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The Church: What is it?

“I do not need a church. I can worship on my own.”

So, say … many people. But what is the Church? 

There does seem to be some confusion about what church is. Whether we feel like we do not need to attend a church (because we are each the temple of the Holy Spirit of God – which is true) or that the church should be meeting our needs (which, to a point is true) or that we have been wronged by the Church (read the two letters to the Corinthians as well as Galatians. Paul understands!), there are many grievances people have about the Church. 

However, these come from misunderstandings about the Church.  

Likewise, some people assume the Church should be making all the calls about society. While this is technically true, we have plenty of historical evidence to show how this should not be done. (Look at much of the Middle Ages through the Renaissance to see how the Roman Catholic Church and other church-led states messed that up.) Yet, people still think the Church should simply lead government. The US was built on seeing how governments led by religion can mess up societies and religions. Hence the separation of Church and State (to be discussed in greater detail another time!) 

This is a good time to address the other issue: that religion/the Church only made things worse. Again, these are largely based on misunderstandings. 

So, what does the Bible say the Church is? (This will not be an exhaustive survey!)

Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.
Matthew 16:16-18, ESV

And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Matthew 28:18-20, ESV

For this reason I, Paul, a prisoner of Christ Jesus on behalf of you Gentiles— assuming that you have heard of the stewardship of God’s grace that was given to me for you, how the mystery was made known to me by revelation, as I have written briefly. When you read this, you can perceive my insight into the mystery of Christ, which was not made known to the sons of men in other generations as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit. This mystery is that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel. Of this gospel I was made a minister according to the gift of God’s grace, which was given me by the working of his power. To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God, who created all things, so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. This was according to the eternal purpose that he has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord, in whom we have boldness and access with confidence through our faith in him.

Ephesians 3:1-12, ESV

These explain pointedly that the Church is to spread the truth of Christ.

“If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.”
Matthew 18:15-20, ESV (as well as much of 1 Corinthians, especially chs. 5-6 (5:12-6:11))

The Church is meant to rout sin and hold each other accountable; that we judge each other within the Church based on God’s Word, and lovingly call each other to account and uphold justice. Why?

1 Corinthians 3 tells us we are individually and collectively the temple of God, where the Holy Spirit dwells. Not a building, per se. And as Hebrews 10:19-25 reminds us, we meet together to ensure we remain strong in the faith, we have the true gospel, and can encourage each other through troubles and into good works. Such that …

But above all, my brothers, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or by any other oath, but let your “yes” be yes and your “no” be no, so that you may not fall under condemnation.

Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise. Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working. Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth. Then he prayed again, and heaven gave rain, and the earth bore its fruit.

My brothers, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and someone brings him back, let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.

James 5:12-20, ESV

The Church is for confession, prayer, and anointing – the calling of sinners to repentance, praying for healing and repentance, and anointing for healing and ministry. 

Only, they asked us to remember the poor, the very thing I was eager to do.
And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.

Galatians 2:10, 6:9-10

Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.

James 1:27

The Church is to take care of the poor, widows, and orphans. First within the Church, so world may see how we care for family, then in the world, so they may see we love all people.

In summary: 

The Church is the temple of God – the people – who spread the Gospel, encourage each other through teachings, rebukes, confessions, prayer, and good works, and do good things for each other and the world. 

Nowhere in there does it say the Church is for making us feel good or giving us all that we desire in this life. (In fact, 2 Timothy says that these teachings are a sign of the End!) Instead, Philippians 2 reminds us to look to meeting others’ needs before our own, to share the same love Christ shared through the Cross. 

What are your thoughts? Do you think I should have mentioned something else? Comment below (or at the video) or e-mail us at Together@asimplemanofgod.com.

I Gotta Have Faith: Whose Fool Are You?

Welcome back, people of the internet!

Today’s topic: FAITH!

Why?

Recently, I have heard several people – including Richard Dawkins, AronRa (an atheist apologist?), Neil DeGrasse Tyson, Bill Nye the Science Guy – all call faith in general, with Christians in particular, foolish.

These people claim that Christians believe with a blind faith, that they do not believe in the Bible or God for any good reason, but just because that is what they were told to believe.

Is this true?

What is faith?

According to Hebrews 11:1 (ESV):

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.

So, what does this mean?

Basically, faith is trusting and believing something based on evidence. Something that is not seen is believed because there are things we can see and test that support it.

A popular example is a chair.

The chair looks sturdy. I have seen other chairs hold people up. Therefore, I have faith this chair will hold me up.

How do I know your faith is true?

Live it out. Show me. Sit on the chair. Show your faith by sitting.

Another example is a compass.

We believe a compass points north, because we have seen so many compasses point north.

(Though, it is possible a compass can be manipulated by magnets …)

“Ah,” you may say, “But that is science!”

Conviction of things unseen …

What evidence do we see of not seeing things in science?

A lot!

What about black holes?

We have never seen black holes, because they literally eat light. So, how do we know they exist? We have evidence they are there.

An interesting example from the past few years is the Higgs boson.

The Higgs boson is, essentially, what gives matter mass (the ability to have weight and substance). It was theorized using mathematics. The so-called “God particle” (actually, the “Oh my God particle”, from a note scribbled by a physicist) was officially discovered by slamming atoms together in the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) and using the resulting mathematical probabilities to “see” this “thing”.

In other words, it was seen through the symbols of mathematics.

It was not actually seen with eyes. Rather, it was predicted (hoped for) and then proved through mathematics. We used these symbols to express the evidence of what we cannot see to prove (have conviction) that it is there.

In the math.

Scientists use written symbols to find evidence of things unseen.

Sound familiar?

You could say I have faith that people have faith, even when they are “faithless.” Because I see the evidence.

They say “These words made out of symbols and numbers tell me this should be here, and I am going to believe it because all of the other math checks out, too.”

So, why do we as Christians believe the Bible?

Because we have these words that tell us about Jesus.

Some of you may remember the Four Core Facts I covered a few years ago. What does this have to do with anything?

The Four Core Facts:

  1. The Crucifixion (and Resurrection) of Jesus Christ
  2. The Despair of the Disciples
  3. The Change in the Disciples (Their despair becoming willingness to die for the truth of #1)
  4. The Conversion of Paul

If you are willing to objectively look at this evidence, you can see the evidence for the truth of God and His Son, Jesus of Nazareth, the Christ.

That evidence includes that Jesus quoted the Old Testament, which we know existed before He was born, He claimed it was about Him, and then He claimed He would die and raise again.

And He did it! Thus validating what He said.

In fact, this is the ultimate evidence. Paul himself (you know, one of the most successful evangelists for the Church, having planted so many throughout the Roman Empire) said this is all that needed to be preached! (1 Corinthians 1:22-23, 2:1-2)

It could be argued that the Church itself is the biggest evidence.

Jesus proved it Himself.

So we do not believe it “Just because,” but because Jesus said He would die and come back and did.

One of many points of evidence of this kind of faith is Abraham.

God called Abraham to sacrifice his son. Some call this barbaric, but it really is not.

Abraham and his wife were way too old to have children, but God said “You will have a son.”

When God then called him to sacrifice this son, I can guarantee you that he thought something like, “Well, you said I would have a son through whom you would multiply my descendants, and here he is. You could easily bring him back to life, so though I may not like it, I will obey.”

God did not raise Isaac back to life (He did not need to), but He did do it with His own Son!

So there is faith: “I have seen the evidence. I may not see God. I may have seen Jesus Himself. I may not be able to see everything the Apostles and other disciples saw, but I see the written evidence.

People just do not want to accept the evidence.

So, whose fool are you?

Do have the foolish faith of a Christain or the foolish faith of those who say there is no God? (1 Corinthians 1-2)

I still have faith in science, even with a lot of people who do not believe the Bible, because the math and the science checks out and proves the validity.

I also have faith that God’s Word is true.

“Alive, Alert, Awake, and Enthusiastic!”

To add to Anthony’s thoughts, I remind my readers of what I wrote back in December 2016. I was working, student teaching, and taking classes. It was rough and exhausting.

What got me through? Rend Collective’s song “The Joy of the Lord” more than anything, as well as other hymns and songs, because, truly, the joy of the Lord IS my strength.

Likewise, my wife and I have Colossians 3 printed and framed on our wall. Surrounding that are various song/hymn lyrics. These are currently surrounding our front door, so that we are reminded as we leave and as we enter our home.

May I suggest others do likewise? I can even offer scriptural support! (Deuteronomy 6:1-9, especially v. 9)

Daniel

The Recovering Legalist

As we both walked into the office this morning to clock in, a fellow bus driver asked me, “How are you doing this morning?”

I replied to my co-worker’s genuine inquiry with the following affirmation: “I’m alive, alert, awake, and enthusiastic!”

“What was that?” he asked.

“I said, ‘I’m alive, alert, awake, and enthusiastic!’ There’s even a song about it.”

“You know,” my friend said, “I think I’ve heard that song before, now that you mention it. But who would sing a song like that?”

“Somebody trying to convince himself it was so,” I answered.

As a matter of fact, I was on a month-long mission trip to Romania back in August of 1992. Every day was long, and morning always came too early, so the “enthusiastic” song was often sung as we fell out of our beds and stumbled outside looking for some form of coffee (usually the…

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Weekend Words & Sunday Stanzas – A Powerful Name – 10/15/2017

Instead of my poetry, as I have done in the past, I am posting a music video, as I have done, with some commentary, as I have done, and a response to what others have said … which I have not done as much, at least in the way I am today!

I know I am far from alone in greatly enjoying worshiping God through song. I can be picky with what I like –  such that I do not always care for some modern church songs, especially if they fall under the “Jesus is my Girlfriend” type music, but not necessarily … – but I am also willing to give songs a chance, especially in certain contexts.

As an example, I have a concern with Hillsong music. The majority of the concern is that the leadership at Hillsong Churches tend to have questionable theology. That being said, I think the music that comes out of the various incarnations of Hillsong bands can be excellent.

One of my recent favorites is “What a Beautiful Name” from Hillsong Worship. Naturally, there has been some controversy. This article sums it up nicely, but it is about John Piper’s response to the song.

More specifically, it is John Piper’s response to the response of the band at church.

Even more specifically, they take issue with the line in the second verse, “You didn’t want heaven without us, So, Jesus, you brought heaven down.”

The concern centers on whether this lyric is too person-centric rather than Christ-centric.

I think there is good reason for this, however, I think a simple introduction to the song could deal with any possible confusion quite easily. If I were the pastor or music leader, I might say something like this:

God is mighty, powerful, and independent. He has no need for others, as He has perfect community and relationship within the Trinity. And God is love (1 John 4:8), therefore He desires others with whom to share that love. It is not out of a need, but a loving desire to create and share that God made humanity. And even though we have done everything in our power to push Him away, God still desired intimacy with us. Therefore, God did the impossible, and He brought heaven – He brought Himself – down to us.

Confusion gone. And the people are given a beautiful expression of God’s love for sinful people.

But, my favorite part of the song?

My favorite part comes in the official lyric video. Immediately after the bridge, to be precise.

Throughout the video, the lyrics appear to be displayed from a rear-projected light. It is how this is done that gets me excited, as throughout much of the song “JESUS” is lit up, slightly translucent, behind the lyrics.

My absolute favorite part, though, is as the bridge comes to an end, and with the lyric “What a powerful Name it is” the Name “JESUS” suddenly bursts in behind as the music reaches a crescendo.

Why is this my favorite?

I know “JESUS” is coming, and as I get to sing “What a powerful Name it is.” The song building to this point reminds me of promise of His return.

His Name appeared in the song, and then it went away.

And then, BAM! BACK! And always behind the worship!

It is just like awaiting the full return of Christ. This event is something we have a vague understanding of, something we can see only slightly in the world today through His Church. And as the things in this world progress, and His Name is shared throughout the world, at a moment which is coming soon, He will appear in glory and power and we will be amazed and worship Him!

Sorry for that run-on sentence, but I got excited!

How can we not when thinking of Christ’s return!

I could talk about so much more in this song, but I think I have gone on enough already. Therefore, I have a hope that you enjoy the song, especially as you anticipate His coming!

What A Beautiful Name – Hillsong Worship

You were the Word at the beginning
One With God the Lord Most High
Your hidden glory in creation
Now revealed in You our Christ

What a beautiful Name it is
What a beautiful Name it is
The Name of Jesus Christ my King

What a beautiful Name it is
Nothing compares to this
What a beautiful Name it is
The Name of Jesus

You didn’t want heaven without us
So Jesus, You brought heaven down
My sin was great, Your love was greater
What could separate us now

What a wonderful Name it is
What a wonderful Name it is
The Name of Jesus Christ my King

What a wonderful Name it is
Nothing compares to this
What a wonderful Name it is
The Name of Jesus
What a wonderful Name it is
The Name of Jesus

How sweet is your name, Lord, how good You are
Love to sing in the name of the Lord, love to sing for you all?
Death could not hold You, the veil tore before You
You silenced the boast, of sin and grave
The heavens are roaring, the praise of Your glory
For You are raised to life again

You have no rival, You have no equal
Now and forever, Our God reigns
Yours is the Kingdom, Yours is the glory
Yours is the Name, above all names

What a powerful Name it is
What a powerful Name it is
The Name of Jesus Christ my King

What a powerful Name it is
Nothing can stand against
What a powerful Name it is
The Name of Jesus

You have no rival, You have no equal
Now and forever, Our God reigns
Yours is the Kingdom, Yours is the glory
Yours is the Name, above all names

What a powerful Name it is
What a powerful Name it is
The Name of Jesus Christ my King

What a powerful Name it is
Nothing can stand against
What a powerful Name it is
The Name of Jesus

What a powerful Name it is
The Name of Jesus
What a powerful Name it is
The Name of Jesus

Thankful Offering

In today’s video, I think it is pretty clear I had not had my coffee, yet! But if you look in the background, you can see evidence I was about to remedy that.*

The last entry touched on the Las Vegas shooting and how “But for the grace of God, there go I” in terms of how each and every one of us could be capable of committing such an atrocity.  Today, I look at the exact opposite end of the spectrum.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a German pastor, theologian, and professor who was killed by the Nazis just days before the end of World War II.¹ Both he and James, the brother of Jesus, focused heavily on Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7).

The Sermon on the Mount is basically Jesus’ teachings on how the Christian should live. Specifically for today, in 5:16 (ESV), Jesus says:

In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.

If all we do are good things, but we do not really mention God, how could others give God glory? We may merely be “good people” in the eyes of the world.

Therefore, God gives us the direction we need in this matter:

The one who offers thanksgiving as his sacrifice glorifies me;
Psalm 50:23a, ESV

When we give thanks to God, this directs people to Him! Thankfulness, a lifestyle of gratitude, is the thing that helps to center our life around Christ and leads others to Him.

A heart of gratitude not only gives the glory to God, but it can also help us to feel great and can help others to feel better.

However, the main point is that God is glorified. Gratitude, likewise, can keep us focused on Him so that we are more likely to seek His glory than to turn to anything else – including lashing out at this world and those in it.

Therefore, give thanks to God. As Paul said, give thanks in everything in your life² – yes, everything, even the bad things.

And thank you for joining me today!

daniel

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What Happened In Vegas

The Recovering Legalist

For a long time people have said, “What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas.” However, I’ve always hated that saying, if for no other reason than that it promotes the false security of hidden sin.

What happened in Vegas last night cannot be hidden, even though what led up to it may never be fully understood. Regardless, the desire to commit wholesale murder is not likely the fruit of a seed planted in tender soil and fertilized with love, forgiveness, and grace.

No, what happened in Vegas was the result of evil taking root, hidden from sight, and allowed to mature. Someone planted seeds; someone watered them; no one could actually conceive what they were growing; but a harvest eventually came.

Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. – Galatians 6:7

What happened in Vegas probably didn’t even begin in…

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DoA – Not Dead on Arrival, but Day of Atonement 2017!

Hello and Shalom!

At the time of recording, it was the day before Yom Kippur, the Hebrew term translated as the Day of Atonement! By the time you read/watch this, it is either the actual day or after that day. (See Leviticus 16 and 23:26-32)

Either way, by our Gregorian calendar, Yom Kippur happens to be from sunset Friday, September 29, to sunset Saturday, September 30, 2017. This means it actually falls on a Sabbath, this year!

Here are the basics:

Yom Kippur – the Day of Atonement – was the only day of the year that the High Priest of Israel could enter the Holy of Holies – the inner-sanctum of the Temple, or Tent of Meeting during the Exodus – and offer the sacrifice for the forgiveness of the sins of the whole nation of Israel.

It was possible to have personal sins forgiven throughout the rest of the year by going and offering sacrifices, but they were continuously needed.

When the high priest entered the Holy of Holies, he would sprinkle the blood of the sacrifice on the Ark of the Covenant. (See Exodus 25:10-22; 37:1-9; and Deuteronomy 10)

The Ark was first built with wood and then overlaid with gold. It is interesting to think about something that can waste away being covered with something more permanent and made to look beautiful.

Moving on, in Hebrews 9:3-4 we learn what is inside of the Ark of the Covenant (AotC).

  1. In Exodus 16:32-34, we read that an omer of manna (roughly 2.2 Liters), of the bread that was formed by the morning dew resting on the ground, was to be put into a jar and placed into the AotC. This demonstrates God’s provision for his people.
  2. In Numbers 17, we read of Aaron’s staff that budded. The story recounts that each of the leaders of the 12 tribes of Israel were to give their staffs to Moses to put into the Tent of Meeting, and the one that budded – had flowers grow from it – would be God’s chosen spiritual leader – the High Priest – of the nation.
    Not only did it bud, but this piece of a dead tree had new life grow from it: flowers that attract our eyes and nose, AS WELL AS almonds. This was also placed into the AotC, and it demonstrates God’s spiritual (and emotional and other sensations!) provision for his people.
  3. Deuteronomy 10 recounts the story of the 2 stone tablets with the 10 Commandments. Originally, God gave Moses two tablets, but when Moses came down from the mountain he found the Israelites worshiping the golden calf (already breaking the first 3 Commandments!) In his anger, Moses smashed the tablets.
    When he climbed up the mountain again, God had him chisel out new tablets, and then God used his own finger to write the Commandments on the new stones. These are what were placed into the AotC. These symbolize God’s expectations for His people, how they are supposed to live.

Now, what does all of this have to do with Christians?

WELL! Hebrews 9-10 explain the relevance to us!

Firstly, we have one final High Priest, Jesus. Through His sacrifice on the cross, we have complete and total atonement! No other high priest nor sacrifice is ever needed for the washing of sins. He finished it!

Just as the High Priests of old would sprinkle the blood of the sacrifice onto the AotC, Jesus’ blood is sprinkled over our hearts, cleansing us of our sins.

Now for the fascinating bit, when things get quite allusionary and allegorical!

The Temple symbolizes our bodies. Therefore the Holy of Holies is the chest cavity, and the Ark is the heart. The lid of the AotC is called the Mercy Seat.

Do you see the connection so far? His blood sprinkled over the heart to purify us?

Cool.

Thinking of the AotC being made of wood covered in gold, it is like our hearts – also something perishable – are covered and even replaced with the beautiful and imperishable! Our Atonement is attained … if we believe! … because God has chosen us through His Chosen One!

Now for the deep stuff:

  1. What about the Manna? Jesus explained in the Gospel according to John (see John 6:35, 49-51) that He is the Bread of Life. When we believe in Him, the Holy Spirit places Him within our hearts. He explained that when we eat of his flesh (Communion/the Eucharist), we join in His sacrifice and are spiritually sustained.
  2. Likewise, what about the staff? Jesus explained a chapter earlier (see John 5:24) that whoever hears His word and believes Him who sent Him (God the Father sent God the Son) has eternal life.
    In other words, when we believe in God and Christ’s sacrifice for our sins, we are given new life! Just as the staff budded, we are awakened to and promised eternal life!
  3. And the Law written on the stone tablets? This time, we look back at an Old Testament prophecy from Jeremiah (see Jeremiah 31:31-34). God tells us there that through the Atonement and the Holy Spirit we have God’s law written on our hearts. We now know what it looks like and how to live out the Law, i.e. Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength, and love your neighbor as yourself. We cannot fully and properly live out the Law, but through Christ, it is fulfilled and we are helped by the Holy Spirit!

How amazing is that?!

That is how the Day of Atonement is still applicable. However, instead of looking forward to a day when our sins can be atoned for, we live daily in atonement thanks to Jesus the Christ!

May your Day of Atonement be blessed as you reflect on what God has done for you.

Daniel