Filed under: Bible Study, Church, Ministry Methods of Jesus
The Popular Savior Didn’t Work
The Personal Savior Did
Jesus was and is a personal Savior.
Not a celebrity Savior. Not a professional Savior.
You don’t need an appointment with Jesus. You won’t need to locate Jesus or travel to where He works because He’s never far away. He doesn’t maintain office hours and He isn’t limited to one location.
He’s mobile. He finds you and hangs around.
He’s very hands-on. He ministered to people individually in the New Testament and still does that today. Mass meetings weren’t His style. He spent most of His time teaching small groups of people. Often it was just the 12 disciples.
He drew big crowds but not on purpose. Even when surrounded by masses, He remained focused on individuals.
- He spoke to and healed the man born blind in Jerusalem.
- He healed the Centurion’s servant, and although He never saw or spoke directly to the Centurion or the servant, the healing sent a very personal message to the Centurion.
- He healed Peter’s mother-in-law while staying in Peter’s house. The place of healing can’t be more personal.
- Jesus touched a leper to signal a healing. That was seriously personal. Lepers were touch starved. It couldn’t have been more psychologically (personally) medicinal.
In some cases He took individuals away from the crowd to do His work.
- The deaf mute along the Sea of Galilee is a good example.
He was celebrated but His celebrity never influenced how He conducted His ministry. He could work quietly in the background or in the middle of a crowd. He maintained focus in all situations. When surrounded and pressed by onlookers, He managed to single out the needy person and minister to them individually.
Crowds were a barrier but not for Jesus. They got in the way of individuals seeking for Jesus.
- The woman who suffered with a medical problem for 12 years. The crowd was so problematic, her only option was to touch the hem of Jesus’ garment.
- The bed bound cripple carried by four friends who was barricaded from Jesus by the crowd.
- Zacchaeus whose short stature made him climb a tree just to get a glimpse of Jesus as He walked by.
The crowd isn’t an intermediary. In fact, salvation requires no intermediaries. Jesus doesn’t work from a distance. He doesn’t save in person but He always saves personally.
Is Form More Important
Should you get baptized or should you not? That’s one question.
Another question, and one that is a little more difficult to answer is if you do get baptized, which baptism is best?
Those are important questions because Baptism is a Christian basic. It’s universal. It applies to every believer but there are differences of opinion on this practice.
Some believe baptism saves or at least puts one in the right place to be saved. Others believe it has nothing to do with salvation.
Some believe infants should be baptized. Others believe they shouldn’t.
Some believe baptism can be administered by pouring or sprinkling. Others believe full bodily immersion is required.
Some believe baptism can only be administered by qualified individuals. Others believe any Christian can baptize any Christian candidate.
Some believe only their denomination’s baptism is legitimate. Others believe that’s an unnecessary restriction.
Some believe the form is all important – only immersion is allowed. Others believe the heart of the individual is more important than the form.
Like belief, the decision to be baptized is individual. Unlike belief, you can’t fake it.
Probably no Christian basic has been debated more than baptism and the debates weren’t lighthearted. History records much feuding over this issue even to the point of drawing blood.
The Bible says much more about belief (faith) than baptism but what it says is important. Here are the facts:
- John the Baptist initiated the tradition of baptism.
- The high number of baptisms was evidence of John’s effectiveness.
- Jesus was baptized by John, even though John questioned this.
- Jesus first disciples were baptized by John.
- Jesus taught his followers to continue the tradition of baptism.
- From the Day of Pentecost onward disciples new believers were baptized. The practice stuck.
- Paul taught that baptism symbolized the death, burial and resurrection of Christ.
From these facts we can isolate several takeaways: Read more
Filed under: Christian Living, Church, Personal Development
The Lord’s Supper
Nourishes Relationships Too
The Lord’s Supper is usually mentioned and often observed during the Easter season and there is good reason for that. It acknowledges elements of the resurrection story, the shed blood and broken body of Jesus. It makes sense.
The observance is patterned after the Last supper Jesus enjoyed before His arrest and trial. You could say it was His last moment of sanity before everything fell apart. His last quiet time before the storm.
Our church always observes the Lord’s Supper during Easter but not the stripped down version. We try to create a meal-like atmosphere. Not a full blown meal but as close as we can get during a service.
It was during a meal that Jesus instituted the symbolism of wine-to-blood and bread-to-body so there is nothing in a meal that diminishes that truth. In fact, the history of meal-time adds richness to the idea.
Unfortunately, the sense of “meal” is no longer the foundation for this memorial and the names we give it don’t help much either – communion, holy communion, Eucharist, sacrament, ordinance. In keeping with the overly religious names we give it, the observance has become more like a ceremony than a meal. And, as with all ceremonies of the religious type it is more restrictive than affirming.
It isn’t uncommon for humans to turn meal time joy into an exhibition of decorum but religion has taken that trend a step further. Participants must be members of the church and morally upright. The observance is so heavily draped in restriction that celebration is only a shadow if it is there at all.
For some the meal is a confessional. For others it is a type of mystical cleansing but there are at least three good reasons to rethink our approach. Read more
Is Marriage Really Marriage?
There was a time in the not too distant past when divorce was treated like a criminal offense. To initiate the process at least one mate had to be guilty and once guilt was established punishment was meted out. The laws were controlling and the outcomes were chaffing.
The process actually made things worse. If the parting couple was unhappy with each other before the divorce they hated each other after and the feud spread. Friends and family got caught up in the hostilities too. Not smart.
How The Divorce Process Played Out
You can imagine how the scenario played out. One person, the petitioner, produced sufficient evidence to prove their partner was at fault and the effect of that is obvious. Not only would the partner feel smeared, there was also nothing they could do about it, that is, if he or she really wanted the divorce. An effective defense meant staying hitched. That’s how it worked. If the alleged fault couldn’t be substantiated the couple was sent home to live unhappily at odds ever after.
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The accused was between a rock and hard place. Either prove innocence and live with someone who doesn’t want you or accept the blame and be smudged for life. It was a LOSE-LOSE situation. Read more
Being Only Positive, Only Negative
or Only Neutral
Is Not Constructive
This is the second sermon in our “Stick” series in which sticks are used to illustrate things we should do or be as a church. The first sermon used “Chopsticks” to illustrate the functionality of the church. It emphasized the importance of each member’s committed effort in the work a church does.
Chopsticks work well only with coordination and practice and the same is true with church members.
This sermon, however, uses toothpicks to illustrate the importance of constructively critical interaction between the members. To do better we must get better. A toothpick symbolizes the decent and appropriate approach to finding and removing flaws.
So, the first message focused on function and the second focuses on relation.
To keep the picture clear it is important to start with a few passages of Scripture. We are talking about the church so it is important to have an idea what the Bible says about this organization.
That makes sense. Church is not my idea or your idea or just a good idea, it is God’s idea so we need to know what He says about it.
So let’s take a look.
The Church Is Functional
In Matthew chapter 16 and verses 19 and 20 Jesus was speaking to His disciples – core members of the church He started – and He said:
I will build my church (you guys), and the gates of hell will not prevail against it (you). 19 I will give you (the church) the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.
There are a couple of interesting observations to take away from this passage.
- One, Jesus is the one building the church.
We, the church members, work but Jesus is ultimately the leader and builder. He makes things work together for our good. He does what we can’t do and brings about outcomes that we might not otherwise realize.
As builders with Christ we must be faithful, committed and determined to do our best but Jesus is in the lead. It’s kind of a paradox. He does the building but not without us. He works through people and for them.
- Two, this passage resonates with delegated authority and personal responsibility.
Jesus is the builder but we have the “keys” to the kingdom. The person with keys is trusted. God designates which doors are to be opened but “key” people unlock them. That’s power!
Simply put, having the keys means we are authorized to make decisions, initiate action and perform functions – binding and loosing. And to say we are authorized to do this means we are accountable if we don’t. Sitting around doing nothing is not an appropriate response to a passage like this. Read more