Christianity 201

April 17, 2015

Reminder Ministry

Today’s writer is a long-time acquaintance of Thinking Out Loud and C201. Years ago, I ran a profile/interview with Kevin Sanders aka Kuya Kevin, a guy from Alabama who found himself doing youth ministry in The Philippines. He’s now married and back in the U.S. and still blogging at KevinSanders.org

To read today’s article at source — where we’ve also poached a picture of Kevin preaching — click the title below.

The Ministry of Reminding

“I am fully convinced, my dear brothers and sisters, that you are full of goodness. You know these things so well you can teach each other all about them. Even so, I have been bold enough to write about some of these points, knowing that all you need is this reminder. . .  “ -Romans 15:14-15

KevinSRCOne of the greatest joys I had in the Philippines was teaching the Scriptures to students who had never really studied them before.  I’d hand out copies of the New Testament and tell them the page number where they could find the passage we would study.  It was the first time many of them had experienced a simple, verse-by-verse discussion of God’s word with someone willing to answer their questions.

The same goes for my preaching ministry: I had to be careful about assuming my listeners knew anything about the text I would be sharing.  This was particularly true in some of the evangelistic preaching opportunities God gave me.

There was something extremely refreshing about doing ministry in this kind of setting.  What an amazing privilege!

This is not to say that Filipinos are Biblically illiterate –- there are thousands of faithful believers there who diligently study the Bible.  But my ministry was focused more on those who were new to the faith.

My ministry took an ironic turn here in the States.  I’ve had the privilege of preaching (short-term) in three churches.  All three congregations were of an older demographic: the average attendee had probably been listening to sermons since before I was born.

“What can I share that they haven’t already heard many times before?”  I asked myself this question as I embarked on this new season of ministry.

God taught me something very important: I don’t have to teach/preach anything “new.”   I’m not saying God lead me to “recycle” old sermon outlines from C.H. Spurgeon.  Preaching, after all, is applying the timeless truths of Scripture to our modern context.  But I realized that preaching is a ministry of reminding for many of us who have had already learned the basics doctrines of the faith.

Don’t get me wrong: I’m always learning new things when I prepare for (or listen to) sermons.  But I’ve let go of the need to hear “I’ve never heard anything like that before” when I preach. I’m just as content to know I have reminded my listeners of things we need to hear over and over again.  Here are a few examples that quickly come to mind:

  • It’s not about us.
  • We can trust God.
  • Life is fleeting.
  • God expects obedience.
  • We are forgiven in Christ.

The list goes on and on, but you get the idea.  We need to constantly hear the gospel preached because we are a forgetful people.  I’m thankful for the ministry of reminding–both as a preacher and hearer of God’s word.

June 10, 2014

When Friends Stop Going to Church

Alan Ballou writes at the creatively titled blog, How to Stop Sinning. Be sure to check it out. Click the title for today’s post: They Stopped Going to Church. Warning: Read this carefully; it might not be heading where you think, but it will make you think!

I heard the other day that “So many people have stopped going to church.” I didn’t know that, but perhaps they have heard the same two sermons so often that they have them memorized; more money, more people.

I only know about six people who would rather be the church that God has called Christians to be rather than going to church, so I may not be the one to ask, but I can speak for myself.

One lady said that it is better to gather with the people of God, than to gather with the people of this world. Amen! I agree with the 100%! However, do the people of God put up with a different Gospel, or a different Jesus, or a different spirit?

2 Corinthians 11:4  For if he who comes to you preaches another Jesus whom we have not preached, or if you receive a different spirit which you have not received, or a different gospel which you have not accepted – you may well put up with it! NKJV

Where are the people of God who hold to the teachings found in the Bible, rather than ignoring the verses that they do not hold on to (2 Thessalonians 2:13-15, 1 Corinthians 15:1-2)? Please tell me if you know. I want to join right now!

My Bible says not to gather with those who are unwilling to walk according to what is written. What does your Bible say in 2 Thessalonians 3:6?

2 Thessalonians 3:6 But we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you withdraw from every brother who walks disorderly and not according to the tradition which he received from us. NKJV

Does that say “Withdraw from every brother?” Does that verse insinuate that it is okay to be called “Christian” and yet disobey the teachings? Verse 14 of that same chapter says the same thing.

2 Thessalonians 3:14-15  And if anyone does not obey our word in this epistle, note that person and do not keep company with him, that he might be ashamed. 15 Yet do not count him as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother. NKJV

It’s one thing to sin and repent, having a contrite heart, but it is a totally different issue when we ignore that the verses even exist, and even take a stand against those who mention them.

Christians are supposed to warn Christians (verse 15 above, Colossians 3:16, 1 Corinthians 5:12-13). According to the Word of God, the prophets even judge from the floor during the service (2 Corinthians 14:29). Boy, are we a long ways from that are what?

We don’t do any of that any more, if we ever did, because our method to stop sin in the church is not working, because we do not preach the Word. Therefore, we have to turn a blind eye to anyone who walks in the door because we need their money to keep the doors open.

What that amounts to is that we are not trusting God, but the world system in which our service is based on. We stopped trusting God way back when we decided to run the church like a business.

Who added people to the early church according to Acts 2:47? Is the Lord’s arm too shot to add people to the church today, or have we stopped trusting in His ways?

God could see all the way to the end of the world when He decided to have a church, and yet the only Words He left for us are written in the Bible? Did He really need our wisdom in adding changes to His Word, just because He spoke so long ago?

According to Proverb 30:5-6, and 1 Corinthians 4:6, God only needs someone to preach His Word. His Word is enough for those who believe it (1 Thessalonians 2:13).

We need to repent and return to the Lord our God in accordance with His ways found in His Word. We need to put away the world’s way of doing things and return to God’s Word.

Ephesians 5:2-7, 1 Corinthians 5:9-13, 2 Timothy 3:1-9, and 1 Timothy 6:3-5 along with the verses above are very clear concerning who Christians, that live by faith, are NOT to associate with. If we followed those verses to the letter, I don’t know if there would be one church left to gather in here in the Bible belt. That’s how far we have drifted from the truth (Hebrews 2:1).

So, why be a part of that? Do I need to jump on a sinking ship, even when the captain doesn’t know he is taking on water? “Oh hey, come aboard!” “Don’t worry about that water, since God promised,” “No more floods!” Hee hee.

Does a pilot forget the instructions on his maiden voyage, and turn to the paying customers for guidance? “You guys are the ones paying for this flight, so according to my worldly philosophy book, you ought to have a say so.” Have we bumped our heads?

If you are serious about the faith that we should be proclaiming, and know of a church gathering that is in-line with what is written in the Bible, please let me know. However, I would prefer to watch a sermon or two on video (YouTube, etc) before I attend. I’m Alan Ballou; a servant.

 

January 16, 2014

The Vision God Births in You

Today I want to juxtapose two verses of scripture and apply them to a context that may seem unusual.

Over the last couple of days I have been thinking about the earliest days of what we call Contemporary Christian Music. While I am grateful for the theological heritage I gained from learning the hymns, I am also grateful for the Christian musicians who pioneered a whole new genre, and endured the thunder and lightning storms that take place when Christianity meets culture. I am grateful also to be able to bring friends and acquaintances to church knowing they won’t suffer an immediate disconnect because of the use of 17th and 18th century musical styles. I am especially thankful for the artists who re-write the hymns with modern chords and those who are part of the modern hymns genre who give us fresh lyrics within familiar structures.

It’s easy to look back at the early days of CCM and say, “Well, it began in California at Calvary Chapel;” or “It began with Larry Norman;” or any other source we might wish to name.  On closer examination however, you discover that God was working in the hearts of young people across the U.S., Canada, England and beyond. There are literally dozens of examples of recordings that pre-date the usual suspects.

The first verse that popped into my head was I Kings 19:18. This is the passage where Elijah waits for God, expecting him to be found in the wind, the earthquake, and the fire, but God speaks to him in a whisper. Then Elijah speaks to God and laments that he is all alone.

14 He replied, “I have been very zealous for the Lord God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, torn down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too.”

But God tells him that he is not alone in ministry.

15 The Lord said to him, “Go back the way you came, and go to the Desert of Damascus. When you get there, anoint Hazael king over Aram. 16 Also, anoint Jehu son of Nimshi king over Israel, and anoint Elisha son of Shaphat from Abel Meholah to succeed you as prophet. 17 Jehu will put to death any who escape the sword of Hazael, and Elisha will put to death any who escape the sword of Jehu. 18 Yet I reserve seven thousand in Israel—all whose knees have not bowed down to Baal and whose mouths have not kissed him.”

Paul quotes this passage in Romans 11: 1-4.

Elijah felt he was operating in a vacuum. The comparison to those early music pioneers — or anyone who sets out to do a new a thing — is apt. The musicians were counter cultural on two levels: They were proclaiming Jesus in a medium not accustomed to hearing about him, in places where drug use and free love were normative.  But they were also going against the musical styles and preferences of the established church. They were getting flak from both directions.

But then, almost immediately another rather disparate verse struck me.

In John 21, we see Jesus restoring Peter and then Jesus gives Peter a brief glimpse into his future. But Peter suddenly is interested in knowing John’s future.

20 Peter turned around and saw behind them the disciple Jesus loved—the one who had leaned over to Jesus during supper and asked, “Lord, who will betray you?” 21 Peter asked Jesus, “What about him, Lord?”

22 Jesus replied, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? As for you, follow me.” 23 So the rumor spread among the community of believersthat this disciple wouldn’t die. But that isn’t what Jesus said at all. He only said, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you?”

The connection to me is one of personal accountability for vision. If you join these verses together it’s saying, you need to pursue the vision God gives you and not be looking around at anyone else. You need to follow God’s leading even if you’re the only one. You need to consider the possibility that you’re not the only one; that God is doing something and stirring people in locations you can’t see from your current vantage point.

Elijah was told that God was working even when Elijah couldn’t see it.
Peter was told that God had a future for Peter that wasn’t inter-dependent on others.

I don’t usually use illustrations here, or borrow material that starts with illustrations, and I know some of you prefer traditional church music and are not so fond of today’s worship choruses; but I believe that right now, God is birthing dreams and visions in the hearts of a new generation. Some of them will feel they’re going it alone, and if that’s the case, and you see the Spirit of God working in their lives, come alongside them to give encouragement. Let them know that their future is unique to their particular gifts and calling.

January 8, 2014

The Christian and Creativity

Christians and the Arts

Today’s thoughts appeared recently at the blog, Writing Down Life. The author is Stacey Louiso. As usual, you’re encouragement to the writers we discover here can consist of clicking through to read the article at source. This one was titled It’s a New Year State of Mind.

“Your creative mind is the greatest gift God has given you and it ought to be devoted entirely to Him.” 

~Oswald Chambers, 

My Utmost for His Highest (Feb 11 devotional page)

 

…The thought above from Oswald Chambers is one that many people may wonder about but not understand completely. Even Believers or disciple of Christ Jesus, may not actually grasp the concept of becoming such a clean vessel, you desire your every thought to glorify God. I remember the first time I read the following passage in 2 Corinthians (10:5):

“Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ.” 

(For short, take every thought that is impure, or ungodly, captive. Do not allow it to seep into your spirit or outwardly, into the world. The two prior passages are really important as well when in a battle but this one speaks particularly loud to those in certain areas of sin.)

For a person with a creative penchant in life, who enjoys the creativity of others (art, music, literature, et al) it can be a difficult thing to defeat. For a creative person, even more trying…yet not impossible. I had no idea that the thoughts and imaginings of my mind are controllable (i.e. that I could be rid of them); the prospect both excited and amazed me. It takes a lot of work, breaking down strongholds of the enemy and a lot of strength to accomplish but it is very possible!  (2 Cor 10:4 discusses this: “For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds.)

Ask yourself: where exactly does your creativity come from? What does it feel like when it’s bubbling up (are thoughts/feelings healing or disturbing?) and how would God perceive the final product? Would it be pleasing to His eyes, ears and heart? If you are walking with the Lord (or even if you are not) your very goal in life should be to produce work (regardless of the type), or good fruit, that you know is pleasurable to our God. It should resemble something that would be created in His image, not wrapped in bubble wrap mind you, but also not deceptive, hateful or wicked, in spirit.

We are not to participate in the ways of “the world”, instead we are to create “heaven on earth” (or Matt 6:10, “…thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”). We are created in the image of God. Through this calling we are commissioned to create art that is beautiful and uplifting (edifying), as not to tempt ourselves, nor others, into bondage of the flesh through their participation, or admiration of, your work. By keeping your eyes and mind on Christ as you create, you will take captive any ungodly desires to produce ugly fruit.

“Why do the heathen rage, and the people imagine a vain thing?” (Psalm 2:1) Because they do not adhere to God but instead to the darkness over this world. The most beautiful thing we have to offer as creative professionals, artists…is a mind that is sanctified; all we produce should resemble good fruit. It is very unfortunate that the dark arts have a stronghold over people today.

But there is hope…

There is no time like the present to start fighting; no time like the present to take back what God gifted to us, for His pleasure as well as the aesthetic enjoyment of all people. Works of art and words of glory, bathed in beauty and light. There is no time like the present to stop being complacent and allowing ourselves, or our work, to be used for evil rather than for good! Today is a great day to start – why not enter into this new year with a more beautiful state-of-mind?

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