Welcome to WordPress. This is your first post. Edit or delete it, then start writing!
If you’ve ever watched a football game on TV you’ll hear the quarterback speak a strange language before he hikes the ball. “Blue 42 left, white 80 set, hut!” While this sounds like nonsense to us, it means everything to those manning the line of scrimmage. Using these specialized terms means nothing to the other players unless what they mean is clearly defined, communicated, memorized, and executed.
The church likewise uses specialized language to communicate its activities, events, strategy, and mission. But unlike a football team, we usually don’t face 240lb linemen charging full tilt at us so we may lack the pressure required to clearly define what we mean when we use language to talk about the church.
The reality though is we face much greater pressures than anything ever faced on the gridiron. We aren’t contending over a ball. We are fighting for the eternal souls of the lost. So then why then is there not more conviction and commitment among God’s people? I content a fundamental problem is we’ve gotten lazy with our terms. We don’t know what we mean when we mean to communicate about the church. Here’s why this is a massive problem.
Clarity leads to conviction,
conviction leads to commitment,
commitment leads to character
So for the next two weeks, we are going to define what we mean when we use the language of the church. What do we mean when we say “The Gospel”? What do we mean when we say “The Church”? What do we mean when we say “Disciples”? What do we mean when we say “Women’s Ministry, Children’s Ministry, Out Reach Ministry?” What do we mean when we say “worship, preaching, prayer”?
By the time we are done we’ll know exactly what we mean when we say “We share the Gospel so that the lost are saved, the saved matured, and matured are multiplied, to the glory of God.” You’ll have clarity that ought to lead to life-defining conviction so that you can grow in your commitment to God’s plan for the church and participate in a way that builds greater and stronger Christian character in your life.
Sometime in the last 4 years, America demographically shifted from a majority Christian country to a minority Christian country. For over three centuries Christianity has been a dominant force in the creation of American culture, law, and institutions. In Church, every institution, practice, conference, school, and worldview was forged during the era of Christian dominance. Every experience we have had up to this point has been created by or at least influenced by the kind of Christianity that is developed when its community leaders sit at the table and hold the levers of power.
We have known for some time that the winds have been changing. The moral revolutions that have rocked America have been indicators that as Christian influence loses its dominance, a pandora’s box of competing identities and world-views has been opened. The Bible reader is unsurprised by this. Our worldview accounts for both the ascent and descent of a nation as judged by the barometer of faithfulness to God. What we may be surprised by is that this shift in American has happened during our lifetimes, and not during some far-off future. There is a massive inflection point confronting Christianity in North America. As the winds have changed so do they point to the future, a future that does not include Christianity as a dominant cultural and power player.
What will your response be? For some, the prospect will be exciting as we will witness Christianity shed its excess weight packed on during the decadent decades of dominance. For others, there will be fear as the “other” takes the seat at the table once occupied by Christians. For yet others, the days ahead will simply blow away the thin topsoil of faith to reveal the hard soil of a hard heart that sees no value in associating with Christianity. This in fact is already happening as the fastest-growing religion in America today is the nones, or nonaffiliated.
One danger we will all have to deal with is how our hearts are shaped by this experience. There are a lot of pressures facing the faithful, and pressure can harden our hearts, diminishing our view of God’s work in our world, and tilling fertile soil for unbelief to take root. It’s in a context like this, intense pressure, competing worldviews, a distant view of God’s Word, that Hebrews repeats an Old Testament warning to not harden your heart.
This Sunday we will apply the oil of God’s Word to the leather of our heart in order to keep it soft and flexible instead of dry and brittle. We will worship with songs that will give you an opportunity to rebel against the darkness of this age. We will fellowship with an alien love, that is foreign to the world. And we will walk away edified, equipped, and encouraged to walk faithfully regardless of the waves that rock the boat of our faith in this American cultural ocean.
Where does the church belong in these trying times?
We are drifting as a Christians. The world around is in tumult and there are string influences tell us that we need to side with either the social unrest in the streets, or the law and order rhetoric of our politics. But if I were handed a blank piece of paper and told to draw where I believe the church belonged I’d draw a line right down the middle of the sheet.
We cannot join with the lawlessness gripping our streets and destroying lives and property in what is increasingly being identified as a movement against just police authority, but all authority. The push to cast of existing authority is being driven by a desire to entrench a new authority made in the image of those advocating for change. The advocacy is a good indication of the kind of authority they would replace the status quo with. Since God is a God of order and peace, those who are indwelt by His Spirit cannot give themselves.
On the other side of the issue are those who rally under the banner of “law and order”. It’s clear that this approach will not solve or end the current cultural moment we find ourselves in. Consider, that in 1970 only 1 in 400 Americans were incarcerated. That number has jumped to 1 in 100 over the last 40 years and increased both awareness of inequalities in our justice system and increased calls for justice reform. The law and order banner looks at mercy and grace as signs of weakness and so tough on crime initiatives are passed and infractions that were misdemeanors a generation ago are now charged as felonies.
Lawlessness and gracelessness…there has to be a better option for the church to align itself with. It just so happens there is. Christians advocate for societal change through personal transformation. The object of our evangelism is the unbeliever who may encompasse the ardent antifa member to the alt-right idealogue. We believe that society and culture is a reflection of the human condition not a creator of it. Therefore if we want to change the culture we need to change the hearts of the people who make up that culture. We do that through the means of the Gospel and compelling witness.
If I had a sheet of paper, I’d draw a line right down the middle of it and say that’s where the church belongs, that’s where the church will be most effective. The church should stand between the waring factions of our fractured society and point everyone to the way of Jesus Christ.
After all, we know we the world can be changed through coercive fear. We also know the world can be changed by legislative fiat. Despite the changes wrought through outside forces, we find that people remain the same, their hearts are unchanged and it is inevitable the new realities will become as corrupted as the old realities they replaced.
If we really want to see genuine lasting social change, we must go after individual people. We must be in the world but not of it. And the way we retain our distinctive identity, is to fully identify with Jesus, His message, and His methods. Because in 2020, if Jesus were to walk our streets, he’d walk right down the middle too.
Christians recognize that institutional change can happen through the coercive power of fear. Oddly both camps are philosophically rooted in the same soil. Fear motives action, fear of authority leads to rejection of authority and rioting in the street. Fear of anarchy and lawlessness drives gun sales, the preper-culture, and political activity. Fear fear fear. Christians are called to fear not.
The Reign of God is universal, absolute, and total. He is not a constitutional monarch like the Queen of England just as He is not a despotic ruler kept in place by force or martial manipulation. The Reign of God is based on His right ownership because He is responsible for creating all things (1). If the universe had a title deed it would list Yahweh, Christ, and the Spirit as the responsible owners. His reign is universal (2). His reign is absolute (3). His reign is total (4).
As legitimate king over a legitimate realm He is also lawgiver. Because He is righteous and free of any evil, His heart is good. Therefore the law as a reflection of the heart of God is good. To rejoice in the law is to rejoice in the goodness of the heart of God.
As a legitimate king of a legitimate realm who who has issued a legitimate law, God is also the legitimate Judge (5). In his roles as judge he has decreed what has gone wrong (sin), what He has done about it (substitutionary atonement), and how to remove the penalty of sin (repentance). He is also faithful to warn us that persistent rebellion against Him will be judged according to the standard of His law, and the penalties that is spells out (wrath of God, eternal separation).
So from the vantage points provided above we can now explore the evidence that is set forth in Scripture that bolsters the claim that God is indeed a real and legitimate potentiate. In other words if He is king, then we would expect His word to carry the weight and authority of one whose will is ultimate, non negotiable, non contingent, and final. Theologian Larry Petegrew provides 8 essential understandings regarding the decree of God (6).
Single: “the counsel of his will” (Eph. 1:11)
Comprehensive: “works all things” (Eph. 1:11), including the ordination of the good actions of people (Eph. 2:10) as well as sinful acts (Prov. 16:4; Acts 2:23; 4:27–28), events that are contingent from a human perspective (Gen. 45:8; 50:20; Prov. 16:33), the means and ends of acts (Ps. 119:89–91; Eph. 1:4; 2 Thess. 2:13), and the length (Job 14:5; Ps. 39:4) and place of a person’s life (Acts 17:26)
Eternal: “who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began” (2 Tim. 1:9; see also Eph. 1:4)
Effectual: “declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose’” (Isa. 46:10; see also Ps. 33:11; Prov. 19:21)
Thus we see there is sufficient evidence to accept the claim that God is king. As king he reigns over a realm, exercising His will expressed through His law, His kingdom has citizens, and a mission. These things will be explore in subsequent articles.
(1) Genesis 1:1 In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.
(2) Deuteronomy 10:14 Behold, to the Lord your God belong heaven and the heaven of heavens, the earth with all that is in it.
(3) Psalm 115:3 Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases.
(4) Daniel 4:34(b)-35 for his dominion is an everlasting dominion, and his kingdom endures from generation to generation; all the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, and he does according to his will among the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay his hand or say to him, “What have you done?”
(5) Matthew 25:31-46
(6) Larry D. Pettegrew, “The Doctrine of God,” unpublished notes (Sun Valley, CA: The Master’s Seminary, n.d.), 169–71. Retrieved from https://www.crossway.org/articles/8-characteristics-of-the-decree-of-god/ on June 5, 2020
Would you set off on a cross country trip without consulting your navigation app? This is what it’s like to start out on the Christian life when you choose not to read your Bible. We get it. A lack of desire regarding the reading of Scripture is something that everyone experiences to varying degrees throughout life. Our desire is a powerful indicator of a couple things that we should pay earnest attention to.
There is a Louder Voice in my Life
Like you internet connection, your brain only has so much bandwidth. Between, parents, spouses, teachers, bosses and preachers there are a lot of voices speaking directly to you everyday. Behind the cacophony is a spirit inside of you that longs to regularly connect with the God who made it. This spirit is manifest as your conscience, that inward voice of conviction, correction, or condemnation. It speaks what it knows of God’s law written on your heart, or the knowledge you have by reading His Word. When our spirit no long compels a desire in us to read God’s Word, its usually an indication that there are louder, yet lesser voices filling up the bandwidth of your mind. What to do about this? Recognize it and respond. Pray, read, meditate for a desire to be restored, and it will be.
Relationship by Reading
When my wife and I were engaged she was living at home and I was deployed as a wildland firefighter hacking a line in a forest trying to contain a fire. For months we did not see each other but our relationship did not wither because of the distance. We wrote letters back and forth that enabled us to continue to grow our relationship. The Bible serves that purpose today. It’s a theological textbook though it contains theology. It’s a personal communication from the God who is and who wants you to know Him. The fundamental way you have fellowship with God is through Word. Reading it is hearing from Him. Praying is responding to Him. Mediating is valuing Him. It would be hard for people to have a relationship where they never spoke. Is that the kind of relationship you have with God right now? It’s liberating to admit, and it’s easy to correct it. Ask God to meet with you, talk with you, counsel you, comfort you. And open your Bible and read, praying as you do.
Life’s Questions & God’s Answers
There are dozens of websites devoted to helping you answer life’s questions from God’s Word. In this way, the Bible is not only useful for a living relationship with God. It can also be used for daily, practical guidance for all manner of problems, and questions. A couple of my favorite are the expansive archive of articles on a myriad of topics at Desiring God or the Scripture reference website BibleHub. Furthermore, as a Christian you are to be in fellowship where pastors and elders provide oversight to your soul that includes providing counsel and direction for you as you navigate the hills and valleys of life.
The Bible is the bread of life. It’s the medium of relationship between God and man, it’s called the book of wisdom with good reason. Does your soul need nourishing, has it been too long since you’ve communed with God, is your life aimless? Read the Bible and read it with those who do.
Do you need help getting your Bible reading jumpstarted? Contact us at email@example.com for resources that will help you take your first steps in an life transforming journey of personal transformation.
The noble ape….that’s how some evolutionary biologist describe human beings. The Bible describes people in a radically different light. They key passage is Genesis 2:7 “God formed Adam from the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostril and Adam became a living being.”
Previously in Genesis chapter 1 and up to this point as well, God has been creating living things; that is animating the physical material bodies of animals by breathing the breath of life into them. Mankind is no different. We possess the nephesh of God (the Hebrew word for “living creature”) for just like the animals we have a body and a nephesh…that is living, moving, soulishness. But when we get to Genesis 2:7 God breathing into the dust produced something different. Adam isn’t described as a living creature. He’s described as a “living being”.
This is a critically important observation. Dust + Breath = a living BEING, not a living thing. What distinguishes man from the animal world even though both posses body and life? What makes a living thing into a higher order ‘living being?’ Humanity posses what the animals don’t because we posses a spirit.
Not only do we have a body, not only do we have the breath of life, we also have a spirit. And spirit is the essence of personhood. This attribute of humanity is non-communicable with animal life. Fluffy the kitty may have traits and character, but for all her cuteness she does not have a spirit, and ergo personhood.
When we teach ourselves that mankind is nothing more than a noble ape we have set the bar for behavior at a very low level. The justification for all kinds of harmful behavior can be justified by the logic “they were just doing what animals do.” But when you understand anthropology from a Biblical perspective, you are immediately struck with the nobility and dignity of the body, soul, spirit composition of mankind. This higher order creation calls for respect, community, stewardship, and morality. After all if we are created in the image of God, abuse of another is to abuse the image of God. To love a fellow human is to love the image of God. Such a conviction cannot but result in a powerful deterrent to harmful, naturalistic, animalistic, base behavior expected from noble apes. Far from being noble apes, we are the pinnacle of creation, designed by God to bear his image as bodies housing the breath of life for life on this earth, and a spirit that make connection with God not only probable but possible.
Orland is a small town an hour and a half north of Sacramento. It’s one of those towns with a church on every corner. Despite the number of churches, a growing number of people are gathering together ask the Lord if it’s His will for them to plant a church. Led by Pastor Anton VanStraaten, they have been meeting for months as a bible study and are now interested in taking next steps.
Anton reached out to Pastor Scott to discuss whether we could help launch a church in Orland. Pastor Scott and Robert traveled to Orland to meet with 25 believers to teach the principles of church planting on Easter Sunday. For over two hours Robert and Scott spoke and answered questions. In the end there was an apparent enthusiasm among the people in Orland for church planting.
Anton is from South Africa and trained with Scott at the Master’s Seminary. Married, with two daughters, Anton has been Pastoring for years in Orland. A consummate lover of the Church, Anton has been led to plant a new fellowship that focuses on seeing the lost saved, the saved matured, and the matured multiplied to the glory of God.
Church planting and revitalization is a core ministry of Anchored Bible Church. Whether it’s a local church merger, planting upstate, or training church planters in Ukraine, our church provides help. One of the ways we help is by supporting our Pastor and enabling him to minister to no only our own church, but others believers. But he’s not the only one called to serve! You are too! We believe firmly in the priesthood of all believers (1 Peter 2:5). According to your ability will you commit to one or all three of the opportunities?
1) Pray: for Pastor Anton and the body of believers in Orland.
2) Participate: in future meetings to help establish their leadership teams
3) Provide: time, talent, and treasure to encourage the saints in Orland
You can do one or all. By doing all you may discover you have more to contribute and provide that you ever thought possible!
On Monday night the Central Valley Baptist Association nominated and then appointed Pastor Scott to the Board of Directors. The unanimous vote he received was a big encouragement and indicator of the Lord’s will. In the midst of a precipitous decline in the number of churches in the Central Valley, a reality that mirrors nationwide trends, the Board is tasked with reforming the culture of the CVBA as the mission of the association focuses more and more on church planting, church revitalization, and church strengthening.
Pastor Scott is also heading a focus group looking into the need for a Director of International Missions position and the creation of an Overseas Mission Board. God is at work around the World and there is frequently a greater response to the ministries of indigenous ministers than there are trained pastors, or resources available to meet the need. The CVBA has been involved in numerous partnerships throughout its history that are providing guidance and direction presently as the focus group researches what opportunities exist for future ministry.
Our nation is divided, but we are not
Fault lines fracture our lives. Literal ones like the San Andreas fault threaten to shake us into oblivion. Likewise, symbolic ones threaten to shake us too. Race, neighborhood, affluence, and poverty are just some of the many fault lines brought to mind by the news cycle. With the most sensational stories receiving the attention, you may be asking, “who is my neighbor?” More importantly, you may be tempted to ask, “Should I even care?” Fueling a growing sense of alienation is the desire to belong in a community with other people. Who can bring us together? What is powerful enough to not only smooth the fault lines, but possibly heal them as well?
Modesto is a community that is shaped by fault lines. North-South, West-East, white-latino, 95350-95351, sober-intoxicated. Why? Because that’s the nature of sin in all of its forms. It divides, segregates, builds prejudices, and fuels anger. It makes an “other” out of your “neighbor” and turns those whom Jesus died to save into “them.” Against this bleak backdrop, God is doing something glorious.
In every zip code, God has his people. And His people are “our” people. And “our” people represent a community that is looking at the fault lines and covering them–not with ignorance, but with understanding. “Our” people–that is fellow Christians–from other parts of our town, are healing the fault lines with Christ-inspired love. This isn’t a “Kumbaya” love fit only for the mountaintop experience. This is love where it matters most, love that allows “others” to become “ours,” to turn “them” into “us.”
As a sign and declaration that we have received this love from God, we are going to show Christian unity on June 24th by combining with True Light Community Church for a joint worship service. This is what Modesto wants. This is what we need. We need to be reminded that above every horizontal fault line is the massive reality that those who love Jesus are community and family. A single morning of fellowship isn’t going to solve all of the problems that plague our community and nation. However, it will remind us that we know that the Gospel is the answer to the sin that divides and that it works to unite God’s people as one!
Where: 1417 Harris Ave, Modesto
When: Sunday, June 24th