Turning On the Lights! Thursday Morning, October 7th! How do we justify the teachings of 2 Corinthians 6 about being called out of the world and NOT interacting with the unbelieving world with the teachings of Jesus in Matthew 28 to, "Go - Make disciples
Turning On the Lights! Tuesday Morning, September 21. Let's talk about faith, intentionality, and idol worship. We have a strong tendency to turn God into a "person" who we like much better that the God of the Bible - primarily because we make an idol ou
August 24th, 2021 Turning On the Lights! Tuesday Morning August 24th. We live in strange and powerful times. How does the Christian and the Church move through such wicked darkness? How does the Christian navigate these deep waters? Mind you now, I am n
1Therefore I, a prisoner for serving the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of your calling, for you have been called by God. 2Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love. 3Make every effort to keep yourselves united in the Spirit, binding yourselves together with peace. 4For there is one body and one Spirit, just as you have been called to one glorious hope for the future.
5There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism,
6one God and Father of all,
who is over all, in all, and living through all. (Ephesians 4:1-6 NLT)
17With the Lord’s authority I say this: Live no longer as the Gentiles do, for they are hopelessly confused. 18Their minds are full of darkness; they wander far from the life God gives because they have closed their minds and hardened their hearts against him. 19They have no sense of shame. They live for lustful pleasure and eagerly practice every kind of impurity.
20But that isn’t what you learned about Christ. 21Since you have heard about Jesus and have learned the truth that comes from him, 22throw off your old sinful nature and your former way of life, which is corrupted by lust and deception. 23Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes. 24Put on your new nature, created to be like God—truly righteous and holy. (Ephesians 4:17-24 NLT)
Question… Am I the only one called by the Lord at Churchtown?
I think you know the answer to that, especially if you have taken the time to read the passages above! The answer is, of course, no. Every person who places their faith in the atoning work of the cross is reborn a child of called and thus called to the ministry of reconciliation. (reconciling broken spirits with God through faith in Jesus Christ) In one way or another, Paul implores all of the people in all of the churches that he serves to, “live a life worthy of your calling.” And so we too listen to his wisdom – the wisdom of God’s Holy Spirit.
What does this mean? Fundamentally it means that we submit to the prayer that we are taught to pray, “Your Kingdom come; Your will be done – on earth as it is in heaven.” You see, if this is truly the way it works, and I believe with my whole heart that it is, then our calling amounts to living out GOD’S will in our lives. What does that look like exactly? To be sure we have some descriptors in scripture. For example, Paul goes on in Ephesians 4 to tell the congregation, “25So stop telling lies. Let us tell our neighbors the truth, for we are all parts of the same body. 26And “don’t sin by letting anger control you.” Don’t let the sun go down while you are still angry, 27for anger gives a foothold to the devil.
28If you are a thief, quit stealing. Instead, use your hands for good hard work, and then give generously to others in need. 29Don’t use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them.
30And do not bring sorrow to God’s Holy Spirit by the way you live. Remember, he has identified you as his own, guaranteeing that you will be saved on the day of redemption.
31Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior. 32Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.”
Pretty good advice, to be sure; but your calling also looks unique to you and your circumstances. I, for example, do not know what it means to live my calling as an accountant, or an attorney, or a construction worker, or a police officer et… BUT we can be assured that wherever we are and whatever we are doing in this world, God wants us to be those ministers of reconciliation who will lead the people that He places us among into the Kingdom.
So here’s the bottom line… God has been very intentional in bringing about the salvation of His human creation through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. If we truly repent and place our faith in the completed work on the cross, then we should be very intentional about living in the relationship with The Almighty that has been restored.
What was it I wrote the other week? Love, Pray, Obey – Repeat.
Those are all verbs.
Over the next two weeks, we will be looking at the Kingdom of Heaven. You see, the Gospel is all about the Kingdom of Heaven – the Good News, in fact, is that the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand!
I know that we have been conditioned to think in a shallower way about the work of the cross – that Jesus willingly sacrificing Himself on the cross is about our personal salvation – our, “ticket into heaven,” and indeed it is about being saved from the power of sin and death; but at the same time, we are adopted into the family of God and brought in from the dark – into the kingdom of heaven.
The kingdom of heaven – you will also hear, the kingdom of God – is more complex in its nature than we may think. The kingdom has existed from creation, but at the same time has been prophesied to exist in the messianic prophecies of the Old Testament. At the same time, followers of the Christ live in the kingdom of heaven on earth now – as we wait for the second coming of Jesus and the fruition of all that has been promised. The kingdom is often described, and it is a succinct way of thinking about it, as both existing and becoming simultaneously.
The Good News is that we are saved by Christ and adopted into the kingdom – the unseen yet very real kingdom of heaven on earth while simultaneously holding onto the hope that is imparted to the believer through the promises of the new heaven and the new earth where the physical and the spiritual will exist in perfect harmony.
1When Jesus had finished giving these instructions to his twelve disciples, he went out to teach and preach in towns throughout the region.
2John the Baptist, who was in prison, heard about all the things the Messiah was doing. So he sent his disciples to ask Jesus, 3“Are you the Messiah we’ve been expecting,a or should we keep looking for someone else?”
4Jesus told them, “Go back to John and tell him what you have heard and seen— 5the blind see, the lame walk, those with leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised to life, and the Good News is being preached to the poor.” 6And he added, “God blesses those who do not fall away because of me.b”
7As John’s disciples were leaving, Jesus began talking about him to the crowds. “What kind of man did you go into the wilderness to see? Was he a weak reed, swayed by every breath of wind? 8Or were you expecting to see a man dressed in expensive clothes? No, people with expensive clothes live in palaces. 9Were you looking for a prophet? Yes, and he is more than a prophet. 10John is the man to whom the Scriptures refer when they say,
‘Look, I am sending my messenger ahead of you,
and he will prepare your way before you.’c
11“I tell you the truth, of all who have ever lived, none is greater than John the Baptist. Yet even the least person in the Kingdom of Heaven is greater than he is! 12And from the time John the Baptist began preaching until now, the Kingdom of Heaven has been forcefully advancing,d and violent people are attacking it. 13For before John came, all the prophets and the law of Moses looked forward to this present time. 14And if you are willing to accept what I say, he is Elijah, the one the prophets said would come.e 15Anyone with ears to hear should listen and understand!
16“To what can I compare this generation? It is like children playing a game in the public square. They complain to their friends,
17‘We played wedding songs,
and you didn’t dance,
so we played funeral songs,
and you didn’t mourn.’
18For John didn’t spend his time eating and drinking, and you say, ‘He’s possessed by a demon.’ 19The Son of Man,f on the other hand, feasts and drinks, and you say, ‘He’s a glutton and a drunkard, and a friend of tax collectors and other sinners!’ But wisdom is shown to be right by its results.”
This little passage from Matthew chapter 11 (verses 1-19) talks about how the prophets foretold the coming of Jesus and thus the coming of the kingdom. Jesus, as usual, does not mince His words when discussing the nature of the kingdom and how it is under constant attack. He then goes on to expressly speak on what we expressly speak on every Sunday – that as an individual, you will have to decide in which kingdom you will live.
Will you live as an adopted son or daughter of the Most High and submit to the authority of God the Father through Jesus Christ the son? Or will you give yourself over to the kingdoms created by the minds of men and submit to the authority of the father of all lies?
Turning On the Lights! Tuesday Morning, August 3rd. We really get into the Gospel and its power to bring PEACE within the chaos. The power of God that raised Christ from the dead lives in you! Why are you afraid! Get those eyes up!
Hello My fellow Seekers. This Churchtown Weekly is going to be just a little different as I seek to address a couple of things that have cropped up over the past couple of weeks. Don’t worry, they are legitimate questions from the congregation relative to the preaching and teaching that has been occurring.
The first regards my discussion of the means if the words, “literal,” “inerrant,” and “infallible.” I NEVER want there to be any misunderstanding about my very high view of scripture, and zi feel that I did not do a very good job of discussing the reasons why I stay away from the word, “Literal” and prefer the words “inerrant” and “infallible.”
Understanding a word as being “literal” means that we understand that word to be representing the very thing of which it speaks. For example, when Jesus says, “I am the Gate.” Is He literally a gate? If we are to use the word literal as it is intended, then we would have to believe that He is – Now, we know that in a sense He IS a gate – but not a literal gate. See the difference? You know me – words matter. A lot.
If we view this simple statement from the point of view of inerrancy and infallibility, the interpretation becomes more understandable and meaningful. Jesus says that He is the “gate,” and we know that He is – because the surrounding context and our knowledge of Jesus provides all of the understanding we need to know what He means. Moreover, as far as the message that Jesus is conveying is that no one comes to the Father except through Him – That message is infallible. The Words that Jesus Speaks never have failed and never will fail in their intent.
Let’s take a look at an another example that is near and dear to all of our hearts – the Declaration of Independence.
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
Work through the ideas with me….
If we take these words that were written in 1776 literally, then we must believe that only MEN are created “equal” and endowed by their creator with rights. We know that is not the intent of these words, they are simply written following the masculine-oriented writing conventions of the time. Moreover, If we take these words as being literal, then all male slaves at the time should have been immediately released. They weren’t.
But we know the context. We know the background AND we know the VISION that these people had when they wrote these words. We are fallible humans who err regularly, so the example of the Declaration can not be compared “apples-to-apples” to the Word of God. Will these words fail in their intended purpose? That remains to be seen; but my point is that we actually make these sorts of “interpretations” all the time.
I have a very high view of scripture indeed. It is the Divinely inspired, infallible (inerrant), Word of God and the only authority of our faith and the practice of our faith – which leads me to my next point. The offering box.
Two weeks ago I spoke before the service about the generosity of this congregation and some of the plans and purposes we have for the resources that we have been given. This gave rise to several questions about why we do not take, or receive – however you choose to look at it – an offering. When we moved to the offering box, I spent time explaining the reasoning and the theology behind it. Let me give you the short response and then I will paste in the document that I wrote at the time.
There are three primary reasons why we do not “pass the plate” at Churchtown. The first is because I do not see that being done in scripture. I read of the spirit of giving in scripture; I read about sacrificial giving and cheerful giving and even of the right of the worker to receive his or her wages – but I do not see any example of passing the hat and putting pressure on people to give – even when Paul is collecting the offering to be given to the church in Jerusalem, all indications are that it is a completely free will offering.
Theologically speaking – I do not believe that churches should ask for money. Period. At most you will hear us talk about the opportunities that we have to give.
This leads into my next point. I believe that “passing the plate” places undue social pressure on church attendees to give. I have seen it and experienced it first-hand. It is a form of compulsion and I do not believe that it is the right thing to do.
Finally, you know me, I also operate on the, “we’re all grown-up here” principle. In other words, we all know that EVERYTHING costs money and that it takes this physical resource in order to keep the church open, clean, updated, safe and thus operating for the benefit of those who attend – all for the glory of God.
Here is the document that I wrote a couple fo years ago when we stopped asking for money and switched to the offering box.
1I really don’t need to write to you about this ministry of giving for the believers in Jerusalem 2For I know how eager you are to help, and I have been boasting to the churches in Macedonia that you in Greece were ready to send an offering a year ago. In fact, it was your enthusiasm that stirred up many of the Macedonian believers to begin giving. 3But I am sending these brothers to be sure you really are ready, as I have been telling them, and that your money is all collected. I don’t want to be wrong in my boasting about you. 4We would be embarrassed—not to mention your own embarrassment—if some Macedonian believers came with me and found that you weren’t ready after all I had told them! 5So I thought I should send these brothers ahead of me to make sure the gift you promised is ready. But I want it to be a willing gift, not one given grudgingly.
6Remember this—a farmer who plants only a few seeds will get a small crop. But the one who plants generously will get a generous crop. 7You must each decide in your heart how much to give. And don’t give reluctantly or in response to pressure. “For God loves a person who gives cheerfully.” 8And God will generously provide all you need. Then you will always have everything you need and plenty left over to share with others.9As the Scriptures say,
“They share freely and give generously to the poor.
Their good deeds will be remembered forever.”
10For God is the one who provides seed for the farmer and then bread to eat. In the same way, he will provide and increase your resources and then produce a great harvest of generosity in you. 11Yes, you will be enriched in every way so that you can always be generous. And when we take your gifts to those who need them, they will thank God. 12So two good things will result from this ministry of giving—the needs of the believers in Jerusalem will be met, and they will joyfully express their thanks to God.
13As a result of your ministry, they will give glory to God. For your generosity to them and to all believers will prove that you are obedient to the Good News of Christ. 14And they will pray for you with deep affection because of the overflowing grace God has given to you. 15Thank God for this gift too wonderful for words! (2 Corinthians 9 NLT)
This scripture, like no other, teaches us about the spiritual principles of giving. It is a very powerful teaching that describes giving as a free-will act of worship through generosity – an act that demonstrates the faith of the believer relative to what we hold to be most precious to us on earth – our wealth. It is a fair challenge for us to undertake because even if we are not “greedy” and hording wealth – we are still taught that our private property is ours, that we need it for a variety of reasons, and that we have every right to accumulate it and dispense of it as we see fit.
All of these things are true and none of these things are inherently wrong or evil. God simply challenges us through those earthly feelings to compare how much we trust Him with how much we trust in our own selves.
It is from this scripture that we get the, somewhat, biblical notion of “give and you shall receive.” Unfortunately, this notion has been both used and terribly abused by church leaders in their efforts to “receive” as much as they could from their congregations. The principle is sound, as you can read; God does indeed promise through Paul’s teaching that those who give by faith, of their own free will, with no expectation or strings attached, will thrive in God’s own economy. It is not God’s “get rich quick” scheme or a way that we can pull the wool over God’s eyes so that we can milk Him for everything that we want – God knows our hearts. He knows the attitude we have as we enter into our giving and whether or not our giving truly is an act of worship – or a perceived transaction with God Himself so that we get something in return.
Giving is worship and as such can never be coerced – and it is this principle that has motivated much of my thinking about doing away with “passing the plate” in church. You see, when we pass the plate and make that public display of giving, we inadvertently apply pressure to one another in the process. Some may feel coerced into giving because those all around them are giving. Some may feel shame in giving because they see that others can give more – or they are not able to give at all and must simply let the plate go by. In fact, as I have studied this, one of the reasons why the “passing the plate” method of collecting for the church was embedded within the Sunday service was because of the pressure it applies to the people in the pews - and the higher monetary totals that the pressure yields. I do not like these reasons, and I do not view them to be within the parameters outlined in the scripture above; those parameters being that the giver should give as they are challenged BY GOD to, of their own free will, as a sacrificial act of worship – and with the resulting cheerful disposition. (see Mark 12:41-44)
These ideas weigh on my soul. I know that you know the pressure is not intentional; I, nor anyone in our fellowship, would “shame” others into giving – But the fact that such emotions and coercion are unintended consequences (and one of the primary reasons that taking a formal offering during the service was even invented – so the church could get higher totals) is enough for me to make the change. Some have expressed concerns that if we move to this method of giving, donations will go down. I would say to them that if that indeed does happen, it would only serve to prove my point.
It is to this end that I made the effort to find the perfect vessel for us to use for our FREE WILL offering. I set about researching what it could look like and how much it would cost – but was very dissatisfied with what I found. I sought something that would say, “Churchtown” and nothing that I saw spoke to me. Then I learned something very interesting – the gentleman who purchased my childhood home was a master wood craftsman.
His name is Art Bert and I reached out to him and we began talking about this vision. He sketched and we talked – and he sketched some more. The result is a beautifully, hand-crafted, cherry wood, offering box that has been custom made for the Churchtown Church of God. It is beautiful, custom designed and locally crafted – right down to the local woman who added the calligraphy. I have included pictures – but they do not do it justice.
Over the next couple of weeks we will be talking about the new way of “collecting” our truly FREE WILL offering to the church. We will still pass the plate during this time of transition, but the box will be available also. Then, in a few weeks when we have all been acclimated to the new way, we will stop “passing the plate” at Churchtown,. You will simply drop whatever you choose to give into the box – before the service, during fellowship, after the service. Whenever.
I hope that you can see that the decisions that I make I make according to my faith and my faithful interpretation of scripture. I do not make decisions frivolously or just because I happen to think it is a good idea. (good heavens, can you imagine where we would be right now if I did?) Much thought and prayerful consideration has gone into this change and I believe with my whole heart that it is biblical and provides for a biblical standard of giving as taught to us in the New Testament.
We know that there are many physical, emotional, and spiritual needs and I would like you all to take the time right now to intentionally pray. Just take the next 5 minutes, be silent, and pray.
“The struggle is real because the danger is real. It is the danger of living the whole of our life as one long defense against the reality of our condition, one restless effort to convince ourselves of our virtuousness. Yet Jesus “did not come to call the virtuous, but sinners.” (Matt 9:13)
That is the struggle. It is the struggle to die to the false self. But this struggle is far, far beyond our own strength. Anyone who wants to fight his demons with his own weapons is a fool.
The wisdom of the desert is that the confrontation with our own frightening nothingness forces us to surrender ourselves totally and unconditionally to the Lord Jesus Christ.”
These are the written words of Henri Nouwen in his little volume called, “The Way of the Heart” They were written in 1981, but they could not be any more timely or appropriate than they are now. Even as Christians, or maybe especially because we are Christians, we walk through life feeling that we are virtuous people, good people, righteous people – forgetting that any virtue that we display is the virtue of Christ; any good that is within us is the goodness of God made possible by the indwelling of His Holy Spirit; and that it is not our righteousness that the Father sees when He looks at us – it is the righteousness of His Son Jesus Christ, who suffered and died as the sacrifice for our sin. We, as Christians, still end up fighting our demons in our own strength and then wonder where God is and why He will not serve us.
Shame on us.
“Anyone who wants to fight his demons with his own weapons is a fool.”
Is this statement even biblical? Read for yourself, “10Finally, be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power. 11Put on the full armor of God, so that you can make your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this world’s darkness, and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.
13Therefore take up the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you will be able to stand your ground, and having done everything, to stand. 14Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness arrayed, 15and with your feet fitted with the readiness of the gospel of peace. 16In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17And take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
18Pray in the Spirit at all times, with every kind of prayer and petition. To this end, stay alert with all perseverance in your prayers for all the saints. 19Pray also for me, that whenever I open my mouth, words may be given me so that I will boldly make known the mystery of the gospel, 20for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may proclaim it fearlessly, as I should.” (Ephesians 6:10-20 BSB)
Yes. It is.
Repent. Cry to Jesus.
Not just once – with every breath you take.
Turning On the Lights for Tuesday, July 13, 2021. Christians are even more vulnerable to the strategies of Satan and we must realize that and stay grounded in the Word. So we can stay in the fight.
Pastor Brian is the senior pastor of Churchtown Church of God and regularly shares his thoughts & insight here - he invites you to join in the discussion of life & faith!