1 Peter 1:18-19).

If we are diligent to grow in our original faith and in making our calling and election sure, we will enjoy a grand, rewarded entrance into heaven (1:11).

So, when you hear preaching, are you “snoozing in the pew” or diligent to gain all that God wants to teach you?  Have you become useless, unfruitful, unseeing and unmoved?  The key is to be diligent to hear and quick to obey.