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 format 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 format 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.
Man’s highest calling is to put God first. Jesus made this clear when he said the greatest commandment is to love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind (Matt 22:37). This statement encompasses everything within our being, and Jesus drives the point home by using the word all three times. All that we are is to be directed towards God with loving devotion. Jesus’ statement of man’s ultimate purpose has great clarity in its simplicity, yet is very profound in its all-consuming goal.
Just as man’s highest calling and purpose is found only when we put God first, our greatest failings have their roots in putting ourselves first. Original sin was the result of Adam and Eve putting themselves before God, putting their reasoning before His command, and giving in to the temptation that they were somehow missing out if they remained under God’s authority. When man chose to put himself first, sin, and all the suffering and misery it brings, found entrance into the world (Rom 5:12), and our relationship with God was broken by our rebellion (Rom 1:21, 25).
The gospel is God’s message to fallen man, telling us how we can be restored to right relationship with Him. Since the root problem is man putting himself first, the goal of the gospel is to restore God to His rightful position of being first in our life in every way. Yet, the gospel is frequently reduced to a people-centered message of personal salvation. The message I hear many Christians and churches proclaiming is “God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life”. While this is true, it’s only a portion of the truth and lacks the power of the gospel of the Bible that restores man back into right relationship with God.
Most Christians consider preaching to be a fundamental requirement of the church, and the Sunday morning sermon is commonly revered as the most important event that takes place in the church each week. While there’s no doubt the Bible strongly endorses the ministry of God’s word, is the church’s traditional notion of preaching consistent with the way preaching is presented in the Bible?
The Bible gives much insight into the love and goodness of God, and these truths are incredibly positive and reassuring. But it’s a mistake to isolate personally gratifying scriptures and treat these truths as if this is all the Bible has to say about God; as if he is always this way and cannot be any other way.
The definition of cherry-picking is to choose and take only the most beneficial items from what is available. This approach to the Bible is a temptation that is quite easy to fall into, but it results in a distorted view of God himself, and an inaccurate assessment of where we personally stand with him. If we value an honest and healthy relationship with the Lord, we must persistently seek and welcome everything that God says to us throughout the scriptures.
A mystery is something that is veiled and not easily understood. The word mystery is used over twenty times in the New Testament. One example is in the last part of Ephesians chapter five. This passage is expounding on the relationship between husbands and wives, but at the end it takes a surprising turn and finishes with an astounding revelation.
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.
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.
There are several passages in the Bible that talk about truth 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’s rather disturbing to read in the scriptures that some people have important truths that are kept from them. The problem isn’t that the truth is too complicated or too difficult to understand. The problem is that people are being denied the opportunity to see and understand truth that is actually right in front of them. This doesn’t happen indiscriminately. God doesn’t 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’s the condition of our heart that sets us up to see or leaves us in the dark. Continue reading “God Hides Things From The Wise”
The Bible refers to believers as sheep. Over the years I’ve heard preachers take this analogy to an extreme and come to some very unflattering conclusions about how dumb and helpless sheep are. Rather than coming to negative conclusions based on our perception of what natural sheep are like, we should look closely at how Jesus describes the relationship between himself and his sheep. Jesus makes some very positive and encouraging statements about the shepherd/sheep relationship. Continue reading “His Sheep Listen To His Voice”