Being Relevant

I was driving into town the other day and a sign by an exit caught my eye. It was a sign for a new church service. I only caught part of it in passing, but was somewhat concened by what I did see. The corner in big letters had REAL, RIGHT, RELEVANT! That’s a pretty bold statement.

This is an attempt to draw in people who may be discouraged from attending other churches. They may feel church isn’t relevant to their lives or situation. They may feel church is outdated.

It struck me as a bit insulting to other churches. Especially the real and right parts. Now, some churches are obviously cults or otherwise unBiblical, but this sign makes me wonder if they believe other churches are all fake and wrong except this one? Surely not!

Sure, you can change to a more contemporary form of service using a band instead a hymns. As long as it’s scripturally sound, the music form shouldn’t be the a very important issue. You could allow people to dress casual. (However, this was explained to me as being disrespectful. If you are invited to the king’s palace, would you wear shorts and a t-shirt? If not, then why would you to the King of Kings house?) You could even have Saturday evening service instead of Sunday. Then you wouldn’t have to take a full day off from the weekend for the Lord. These are ways some churches have changed to become more “relevant”.

However, this is the wrong way to approach the situation. It may increase attendance, but to change the church to be relevant to our lives is a slippery slope. This is how the argument of cultural relevancy comes in. It leads to an ala carte philosophy and a compromising approach to scripture.

Rather than changing church to be relevant to our lives, we should change our lives to be relevant to the church. We need to seek out ways we can change to be more Biblical. Sin should be called out, not explained away as culturally irrelevant.

Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof. -Romans 6:12

But when I saw that they walked not uprightly according to the truth of the gospel, I said unto Peter before them all, If thou, being a Jew, livest after the manner of Gentiles, and not as do the Jews, why compellest thou the Gentiles to live as do the Jews? -Galatians 2:14

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Halloween whitewash

In 2 weeks, many in this country, especially children and young adults, will celebrate Halloween. It’s on a Saturday this year so there are even more parties planned. Some may truly be for evil, but many are “harmless fun”.

I want to discuss the whitewash that Halloween is “harmless fun”. Whitewash is used to cover over something to make it look new or harmless. Many parents have bought into it. However, just because your daughter is a nurse or princess and your son a construction worker or baseball player, doesn’t mean you aren’t still celebrating what is traditionally an evil holiday.

Not many adults, and even fewer children know the origins of Halloween and it’s associated rituals. This post isn’t to list them, other than to say they are all evil. I would urge you to Google “Halloween origins” to find more details about Halloween’s jack-o-lanterns, trick or treating, costumes, bobbing for apples, and evil spirits (ghosts, witches, ghouls, goblins, skeletons, devils, etc). It doesn’t make sense to celebrate a holiday whose origins are unknown, yet that is exactly what’s happened to Halloween. Thus, many think it harmless fun.

The fact that this day is targeted mostly at children and young adults shows how desperate Satan is. He is going around the parents directly to the kids. Children are the least able to recognize evil. Parents want to please their kids so they turn a blind eye in the name of “harmless fun” to the evil that is Halloween. “Little children, let no man deceive you” 1 John 3:7. Yet, that is exactly what we are allowing Halloween to do.

We as Christian parents, need to do our homework then explain to our kids why Halloween is wrong. They need to know the reasons why they aren’t allowed to participate/celebrate like their friends rather than simply saying no. This will give them better conviction and understanding of their faith.

There are many Biblical reasons to avoid Halloween in any form. We are according to 1 Thes. 5:22 to “Abstain from all appearance of evil”. Not just simply all evil, but all appearance of evil. In other words, not even pretend evil or things associated with evil. That definitely includes Halloween.

Just because everyone else is participating doesn’t make it appropriate either. “Wherefore, come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you.” 2 Corinthians 6:17. Finally, “abhor that which is evil; cleave to that which is good”. Romans 12:9. Don’t buy into Satan’s whitewash of Halloween being “harmless fun” just because you yourself aren’t doing evil. Underneath the whitewash, it’s still an evil holiday.

Labor Day

Tomorrow is Labor Day. A day which we honor workers here in the US. Mostly it is for union members as a way to show solidarity and thanks. I don’t like unions in their current, modern incarnation and consider them very un-Christian. However, that isn’t the point of this post. This post is to ponder Labor Day.

Labor Day honors workers for their earthly efforts. We need a spiritual Labor Day. A day of revival. A day to reward efforts to share the gospel to those around us. A day to honor those who are faithful to their heavenly job, not just their worldly one. A day to honor those who have stood on their convictions of faith in the face of persecution at work and in the world.

What have you done to be a Laborer of God where you work? Have you offered a co-worker help? Maybe you’ve invited a co-worker to church or shared a relevant Bible verse.

Hopefully, if you’re a Christian, your co-workers notice you are different, unless you are blessed enough to work in a Christian environment. You don’t have to stop being Christian when you go to work. Perhaps you don’t join in the gossip at coffee breaks or tell dirty jokes. Don’t be intimidated or afraid to take a stand. Perhaps you’ve even had to refuse to do something you were asked that was against your conscience. You may not be rewarded for your efforts. In fact, you may be laughed at, scorned or worse. But you will be rewarded in heaven.

I’m looking forward to an eternal Labor Day.

Changing churches

I have definitely decided to switch churches. I will now be attending Northern Lights Church of Christ. This is a non-denominational church (not affiliated with the United Church of Christ) in downtown Fairbanks.

I went to the old one again Sunday morning and it was as I feared. The message, while Biblical, was shallow and general without much depth. It covered a fairly large portion which should have been covered verse by verse in detail. Instead it was broad and generalized as a group. It was an important group of scripture too, Colossians 3:1-17.

Also, something else happened which felt like God was gently shutting the door behind me on my decision to switch to another church.
It didn’t feel like a slam. It wasn’t anything terrible. My favorite assistant pastor resigned for personal reasons. I really liked him and respected his decisions. I don’t know who or when someone will be appointed to fill his position, but with 2 out of 3 pastors different from when I started attending this church, I don’t know what direction it will be taking. I don’t want to drift along anymore.

I spoke to my family the past few weeks about possibly changing churches. Surprisingly, they didn’t have any objections. I was expecting my kids to say they would miss their friends, teachers, or special activities, but they didn’t. In fact, they were very supportive. Here are the kids reasons for liking the new church:

They stay with my the entire service.

They sing hymns and more songs (the old church sang more after the kids went to another room)

They have evening services so we aren’t rushed in the morning.

The kids have been asking when they can go to church again which is something they rarely do.

Woe to us

I’m in the book of Isaih for my Bible reading. This afternoon, I was reading Isaiah 5 and was struck with all the things mentioned. It sounded like he was describing the current state of our nation, specifically in verses 20-23.

Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter! Woe unto them that are wise in their own eyes, and prudent in their own sight! Woe unto them that are mighty to drink wine, and men of strength to mingle strong drink: Which justify the wicked for reward, and take away the righteousness of the righteous from him!

We need to say whoa, stop to this type of behavior. Isaiah warns in verses 24-25 what happens to those who continue in their unrighteous ways:

Therefore as the fire devoureth the stubble, and the flame consumeth the chaff, so their root shall be as rottenness, and their blossom shall go up as dust: because they have cast away the law of the LORD of hosts, and despised the word of the Holy One of Israel.

Therefore is the anger of the LORD kindled against his people, and he hath stretched forth his hand against them, and hath smitten them: and the hills did tremble, and their carcases were torn in the midst of the streets. For all this his anger is not turned away, but his hand is stretched out still.

Yikes! That’s pretty bad. I don’t want that to happen to us, but it may if we continue in the direction we are heading. Yet it doesn’t have to be this way. We need to acknowledge God again in this country. We need to live and lead as Christians. We can’t leave our Christianity at the church door or mission outreach program. We need to stand up against the rampant immorality and fleshly sins prevalent in our modern culture and society. We need to live for the Lord every day in every way as commanded in 1 Corinthians 10:31.

Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.

Priorities

What’s important and in what order are your priorities. They can be general for your life or specific to a task or goal. Having priorities is important because it gives you direction. They shows others what’s important to you.

Where does God fit in your priorities? Are you a casual Christian where Jesus is important if it’s convenient? Are you willing to obey only when everyone else is?

Or are you serious about your commitment? Are you still obedient when you’re the only one? What about when others may mock you? What about when you have a conflict in commitments?

When asked what is the greatest commandment Jesus answered in Matthew 22:37

Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind [emphasis mine]

He didn’t put any qualifiers. He knew following Him wouldn’t always be easy or convenient. In Luke 9:23 Jesus told the people

If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me. [emphasis mine]

He knew Christians would face persecution for His sake. In Mark 8:35 Jesus says

For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gospel’s, the same shall save it.

I believe this isn’t just talking about martyrs, but those who give up worldly pleasures, the easy life, for His sake. We need to be making Him the most important priority in our life. He goes on to challenge in the next 2 verses:

For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?

In Matthew 18:29, Jesus talks about those who have major sacrifice to make Him their first priority

And every one that hath forsaken houses, or brethren, or wife, or children, or lands, for my name’s sake, shall receive an hundredfold, and shall inherit everlasting life.

There was a youth ball team last year who did really well and made it to the state championships. It was a team from a Christian school. One of the games was to be held on Sunday. However, the team refused to play on the Lord’s day. They gave up a chance at the state title for their faith.

Some might say this is taking things to extreme. After all, it was just one Sunday and the team had worked hard for a long time to have this chance. Yet, He was a higher priority and they were faithful. Jesus says in Luke 16:10

He that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much: and he that is unjust in the least is unjust also in much.

I admit that I have been a casual Christian in my priorities. I’ve let other commitments come first rather than finding a way to put Jesus first. Now I realize what a sin that was. I’m striving to be faithful in the least, but am far from perfect.

So are you striving to be faithful in the little things as well? Are you encouraging your children and family to also? Is Jesus always at the top of your priority list? If not, what are you doing about it?

Probably changing churches

Without going into too many details for those who know me and read this, I am considering changing churches. I have been ever since the current one got their new pastor last summer. I just didn’t like any other churches I had visited better. Some were too far away. Some were too large and impersonal. Some seemed concerned more with works, looking good (either personally, as a group, or both), missions, etc than the spiritual health of their members. Several I disagreed with their doctrine, especially now that I’ve actually read the entire New Testament myself and can better see some false, misleading teaching. Some were Bible thumpers which I think is rude. I want to be a light, not a sledgehammer.

Anyway, last week I visited the church my brother and another family we know attends. They had a guest speaker so I was unable to get a feel for what a regular service was like. I decide to go again this week. The regular pastor was back. I liked what he said. It was very informative from the Bible with application for living a Christian life. It wasn’t dull nor feeling like I was sitting in a lecture. It was about the importance of having strong faith with references to Hebrews 11.

The people were nice, down to earth types. Plus, I wasn’t the only woman wearing a head covering. Not all the women did, but enough so I didn’t stick out like a sore thumb. Everyone wore modest, good clothes. Not expensive suits and fancy dresses, nor did they look like they just got back from a Saturday picnic. The men and boys mostly had button front shirts with slacks (but very few had ties and no one had a jacket). The women and girls had basic dresses, skirts or jumpers and wore very little makeup or jewelry. It felt like they were really striving to follow 1 Timothy 2:9. A few of the other girls also had handmade dresses. However there were a few people in t-shirts and women in slacks. It was nice and felt comfortable.

There were other kids my kids’ ages to play with after the service. The kids stay with the family for the entire service. They have age group classes for kids and adults before the morning service rather than during the service. There were other homeschool families.

They sang hymns without instruments rather than the latest songs on the Christian radio station with a band. We liked and knew many of the hymns.

The church building itself is older. While rather large, it is modest without adornment either outside or inside the auditorium. The congregation sits in rows of padded pews on either side of the central aisle. Classes are held in classrooms in the basement.

So, I want to find out more about this church. I like what I’ve seen in the past 2 weeks. I really like the people at my current church, but that’s not enough to stay when it doesn’t feel right anymore.

I just checked out this church’s website. Wow! It’s not fancy but right on. It told me the basic beliefs of the church. Very Bible based and explicit. I really liked that. Check out their about page. It’s not just empty words. What I read is what I’ve seen, unlike some churches when after viewing their website you go then wonder if it is the same place because they aren’t practicing what they say. The more I investigate this church, the more I am inclined to think this is where God wants me now.