Monthly Archives: July 2009

Church As It Was Meant To Be

johnny-mac31In many respects, the contemporary church in America looks more like a large corporation than like anything described in the New Testament. Even church leaders sometimes bear a closer resemblance to CEOs and corporate executives than to humble, tender shepherds. Sadly, the good news – that a sinner can find forgiveness for sins before a holy God by placing his trust in and committing his whole life to Jesus Christ – is often eclipsed by “success”-oriented programs and an interest in the bottom line. As a result, many churches have become nothing more than entertainment centers, employing tactics that effectively draw people into the church, but are incapable of truly ministering to them once they come.

blueprint052God never intended the church to be like that. In Matthew 16:18 Jesus says, “I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not overpower it.” Notice the Lord’s one condition to that great promise: “I will build My church” (emphasis added). Christ’s guarantee is valid only when He builds the church His way. When you follow His blueprint, you can be sure that He is doing the work through you and that nothing, not even the gates of hell, can stop Him.

So, what’s the blueprint? A logical place to start is at the beginning with the first church – the church at Jerusalem. It began on the Day of Pentecost when the Holy Spirit filled 120 believers who had gathered for a prayer meeting. The Lord added 3,000 souls later that same day (Acts 2:41). Those fledgling believers didn’t know anything about building a church. They had no precedent; they didn’t have a book on the church; they didn’t even have the New Testament. Yet it was built Jesus’ way, and as such it’s the model for the church today.

Back to the Blueprint: Bible Study, Fellowship, and Prayer

Acts 2:42 gives the blueprint they followed: “They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.” Those are the vital elements that make up the actual function and life of the church – and all of that in just one verse!

Here’s an obvious starting point: A church built to the Master’s plan will begin with the right raw material – a saved congregation. Verse 41 identifies the church as being made up of “those who had received [Peter's] word,” and “were continually devoting themselves.” The church at Jerusalem was filled with true Christians – those who continually adhered to apostolic teaching.

If the church is to be built Christ’s way, it will be redeemed and therefore empowered by the Holy Spirit. An unsaved membership, devoid of the Holy Spirit, has no capacity to overcome self will, personal agendas, and the love of sin. Only believers have divine power to put those things off and so manifest the Spirit of God.

While the early church didn’t have a New Testament, they had God’s Word in the form of the “apostles’ teaching.” The church at Jerusalem was committed to receiving that Word. Doctrine is the basis of the church – you can’t live out what you don’t know or understand. That’s why Paul instructed Timothy to “preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine” (2 Tim. 4:2-3). That time has come. If your church isn’t teaching the truth straight from the Bible, how will you recognize error when it comes? How will you grow? Don’t ever allow anyone to stand in the pulpit who isn’t committed to leading the congregation through a deep, penetrating study of God’s Word.

The central focus of the early church’s fellowship was the breaking of bread – the Lord’s Table. It was the most fitting symbol of their fellowship since it reminded them of the basis for their unity – salvation in Christ and adherence to apostolic doctrine. If you share those things as common ground with other believers, then the Lord’s table – communion – is the most appropriate symbol of your fellowship too.

callout621We eat and drink in remembrance of Christ’s self-sacrificing love that took Him to the cross. In your fellowship, make it your habit to practice the same kind of love Christ demonstrated toward you. Practically speaking, you can always give your life to those God brings across your path. Do you habitually pray for fellow believers? Are you encouraging them, edifying them, meeting their physical needs? Do you love them enough to confront them when they are sinning? Those are the marks of true Christian fellowship. It is church as it was meant to be.

Acts 2:42 says the believers continually devoted themselves to prayer. Sadly, the same devotion to prayer is often neglected today. Churches can pack pews by offering entertainment, but when a prayer meeting is held, only a faithful few trickle in. The early Christians remembered the Lord’s promise: “If you ask Me anything in My name, I will do it” (John 14:14). As they demonstrated dependence on the Lord, the results (Acts 2:43-47) were astounding.

Built to Scale: Wonder, Love, and Joy

What happens when true believers remain under biblical teaching, in a spiritual fellowship, and in devotion to prayer? Acts 2:43 says, “Everyone kept feeling a sense of awe.” “Awe,” the Greek word for fear, speaks of a sense of reverence. It is reserved for special times when people are struck with wonder because of something divine or powerful that defies human explanation.

Your church ought to be able to instill awe in your community. That first church certainly did. Verse 43 says everyone was in awe of them because “many wonders and signs were taking place through the apostles.” Though the miracles and wonders of the apostolic times are no longer necessary now that God’s Word is complete, God’s power remains on display. What could be more miraculous than giving life to people who are dead in sin? He heals people of their hurts, puts broken homes back together, and brings people out of the bondage of sin to Christ. In short, He transforms lives. When the church follows God’s design, He will do marvelous and powerful things in individual lives before a watching world.

The early church was full of love – they “had all things in common” (v. 44). There was ownership in the early church – believers didn’t live in a commune – but no one owned anything to the exclusion of someone who had a need. The Greek verbs in verse 46 translated “began selling” and “were sharing” show that they were continually selling and sharing their resources as needed. That kind of sacrificial love is the result of the Lord’s work in obedient believers who follow His blueprint.

The Lord blesses those who labor according to His plan. First, He fills the obedient church with gladness (v. 46) and praise (v. 47). How can you not be happy when you see God at work in your midst? How can you keep from rejoicing when you watch God use your church to make an eternal impact in the world? Second, He adds to their number. Acts 2:47 concludes by saying that “the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved.”

I want to see the church grow, and I know you share that desire. My prayer is that we will let God build the church His way as we await our Lord’s return. If you want to make the most of your church, just follow the blueprint, and encourage your church leaders to do the same.

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Romans 11:36
Grace and Peace to you
in Him who saves -Lenny

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Hope Doesn’t Disappoint

HOPING IS BASIC TO THE CHRISTIAN OUTLOOK

Romans 15:4 For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, so that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.

jipackerphoto2Living between the two comings of Christ, Christians are to look backward and forward: back to the manger, the cross, and the empty tomb, whereby salvation was won for them; forward to their meeting with Christ beyond this world, their personal resurrection, and the joy of being with their Savior in glory forever. New Testament devotion is consistently oriented to this hope; Christ is “our hope” (1 Tim. 1:1) and we serve “the God of hope” (Rom. 15:13). Faith itself is defined as “being sure of what we hope for” (Heb. 11:1), and Christian commitment is defined as having “fled to take hold of . . . this hope as an anchor for the soul” (Heb. 6:18-19).

When Jesus directed his disciples to lay up treasure in heaven, because “where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matt. 6:21), he was saying in effect, as Peter was later to say, “set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed” (1 Pet. 1:13). An ethic of hope pervades the New Testament. It is an ethic of pilgrimage: one should see oneself in this world as a stranger traveling home (1 Pet. 2:11; Heb. 11:13). It is an ethic of purity: everyone who really hopes to be like Jesus when he appears “purifies himself, just as he is pure” (1 John 3:3).

It is an ethic of preparedness: we should be ready to leave this world for a closer relationship with Christ our Lord at any time when the summons comes (2 Cor. 5:6-8; Phil. 1:21-24; cf. Luke 12:15-21). It is an ethic of patience: “if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently” (Rom. 8:25; cf. 5:1-5, where the Greek word for “patience” is translated “perseverance” to bring out its nuance of stubborn persistence in face of pressures). And it is an ethic of power: the hope gives strength and confidence, energizing effort for running the race, fighting the good fight, and enduring the “light and momentary troubles” (2 Cor. 4:17) that still remain before we go home (Rom. 8:18; 15:13; 2 Tim. 4:7-8).

Though the Christian life is regularly marked more by suffering than by triumph (1 Cor. 4:8-13; 2 Cor. 4:7-18; Acts 14:22), our hope is sure and our mood should be one of unquenchable confidence: we are on the victory side.( From Concise Theology)

Romans 11:36
Grace and Peace to you
in Him who saves -Lenny

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The sword of God’s Truth

pink_pic (Arthur Pink, “Faithfulness”) Taken from Grace Gems

“Their speech is filled with flattery.” Psalm 5:9

This is the identifying mark of the “hireling,” the false pastor. He aims at pleasing his hearers, making them feel satisfied with themselves, ever patting them on the back.

“But he who has My Word-let him speak My Word faithfully” (Jeremiah 23:28), no matter how unpalatable it may be to the flesh, how much of a weariness to those who wish to have their ears tickled with novelties, or how loud the outcry against it is!

Ministerial faithfulness includes loyalty to his Master, devotion to His interests, steadfast adherence to the preaching of His Word, dispensing the Truth unto those whose souls are committed to Him-not mixing it with his speculations, much less substituting false doctrine. A far higher motive than the pleasing of his hearers must actuate and regulate ministerial service. Faithful preaching will render the minister unpopular, and will ‘empty’ churches-not ‘fill’ them!

“Then you will know the Truth, and the Truth will set you free.” (John 8:32) Souls are caught fast in the meshes of Satan’s lies-and nothing but the sword of God’s Truth can cut them free!

“A faithful man-who can find?” (Proverbs 20:6). Why is this? Because it is the part of fallen human nature to take the line of least resistance, and choose the path easiest to the flesh. But remember, my reader, whoever you are, that, “Lying lips are abomination to the Lord; but those who deal ‘faithfully’ are His delight.” (Proverbs 12:22)

“Be faithful unto death-and I will give you a crown of life!” (Revelation 2:10)

Romans 11:36
Grace and Peace to you
in Him who saves -Lenny

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Secularism in America

1 John 2:15-17 Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world.17 The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever.

rc_sproul2Every Christian is a missionary, a person sent into the world by Christ to take the principles and message of his kingdom to bear on all areas of life. We now study worldviews that compete with a biblical/Christian worldview.
We cannot say that America is a Christian nation today. In the past, America has been strongly influenced by Christianity, but sadly, that influence has been waning for some time. America is not, however, a pagan nation. Paganism is a pre-Christian phenomenon. Paganism exists where the gospel has never influenced a culture.

America today is a secular society; by secular I mean post-Christian. Secularism takes elements of the Christian heritage, but replaces God and orthodox Christian foundations with some kind of worldly philosophy. Secularism takes various forms, such as existentialism, pluralism, pragmatism, hedonism, humanism, and moral relativism.

Secularism is the unifying, foundational, and overarching philosophy that undergirds all of these “isms.”? The word secular comes from the Latin saeculum, which means both “world” and “age.” That which is secular, then, is that which is in this present world at this present time.

Christians are indeed “secular” since we are concerned as missionaries and as people with “this world at this time.” When ism is added to secular, however, we get a philosophy opposed to Christianity. Secularism says that all reality and every human value must be judged only in the light of and in terms of the “here and now.” The present limits this worldview’s understanding of life. Television commercials portray this view in the “you only go around once” attitude of “grabbing all the gusto.” Secularism eliminates eternity. It eliminates the Christian long-range viewpoint that alone puts this world in proper perspective.(from Before the face of God)

Romans 11:36
Grace and Peace to you
in Him who saves -Lenny

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Divine Method- not human

tozer_cropThe Holy Spirit operates in another realm altogether, and the method of winning a man to God is a divine method, not a human one. Oh, we can make church members. We can get people over on our side, and they can join our class and go to summer camps. We may have done nothing but make proselytes out of them. When the Holy Spirit works in a man, then God does the work, and what God does, according to Scriptures, is forever.”-A.W. Tozer

Titus 3:5 He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit,

Romans 11:36
Grace and Peace to you
in Him who saves -Lenny

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A little of this and a little of that

lenny3Articles, Sermons, web-sites and thoughts from other people I’ve read through out the week. To help edify you in your walk with Christ. Each of us is to please his neighbor for his good, to his edification. Romans 15:2

WORK HARD AND DON’T BE LAZY…20 practical principles from Proverbs - by Dr. S. Lance Quinn

What God Wants the Church to Be.. by Dr. John MacArthur

Purpose driven pastor Rick Warren Embarks on Follow-Up to ‘Purpose Driven Life’-needless to say this news sent a chill down my spine

The Life of Prayer By A.B. Simpson

Here is something that’s been on my heart lately

“God loves us-Christ died for us- now it’s up to us” that’s to much pressure for me. If I have to rely on my power and my so called free will to help God save me I WOULD FAIL MISERABLY we are dead in our trespasses and Sin Ephesians 2:1 you were dead in your trespasses and sins, Here’s the great news for those who believe “He makes us alive” When you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions, Colossians 2:13 “And I will give them one heart, and put a new spirit within them. And I will take the heart of stone out of their flesh and give them a heart of flesh, Ezekiel 11:19. Ephesians 2:4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, I’m glad there was a BUT God for me, if I had to rely on myself  to save me, I would still be on the road to Hell- But God saved me -Amen!!

And finally this from Facets of Grace

circus-circus-at-night

“Any spirit that permits compromise with the world is a false spirit. Any religious movement that imitates the world in any of its manifestations is false to the cross of Christ and on the side of the devil.” A.W. Tozer

Romans 11:36
Grace and Peace to you
in Him who saves -Lenny

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Church Growth Folly

How to grow the church of Christ

Preach the Word 2 Timothy 4:2 and the Lord with grow His church Acts 2:47

Thus says the Lord,
“Stand by the ways and see and ask for the ancient paths,
Where the good way is, and walk in it;
And you will find rest for your souls.
But they said, ‘We will not walk in it.’ Jeremiah 6:16

Romans 11:36
Grace and Peace to you
in Him who saves -Lenny

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Feeding Sheep or Amusing Goats?

200701_138_spurgeon

by Charles Spurgeon (edited)

An evil is in the ‘professed’ camp of the Lord, so gross in its impudence, that the most shortsighted Christian can hardly fail to notice it. During the past few years this evil has developed at an alarming rate. It has worked like leaven until the whole lump ferments! The devil has seldom done a more clever thing, than hinting to the Church that part of their mission is to provide entertainment for the people, with a view to winning them. From speaking out the gospel, the Church has gradually toned down her testimony, then winked at and excused the frivolities of the day. Then she tolerated them in her borders. Now she has adopted them under the plea of reaching the masses!

My first contention is that providing amusement for the people is nowhere spoken of in the Scriptures as a function of the Church. If it is a Christian work why did not Christ speak of it? ‘Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature, and provide amusement for those who do not relish the gospel’. No such words, however, are to be found. It did not seem to occur to Him. Where do entertainers come in? The Holy Spirit is silent concerning them. Were the prophets persecuted because they amused the people, or because they confronted them? The ‘concert’ has no martyr roll.

Again, providing amusement is in direct antagonism to the teaching and life of Christ and all His apostles. What was the attitude of the apostolic Church to the world? “You are the salt of the world”, not the sugar candy; something the world will spit out, not swallow. Had Jesus introduced more of the bright and pleasant elements into His teaching, He would have been more popular. When “many of His disciples turned back and no longer followed Him,” I do not hear Him say, ‘Run after these people, Peter, and tell them we will have a different style of service tomorrow; something short and attractive with little preaching. We will have a pleasant evening for the people. Tell them they will be sure to enjoy it! Be quick, Peter, we must get the people somehow!’

No! Jesus pitied sinners, sighed and wept over them, but never sought to amuse them! In vain will the epistles be searched to find any trace of the ‘gospel of amusement’. Their message is, “Therefore, come out from them and separate yourselves from them… Don’t touch their filthy things…” Anything approaching amusement is conspicuous by its absence. They had boundless confidence in the gospel and employed no other weapon. After Peter and John were locked up for preaching, the Church had a prayer meeting, but they did not pray, ‘Lord, grant unto your servants that by a wise and discriminating use of innocent recreation we may show these people how happy we are’.

No! They did not cease from preaching Christ. They had no time for arranging entertainments. Scattered by persecution they went everywhere preaching the gospel. They turned the world upside down; that is the only difference from today’s church.

Lastly, amusement fails to effect the end desired. Let the heavy laden who found peace through the concert not keep silent! Let the drunkard to whom the dramatic entertainment had been God’s link in the chain of their conversion, stand up! There are none to answer!

The mission of amusement produces no converts!

The need of the hour for today’s ministry is earnest spirituality joined with Biblical doctrine, so understood and felt, that it sets men on fire.

Lord, clear the Church of all the rot and rubbish the devil has imposed on her, and bring us back to apostolic methods! (taken from Grace Gems)

Romans 11:36
Grace and Peace to you
in Him who saves -Lenny

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Biblical Church Growth

Acts 2:41-42 So then, those who had received his word were baptized; and that day there were added about three thousand souls. They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.

Acts 2:47 praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved.

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Romans 11:36
Grace and Peace to you
in Him who saves -Lenny

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The church’s strategy

johnny-mac3

praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved. Acts 2:47

The church’s strategy has never been to appeal to the world on the world’s terms. Churches aren’t supposed to compete for the consumer on the same level as Miller Lite or MTV. We can’t stimulate genuine growth by clever persuasion or inventive techniques. It is the Lord who adds to the church (Acts 2:47). Human methodologies cannot accelerate or supersede the divine process. Any additional growth they produce is a barren imitation. Artificial or unnatural growth in the biological realm can cause disfigurement – or worse, cancer. Synthetic growth in the spiritual realm is every bit as unhealthy. (Ashamed of the Gospel)

Charles Spurgeon on Acts 2:47

One more point in the text is this, that “the Lord added to the Church daily such as should be saved.” There were additions to the Church every day! Some churches, if they have an addition once in 12 months make as much noise over that one as a hen does when she has laid an egg! Now, in the early Church they would not have been content with so small an increase. They would have gone weeping and mourning all over Jerusalem if there had been additions but once in the year. But, cries one, “If we have an addition every month, is not that enough?” Well, it is enough for some people, but when hearts are warm and full of love to Christ, we want Him to be praised from the rising of the sun unto the going down of the same—and we long to have added to the Church daily of such as are saved—and why not? “But,” you reply, “we are not daily preaching.” That may be, but we ought to be! If not daily in the pulpit, there should be the daily preaching of the life, and if all the members of the Church were daily teaching of Jesus Christ from house to house, a daily sowing would bring a daily reaping! (From a sermon by C.H. Spurgeon Additions to the Church)

For the next few day’s I want to touch on the subject of Church Growth.

Romans 11:36
Grace and Peace to you
in Him who saves -Lenny

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