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I Lift Up My
Dr. Charles Stanley
August 5, 2017
A New Beginning
John 4: 28-29
The woman then left her water pot, went her way into the city, and
said to the men, "Come, see a Man who told me all things that I ever
did. Could this be the Christ?"
There is nothing more hope-filled than being given a new beginning,
especially after we have suffered defeat. This is what God gives to those
who seek His forgiveness.
He provides a chance to begin again. While it is true that there are
consequences to sin, God will never condemn us for our bad choices (Rom. 8:1).
Nor will He leave us in the mess that our sin or doubt has created.
The key to living above your circumstances is realizing that God has
a plan for your life even when you make a mistake. He never stops loving
you, and He will never give up on you. He may not change the results of
a poor decision, but He certainly knows how to take a bad circumstance
and bring good out of it.
Jesus made a point of meeting with the woman at the well. From a
human perspective, her life was filled with failures. Jesus, however, only
saw potential. Even though the woman had been married several times,
Jesus did not hesitate to express His love for her.
While God's love for us is unconditional, it is not without responsibility.
Love like this demands our complete devotion. Jesus came so that this
woman-and each of us-might know and experience the eternal love of
God. We are transformed when we draw near to God's amazing love.
Oh, Father, Your love is so deep that I cannot comprehend it, yet I know
that it is that love that is transforming me. Thank You amen
Oh, how the Lord longs for His church to receive a revelation of His ravished heart - utterly overwhelmed with delight for us - even though we may not like or believe in ourselves. (Psalm 45:11)
We have been created to carry the glory of God. Hebrews 2 says that through Christ's suffering He brought many sons to glory. We are the house of God, and He wants to dwell in His house. It was always God's intention to dwell with mankind.
"Therefore if any person is [ingrafted] in Christ (the Messiah) he is a new creation (a new creature altogether); the old [previous moral and spiritual condition] has passed away. Behold, the fresh and new has come!" - Corinthians 5:17
The Scriptures entreat us to go from glory to glory -- allowing us always to sustain the glory released in us so we can proceed further to the greater realms of glory He desires to display in us.
"But we all, with unveiled face beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit. - 2 Corinthians 3:18
As the will of God grows on you -- gentle impressions become waves of stronger urgency until you have clear conviction.
If you don't keep your spirit built up in God, how are you going to listen to Him?
ALBERT FINCH MINISTRY
This is a message I gave at a Prophecy Conference in Indiana.
Hey all, got on and realized that I started a blog, or rather blog series, last year, and never continued it, and from the feedback I got from the last one, I figured it was about time I put in my next installment, which is "The Gunfighter" Many old westerns usually have more then one, they have the hero, and a villain, and often several "allies" on both sides.
Many Gunfighters, also share traights with loners, and/or are loners. Where they differ though, is that while they may "enjoy" being alone, they rarely back down from a fight, and speak their mind. They're not always loners, some will go in a group, and often exhibit fierce loyalty to those whom they consider their friends. They speak their mind, and often see life as "black and white". They live by their code, and anyone who doesn't is in the wrong. They enjoy debate, arn't afraid to get in the mud so to speak, and when they find someone or a group of someones whom they trust, are loyal to them to the bitter end. They do not understand the concept of "retreat" and often treat situations as "their way or the highway"
Now, their ability to charge into a fight guns blazing no questions asked, is both their greatest strength, and their biggest weakness. There is no doubt that churches often need such "Gunfighters" in their church, but often at the same time if left unchecked can run off and hurt people unwittingly. They often are very intellectual people, very smart, sometimes they are where they are now because of being raised in a very intellectual environment, or it maybe they grew up bullied, and the way they learned to deal with it, was to fight back. Of course, everyones different, so its important not to "generalize" and put everyone in the box, like I said in my first blog, these "characters" I am describing, are generalizations and most people will exhibit traights of each, and arrive where they are at today for a host of different reasons.
A gunfighter, so to speak, can do a lot of good, often, especially one who is serious about their faith, is often well studied in the Bible, theology, and solid doctrine. These are their "six shooters" so to speak, and when properly applied, are very deadly indeed, but knowledge is a two edged sword. Many Gunfighters in the movies, and even in life, will have at least one friend, or leader that they look up to, and its important that that leader is one wise enough to teach and guide that gunfighter properly, as to when is the best time to "apply" his skills. They are often great at defending the faith, and the church from outside threats from satan, but need that guiding hand to make sure they dont mistake a threat from a young christian. A gunfighter, mature in his faith, will often make excellent elders/leaders of the church. with the right training/friends alongside them. A man, strong in faith and willing to defend it openly, is a valuable asset to any church, but its important we dont leave them alone, because often a church full of Gunslingers will often destroy itself. Every church, needs to be a team.
What Gunfighters need wisdom in, is decifering between an honest threat upon the church, and what is not, and the appropriate answer. They need the wisdom to know that not every situation requires a quick draw, and often soft words will go a lot farther to accomplishing your goal, then a mountain of self righteous Bible verses. That you can't beat the Bible into someone, no matter how tempting it is. They also, need to resist the urge to go it alone-because many gunfighters do like to go it alone, and realize they are strongest in a team with other people of different strengths and weaknesses.
Gunfighters, if left unchecked can destroy a church, but with the right support and Godly wisdom, can be crucial to their strength. Like in the movies, there is often more then one, and sometimes, theyre not on the right side, and sometimes they maybe on the right side, but haven't learned how to play well with others. Time, love, and Godly wisdom often will bring them together if their hearts are in the right place.
There are a few characters in the Bible, whom I believe are very much "gunfighters" The most famous, probably, is King David. While we can see in his psalms, he was a very intelligent, loving man, we can see from his life was very much a warrior, willing to fight for what he believed, and sometimes it got him in trouble, but when He kept God as his focus, did great things for the nation of Israel.
The Apostle Peter, for instance, is a prime example of a gunfighter, everything from slicing off the gaurds ear, arguing to be Christs right hand man, to denying Him, for his mistakes, but more importantly, his devout loyalty to Christ, willingness to jump out of the boat to go to Him without even thinking about it, to yes, charging to Christs defense in gethsemene, without so much as a second thought, and after Christs return, and the early church, his standing steadfast to the faith, against all opponents, regardless of what opposition he took. Early on you see with Peter, his "gunfighter" traights getting him in trouble, but later on, once he learned how to apply them with wisdom and love, they became a strength
Another example of a New Testament Gunfighter, is the Apostle Paul. He actually was a picture perfect example of a "gunfighter" he traveled, but rarely alone, but at the same time not around a lot of people when he traveled. He started many churches, but usually only kept one or two close people around to encourage him and help him in his journeys. He spoke the gospel wherever he went, and was not afraid to stand firm and defend that gospel, such as what he did at mars hill in Acts 17:22-31
All gunfighters need to learn wisdom and love, when defending the gospel, and that is where having a good team of friends around is a necessity for them.
Some important verses to keep in mind for the "gunfighters" out there, especially the passage in Timothy.
1 Peter 3:15
But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear:
What I tell you in darkness, that speak ye in light: and what ye hear in the ear, that preach ye upon the housetops.
Dear friends, although I was very eager to write to you about the salvation we share, I felt compelled to write and urge you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to God’s holy people.
Some indeed preach Christ even of envy and strife; and some also of good will: 16 The one preach Christ of contention, not sincerely, supposing to add affliction to my bonds:
2 Timothy 2:23-26
23 But foolish and unlearned questions avoid, knowing that they do gender strifes.
24 And the servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient,
25 In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth;
26 And that they may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil, who are taken captive by him at his will.
The nations today consider that they control their own affairs, and that they are the sole arbiter of their destiny. There is, however, a higher authority controlling the world systems and shaping the nations according to His Divine Will.
No empire has ever been established on earth without the sanction & authority of God. In His word, He has revealed His Time Frame for the Gentiles ruling the world, with each World Ruler prophesied. Then in contemporary times we see that God established the Super Powers and brought them together to form the last Gentile World Government.
In exact chronological sequence we have seen throughout history the world rulers come & go, till finally again in exact chronological sequence we see the four Super Powers arise.
Thus we can rest assured that God will complete His judgment of the Gentiles and bring in His government through Israel to bring blessings to the nations as they rule in peace under God.
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Recently a young man asked me how one knows when one is mature enough for marriage. I responded to him, with some thoughts that went beyond his specific question. I am about to include my reply here. I should add though that some of these principles are for men and women both, and can also be considered in other aspect of life in addition to marriage.
Also, I would like to add, that before getting married, I think it is wise (in terms of human wisdom, not Biblical revelation) for people to consider carefully the idea of being established as individuals before starting life in marriage. Finances, careers, education, and other skills in living, can go a long way to reducing the stresses that marriages can encounter. When considering marriage, good, Christian pre-marital counseling can be a very good thing.
Try not to start off a marriage with financial problems. Learn about another before learning about them in marriage. Be aware that people often put their best foot forward during courtship, only to become lazy in marriage, revealing their true character. Be careful people, this is a life long commitment, and you do not want to make mistakes here.
In my country (U.S.A.), it has become common practice to engage in a ritual we call dating. Unfortunately, dating often interferes with learning about one another. We have a tendency to make dating about being entertained in each other's presence. We go to a movie, or a theme park, or a restaurant, things like that. That can be enjoyable, but it typically prevents us from having meaningful communication about things we need to know about each other.
I think it would be better, to meet with other people, more often than going out on a date. I suggest that being around people who are more experienced in life, especially people who already have long term, successful marriages. It is not the most enjoyable way to spend time perhaps, but it is a better way to learn about each other and focus on important things, than watching the latest Fast and Furious movie. Group Bible studies and prayer meetings, even getting together with others for fellowship, are better ways to get to know each other.
Group situations are better, being together as only a man and a woman, is giving opportunity to temptation. Any time spent kissing, is time spent NOT getting to know one another, and you know once you start down a path, it is hard to turn around. Stay on the true path, do not get side-tracked.
Anyway, what I wrote in answer to the question of know when one is mature enough for marriage, was this:
That is an excellent question, and I am not sure that I am wise enough to provide a good answer, but I will offer some thoughts.
First, if marriage is something you seek to do, as in something you are pursuing as a priority in your life, you may have your priorities wrong. Pleasing God, pursuing His will should be your priority.
When I say pursuing His will, I do not mean things, like "where should I live", "where should I work or go to school" or questions like that. One can pursue God's will no matter where one lives or where one works. Paul, as an example, pursued God's will from a Roman jail. Jesus did the will of the Father by dying on the cross. Paul instructs us to expect troubles and persecution and learn to be content in our circumstances. Jesus tells us to take up our cross daily, and to count persecution as something to be joyful about and count as a blessing.
So, I think that much of what we are called to, as Christians, has to do with our attitude, and our willingness to serve both God and others. If we pursue worldly pleasures as a priority, it will not be long before we go off track. This can be true even in subtle and harmless, even good things.
There is nothing wrong with things like good food, or entertainment, a shiney new car, a wonderful home, the latest smart phone, or even a wife and family. However, when any of these things, distracts us from God, or cause us to split our loyalty or to seek them first over the kingdom of God, they we have allowed them to become idols. Take note that niether Jesus nor Paul ever married.
Paul pointed out that there is a danger in being married, in that pleasing our wives, can distract us from our service to the Lord. When you think about it, the world was cursed, because one man, decided to listen to his wife over listening to God.
Paul also tells us that it is good stay single, but if a person lacks self-control then they should marry; for it is better to marry than to burn with lust. Of course, it is better to have self control, and I suggest that since self control is part of the nine-fold fruit of the Spirit, that we really have little or no excuse to not have self control. That is part of Christian maturity.
I think one way we know that we are ready for marriage, is when we have come to a place where (instead of looking for the right person) we are more concerned with being the right person.
Paul gives husbands the instruction to love our wives, as Jesus loves the church, and died for her. To translate that to human action, husband to wife, we are willing to sacrifice for her, and serve her, and most of all love her.
The problem with modern, western men, is that we have come to think of love as having warm, fuzzy, pleasurable feelings about someone. This is very distorted. Love is about serving others, sacrificing for others, seeking the well being of others.
As much as it appeals to our flesh to live with a woman and enjoy the benefits of marriage, it is more loving to seek her well being, doing what is best for her instead of cooperating with her in fulfilling mutual pleasure.
I believe grounded Christian women, and grounded Christian men, recognize that men have been assigned the role of being the spiritual leader of the couple. That is not something that we hold over our spouse, as some sort of boss or authority, it about being wise, caring, and wanting the best for her, and nurturing her relationship with God. A functional couple is not spending all of their lives, gazing into each others eyes, it is looking outward (and upward), in the same direction.
I think also, that we not only need to seek being the right person for our spouse, we should seek a spouse that is right for us. They do not need to be perfect, and certainly things like appearance are extremely low on the priority list. People who are of good character, who both love the Lord first over all, are great candidates for each other. That can take a lot of patience, but to settle for too little, will lead to the people in a relationship, dragging each other down when they should be pulling in the same direction.
A couple like that can accomplish a lot for the kingdom of God, and will have a very fulfilling relationship if they can manage to maintain that focus.
Take some time to familiarize yourself with 1 Cor, chapter 7, and 1 Cor, chapter 13. Meanwhile, I shall pray for you, and suggest that you not be to shy, to ask others to do so as well.
Another blog entry that was lost and is now resurrected.
1 Timothy 4:7 But refuse profane and old-womanish tales, and exercise yourself to godliness.
I saw an inspirational story posted on a Christian forum that talked about a soldier hiding from the enemy in World War II. This soldier took refuge in a cave. He prayed to God and was hidden by a spider web.
This seems like a nice story, but it turns out to be a story from another religion, from their religious texts. That troubled me. To see a mythological event from a false religion find its way into the culture of English speaking Christians. Can a Christian find morality within a false religion? I don’t think one can. All other religions, if they have morals, are a pale shadow of Christ’s way, and those other religions lead to eternal death. Why bother getting moral stories from false religions when we have the perfect and true religion of following Jesus?
As the bible tells us, 1 Timothy 1:4 nor to give heed to fables and endless genealogies (which provide doubts rather than the nurture of God in faith). We should instead keep our eye on the Lord. To do as it says in Philippians 4:8-9 Finally, my brothers, whatever things are true, whatever things are honest, whatever things are right, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report; if there is any virtue and if there is any praise, think on these things. Do those things which you have also learned and received and heard and seen in me. And the God of peace shall be with you.
“For now we see through a glass, darkly…”
It is my belief that we gain insights not only from a structured classroom but also from the vast wonderful creation that the Lord places before us. We simply have to ask, “Father, open my eyes that I might see.”
A few years back I happened to look out my kitchen window and there sat a small, scraggly puppy. He was a cute little thing, but, could we take on another dog? We already had two large Rhodesian Ridgebacks. This little guy looked like a small border collie. It’s not all that uncommon for a stray to show up out here in the country, but seldom do we see young puppies. Normally it’s the older guys that have started to chew on furniture or dig holes in the yard. People just don’t consider all the factors involved when becoming dog owners. Cute little puppies grow up to be dogs. Like children, without the correct training and discipline, they can grow up to have serious problems.
- Pr 22:6 Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.
Anyway – here was this pup and I had to check him out. Before I even got close to him I could tell that he was in trouble. He was too weak to run from me. I knelt down and slowly reached for him, thinking he would sniff my hand. He didn’t. Instead he laid his head in my hand and closed his eyes. I caressed him for a short while and then fetched him food and water. I doubted that he had the strength to eat. I went back into the house to give him privacy, and when I went outside a short while later, he had disappeared. I searched but couldn’t find him anywhere. I thought he went off somewhere to die.
The next morning he was back by the front porch. I got more food and water and again went back into the house. Again, he disappeared. This pattern continued for a few days until I discovered that he was hiding underneath the bushes that lined the house. The next time I fed him I sat on the porch steps, but didn’t reach out to him when he came out to eat. The days passed and with patience and kindness I slowly gained his trust, me sitting on my porch steps and he watching me with one eye while he ate. He didn’t allow me to handle him until the trust was firmly established. Once he submitted to me, I discovered that he had been severely mistreated. I later thought of how I was before finding my Savior. The world is a hard place in which to live, especially for a non-believer. It can beat us down, strip us of a desire to live –leave us in a condition just like this little broken pup.
- 1Pe 5:8-9 Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour, Whom resist stedfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world.
I named him Cabo and he lived in the front yard for a few weeks while gaining in strength and health. The two big dogs lived in the backyard, separated from the world by an electric fence that was never “hot.” Eventually, Cabo became healthy and self assured and one day boldly ducked under the wire and braved the back yard. The female Ridgeback immediately claimed the pup as her own.
One day, after being a part of the family for a couple of months, hubby and I took some treats out to the dogs. Pigs ears, I think they’re called, and our dogs loved them. The two big brown dogs would gobble them up in minutes. This particular day we handed them out, first to the Ridgebacks, who were aggressive to have them, and then to the little guy. He smelled it, but wasn’t sure what to do with it. He was more interested in getting a pet than he was a treat. I kept holding it out for him and he finally took it, realizing that it was all for him.
What happened next was a sheer pleasure for me to watch. Cabo wasn’t sure what to do with the treat, so he played with it. And, as he did, his whole demeanor turned to joy. He would toss the treat and then fetch it. He rolled, ran, jumped. He enjoyed this treat to the fullest. It was the funniest thing to watch. I believe, if given the vocal ability, he would have declared this “the best day ever.”
- Ne 8:10 Then he said unto them, Go your way, eat the fat, and drink the sweet, and send portions unto them for whom nothing is prepared: for this day is holy unto our Lord: neither be ye sorry; for the joy of the LORD is your strength.
Eventually, the big dogs noticed that the pup still hadn’t eaten his treat. I watched them approach Cabo, slowly and deliberately. Their purpose was clear. The little guy, however, didn’t’ even notice them. He was too busy embracing this newfound joy. The big dogs found a spot to lie down, never taking their eyes off the pig ear. After stern words to the Ridgebacks, I went back inside the house but continued to watch from the windows.
For the better part of the day Cabo played with his treat. The big dogs stalked him, drooling as they lusted after the pig ear. Of course, they had their own earlier but consumed it so fast they didn’t even enjoy it. Now they wanted his.
As Christians, do we ever do this? Do we carelessly consume the blessings the Lord gives to each of us, only to envy those of another? How many times do we desire what our brother has, thinking it’s a better treat?
Unfortunately all puppies grow out of that cute, playful stage. Cabo did as well. His back right leg never fully recovered from the injuries he received before finding his way to our house, but that didn’t slow him down any. Utilizing three legs he could still outrun the other dogs. Had he been placed in a pound I doubt he would have been adopted. The world had left its scars on him and would have rejected him because of it. I found great value, however, in this little dog, simply because he loved me. He never went to his food dish before first coming to me for affection. When I went into the back yard he was always the first to greet me and stayed the longest. If I stayed outside all day, he would have been by my side the entire time. He lived to please me.
- Ps 40:7-8 Then said I, Lo, I come: in the volume of the book it is written of me. I delight to do thy will, O my God: yea, thy law is within my heart.
Cabo learned discipline well and loved the words of approval afterwards. As he aged he matured into a calmer dog and one that still looked to his master for attention. The more diligently I worked with him, the deeper the understanding became between us and the stronger the bond. He left behind the playful antics of a pup, but if anything, the joy that he had as a puppy only deepened as he learned that to obey meant more time spent with me.
- Joh 15:10-11 If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father’s commandments, and abide in his love. These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full.
Cabo became a seasoned backyard warrior. He patrolled the perimeters of his half acre yard, knowing that it was but a small portion of a much larger kingdom. He valiantly ran off the evil truck that regularly attempted to steal his masters’ trash. Every week he fiercely fought to make the steel demon set the dumpster back down, and leave in defeat. There was an alfalfa farm north of a tree line through which he could not see, but he was aware that his master worked there often and that made it important. He didn’t understand about the house either, but he knew it was the dwelling place of the master. Even though he couldn’t see it all, or understand most of it, he knew that he belonged there and that he had ownership.
My broken puppy lived a good long life. He crawled up to my porch, looking for a place to die, and ended up inheriting a place to live. Certainly the teaching process didn’t always come easy for either of us, but the sacrifice given from both sides enabled a relationship that was enriched far beyond simply “owning a dog.”
There were times when I felt like Cabo. Broken, lost, nowhere to really belong and call home. But Just like Cabo I found a wealth of joy when I realized that I too was found by my Master. I clearly recall the joy that flooded my heart in my early days with the gifts of mercy and grace that He freely gave. Now, after many years of knowing the greatest gift is Himself, I’ve learned to listen for His voice so I too can walk with Him and have a fullness of joy that is only found in Him and not merely His gifts. Now, like Cabo looking towards the alfalfa field, I too look for the return of my Master, when I will finally see Him face to face.
- 1Cr 13:12 For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.
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Posted by Omegaman 2.0 on the September 4th, 2007
Why are there so many denominations? Why is the church divided? I see these questions occasionally in chat. They are good questions. It is a question Christians have, especially new believers trying to choose their first church. It is a question non-believers have too. For them, it is evidence that Christians cannot even agree on what the Bible says. Truthfully, they are right. In the chatroom, we see this frequently. We have debates over doctrines and understandings, thankfully most of it is good natured, though often passionate. It is also stimulating intellectually, it drives people to the pages of scripture to see what the bible does indeed say about things, so, these differences can have a positive effect. Imagine if we all agreed! Would that necessarily guarantee we were correct, or could we all agree on the same misunderstandings?
I see these questions occasionally in chat. They are good questions. It is a question Christians have, especially new believers trying to choose their first church. It is a question non-believers have too. For them, it is evidence that Christians cannot even agree on what the Bible says. Truthfully, they are right. In the chatroom, we see this frequently. We have debates over doctrines and understandings, thankfully most of it is good natured, though often passionate. It is also stimulating intellectually, it drives people to the pages of scripture to see what the bible does indeed say about things, so, these differences can have a positive effect. Imagine if we all agreed! Would that necessarily guarantee we were correct, or could we all agree on the same misunderstandings?
Jude 17-1917 But you, beloved, ought to remember the words that were spoken beforehand by the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ, 18 that they were saying to you, “In the last time there shall be mockers, following after their own ungodly lusts.” 19 These are the ones who cause divisions, worldly-minded, devoid of the Spirit.
Notice that in the passage above, divisions are not a good thing. Notice though, that Jude says that these people who cause divisions, are mockers who follow their unGodly lusts, and do not have the Spirit. These people, if we were to follow after them, would lead us away from the things of God. If you separate from your brethren to hang instead with your buddies at a bar, that is real division, not to be compared with denominations at all.
1 Cor 11:18-20
18 For, in the first place, when you come together as a church, I hear that divisions exist among you; and in part, I believe it. 19 For there must also be factions among you, in order that those who are approved may have become evident among you.
In the above passage, Paul speaks of another kind of division. This one is also not a denominational division, he is addressing division among those gathered together at one place. The passage has a negative feel to it, as though Paul is disapproving of it. You see that in his statement “and in part, I believe it”. Then he goes on to say that these factions have to exist! The reason: So you can distinguish between those who are sound in the faith, and those who do not have approval. Again, in this case, division is a good thing, not a bad thing.
So, what is a denomination anyway?
Look at the following definitions from Mirriam-Webster Dictionary:
4. A religious organization whose congregations are united in their adherence to its beliefs and practices.
Didn’t see that one coming did you? Notice that a denomination is a uniting factor, not a dividing factor! There is a running joke between on of the other chat administrators and I, about Calvary Chapels. Calvary Chapels are a group of churches, who are self described as non-denominational. In the definitions above, denomination has to do with the name of something. Calvary Chapels have the name Calvary Chapel - obviously. As far as I know, they are united in their beliefs and practices. Do some CCs sprinkle while others dunk? No. Are there any CCs that teach the Jesus will not return for His church until after the great tribulation? I haven’t heard of one. Are their CC’s that do not believe in the perpetuity of the gifts of the Holy Spirit? I don’t think so. If it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, quacks like a duck, chances are it is a duck.
So what is going one here? Why would a group of churches, who are united in belief, practice, and name, claim to be non-denominational? I have a theory. I believe that it is about marketing. Denominationalism, has a bad reputation. It smacks of stodgy old ways, inflexibility, to some, it is judgmental, rigid, organized religion. To be non-denominational, is hip. It sounds like you stand apart. It is similar to what we have in the states politically, when you register as a non partisan. It sounds like you are independent - have your own thoughts and views. It makes you different. Of course, in the real world, you are unique, just like everybody else.
We have a church near were I live. It used to be called the First Baptist Church, or something like that (I always wondered where the second Baptist church is, but that is another story). Lately, they took down the familiar name plaque, and put up a very colorful one, now it is called Sonlight Christian Center, or some such thing. Marketing again, I suspect, who wants to hang out with Baptists? Of course, they still are Baptists, but they ‘needed’ a hipper name.
So, am I against denominations? Am I against independent churches? Am I against churches that say they non-denominational but are not? I am not against any of those things. Let’s look at another passage:
1 Cor 1:10-1310 Now I exhort you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all agree, and there be no divisions among you, but you be made complete in the same mind and in the same judgment. 11 For I have been informed concerning you, my brethren, by Chloe’s people, that there are quarrels among you. 12 Now I mean this, that each one of you is saying, “I am of Paul,” and “I of Apollos,” and “I of Cephas,” and “I of Christ.” 13 Has Christ been divided? Paul was not crucified for you, was he? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?
That is a type of denominationalism that is not good. We do what these people are doing when we start gathering around a personality, like an author of a series of books, a famous preacher, or even the teachings of a great theologian from church history. Paul is pointing out, that there is only one church. All those who have been forgiven their sins through Jesus’ sacrifice, are the one church. It matter not what you call the church, who pastors it, who founded it, where it is, what language they speak, which Bible version they prefer, what worship style they employ, or whether they meet in a beautiful building with hardwoods and stained glass, or an old factory, storefront, or even a home. If Christ is preached and they believe the Bible, I am united with them, not divided from them. How can there not be denominations? When their are different countries and languages, customs and tastes, there will be denominations. When everybody belongs to one denomination, all agreeing, you can be sure that something evil or something wonderful has happened. If Jesus has returned for us, then it is something wonderful, until that day, their will be divisions based on preferences, understandings, languages customs, and sadly, even skin color.
When you are a mature Christian, you will recognize the oneness of the church and stop focusing on petty differences. Do you give offerings only at your church? If so, why? Are there not other churches that have needs greater than yours? When Paul traveled in the first century, the offering he gathered were for other churches, those who were able, helped those who were needy. That is unity. Giving of your substance to other brothers and sisters, because you recognize that they are family.
I am honored to be a part of Worthychat. Here, we come together from around the world. We are of different denominations, yet here, we are united. Do we squabble? Of course we do, what family doesn’t? Most husbands and wives squabble at times, yet, they remain one flesh, a unity. Differences do not mean you are divided, they just mean there are differences. We are human, God made us as individuals, not clones, celebrate the differences.
1 Cor 12:12-2712 For even as the body is one and yet has many members, and all the members of the body, though they are many, are one body, so also is Christ. 13 For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit. 14 For the body is not one member, but many. 15 If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I am not a part of the body,” it is not for this reason any the less a part of the body. 16 And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I am not a part of the body,” it is not for this reason any the less a part of the body. 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole were hearing, where would the sense of smell be? 18 But now God has placed the members, each one of them, in the body, just as He desired. 19 And if they were all one member, where would the body be? 20 But now there are many members, but one body. 21 And the eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you”; or again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” 22 On the contrary, it is much truer that the members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary; 23 and those members of the body, which we deem less honorable, on these we bestow more abundant honor, and our unseemly members come to have more abundant seemliness, 24 whereas our seemly members have no need of it. But God has so composed the body, giving more abundant honor to that member which lacked, 25 that there should be no division in the body, but that the members should have the same care for one another. 26 And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it. 27 Now you are Christ’s body, and individually members of it.
I would like to end with one final thought (I could go on and on, but I am feeling merciful tonight). People like to gather with others who are like them, the feel comfortable and part of something. Try to be accommodating in that way toward others, make them feel welcomed. But when you go out to look for a church to be part of, you will be tempted to find one, that suits your tastes and your beliefs. I am all for that, but I would like to caution you to keep things in perspective. Sound doctrine is more important that the style of worship or how nice the facilities are. If you try a new church, give it a chance, attend it three times at least, unless in is plainly scripturally unsound. If you have a personal belief about something, and you want to be around others who share that belief, don’t make it the central thing if it is a peripheral issue or not even a scriptural one, find a church that teaches the Bible, as it is, not with massaged meanings to make it fit what you wish it said. It is O.K. to be uncomfortable too, it can stretch and grow you. O.K., so that was two final thoughts, sue me.
Thank you for taking the time out of your busy life to read this, now go into the chatroom and join the one body, your brothers and sisters in Christ. Omegaman