Every Sunday morning, lots of people head out their door to “go to church”, or as some people put it, to attend a “church service”. The vast majority of these services will have a remarkable similarity, no matter what brand, denomination, or non-denomination the church is. Everyone will sit shoulder-to-shoulder, facing a stage on which a select few people will be actively involved in “ministering” to everyone else. There will probably be a greeting, a time of singing, some form of announcements, a sermon, and possibly an altar call. The style may vary to some degree but the structure will be pretty much the same in every church; so much so that you would think there must be some place in the Bible that clearly outlines this particular structure that everyone is following. But the reality is that nowhere in the scriptures does the Bible give any kind of support for an order of service at all, much less the particular order of service that most churches follow so religiously. Some will argue that the order of service is a minor issue and God doesn’t really care one way or the other. I would agree that God is not hung up on a particular order of service. However, He cares very much about what takes place when His people gather together, and if a rigid order of service is an obstacle to the ministry and interaction that God wants to take place, then yes, He is actually against that particular structure.
In Christianity, there are beliefs and practices that are sacred. They are sacred because they originate from God; things that God has instructed his people to believe and to do. If something is sacred, then it should be honored, advanced, and defended. There are many things that Christians should rightly treat as sacred. However, there are things that many Christians hold to be sacred that are not sacred at all, but are merely traditions. The way we know what originates from God, and therefore is sacred, is the Bible, the word of God. If a belief or practice is not taught or modeled in the Bible, then it must be treated as a tradition, not as something sacred.
“Do not judge, or you too will be judged” (Matt 7:1) is a well-known scripture that many people like to quote. It is often used to imply that being critical of anyone in anyway is a violation of how God wants us to act. However, this is only one scripture and should not be viewed as the definitive truth on this issue. The truth about any subject is found in everything the Bible has to say about that subject, and the Bible has much more to say on the subject of whether or not we should judge others and their actions.
A miracle is an extraordinary event in the physical world that surpasses human and natural powers and can only be reasonably understood as a supernatural act. The word supernatural, means supercedeing the natural, or simply, beyond the natural. The Bible is full of miraculous, supernatural events. They are seen throughout the Old Testament, in the life and ministry of Jesus, in the ministry of the apostles, in the ministry of the early church, and are spoken of prophetically as something God intends to be an ongoing part of the church’s ministry (John 14:11-12). As common as miracles are in the scriptures, they are still rather controversial. Throughout history people have debated both the validity and necessity of miracles as a part of God’s plan and work on the earth. Some people take a theological stance against miracles, teaching that God no longer enables believers to operate in the supernatural. Others take more of an apathetic view, they believe miracles are possible but are not very concerned about whether they actually happen or not. Still others believe miracles to be a vital part of God’s plan, and that without them the church will struggle greatly to fulfill its mission of proclaiming the message of the kingdom of God and the gospel of Christ. There are those in the latter group who are deeply concerned at the scarcity of miracles in the American church and are committed to seeking God for answers and calling on Him for this to change.
Many churches today are very concerned about the kind of atmosphere people will encounter when visiting one of their services. They invest a tremendous amount of time, manpower, and money trying to create an environment they hope will be attractive to those who attend. It’s certainly a good thing to create a friendly, welcoming atmosphere; but endeavoring to make church appealing can be very misguided and even counterproductive to what God actually wants to accomplish when the church gathers.
Say the word “church” and many people will think you are referring to a building, others will think you are referring to an event that takes place on Sunday morning. The Bible, however, never talks about church in either of these contexts. When the Bible uses the word church, it’s always talking about people; people who have come to faith in Christ and follow him. While there is great joy in our relationship with the Lord, it is also very challenging to be a follower of Christ as defined by the scriptures. We are called to sacrifice, surrender, overcome, and endure; to lay down our lives, take up our cross, and renew our minds. This is very imposing stuff and we all need lots of help. So God has devised an amazing way for every believer to receive an abundance of the help we so desperately need. The Bible refers to this ingenious source of ministry as the body of Christ. Continue reading “God’s Ingenious Plan For Ministry”
How should a church measure success? Many churches will give lip service to the idea of discipleship and seeing people become more like Jesus, but if you examine where they spend the majority of their time and effort it becomes clear that these are not priorities. For many churches, the primary gauge of success is the number of people attending their Sunday services. They want an exact head count of each and every being on the premises and are quite perturbed if they think the ushers didn’t do their math right and came up a few people short. If attendance is increasing everyone feels quite confident that things are going well, but a sharp downturn in attendance will trigger serious doubts about what is wrong. Continue reading “How God Measures Success”
Jesus said he came to “seek and to save what was lost.” (Luke 19:10). He finished one parable with the statement “Go out to the roads and country lanes and make them come in, so that my house will be full.” (Luke 14:23). These statements communicate the passion and commitment Jesus has to see people restored to right relationship with God. However, if we read objectively through the gospels and observe Jesus in action, it becomes clear that his desire to see people saved never led him to compromise what he required of them. Instead, he routinely challenged people to come to him through surrender and obedience.
There are several passages in the Bible that talk about important truths being “hidden” from some people while being “revealed” to others. Seeing, understanding, and walking in truth is foundational to a right relationship with the Lord, so it is rather disturbing to read in the scriptures that some people have important truths that are kept from them. This is not a case of truth that is too complicated or too difficult to understand. It is a case of people being denied the opportunity to see and understand truth that is actually right in front of them. This does not happen indiscriminately. God does not draw straws to determine who gets it and who doesn’t. There are principles at work that determine whether truths are hidden from us or revealed to us and ultimately it is the condition of our heart that sets us up to see or leaves us blind. Continue reading “Hidden or Revealed?”