Saturday, July 26, 2014

Pray Together

praying2520together “Nothing tends more to cement the hearts of Christians than praying together. Never do they love one another so well as when they witness the outpouring of each other's hearts in prayer.” ― Charles Grandison Finney

When was the last time you prayed with believers? 
“I also tell you this: If two of you agree here on earth concerning anything you ask, my Father in heaven will do it for you.  For where two or three gather together as my followers, I am there among them.” ~Jesus (Matthew 18:19-20)
Pray for one another.  Pray with one another.  It is more than merely a religious practice.  It is intimate conversation with the Creator of the universe, and in corporate prayer, the Bride of Christ is communing with the Bridegroom.

Love in Christ,
Pastor Joe


Wednesday, July 23, 2014

“Fulfill” – An Exchange and An Example

HopeFulfilled Below is a brief comment on a comment that I made earlier this evening on Facebook.  I’d momentarily thought about writing a lengthier blog post around the word “fulfilled,” but I realize that this is already well covered elsewhere.

I think that the interaction speaks for itself.  It is in response to one of the most common arguments made by people who believe that the Christians are still under the Law of Moses.

More importantly, this arguing over the meaning of words is typical of fringe and cult belief systems.  As Joyfully Growing in Grace articulates so well in the article, “Hebrew Roots Movement – Messin’ With the Word”:

“One of the things that is really important to be aware of regarding this and other heretical movements is that they engage in the re-definition of terms.  Once that is accomplished, those re-defined terms become fields in which seeds of questionable doctrine can be cultivated.  And it’s the perfect set up for the same thing cults do: Convince you that what you know isn’t true, or is “incomplete”, then come in with fresh revelation based on previously “hidden” information.”

FACEBOOK COMMENT:

Do you believe fulfill means "destroy"? If so, here is the scripture you're talking about: Jesus did NOT say, "Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to destroy." ~Matt 5:17 AT (Apostate Translation)

ME:

Nobody said "destroy".

Fulfill = as in "I owe a debt, and on the day said debt is paid in full (either by me or someone else), the obligation of the debt is FULFILLED. Meaning I no longer owe it, and I am no longer under the terms of the debt. Nothing about the former debt can ever be used against me."

It doesn't mean the historical fact that I previously owed a debt goes away, but the debt loses any power or authority over me the moment it is FULFILLED.

Another example - I place an order with a vendor on Amazon, and I've paid for it, but I haven't received it yet. When the vendor ships it to me, he has FULFILLED the order.

So it is with Christ -- when He declared "It is finished!," the power and legal authority of the Law was FULFILLED.

I share this partly because it is an example of why we need to preach, defend, and confirm the Good News about Jesus Christ.

“Dear friends, I had been eagerly planning to write to you about the salvation we all share. But now I find that I must write about something else, urging you to defend the faith that God has entrusted once for all time to his holy people.” (Jude 1:3)

For more Scriptural precedent for addressing false teaching, check out: http://www.openbible.info/topics/exposing_false_teachers

Love in Christ,
Pastor Joe

Monday, July 21, 2014

Churches and Garages

church-garage-quote

A quote I’ve seen shared more than once on Facebook reads, “Going to church doesn’t make you a Christian any more than going to a garage makes you an automobile.”

I’m sure I’ve clicked “like” to that sentiment at some point.  Heck, I’m positive I’ve even shared it at least once.

In recent years, though, that saying has bothered me more and more, though I couldn’t quite explain why.  It sounded reasonable enough, but still, it ate at me every time I saw someone else share it or ‘like’ it.

It recently dawned on me that the saying uses a very poor analogy.  A person, no matter how many times they may walk into a garage, will *never* become a car.  A person who goes to church, on the other hand, may well become a Christian.

Don’t get me wrong.  I’m not nitpicking.  I understand that the general idea is that there may be those out there who assume (out of misinformed ignorance) that any involvement with a church, even just annual attendance on Christmas or Easter, will somehow get them into heaven.  The truth is, though, that I’ve never met even one such person.  Not one.

Instead, I think that this quote belies an underlying judgmentalism about those who actually DO attend church.  It has become all too easy for us as a society to loosely toss around the term ‘hypocrite,’ especially in regard to regular church-goers.  This quote seems to imply that some of these very people who show up to church are really just self-deceived at best, if not out and out false Christians.  Perhaps that’s not at all the context in which the original quote comes from, but that’s how it seems to be used these days.

I can’t tell you how many people I’ve encountered in the last 25 years of ministry who stay away from church “because of the hypocrites.”

What a shame.

Let me draw you back to the analogy of the car for a moment.  While standing in a garage will decidedly not make you a car, I want you to think about what you DO with a car to keep it running smoothly.  Yes, you may be able to drive a car for many miles without ever taking it to a garage, and you may be able to get some extra miles out of it by doing some of the work yourself, but you’ll never have the same mileage you’ll have if you take it to the garage. 

Just like we take our cars into the garage for maintenance and repair, so we need to take our selves to church.  No, the pastors and elders are not the mechanics.  But neither are you.  God is the master mechanic, and He uses His body, the church, to minister to His people.  The church, as a collective body of people with unique giftings and skills, is able to fulfill the “one another” commands of the Bible in a way that we simply cannot as individuals.

Finally, a word about that poor, ignorant, misguided, self-deluded person standing in the church….

“But how can they call on him to save them unless they believe in him? And how can they believe in him if they have never heard about him? And how can they hear about him unless someone tells them?” (Romans 10:14)

Where better for them to be, but to be where they can clearly hear the Good News that “If you openly declare that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God, and it is by openly declaring your faith that you are saved. … ‘Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’’ (Romans 10:9-10,13)?

No, standing in a garage will NOT make you a car, but getting yourself to where Jesus Christ is preached very well may be part of the process of how God transforms you into a Christian.

And, as for you, Christian, you are part of that heavenly pit crew. 

“Freely you have received, freely give.”

Love in Christ,
Pastor Joe

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Video: "What is Grace?"


For more information like this, be sure to check out the updated RESOURCES page.

Love in Christ,
Pastor Joe

Monday, July 14, 2014

Do Atheists Exist?


I just read this interesting article from a secular science news site:

"Scientists Discover that Atheists Might Not Exist and That's Not A Joke"
"Cognitive scientists are becoming increasingly aware that a metaphysical outlook may be so deeply ingrained in human thought processes that it cannot be expunged.
"While this idea may seem outlandish—after all, it seems easy to decide not to believe in God—evidence from several disciplines indicates that what you actually believe is not a decision you make for yourself. Your fundamental beliefs are decided by much deeper levels of consciousness, and some may well be more or less set in stone."
In other words, whether you believe in creationism, evolution, or something entirely different, it appears that our instinct to search for meaning beyond the limited scope of our fleeting lives is hard-wired into us.

In that light, consider the following Bible verses:
Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end. (Ecclesiastes 3:11)
They know the truth about God because he has made it obvious to them. For ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky. Through everything God made, they can clearly see his invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature. So they have no excuse for not knowing God. (Romans 1:19-20) 
Only fools say in their hearts, "There is no God." (Psalm 14:1)
Science and faith are NOT mutually exclusive.  Rather, the former is simply the study of the mechanics of the latter.

Believe like a child, but don't check your brain at the door.

Love in Christ,
Pastor Joe

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Preach, Defend, and Confirm the Good News


I'd like to challenge you to do an in-depth personal Bible study on this "Good News" that we believe, preach, confirm, and defend.

According to Bible.org, the term 'gospel' (or 'good news'):
The term gospel is found ninety-nine times in the NASB and ninety-two times in the NET Bible. In the Greek New Testament, gospel is the translation of the Greek noun euangelion (occurring 76 times) “good news,” and the verb euangelizo„ (occurring 54 times), meaning “to bring or announce good news.” Both words are derived from the noun angelos, “messenger.” In classical Greek, an euangelos was one who brought a message of victory or other political or personal news that caused joy. In addition, euangelizomai (the middle voice form of the verb) meant “to speak as a messenger of gladness, to proclaim good news.” Further, the noun euangelion became a technical term for the message of victory, though it was also used for a political or private message that brought joy.
It is this GOOD NEWS that everything rises or falls on, and it is of the utmost importance that we understand exactly what it is (and what it is not), and what it means to us.  If you are a Christian, this is the shining centerpiece of everything else that comes before or after in the Bible.  The Good News concerning Christ fulfills the Old Testament, and is the pinnacle by which the rest of the New Testament stands.

Why is it so important to deepen our understanding of this Good News?  Besides the obvious benefits, consider what Paul wrote to the church at Galatia concerning those who were trying to preach a false Gospel among them:
I am shocked that you are turning away so soon from God, who called you to himself through the loving mercy of Christ. You are following a different way that pretends to be the Good News but is not the Good News at all. You are being fooled by those who deliberately twist the truth concerning Christ.  
Let God’s curse fall on anyone, including us or even an angel from heaven, who preaches a different kind of Good News than the one we preached to you.  I say again what we have said before: If anyone preaches any other Good News than the one you welcomed, let that person be cursed.
Obviously, I’m not trying to win the approval of people, but of God. If pleasing people were my goal, I would not be Christ’s servant. - (Galatians 1:6-10)
Elsewhere, Paul writes to the church at Phillipi,
So it is right that I should feel as I do about all of you, for you have a special place in my heart. You share with me the special favor of God, both in my imprisonment and in defending and confirming the truth of the Good News. God knows how much I love you and long for you with the tender compassion of Christ Jesus. - (Philippians 1:7-8)
In these dark days, it is ever more important that we endeavor to preach, confirm, and defend this Good News.  Below are just a few verses concerning the Good News of Christ, but I encourage you to take the time to study through ALL the instances of the phrase "Good News" as it appears in the Bible.

Most importantly, let the liberating, joyful truth of what it means to be made right in God's sight through faith in Jesus Christ minister to you as you do so!
Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them. They were terrified, but the angel reassured them. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David!" - (Luke 2:9-11)
We always pray for you, and we give thanks to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.  For we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and your love for all of God’s people, which come from your confident hope of what God has reserved for you in heaven. You have had this expectation ever since you first heard the truth of the Good News.
This same Good News that came to you is going out all over the world. It is bearing fruit everywhere by changing lives, just as it changed your lives from the day you first heard and understood the truth about God’s wonderful grace." - (Colossians 1:3-6)
This is the message of Good News for the people of Israel—that there is peace with God through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all. - (Acts 10:36) 
For I am not ashamed of this Good News about Christ. It is the power of God at work, saving everyone who believes—the Jew first and also the Gentile. This Good News tells us how God makes us right in his sight. This is accomplished from start to finish by faith. As the Scriptures say, “It is through faith that a righteous person has life.” - (Romans 1:16-17)
Yet preaching the Good News is not something I can boast about. I am compelled by God to do it. How terrible for me if I didn’t preach the Good News! - (1 Corinthians 9:16)
Preach, confirm, and defend the Good News!

Love in Christ,
Pastor Joe

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Video: "Every Praise"


Shout with joy to the LORD, all the earth!
Worship the LORD with gladness.
Come before him, singing with joy.
Acknowledge that the LORD is God!
He made us, and we are his.a
We are his people, the sheep of his pasture.
Enter his gates with thanksgiving;
Go into his courts with praise.
Give thanks to him and praise his name.
For the LORD is good.
His unfailing love continues forever,
And his faithfulness continues to each generation.
~ Psalm 100