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Restaurants & Relationships

I’d like to disclose one of my strong personal preferences that actually drives a certain set of behaviors in my life: I will not go to a restaurant that has poor service. Let me clarify that…I will go once to that restaurant but I will not go back again. If I will be spending money to eat out then I not only expect the food to be to my personal liking but I also emphasize that the people who work there at least pretend to be glad I have come. Call it snobbery, call it presumption or call it reasonable if you choose. In the end, it’s my choice and this personal preference determines my actions… and I have no plans to change my standards. It is one thing for me to take such an elevated view of my individual tastes when it comes to eating out. It would be an entirely different issue if I allowed this same principle to determine my relationships. By the grace of God I have been made to understand that I must not walk out on people, refusing to return, because they don’t serve my personal tastes. Let me explain.

“For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. Whoever thus serves Christ is acceptable to God and approved by men. So then let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding.” – Romans 14:17-19

The Apostle Paul teaches us in Romans (chapters 14 & 15) that we owe each other a debt of love and a commitment to work through our personal differences in order to cultivate lasting, meanigful relationships. Specifically, he is speaking to Christians who clearly have opposite views on some peripheral issues within God’s Kingdom. Paul takes off his scholar’s hat for a moment and has to replace it with a black and white striped referee’s cap as he tells the followers of Jesus that they must think a little more deeply and try a little harder at maintaining the unity of Spirit in the bonds of peace with one another. The people to whom he was originally writing were very frustrated with each other over things like eating meat, observing Jewish holy days and whether or not Christians were able to drink wine. Paul clearly identifies stronger Christians as those who were liberated from fixating on religious technicalities and presumably binding traditions. The weaker brethren were seen to be those believers who could not feel secure unless they obeyed their scruples – and they expected everyone else to obey those personal tastes also. To the freed, stronger Christians Paul gave a warning for them to be careful how they exercised their spiritual liberty. To the weaker Christians he offered the command to stop judging the freedom of the stronger brother. As a pastor who has navigated these waters many times, I can almost hear Paul sighing as he writes those two chapters.

Have you thought lately about how your particular views/preferences/standards are affecting your relationships with others?  What does it take for you to give yourself permission to stop associating with another believer? Are you thinking of breaking fellowship with your church and finding one that better suits your personal tastes? Sometimes you can convince yourself that your individual preferences carry the weight of Gospel truth. They do not and we deceive ourselves if we assume that God always allows us to step away from others because we do not agree with them in non-biblical matters. Going back to the restaurant metaphor, when we come to moments of decision like these we need to slow down and consider whether the saturation of other available “spiritual dining establishments” makes it too convenient for us to move along from where we currently dine. Let’s be honest: in the Bible belt where many of us live, we can head out a few miles in a different direction to locate a new home church every time we discover that our current fellowship serves up the Sunday meal with some seasoning we do not find appealing. We glibly call it church-hopping but I think we might do well to consider that sometimes it is simply outright selfishness and sin.

Paul told the Romans in the verses above that God’s Kingdom can never be reduced to our personal scruples. God’s Kingdom involves you but it is never all about you. As followers of Jesus we need to seek the Holy Spirit’s empowerment to become more like our Savior in this area. Think about it: everywhere the Son of God went He was surrounded by people, words, ideas and events that failed to meet His own holy standards. Nobody thought like He did, everyone was truly “beneath Him” but they never felt that way. Interestingly, He just kept revealing His commitment & availability to those people. He pressed further into the needs of those people. He remained in places where He knew that His words, Kingdom-offers and saving mission would not be appreciated nor accepted. Jesus even washed the feet of the betraying Judas… but some of His modern day followers cannot even give the right hand of fellowship to other Christians who don’t carry the same English bible translation as they do. Jesus went to a party at the scandalized Zaccheus’ house while some of His 21st century followers won’t go to a local church whose music style doesn’t meet their personal tastes or whose denominational banner doesn’t mimic their own . Jesus asked the Father to forgive His tormentors while He was impaled to a cross – yet today some younger Christians arrogantly write off the older as irrelevant and some older Christians callously judge the younger as irreverent. Turf wars never begin in the church house. They find their origin in proud hearts.

I won’t be going back to yesterday’s restaurant where I took my family to eat after church. The food was pretty good but the way I was served was woefully lacking. To not ever go back is not a difficult decision for me. They won’t miss me and I can just go across the street to the place I am more familiar and where I am always appreciated and served. Yet I don’t view my relationships with others in this same light. Do you want to know why? Because they are not here to serve me in my relationships. I am here to serve them. I am not a consumer negotiating a transaction with them. I am a follower of Jesus as they are and we are part of a forever-family. When that driving principle takes up home in our hearts we will love more selflessly, work more thoroughly, stay more lastingly and hope more enduringly. Set up your personal criteria for restaurants any way you may choose. Be a little more deliberate and humble when you are considering Kingdom relationships.

 

GUEST POST:

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Jeff Lyle,
Lead Pastor of Meadow Baptist, Lawrenceville, GA

@Transtruth

Baptist Dysfunction #3

As we walk through the list of Baptist distinctives, we come to an issue of church polity and practice. Jesus Christ entrusted the church with many things, two of which get a special spotlight (and rightly so): Believer’s Baptism and the Lord’s Supper. There’s not a lot of controversy here, but I’ve got a few questions about these…

SacramentsStainedGlass01Two Church Ordinances

#1 – Believer’s Baptism

I know why we baptize believers – in obedience to Christ, for identification with His death and His church, and to proclaim the gospel. I also get the picture from the New Testament that baptism symbolized rebirth, so why can’t a believer be re-baptized when he rededicates his life? What would be the issue with re-preaching the gospel or identifying again with the church if one has become distant? Why can’t a Christian be baptized again? I mentioned that idea one time to some Christian leaders and they shot it down with disdain. Their answer was, ‘Well Jesus only died on the cross once, so you should only get baptized once.’  Not only does than answer lack basic logic, but it also implies an unhealthy connection to salvation.

Furthermore, at what point did churches get so particular about ‘receiving’ the baptism from other churches? I understand that some baptisms are given under false pretense (as if it is part of salvation) or by the wrong mode (sprinkling instead of immersion), but why do we dismiss baptisms from other brethren? Is it to pad our numbers? Is it because we are that distrusting of their water districts? I truly don’t get it!

Also, why don’t we work as hard for baptisms as we do salvation decisions? Why do we compare our baptism numbers (isn’t that a little self-aggrandizing)?  Some don’t, but many IFB pastors worship the numbers… or rather worship themselves through the numbers. They judge their entire lives by how many are in the pew on Sunday. If we count, we should count how many families had devotions this week, or how many people showed real patient love with a difficult person, or many hours our church spent praying for their co-workers… Those numbers are worth counting (if you’re gonna count)!

#2 – The Lord’s Supper

The Lord’s Supper was given to the church as a sacred sacrament. It’s one of the major things that we are urged to do together that reveals the gospel. Some churches practice it once a year, others once a quarter, while others once a month. So why don’t we do it more often? I’ve know…because we don’t want it to get old / ritualistic… Right! So why do we do it exactly the same way every single time? We read the same verses and the same people pass the trays the same way. Every. Single. Time. Why? Would it be a sin to be creative with communion?

With regard to the ordinances, why -in most churches- are only ordained men allowed to participate?  I have never seen anything more beautiful than a father baptizing his child or when parents lead their family in communion.  Just because the church was entrusted with these doesn’t mean we get to monopolize them! Agree? (And by the way, I think foot-washing should be considered… maybe not as an ordinance, but at least practiced occasionally. Humility & soap would go a long way to clean up some of the stink in our churches!)

 

Article by Patrick Nix

@patchnix

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Baptist Dysfunction #2

phariseesI was raised believing in the old BAPTIST
acrostic (below). These are the things that supposedly made us ‘distinctive’ in our faith. But as I’m reading and learning, I’m discovering that most -if not all- of these do not mean what they used to… what they’re supposed to. If you haven’t yet, you should catch up by reading Part 1 here.  This post will focus on the Priesthood of the Believer & Individual Soul Liberty. (I’ve decided not to go in the order below, but to group them by their logical sequence.)

B- Biblical Authority
A- Autonomy of the Local Church
P- Priesthood of the Believer
T- Two Church Offices
I- Individual Soul Liberty
S- Saved & Baptized Church Membership
T- Two Church Ordinances

NOTE: Some readers of my last article noted that I write with an evident hurt buried deep inside.  I can’t really identify one singular pain… but I do recognize certain ‘sore spots’ that are sensitive to me. This article, in particular, will really reveal a couple of issues that can affect my blood pressure in a negative way.

P – Priesthood of the Believer

The Bible teaches (1 Peter 2:5) that believers are priests, each having his/her own access to God.  Since Jesus is our High Priest, we need no other mediator (1 Timothy 2:5).  So why do so many IFB pastors stand in this role?  Why do so many say things like: “Before you buy a home or change jobs, you should consult your Pastor.”?  Why do they set themselves up as some kind of ‘priest’ that can divine and/or discern God’s will for the membership? I’ve heard preachers use a church member who didn’t get his advice as an illustration for foolishness or rebellion! I’m a firm believer in getting counsel, but I also believe that Christians don’t need to ask their pastor for permission to buy a car!  Then they take it a step further and take the initiative to assign standards for every family (what to wear, what to listen to, where not to go…), leaving little room for the Holy Spirit to convict.  I believe our standards are far too low & too many!

In addition, the IFB movement has become so governed by a ‘performance’ theology. We’ve lost touch with grace. Why do we continually allow our leaders to set the measurements for us?  Doesn’t the Bible say that when we compare ourselves by and with ourselves we are not wise? Yet we continue to do it – we feed off of it, and it becomes a way of life. Read more about this here.

We define our spirituality by checklists of do’s and don’ts and we let other the fear of man dictate the lists. It’s more human to call a suit & tie your church clothes than to really obey Colossians 3:12-14. After all, it’s easier to measure the visible than the unseen. I still do it (far more than I even realize) and it is sin. The fear of man is a snare! For me, it took a long time to “find myself” after leaving the pretense that I was under, in large part because I had always defined myself by another man’s opinion / approval. It was a terrible mixture of my own insecurities fostered by the emphasis on performance by those surrounding me.

I – Individual Soul Liberty

Much of what defines IFB churches are ‘standards.’  Unknowingly, churches are bound in the culture war more than they are in a war for doctrinal #oldpaths. In the 1950’s, when the Convention was going south (waffling on major fundamentals), a remnant of Biblicists separated from the whole and became Independent, Fundamental Baptists.  In so doing, they became defined by their culture. Women wore skirts, churches used only hymns (with piano music) and black-bound King James Bibles, and preaching against ‘movie houses’ was common.

Examples abound… A pastor-friend was asked to leave his church in the 70’s because his son wore a white belt.  I know a man who wouldn’t let his wife wear pantyhose because they were ‘split-legged.’ I heard about an addiction program which required all participants to wear proper attire. If they didn’t have any, they were provided with disposable plastic skirts (for the ladies) to wear during the class.  No wonder it never got off the ground!

We have become so wrapped up in the externals. How refreshing would it be if we could go to a conference (IFB) and not to hear messages entrenched in legalistic manipulation. (Is Legalism a Bad Word?)  We’ve used some Biblical words to justify our shallow preaching when — according to Jesus himself — there are far weightier matters to attend to!!  The IFB movement is becoming known for its Pharisee-ism, and it doesn’t seem that much is being done to turn that around.  That’s not the fringe, that’s the mainstream. And, thankfully, the younger generation of new fundamentalists are not willing to stand for some of these non-essentials or die in a culture war that their parents / grandparents started!

Romans 14 provides limits for Christians who are ‘strong’ in their faith as they help the ‘weaker.’  It clearly states (v5) that we need to let every man to be fully convinced in his own mind.  What that means is… Give people the space to come to their own conclusions and form their own convictions.  I can hear it now… “But I’ve given them 3 months and he still hasn’t cut his hair. “Well that’s just crazy! Do you expect people to make up their own mind? What if they don’t decide to give up _________, what then?  “I don’t think that she’ll stop wearing britches unless I talk to her about it.”  I know, right!!  Christian liberty is a dangerous thing.  Sticky stuff here, folks.  Which is precisely why we can’t get too far from Matthew 7… the splinter & the plank.

Brothers, we’ve lost sight of grace and become lost in our religion that emphasizes fancy footwork and performance.  Let’s get back to grace and leave the condemnation behind (Gal. 5:1). Just because you change doesn’t mean you’re compromising. Jesus was hated because he was too far ‘left’ for the Fundamentalists of his day… so that puts you in good company!

 

Article by Patrick Nix

@patchnix

Other Articles  |  Bio

Baptist Dysfunction #1

I have so encouraged to see a resurgence among young independent fundamental baptists calling for a revolution back to truth. It is encouraging to hear the stories from so many who are prayerfully seeking balance in their faith, their families, and their ministries.  For too long, legalists have ruled, dictators have oppressed, and ignorance prevailed. [If you’re a rebel, don’t click here.]

church_clipart_whiteI sincerely apologize if that sounds condescending – I know it’s hard to interpret tone on a blog – but I can vouch for the guy at the keyboard… it’s not at all condescending. I am very much a student. I am in process. I’m still growing – hopefully – toward Christ. But I do find issue with some things that many of my IFB friends continue to practice and preach. I have been silent, had quiet conversations with gentlemen in dark corners (okay, that’s a bit overstated and dramatic); but seriously, I feel like it’s time for me to step up and speak up…

I was raised on the old B-A-P-T-I-S-T acrostic.  The one that supposedly made us ‘distinctive’ in our faith. But as I’m reading and learning, I’m discovering that most -if not all- of these are not exactly as they seem. So, today I’m kicking off a 4- or 5-part discourse on our dysfunction. I will seek to be open and not authoritative, subjective and not snobbish, truthful but not negative. These first two deal with the F and the I of IFB…

B- Biblical Authority

Can I still be included as a “fundamentalist” – even if I don’t ascribe to all the extra standards? I had a preacher tell me once that the issue of women wearing pants should be included with the fundamentals (as in: biblical inerrancy, deity of Christ, etc). True story! Why can’t we fellowship if we aren’t exactly the same? (If Amos 3:3 applies like you say it does, then our churches should be a lot smaller.)  Speaking of that, why do we intentionally exclude people from our church?  For example, a friend’s church has a statement like this on their wall: “If you like the KJV, you’ll love this church!” What about someone who doesn’t know about Bible versions, will they love it? What if someone just loves the Lord, will they love your church… or just like it?  Why do we do that?  It sure doesn’t seem like the Bible is the ‘sole authority’ any more. (Speaking of the KJV, I’ve got Bible version questions, do you?) Seems more like Bible+ or Bible*! It’s as if I’m in the twilight zone and I’m the only one who sees that we are doing what we accused everyone else of.

We are not the only bastions of the truth. There IS more than one right way. Yes, there is right and wrong, black and white, and absolute truth. There are right ways to do things, just like there are wrong ways, but God’s will is not a tight-rope to be walked. Why am I saying this?  Because I was told many times that there was only one right way, but many wrong ways.  That’s nothing short of a lie.  God didn’t just create butterflies, He created over 12,000 varieties.  He loves variety.  Why do we demand sameness in our pursuit of unity and agreement?  Why do we force Borg-like assimilation? ‘Comply or be destroyed.’  Why is there no room for discussion, disagreement, or debate?  (More to come on this in the next few weeks… the P & I)

A – Autonomy of the Local Church

Why was I told that Southern Baptists (and other baptists, for that matter) are not autonomous? Unless you think autonomous means isolated, there are many other kinds of churches besides IFB which are self-governing. Baptists are not the only sovereign group. There are independent Christian churches, non-denom, and even autonomous protestants (settle down, that’s not an endorsement). When I was starting a church outside of Louisville, I was told there were no “gospel-preaching churches” in the county.  That was a lie! There were several.  Just because they aren’t IFB doesn’t mean they don’t have the gospel. I can name you at least 3-4 pastors in that county preaching the gospel and teaching evangelism (and practicing it). I regret not working with these great men many years earlier.  The tragedy is that I bought the lie that I couldn’t be ‘equally yoked’ with these men.  Lies!

IFB preachers are lonely and their fellowship meetings are growing boring. (Sorry for being Debbie Downer here, but we continue to isolate in the name of Biblical separation.)  There are great men who passionately love the Lord who are quickly discounted because they carry an ESV, sing a song written after 1950, or wear shorts in church. The term “ecclesiastical separation” has been egregiously misused and, therefore, been the tool of many a leader to abuse a congregation into cultish tendencies. Calling a man a heretic because he believes in God’s sovereignty and election (which are both Biblical terms) is sin. He is a brother – treat Him like one (but not like you treated your brother growing up, that probably wouldn’t be good!). I’m a firm believer in defending the truth, but destroying kingdom relationships and firing your #oldpaths bullets at brothers MUST cease.

Last year, I attended a conference where a prominent IFB pastor from Southern California was preaching.  He was very organized, very classy… until he proceeded to turn his message into a bash ‘Saddleback Sam’ (his words) session.  Three different times, he kept going back to it. Why? Is he jealous? Did RW do something to hurt him or his children? This guy isn’t fringe, he’s a leader.  He’s respected; his church is booming.  So why? When I wrote to him, he didn’t respond back.  I just don’t get it.

Conclusion

I’m NOT writing this to stir up stuff. In fact, for the last year, I’ve been almost totally out of the loop – and I LOVING it!  The P4G blog has sat quiet as I (and many other contributors) have been very busy for the kingdom, and that’s okay.  But two things have stirred this up in my heart: 1). Recent weddings/ funerals which have caused me to cross paths with several good brothers with genuine concerns;  2). Recent conversations with former church members with multiple questions about these very issues.

I am not a leader, so don’t follow me (Ha! Like I really needed to say that anyway!). I’ve found my tribe and it’s not in the IFB… although I’m still very much I, F, and B! So many men are considering deep questions. Questions that their peers don’t want to hear.  They are weighing the evidence. and nothing could be better for the movement. They shouldn’t have to choose between old paths and right paths!  Could a Truth-Revolution be on its way?

Feel free to leave a comment – a positive one. I’d love to hear how your pastor is different from the ones that I keep hearing about. Surprise me. Please be solution-oriented.  If indeed our movement is sinking, should a Christian jump ship or try to bail water? Is it too late or am I just not patient enough? What is the future of ‘fundamentalism?’  What do you think of this new fundamentalism?

Article by Patrick Nix

@patchnix

Other Articles  |  Bio

Biblical Principles for Godly Fathers

For more than two-and-a-half years my wife and I tried to conceive.  (If you’re interested in the amazing story, my wife has blogged about it here.)  As soon as we found out we were pregnant my wife bought a book about what to expect during pregnancy – for me, not her!  I admit – I read the book and found it helpful.  As her pregnancy progressed I decided that I needed to also read about being a good father, not just a supportive husband during pregnancy.  But before asking for recommendations or searching for the perfect book, I spent some time reflecting, meditating on biblical and practical principles that truly reflect the essence of biblical fatherhood.

Bryan & KatieAs I spent a few evenings and late nights thinking about what I wanted for my daughter and, more importantly, what God wanted out of me, I came up with eleven principles. The list might have been longer, but just last week my daughter Addison made her grand entrance two weeks early!

Most of you are not new parents.  But these principles can serve as a challenge or a reminder of what God demands of fathers.

1- I will display the love of Christ in my home in a way that draws her to Him and doesn’t portray a distorted view of God the Father.  While Ephesians 5:25 is specifically related to the husband-wife relationship, the command to display Christ-like love in the home has impacts beyond this relationship. I pray that my love is an example of Christ’s love for her and her mother.

2- I will love her mother more than anyone on earth (even more than her) and devote prayer, time, and effort to this relationship, striving to ensure her mother & father are always together.  I could quote statistics about the high school dropout rate or incarceration rate for single-parent children.  But these statistics do nothing more than affirm God’s perfect plan as stated throughout scripture, including Genesis chapter 1 and chapter 2.  God created the marriage relationship for one man and one woman for life, and protecting my marriage relationship is directly in my daughter’s best interest.

3- I will place my family in the penultimate place on my list of priorities, behind only my personal relationship to Christ and above my career.  As an attorney, my career can demand a lot of time and effort.  While the two are not mutually exclusive, if I have to choose between being a great attorney and a great father, I’d much rather be a great father.

4- I will keep my family under the authority of a local assembly of Christian believers, aiming to expose her to the gospel and godly role models from the earliest time possible.  God ordained the family, but He also ordained the church.  I cannot fulfill the biblical role of a father without ensuring my family regularly attends and participates in a church that preaches and teaches the doctrine of Christ.  No matter how busy life gets, church must remain a priority.

5- I will be the godly father she needs, basing my life decisions on the Word of God and her and her mother’s needs.  Selfishness kills many marriages, and selfishness also impacts children.  Basing decisions on God’s Word takes my desires out of the picture.  And, according to I Timothy 5:8, providing for your family’s needs is extremely important.  In fact, if I do not, God declares that I am worse than an infidel!

1084540_10153106929445215_808328346_o6- I will follow biblical commands when disposing of my resources, understanding that if I continue to put God first in my finances, He will ensure all her needs are met.  Understanding that a new life is completely reliant on me and that my decisions will now directly impact her well-being could be overwhelming.  However, because of promises like Matthew 6:33 and Philippians 4:19, I don’t have to be overwhelmed.  All I have to do is make God first in my finances (which takes a great deal of faith!) and rely on Him to keep His promise.

7- I will exert maximum effort each day, at work and at home, endeavoring to bring glory to God and provide for her needs (and, Lord-willing, a few wants).  Giving 100% effort in 100% of the areas of your life 100% of the time is a simply recipe for success – but it is by no means simple.  My preeminent motivation is, and should be, to please God and bring glory to Him.  And an important by-product will be that my family’s needs are met.

8- I will stay engaged in the political process and continue to influence my community, ensuring that she grows up in an environment that is as wholesome and safe as possible. Complaining about “just how bad things have gotten” or the direction of the country is easy, but it accomplishes nothing.  On the other hand, speaking up for righteousness at every opportunity, impacting the next generation for the Lord, and voting in national, state, and local elections do make a difference.  I can’t personally choose the next President or hand-pick every student that will share a class with my daughter.  But there are things I can do impact my country and community, and I will do them.

9- I will care for my physical body, knowing that this is ultimately for both her and my good.  Being a good steward of my body will enable me to be involved in her life for as many years as possible.

10- I will provide for her long-term needs in acknowledgment of the reality that her life will likely survive mine, investing in adequate life insurance and expressing my wishes in written, legally-binding will.  I’m not an insurance broker, nor am I a financial or estate planner.  But I believe each father has the responsibility to provide for his family in life and in death.  And with the advent of technology, preparing a will or getting advice for life insurance has never been simpler or less expensive.

1091926_10153135708745215_774196699_o

11- I will not allow her to engage in activities or relationships that are not in the best interest of her spiritual, physical, social, or emotional well-being.  The epidemic of “friend parents” is disturbing, if for no other reason than the perceived need to make a child like them, often at the expense of the child’s true best interest.  Understanding that my role is foremost that of taking care of my daughter’s long-term wellbeing is important to keep in mind.

I can’t say this list is absolutely exhaustive, but I believe it represents the core of what God expects in a father.  Do you agree?  If not, what “principles” would you add, or how would you revise those above?  I welcome your comments below, or through Twitter.  Follow me, then tweet with hashtag #BiblicalPrinciplesForGodlyFathers.  May the Lord help me, and may the Lord help you, in being the father that He desires!

Article by Bryan Likins

@bmlesq

Articles

Don’t Worship the Faucet!

03faucet-running-water-lgnShortly after World War I, Lawrence of Arabia took several of his greatest men to visit Paris.    When they were about to leave the grand hotel at which they were staying, Lawrence found his men attempting to pull the faucets out of the wall!  Lawrence was confused and asked what the men were doing.  The men responded: “If we could bring these faucets back to our desert land, we could have all the water we desire!”  These men clearly had an appreciation for water, but they had an unhealthy and illogical appreciation for the means by which it was transferred – the conduit if you will.

Many Christians know they have access to the “water” Christ offers (see John 4), but many of us seem to make a much bigger deal about the conduit(s) through which the water comes.  In other words, we tend to worship the faucet!  We rave about our church; we gush about our pastor; we are quick to tell what a talented, wonderful worship leader we have.  But Jesus – the one who gives the church significance, the one who the pastor and worship leader are there to serve, the cornerstone on which “Christianity” is built – we don’t make nearly as big of a deal about him!

To The Church

Most Christians love and appreciate the local assembly of believers in which God has placed them.  Scripturally, they should.  In fact, Christ loved the church so much that He died for it! (Ephesians 5:25)  But I believe far too many believers have an unhealthy, illogical, and unscriptural appreciation for the church.  How?  By worshipping it and loving it more than they love Christ.  Christians must realize that Jesus is Christ is the water, and the church is only the faucet.  The faucet is important, but, without the water, is meaningless.

When you last walked through the front doors of your church, what was your primary purpose?  Connecting with friends?  Christian fellowship?  These can be by-products of church attendance, but neither should be our purpose.

When you were talking to a friend, co-worker, or first-time visitor and explaining how great your church was, did you emphasize the groups, clubs, and activities offered to children?  Or did you emphasize Christ?  Youth groups are great avenues to reach the next generation; children’s clubs can be used to effectively teach boys and girls about the things of God.  But in the list you rattle off when touting what makes your church different or noteworthy, where do spirit-filled worship and Christ-exalting preaching rank?  Are you worshipping the faucet?

To Church Leadership

The culture in which we live encourages idolization of athletes, movie stars, singers – well, everyone really.  Unintentionally, some church members idolize their pastor and put him in a place that should be reserved only for Jesus Christ.  Unfortunately (and I hope unintentionally!), some leaders encourage this unscriptural practice by their words and actions.  The Jehovah God of the Bible is a jealous God – one who does not share the glory only he deserves. (Exodus 20:5)

A pastor or staff member placing himself in Christ’s rightful place or a congregant doing so of their own volition is a practice that can only end in disappointment and defeat for all involved.  And no matter the cause, we must remember that our ultimate affection should be reserved only for Christ himself.  To use the words of John the Baptist in John 3, the pastor and staff should strive to be a “friend of the bridegroom.”  Jesus alone is the bridegroom.  He is the water; they are but a faucet.

Christian: before you next enter the sanctuary, consciously acknowledge to God why you are there.  Spend a few moments in prayer asking the Lord to use the singing, giving, and preaching to reveal himself to you.

Pastor, staff, and Sunday School teacher: before you mount the pulpit or begin that next lesson, make sure you understand who the listeners should be talking about when you finish.  Better yet, as you prepare, ask the Lord to reveal exactly how you can emphasize Christ in your lesson or sermon.  Get out of the way, and give people the water!

 

Article by Bryan Likins

@bmlesq

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Powerful

Do we really know what the word “power” means?

Sometimes, I wonder if we are so conditioned by shows of weakness that we’ve begun to call moderate strength or even mediocrity, “power.” It seems that those exercising true Spirit-enabled power are often culturally interpreted as arrogant or brash.

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Could it be that a weak church culture is feeding that misconception? Could it be that we are teaching the world that “Christian” = “weak”? Yes, Jesus is humble. Yes, those who follow Jesus will demonstrate real humility.

But…

Jesus is also powerful & those who follow Him will demonstrate His power! Have you read the book of Acts? Humility & power are NOT mutually exclusive!

Real humility isn’t about projecting a negative or neutral self-image; it’s not about talking yourself down whenever someone gives you a compliment.

As C.S. Lewis so wisely said:

True humility is not thinking less of yourself; it is thinking of yourself less.”

So Go ahead, be powerful, think of Jesus more, follow His mission harder, see like He saw, do what He did, & think of what your friends will think WAY less.

Look in the mirror & see someone who is powerfully compassionate, someone who tells the truth even when no one wants to hear it, someone who is powerfully joyful even in the face of painful tragedy. Look in the mirror & see someone so controlled by the Spirit of Christ that he looks a lot like Jesus! Yes, you’ll likely lose yourself in the process, but isn’t it all about Him anyway? Don’t worry, living a powerful life won’t lead you to deny truth, rather you will find yourself discovering greater truth.

Don’t be afraid to be powerful!

Romans 12:1-2

I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.

And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.

Article by Brian Norris

@BrianNorris

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Psalm 23 – It’s Not About You

jesus_shepherdHow many times have you read Psalm 23?  For me, it is probably several dozen, if not more than one hundred.  Until recently I read it with a selfish focus.   When I read Psalm 23, I saw the promise of peace, restoration, and protection.  While it speaks to these subjects, none of them are THE subject.

The Temptation

If you or I had written Psalm 23, it might go something like this: 
1 I have a shepherd; I don’t lack anything.
2 I get to rest in luscious, green pastures: anytime I want, I get to drink out of clear, still waters.
3 When I’m tired, my soul is restored. . .

This is somewhat how I used to read it.  But that is not what the Holy Spirit inspired David to write, and, more importantly, that is not the message of Psalm 23.  The Bible is littered with promises, many of them being “personal promises.”  But, frankly, not a single one of them is about you or me.  Each one is about the one who makes the promise.  If you think it through, this only makes sense, for a promise is no greater than the one making it.

The Truth

Psalm 23 is not about how David received some special blessing from God.  Psalm 23, like the whole of Scripture, is simply about the greatness of Jesus Christ.  In this instance, God wants us to know Christ as a Shepherd.  He reveals the care and protection He provides.  I do not believe David is proclaiming how lucky he is because he is a “famous sheep.”  I believe he is informing us about the goodness and prosperity he found in the Lord when he made the decision to humbly become a sheep.

I’m no king.  I’m no great warrior.  Though I strive to be, God has never called me “a man after His own heart.”  But I have yielded to the Shepherd, and I have found peace, restoration, and provision.  If you are willing to come to the Shepherd, submit to His authority, and become one of His sheep, then you will – like David – be able to attest to the greatness of the Shepherd.

Article by Bryan Likins

@bmlesq

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True Treasure

Estate (ist`eit) n.
a landed property. The whole of a person’s property, including real estate and personal estate.

This weekend my family attended the estate auction of my grandmother, Beulah Irene Deckard. There were thirty-two acres with a small house and barn. Furniture sat empty along the walls of the living room and bedroom forming a line of memories out the back door into the yard where there were two tents with tables supporting boxes upon boxes of stuff; much of which I did not remember.

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There were several things that would make the people on those antique reality shows drool. I smiled at the thought as my wife and I walked along the tables looking at everything. But then it happened…we walked by a box of wooden shelves and I saw the crescent moon with a stairwell going from one landing at the bottom of the moon to a landing at the top. There were two of them that hung on the walls holding the small knick-knacks that Beulah’s grandchildren and great-grandchildren had made over the years. The sight of the moons that hung on the walls, among countless pictures, waiting to greet us every time we would visit was too much. I lost it. Just as I was able to turn away and choke back most of the tears, we walked toward the tables (plural) of quilts my grandmother had sown by hand.

After the auction was well underway and the real estate had sold, I stepped into the house and found the new owners standing in the kitchen. The wife remarked, as she closed the oven door, how Beulah was known for her cooking, “But this stove looks almost new.” The tears started flowing again as I smiled, “It is. She wore the other one out.”

Matthew 6: 19-21 says, Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal. But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through and steal; for where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. When I thought of that scripture, I realized the quilts and meals my grandmother’s hands had made for so many years were never her treasures…we were. Anyone who received either from her was given a gift of abundant love. Her family knew the Gospel because her husband was a preacher. They understood the Gospel because she lived it.

As it turned out, I was able to see my grandmother the day before she died. We had gone down to visit with her in the nursing home. When my mother was ready to leave, she took my youngest daughter and walked outside. I stayed behind another minute because I wanted to pray. When I finished, Granny looked over at me and said, “I want to go home.” That was the first time I had ever cried for my grandmother, because when I looked into her eyes, I was sure she didn’t mean her little house in Gamiel, Kentucky.

In the end, Beulah Irene Deckard left this moth and rust riddled world with her treasures in the right place. We left the auction with a few quilts, two moon shelves, and a lot of memories. But the tears I am wiping away from my face as I write this have a lot of joy in them. You see, I have one more treasure waiting for me in Heaven. I love you Granny and I can’t wait to come home.

 

Article by C.S. Depew

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