Tuesday, November 29, 2005

On A Lighter Note...

Wow! That's the response of this citizen of Patriot (and Red Sox) Nation to the Indianapolis Colts. It does, indeed, look like they can go undefeated. The Patriots, of course, needing medical doctors more than they need coaches these days, are toast.

This makes us older New Englanders to hark back to the days when there were no Patriots. We only had the Giants. Charley Connerly, YA Tittle, Mel Triplett - those were the days!

Of course, back then we also had Colts - in Baltimore. That undrafted guy with the high shoes - Unitas was his name - used to throw regularly to Raymond Berry.

Another little bit of more recent history reminds me that the Steelers seem to be vulnerable to that 80 yard, first offensive play stuff. I recall the Patriots doing the same thing to them in a playoff game a few years back.

I can sit back for the rest of the year and enjoy watching what may be the best pro football team ever to play the game. And the QB even seems to be a nice guy.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Hey you; You've been "Called Out"

Most of us have heard at least one sermon on the Greek word "ekklesia." We know that it has to do with being "called out," and that it means the assembly of those called to be in Christ. We use that word to describe the Church.

I like to look at this term, "called out" from a different perspective, also.

In the jargon of the day, to call out is to challenge; often in the context of a fight. It means something like: "You and me behind the school at 3 o'clock." The fact of the matter is that the Church is both corporately and individually, a bunch of people who've been challenged to a fight.
The several Greek words for fight are used sparingly. There is, however, a lot of military imagery, as in Ephesians 6:10-18, in which we are told to wear armor – and to “stand firm.” Them’s fightin’ words!

Other fighting words are found in, 1 Tim. 6:12, in which we read:
Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses.

Taking hold of the eternal life to which we are called includes fighting the good fight of faith. It means standing up to the predominant culture when it besmirches the Name of Jesus; when it ridicules the Church (not that we haven't called a good bit of ridicule on ourselves); when it demeans members of the Church for their faith.

Paul explains this concept of fighting for the faith further when he writes to his young protege Timothy, in 2 Tim. 4:7:

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.
To Paul, keeping the faith included having fought the good fight. Being a member of the Church, those called out by God, means fighting the good fight.

One final, and obvious, example will be offered here. It is found in Jude 3. Here we find this challenge:
Dear friends, although I was very eager to write to you about the salvation we share, I felt I had to write and urge you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints.
How do we, who are members of the Church, called out both in the sense of being part of the assembly and in the sense of being challenged, contend for the faith? Learn it; understand it; act as a body as we fight on behalf of the Church. It is the role of the Church, individually and corporately to contend for the Church itself; to stand up for the Church; to understand the proper role and authority of the Church; to behave as though the Church is something special – because it is.

In the movie “On the Waterfront,” Marlon Brando uttered the famous line: “I coulda been a contender.” That means he could have fought for the title. We don't have to fight for the title. It is already won by the blood of Jesus, which purchased the Church. We still need, however, to be contenders.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Ichabod - Has the Glory Departed?
(See 1 Samuel 4)

While in the throes of childbirth (and death) Eli's daughter-in-law named her son Ichabod, and stated that the glory had departed Israel. One has to ask the question of the Church today: Where has God’s glory gone? There are numerous reasons to ask the question. I'll note just a few.

1. The church has lost its voice as a moral force. At one time the society looked to the church for answers to tough moral and ethical questions. Moral leadership was expected from the Church. Today, between sexual and financial scandals and political folly, the church is considered a joke.
2. The Church has Abdicated for the sake of “getting along.” The Church today, instead of shining like stars in a crooked and depraved generation (Phil. 2:15), wants to blend in. It was noted in 1 Samuel 4 that the forces of Israel ran away from the Philistines. Today the Church is running - but not away. The Church is running toward the world. The world has irreverence; so can the Church. The world commits sexual sins without remorse; so our children should be allowed to shack up, too. The world is entertained by filth; so should we. The world has loud, usually mediocre music; well, the Church should, too. The world thinks it’s all right to cheat; the Church should keep up. The world allows its children to dress like tramps; so should we. The list goes on. We are supposed to be different. The church today is as different as a chameleon, blending into the background – no matter what the background is like.
3. The church can be its own worst enemy. Church splits; squabbles; trials; general buffoonery. They’re all expected of the Church today. Nobody is surprised when a pastor is put out because of non-theological issues. Nobody is shocked when eschatological differences explode denominations and fellowships. And I’m not even yet including the alleged churches of the left whose social agenda includes approval for abortion, homosexual practice and religion without God.

But, there is one key Biblical Truth to remember:
The church is still God’s remnant. God has promised that he will always keep a remnant. Elijah thought the church was a goner when he whined to God that he was the only follower left – and now the enemy was trying to kill him! God responded by telling Elijah, “I reserve seven thousand in Israel-all whose knees have not bowed down to Baal and all whose mouths have not kissed him.” Gently, God fed and sheltered Elijah – and sent him off into retirement. The church does not depend upon Elijah’s efforts – or mine. God is in control and He has promised that He will always have a remnant. The church may change what it looks like, but it is not going away. Paul wrote, in Eph. 1:17-23:

I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of his mighty strength, which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.

It’s not our church. He will maintain it. We have only to be faithful and obedient – and recognize Christ’s Church as the Holy Assembly of God’s chosen people; His bride.


Monday, November 07, 2005

Thinking and Acting Like a Christian
At our church we have a Sunday School class for adults and young people titled "Thinking LIke a Christian." It's a pretty well attended class. We also have had several sermon series lately on the general topic of not having a dichotomy between the sacred and the secular. In other words, we don't have to check our Christianity at the door on the way out of the church - or check our minds at the door on the way in. So, although I know I shouldn't have been, I was taken aback by the fact that at least half of the families in our church took part in Halloween festivities this October.

Not only that, but I drove by churches with signs for Halloween parties and heard and read many essays on "redeeming the holiday." I cannot see this as anything other than the Devil's holiday. I honestly don't see how any thinking Christian can see it otherwise. Witches and other pagans certainly celebrate it that way. I know that some churches try to "Christianize" it or "redeem" it, but all they are doing is joining forces with the evil one. Just because they aren't dressing up in ghoulish costumes doesn't change the fact that they are out there with the ones who celebrate the unGodly ideas of the day.

Especially in today's spiritual climate, it is important to think through what we do as Christians. We need to "think Christianly," not just go along to get along. I hear some Christians rationalizing that they just don't want their children to miss out on the fun the other kids have. Does that also apply to the fun the others are having with promiscuous sex and illicit drugs? Even members of churches who are separtist and don't have anything to do with other churches somehow manage to go right out and have fellowship with the Wiccans and others on this night of darkness.

The Apostle Paul had some thoughts on this topic. He wrote:

Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? What harmony is there between Christ and Belial? What does a believer have in common with an unbeliever? What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols? For we are the temple of the living God. As God has said: "I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people." "Therefore come out from them and be separate, says the Lord. Touch no unclean thing, and I will receive you." "I will be a Father to you, and you will be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty.

Is joining with the dark side in its "holiday" coming out from them? We are to minister to pagans. In order to do that we need to be among them and have some relationship with them. We are not, however, supposed to live like them.

BTW, we also had an awesome Reformation Party at our church.