Church

fisherman's net

One fish, Two fish, Good fish, Bad fish

“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was thrown into the sea and gathered fish of every kind. When it was full, men drew it ashore and sat down and sorted the good into containers but threw away the bad.”

Matthew 13:47-48

In this passage of Scripture, Jesus is speaking about the End-Times judgment. The first question that I see from what Jesus said is, “How do you and I know if we are ‘good fish’?” Thankfully, the Holy Spirit provides us with ample promises in the Scriptures for us to know. For example, “The one who keeps God’s commands lives in him, and he in them. And this is how we know that he lives in us: We know it by the Spirit he gave us.” 1 John 3:24

Wide Net

Thankfully, the Church casts a wide net and draws into itself both true believers and believers in name only. It is the responsibility of the ordained leadership to deal with false Christians within the Church. This is an aspect of church governance.

Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood.

Acts 20:28

Church Governance

Great harm can be done to new, weak, or wayward Christians when the laity (the folks in the pews) assumes the role of church governance by taking it upon themselves to confront a person they’ve discerned as a ‘bad fish’ within their fellowship. By this, I don’t mean to imply that the laity is to take a “see no evil” attitude, but we all should operate within our commissioning within our church. “As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not to quarrel over opinions. (Romans 14:1)”

The Church has a long history of “killing” its wounded. It takes divine discernment for each of us to distinguish between a weak Christian and a person that remains “of this world.” Thankfully, when the Church functions as Jesus intends, then the whole Church is blessed.

Photo by Eric BARBEAU on Unsplash


You may like: It is well

"Morning, Interior," oil on canvas, by Maximilien Luce

The Pointillism of God

Today’s featured picture is titled “Morning, Interior”, oil on canvas, by Maximilien Luce. Luce used the pointillism technique for this painting. Pointillism is a technique in which small, distinct dots of color are applied in patterns to form an image. If we closely examine an artist’s technique, we find that most magnificent paintings are comprised of thick layers of paint, applied in various widths, and depths, and mingled colors. That’s not how God paints. He uses the pointillism technique.

God paints His stories with people. Each person is a point of life, of color, of intensity. If we look too closely, we just see dots on God’s canvas; we see imperfect people. Some dots a closer to others, and some are more distant. God’s palette has distinct colors and hues through His fascinating process of genetics.

Through God’s perfect artistry, history is created as He paints. A dot here, a group of dots there. Dot by dot, person by person, epoch by epoch, more of God’s image of the story of His Son and Son’s Bride are depicted. You and I will someday see God’s finished work. Someday, when the story of redemption is complete.

Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God.

Revelation 21:1-3 NIV

Image by Maximilien Luce, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons


You may like: Imagined

Father dressing his son.

Dressed Up With Nowhere to Go

I happened to read a story written by a senior citizen in which she reminisced about her childhood. She was quite adept at painting a picture of her youth with words. It was fun to read her accounts of playing hide-and-seek with her siblings and cousins and the joy she experienced playing on her front porch. She wrote of a church that was across the street from her home. Then, suddenly, I read something that she intended as joyful, but it caused me sadness.

Their Sunday Best

This author had included a picture of her mom, dad, herself, and her siblings, all dressed up and standing outside in “their Sunday best.” She wrote that her parents had a photographer come around the same time to their home to take a picture of them each year. From her picture, it was exactly how my parents made us “dress up” on Easter Sunday.

Each year Mom would tell my sister and me that Jesus gave His very best for us, so we should meet Him in our very best. This made sense, but I hated wearing a tie as a boy full of energy. Anyway, when Mom corralled us, we’d pour into our red 1956 Chevy and drive into town to our church to celebrate the Good News of Christ’s resurrection with our congregation. At some point during our pastor’s Easter sermon, he would quote the verse that has been my joy and strength for half a century:

He is not here: for he is risen, as he said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay. And go quickly, and tell his disciples that he is risen from the dead; and, behold, he goeth before you into Galilee; there shall ye see him: lo, I have told you.

Matthew 28:6–7

Dressed Up With Nowhere to Go

As a boy, I didn’t fully grasp the Good News, but I could tell it held a power that knit our small congregation together. My Mom and Dad hung on to those words – I didn’t understand the depth of the pain each had experienced from the death of their mothers and life as children during the Great Depression. Still, each adult was filled by the Holy Spirit with strength and renewal of commitment to Christ Jesus, their Savior. But this wasn’t true for the author of the story I was reading.

Paraphrasing her account, “We’d get dressed up in our Sunday best. The photographer would take our picture, and then we’d get back in our play clothes and enjoy the spring day.” Her family did not go to church, not even on Easter Sunday. Across her street were people that knew the power of “He is risen” but she and her family were just dressed up with nowhere to go. I don’t think I’ve ever read a sadder story.

How many do we know that are like the five virgins that had dressed in their finest but found themselves dressed up with nowhere to go? (Matthew 25:1-13)

Good News

Whether your local church performs a cantata or your pastor preaches his Easter sermon, let’s all remember that if we have placed our faith in Jesus, we are brothers and sisters with hope and a future because Jesus Christ has risen, just as He said.

When my wife and I were first dating, we went to a concert by “The 2nd Chapter of Acts.” I hope you enjoy their “Easter Song.”

Photo by cottonbro from Pexels


You may like: The Apostle That Jesus Loved

Velcro Czepy Burdock Ball Flower Dried Cling

Clingy

Recently, I bought a guitar cable for my electric guitar. The cable came with two strips of Velcro® to help keep the cable in a tidy loop when stored. I took one of the strips off to use it on the power cable to my amp. That’s when I noticed how clingy it was. I felt like I was in a comedy skit. It stuck to my shirt, my cleaning cloth, everything!

I finally wrestled it onto the power cable, but whew, it was a battle! God reminded me of that battle this morning. Every command God gives us for good, the enemy twists it for evil. Consider:

Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good.

Romans 12:9 NIV

Transcendent Good

As Jesus told the rich young man, “Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good—except God alone. (Mark 10:18) Everything that is genuinely good* has God in it. These are the things we should keep an eye out for, and when we find them, we should ponder (deeply think) about them to uncover God’s transcendent[1] truth contained in them.

God’s will is for us to cling to what is good. But the enemy has a different plan. He wants the things of the world to stick to us. Sometimes, those “things” are people. Clingy people may be the most challenging prickly thing we must deal with.

If you’ve ever walked through woods or an open field, you’ve likely had cockleburs cling to your sneakers, socks, pants, maybe even your hair! And as you know, it is tedious work to remove them.

Cockleburs are so prickly that our every attempt at pulling one loose carry the potential to draw blood. This is how the clingy things of the world behave. The slightest brush with ungodly things may try to cling to you. To use you as the carrier to spread their seeds in a new patch of God’s children. Gossip is perhaps chief among these worldly cockleburs.

Good News

But we have good news! We learn about the time in John 13:1–17 Jesus washed the feet of His apostles. Being an “all in” personality, Peter first tells Jesus not to wash his feet and then asks Jesus to wash all of him (I love the Apostle Peter). Jesus then tells Peter:

Jesus answered, “Those who have had a bath need only to wash their feet; their whole body is clean. And you are clean, though not every one of you.”

John 13:10

Herein is a promise from our Lord: The dust of the world only clings to our feet. For a Christian, we have been baptized, we have been cleansed so thoroughly that the dust of the world (man is but dust) no longer clings to us. But we must walk through this world, and just as cockleburs cling to our socks when we walk through a field, the dust of this world clings to our feet (metaphorically speaking).

Worldliness clings to the part of us that comes in the closest contact with the world. Therefore, we need all of God and the body of believers (Romans 12:4–5) to remove from us the clingy things of the world. Jesus, our Lord, provides this for us, keeping us clean as we remain obedient to Him.


You may like: Letting Go

Image by Henryk Niestrój from Pixabay

Velcro® is the registered trademark of Velcro Companies.


  1. transcendent = “_existing apart from and not subject to the limitations of the material universe._”  ↩
picture of a dead flowers in a vase

Dead Plants

My wife is an exceptional gardener. She had a vision of how she wanted our yard to look and has worked diligently (often 3 or 4 hours a day) for three years to transform our yard into a beautiful place with several flower gardens, one with a stone path. 

When she first started, she rented a 1/2 ton dumpster because there were so many dead plants, weeds, and small trees that had to be removed. I told her that she had committed herbicide because she killed most of the wilderness that was our backyard. She still is a woman on a mission, and woe to any flora that stands in the way of her vision!

Jesus is a gardener

In a very real sense, Jesus is a gardener. He nurtures, He prunes, and He removes dead plants – vines to be specific. (Luke 13:6-9) A gardener must “come against” dead vines because they harm the fruitful vines. When it comes to Christ’s churches, dead churches harm His Church. Dead churches tell lies to lead people away from Truth.

From her founding, the Church has always been besieged by heresies, antichrists (1 John 2:17-19), and congregations that, with great zeal and reckless abandon, led people astray. So, what we see in our society is not new; it’s just more. Solomon told us in Ecclesiastes 1:9 that there is nothing new under the sun. Deceptive churches are not a new thing. It’s just that there are more of them, and they have cast off all constraints they previously had from God’s Word.

A message to the church in Sardis

In the opening chapters of the book of Revelation, Jesus tells the apostle John seven messages to be written to seven specific churches. Each message is to the angel of each church. Christ’s intended audience for each message was to the pastor and his congregation. Here is the message to the church in Sardis, located in what is now Turkey.

Remember, then, what you received and heard. Keep it, and repent. If you will not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come against you.

Revelation 3:3

During the early Church, Sardis was an important church. Jesus’ message to Sardis includes an analogy that the Sardinians would have immediately identified but is easy for us to miss.

There are mountains near where the city of Sardis was located. These mountains were the hiding places of organized robbers that would rush into the city to steal and then retreat to the mountains to hide. It’s quite likely that Jesus alluded to these thieves when He said, “I will come upon thee as a thief.

Good News

We should not allow these dead churches to steal our joy. Here’s some good news:

We should encourage each other and build each other up1 Thessalonians 5:11
We should seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousnessMatthew 6:33
– We should make disciples in every nationMatthew 28:19

That will keep us busy until we reach heaven and meet Jesus, face to face (1 Corinthians 13:12). 😀

Photo by me


empty church

I ❤️ COVID?

No, I don’t love the pain, suffering, and loss that COVID has dealt our world. I don’t like the isolation or the friction between the many factions that evolved from COVID health management. But there is an aspect of what COVID caused that I love. The COVID pandemic has reawaken the Church.

A haven and a hope

Somehow, many devout Christians wandered into thinking that churches having exceptionally nice stuff was good for churches – prominent buildings, fancy sanctuaries, luxury vans: then came COVID. Suddenly, these grand edifices sat empty, but their congregations still lived.

There were messages to be preached, weddings and funerals to be done, hungry and hurting people that still needed help. Nice buildings didn’t do those things, those that are alive in Christ Jesus did those things. The Church was the Church even when there were no walls, no ceilings, no doors.

I am so very thankful for Zoom® church services. They have certainly helped many Christians to stay connected to their congregations, but local churches represent Christ to their local communities. They are a haven and a hope. When the churches closed it impacted people, even people that were “unchurched.” Did we not remember:

For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake,

Philippians 1:29

Finding Christ in Christianity

As believers, we have a calling, a purpose that God conceived for us before Creation. “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.(Ephesians 2:10) God doesn’t suspend our calling when our path is difficult to walk. I am not at all encouraging anyone to act foolishly. As representatives of Jesus, we can’t react to events the way the rest of humanity reacts, for their reaction, for the most part, is for their own self interests.

Discovery

During 2020 a precious missionary friend of mine began using Zoom® to teach Bible classes in India and Nigeria. She learned how to do this because of COVID.

My wife’s home church is a country church. The size of the congregation is small. They set up a Facebook channel for members that wanted to self-quarantine, but the church didn’t close. They continued to meet to pray, worship, and preach the Word of God as a congregation. What happened was that people with no affiliation to the church found their channel and began watching! COVID expanded the church’s reach.

A friend of mine is a member of a church that, even before COVID, had begun focusing on home church meetings. They have a large congregation, but they felt God’s leading to make the church more intimate, more personal. COVID had negligible impact on this church, but COVID reinforced their decision.

I 😡 COVID

So, you see, I hate COVID and the carnage it has caused, but I see new life in the Church, and for that, I give thanks to God. “In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.” (1 Thessalonians 5:18)

Photo by Debby Hudson on Unsplash


You may like: Don’t Waste Your Pain

Freewill Bondage

Authority

I won’t ask for a show of hands, but how many of you have ever committed a moving violation while driving? Yes, me too. Let me quickly say that this post is not about any aspect of driving. The “speed limit” vs “me limit” is too perilous a debate for this blog! And no, I’m not wading into politics. The authority I do want us to consider today is that of the Church, and within that, our local church.

Government institutions

Let’s get this out of the way. Government institutions have no authority over the Church, but they do have authority concerning laws based upon Christ’s command, “love your neighbor as yourself. (Mark 12:31)” Jesus, the Word of God (John 1:14), used just five words to cover every permutation of right and wrong between or among people.

In our country and around the world there are millions of laws created by governments to try to enforce those five words that people are unwilling to do. Of course, if civic leaders attempt to exert their authority over our obedience to God, then we must do as the apostles did. “… Peter and the apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than men. (Acts 5:29)”

Church membership

When we attend a church service we worship, celebrate our Savior, and experience spiritual growth, but we are visitors. When we join a church, we become part of that community of believers. We not only gain the benefits, but we take on responsibilities, including being obedient to the doctrines of that church and respect and obedience to those who are over us.

In 2 Thessalonians 3:4 we learn: And we have confidence in the Lord about you, that you are doing and will do the things that we command.” The apostle Paul is very direct. Paul expects the Thessalonica church that he established to obey the doctrines and rules he laid down and which the congregation accepted. He is not saying anything surprising, for in his first letter to the church in Thessalonica he wrote, “We ask you, brothers, to respect those who labor among you and are over you in the Lord and admonish you (1 Thessalonians 5:12).”

Yes, my fellow Americans, church leaders are commanded to look after our welfare and to chasten us (Romans 16:1-2, Hebrews 13:17) when we act in ways that are contrary to the will of God. Included in the will of God is to be obedient to the doctrines of our church. If the doctrines are contrary to the Word of God, then we shouldn’t join; if they change and become contrary to the Word of God then we should ask Jesus if we should stay and work for change or come out.

The depth of our freewill bondage

What is important is for us to be reminded of the depth of our freewill bondage to our church family, and to the leaders and presbytery. We were not required by civil or legal entities to become members of our local churches. However, when a Christian requests membership and is accepted into their new church home there was a lot happening, spiritually.

Because church membership carries with it solemn obligations, many churches provide a “letter of recommendation” and require a “letter of recommendation” for a person or family that leaves their congregation and joins another congregation.

If there is a civil or spiritual dispute among Christians, then that dispute should be settled within their church. Remember, the words of Jesus concerning civil matters. Come to terms quickly with your accuser while you are going with him to court, lest your accuser hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you be put in prison.” (Matthew 5:25)

How churches are governed

There are clearly defined leadership roles within the Church, as well as the spiritual gifts of individuals (Ephesians 4:11, 1 Corinthians 12:28), and Jesus Christ is the Head of the Church. If we ignore and violate our local church’s authority, we are violating the Bride’s relationship to Jesus Christ. It doesn’t get more serious than that.

Photo by Gabriella Clare Marino on Unsplash


You may like: I can’t hear!

messy office

Why is Christianity Messy?

Have you ever noticed that from the birth of Jesus until now, Christianity is messy? By messy, I mean messy. The book of John, probably my favorite book in the Bible, opens in chapter one, verse one, with, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” Don’t try to convince me that you read that once and nailed it. No way!

As we study the New Testament, we find bad people, like a tax collector becoming a humble philanthropist and an apostle of Jesus betraying Him for money. Then we have a very loose-living Samaritan woman talking with Jesus, and when He says He is the Messiah, she doesn’t argue with him; she goes and tells her community to come and meet this person. But when Jesus tells the religious leaders of His fellow Jews, they plot to kill Him! And this back and forth continues.

On and on

While Christ’s apostles were still living, false doctrines arose and were taught. It took the Church over three hundred years to make an official declaration that Jesus is divine, and God is a triune God. Mind you, the Apostle John wrote this in the first chapter of his first book! On and on, this messiness continued. Bad decisions and bad behavior flowed from the Church while churches sprung up where none were expected. At one point, during WWII, the “church” simultaneously hated the Jews, loved the Jews, and was indifferent towards the Jews. 

Go to Jesus

In our present world, we find deep, well-grounded Christians with effective local churches in Africa and Asia while inept, heretical local churches dominate Western countries. So, by now, you understand my question, so let’s move on to a meaningful answer. That means, let’s go to Jesus.

Matthew 13:24-30: He [Jesus] put another parable before them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field, but while his men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds [tares] among the wheat and went away. So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared also. And the servants of the master of the house came and said to him, ‘Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have weeds?’ He said to them, ‘An enemy has done this.’ So the servants said to him, ‘Then do you want us to go and gather them?’ But he said, ‘No, lest in gathering the weeds you root up the wheat along with them. Let both grow together until the harvest, and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, “Gather the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.”‘”

False Wheat

Tares or darnel usually grows in the same production zones as wheat and was a serious weed of cultivation until modern sorting machinery enabled darnel seeds to be separated efficiently from seed wheat. The similarity between these two plants is so great that in some regions, darnel is referred to as “false wheat”. It bears a close resemblance to wheat until the ear appears. 

Wikipedia

Christianity is messy because we are sons and daughters of Adam, sinners to our core. And satan has been trying to destroy God and all His work his whole life. Therefore, only God knows who belongs to Him. The fruit of God and the fruit of the enemy grow together, the wheat and the tares. It’s messy. Bad people get saved and serve God, and “good” people plot evil and serve satan. But there will be a day when Adam’s history comes to an abrupt stop; the wheat and the tares will be separated. God’s fruit will be with Him forever, and satan and his fruit will be eternally punished. Until then, it’s just going to be messy.

Photo by Wonderlane on Unsplash


You may like: Who’s driving this car?

My Time and My Culture

For some reason which escapes me, I’ve been on a “begotten” roll in these recent posts. It is not intentional, but it just turns out that way. So it is today.

my little children, for whom I am again in the anguish of childbirth until Christ is formed in you!

Galatians 4:19

Jesus is birthed in people

The apostle Paul uses a compelling analogy of Paul being “in the anguish of childbirth.” Those words paint a vivid picture for us. And what is Paul birthing? It’s Jesus being formed in the Galatians. A German monk used this analogy, but he turned it around to point to himself. He wrote: 

“We are all meant to be mothers of God. What good is it to me if this eternal birth of the divine Son takes place unceasingly, but does not take place within myself? And, what good is it to me if Mary is full of grace if I am not also full of grace? What good is it to me for the Creator to give birth to his Son if I do not also give birth to him in my time and my culture? This, then, is the fullness of time: When the Son of Man is begotten in us.”

Meister Eckhart, 1260-1328, German Dominican monk

Arriving with a purpose

Childbirth is painful. I’ve seen it. Extended childbirth cannot be comprehended except by another mother that has experienced it. Yet here, in Galatians 4:19, Paul intones the idea of extended pain by writing, “until Christ is formed in you!”

When the Word of God comes into us, it arrives with a purpose. It arrives in the fulness of time; a will that extends beyond us. We hear, receive, die, germinate, and birth Jesus, by God’s Living Word. His birth is in us, for our time and our culture.

God made a place for us for the good of others

None of these events are produced by us, nor do we contribute to their efficacy. Still, in God’s beautifully crafted will, He has made a place for us. For each Christian, He has ordained a purpose; He has set aside a people; He has established a time. So here we are. Jesus lives in and through us. Are we isolating Jesus, or are we tearing down our walls, letting God’s Son out of us and into our time, into our culture? That is the preeminent question for every Christian right now.

Photo by Jakayla Toney on Unsplash


You may like: Time Capsule

Loving Our Brothers and Sisters

As part of my devotional time, I often listen to Lectio 365, a unique Christian prayer organization. Yesterday’s Lectio 365 devotional was a “feast day,” celebrating St. Frances Xavier, a Jesuit priest who lived during the 1500s AD. He spent his life as a missionary in India and the surrounding nations. During his ministry, he planted over 40 churches and baptized an estimated 30,000 new believers in Jesus.

So often, we Christians act like the church in Corinth, only with our denominations. “I follow Paul,” or “I follow Apollos,” or “I follow Cephas,” or “I follow Christ.” Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? (1 Corinthians 1:12-13) Some Christians cringe when someone from a different denomination is honored as an example of a servant of God. How sad.

As Christians, we become a member of a denomination because we trust that their teaching will guide us to be more in line with God’s will, to be more effective in our Christian testimony, to be more accurate in our understanding of God’s Word. Still, people that have been confronted by the Holy Spirit, that have repented, that have placed their faith in Jesus, that have confessed their faith publicly, they have been regenerated, and they are our brothers and sisters in God. They are Christians.

It is good to celebrate a great missionary such as Frances Xavier, and it is good to celebrate a great missionary such as Hudson Taylor. In these days of turmoil, it is good if we embrace our fellow followers of Jesus. Does this recognition invalidate our beliefs taught us by our denomination? No. But if we can’t love our brothers and sisters, how can we ever love the lost?

You may like: The Apostle That Jesus Loved

Scroll to Top
%d bloggers like this: