Saturday, June 28, 2008

Peace and Unity

As believers we are to "Let the peace of Christ rule in our hearts," Colossians 3:15. So often we see this verse either ignored or misapplied, and it is because of a misunderstanding or a false assumption of what this peace is. So let's see if we can garner a better, a correct understanding of what the peace of Christ is and how it is manifested in our lives.

First off, this verse is in the middle of a section where Paul is talking about our common ground in Christ because He is all and is in all (3:11), and how this is manifested in our life in the church in how we treat and respond to one another in the body. So its primary application is for believers in the context of church life. So this peace of Christ is to rule, act as arbiter or umpire, in our dealings and interactions with other believers, especially those in our local body.

Secondly, what is this peace that Christ has, that is to be the umpire of our hearts, and how did we come to possess it? In John 14:27 Christ says, "Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you." So we see that it is Christ, Himself, that has given us His peace, and we have this peace because He has come and taken up residence in our heart; and we have become partakers of the divine nature (II Peter 1:4). The peace of Christ is the peace between Him and the Father. There was no enmity between the Father and the Son because Jesus always did the things that were pleasing to the Father (John 4:34, 5:30, 8:28-29, 8:42, 12:49, 14:10, 17:4, Matthew 3:17). Because of His perfect obedience to the Father there was unity and harmony between them with peace being the by-product of that unity and harmony. Christ had the same unity and harmony with the Father in His life here upon the earth that He had with the Father in eternity past. This is why Jesus could say, "I and the Father are One." (John 10:30, 17:11, 22-23). The body of Christ is to have and manifest the same unity and harmony within itself that exists between Christ and the Father (John 17:20-23).

Before salvation we were at enmity with God, we were His very enemies (Romans 5:10), but God reconciled us to Himself through His Son (Romans 5:10, II Corinthians 5:18-19). The Father and the Son were at perfect peace, so that, "Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ." (Romans 5:29). So when we let the peace of Christ rule in our hearts it means that we are not to do anything that would disrupt our peace with our heavenly Father. Our peace with Him should guide our decision making and govern our responses. Within the context of this section of Colossians we see this worked out in our compassion, gentleness, kindness, humility, patience, forbearance, forgiveness, and love within the body of Christ. We have peace with God and one another as we practice these Christian graces mentioned here; and it should then be a part of our life so that, "As far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men." (Romans 12:18).

However, this peace, the peace of Christ, is not a peace at the expense of righteousness, or peace at the expense of the truth. It does not compromise righteousness or truth, but instead it is a peace at the expense of the self, at the expense of personal "rights", at the expense of personal desires, at the expense of personal comfort. It is a peace at the expense of personal ambitions, personal glory, at the expense of personal achievements, or personal recognition. It is peace because we have given up ourselves, and is part of taking up our cross daily and following after (living in like manner) Him, who gave up Himself.

So, first, be sure that you are at peace with God through faith in His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. Then pray a prayer of thanksgiving to God for establishing peace with you, His enemy, and reconciling you to Himself through the blood of the cross. Now live a life of peace with God through how you live your life with others in the body, and in the world; but not at the expense of righteousness or the truth.

Friday, June 27, 2008

A Few Quotes to Think About

I am reading through David Wells' latest book, The Courage to be Protestant. It is one of those books that is a must read for anyone who loves the church, and offers penetrating insight into our American culture and its affect upon evangelical church culture. I am going to quote several lines from this book that I think are worthy of giving some thought.

"By speaking about faith in terms that are familiar in our world of self-fulfillment, self-esteem, and the whole many-sided self movement, the gospel suddenly is on the cutting edge of where-we-are. By assuming access to God that is as swift and certain as the swipe of a credit card, a spiritual purchase without waiting, the gospel makes itself appealing to consumers. They are getting it when they want and how they want it. By speaking of the gospel in terms not of truth but of feelings, evangelicals of this stripe guarantee for them selves instant success. Feelings are easy to arouse while thought is hard and slow."

"The self-movement is all about feeling good about ourselves, not about being good. It is therapeutic, not moral."

"Evangelical faith, which has lamely followed along this cultural path, has lost its integrity in the world."

"The problem is that study after study over the last four decades has been unable to show any correlation between low self-esteem and all the social maladies that have supposedly followed it."

"The language of sin is not a part of the way people think of themselves."

"The majesty of God's forgiveness is lost entirely when we lose what has to be forgiven."

"When we miss the biblical teaching, we also miss the nature of God's grace in all its height and depth."

"The glory of Christian faith is the grace that has bridged the chasm sin has created, the heights and depths of God's saving love expressed in the person of Christ."

These are some good things to think about as we consider the state of the church in our land.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008


We passed a milestone this last weekend. In the eternal scheme of things it probably wouldn't even be a blip on the radar, but it is a milestone for us none the less. This last Sunday we finished our first year as a church as we began Grace Covenant Church on the third Sunday of June 2007. There are many things that have gone through my mind over the last couple of days, but foremost would be the gratitude I have to the Lord for calling me and giving me the privilege of serving Him in this way. Along with the gratitude is also a sense of awe that people came, and are still coming, in spite of me also leading the singing for most of this last year. The Lord has brought some great people to be a part of this and I am blessed to be their pastor.

I wrestled with the Lord for almost a year before I finally accepted the fact that He was calling me to become a pastor. What were my excuses? 1. My age, as I was 55 at that time. 2. I am divorced and remarried. 3. No seminary degree or training. 4. Me? Why would the Lord be calling me? 5. I did not trust myself and wanted assurance that this was truly from the Lord. 6. I have been on the ground floor of two other church plants and never desired to be the pastor, and in both instances I knew my place was to be a teacher. But I could not deny the burden in my spirit and the desire of my heart. In fact, it was the change in my heart from not wanting to ever be a pastor, because of all the stuff that goes along with it, to having it be such a fervent desire that has been one of the confirmations that this indeed is a calling from the Lord; but it was the encouragement and admonishment from my wife, Angie, that finally got me off of high center and stepping out in faith.

In the four months leading up to us starting the church Angie and I talked often about the things involved with starting a church, and one of my comments to her was that we would be surprised at who would come and who would not, and I was right. We talked specifically to about 30 couples about what we felt the Lord was leading us to do, what the philosphy of ministry would be, and what the mission and purpose of the church would be. Some of them told us they were interested, some were non-commital, some were not interested, but when the first Sunday came only two couples that we had specifically talked to came and one of them had their nose in the air and left as soon as they could. However, we had others come that we did not specifically talk to and they have continued to come. We had a family join in October and another join last month, and the one who joined last month was an answer to everyone's prayer as he can play the guitar and has volunteered to lead the singing. We now have 14 adults, two teenagers, and seven children. Angie is teaching the children in the front bedroom and we are holding the worship service in our living room.

Where is the Lord leading us? Honestly, I am not sure. We are meeting in our home, but I don't consider us a house church nor want to be one. We have just incorporated and I will be applying for our tax exempt status soon. We are considering the pros and cons of affiliation or remaining independent. I did not start this with a vision or a grand plan, but with the desire to be obedient to what I knew the Lord was calling me to do and the prayer to the Lord to keep me faithful to the task He has assigned me; and Angie as my helpmate has accepted my calling as her calling.

The Lord is having us take it a week at a time, so my answer to several who have asked me what my vision is for this church has been, "The service this coming Sunday." We are working our way through Colossians. We started in Colossians last June and I will be preaching on Colossians 3:16-17 this coming Sunday.

Along the way, and even this last week, the Lord has been gracious to give me confirmations that this is what He has called and is continuing to call me to do. Along with the change of heart that I mentioned earlier has been a firm conviction in my own spirit that I am right where He wants me to be, a conviction that has never left even through the few times of disappointment. All the ways He has given me confirmation have reminded me of the Lord dealing with Elijah in I Kings 19:11-13 So He said, "Go forth and stand on the mountain before the Lord." And behold, the Lord was passing by! And a great and strong wind was rending the mountains and breaking in pieces the rocks before the Lord; but the Lord was not in the wind. And after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a sound of a gentle blowing. When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood in the entrance of the cave. And behold, a voice came to him and said, "What are you doing here, Elijah?" God is indeed faithful and we are looking forward to the weeks and months ahead as He guides us, not through spectacular events, but through the gentle breeze of His Spirit and the confirmation of His word.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008


This irreverence in the American church is not just in the worship service, but pervades every area of Christian life. Recently my family and I were at Jason's Deli one evening when another family sat down next to us. One of the men was wearing a "religious" tee shirt, and thought, I'm quite sure, that he was providing a cool witness of his Christianity with its catchy wording, as if it is the catchy wording that provides the witness. I sat there with a mouth full of turkey croissant sandwich thinking, "This guy's not serious," and slowly shaking my head at the irreverence he was projecting, all the while he was probably thinking how cool his tee shirt is because of its hip phrasing that will witness to the unchurched, for why else would he wear it. The tee shirt said, "GETTING DOWN WITH THE MOST HIGH," and went on to quote Psalm 91:1 He who dwells in the shadow of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty. And of course it had all the fancy graphics most of these tee shirts have. Can anyone seriously think for one minute that they or anyone one else can "get down" with God, the Most High? This tee shirt pictures God as some home boy you can hang out with, dance with, crack jokes and cruise the hood with. The irony of this is that because God is the Almighty, the One and only God, the Creator of Sustainer of all that exists, the One who holds our life breath and our ways in His hand, the One to whom the angels constantly cry, 'Holy, Holy, Holy,' He is not going to be getting down with any time. This, to me was the same attitude that Nadab and Abihu had, and, as we have seen, God did not get down with them, but struck them down. Look at the reverence Jesus, His own Son and fully God as well, showed to Him during His life upon this earth. This tee shirt is indicative of the irreverent attitude towards God that if rife in the American church today. Where is the respect for God as God, and all that He is as God, in the church in our land today?

Another area in Christianity that smacks of irreverence is in the books and music. I am not going to get into all the issues with the music because that should be another post series, but just listen to the lyrics, compare them with the Scriptures, and see how much of what is passing off as worship and praise is veiled irreverence. The same can be said about books, and there are way too many to mention, but I will single out one because it is such a good example. It is John Eldredge's "Wild At Heart." It is one of the biggest pieces of heresy I have ever come across, and the heresy involves the very person of God and how He is presented in this book, and the presentation of God in this book is the height of irreverence as it portrays Him as just like sinful man.

Worship is not limited to our gathering on Sunday, but is to be lived out every day as we see in Romans 12:1 Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living an holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. So we see that our lives, therefore our lifestyle, should be one of worship. How does God say that we should worship Him? Psalm 2:11 Worship the Lord with reverence and rejoice with trembling. So our lifestyle, yes, our very life, should be one of reverence, filled with rejoicing and trembling. To revere is to honor, to show respect, to pay homage all because it is what is due. This is the kind of life we are to live before Him, Coram Deo, before His face. Our lifestyle should not spit in His face, ridicule Him, or present Him as less than He is or other than He is. In Romans Paul tells us to give honor to whom honor is due. Well, who is due more honor than our heavenly Father, our Great Redeemer, and our Friend. Read John 17 and see the honor, the respect, the homage the Son pays to the Father. Should we not do the same in every area of our life?

Judgement begins with the household of God. Let us examine ourselves and our own households for attitudes or displays of irreverence towards our God. Let us look at our own lifestyle, thoughts and attitudes. Let us come before God with reverence and awe and let all that we do reflect the high regard and esteem we hold for our wonderful Savior and our God.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008


You might be thinking to yourself, "Wait a minute, you are picking on the contemporary church crowd. What about the coat and tie traditional crowd?" Honestly, they can be just as guilty. Let's look at Isaiah 29:13 "Because this people draw near with their words and honor Me with their lip service, But they remove their hearts far from Me, and their reverence for Me consists of tradition learned by rote." Wearing your Sunday best, repeating the liturgy, praying out of a prayer book, and singing three hymns accompanied by an organ does not make you reverent. Much of the contemporary movement was a reaction to the lifeless, heartless, traditional service where the reverence was ritualized, not internalized. Reverence begins in the heart and its attitude towards God, and at the heart of true worship is reverence towards God. Part of why we are to gather together is to corporately revere God; and in that corporate reverence is a testimony to the greatness of this God who commands such honor and respect.

You may think that this was really an Old Testament issue, and the New Testament God of grace and love is not so harsh and demanding. Read I Corinthians 11:17-34 about the Corinthians attitude and handling of the Lord's supper. Check out verses 27-32, "Therefore whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner, shall be guilty of the body and the blood of the Lord. But a man must examine himself, and in so doing he is to eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For he who eats and drinks, eats and drinks judgement to himself if he does not judge the body rightly. For this reason many among you are weak and sick, and a number sleep. But if we judged ourselves rightly, we would not be judged. But when we are judged, we are disciplined by the Lord so that we will not be condemned along with the world." What was God's discipline upon members of this church (which so resembles the American church of today)? Many were weak, many were sick, and a number (obviously more than one) slept (were dead). Go read Acts five about God's dealings with Ananias and Sapphira. Would God do this today? Well, you might be familiar with the Waco pastor who, two years ago, was electrocuted in the baptistry in front of his congregation after leading them in a prayer saying, "Surprise me, Lord. "Let not many of you become teachers, for as such, you will incur a stricter judgement."

If you noticed in the section above where I quoted from I Corinthians, the Corinthians were so spiritually dull that Paul had to tell them that the reason some were sick, or weak, or dead was because of God's hand of discipline among them. They could not see it themselves. Take a step back and take a good look at your church. Could the same thing be happening there? Has it been happening and no one has been able to see it because of the spiritual shallowness of the congregation? Could this be going on in American churches and no one is noticing?

To be continued.


We live in an irreverent society. In fact, it is in vogue to be irreverent, and in many cases the more irreverent, the better. What does it mean to be irreverent? Well, the dictionary defines the word irreverent as having or showing a lack of respect, and the thesaurus gives the word disrespectful as its synonym. We live in a time when it is hip, cool, and popular to be irreverent. However, if you examine irreverence closely, you will find at its heart is rebellion, and that is exactly what the heart of man is, rebellious. Unfortunately, like so many other things, this irreverence has made its way into the church bringing its rebellious heart along with it.

One of the culprits that has allowed this societal irreverence to make its way into the church has been the paradigm shift that has taken place over the last couple of decades in the place and purpose of the church. Where once the church was the place where believers gathered to corporately express their mutual praise, adoration, and thanksgiving, it has now become a place where unbelievers are enticed, entreated, and entertained. Where once the purpose of the church was to honor God, glorify God, and give witness to His majesty, its purpose now is to attract as many people as possible, by any means possible. Where once the focus was on God, His glory, and His holiness, the focus now is on the individual and his felt needs. In short, people no longer come to church for God, they come to church for themselves. The church has ceased to honor God and has chosen to honor man. It reminds me of Malachi 1:6 A son honors his father, and a servant his master. Then if I am a father, where is My honor? And if I am a master, where is My respect? says the Lord of hosts to you, O priests who despise my name."

Think about it, be honest, and ask yourself these questions. Why do I go to church? For whom am I going to church? What is my motivation for going to church? Do I get disappointed if I don't get anything out of the music or the sermon? Am I focused on blessing God, being a blessing to others, or getting a blessing for myself? Am I disappointed if the music is not how I like it? Do I only like and appreciate the sermons if they make me feel better about myself or cover an area of self-improvement? Am I here to extol God, if not, then why am I here.? The church has become like Romans 1:21 where they know God, but do not honor Him as God.

Another area of irreverence in the church can be seen in the casual attitude and dress. You get the sense that people are telling God that He should, He must, and He will accept them as they are. Is this how you feel in your heart of hearts, that God should accept you like you are, without any concern of whether you are acceptable to God, whether your attitude is acceptable to God, whether your dress is acceptable to God, or whether your lifestyle is acceptable to God? Would you wear what you wear to church to a state dinner with the President? If not, why not? Would you tell the President he must accept you just like you are? So you hold the President in greater esteem than you do the God who gave His Son to secure your eternal salvation? What does this say about your attitude towards God? Listen to the words of God in Leviticus 10:3 after He slew Aaron's sons, Nadab and Abihu, for approaching Him in a disrespectful way, "By those who come near Me I will be treated as holy, and before all the people I will be honored." And what was Aaron's response to this as verse three ends? "And Aaron, therefore, kept silent."

When women wear tops to church that reveal their breasts or midriffs are they treating the Lord as holy? When they wear tops or pants that look like they are either sprayed on or shrink wrapped so that the whole contour of their front or backside is entirely visible leaving little to the imagination, are they doing so to honor the Lord, or to say, "Hey, look at me!" When husbands and fathers allow their wives and daughters to go to church dressed in such a manner are they honoring the Lord, or are they fearing their wives and daughters more than they fear the Lord? Isaiah 8:13 tells us, "It is the Lord of hosts whom you shall regard as holy. And He shall be your fear, and He shall be your dread." Men, what are you saying to the Lord when you come in to appear before Him dressed for the beach or the golf course? In the presence of the Lord is not a place to be "hot" or a place to chill out. By your demeanor, your attitude, or your dress are you regarding the Lord as holy? Are you showing Him the respect that is due Him, the Almighty God?

To be continued