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Archive for February, 2018

The Impossibility of Rogue Christianity

Rogue Christianity is a growing trend and problem in our culture. More and more people happily identify themselves as Christians without submitting their lives to a local church. The situation has a bit of irony in it since our society has produced more options for choosing a church than any other society in the history of the world. Somehow, the overwhelming amount of choices out there still have not met the fancy of millions who call themselves Christian. In contrast, Christians who are living in persecuted nations risk their lives to be a part of the one church that is within their reach. Personal preferences are not even a consideration. It seems they intuitively know something that is lost on our culture about the necessity of the church.

The problem is not that we need more flavors of churches to suit a wider variety of people. Rather, the problem is a fundamental misunderstanding that many of the basic commands of the Christian life assume membership to a local church. In other words, it is impossible to be obedient to all that Christ has commanded without being a member of a local church. There are many things that could be said about this but let’s look at just three areas of the Christian life that can only be carried out within the context of the local church.

  1. Submission to Authority

Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you. -Hebrews 13:17

Authority has become a dirty word in our culture – sometimes for good reason. A cursory glance at history will provide no shortage of cult leaders and tyrannical rulers who have wielded their authority to advance their own evil agendas. But authority is not an evil thing in and of itself. In fact, church authority is a gift from God by which we are lovingly protected and equipped to live out the Christian life. Leaders in the church have been tasked with the responsibility of keeping watch over our souls and they will have to give an account for how they carry out that task. The primary way that they do this is by teaching and instructing from the Word of God (2 Tim 3:16, 2 Tim 4:2, 1 Tim 4:16). It is in being taught and instructed by the God-ordained authorities within the church that the saints are equipped for ministry, brought to maturity in their Christian life, and guarded from deception (Eph 4:11-16, Acts 20:28). Those who are rejecting the church are rejecting God’s means for their spiritual growth and protection.

  1. Mutual Accountability

Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. -Galatians 6:1

Church is often thought of as the place in which you go to say hi to few people you hardly know, listen to a spiritual pep talk that will aid in getting you through the next week, and perhaps even give an obligatory donation in the offering box. Spiritual duties for the week – check.  However, Scripture does not allow for such a narrow understanding. Christians who are a part of the same local church have an obligation to look out for each other’s spiritual well-being. We are accountable to each other in discipleship and the mutual sharpening of our spiritual lives (Heb 10:24, Titus 2:4-6). Often, this will mean that we may have to bring correction to the ones we love to stop them from drifting in a wrong direction or restore them when they have sinned (Gal 6:1, Heb 12:15, Matt 18:15). Often, this will mean that we may be the recipients of loving and needed correction. Despite what the culture tells us, correcting someone in sin is not judgmental. On the contrary, correction can be one of the most loving things a person can do for another as it may be the thing that keeps them from their own destruction. As the writer of the book of Proverbs says, “Better is an open rebuke than hidden love” (Prov 27:5). Carrying out the commands to care for others in this way requires much more than mere attendance at a church, it requires involving ourselves in the lives of others and allowing others to involve themselves in our lives. Those who neglect the church altogether, neglect the accountability that Christ has designed and commanded for His people.

  1. Neighborly Responsibility

So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith. -Galatians 6:10

The third and final commandment that assumes church membership is the obligation to do good to those who are of the household of faith. The scriptures are replete with commandments for believers to sacrifice themselves, their time, possessions, and personal giftedness for the good of the church (Rom12:3-8). While some may protest that their efforts in the realm of social philanthropy fulfill these commands, the scripture’s primary burden, and thus the burden for every believer, is for those within the Body of Christ (Rom 12:13, 2 Cor 9:12, Heb 6:10). In fact, the apostle John goes so far as to say that those who shut their hearts to the brothers in need are void of the love of God (1 Jn 3:17). The reason for the emphasis of giving of ourselves to our brothers and sisters is simple: “By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers” (1 Jn 3:16). Those who neglect the church cannot fulfill these commands and therefore cannot and do not emulate the Lord they claim to love.

 When it comes down to it, the Christian life was not meant to be lived apart from the church. The very essence of what it means to be a Christian is wrapped up in our relationships to our fellow believers within the local church. This means that those who only attend church, like those who neglect church altogether, are not actually living out the Christian life. Christians are Christians because they claim to be followers of Christ and just as Christ came to serve His people and not to be served, so must we (Mark 10:45, Jn 10:15, 1 Jn 3:16). All three of these categories, (submission to authority, mutual accountability, and neighborly responsibility), function both as a means by which God demonstrates His love in our lives and a means by which we demonstrate our love for and obedience to Christ. In fact, how ever we treat Christ’s church, whether with engagement or apathy, is ultimately how we are treating Christ Himself (Acts 9:4).

And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’ -Matthew 25:33-40 (emphasis added)

Logan Cauthen is a member of FCC and is currently pursuing a Masters of Divinity at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. He is married to Lindsey and they have two daughters.

 

Posted in: Church life

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Women Looking on From a Distance

Mark 15:40 describes this heartbreaking scene in one short sentence.

There were also women looking on from a distance, among whom were Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James the younger and of Joses, and Salome.

“Looking on from a distance.” How do you explain it? These women had followed Christ from Galilee. Mark 41 says they ministered to Him. But in this dark and horrible hour, they were not at the foot of the cross to offer comfort, but watching from a distance.

We can only speculate about the reason. Perhaps they feared to make His suffering worse as He watched theirs. Perhaps they could not bear to witness His face in such pain, and could not bear to leave while He still suffered. In this tension, perhaps they chose to watch from a distance. Or maybe they had a flicker of hope that He would come down off the cross to take up the reigns of the earthly kingdom, and they wanted to be there to see it.  Matthew 27:55 and Luke 23:49 tell us that they stood with many other women followers and acquaintances of Jesus, but the Bible singles out these three for our observation.

I think I know these women.

Mary Magdalene was delivered from great darkness – the Bible says that she had seven demons.  As in the passage above, her name is nearly always listed first among the women. This may mean she either was a leader among women or greatly esteemed among all the followers, or both. Mary Magdalene was likely unmarried and childless, free to travel with and grateful to serve Jesus unfettered. She had left everything for He who delivered her.  I’ve met a woman like her at Faith.

Mary the mother of James and Joses came with her sons to follow Jesus. We know little about her background. Her older son, known as James the less, was one of the twelve. Like her son, she was unobtrusive in her service.  She may have been one of those people to whom Pastor Tim referred to in his recent sermon, the one working behind the scenes for the common good; the one whom God will honor. I’ve met a woman like her at Faith.

Salome was the wife of Zebedee and the mother of James and John, whom Jesus called “The sons of thunder.” I think they might have inherited that trait from their mom. She certainly wasn’t shy about asking Jesus for places of honor in the kingdom for her two sons. Some scholars think that Salome might have been the sister of Mary, the mother of Jesus. If this is true, it might explain her boldness a little.  I imagine Salome as that woman with a plan, the one who constantly has to remind herself that she isn’t in charge and that she shouldn’t try to manipulate others. She loves greatly and sometimes expresses it poorly. She acts the part of everyone’s mom, and was probably equally endearing and annoying. I’ve met a woman like her at Faith.

These women-who-are-like-us watched from a distance. Tell me, sister, are you also watching someone from a distance? Are you straining to see or hear from an estranged child? Are you watching someone you love heading down a destructive path as they reject your advice and comfort? Are you watching helplessly and praying constantly for a parent or sibling tortured by addiction or depression?

Jesus sees.

These very women are the first ones to receive the good news of the resurrection. Jesus personally comforted Mary Magdalene outside the tomb.  He sent angels to the others. The great news that angels longed to look into came first to the women who watched, who followed His body to the tomb, and who returned to minister to Him even in death. Those heartbroken women who had served Jesus did not escape His gaze. They watched in agony from a distance. He came to them personally.

Praying today for the heartbroken men and women at Faith, that Jesus may comfort you personally, up close, through His Word and Spirit.

 

Susan Verstraete is the church secretary at Faith Community Church. She and her husband have two grown sons, Patrick and Christopher.

Posted in: Bible study, Women's Ministry

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Feeling The Exposure 

As Pastor Tim has been preaching on different gifts and roles within the body, I had a brief and intriguing conversation.  This person’s job required them to work outside; sometimes the weather was bitter cold.  At the same time, they had to have their index finger exposed to operate a handheld device.

A Part of the Body; Isolated and Exposed

Sherri and I have recently returned from visiting FCC’s missionaries in Africa.  We observed their isolation from fellowship and family, their daily challenges, along with the persistent dangers they face.

I appreciate the imagery of the exposed finger and our missionaries because “they” are not alone in their susceptibility.  The truth is – “we”—the local body of Christ—has part of “our” body isolated and exposed.

Consider the implication of the outside worker’s exposed finger.

The body feeling the distress and discomfort of the finger’s exposure is a good thing.  If the body ceases to feel the sting and ache of the finger, that is convenient but dangerous.  I encouraged the person who works outside, to do everything they can to make sure they always “feel” the exposed finger.

 

Jack Colwell is an elder at Faith Community Church. 

Posted in: missions, Uncategorized

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Quiet When the List is Unfinished

By Sarah Bush

I was not ready to write my blog this month.

The due date was before me and I had not even thought about it. There are seasons of what feels like a reality T.V. show called Overload. We have had more sickness this year than ever before, trying to plan for my husband’s open heart surgery and travel, planning our daughter’s wedding, a family reunion for my Grandmother’s 90th birthday, homeschool, doctor’s appointments, out of town company, sending out small group emails, laundry to fold, and a thousand other things that all seem to be swirling around me. All things I need to do, all things I should do, all things I can’t ignore, and all things that require effort on my part.

This isn’t unique to just me though, is it? This is most of us. Sometimes for a season. Sometimes for years.

There is stress on the job, demands on our time, service to partake in, missionaries to pray for, errands to run, health issues to attend to, church ministry to do, note cards to write, children to disciple, burdens to carry with friends, meals to cook, and on and on it goes. It doesn’t end. If we are really partaking in what God has called us to it probably won’t end until we are before the throne basking in the glory of our Lord and Savior.

When I find myself scurrying around trying to do all that life requires in my own strength and efforts, I find myself anxious, defeated, edgy, complaining, and failing in everything. Any of this sound familiar? My eyes are on what I can do, what I need to do, what I can’t do. In spiritual exhaustion , I finally collapse before the Father (about 30 minutes before I sat down to write this).

As I let go of all my efforts and lay it all down, suddenly there is quiet. Though tears silently flow from my eyes, they are not ones of defeat and weariness. They are ones of being overwhelmed in the most blessed of ways.

As I dwell on who my Father, my God, my King, my Savior is, everything else slowly starts to fall in line. My view of myself, my tasks, my efforts all take a back seat as HE takes the forefront.  As I speak His truth to myself, peace seeps into my heart, soul, and mind. My Creator made me for today (Psalm 139:13). He made me for the tasks He has laid before me (Eph 2:10). Therefore, He will equip me and strengthen me (Heb 13:21). I must keep my eyes on Him as I walk, and off of myself (Psalm 16:8). Before the foundation of the world He knew where I would be today, how I would struggle, and how I would fail. All that I am was made for this time and place (Ecc 3:1-8). For this church, for this neighborhood, for these children, for this man, for this culture, for these good works, and for these trials.

He makes no mistakes, and if I really believe in His sovereignty, then I can rest even while I work out my salvation. I can rest even though I am obedient to the good works He has prepared for me. I can rest though countless things swirl around me with uncertainty. Rest won’t be found when my tasks are done, lists marked off, and my life is all calm and in control. I can rest because it is finished. I can rest because of who He is and what He has done. I can rest because He is faithful, gracious, and merciful (Ex 34:6). I can rest because He is just, He is sovereign, and He is my righteousness (Psalm 90:2). I can rest because He is seated upon the throne as ruler over all (Rev 4:9). I can rest because this Almighty Creator and Sustainer God (Col 1:16-18) loves me with a love like no other.

May we all continue to grow in the knowledge of our amazing God through the revelation of His written word, and may this knowledge of who He is change how we see life, and how we live in it. If you find yourself struggling, weary, anxious, or defeated, I pray that you will take your eyes off yourself and all that is going on around you and lay before the throne. May you rest in who God is, what He has done, and what He is going to do.

Your Sister,

Sarah

Sarah and her husband, Kevin, have five children and serve in missions and fellowship group ministries.

Posted in: Christian Living, Women's Ministry

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You Are Never Boxed In!

By Garet Halbert

All believers battle sin. We all struggle to be and do as we ought in Christ because the desires of the old nature still linger in deepest recesses of our inner being. Whether you have been a Christian for a day or five decades, the Christian life of holiness is always a battle (though it does get easier the longer you’ve been fighting).

So in this struggle with sin, there will be times when we fall short of the desires and expectations He has for us. And in those low moments of sin, we tend to dwell on the causes of our sin. Often when we fall into sin and are either confronted by a fellow church member or convicted by the Spirit of God, the first thing we do is we justify what happened. What I mean by this is that we explain the events leading up to the sin and justify that our actions were caused by those circumstances. Maybe you are struggling with a porn addiction and you are thinking “I wouldn’t look at porn if I was (married, my spouse wasn’t so distant, or whatever your circumstance might be).” Maybe you are struggling with bitterness and covetousness towards others. “ I wouldn’t be so bitter if she would just admit she’s wrong” or “I wouldn’t be so covetous if I could find a job that pays more.” Whatever your struggle might be, the problem that we have is that we justify our sins.  Often we are more concerned with the circumstance than the sin itself. In a word, we act as though our sin happened because we were boxed in and had no other option than to do what we did (or maybe what we are doing even now).

Jay Adams, in his book Competent to Counsel, tells a story of a woman who has an irresponsible husband, struggles as a mother, and ongoing financial stress. In her struggle, she essentially shuts herself off and begins to neglect her responsibilities as a wife and mother. In counseling, the woman says, “ I can’t go on; I can’t take it any longer—I’m in a box and I can’t get out.” Here we see a woman heavy ladened with familial struggles, and she goes numb to her family because she feels she’s “in a box” and has no other choice and cannot go on. Though a tragic situation, the truth is she’s justifying what she’s doing by the circumstance she’s in. Maybe you are just like this woman. “I was boxed in…I wouldn’t have made that choice if weren’t for ________(fill it the blank).” We’ve all been there.

The problem with this thinking, as Christians, is that we are never boxed in. 1 Corinthians 10:13 reads, “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation, he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it” [emphasis added]. As Christians, one of the greatest promises God has given us concerning temptation is that there will always be a way of escape.

Brothers and Sisters, we are never boxed in! As Jay Adams said, “she needed to understand that God provides ‘a way of escape’ with every trial.” And he went on to say, “Christians are never in a box. God can make the walls of the box fall flat like the walls of Jericho; he can open the lid and reach down with his mighty hand and support one through the test; or he can make the bottom fall out. Whatever way of escape God may provide…we may trust that the way out will come as surely as the problem itself.”

What Dr. Adams said in this counseling session is something we all need to hear in light of our struggles. We can be sure temptation will come, but we can also be sure that the way of escape will be there too.

Now to some, telling a struggling wife and mother that she shouldn’t be acting the way she was regardless of her circumstances, is not the right way to address her. That by correcting her you are going to discourage her. There is some truth to that. There is a good chance the woman would be discouraged at this correction, but in all honesty, to confront her wrong thinking by telling her she is never boxed in as a believer is more encouraging than anything else you could tell her! Though the words “we shouldn’t let our circumstances dictate our actions” might seem like cow prods, in truth, they are the most healing words you could ever hear. You are not controlled by the things around you! You don’t have to sin when you are in those situations! Christian, you are never boxed in!

So next time when you are struggling and you think you have no other choice than to sin, remember that way of escape is as sure as the temptation itself. Your God is faithful and He will provide for you, that you may endure whatever comes your way. There is much hope in the fact that as Christians, we are never boxed in when it comes to struggles and temptations. Let the promise of 1 Corinthians 10:13 be with you next time you feel boxed in by your circumstances, for as Christians we never truly are.

Garet Halbert is a member of FCC and serves as an Elder in Training. He and his wife, Heidi, have two little girls, Selah and Sophia.

Posted in: Biblical Counseling, Christian Living

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Family Worship

By Deanna Hanson

Family worship has been so helpful for our family. It has changed as our kids have grown. It has also changed as their spiritual walk with God has grown. We go through seasons where everyone is engaged in it and excited for it to start and seasons where a few kids have groaned when it was time to start. Each family can alter their family worship to what works best for their family. I am excited to share a few resources we have tried over the years and hope to help those who have been wanting to start a consistent worship time, but wasn’t sure where to start.

My husband John read Don Whitney’s book, Family Worship, to get some ideas before our family started years ago. It was very helpful and does a great job explaining the historical and biblical foundations of family worship. In chapter three, he advocates three practices that should play a part in family worship: reading the Bible, praying, and singing. He also provides some additional suggestions to be used only if time permits: catechizing, memorizing Scripture, and reading other books. At the conclusion of the chapter, he encourages readers to remember to keep it short, do it regularly, and be flexible.

We followed Whitney’s example. When our kids were younger, we would read shorter chapters of the Bible at a time, or sometimes only a few verses a night, pray and sing hymns.  As they got older, we began introducing different missionary biographies by Janet and Geoff Benge in addition to our Bible reading, prayer, and songs.  We would read one biography at a time, reading one chapter per night. If your kids are readers, you can rotate through your family and have each child read aloud that week. These biographies are short and so hard to put down. They are wonderful! We also started adding Global Missions to our worship time. We would spend the month praying for one specific country and use the book Operation World by Jason Mandryk for prayer ideas. This book is an excellent resource because it gives you an alphabetized list of countries around the world as well as information about people group, geographic, economic, and political information for each country you are praying for. Our kids got excited to learn more about each country we prayed for.  Here are a few other resources we recommend to adding to your family worship time:

Do you have any other recommendations for Family Worship additions? What has worked well for your family? Please share it with us.

 Deanna Hanson is a member of FCC and helps with our website. She and her husband, John, have four children and own a small business in North Kansas City.

Posted in: Christian Living

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