Category Archives: Random Thoughts

The Importance of Studying Church

 

We’ve been working our way through several posts that examine what it is that we have come to call church.  The posts are as follows:

Sometimes these types of posts seem academic, or removed from practical Christianity.  Sometimes it can be difficult to see how a study of terms like ekklesia, synagogue, or church apply to our daily lives.  For instance, if you scrambled to get the kids to school and to work on time, what value does a post on Tyndale and Luther’s bible translation add to your situation?

At first glance maybe nothing.

However, perhaps for one, it shows that our daily struggles are short-term and temporary.  When we consider that God has had a plan to unite a people for Himself from before the foundation of the world in the person of His Son Jesus Christ it puts everything else in perspective.  Two, considering those who have gone before us and the battles they faced for the advancement of the kingdom of God puts the perspective on a human plane.

Over the last few weeks, I’ve compiled some  blog posts that have shown up in my news-feed, all fundamentally related to how one understands the nature of church.  Seeing the questions that others have raised and the related issues helps me to realize that their is eternal value in taking the time to understand what God has communicated through His Word regarding the assembly of His people.  I’ve offered a brief synopsis on some of these posts below.

http://feedingonchrist.com/weight-of-the-church/

In this post, the author discusses the weight that church should factor into our decisions on where we live, go to school, etc. and places membership in a local church above jobs, school, and housing.  Is he correct?  Should the geographical location of 4 walls weigh more on our decisions about these things?  Only a proper study and understanding of God’s Word can determine this.

https://www.challies.com/resources/can-you-help-me-find-a-good-church

In this post, “Can you help me find a good church?”, Tim Challies answers one of his commonly received emails from readers trying to locate a “good church”.  He lists a couple church directory links to aid in the search.  God’s Word may have something to say along these lines, but we would have to take the time to study and listen.  Is church available on the market shelf like everything else?

http://www.reformation21.org/blog/2017/05/in-defense-of-the-sabbatical.php

This is an interesting post where the author defends the pastors sabbatical, or time off, due to the nature of the 24/7 calling.  It’s no wonder there is so much pastoral burn-out.  But maybe we should ask, have we properly understood the nature and function of the pastor according to God’s Word?  Do we see 1 or 2 men in Scripture on call 24/7 tending to needy sheep?  Or do we see the burden distributed among all the believers through the “one-anotherings”?

https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/dilemma-of-bivocational-pastor

Similar in direction as the previous post, this author discusses the dilemma of the bi-vocational pastor.  It is an interesting self-created dilemma where a small church’s survival depends on affording their building and their pastor.  Did Paul or the other Apostles face this same struggle?

https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/what-is-this-thing-called-church

This is an interesting post that hits at the heart of our series here, namely What is this thing called church?  There is much that I commend the author for and agree with, but some other things that hopefully we’ll be able to look at through our on-going series.

https://blogs.thegospelcoalition.org/rayortlund/2017/05/23/is-your-church-institution/

Another post discussing a topic that we’ll directly address (Lord willing), namely the institutionalization of the church.  The author concludes that the church is in fact an institution.

http://deadstate.org/u-s-churches-are-now-costing-taxpayers-71-billion-a-year/

Three interesting notes here 1) The tax-exempt status that most U.S. churches seek and are granted 2) The cost of these churches 3) The universal use of the term church which lumps protestant-evangelical, Muslim, Mormon, etc. into the same category.  Is this what Jesus meant when He said I will build My “church”?  I doubt it.

http://www.ligonier.org/blog/churchless-christian-oxymoron/

Finally, a recent post discussing the importance of a believer’s church membership.  Some decent observations, but  there’s no way to agree/disagree with him unless we take the time to search the Scriptures.  Is church membership biblical?  Implied?  Assumed?

Each of these posts in their own way are specifically related to the questions we’re looking at in our own study of the church.  Simply put, these questions matter.  But finding and applying the biblical answers matters more.

Luck Chance and Happenstance

 

Well that was lucky!

Take a chance!

Good luck!

It’s all happenstance.

Common phrases and idioms like these have come to be expected in the English language.  We throw them around with such frequency that we rarely pause to give them a second thought.  I’ve found myself from time to time offering someone good luck, just by way of ending a conversation when they’ve shared a particular upcoming challenge, i.e. “I have an exam today.  RESPONSE: Good Luck!”  In fact just this week I found myself saying good luck and another person wishing me good luck within 30 minutes of each other.

Is there really such a thing as luck, chance, or happenstance?  Think about it for a minute.  If we truly believed in luck or chance then we would essentially be giving ourselves over to atheism, or the belief that there is no God.  Why?  Because, if there is a God (and there is), then by very definition He must be in charge, a term we call sovereignty.

Because He is God and Sovereign, then there cannot be anything outside of His control or rule, i.e. luck, chance, or happenstance.  Therefore we say He must also be providential.  God is both sovereign and providential, while the terms are related, they may be examined distinctly.  These are not simply man-made theological terms, but are derived from Scripture where God is described as such. (Sovereignty – 1 Timothy 6:15; Romans 9:19-21; Providence – Psalm 135:6; Isaiah 46:10)

Interestingly, both of these theological terms, as they relate to God, are abundant in the book of Genesis (if you are doing a yearly reading plan, be on the lookout!).  Since we now know that sovereignty refers to God’s reign and this reign is rooted in God’s role as Creator, then we can better understand that God has the right to exercise His authority in exiling Adam and Eve from the Garden for their disobedience of His command.  The very fact that they chose to sin convicts them of being guilty of denying God’s sovereignty.

Additionally, we should not have any qualms with how God chooses to mete out His justice on the entirety of His creation, save Noah and his family along with a selection of animals, when He administers the global flood.  God’s sovereignty is the answer to the objections that a global flood is unfair or unjust.  Is not God sovereign over His creation?  Then He is therefore just in His dealing with sinful mankind how He sees fit.

A third and final example of God’s sovereignty, particularly as it relates to the early chapters of Genesis, occurs in Genesis 10 and the episode of the Tower of Babel.  The goal of the people building this ancient ziggurat was to show off their expertise or pride (let us make a name for ourselves) by building a stairway to heaven in order to usurp the authority of God.   In a sense it is the repetition of the sin committed in Eden.

Related, is God’s providence, or how He exercises the rule of His reign.  This is often apparent in two ways in Scripture, the first is explicit and the second is implicit or underlying in the passage of Scripture.  We may ask, apart from providence, how can we be certain that the promise of the woman’s seed (Christ) will be born, survive, and accomplish God’s mission of redemption?  Clearly then, the providence of God is implied in the accomplishment of crushing the head of the serpent by the heel of the promised seed.  See also The Gospel Hope of Eve.

Another evidence of God’s providence in the early chapters of Genesis is seen more explicitly through the birth narratives of the Patriarchs that speak of the barrenness of Sarah, Rebekah, Leah and Rachel.  Familiarity with Abraham and Sarah reminds us that they were both beyond child-bearing years, yet God providentially orchestrated the birth of Isaac through whom the promised seed (Gen. 3:15) would come.  But we have similar accounts of providence over progeny with Isaac and his wife Rebekah (Gen. 25:21) and their son Jacob with both of his wives Leah and Rachel (Gen. 29:31; 30:2, 9, 17, 19-20, 22-24). For more on God’s providence see The Providence of God in the Life of Joseph.

Reading Scripture with an eye towards the attributes of God, notably His Sovereignty and His Providence transforms rote reading by essentially setting the mind toward meditation on Scripture.  In these brief examples we’ve seen how meditating on these two glorious attributes of God serves as a polemic against notions of luck, chance, or happenstance.  Perhaps in the future, we’ll now be better equipped to offer more biblical phrases such as Grace and Peace to you, or the antiquated but rather biblical, Godspeed!

Global Mission and the Power of the Internet

Since beginning a blog here nearly 4 years ago, I’ve long been fascinated with the visitor statistics associated with web pages.  Yes easily distracted with numbers, but more so fascinated with the locations of the visitors.  I’m sure statisticians and expert bloggers alike use these numbers for a variety of purposes, but recently I have come to view them as an opportunity to reach other nations with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  Below is a sample of the distribution of visitors I’m referring to.  Obviously the United States weighs most heavily, but what is fascinating is that nearly ¼ of all page views come from other countries, while roughly 1/5 of the total hits are represented internationally.  This may seem insignificant or grossly disproportionate to some blogs with much larger traffic, but for me it is greatly humbling, yet significant for seeing how powerful a tool the internet can be for the global spread of the gospel.

 

 

 

 

I was reminded of the internet’s power to reach the international community a couple weeks ago when a young lady from the Philippines left a comment, requesting use of an article I wrote, for a research paper she was writing.  I was so humbled, not just by the request, but from where it was coming from, the Philippines, a small Asian island nation in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.  And by Google’s calculation, some 8500 miles away from me.

It’s easy for my sinful pride to wonder why more “friends and family” don’t read or interact here and this leads to more sinful self-pity that nobody reads this little blog, but it cannot be doubted that God has used it (and for that matter your ministries as well) for exactly the purposes He intends and while that may not be people in my own town or even country, perhaps it is serving a role in the global mission for the spread of the Gospel.

The lesson here is that we don’t always see how or where God is working, but He always is.  We shouldn’t assume that a lack of visible results means no results at all.  God’s Word will never return to Him void, even if that means it has to travel to the other half of the world to reach its destination.

In Christ Alone.