I was intrigued by an article written by Janet Thompson of crosswalk.com. The eye-catching title asked, “Why Is The Church Going Dark?” She meant this literally. Her complaint was about the design of many auditoriums having dim lighting and being windowless, almost like a movie theatre or concert venue. She wondered if this was to reach a younger generation or to set a certain mood.
While I prefer a well-lit room, there is a more significant concern. Jesus taught, “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven” (Mat. 5:14-16). His words have nothing to do with church building designs, LED lighting, or window sizes. Preaching to His disciples, Jesus wants us to know that those reflecting His light cannot be hidden, but shine in such a way that others will see our good works and glorify God.
Dark churches are situated in neighborhoods that know nothing about them.
Dark churches are so indistinct that the world can see no difference between themselves and those churches.
Dark churches have no vision or plan to fulfill God’s purpose for them.
Dark churches exist to assemble, but not much more.
Dark churches focus inwardly, but neither outwardly nor upwardly.
Dark churches operate from fear and prefer the safe route, taking no risks and attempting only what they can produce.
Dark churches are disconnected from the Light of the world.
It is good for us to constantly challenge ourselves, when setting budgets, making plans, gauging our true priorities, or evaluating the leadership or the pulpit. Are we doing what will help us be “Light-Bearers” or what will cause us to be “Dark Churches”? What an important question! Our actions determine the answer.
It is said to have housed between 400,000 to 700,000 scrolls containing essentially everything that had been written up to its point in time. But the Royal Library of Alexandria, Egypt, was eventually destroyed. The first residential university, home to perhaps 2000 teachers and 10,000 students from the fifth to the 12th century in Nalanda, India, was destroyed by the Turks and never rebuilt.In the heart of Germany was an opulent room, a thing of beauty so incredible some called it an eighth wonder of the world and said to be worth $142 million in today’s money. But the Nazis destroyed The Amber Room. The same can be said of Herod’s Temple, the first library of Japan, the first Byzantine encyclopedia, and countless other artifacts, buildings, and writings (via historyofinformation.com).
How many considered these institutions and items that which would endure forever? Of course, Jesus warned that the things of this world cannot last (Mat. 6:19-20; cf. 2 Pet. 3:10ff).
Most Christians understand that principle. We know material things cannot and will not last, being eventually effaced by the hands of time. But what about us? We rightly preach how the church needs us and that each of us fills a unique, needed position in the body of Christ (Eph. 4:16; 1 Cor. 12:18). As long as we have health and opportunity, we need to leverage our talents for the good of the Lord’s kingdom. Wherever we’re planted, preachers, elders, teachers, deacons, professors, directors, presidents, house parents, custodians, secretaries, counselors, etc., we need to give the Lord the best we can for as long as we can.
But, no matter how effectively we are doing our work and what results we are seeing, we are not irreplaceable. What a horrible day it must have been for the church when Paul and Peter were martyred. Yet, the church continued its work (cf. Dan. 2:44). The same is true today. This will prevent any of us from feeling too big for our britches. It’s also a good reminder for the church itself, who may place too much importance on a single individual. Truly, some people leave big shoes and large holes to fill. But, it shall stand until Christ comes again. Perhaps one’s leaving a work (however that occurs) will force someone (or several someones) to step up and carry on the work. So much good can come from that!
Let’s do our best for as long as we can and trust that God can continue to work through men and women to continue his work after we no longer can!
Who here likes wasabi? Who here even knows what wasabi is? It’s a spicy, green plant used in or with many Japanese foods like sushi, and chances are, you’ve never had the real thing. Only thirteen percent of wasabi is the real thing. Most is just horseradish colored green. And the reason that most is fake is that there just isn’t enough to go around. Wasabi is one of the hardest foods to cultivate. One plant takes fifteen months to grow. If there is too little sunlight, the plant won’t grow. Too much, and the plant withers and dies. Aso, the pure spring water that flows through the plants has to be 13-18 degrees Celsius.
In many ways, this is like denominations. Many churches claim to be the right church and make it look quite convincing. Others try to be right, often times trading out the truth for opinion. Matthew 24:24 says, “For false messiahs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and wonders to deceive”
We should also consider Psalms 18:30, which says “as for God, His way is perfect, the Lord’s word is flawless, He shields all who take refuge in Him.”
We have to be careful to make sure we as the church are teaching the truth, God’s perfect way, and are Wasabi in its pure form, and not Wasabi that is just green horseradish.
On August 6 and 9, 1945, the United States dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The bomb itself, compared to the city, was quite small; the devastation is still at the front of many minds today.
There is a lot of evidence on earth of multiple meteor impacts. It is chilling to watch re-creations of how those impacts would have affected the earth. A meteor just six miles across has the potential ability to destroy most of this planet, which is 24,901 miles in circumference. So, something just 0.024% of earth’s size can potentially destroy it entirely.
This country has 321,400,000 people. The church makes up about 0.03% of the US Population. We are ahead of meteors in terms of our ability to make an unforgettable impact.
It is far too easy for us to think, “I’m just one person,” or, ”We’re just a couple hundred people in a community of thousands,” but God can do mind-blowing things with just one person. With His Son, He gave all humanity across eons of time the ability to be saved. With just 12 apostles, the church grew into a global fellowship. With just one faithful Christian, an entire community of lost souls can be reached.
When a meteor strikes the earth, it’s not the crater that creates such devastation: it is what happens afterward. Maybe you convert just one soul. That soul turns around and converts his/her family. That family reaches out to their connections and shares their newfound faith. Before you know it, hundreds of lost souls are now in Christ. All because of the effort of one person to convert one soul!
“Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary. So then, while we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, and especially to those who are of the household of the faith” (Gal. 6:9-10).
Near the end of the epistle to Titus, Paul writes, “And let our people also learn to maintain good works, to meet urgent needs, that they may not be unfruitful” (3:14). This verse teaches that Christianity involves maintenance work. Everyone enjoys a finished product, few like putting it together, and fewer enjoy repairing or maintaining it. In the same way, “maintaining good works” in the local church can be tedious business. Everyone enjoys a comfortable building, but who will help work on it? Everyone is concerned about the sick and hospitalized, but who will take the time to call, write, and visit them? Everyone likes hospitality and good fellowship, but who is willing to provide it? The church must be filled with maintenance workers.
On the personal level, it is sad but true that some individual Christians just “fall away.” Jesus once taught, “They on the rock are they, which, when they hear, receive the word with joy; and these have no root, which for a while believe, and in time of temptation fall away” (Luke 8:13). In this verse, Jesus laments the failure of some believes to do that necessary, personal “maintenance work.” Preventatively, He teaches that we must maintain our joy of God’s Word. Nothing does this like reading and studying the Bible. Only those who are involved daily in this come to truly appreciate the precious value of its truth. Christ teaches that we must maintain our faith in God’s Word. It is hard to believe, but Jesus says that individuals can cease to believe in Him. This is dangerous, as Peter teaches one is better off knowing Christ than rejecting Him (2 Pet. 2:20-21). Christ also teaches that we must maintain our strength by God’s Word. Otherwise, temptation will pull us away from Him.
When Thomas O. Davis accepted the presidency of a civic club, he was not facetious when he prayed, “Now I get me up to work, I pray the Lord I may not shirk, and if I die before tonight, I pray my work will be all right.” An old proverb goes, “God gives every bird its food, but he does not throw it into the nest.” Too, God has given every man a Savior, but He will not just put salvation in our lap without our doing anything. In both the case of the bird and the man, there is work to be done to obtain and maintain what is needed. May all of use do good works eagerly (“be ready,” Titus 3:1), thoroughly (“to every good work,” Titus 3:1), blamelessly (“speak evil of no man,” Titus 3:2), and gently (Titus 3:2). That’s the way to excel in the maintenance business!
Sanctification is one of those words used in more than one sense in the New Testament. It usually means the state of having been made holy (Rom. 6:19,22; 2 Th. 2:13; 1 Pt. 1:2), but it also is used in the sense of moral purity (see especially 1 Th. 4:2ff). There is no doubt that God calls us to live pure, godly lives in Christ. Because of this, we must watch the company we keep (cf. 1 Co. 15:33; 2 Co. 6:16ff).
How do we balance this need of keeping ourselves “unspotted from the world” (Js. 1:27) with the ability to reach out to those who are not followers of Christ? David Kinnaman and Gabe Lyons, in their book UnChristian: What A New Generation Really Thinks About Christianity…And Why It Matters, discuss several factors that lead two generations—they call them “Mosaics” (born between 1984 and 2002) and “Busters” (born between 1965 and 1983)—to be more radically disconnected from and antagonistic toward “Christianity” as they perceive it. One of the factors is their view that Christians’ lives are too sheltered for them to relate to it or find it desirable as a lifestyle choice. We’re often thought of as living in our own world, providing too simplistic answers for our complex world, being ignorant and outdated, speaking our own, exclusive language, and our outrage and offense at being putdown and mocked by the world. I don’t know how this hits you, but perhaps it gives us an opportunity to examine ourselves.
The authors make a great point worthy of our consideration: “Christianity begins to shift its sheltered reputation when Christ followers are engaged, informed, and on the leading edge, offering a sophisticated response to the issues people face” (132). The answer is not to replace congregational singing with rock concerts, recruit women, homosexual, or hard-edged shock-sermonizers who are foul-mouthed and irreverent to replace faithful gospel preachers, or the like. The answer is much more New Testament, more aligned with what the early church was. The answer is “engagement.”
That means we engage people in the world. We create opportunities or enter environments where “outsiders” (non-Christians) are to be found and we become salt and light, opening doors for the gospel through relationship-building and our genuine concern for people’s (often messy) lives.
It means we engage ourselves in “active faith.” We let faith have arms and legs. We move from being “believers” to being “doers” (Js. 1:22). We urge, encourage, and enable people to actively serve and live out faith in their daily lives.
It means we engage people like those Jesus and His disciples targeted. That means the woman caught in adultery, Zaccheus, the lame man, Blind Bartemaeus, the 10 lepers, the Samaritan woman, and others like them. We cannot forget what Paul said, that God has chosen the foolish, weak, base, nothing, and despised types to be His people (1 Cor. 1:27-28). The people God chose to be heirs are not the pretty, popular, influential, and wealthy (Js. 2:5). The authors of UnChristian specify groups like “loners,” “self-injurers,” and “fatherless” people (135-137). We can add to that list, but people like these do not often top the “prospect lists” we might make.
Divine Truth must prevail and guide us in matters of salvation, our teaching, our personal morality, our worship, etc. If it will guide us in reaching the world with the Word, we had better stop sequestering ourselves and our faith from a world in desperate need of the only message with eternal implications. Reflect on how Paul’s words apply to this, when he says, “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect” (Rom. 12:2). We’re not just meant to prove that to each other. God wants us proving it to those outside of Christ.
Two wonderful upcoming events should have us excited! Vacation Bible School is a prime opportunity for us to be evangelistic with our neighbors, friends, and co-workers. It showcases the many talented people we have in our education program for children and it is always pulled off in an impressive way. Our seminar/gospel meeting will be conducted by one of the most engaging, genuine preachers among us. Steve Higginbotham will do an outstanding job. There are several things we can do, but this Saturday’s door-knocking can accomplish so much to try and draw our nearest community neighbors to both these events. May I make a personal appeal to you to be at our building this Saturday at 1 P.M. To encourage you, consider three brief and true statements.
It Is Easy. We are not setting up Bible studies. We are simply inviting (or leaving fliers at the door if they are not home). A quick, pleasant “hello” and statement of what we are inviting them to attend is all you need to know. If you have access to small children, they always serve as an excellent buffer. But, no matter your age or degree of cuteness, you will find this the easiest evangelizing you will ever do.
It Is For You. Door-knocking is not just for the students, preachers, elders, or teens. Parents, deacons, men, women, middle-aged folks, young adults, professionals, unprofessionals, blue-collar, white-collar, tall, short, fat, skinny, and if there be any other category, your presence is vital to the success of this. So often, we assume others will do the work. Please do not make this assumption. If you are tempted to feel that way, know that others share that struggle. Encourage somebody else. Call or email them and tell them you are coming and ask them to come, too.
It Is Important. You may be helping somebody take their first step toward heaven. You might find somebody who has been searching for truth. You may knock the door of somebody who has been struggling and looking for answers. God may use you this Saturday to save a soul! How wonderful to be able to face our dear Savior some day having taken opportunities like this Saturday to expose people to the Lord’s church.
I feel pretty confident that you will not regret participating in this Saturday’s mass inviting. It will require a little time, gas, and energy, but it is also one of those things that just leaves you feeling like you have helped the Lord a little in His mission of reaching the lost. My highest hope is that I will see you this Saturday at 1 P.M. as we try to take greater Bear Valley for Christ!
Those sugar bananas that grow in tropical and equatorial climates are unbelievably tasty. How about a sweet watermelon (especially seedless) on a hot, summer day? The best peaches probably grow in Fort Valley, Georgia, Chilton County, Alabama, or Palisade, Colorado. It is amazing how sweet a mango or red grape can taste. Surely, one of the crowns of creation had to be the blackberry which, in a cobbler, shows man’s intellectual capacity at its finest. Genesis 1:11 records that third day when God began making fruit, and it was fruit that was meant to sustain Adam and Eve (3:2-3). The diversity of fruit on this earth shows God’s desire for man to experience the enjoyment of something conjured by His perfect hand.
However, man is not the only one who loves fruit. The Bible makes it clear that God has a “taste” for fruit, too. He loves singing to Him done in spirit and truth (cf. John 4:24), which He calls “the fruit of lips” (Heb. 13:15). He calls the discipline of suffering which He allows for our growth and development “the fruit of righteousness” (Heb. 12:11). He enumerates the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22-23, a whole range of thoughts and actions that prove we are Christ’s. Often, however, God’s Word speaks of the fruits of involved, committed Christian living, evidence of our conversion to Him. These fruits are tangible works that prove our gratitude for redemption, our desire to grow closer to God, our sense of debt and duty, our love for the One who is love, and our understanding of how important each of us fulfills our purpose as Christians on this earth.
Jesus made spiritual application through a fruitless fig tree on at least two occasions, the parable of Luke 13:6-9 and his encounter with a barren fig tree between Bethany and Jerusalem (Matt. 21:18ff; cf. Mark 11:12-14). Yet, His most famous analogies using the “fruit concept” are found in Luke eight and John fifteen. In Luke eight, the seed (8:11-the Word of God) planted in a good heart is fruitful while that strewn on the other types of hearts is not productive. In John fifteen, Jesus uses this fruit metaphor in an extended way. He is the vine. We are the branches. The Father is the farmer, the cultivator and fruit inspector. Jesus alludes to the idea that fruitless disciples are cut off from God and thus punished. However, when God looks at you and me and sees “much fruit,” He “is glorified by this” (John 15:5,8). In fact, it is by bearing fruit that we prove ourselves disciples of Christ (John 15:8). The key is abiding in Him. If you are truly in a relationship with the Lord, cultivated by prayer, study, and faithful living, you are abiding in Him. Fruit is visible, tangible, and discernible. Are you bearing or barren?