Christianity 201

February 13, 2017

A Place to Belong

With a blog name like Christianity 201, you would expect us to post articles for those who are wanting to move on to maturity in their Christian life, and in fact that’s what we do. But I came across this piece by Eric Bryant at Gateway Austin, a writer with whom we haven’t connected for about five years and thought this would be good for the weekend. It’s more of an outreach piece, but it’s good to get us thinking along the lines of how we express our faith to outsiders. It’s also great in a local church context.

For those of you who prefer something a little deeper, check out the link (and the end of the piece) to another recommended article by Eric.

You Belong Here

If you are afraid…
If you are lonely…
If you are bullied…
If you are grieving…
If you are anxious…
If you are hurting…
If you are broken…
If you are healing…
If you are hopeful…
If you are making progress…
If you are creative…
If you are innovative…
If you are making a difference…

No matter how you voted or if you voted…
No matter what decisions you’ve made…
No matter your spiritual or ethnic background…
No matter from where you’ve come or where you’re going…

You Belong Here.

Come as you are.

We offer faith.
We offer hope.
We offer love.

We too are broken, hurting, afraid, anxious, healing, and trying to make progress.

We are at our best when we disappear and you see Jesus instead.

We are at our best when you see Jesus through all of our God-given diversity.

We are at our best when we live out what Jesus said.

It was Jesus who said:

  • “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”
  • “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.””
  • “Blessed are the poor in spirit, those who mourn, the meek, the merciful, the persecuted…”
  • “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you….”
  • ““You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”
  • “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.””
  • “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

Forgive us when we don’t live out what we say we believe.

Forgive us for forgetting that “God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.”

We sang a song years ago that “Jesus loves the little children, all the children of the world,” but we’ve struggled to do that.

All the children of the world should be able to experience the local church as a refuge, a sanctuary, a safe place, and a place to call home.

Out of this conviction, we’re committed to learning the way of Jesus and standing with those experiencing hate, racism, and marginalization.

Here among us, you belong.


For something different from Eric — but more like what we usually post here — check out Walking on Water (Lessons on surrender learned while wake-skating.)

January 23, 2014

True and False Prophets

I was well into preparing yesterday’s message when I came across this article by Isaac Guiterrez. At first I wanted to just run the link as a postscript, but then I decided everyone should see the whole article. This appeared at the blog of Enduring Faith Ministries and I encourage you to read this at source and then look around at other subjects covered.

Today,we continue our series of articles on “Understanding the Last Days”. I want to direct our focus on what the Word of God says about knowing how to recognize true and false prophets. There are many claiming to be prophets of God. One of the major factors that has plagued the church is the abuse and misuse of prophecy. Some has used it for fame and riches and others have used it for their own benefits.

How many self-proclaimed prophets are out there? In my years of ministry I’ve seen many. They all believe that they have been called of God to bring a word of correction and judgment to the church.  I walked also strongly in the prophetic but I used it wrongly. I brought judgement instead of edification. Well God had to humble me by taking out of ministry for some time. Just recently I’ve been receiving invitations to come back to the church to bring the ministry of prophetic evangelism to the local churches. What I learned as helped me understand how prophecy is to be handled. Praise God because I have a new revelation not just head knowledge of the prophetic. It’s time that we walk in building others up. God must send you before you run out on your own and became a prophet to the church. We have to many loose cannon prophets.

In  Jeremiah’s time they were so called prophets of God but they were not sent by God.

“I have not sent these prophets, yet they ran. I have not spoken to them, yet they prophesied. But if they had stood in My counsel And had caused My people to hear My words, Then they would have turned them from their evil way And from the evil of their doings. Jeremiah 32:21-22

As you continue to read this chapter you find out that God is not at all pleased with false prophets.

Jesus warned of false prophets. This is one of the reasons it is important for us to recognize a true prophet, so we can then recognize a false prophet.

 And Jesus, answering them, began to say: “Take heed that no one deceives you.  For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am He,’ and will deceive many. (Mark 13:5-6)

If the prophecy does not point toward or lead to God, if it does not uplift Jesus, then the source is not from God and is false.

True Prophecy testifies of Jesus Christ

Revelation 19:10  And I fell at his feet to worship him. But he said to me, “See that you do not do that! I am your fellow servant, and of your brethren who have the testimony of Jesus. Worship God! For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.

Jesus is the spirit of prophecy

 But what about the prophets who say that they have been called of God but answer to no one?

 Our our day and age there are many people going around proclaiming they are prophets of God and believe they can only hear from God and have no accountability to any spiritual leader, ministry, or organization.  Many people are following the word of these prophets only.  Here are some questions to consider when someone is prophesying:

  • Who are they?
  •  To what organizations do they belong? 
  •  Who do they answer to?
  • Is there any way for correction or someone to hold them accountable for their actions?

To me a red flag goes up when a prophet wants to prophesy to me and they haven’t  submitted to spiritual authority. This can lead to serious problems.  Everyone is required to submit to spiritual authority for it keeps us in line and from making oneself a proclaimed prophet.  It is not only dangerous to the prophet but to those who listen to them. Three things that self-proclaimed prophets are in danger of:

  • It angers God
  • It misleads men
  • It divides you within yourself

It takes a revelation from God for someone to realize that they are in rebellion. A great book about understanding spiritual authority is by Watchman Nee.

One of my spiritual leaders gave me this [Spiritual Authority] book and it opened my eyes to understanding spiritual authority and why it is important. It gave me awake up call to the importance of being under the protection of  spiritual authority. Even though I have a ministry of my own, I have a hand full of spiritual leaders that I’m accountable too. They keep me in line, focused, and responsible for what I do. We need to recognize that God put these leaders of spiritual of authority for a reason. To many ministries I seen that operate under no spiritual authority, operate out of their homes, and believe they have been called of God to start a church. If the leader is in rebellion then also the whole congregation is as well.

Where is what Paul the Apostle says:

And we urge you, brethren, to recognize those who labor among you, and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, and to esteem them very highly in love for their work’s sake. Be at peace among yourselves. -1 Thessalonians 5:12-13

I like what the Amplified Bible explains it:

Obey your spiritual leaders and submit to them [continually recognizing their authority over you], for they are constantly keeping watch over your souls and guarding your spiritual welfare, as men who will have to render an account [of their trust]. [Do your part to] let them do this with gladness and not with sighing and groaning, for that would not be profitable to you [either]. Hebrews 13:17 AMP Bible

A spiritual authority keeps watch over our souls. If we choose to be a parking lot prophet then we open ourselves up to pride.

What is the Office of a Prophet?

The Office of a Prophet still exists though many believe it was done away with in the New Testament.

And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers;” Eph. 4:11

This cannot be denied for these offices were given (Eph 4:11) in the NT  and for what reason?: “For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:” (Eph 4:12).  For the perfecting and edifying of the saints,

Does the church need perfecting and edifying today? Of course we do! This clear Biblical statement goes against and discredits those who say that these special ministries have been done away in the New Testament, it is NOT SO, for both Peter and Paul confirm them in the NT.

So in all essence, prophecy is important to build, encourage, and help us live a Godly and Holy life.

Scriptures on Prophecy

“Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.” (2Pe 1:20-21)

“Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, whether prophecy, let us prophesy according to the proportion of faith;” (Rom 12:6)

“Neglect not the gift that is in you, which was given you by prophecy, with the laying on of the hands of the presbytery.” (1Ti 4:14)

“Pursue love, and seek eagerly the spiritual things, but rather that you may prophesy.” (1Co 14:1) 

“For you may all prophesy one by one, that all may learn, and all may be comforted. And the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets. For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints.” (1Co 14:31-33)

According to the Word of God, a prophet word or prophecy must be in line with scripture inspired by the Holy Spirit of God and subject to those they are accountable too.

In my experiences I’ve watched and seen as those calling themselves prophets spoke curses, threats, and judgement brought great damage and harm to the body of Christ. That is not the only reasons why God put the prophets in the church.

Prophecy should be pure, accurate, building up your faith, and bringing us closer to walking in holiness and righteousness of Christ.

What does prophecy do in the believer’s life?

  • Prophecy was intended to reveal a message from the True God
  • Prophecy was intended to encourage obedience
  • Prophecy was intended to give hope
  • Prophecy was intended to encourage trust in God

Prophecy was not just intended for certain holy men but it was given to the church to encourage one another. It’s not only a message of the end-times, or doom, or even correction but it’s about building the body of Christ not tearing it down. Prophecy was intended to bring hope and a lead back to Jesus. We need to understand  it more than ever before.

September 9, 2012

Protecting The Flock from Attack

For today’s post we make a return visit to Elsie Montgomery at the blog Practical Faith. Even though I find myself currently immersed in the worship life of two different congregations, I can honestly say that I am not aware of any factions within either of them. For that I am thankful, especially because my job causes me to sometimes have to listen to people from other congregations voice various complaints. Still, pastors and leaders need to keep their eyes open for things that would disrupt the work of the Holy Spirit in our churches. Elsie titled this Wolves in the Church, and as always you’re encouraged to click the title to read at source.

In our many moves, we have attended many churches of all sizes. Some were small and struggling. Others were healthy and growing rapidly. In my observations and experience, it seems that the biggest blessings are for those leaders and congregations that are concerned with God’s glory. Personal desires and ambitions have no place and because of that, the churches whose focus is on Jesus Christ are blessed, united and strong.
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However, the Apostle Paul knew that strong churches would become targets. Our spiritual enemy will attack, using whatever will work to divide its members and crumble its foundations. The church at Ephesus was a strong church. When he met with their leaders, Paul warned them…
Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood. I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them. (Acts 20:28–30)
Here, “fierce wolves” seems to apply to those who teach false doctrine in an effort to draw people from the truth. These wolves want to build their own kingdom and will try to split the church toward that end. However, pastors must be watchful against all that tends to injure and corrupt a congregation. If false teachers and other factions come in, the elders of the church must put them right or put them out. Yet, this is a task for which they receive little training.

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Most courses offered by seminaries for a Master of Divinity degree do not offer instruction in how to deal with those who try to split or corrupt a congregation. There are a few online sermons that explain how to spot wolves and deal with them, but I get the impression that those preachers learned this from experience rather than advance preparation.

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This problem actually requires more than one person. Church leadership at its best is in a congregation with a plurality of elders. In fact, the word for Christian elders in the New Testament is almost always plural. These days when individualism, authoritarianism or even economic necessity make the pastoral role a “one-man show,” churches still must promote teamwork in their leadership.

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However, that leadership must be God-given. Paul said, “The Holy Spirit has made you overseers.” The Lord motivates and gifts men to be leaders. Their job is to be caring, pastoral and corrective. They are to watch their own selves even as they protect and feed the people of God. Their role also includes admonition of those who stray, which presupposes resistance and even opposition. I’ve never envied the duties of a pastor!

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As one preacher says, this leadership will be serious, conscientious and intensely personal. After all, this is the church of God, bought with the blood of Christ. It does not belong to the pastor, or the elders, or the congregation.

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Not only that, even with today’s emphasis on spiritual gifts and special roles, such as administrator, educator, counselor, church-growth strategist, and so on, the Bible puts greater emphasis on shepherding, tending, feeding, and protecting the people of God. We are like sheep and we need good shepherds.

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Wolves are not interested in caring for the sheep. They want a following. They want power. They want to be in authority and have the strongest voice in all decisions. They are more interested in feeding and protecting themselves. In every church we have attended, there are a few who may faithfully attend, but constantly gripe about leadership and authority. They are not interested in unity or in promoting peace and spiritual growth. If the pastor knows how to deal with these, they tend to move on, looking for easier prey in another congregation. If not, the pastor will eventually be brought down and the congregation will fall with him.

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Lord, nothing is more distressing than observing a church divided against itself, particularly when this division is fueled by wolves dressed in sheep’s clothing. As You said to the disciples, “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves” (Matthew 7:15) and “Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves” (Matthew 10:16).

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Most of the time regarding these matters, I feel about as wise as an oblivious dove. I struggle with objectivity and clarity regarding those who do these wolf-like things. Are they dangerous? or merely disgruntled? Yet either way, You say to pay careful attention to myself. I am not an elder but can certainly pray for and support those who lead Your church with integrity and in the desire to glorify You.  Amen.
~Elsie Montgomery
I apologize for the dots between paragraphs. Reblogging from Blogspot to WordPress is always difficult, but normally I can eliminate the unwanted HTML tags after a few tries. Today it just wouldn’t work.

July 3, 2011

The Sequel To David Platt’s Radical – Sample Chapter Link

Last year I was greatly challenged by David Platt’s Radical.  While I didn’t get a copy of this sequel, I came across this preview a few days ago. You can begin reading some of Chapter One of Radical Together here, or click the link at the bottom to open your own .pdf file of the entire chapter. (There’s much more in the preview than what’s here and it’s easier to read!)

Before Mark came to the Church at Brook Hills (the church I
serve), he had spent practically his entire adult life involved in
church programs and serving on church committees. “You name
it, and I did it,” Mark said. “I was on finance teams and personnel
teams. I worked on capital building campaigns and sat in long term
planning sessions. Every week my schedule was filled with
church activity.”

After becoming a part of our faith family,Mark started hearing
people talk about making disciples. That’s when he realized
that, despite all the good things he had done in the church, he
could not name one person outside his family whom he had led
to Christ and who was now walking with Christ and leading others
to Christ.Mark said to me, “David, I have spent my life doing
all the stuff in the church that I thought I was supposed to do.

But I’m realizing that I have missed the most important thing:
making disciples.” At his workplace and in our community, Mark
is now intentionally leading people to Christ and teaching them
to follow him.

The story of Mark’s life as a Christian should frighten us.The
last thing you and I want to do is waste our lives on religious activity
that is devoid of spiritual productivity—being active in the
church but not advancing the kingdom of God.We don’t want to
come to the end of our days on earth only to realize that we have
had little impact on more people going to heaven. Yet if we are not
careful, we will spend our lives doing good things in the church
while we ultimately miss out on the great purpose for which we
were created.

That’s why I say one of the worst enemies of Christians can
be good things in the church.

Of course, some will disagree with my claim. “How can good
things in the church really be one of our worst enemies?” some
might ask. “Sin and Satan are our worst enemies,” they might say.
And they would have a point.  But let me point something out: We
know sin and Satan are our enemies. We know we need to be on
our guard against them. But too often we’re oblivious to the threat
posed by the good things we’re doing. We’ve laid down our
defenses against the way that the good can hinder the best. In this
sense, good things can subtly and effectively become one of our
worst enemies.

As Christians today, you and I can easily deceive ourselves
into thinking that dedication to church programs automatically
equals devotion to kingdom purposes. We can fill our lives and our
churches with good things requiring our resources and good activities demanding our attention that are not ultimately best for the enjoyment of the gospel in our churches and the spread of the gospel in our communities.

We must be willing to sacrifice good things in the church in
order to experience the great things of God.

continue reading the preview chapter with this link:  .pdf file

November 28, 2010

Words That Divide

So often in the Christian blogosphere we’re only interested in what someone wrote in the previous 24 hours.   This post however, is actually from June 2008.   (There’s a lot of good stuff online if you use limited search criteria; I was interested to see if anyone on WordPress had quoted Paul Billheimer, author of Destined for the Throne.)   It’s by BJ Rutledge at BJ’s Weblog where it appeared under the title, If You’re Gonna Walk the Walk, Then Talk The Talk.

Two months ago,  Janet and I attended a conference at North Point Community Church.  While there, we were reminded that a broken heart is usually what fuels your vision.  I think that’s why Sunday’s message on unity is so important to me.  I have a heart to reach people who do not know Jesus Christ and when anything hinders that, it breaks my heart.

I’ve never been in a church with a sweeter spirit than Grace Fellowship, and I want us to protect this spirit at all costs.  I also want us to protect the unity of the universal Body of Christ (the Church) in the same way.  One of the things that breaks my heart is when people – who claim to be followers of Christ – choose to do something totally contrary to His will by tearing down another church or church leader.  I hope you and I will never be guilty of that.  Jesus prayed for us to be “one” so that those who do not know Him could be “won” to faith in Him  (John 17).

When I was serving at another church in another state, I had a youth worker who asked us to pray for her husband who was not a believer and who never attended church.  As a first step, we began to pray for him to at least be open to coming to church and he did.  The Pastor had made some needed changes in the church and we were seeing many people make commitments of their lives to Jesus Christ.  This man began to come and was open to hearing the truth about Jesus.  About this time, two men in the church who were upset with the changes the Pastor had made talked to this man.  In that conversation, they began to rip the pastor apart.  When his wife got home that evening, he told her: “Don’t ever ask me to go to church again.”   His wife and daughter cried.  Those two men probably didn’t think anything about their “unsanctified” words.  That man remained lost without Christ.  I imagine that Satan laughed.

Paul, who wrote much of the New Testament, wrote the Christ-followers in Rome these words: May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus, so that with one heart and mouth you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.  (Romans 15:5-6)

A paraphrase of Eph. 4:29-32 says:   29Watch the way you talk. Let nothing foul or dirty come out of your mouth. Say only what helps, each word a gift. 30Don’t grieve God. Don’t break his heart. His Holy Spirit, moving and breathing in you, is the most intimate part of your life, making you fit for himself. Don’t take such a gift for granted.  31-32Make a clean break with all cutting, backbiting, profane talk. Be gentle with one another, sensitive. Forgive one another as quickly and thoroughly as God in Christ forgave you.

The next time you’re tempted to be critical of a church, a pastor, or its members, remember Ephesians 4 and Romans 15.   If you have a legitimate issue or problem, Jesus said go to the person(s) involved privately (Matthew 18:15-17).  In Matthew 18,  Jesus wasn’t talking about matters of opinion, He was talking about sin.  In matters of opinion, you may have to agree to disagree, but be careful that your opinions are not used in some way to hinder the cause of Christ.   All of us have opinions, but a principle Paul outlined in 1 Cor 10:23-24 reminds us that even though we may have a right to something – it may not be profitable or help our neighbor.  {23 All things are lawful, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful, but not all things edify. 24 Let no one seek his own good, but that of his neighbor.  (1 Cor. 10:23-24)}

In Paul Billheimer’s classic book, Love Covers, he states that most problems in churches are not over essentials, but rather happen because of unsanctified ambitions, jealousies or personality clashes.  I don’t know about you, but I’ve seen this happen in churches and communities.  Whenever you’re around someone who is always trying to stir things up, be cautious of that person and their words.   Proverbs 16:28a says “A perverse man stirs up dissension.”

Billheimer also states he believes more souls have been lost through the sin of disunity than all other sins combined.  That’s a very sobering thought.   When we talk about other believers in a negative way instead of about Jesus in a positive way – those who are not yet believers tend to balk at the offer of putting their faith in Jesus Christ.  You never know who’s listening, so make sure your comments are used to build up others and to draw people toward Christ – not push them away.  None of us are perfect – we all make mistakes – especially with our words!  We don’t walk in perfection, but we can walk with direction.  So, If you’re gonna walk the walk, then talk the talk.

B.J. Rutledge is pastor of Grace Fellowship Church in Paradise, Texas.

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