Do We Need Grey Heads in the Church?

1grace_colorThere is a tremendous emphasis today to slow down aging or at least look like you’ve hit the paused button on your advancement in years. Secular society has frowned upon many things and one of the main ones is the process of aging. To many, being young is associated with being healthy, free and believe it or not, being educated and wise. You may find that last part hard to believe but let me explain. The idea of someone being “old” represents to many in our society as being out of touch with modern thinking. The elderly seem to be stuck in those olden days when people raised kids differently, ate differently, didn’t go to the gym and seem to understand Apple/Blackberry as fruits. Seems they have nothing more to offer than a short history lesson on how things “were” to make us feel more intelligent and sophisticated. These people are about to die and the era they represent will enter into the grave alongside with them.

Unfortunately, this ideology has leaked into the church.   I once heard an individual state that the sign of the impending death of a church is seeing the sea of white heads when you walk in. Churches today are trying to win over the young through a multitude of venues and methodologies. Some are using the ol’ bait them with entertainment trick or attempt to meet their spiritual needs, not with good biblical exposition, but with a multitude of self help programs for every need. The elderly, who are far wiser with their money, are around to pay for this stuff to happen.

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Ecclesiastical Contentment: In Spirit and In Truth

18 Luiken Woman at the Well Book Title: Historiae celebriores Veteris Testamenti Iconibus representatae / Author: Luiken, Caspar, 1672-1708. Image Title: Woman at the Well Scripture Reference: John 4 Description: Jesus converses with the Samaritan woman at the well in Sychar.

We’ve spent a substantial amount of time focusing upon how we should be approaching our glorious God in worship. We’ve dwelt to this point upon two little words;  reverence and awe and explained that approaching God in awe and reverence is the proper manner in which we are to approach Yahweh. It is also the root of how we should express our worship and we believe the foundation to finding ecclesiastical contentment. Keeping with what we have seen in the last few posts, let’s move on to introduce two new words that should be engrained in our worship vocabulary. Those two words are found in the following passage:

But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him. God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth. (John 4:23-24)

The two words I would like to spend a few moments unpacking are the words Spirit and Truth.

En route to Galilee, the Lord Jesus made a stop in the forbidden lands of Samaria. Samaria was frowned upon by the highly respectable Jewish clergy of the day and the Samaritans had about the same type of respect for the Jews. This disassociation was due to their respective religious views on Judaism and their theological hostility against one another. Basically both Jerusalem and Samaria believed they were the true worshipers of God and each held the proper geographical place of worship (The temple in Jerusalem and Mt. Gerizim in Samaria). Hmm, a monopoly on truth…Sound familiar? The Lord met a woman by a well while she was drawing water. The woman was startled by the fact that a Jewish man would even talk to her since she was a Samaritan.  Since the Lord Jesus isn’t a racist, the conversation seems quite appropriate and it carried on. The woman had no idea who she was really talking to. She probably viewed our Lord as a mere tourist who seemed to have lost His way.  The promised Messiah stood before her and while she was familiar with the Messianic promises, she was unaware who it was that was asking her for a drink of water. The gift of God of eternal life was then presented to her in the Lord proclaiming to her about the living water. She probably visited this well on a daily basis and it was precious to her because it came from Patriarch Jacob who had left it to them to provide them with water. She was a true traditionalist and could not fathom that the man she was speaking with could be greater than Jacob. Not only was the One with whom she was speaking greater than Jacob but the water He offered was a far greater water than the water Jacob left for her. Christ was offering her the water of life. It was this water that would satisfy her forever. She still didn’t understand what on earth He was saying to her because, much like Nicodemus, she interpreted all of the Lord Jesus’ words in a physical, materialistic sense rather than in a spiritual sense. Notice that the Lord didn’t just go ahead and give her the water.  The Lord asks her about her husband. Talk about a change of subject! The Lord was in fact dealing with her sins. Her sins needed to be dealt with before she could drink from this fountain. Her answer to the Lord’s inquiry was an honest answer in that she had no husband. The problem was that it she wasn’t telling Him the whole story. The Lord commends her for her truthful statement yet reveals to her what she had neglected. She had been married five times and the man she was with now wasn’t her husband. Her response to His declaration was to call the Lord a prophet. Now again, this was a true statement but it was the response He was looking for.

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More of Fear and Reverence…

080102613xIn continuing on in the spirit of thinking about worship and what was previously said in our brief discussion on Psalm 89:7, let me offer a few more thoughts on this subject since I feel it is of huge importance.

I have had the privilege of reading John Piper’s Let the Nations be Glad: The Supremacy of God in Missions and I have found some real gems to ponder at a time when I needed them. The book should be a “must read” for anyone contemplating missions to make sure they are approaching this responsibility for the right reasons. The very first line in the book goes a little like this

“Missions is not the ultimate goal of the church. Worship is. Missions exists because worship doesn’t”. [i]

The first chapter is devoted to the subject of the glory of God in worship. Piper does a fantastic job at demonstrating what we had tried to unpack in the text of Psalm 89:7 that worship should be approached in fear and reverence if they wish to approach Him as His people with the intent of worshipping. Piper explains that in many pulpits in Christian churches, the preachers have failed to present to the world the grandeur and majesty of God. Christians have often failed to really lead the nations to see what Paul wrote about in Romans 1:20. Piper proceeds give an example of someone who had been repulsed by the lack of the proclamation of God’s greatness. He goes on to quotes Charles Misner regarding Albert Einstein’s view of the church as followed.

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Ecclesiastical Contentment: Thinking About Worship

We have already made the point that there are allot of Christians who don’t seem content with church. Some of these come in the form of church hoppers while others are members of churches who have grievances and are happy to make them known to others. They are simply not satisfied wherever they go. What we have argued so far is that for a Christian to search for ecclesiastical contentment, he/she must begin by establishing that joy can only be had in a church that looks to be theocentric as opposed to centered around men. God and His glory must be the focal point of the church. A big part of the way this is manifested is in how a church worships. Again, this is not simply what hymns are sang or how eloquent the preacher is or whether you have a large congregation participating in the worship, we are talking about how people approach God in worship.

The scriptures tell us that God is seeking men and women who will worship Him (John 4:23) and this is the primary purpose of the church. God’s people are privileged with the ability to approach the God of eternity through our Lord Jesus Christ with praise and adoration. This must entail more than just a physical demonstration of worship in that it must also include Spirit & Truth (John 4:24) . It is the spirit of a person that must enter into the worship of God in truth. Ecclesiastical Contentment must begin with worship but again, not simply “how we do things” but more importantly in what spirit we do things. I don’t want to diminish the importance of what we do and this will come out loud and clear in future posts but for the moment we must build a foundation as to how this all works. It begins with the inner and expresses itself in the outer.

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A Little Clarity on 5 Points

imagesCA264B16I know for many people that the concept of Sovereignty is foreign to their thinking. As we all know, we don’t live in a time where we are being ruled over by a king in our country and hence grasping the idea of a sovereign who sits on a thrown ruling with righteousness is clearly not something we can all relate to.

As a Christian and especially as a student of scripture, I have come to recognize that bible teaches unquestionably the sovereignty of God and for the most part Christians will agree with me. Where our disagreements tend to begin is to what extent God is sovereign. The problems begin when we begin to try to define what exactly God is sovereign over. When we begin to say that God is sovereign even over the salvation of men then we are stepping on the toes of many evangelical Christians. With that said, many have adopted a very incomplete understanding of what is meant by God’s sovereignty over salvation. This has lead to numerous misrepresentations of what we believe and has resulted in more heat than light.

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The Prayer of Intercession

imagesIn this last segment on prayer, we will explore the prayer of intercession. It is the most common and significant prayer offered to God as a means of intervening on behalf of others. This is the prayer in which we approach the great God Yahweh with petitions for important people and items that we are made aware of. It is the time when we strive in prayer for others! While God is omniscience and omnipotent, we make the needs of others know as a means of God blessing others through these prayers. What a glorious God we have that He will intercede on behalf of His people and what a demonstration of love that Christians may show by offering prayer for others.

The prayer of intercession can take on the form of the needs of others. One of the greatest needs any man may have is for their salvation. We should pray very consistently for those who are outside of Christ that God would move in their lives and bring them to faith in His Son. We may pray for family members, friends and especially our enemies that they may find the redemptive love of God and believe the glorious gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. It may take on the form of a prayer of intercession for someone who is struggling with sin or has grown cold to the faith they once held so mightily.

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Living in Light of God’s Providence

providenceI believe that most people who take on the name “Christian” as representing their life have at some point wondered about all sorts of things in their lives. I think when we look at the state of the world, the state of the church and how it affects us we can’t help but sometimes be overwhelmed. I am not immune to this overwhelming sensation and there are days when I have become actually spiritually depressed by it all. I often have to come back to the biblical view of God in His Sovereignty. I take a moment to reflect upon the idea that through all this God is in control. This also allows me to reflect on the thought that God has had a plan before the foundation of the world for all this. What is not always easy to realize is that God is, in fact, accomplishing that plan through all that we see. We call this execution of God’s decree in time the Providence of God.  It is the scriptural teaching that God is not only the creator of all thing but the sustainer of them as well. W. Grudem defines it as:

God is continually involved with all created things in such as a way that he (1) keeps them existing and maintaining the properties with which he created them; (2) cooperates with created things in every action, directing their distinctive properties to cause them to act as they do; and (3) directs them to fulfill his purposes [i]

God didn’t simply create and step back to allow everything to do what it jolly well wants. God is continuously working in bringing about His will. Also, The Lord of heaven is not simply working on fixing the mistakes of creation after the fall but only when necessary. In other words He is acts on occasion but is not really controlling anything.  We will see from a scriptural point of view that this is not the case and that God is in fact fulfilling His purposes in all things that He has decreed before the world began.

We firstly will address the issue of God keeping things existing or as the writer of Hebrews states that Christ upholds all things by the word of His power (Hebrews 1:3).  The term upholds (phero) would refer to maintaining something intact. We also read Paul stating that in Him all things hold together (Colossians 1:17).  Existence itself owes all to the Lord since He is the maintainer of all of the creation that subsists whether humanity (Job 34:14-15) or any living thing.

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