Why Worry About Tomorrow? [Lesson 10.4]

11 Aug
A wise man once said that we should plan ahead as though Jesus will not come for many years, and we should live as though He will come the next moment.
Sometimes I wonder why I’m even paying a mortgage.  If Christ is really coming soon, wouldn’t it just be easier to put off paying that mortgage?  I want my kids to go to college but if Christ is coming soon, why save for college?  Why even make long-term plans if Christ will return soon?  Maybe I should just go to the church and wait for Him to come.  I could even live there!  Pastor wouldn’t mind – would he?  I’d be ready though. I’d be the first one to see Jesus.  He will be proud of me since I was the first in line.  I can’t wait until He comes.  It will be awesome!

As Christians, we have a responsibility to remain active in His service until the very moment of His return.  1 Cor 15:58 [Amplified] states, “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be firm(steadfast), immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord [always being superior, excelling, doing more than enough in the service of the Lord], knowing and being continually aware that your labor in the Lord is not futile [it is never wasted or to no purpose].”

Live Like You Were Dying [Lesson 10.3]

10 Aug
About a year ago, the country artist Tim McGraw released a song entitled “Live Like You Were Dying”.  The chorus of the song goes like this:
I can relate to this song.  You see, I don’t know how long I’m going to be around.  I have to think every day about how I live my life. I don’t want to waste a single moment.
I know I haven’t told most of you about this.  I’ve lived my whole adult life and haven’t told many people.  I sometimes get embarrassed talking about it.  I don’t want to waste people’s time.  I’m sure they are too busy to listen.  Maybe they won’t like me if I tell them. 
OK. So I’ll go ahead and tell you.  You might as well hear it.
I’m a Christian.  Jesus is coming back to this earth to take me, and everyone else who believes in him, with him.
You see, I am a sinner.  I don’t deserve to go to heaven with Jesus.  But, He came to this earth over 2,000 years ago and he was killed for our sins.  He was perfect but He said that He would die so we didn’t have to.  All we had to do was to put our faith in Him.  I did that a number of years ago and now, I know that when Jesus does come back, I’m going with him.  I don’t know when that will be but I am glad that I am ready.  I am sorry that I didn’t tell you sooner.  You too need to know Jesus. Please, accept His gift of salvation so you won’t be left when He comes.  Life on this earth will be extremely difficult after He comes.  In fact, you might not ever get another chance to accept HimDon’t wait!  Think about it and make a decision… but please don’t wait.
Now, where’s FuManChu.  I’m going for the whole 8 seconds!

What Is So Controversial About Revelations? [Lesson 10.2]

9 Aug
Whenever you start talking about Revelations, you are bound to come across someone who disagrees with you.  Very learned Bible scholars have book-long disagreements on what Revelations really means.  Some think it is purely symbolic. Some believe that the events described something that happened in the past. Some don’t even think it is real at all.  Even among those who agree that it is a prophecy about future events, they can’t agree on the timing of these events. Which will happen first, the tribulation or the rapture? If it is the tribulation, will the rapture occur in the middle of the tribulation or at the end?  It is sometimes ridiculous how Christians can disagree on so much!
One thing we do know, that because we believe in Jesus, we have the blessed hope, which is the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ (Titus 2:11-14).  In our previous discussions, we learned that the Bible is without error. That God inspired men to write it but the whole Bible is God’s perfect Word.  If we accept that, then we know that the events described in Revelations are going to happen.  There are a lot of discussions on the details but here are a few things that I believe most scholars agree on:
1.  Jesus is returning to earth.
2.  There will be signs leading up to Christ’s return.
3.  All those who believed in Christ before they died will be raised to meet Jesus.
4.  All those still living and believe in Christ will be “raptured” to be with Jesus.
5.  There will be a period of tribulation which will be very difficult to live through.  Many people will die.
6.  Jesus will judge all people, believers and non-believers.  Even Satan.
7.  We will have to give an accounting of what we did with our lives.
8.  Everyone and everything that did not believe in Jesus prior to his final return will be condemned to indefinite suffering.
9.  Jesus will return and set up His kingdom on earth.
Here’s the important thing to remember.  The Bible tells us that Jesus return will happen like a thief in the night (1 Thess 5:1-3).  It is our obligation to always be ready.  It is also our obligation to tell others about accepting Jesus as their personal Savior so that they can be ready also.
Now is that so controversial?

Dealing With The Devil [Lesson 10.1]

8 Aug
Have you ever found yourself in a position where it seems like everything is going wrong? Days where you would swear that God left you to tend to someone else?  Ever just get tired of Satan’s endless spiritual attacks? The stressful days and sleepless nights?
I’ve been there.  I’m kind of there now.  I do not let it get me down though.  Do you know my secret?  I know the end of the story.  I read the back of the book.  I know how it ends. 
Do you know the secret? 
We Win!  We Win!  We Win!
I keep reminding myself what God tells us in Revelations 22:3-4, “No longer will anything be cursed. For the throne of God and of the Lamb will be there, and his servants will worship him. And they will see his face, and his name will be written on their foreheads.”
The time is coming when God will deal with the source of all these problems.  The wicked will be judged and Jesus will take the righteous to be with Him in heaven.  That is how I deal with trials.  I know the ending.

A Tale Of Seven Churches [Lesson 9.3]

4 Aug

We know that churches are made up of a community of believers.  Let’s take a look at seven different communities that have existed.  Which can you identify?

1.  The Proud Church.  When this church first formed, it was one of the earliest churches in the area.  They loved Jesus and loved each other.  Over the years, the church grew and grew until it was the largest church around. The community became diluted and they lost their fire for Jesus. They were more proud of their importance instead of glorifying Christ. Their belief became half-hearted and indifferent.

2.  The Suffering Church.  This church was composed of poor people but their faith made them rich in Christ. In size, they were the opposite of the church above. Over time, they were subjected to persecution and many were martyred in Christ’s name. Through this, their faith became stronger.

3.  The Tolerant Church.  Even though this church faced persecution and martyrdom, they tolerated false teachings. The false teachings were the right of Christians to indulge in heathen immoralities. Although the leadership of the church wasn’t propagating these false teachings, they tolerated them in the congregation.  They were in a difficult spot as their location was in the center of an area that was referred to as Satan’s Throne.  Even though faithful, their tolerance of false teaching was dangerous to their faith.

4.  The Church of Compromise.  This church grew and grew and was faithful to a point. They had a false teacher as one of their pastors and tolerated both true teachings and also false teachings.  Not everyone tolerated the false teaching but they also thought that this pastor could help win over the whole city so they accepted the pastor into the church as an equal.

5.  The Dead Church.  This church was a church in name only. This church consisted of mostly wealthy believers.  After a while, it became more of a social club.  They gathered to be seen and not to glorify Christ.

6.  The Humble Church.  This church was always content to exemplify the Life of Jesus in the midst of a corrupt society.  These believers were lovers of God’s Word and intent on keeping it.  With any blessing that came their way, they gave Christ the glory.

7.  The Lukewarm Church.  This church built a beautiful temple with riches. They dressed to impress.  They were a church operating in the Name of Christ but all too evidently for the benefit and glorification of the people in control, with Christ Himself little in evidence.

I am sure that you may have recognized one or more of these churches. You may even have recognized yourself in one of these.  Do you want me to tell you where these churches are? 

John, in the book of Revelations wrote letters to seven churches.  It is believed that he sent the whole book of Revelations to each of these churches.  He chose these churches as a representation of a fair cross section of the churches of that generation.  In fact, in some degree, they represent churches in all generations.  Churches existing in varying degrees of Truth and falseness.  Churches humanized with worldly traditions.  Churches largely the product of its leadership, with varying proportions of faithful leaders and faithful members.  Indeed, many congregations today are a pitiful mixture of church and world, True and False.

If you read Revelations 2, you notice that of the seven churches, two were good: Smyrna and Philadelphia, two were very bad: Sardis and Laodicea, and three were part good and part bad: Ephesus, Pergamum, and Thyatira. 

Our examples should be the churches of Smyrna and Philadelphia.  Smyrna, the suffering church, was promised the “Crown of Life”. Where is it today? It has survived through all the centuries, it houses the second largest population of Turkey. It’s modern name is Iz-mir (1). Philadelphia became Amman and served as the ancient and modern capital of Jordan.(2) 

A Tale Of Two Churches [Lesson 9.2]

3 Aug
A tale of two churches…
 – The Home Church –

Exactly what is meant by the phrase “Home Church?” Home churches, also known as house churches, describe small groups of believers – even as few as 2 or 3 – who gather in the name of Jesus Christ. They are very similar to the earliest churches which were customarily designated in the Scriptures as household units. These first Christians, you will recall, reveled in the fact that they personally had become the new dwelling place of the Almighty – living stones in God’s spiritual temple.

The basic rationale? The undergirding principle here is that all authority in heaven and in earth reside in Jesus Christ who reveals Himself through scripture, nature and by supernatural means, as well. Knowledge and all ethics are thus derived from Jesus Christ through the His Holy Spirit.

This means that the totality of life must be God-directed as we are motivated by gratitude for the life, death, and resurrection of His Son. The Home Church perspective is thus a unique world-view in which every follower of Jesus becomes a full-time Christian minister or servant. Every day, every event, every thought, every place become the domain of the Messiah. The line between sacred and secular progressively diminishes because Christ gives true meaning to all things. Every thought is to be brought captive to Him who is All and in all.” (1)

 – The Full Service Church –
On Easter of 1980, Saddleback Valley Community Church held its very first public service and 205 people, most of whom had never been to church, showed up. That began one of the most exciting journeys of growth that any church has experienced in American history. In more than two decades of ministry in South Orange County, God has continued to expand the church’s influence. Currently, Saddleback Church has more than 200 ministries serving the church and community. One in nine people in the area call Saddleback their church home.

God has also expanded the church’s ministry both nationally and internationally. Pastor Rick’s 1995 book The Purpose Driven Church, is translated into over 25 languages and was voted one of the “100 Christian Books That Changed the 20th Century. More than 350,000 church leaders from 120 countries have been trained in Saddleback’s purpose-driven paradigm. Pastor Rick’s latest book, The Purpose Driven Life, has been the #1 or #2 bestseller on the New York Times bestseller list for almost two years and still selling about a million copies a month. It has been named “Book of the Year” twice- in both 2003 and 2004, and recognized as “the bestselling hardback non-fiction book in history.” It focuses on the truth that life is “not about you,” and shows how God can enable each of us to live for His purposes. (2)

Which of the above examples are Christ’s Church? If you answered, both of them, you would be right. Based on our definition of church, both of them are local communities of Christ believers. The small house church might have 20 members or 2 or 3. Saddleback has thousands. Where is God’s blessings? Would Saddleback be so large if it didn’t attract a certain type of believer? You can see from the description of the house church that from their perspective,  thousands are leaving institutional churches to be in a more participatory God experience.(3) Who’s right? They both are. We all come to God with different baggage. Some are burned out with trying to do everything that they just want to be served for a while. Some are tired of being “preached” to and want a smaller community that they can actually take part in ministry. Both are right. Both serve God. Both are not for everyone.
God’s relationship with us is uniquely personal. Our journeys are all unique. Along the way, we may meet people with similar experiences or beliefs or goals. Those relationships are what form local communities. Some of those communities stay small. Others, see different visions for ministry and grow into the thousands. Each has it’s purpose. Each has it’s members. Each glorifies God in serving Him.
Where do you fit? Big, small, somewhere in between?
But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.

What Is Church [Lesson 9.1]

2 Aug
What is church?  When you think about church, what immediately comes to mind?  I Google’d the word “church” and here are some entries that came up:
Presbyterian Church(USA)  I wonder how they got listed first?
The United Church of Christ  How united is it? Ever check how many denominations there are?
The Church of England | Church of England  So nice that they named it twice!
The Episcopal Church Welcomes You  Well thank you!
Landover Baptist: America’s Favorite Church   I didn’t know that!
The Church of the SubGenius huh?
Church of Satan: The Official Web Site Even he has a church
+++ Saddleback Church +++  They must use the plusses to illustrate just how big they are!
Church Sign GeneratorNow you can get your customized church sign as a refrigerator magnet! Does your fridge then become an alter?
Church of Euthanasia   I would guess that this is a young church.
Westboro Baptist Church – Godhatesfags.com  Now what kind of a Christian message does that send? Actually, living in Kansas City for a while, we were all familiar with Fred Phelps anti-gay message.
Metal Church Rock On!
Inflatable Church   Where the preacher is really full of hot air!
Virtual Church Only exists in your mind.
Church of Fools In a Biblical sense, is this the church of unbelievers? Ps 53:1
Reverend Billy and the Church of Stop Shopping  Where do I sign up?
This could get ridiculous.  With all of the above examples, can you tell me what church is?  As it relates to our subject of Bible doctrine, church is the community of God’s people whose relationships with one another are based on their relationships with Jesus Christ.  If you look at what the Bible says about churches, it never refers to buildings as churches like we do today, but to certain people as comprising the church.  The Greek word εκκλησία η which is usually translated  as “church” in the New Testament, gives us the picture of people who have responded to God’s call.  The community of believers are known collectively as the “universal church”.
There is another way church is referred to in the Bible.  The bible also refers to local gatherings of believers as specific churches.  1 Cor 1:2 says, “To the church of God in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus and called to be holy…”   In Gal 1:2, it says, “To the churches in Galatia…” In Phil 1:1 it addresses “the saints in Christ Jesus at Philippi, together with the overseers and deacons…”
So, you can see that although universally, the church comprises all believers of Jesus Christ, we also recognize the need for local community churches.  We will explore these in more depth throughout this week. 
I wonder if the Church of Stop Shopping is in a mall?

Greek Translation

εκκλησία η = the Church a group called out
ekklisia i