Thursday, February 24, 2011

One House, One Church, One Family

My dad has been teaching a class on the book of John at my congregation the last several weeks. I'm not actually in the class, but living in his house I get all his brilliant insights anyway. Which is rather cool. :)

Anyways, he brought up something about John 14:2 that I had never realized. The King James Version translates this verse as "In my Father's house are many mansions" and the New American Standard says "many dwelling places." However, the most accurate translation is that of the NIV and a few other versions: "many rooms." There are a lot of rooms in our Father's house, but it's one house.

I'd never thought about that before, and I really like the idea. Your house is where you feel the safest. Your family lives in your house. I like the idea of all the saved in Heaven eating around one gigantically long dinner table. That's just a really beautiful image to me. But as I thought harder about it, it really got me thinking about relationships within the church. Earth is all about getting ready to go to Heaven, right? Well, could I live in the same house as the entire church? Or even my entire congregation? Do I have that familial relationship? Are we all that close?

If you have a minute (and if you have the time to sit and read this, I know you have a minute), go to Acts 2 and read the whole chapter. This is a HUGE chapter. You have the Holy Spirit coming on the Apostles, Peter preaching the first gospel sermon, and the part we're going to look more closely at right now: the first description of the behavior of the Lord's church. Take a look back at verses 44-47a:

"And all those who had believed were together and had all things in common; and they began selling their property and possessions and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need. Day by day continuing with one mind in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of hear
praising God and having favor with all the people."

How do we get to be as close enough to share a house? What happens when we are that close? Let's examine the early church to find out.

They were together. Not "the kids were over there" and "the adults were over here" and "the young families were over there." They were together.
Don't get me wrong. I think it's great to have activities that help us bond with people in our age groups that are dealing with similar situations to ours. That's valuable. But if I'm a teenager and I only know the youth group, that's an issue. I'm missing out on the wisdom they have to offer. I know I personally need to work on that, and I'd be willing to bet a lot of teens do. However, in the same way, if I'm an adult and I don't know any of the teens, that's just as much of an issue. Far too often teens get a bad rep for not connecting with the rest of the congregation, but adults don't make any effort to know the teens. (Alright. Getting off my soap box.) Whatever is keeping the church apart, whether it be age or difference of opinion or simply different life situations, we can't let that get in the way. We have to be together.

They had all things in common. I love this part. Look back at the second part of verse 44 and 45: they "had all things in common, and they began selling their property and possessions and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need." The idea here is, "If you need it, it's yours." If I have a truck and somebody needs it, he doesn't even have to ask. It's his truck too. Unfortunately, we live in an extremely selfish society. In a world so full of "me", it's hard to hand over our possessions or even our time to somebody else that willingly. Could you babysit for a family at your church and not even expect payment? It's something to think about. We don't just have to give to the Lord's work; we have to give of our means to each other.

They were together in their worship. Take a look at verse 46: they were "day by day continuing with one mind in the temple." I'll never forget an illustration a Bible class teacher gave me in seventh grade. He drew a triangle on the board, labeling one point as God and the other two as Christians. Then he moved both of the "Christians" closer to "God," and this movement inevitably brought them closer to each other. The same is true in the real church. Hebrews 10:25 tells us not to forsake the assembly of the saints, because it encourages us. If we're not attending worship, we're getting farther and farther away from God and consequently, farther from each other.

They were sincere in their fellowship. Still verse 46: "Breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart." They sincerely enjoyed being together. When was the last time you faked your way through a conversation with a brother or sister you didn't really want to have to talk to? I'm extremely guilty of this, and I need to work at it. 1 Peter 1:22 tells us that since we've been obedient and purified ourselves for love, we need to fervently love one another from the heart. FROM THE HEART! This fake love stuff isn't going to cut it. We have to really, earnestly love every one of our brothers and sisters in Christ. Even if we don't quite click with them. Even if they annoy us. We need to get over that. We have to SINCERELY love one another. And not only that, but we get to fellowship! What better way to grow closer? (Note: it doesn't say "potluck to potluck"-- it says "house to house." Just a thought!)

The community noticed. Here's the kicker: all this isn't normal human behavior. That's why God mentioned it in His Word in the first place. It's not normal to be this unified, to be this generous, to be this loving. It's not normal for people to be this close. That's why they gained "favor with all the people." Something clicked with the people around them. They realized something was different, and they liked it. Not surprisingly, the next part of the verse reads, "And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved." By simply treating each other the way God wanted them to, the early Christians successfully evangelized.

It's a beautiful image, isn't it? Sharing everything, sincerely loving, eating together, worshipping together, doing everything together. A family. If we do all these things on earth... how much greater will it be in Heaven?


Thursday, February 17, 2011

Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness

Before I start...

NOTE #1-- First and foremost, I would like to address the fact that I post on my more general blog, Write For Your Life, more often than this one. I don't want anyone to think that I take that one more seriously than this one or think it's more important. My other blog is for rambling my random thoughts about life, and as a result I don't put NEARLY as much time and thought into it. This one, on the other hand (along with CFYC) requires much more thought and time on my part, because I'm actually trying to make a point and teach people something. So as a result I don't post as often, but these tend to be much higher quality. Just to clarify.

NOTE #2-- I have an immense case of writer's block at the moment, but I'm going to keep posting once a week! I WILL! So here's my post for the week, repeated from KatharosNOW. It's not as deep into the Scriptures as I would like, but it's better than nothing. There is better stuff coming, I promise! Thanks for reading, bloggers. Much love.


If you’re an American citizen, you probably know the three basic rights guaranteed in the Declaration of Independence. Maybe (like me) you’ve even had to memorize this for history class: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, that among these are LIFE, LIBERTY, and the PURSUIT OF HAPPINESS.” Okay, before you get bored with history and tune me out, think about this: God offered us these rights and so much more over two thousand years ago! Take a look.

God offers us LIFE. The Declaration of Independence guarantees that the government will protect our existence, but the Lord offers us so much more than that! On the one hand, being a Christian gives you a much fuller life on earth. If we let Him take control, God will give us freedoms that make life unimaginably wonderful (but I’m going to touch on that a little later). However, without God we’re spiritually dead in our sins, and only accepting His gift of life can fix that. Take a look at Ephesians 2:4-5. Paul writes, “But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ.” Not only this, but our Father offers us eternal life with Him if we obey Him. In Revelation 2:10, Jesus tells us, “Be faithful until death, and I will give you a crown of LIFE.” I don’t know about you, but I want that crown!

God offers us LIBERTY. Not only are we dead without God, but we’re also slaves: slaves to ourselves, slaves to our sinful nature, slaves to worldliness. The good news is that God wants nothing more than to set us free. I encourage you to go and read all of Romans 6, because it’s an extremely powerful chapter, but right here I’m just going to hit the high points. Check out verses 16-18: “Do you not know that when you present yourselves to someone as slaves for obedience, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin resulting in death, or of obedience resulting in righteousness? But thanks be to God that though you were slaves to sin, you became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching to which you were committed, and having been freed from sin, you became slaves of righteousness.” Unlike before, however, we’re not slaves against our will. James the Lord’s brother describes himself as a “bond-servant of God” at the beginning of his letter. A bond-servant was someone who willingly gave himself into another’s service. Plus, God promises us so much freedom. With Him, we can be free from worry (Matthew 6:25-34), and although we feel sorrow at sin, we can take hold of a “repentance without regret, leading to salvation” (2 Cor. 7:10). Slavery to God is no slavery at all; it’s unbeatable, indescribable freedom.

God offers us HAPPINESS. That’s right—not just the pursuit. Only in God can we find TRUE happiness. When you get the time, you ought to read the book of Ecclesiastes all the way through—it’s all about how Solomon looked for happiness in nearly every earthly pursuit you can think of, and just couldn’t find it. You might want to take a look at Psalm 1 too; again, I’m just going to hit high points here. This psalm talks about the blessings that come to one “whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates on His law day and night. He will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and its leaf does not wither; And in whatever he does, he prospers.” Now, this doesn’t mean that we’ll get everything we want materially, but we will be successful spiritually, and that’s what brings us true happiness.

The thing about rights is that you don’t have to take advantage of them. Thousands upon thousands of people don’t take advantage of the freedom to worship God in this country. Some people don’t take advantage of the right to vote. That’s kind of the defining factor of a right: it’s a choice. Once it’s forced upon you, it’s tyranny instead of freedom.
It’s the same thing with God. He’s got a lot of wonderful rights to offer you, but in the end it’s your right. So what’re you going to choose?
Choose life. Choose liberty. Choose happiness.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Why Worry?

I’ll admit, I’m something of a worrywart.

As a junior in high school, I’d say I’m at a decently unsettling point in my life. After all, in a few years, I’ll be headed off into that black abyss the rest of the world calls “adult life.” That’s a little disconcerting. I’m faced with a ton of decisions right now that will strongly affect the rest of my life. That’s reasonable cause for worry, right?


Let’s take a look at Matthew 6:25-34 to see what we can find out about worry from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. If you want to go ahead and read through the whole passage, that’d be great.

First, to worry is to have a flawed perspective.
I know I only told you to read part of the chapter, but oftentimes we have to look at a passage’s context to find out why the speaker is saying what he’s saying. The first thing that tips us off to look at the context in this section is the very first words of verse 25: “For this reason I say to you…” For what reason? Gotta look at the context! So let’s check out the verses above it. In verses 19 through 24, Jesus is talking about having the proper perspective on wealth. First He tells us that our treasure should be in Heaven, not on earth, but then he goes into this weird analogy about our eyes: “So then if you eye is clear, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness.” Again, look at the context! Jesus is saying that if you focus on God, your whole life will be in order, but if that focus is blocked and “darkened” by wealth, your life will be a wreck. Verse 24 is the kicker: “You cannot serve God and wealth.”

So what on earth does this have to do with worry? Verse 25: “For this reason I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink.” See how He names material things? Worry is focusing on wealth, on the material things of this life. And if we focus on wealth, we’re not focusing on God.

Second, to worry is to doubt God.
After talking about the splendor of the lilies of the field, Jesus says, “But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, will He not much more clothe you? You of little faith!” Throughout the Bible faith is contrasted with doubt. We see it in the account of Peter walking on the water (Matthew 14:31). We see it in the book of James (James 1:6). What else is worry but doubt in God? If you really believe that the supreme God of the universe, the God who spoke the entire world into existence, the God who parted the Red Sea, the God who rescued His people again and again, is on your side and is taking care of you, are you going to worry? Of course not! The only reasonable explanation is that you don’t trust God’s power or willingness to take care of you. Plus, we know that faith can move mountains (Mark 11:23), and according to Jesus, worry is useless (vs. 27 of our passage). I’d rather have faith, wouldn’t you?

Third, to worry is to be like the world.
Look at verses 31 and 32: “Do not worry then, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear for clothing?’ For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things.” Keep in mind Jesus is talking to Jewish people. The Gentiles were the world, and the Jews generally despised them as barbarians. If there was one thing you didn’t want to be compared to, it was a Gentile. In the same way, we are told countless times throughout God’s word that we are not to be like the world. So, if worry is worldly, we don’t need to be a part of it! Earlier in this same sermon, Jesus talks about being salt and light in the world (Matthew 5:13-16). In this world of chaos, how greatly could we stand out simply by remaining calm and not worrying? What an awesome way to be an example to the world around us!

So… if we’re not supposed to worry, what are we supposed to do? Jesus doesn’t leave us hanging. He gives us the much better alternative: “But seek first His kingdom, and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” (33). It all goes back to keeping the proper perspective; if we focus on God and obey Him, that’s all that really matters. He will cause everything else to fall into place.