Archive for March, 2011
What do you think of when you hear the word “church”? Do you think of a grand cathedral with awe-inspiring architecture? Do you picture a quaint white country structure with a bell in the steeple?
Or does “church” for you mean something that a group of Christians do when they get together? Phrases like “Church is at ten” or “We had church under a tree” come to mind. For some of us, that’s what we think of when we say “church.”
Maybe you tend to hear “church” with a capital C, imagining a large bureaucratic organization with a central headquarters and representatives in countries around the world.
Or do you think about a group of people? The Bible never uses the word “church” to refer to a building or an activity; it’s always talking about a gathering of Christians. “The church in Ephesus.” (Revelation 2:1) The church that meets in your home. (Philemon 2) Those are the sorts of phrases we read in the Bible.
Whereas “church” is something of a contrived word for us, it wasn’t that way in Bible times. It was a common word to refer to a gathering. In the New Testament book of Acts, we find the same word being used to describe a gathering of citizens in Ephesus. The Greek word for church, ekklesia, merely means assembly. It comes from two words meaning “called” and “out,” with the thought of people called out for a purpose.
So, in its truest sense, “church” merely refers to a group of people. That’s why the Bible often adds a descriptive, like “church of God” (Acts 20:28), “churches of Christ” (Romans 16:16), or “church of the firstborn” (Hebrews 12:23). These phrases aren’t used as names; they are merely descriptions of who the assembly belongs to.
In the end, the church is the group of people that belong to God. Other meanings may cloud our understanding, but we need to see that that’s what the church is. That’s why we can’t talk about loving God and not loving the church, or being a Christian but not being a member of the church. Those things make no sense. God called his people to be together, to be a part of something larger than themselves: the church.
If you’re not part of a gathering of Christians, I’d like to help you find a place to belong. Contact me at email@example.com or click on “Contact Us” in the top menu and mark that you’d like help finding a church when you fill out the form.
“Let your Yes be Yes and your No, No.” The words in Matt 5:37 were spoken by Jesus as he explained that swearing by something or making an oath based on validation should not be necessary. When you say something, your actions must support your words.
In our culture saying “I swear on my mother’s grave” or “Cross my heart, hope to die” or
using profanity to convey a sense of importance or urgency are modern manifestations of the swearing or oath taking. Yet even in the 21st century we ultimately respect and believe someone who is as “good as his word,” “his word is as good as his bond.”
In spite of political correctness and public relations attempt to say something that is ambivalent and thus cannot be attributed as a stand, people still hope to find those who say what they mean, whose Yes is Yes and No is No.
Jesus was saying that during His time on earth and His words are pertinent as well for today, some will verbally commit to do something, but not follow through. Thus, to emphasize that they really mean to do it, they would swear by something.
Jesus says two things here that remain relevant today—say what you mean and then do what you say. Those around you will come to trust you when your actions are the same as your words.
So the question is this, does your Yes mean Yes and your No mean No?
Is that a first century idea relevant for our 21st Century world?
Do you know people who say Yes for Yes and No for No and how do you feel about them?
My dog Lucky and I recently spent some time together at obedience school. I thought we were going so Lucky could learn something about minding me, but the instructor spent most of his time training me. He explained that even though Lucky was a great dog, he really did not know what was best for him. Without me, he will go places that are dangerous, stick his nose into places that are not healthy, and maybe even starve to death. So it is important for Lucky to know that obeying me will be the best thing for him.
Our instructor talked about the fact that Lucky must know the safest place in the world is at my side. He needs to know that I will protect him, provide for him, and care for him. His life is best when he follows and minds me. We spent most of our time helping me understand how to train Lucky to know these things. Lucky actually is doing very well after his training. And I learned about my relationship with God. I don’t think the instructor intended it to be that way, but it was.
I know my life is better with God. He will protect me, feed me, and care for me. I have tried to handle my own life and I end up in places that are not good for me. On my own, I realize that maybe I don’t know what is best for me. Life is hard. This world is scary, and there are so many things that I cannot control. Left on my own, I will mess things up. Even worse, when I mess them up, I can’t fix them.
So I need God. I need to follow Him. I need to obey Him. I need to learn that life works when I accept Him as my Master. I believe that to be true for all of us. God made us, knows us, loves us, and wants what is best for us. When I forget this, life gets more confusing and difficult. When I remember it, I find peace, joy, hope, and purpose.
Lucky learned his lesson: life is better when he obeys his Master. I learned my lesson too: life is better when I obey my Master. It can work for you too.
Have you heard that July 2011 will have 5 Fridays, 5 Saturdays and 5 Sundays and that this pattern only occurs once every 823 years? Has anyone ever told you that the Great Wall of China is the only manmade object visible from space? Does the phrase “we only use 10 percent of our brain” ring a bell?
What these things have in common, of course, is that none of them is true. July 2011 will have 5 Fridays, 5 Saturdays and 5 Sundays, but so will July 2016. I’m not great at math, but I’m fairly confident that’s not 823 years.
The Great Wall of China is long, but not particularly wide (as far as manmade structures go). It is approximately the same color as the land that surrounds it. Continually improving technology allows such things to be seen from space, but there are many other structures that men have built which are more easily observed.
And the myth about 10 percent of our brain? No one really knows how that belief began, but it’s been repeated so often that most people accept it as true. Neurosurgeons are not among them, which explains why they carefully plan each incision they will make when performing brain surgery.
Just because “everybody knows” something, that something isn’t necessarily true. Common sense isn’t as common as we might like to think. Stories are created, repeated and exaggerated. After a while it’s hard to distinguish between rumors, myths, outright lies, and the truth.
It was Jesus who said, “And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” (John 8:32) The problem is, we don’t always know where to find that liberating truth. Fortunately, Jesus also gave us the answer to that. While praying for his disciples one night, he asked that God: “Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.” (John 17:17)
The truth is found in God’s Word, the Bible. While that e-mail Grandma forwarded to you may or may not be true, we know that God’s Word is truth. Your best friend’s Facebook status will sometimes lead you astray, but the words of the Bible will lead you to freedom.
Read the Bible. Study God’s Word. Know the truth.
And use your whole brain, even if it’s on a Sunday in July in the shadow of the Great Wall.