Monday, April 23, 2012

My House And Your House

46 Day by day continuing with one mind in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart, 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. — Acts 2:46–47 (NASB95)
Long before the church had pulpits and baptisteries, she had kitchens and dinner tables. Even a casual reading of the New Testament unveils the house as the primary tool of the church. The primary gathering place of the church was the home. – Max Lucado, Outlive Your Life (Nelson, 2010), p. 55
I’m not opposed to church buildings. Let me say that up front. I think there is an advantage in having a place where the whole church can meet together, where we can invite people from the community to various events, where we have facilities to use for all kinds of things that bring us together, whether it is to educate, to celebrate, or just have some fun.

I also think that it’s a shame that we don’t understand the power of our houses. The modern church is fairly good at putting on big events (I’m speaking in relative terms here because the total number of people may not be huge). We’re not so good at the small, intimate events. We need to learn how to do those, too.

The early church met in homes by necessity. The church building hadn’t been invented. They did have the temple where large crowds gathered, but individual houses played a huge role. This is where church life thrived.

Small group ministry has been around for a long time. Many churches have discovered how to use small groups of about ten or so people to grow strong and healthy. There is something about sitting around someone’s living room or den, sharing a cup of coffee or soft drink, and talking about spiritual things.

Fellowship deepens. We learn what makes each other tick, and what people need. We naturally get to share with others as God has blessed us with individual gifts. Being part of the body of Christ becomes real, not just theory. We learn how to help each other, pray for each other, and how to follow Jesus together. When is the last time you opened up your house and hosted a group of Christians to share your common faith together? Maybe it’s time.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Wanting To Believe

 1 The fool has said in his heart, “There is no God. . . .” —   Psalm 14:1 (NASB95)

Thomas Nagel, an atheist who authored a popular introduction to philosophy titled What Does It All Mean? wrote: "I want atheism to be true … It isn't just that I don't believe in God, and, naturally, hope that I'm right about my belief. It's that I hope there is no God! I don't want there to be a God; I don't want the universe to be like that."  –  Jim Spiegel, "Unreasonable Doubt," Christianity Today (2-10-11)

I will not for a moment ascribe to every unbeliever the sentiments of Thomas Nagel.  That would be both unfair, and simply erroneous.  But I do think that there is something in his statement that resonates deeply with both believers and unbelievers.  It has everything to do with what we want to be true.

I’m not saying that truth depends on what we want.  Truth is truth regardless what we might want.  If God exists, He exists outside our desire either way.  Wanting it to be so, one way or the other, doesn’t make it so.  But believing that something is true has a lot to do with whether we want it to be true or not.

There are many passages in the Bible that tell us that we should, even must, believe in God or believe in Jesus.  There is a lot of evidence presented to persuade us that there are things about God and His Son that we should believe.  But believing is always a choice.  I don’t think we talk enough about this aspect of faith.  To believe in Jesus is a choice we make, a conscious decision to accept as true what the Bible teaches about God’s Son.

A strong component of such a decision relates to our wanting the evidence to be true.  There are some who have been so persuaded, so compelled by the evidence that they would say they believed even when they didn’t want to do so.  I would not dare conclude such people are dishonest.  I do think that they might not realize that what compelling evidence does is not simply force us into a spot where we can’t choose any other option, but it creates in us the desire for the very things about which we have been convinced.

I want there to be God.  I want Jesus, the Son of God, to have lived, died and risen again.  I want the sacrifice for sin to be real, for salvation to be real, for eternal life to be true.  And so I believe.  I make no excuses.  I want these things.  I believe them.  That’s my choice.

Thursday, April 05, 2012


11 For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, 12 instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age, 13 looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus, 14 who gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds. 15 These things speak and exhort and reprove with all authority. Let no one disregard you.   —  Titus 2:11–15 (NASB95)
     Above the entryway to [Auschwitz] were the words, Arbeit macht frei. The same thing stood above the camp at Dachau. It means, "work makes free"—work will liberate you and give you freedom.
     It was a lie—a false hope. The Nazis made the people believe hard work would equal liberation, but the promised "liberation" was horrifying suffering and even death.
     Arbeit macht frei. One reason that phrase haunts me is because it is the spiritual lie of this age. It is a satanic lie. It's a religious lie. It is a false hope—an impossible dream for many people in the world. They believe their good works will be great enough to outweigh their bad works, allowing them to stand before God in eternity and say, "You owe me the right to enter into your heaven” . . .
     It is the hope of every false religion—arbeit macht frei.
     But it's the love of God that liberates. It's the blood of Jesus Christ that liberates. He died in my place, and I am free.  –  From Johnny V. Miller's sermon, "The Great Rescue," (4-14-07)
We really need to get this down.  Saved people are redeemed people.  To be redeemed means we have a redeemer, and that redeemer is Jesus Christ.  We don’t save ourselves or anybody else.  It’s frustrating to keep battling this idea, even within the church (the body of saved, redeemed people).  Tell people they aren’t saved by their good works, but by the blood of Jesus and some of them look at you with this blank stare as if they can’t quite grasp what you’re saying.

“But we have to do something. . . .”  That’s often the response, in one form or another.  Yes, we must respond in faith.  But nothing in your faith earns, deserves, or accomplishes salvation.  If you’re a sinner, you need a redeemer.  That’s Jesus.  Get that one right.  There is nothing more important.  Don’t fumble that one.  Jesus saves and redeems.  Hallelujah!