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Choose to Embrace Being God’s Witness

June 16, 2019 in Uncategorized | Comments (0)

Choices change our lives…

By Barbara Dahlgren  

Jesus told the early church, “You shall be witnesses to me in Jerusalem, and all of Judea and Samaria and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:8) A witness is one who attests to the truth. So this implies that people would be telling others about God’s truth by sharing their first-hand experiences.

Witnesses in biblical times were very important. Most of the people were poor and many were illiterate. The average person couldn’t read or write, so many things weren’t written down or recorded. Therefore, sharing what you had seen, heard, or experienced with others was important. The teachings of Jesus had to be passed on by word of mouth.

The Bible is filled with examples of those who witnessed for Christ in their own way. There was no specific way presented for people to share the gospel. People led by God’s Spirit don’t all witness in the same way. God created us with various personalities. We all have different occupations, strengths, and weaknesses. As unique members of the body of Christ, people use what they have to witness in their own ways. This is true today just as it was in biblical times. Here are some examples of God’s witnesses from the Bible.

 The Blind Man

This man had been blind from birth and Jesus healed him. The Pharisees did not like this. In fact, they tried to say that Jesus could not be from God because Jesus healed him on the Sabbath. Now the blind man didn’t have much education and didn’t wax eloquent in front of the Pharisees. He merely stated that he didn’t know who Jesus was, but he did know one thing. “I was blind and now I see.” (John 9:25)

Peter

Peter was a tent maker. He was a bit impetuous and made mistakes, yet his love for Christ and enthusiasm for the gospel was almost contagious. He walked on water. Christ seemed to spend a little extra time with Peter. (Matthew 16:15-23) Peter gave the sermon on the day of Pentecost when Jesus’ followers were together in Jerusalem. (Acts 2) He could attest to the miracles, wonders, and signs Jesus performed. He said, “God has raised Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of that fact.” (Acts 2:32)

Dorcas

Dorcas was a woman ahead of her time, a business owner and philanthropist. As a dedicated follower of Christ, she witnessed through her good works and living the Christian life. (Acts 9:36) She put her faith into action by serving the poor and making clothes for widows. Many mourned when she died in the prime of life. Believers sent for Peter who prayed and she was brought back to life.

Matthew

Matthew was a Christian tax collector which is almost an oxymoron. He left everything to follow Jesus. (Luke 5:27-31) He witnessed through his hospitality. He threw a banquet for Jesus and invited all his tax collector friends. The Pharisees didn’t like this, but Jesus did.

Paul

Paul was an intellectual. He knew the arts, philosophy, and law. He used his logic and reasoning to become all things to all people. (1 Corinthians 9:19-23) He once persecuted Christians but then became one. His changed life was part of his witnessing, but he was also a persuasive orator. He spoke comfortably in Athens, the center of philosophy, and defended himself in court so adeptly that he almost persuaded King Agrippa to become a Christian. (Acts 17, Acts 26:28)

The Samaritan Woman

The Samaritan woman had three strikes against her. First, she was a Samaritan. Jews did not speak to Samaritans because they considered them religiously impure. Second, she was a woman. In those days, women were to be seen and not heard. Her third strike was living in adultery. Yet Jesus chose to speak to this “three strikes and you’re out” loser in the world’s eyes and share the gospel. (John 4) She was so happy about this that she told all her neighbors, family, and friends. She didn’t try to convert anyone, yet many believed. (John 4:39-43) She witnessed by sharing her joy!

Consider this… All followers of Christ witness in one way or another, whether they want to or not. We are all God’s witnesses. It doesn’t matter what our strengths or weaknesses are. We share the gospel with those we come in contact with by the lives we lead. Our lives are our testimony. How we live is our witness. How we live declares the truth about God’s influence in our lives.

One final thought… People would rather see a sermon than hear one.

 

 


Choose Not to Expect Too Much

June 9, 2019 in Uncategorized | Comments (0)

Choices change our lives…

By Barbara Dahlgren

Expectations can be relationship killers. When our expectations are unfulfilled or unrealistic, the result can be frustration, disappointment, discontentment, and even anger. Our expectations can hinder our relationship with friends, spouses, coworkers, and God. So let’s explore three aspects of expectations that will hopefully give us a clearer perspective on the subject: circumstances, people, and God.

Circumstances

Let’s say that life did not turn out the way you expected. Someone else got the promotion you deserved. You lost most of your money in a recession. You totaled your car. You broke your leg. A loved one died. Life is full of “unexpected” setbacks. Life can be tough. Life is full of health challenges, family upsets, work concerns, troubles, grief, pain, burdens, afflictions, and unfulfilled expectations. Being a Christian does not make us immune to life’s problems.

We have to look beyond circumstances to find contentment or joy. Paul shares what he learned in Philippians 4:12: “I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.” He learned to live with unsatisfied expectations. Contentment doesn’t come when we have everything we want but when we are thankful for everything we have.

People

People are imperfect. You are a person; therefore, you are imperfect. People will let you down and you will let them down. Not necessarily intentionally, but realistically. If you are basing your happiness and contentment on the performance of others, you will be in a constant state of frustration. We need to let go of preconceived ideas of what we think others should or should not do. Cut people some slack. Don’t take everything that happens personally. Most people are not going out of their way to make your life miserable. They make mistakes – just like you.

Sometimes we place unrealistic expectations on others and vice versa. Even worse, we place unrealistic expectations on ourselves. We strive for perfection instead of progress. Do we really think we can work full-time, look like J. Lo, have perfect children, go grocery shopping, do the laundry, and have immaculate houses? Get a grip! Who are we trying to impress? When we can’t live up to unrealistic expectations, we feel like failures. In God’s eyes, we are not failures. We are His beloved children. (1 John 3:1) We need to look to God, not people, for approval.

God

Many times we expect God to respond in a certain way. When He doesn’t, we doubt His love for us. A young woman might say, “If I do everything God tells me to do, God will bless me with a husband.” Maybe not. A middle-aged woman might say, “If I do everything God tells me to do, my daughter will marry a doctor and give me grandkids.” Maybe not. God makes no such promises. God promises to bless our lives, but that doesn’t mean He gives us everything we want. If we don’t get what we expect from God, will we still love and trust Him?

Habakkuk had determined to love and trust God even if all his crops failed and all his farm animals died. (Habakkuk 3:17 -19) Can we say the same?

What can we expect from God? We can expect God to forgive our sins, extend us grace, give us mercy, and love us. How He manifests this love may not fulfill our unrealistic expectations, but that does not diminish His love for us.

Consider this… If we let go of certain expectations, we cannot be disappointed. Do not expect any particular results from any given situation. This will allow us to give it our full attention without the pressure of living up to any preconceived ideas. We can turn it over to God and trust Him to take care of it.

One final thought… There’s an old saying: Expect nothing; appreciate everything. There may be a kernel of truth there. It would certainly make life easier.

 


Choose to Live in Awe

June 2, 2019 in Uncategorized | Comments (0)

Choices change our lives…

By Barbara Dahlgren

Awe is defined as “veneration or wonder inspired by authority or by the sacred or sublime.” Perhaps living in a computer-generated world and being used to 3-D effects can make us desensitized to the beauty around us. As children we were amazed by yellow daffodils and mesmerized by watching ants carry ten times their weight across the yard. Too soon we become jaded and take our sunsets for granted. We no longer see a colorful sky radiant with colorful reddish, pinkish, and orange hues; we just wish the sun would go down so the light will stop shining in our eyes while we’re trying to drive. Somewhere along the way we lose our awe.

G.K. Chesterton said, “This world will never starve through lack of wonders, only through lack of wonder!”  Do we see God’s hand everywhere we go? When we visit a castle high up in the mountains, do we think of God being our fortress? When we see a majestic mountain, do we think of God being our Rock? When we see a massive, leafy oak tree, do we think of being rooted in Christ? When we hear the sound of a child laughing, do we smile and think about God wanting us to become as little children? Seeing God’s hand in everything we see and do can increase our awe. It infuses our ordinary, mundane routine with the spirit of the living God. It changes our perspective. It makes life worth living.

Even from a physical perspective, awe can nourish our souls and help us live better lives. Dacher Keltner, one of the foremost theorists and scholars of awe says, “What the science of awe is suggesting is that opportunities for awe surround us, and their benefits are profound.”  Studies exploring this complex emotion show connections between awe and critical thinking, creativity, better health, and positive social behavior. Feelings of awe actually boost life satisfaction.

Spiritually speaking, we as Christians can sometimes be guilty of losing our awe of God, His creation, and the blessings He bestows. Hebrews 12:28 tell us, “Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe.” There is a fine line in our relationship with God between awe and familiarity.

Yes, we think of God as our friend and father. He wants us to feel close enough to Him to be honest and discuss anything. However, He doesn’t want to be taken for granted. No one does. After all, God is our Creator.

Consider this… Job tells us that dominion and awe belong to God. (Job 25:2) God is also our fortress, high tower, sustainer, giver of every good gift – the list goes on and on. When we lose sight of this awe, we fail to see God as He really is!

One final thought… “He who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe is as good as dead; his eyes are closed.” ~Albert Einstein


Choose to Use God’s GPS

May 26, 2019 in Uncategorized | Comments (0)

Choices change our lives…

By Barbara Dahlgren

GPS stands for Global Positioning System and has become synonymous with any handheld computerized gizmo that helps us find our way in unfamiliar territory. These devices are great, especially for someone like me who has no sense of direction. And although these satellite connected devices have greatly improved through the years, they are still not infallible. Some people have found themselves in random suburban cul-de-sacs, abandoned parking lots, or in the middle of nowhere when trying to follow detailed instructions.

I remember once when my husband and I were traveling through Alabama, we needed to get to a certain road. The GPS kept saying, “Make a U-turn.” My husband kept saying, “That can’t be right.” He has a wonderful sense of direction, so he just turned it off. An hour or so later we were lost. It was then we discovered the GPS was smarter than we thought. We turned it back on, made a U-turn, and finally got to our destination.

Even though there are some mishaps, GPS devices are very reliable mechanisms. When taking a trip, a good GPS lets us know where we are and helps us get to our desired destination without getting lost. A good GPS will tell us, “Turn right. Turn left. Make a U-turn.” And though it may not appear we know where we are going, a good GPS will get us there.

We as Christians are on a journey as well. We need a good GPS with lots of power. We need a GPS that will never leave us stranded in the middle of nowhere. We need a GPS that will never get us lost. We need a GPS that will never take us to the wrong destination. We need God’s Positioning System – a GPS we can always count on!

God’s GPS gives us the Bible to keep us on the right road. God’s GPS lets the Holy Spirit nudge us in the right direction. God’s GPS allows us to have direct contact with its Creator 24/7. That means we are never disconnected from the server. And God’s GPS is infallible. As long as we walk with God, talk with God, and stay in a relationship with Him, we are assured of arriving at our final destination.

There’s an old story about a father who took his young son on a walk in the woods. As they walked hand in hand, he asked the boy, “Do you know where you are? Are you lost?”

The boy looked up at him and said, “How can I be lost? I am with you.”

Consider this… God is the one who takes our right hand and leads us. (Isaiah 41:13) With our hand in His, how can we get lost?

As long as we stay close to God our Father, we will never be lost. God says, “I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you and watch over you.” (Psalm 32:8) Now that’s a GPS we can always count on!

One final thought… Trust God’s GPS. When we turn off our connection to Him, we can lose our way and get hopelessly lost.


Choose to Do What Jesus Would Do

May 19, 2019 in Uncategorized | Comments (0)

Choices change our lives…

By Barbara Dahlgren

“What would Jesus do?” was once a catchy phrase used by the Christian community. People were encouraged to ask themselves this question as a guideline for living the Christian life. Bracelets were sold with the abbreviation WWJD on them as a reminder to act the way Jesus would act.

All in all, it’s not a bad idea – as long as we are sure we know what Jesus would do in a given situation. Too many times we think Jesus likes what we like or hates what we hate. We transpose our preferences to Jesus, rather than His preferences to us. What Jesus would do in some cases might surprise us.

Would Jesus drink beer? Maybe. His first miracle was turning water into wine. I can’t help but think He would have had a little taste, too. But drinking an alcoholic beverage and getting drunk are two different things. (John 2:1-10, Matthew 11:19)

Would Jesus be filled with compassion? Would He cry? Maybe. The Bible says He wept when Lazarus died, even though He had the power to bring him back to life. (John 11:35)

Would Jesus hang around with sinners? Maybe. He did in biblical times. In fact, He was called a friend to sinners. (Matthew 11:19)

Would Jesus get angry? Maybe. Anger in itself is not wrong, but wrong use of that anger is. The Bible says, “Be angry and sin not.” (Ephesians 4:26) Jesus turned over the tables of the moneychangers that were outside the temple, which indicates he was a tad bit upset. (Matthew 21:12, Mark 11:15)

Would Jesus have apprehension? Maybe. The night before He was crucified He asked God if there was any other way. (Matthew 26:39)

Would Jesus get frustrated? Maybe. He seemed a little irritated with three of the disciples when He took them on the mountain so He could pray and they kept falling asleep. (Matthew 26:40)

Would Jesus confuse the issue? Maybe. He certainly did when He said those who don’t eat my flesh and drink my blood have no part of me. Many left His side that day because they thought He was speaking literally. (John 6:53-66)

Would Jesus have a best friend? Maybe. The Bible alludes to the fact that He was a little closer to John than the other disciples. (John 21:20)

Would Jesus have modern ideas? Maybe. He was certainly progressive for His time. He treated all people – even Samaritans and women – with dignity and respect. That was unheard of in those days. (John 4:7-9)

Consider this… Many don’t know what Jesus would do because they don’t know what Jesus did. They rely on what they have heard from others or what they think. It might be helpful to read the first four books of the New Testament without any preconceived ideas about Jesus. What Jesus would do might surprise you.

One final thought… Sometimes our bracelets would be WWPD (What Would a Pharisee Do) rather than WWJD. That should give us something to think about.


Choose to Understand That Bigger Is Not Always Better

May 12, 2019 in Uncategorized | Comments (0)

Choices change our lives…

By Barbara Dahlgren

For around four hundred years the beauty and splendor of Solomon’s Temple was renowned. For construction, Solomon used thousands of skilled craftsmen, laborers, and artisans and only the finest, most expensive materials – cedar beams, cypress planks, hewn stone, olive wood doors, gold chains, carvings of winged cherubim, and enough gold overlay to rival Fort Knox. This house for the Lord was truly a sight to behold. Nothing could compare.

Also known as the First Temple, it was the first Jewish/Israelite temple in Jerusalem and the religious focal point for worship and sacrifices. So popular was Solomon’s Temple that it was instrumental in Jerusalem becoming the capital of the combined kingdoms of Israel and Judah for two generations and became the place for religious pilgrimage.

Tragically, it was destroyed by fire when the Babylonians, led by King Nebuchadnezzar, invaded and sacked Jerusalem and sent the inhabitants into exile in 586 BC. The destruction of this temple became a symbol of lost grandeur.

When King Cyrus of Persia conquered Babylon in 536 BC, these exiles were allowed to return to Jerusalem to rebuild their city and temple. Under the leadership of Zerubbabel, the appointed governor, construction on a second temple began. It was not an easy task. Not only were they rebuilding the temple, they were rebuilding a city, and it was difficult keeping spirits high in the midst of such devastation. With all the delays and setbacks, seventeen years had passed and they had little more than a foundation – just a small beginning.

Some were lamenting that this new temple would never be as impressive as the first. It would only be a modest version of the original and not nearly as plush or grand. Old timers were saying, “Who is left among you that saw this house in her first glory? And how do ye see it now? In comparison with it, is this not in your eyes as nothing?” (Haggai 2:3)

Amidst discouragement about the project, God told His prophets to let Zerubbabel know the temple would be completed through him. “For who hath despised the day of small things? For they shall rejoice, and shall see the plummet in the hand of Zerubbabel…” (Zechariah 4:10) It might have been a small beginning, but God would see it through. And although the Second Temple might not be a grand as the first, its glory would be greater. “The glory of this latter house shall be greater than of the former…” (Haggai 2:9)

Some wondered how that could be. They didn’t know that one day Jesus would actually walk in it, for this Second Temple was standing during Jesus’ ministry. (Luke 2:46; John 2:13-17) His presence would make it glorious.

God’s presence is what makes a temple glorious. It is not the large building, the expensive craftsmanship, the latest technology, the fine acoustics, the fifty-piece orchestra, the hundred-fold choir, or the scores of people who come. A temple is a building dedicated for religious ceremonies or worship. A temple is only made glorious by God’s presence.

When Solomon built the First Temple he knew it was a place for people to go to worship God – a beautiful, grand place, but just a place. He said, “Behold, heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain Thee; how much less this house which I have built …” (2 Chronicles 6:18, 21 RSV)

We know that God does not dwell in a house made with hands. (Acts 7:48-49) But He does dwell in us. We are a dwelling place for God. (Ephesians 2:18-22) We are God’s temple. (1 Corinthians 3:16-17) His presence in us gives our lives value.

Meeting together with fellow believers is a vital part of the Christian life. (Hebrews 10:25) It provides a time of community worship, fellowship, and encouragement. But the size or grandness of the place where we choose to meet is not as important as actually meeting together. This was true in Old Testament times and is true today. King Solomon’s temple could have been what we think of as a megachurch today. It was wonderful and served a purpose, but the Second Temple was just as valuable.

Now I am not against megachurches. God can be present in a multitude or where only two or three are gathered in His name. (Matthew 18:20) However, it is a mistake to think the greater good for God is accomplished in larger churches rather than smaller ones.

Consider this… God is not in the numbers game. God does not despise the small things – nor should we. (Zechariah 4:10)

One final thought… With God, it’s not the size of the temple that counts. Solomon’s Temple was grand. It was a beautiful tribute to our great God, but that didn’t prevent it from burning down. However, the work of God continued on.

 

 

 


Choose to Look for a Church Not a Denomination

May 5, 2019 in Uncategorized | Comments (0)

Choices change our lives…

By Barbara Dahlgren

Jesus said to Peter, “On this rock I will build my church.” (Matthew 16:18) However, “church” in the Bible does not translate into Baptist, Catholic, Protestant, Methodist, Seventh Day Adventist, or Lutheran. In Greek it is “ecclesia” meaning “those who have been called out.” They have been “called out” of a world that rejects God and “into” a fellowship with God and others who believe in God. So which denomination is this “church” Jesus refers to?

Some may say these “ecclesia” would be non-denominational. In fact, people pride themselves in saying, “Oh, I’m not a part of any denomination. I’m non-denominational.” This could be called the “Non-Denominational Denomination” which makes them just as much a part of a denomination as anyone else. They just don’t have a recognized name yet. They might be called “The Church on the Hill,” “The Church in the Valley,” “The Church on the River,” “The Church in the Clouds,” or “The Church in the Closet.” We don’t lack for churches or denominations because we Christians love our schisms.

Schisms have always been a part of the Christian heritage because, believe it or not, all Christians don’t see eye-to-eye on everything. In fact, there has never (and probably will never) be a time when all Christians worship the same way or believe the same things. In biblical times, even Paul and Barnabus went their separate ways. And people have always had a tendency to look to men rather than God. “I am of Apollo. I am of Paul. I am of Cephas.” (I Corinthians 1:11-13) The early church also dealt with Judaizers who believed men should be circumcised and adhere to rituals to gain salvation, and Gnostics who felt they had secret knowledge.

A few centuries later the Great Schism divided the Eastern and Western churches over certain issues, one of them being whether or not to use leavened or unleavened bread during Communion. Also the East was a little more traditional and the West a little more contemporary. Some things never change. Then there was the Protestant Reformation where those who protested broke away from the major denomination of the day, Catholicism. They objected to certain Catholic practices such as being able to buy your way out of sin through indulgences.

Doctrinal differences can divide churches such as full immersion baptism versus sprinkling or meeting on Saturday versus Sunday. Many times people disagree over scripture interpretation such as what it means to speak in tongues. Social issues can play a prominent part in church schisms like slavery did around the time of the Civil War. As society changes, views change. Today hot topics causing schisms are views on gay couples and what role should women play at church. Everyone has an opinion.

What does God think about all these denominations? Is this what He had in mind? I’m not sure. The Bible does say, “There must be heresies among you, that they which are approved may be made manifest among you.” (1 Corinthians 10:19) And when the disciples were upset about someone not a part of their group casting out demons in Jesus’ name Jesus said, “Forbid him not: for he that is not against us is for us.” (Luke 9: 49, 50)

Perhaps the greater danger with denominations is when some feel they are the only true “church” and have a corner market on truth. Frankly, there isn’t a denomination around that hasn’t muddled the message of Jesus in one way or another. New denominations will be no different. New is not bad as long as people realize there is nothing new under the sun. That would make a catchy name for a church, “There’s Nothing New Under the Sun Church.” However, here’s a list of churches you might want to avoid:

  • Don’t Confuse Me with the Facts Church
  • Don’t Call Us We’ll Call You Church
  • I May Be Stupid but I’m Not Dumb Church
  • I May Be Dumb but I’m Not Stupid Church
  • We’re Okay but No One Else Is Church
  • We Know It All Church
  • You Can’t Teach an Old Dog New Tricks Church
  • I Know a Secret and You Don’t Church
  • God Told Me to Do This Church

Consider this… Not much is said about denominations in the Bible but much is said about Jesus – His life, His example, His teachings, His death, and His resurrection. Much is said about love, respect, joy, peace, patience, goodness, faith, meekness, and self- control. These are the qualities to look for. These are the unifying factors you want in a Christian community. Look for these common denominators and the “ecclesia,” the “church,” will be found.

One final thought… It is not a denomination that is saved, but a person.


Choose to Make Church (Meeting Together) a Priority

April 28, 2019 in Uncategorized | Comments (0)

Choices change our lives…

By Barbara Dahlgren

We do not lack for innovative churches today. In addition to the average denominational listings and their spin-offs, there are cowboy churches, coffee-drinking churches, and drive-in churches – just to name a few. There are small churches, house churches, neighborhood Bible studies, and megachurches. It’s hard to believe one can’t find a place to attend or meet with other believers.

However, some are disillusioned with organized religion altogether. And rightly so! Pharisaical approaches to salvation have muddled the message of preaching Christ. People are no longer enamored with pomp and circumstance. They yearn for the substance of Christ-like teaching.

Others feel they need a time of healing. Maybe they are sick and tired of people or need to do some private Bible study to decide where God is leading them.

The majority just make up limitless excuses like “I don’t like the music,” “the speakers are boring,” “the parking is too difficult to find,” “my spouse doesn’t want to go,” or “the pews are too hard.”

The most popular reason for not attending church is our busy lifestyle. Life is definitely busy! However, it’s not too busy for watching football, shopping at the mall, playing video games, going to the movies, or surfing the internet. Church or meeting together with other believers is just not a priority.

Should attending church or meeting together with other believers be a priority for Christians? After all, don’t we have lots of T.V., radio, or internet options where we can be spiritually fed? It’s true that these ministries offer a service, especially for those who are housebound or perhaps taking a respite to reevaluate where God is leading them. However, if one uses these programs as an alternative to actually spending time with other Christians, they may be isolating themselves and forfeiting what God intended.

Here are some reasons some reasons why meeting together should be a priority:

  • Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 states that “two are better than one.” Life is designed for companionship not isolation. A cord of three ropes together is harder to break than one alone.
  • God has called us to be part of a community of believers so we can learn to work together and get along. We are many members but a part of one body. (Romans 12:4, 5)
  • Sharing thoughts and ideas about scriptures with fellow Christians gives us a different perspective – an iron sharpening iron process which can provide checks and balances on how we conduct our daily lives. (Proverbs 27:17)
  • Private worship is essential for a Christian, but much is gained by community worship as well. There is something quite special about singing and praising God with others who love God as you do. Psalm 95 says, “Come let us worship…” The pronoun is plural.
  • Church is like a large support group. We can be uplifted but we support others as well. Listening skills can be honed and empathy developed. Praying with others, pointing them to God, and letting them know they are not alone – these are all part of the Christian journey.
  • Striving to live a Christian life sends a clear message to those around us. Attending church reinforces that message. It says, “I think meeting with other Christians is important. I try to practice what I preach.” (Philippians 5:9)

Consider this… Going to church each week reminds us of who we are – people struggling to follow Christ.

One final thought… I think there is much truth in this Billy Graham quote: “Churchgoers are like coals in a fire. When they cling together, they keep the flame aglow; when they separate, they die out.”

 

 


Choose to Meet Together with Believers

April 21, 2019 in Uncategorized | Comments (0)

Choices change our lives…

By Barbara Dahlgren

The “church” we have come to know with its traditions, formalities, and idiosyncrasies is not modeled in the Bible. As cities were proselytized in biblical times, Christians would gather together regularly in homes. When groups grew larger, several houses would be designated to become “house churches.” (Romans 16:5, 10, 11; Colossians 4:15; Philemon 1:2) It wasn’t until after Constantine converted to Christianity that official Christian church buildings were constructed.

Just because “house churches” were the norm in those days does not mean this model was set in stone in heaven as the only way to meet to worship God. Some of these house churches met every day. Does that mean it is mandatory that we meet together seven days a week? In theory, this is a great idea; in application, it would be hard to do.

The key is not where they were meeting, but the fact that they were meeting together. This is the constant throughout the New Testament. Like-minded Christians were meeting together often to worship God, to discuss how to serve others, to pool resources, to learn about spiritual growth, to share the love of Christ, to build friendships, and to connect.

Getting together was paramount in the eyes of Christians. All the believers met together. They prayed together. They worshipped together. They ate together. (Acts 2:42-47) The indication seems to be that Christians should be meeting together with other Christians.

A few weeks ago I met a friend I hadn’t seen in over a decade. We chitchatted a bit about family and jobs. Then she said, “I don’t go to church anymore but I like to think of myself as a Christian.” This has become a norm with people. In fact, church attendance has declined so dramatically in the United States that foreign countries now feel they need to send missionaries to us.

“I like to think of myself as a Christian.” That’s an interesting statement. I like to think of myself as intelligent, thin, witty, beautiful, and the winner of a Pulitzer Prize but that doesn’t make it so. Christianity is more than just merely believing in the existence of Christ. Even demons believe in the existence of Christ. (James 2:19) To be considered a Christian, it must take a little more effort. (James 2:18-26)

Look, you can use any argument you want to convince yourself that you can be a Christian but not attend a church or at least a small group Bible study of some kind, but it’s just idle chatter.  Christians need fellowship with other Christians. (1 Corinthians 12:12) Early Christians met together every day which is not really feasible in today’s society, but to say, “I like to think of myself as a Christian” and not be meeting together with believers regularly might lead one to respond with “better think again.” Thinking it does not make it so.

Consider this… Whether or not you view “the Church” as an individual Christian or a group of Christians, one characteristic of a believer appears to be getting together with others. This could be going to church or meeting with others at someone’s home, a warehouse, a school, a restaurant, or a conference room at the Holiday Inn. The operative words are “meeting together!”

The Bible instruction is pretty clear on this subject in Hebrews 10:25. “And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another…”

One final thought… Fellowship is a basic component of the Christian life. It’s hard to fellowship by yourself.

 

 


Choose Not to Be an Isolated Christian

April 14, 2019 in Uncategorized | Comments (0)

Choices change our lives…

By Barbara Dahlgren

Christian loners may be shocked to find out that God is more about community than individualism. He models this in the Trinitarian relationship of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. It is further exemplified in the grace-filled gesture of making salvation available for all mankind so we, too, can enter into that relationship.

Whether we like it or not, people are interconnected. We are interconnected with God and with each other. So isolation for the Christian is not a viable option. Christians should be coming in contact with non-Christians so they have someone to share the gospel with, but they should also be meeting regularly with like-minded believers for encouragement and edification. This can be done by going to church, a Bible study, or a small group. In other words, Christians should be meeting regularly with a community of believers.

Jesus Christ ascended to heaven and left His followers on earth to communicate His message of salvation. They did this by worshipping Him, serving Him, serving others, growing in a relationship with Him, and sharing the gospel. So in essence, each individual was “the Church.” However, the analogy might go awry when people use this philosophy as a license for not meeting together with other Christians. For not only were these believers “the Church” independently, they were “the Church” collectively, as well.

Some get turned off at the concept of attending church. They think more harm than good has been done in the name of Christianity. It’s true that some atrocities have been done in the Name of Christ but that doesn’t make it right. There is a lot of good that comes from churches. Christian churches have pushed for every humane reform conceivable which includes providing education for all classes of people, cleaning up hospitals, opening orphanages, feeding the homeless, being the first to integrate in the South, and much more. In fact, there was a time that church was the only thing that could cross the color line and get away with it.

Some use the argument that going to church will not make you a Christian any more than going to a garage makes you a car. That is true. A local church is only as good as the Christians who attend it. But if you want your car fixed, you take it to a garage. If you want to find other Christians, a church might be a good place to start.

From the beginning, God said it wasn’t good for man to be alone. (Genesis 2:18) There are things we gain by being with others that we can’t learn by being isolated. Loners never have to focus on anyone but themselves. That’s not what the Christian life is all about. While it’s true that people can be irritating, Christian concepts like caring and sharing are hard to develop all alone.

Consider this… Churches are filled with imperfect, struggling people. Churches are hospitals for sinners, not sanctuaries for saints. A perfect church would have no members.

One final thought… Instead of looking for perfection in people, why not look for progress? Look at how far they’ve come, not how far they have to go. If you think those people are imperfect now, you should have seen them a year or two ago.