We are surrounded by a lot of tension these days. It is being brought on by many things such as: The 24 hour news cycle, political arguments, changing social dynamics, and our desires to have it all in a country that seems to have it all. The level of tension has gotten so bad that one report states that 1 in 5 American adults are on some type of anti-depressants, or anxiety medication.
How is a Christian to respond to this tense world we are living in? Get up tomorrow morning and do God’s Will. Go to your office, your business, your workshop, and your appointments because you realize that God is bidding you to go. Do not think any more like the world on the drudgery of your work. Cancel the word commonplace from your vocabulary. Keep His commandments in your mind, and your heart. If you will do this you will be protected from the tension, depression, and anxiety of those around you. Do this and your day will be transfigured from the lowliness of your job or task into a thing of glory and beauty for God.
In the home, office, the street, the store, the gym, and the hospital do each thing because it is God’s bidding, and you will see Him, in his glory, toiling with you through your day. And you will know that in your doing his bidding that you are building His city; you are building His kingdom. Simply do this and your life will be changed.
We returned to the white chapel last Sunday for our services. The reason for the return was to celebrate the buildings 50th anniversary at its present location. The chapel was built so someone would have a place to come and tell God’s side of the story, and speak about the Kingdom of God. After fifty years the building, for the most part, sits empty. Sad!
Pioneer Village is open five days a week, and during those five days visitors to the village make their way back to the distant corner of village where the chapel sits, and look upon it with nostalgia, but they see it as a building whose time has gone by. On occasion someone will rent the building for a wedding, but usually it sits unused, the pulpit vacant, the bell calling worshipers to service remains un-rung, and the pews empty. Sad!
I thought of the building this week and how it, in many ways, speaks of the condition of the Christian Church in America. The American Church today is like the chapel for it is thought of when someone wants to get married, when there is a funeral, when Easter and Christmas rolls around, or when there is an emergency. The pulpit is not empty, for there is still a message to deliver. There are bells still calling worshippers to services, but the pews remain empty. Sad!
The Church Neglected,
Today we are breaking from our normal church service to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the white chapel. Anniversaries are a good thing, for it gives us the opportunity to think about things of the past and to measure our present. Paul wrote, “Think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you,” (Rom 12:3b). He says we are to think, and measure.
The word, “Think,” in the Greek language is phroneo, and it means to have a particular mind set. An example of phroneo in the English language is heard when we say, “Don’t think so highly of yourself.” Paul is telling us to think honestly about who we are in Christ.
Paul said we are to, “Measure,” our thinking. What are we to measure against? In Washington D.C. at the Department of Weights and Measures is a length of metal that is exactly one yard long. It has 36 inches mark on it as well as 3 feet. It is the standard against which all other yards, feet, and inches are too compared to. Anything that does not measure up to this standard is not an inch, foot, or a yard; it is something else. Our measure is J.C. and we are to measure what we say, do, act, speak, or think to Him. Anything we do that does not measure up to Him is something other than Christianity.
In our service today we will think about Christ, our measure, and then look at ourselves, and respond to what we see.
President Trump visited Pittsburgh, Pa., this week to pay his respects to those in the Jewish community who were killed by a deranged gunman. And interesting contrast was noted. The synagogue’s rabbi was appreciative, and respectful to the president. A short distance away a female Presbyterian pastor repeatedly shouted at the president, “Everybody is welcome here. You’re not welcome here.” She sounded deranged.
Theology is the doctrine of what is true and what is false about God. Ethics is the doctrine of what is right and what is wrong. Duty and doctrine always go together, for it is not enough for us to understand explanations about God, we must translate our learning into living. We must show, by our daily living, that we trust God’s Word.
We unfortunately are living in the post-modern world, and one of the characteristics of this world is it disavows truth. Truth has been replace by feelings, and therefore, the answer to an ethical question is, “If it feels right, it is right.” A response to someone’s unsubstantiated testimony is, “I believe your truth.” Yuck, too wishy-washy for me.
In this post-modern world there is a lot of crazy talk, vitriol, and anger, like what was witnessed in Pittsburgh. It is designed by Satan to confuse you and confound you, and separate you from real truth. As Christians we walk in the sandals of the carpenter. This means His theology and His doctrine are ours, and we are to translate that theology and doctrine into all we do.
In His Sandals,
Jesus said, “I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man abides in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5). What does abide in Jesus mean? The answer is found in something else Jesus said, “If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him,” (John 14:23). Jesus is concerned about the interior life of a believer; the struggle that is going on inside of a Christian.
Today our struggle is finding meaning to life in a world framed by suffering, and evil. We want answers that have meaning to our lives. But we live in the post-modern world that disavows truth, and settles on feelings as the answers to what is right, “If it feels right, it’s right.” In the world today truth is what you believe it to be.
Jesus did not come to give us a new thought; though there is nothing more profound then knowing him. He did not come to give us a new experience; though there is nothing more life changing than him. He did not come to give you a new list of things to do; though we are known by the things we do. Christianity is rooted in abiding in Jesus. The apostle John once wrote, “In him was life, and that life was the light of men” (1:4). Jesus is not an abstract thought, he is real, and abiding in Him gives us the answer we seek.
When I meet someone new, and they find out I’m a pastor, they inevitably ask, “What denomination are you?” They are surprised when I tell them I’m not from any denomination, I’m just a Christian. I answer this because when you read and study the Bible you learn that those who respond to what the Bible teaches become only one thing – Christian.
A Christian believes in the Catholic Church, or the universal church, but they are not Roman Catholic. They believe in the reformation of the church, but they are not Lutheran. They believe in in baptism, but they are not Baptist. They believe in the orthodoxy of the church, but they are not Orthodox. They believe in Pentecost, but they are not Pentecostal.
A Christian simply opens the Bible and replicates what Christians did in the first century. What did they do? They met on the first day of the week, which is Sunday. They sang songs of praise to God, and Jesus. They celebrated communion. They read from the Torah, and from the letters from the Apostles as they received them. They prayed for each other. They baptized new believers. They met regularly with each other during the week. They receive gifts from the Holy Spirit known as fruits of the spirits, and used those gifts to enhance the Church, and to further the Gospel. Finally they welcomed others into their meetings.
That is what the first church did, and that is what this church does. We do it because we are just Christians.
Just a Christian,
We all have a Bible in our home. It was probably gifted to you when you went through confirmation class, or graduated from high school. Since that gifting it has followed you around through your various moves. There are two remarkable similarities to all those Bibles that are out there in our homes. First, though different in translation, they all have the same message: God loves you, and Christ died for you so that you can have eternal life. Second, those Bibles have lasted all this time because no one has ever read them.
Paul wrote, “When I was a child I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became an adult, I put childish ways behind me” (1Cor. 13:11). Isn’t it time we put away our childish thoughts about the Bible, and began reading it?
Here are some hints to help you read that Bible. The first hint is what the Bible is about. Genesis 1-11 is about the fall of man. Genesis 12 – Revelation 22 is God’s response to that fall. It’s God’s offer to man for a way back to Him. That’s the whole story in a nutshell. Second, just read 7 minutes a day, but before you start pray. Third, start your reading in the Book of Luke, then go to Acts, and then to Genesis. Once you have read these three book you will have the big picture of the Bible. From there you can skip around and read any of the books that interest you.