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Posts Tagged ‘Church’

The Excogitating Engineer spent many years in Japan. One of the unique things about Japan which tourists readily notice is that many restaurants have display windows at the entrance facing the street with plastic food so people can see what food the restaurants serve and how much it costs. They look like the picture shown.

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As you can see, the window display shows a vivid reproduction of the food choices on the menu. This is great for tourists because you get an idea of what they serve even if you can’t read the menu. It includes prices also which is quite handy. This plastic fake food has long been a part of Japanese culture and there are artisans that make much of it by hand. Some of it very realistic. You might even want to eat it. But don’t try to eat it because it is made of plastic. More specifically, most of them are made of PVC.

Switching gears now, think about the fact that the writer of Hebrews uses a food analogy in Hebrews 5 when he refers to the “elementary principles of the oracles of God” (Heb. 5:12).  He writes in the same verse, “you have come to need milk and not solid food.” I do not wish to make a comparison between Japanese food and meat or plastic food and milk but I would like to make an observation about what many contemporary preachers are giving to their congregations today in their sermons. Many times the sermons are not derived from the text and they end up just being steps on how to live a happy life. The sermons are not driven by the Scriptures and are just steps to a wonderful life or things to do to become a better person. They are not really sermons. They are more like inspirational Ted Talks with a little god sprinkled in here and there.

When I hear these kinds of “sermons” or inspirational talks, I feel like I’ve gone into a Japanese restaurant and instead of them bringing out my food, they have served me fake food that you can’t really eat. If a restaurant brought me fake food, I would immediately send it back and ask for the real thing, as any other sane person would. Attempting to eat fake food would leave me unsatisfied and feeling sick. This is exactly how I feel when I hear some of these sermons in contemporary evangelicalism. They make me feel sick and unsatisfied and still longing for some real food.

To preachers who are giving their congregations plastic food instead of meat, or even milk for that matter, please STOP! Stop telling your church how to have a happy life or how to deal with difficult co-workers or how to be a person God can use. Start opening the Bible and explaining it, as Phillip did with the Ethiopian eunuch. Stop talking about what we have to do to be a good Christian and start talking about what God has already accomplished on our behalf. Start talking about what the Scripture actually means and how it applies to our lives. Start talking about the God that the Bible is actually about. Talk about the the comfort that we have in our position in Christ, if we are indeed in Christ. Talk about that fact that we cannot outrun the outstretched loving arm of God if we are in Him. Talk about how God’s love is not wreckless but that Jesus paid a calculated price, His very life, in order to secure our salvation. Please, start preaching the  Word. No more fake food!

If you go to one of these churches that serves up fake food, send it back. Don’t let the preacher get away with continuing to give you the same plastic food each week. Send the fake food back and ask for some real food. If they still don’t give you real food, find another church where they will give you some sustenance and nourish you with the living Word of God.

Soli Deo Gloria

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There is an interesting blog post about some early church fathers.  These church fathers were ones that lived following the apostles and were part of the early church councils.  Sadly, today Christians know very little about the early history of the church.  It is also sad that as a whole people don’t read much about church history.  Read this post to get a sketch of some early church fathers such as Athanasius, Augustine, Jerome, etc.

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A friend of mine recently moved to a new city.  This, of course, meant that he needed to look for a new church home.  If you are relocating to a new city and need to find a new church home what are things you should look for?  There are so many things that one should look for but if we want to narrow it down to the most important things to look for in a church, what would those things be?

The first and most important characteristic that should exist is a commitment to expository preaching by the senior pastor.  By expository preaching I mean a particular thing that others might not mean when they use the same term.  I am referring to the pastor preaching through entire books of the Bible in chronological order.  Not the the books of the Bible are taught in chronological order but the chapters within the book are taught in chronological order and no section is skipped.  By doing this, the pastor can ensure that he is preaching the whole counsel of God and he is not just parking on texts that he likes.  The pastor’s message should come directly from the text and he should teach the context, the verses, and the particular words within the verses.

The reason this is number one for me is that the teaching is directed by God’s Word.  If the church and I disagree about some particular issues, it will be covered by God’s Word eventually.  I will be changed or the church will be changed.  If we all place ourselves under the authority of the Scriptures, we will all be in one accord eventually.

Second, and not far behind it, is a biblical understanding of the gospel.  This drives how the church will do evangelism and missions.  It will affect how alter calls are conducted.  It will affect how children are led to Christ.  Part of this will expose the church’s understanding of the doctrines of grace.  The doctrines of grace are important but not everything.  Although it is not the be all and end all of the church, the doctrines of grace affect how a lot of things are done.  A biblical understanding of the gospel also includes important theological truths such as penal substitutionary atonement.  This is also very important.  A theology of missions comes from their understanding of the gospel as well.

The third thing that comes to mind for me is a commitment to believer’s baptism.  This is the first step of obedience in the Christian’s new life.  It is important that only believers are baptized and only those with a credible profession of faith.

These are my top 3 requirements for a new church.  There are many other secondary issues but I think these are my non-nogotiables.  What about you?  What do you consider important when looking for a new church?

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I’ve heard on several occasions speakers at missions events try to throw a guilt trip on people.  Here is how it typically goes.  God’s plan to save the nations from hell is through the spread of the gospel.  We have failed in accomplishing this task so people are dying and going to hell every day.  Businessmen at companies like Coca-Cola and Apple have been able to develop plans for getting their product to the ends of the earth.  Shame on us!  If businessmen can get their product sold all over the world, why is it that we can’t get the gospel to all peoples of the world.  Businessmen are motivated by money.  We should be motivated by our love for our fellow man and our love for God. Why can we not get the gospel to the ends of the earth?  Do we not love God as much as businessmen love money?  Shame on us!!!

This line of argument makes my stomach churn.  It is definitely true that we need much more passion and abandonment in our efforts to spread the gospel.  We could probably do much more if we took the money we spent on football or basketball tickets and gave it to missions.  That is true.  However, the example I gave (and it is a real life example) implies that the gospel is something that is for sell.  It is not something that is for sale.  It is not something that we can get people to buy.  If people do not experience the effectual call of God then they will not respond to the gospel presentation.  Our job is to present the gospel.  Our job is not to present the gospel in a way that will appeal to them or get them to accept Christ.  Our job is to share the good news with them.  The rest is up to God.  We cannot convince people to follow Christ through better marketing or better strategy.  It is wrong to compare the gospel to something that is for sale.  

Let us not try to motive Christians to care about missions through guilt.  Let us motivate Christians to have a passion for the glory of God.  An outflow of Christians’ passion for God’s glory will be to see people from all nations worship God in Spirit and in Truth.  We are not selling something.  We have a story to tell.  It is a story that is costly.  It may even cost them their life if they choose to follow Christ.  

Jesus is not a brand to be sold.  He is Lord.  He offers forgiveness of sins but to follow him is costly.  People must weigh the cost of following Him whether it is losing jobs, families, or even personal freedoms.  It is not a matter of dropping a few bucks for some soft drinks or even a few hundred dollars on an iPod.  There is a much higher cost which we must we willing to pay as disciples of Christ.

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Have you wondered what countries to pray for when you pray for persecuted Christians around the world. Look no further. Open Doors has ranked the countries where persecution is worst. Pray for believers in these locations.

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