The Church: Scary or Sacred?

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It’s the time of year for scary movies, haunted houses, and tribulation trails. It’s also a season where many actively avoid anything remotely frightening. But there’s one place where the dichotomies of good and evil meet, it happens year round, and it’s called the church. The local church is a place, more accurately it’s a group of God’s people who are in community together in order to worship Him, serve and love one another, and make disciples of Jesus Christ. Let’s call it a gathering of sheep, which alerts hungry wolves, and causes shepherds to be on guard. It’s a refuge of hope, yet a place where spiritual warfare rages. The church is not for the faint of heart, but is for the faint of heart. It’s where the weak become strong, because the Strong came to be weak. Some see it as scary, some see it as sacred, but can both be true?

House of Horrors
From the world’s point of view, the global church and the gospel are offensive, calling out sin is judgmental, and the world hates Christ, hates the true church, and sees the Bible and Christianity as a religion of fools. Likewise, there are governments who persecute the church out of fear and out of the desire to maintain control at all cost. And because of sin, the fall, and spiritual warfare, many people will only see and hear about the abuse of some churches, the damage caused by wolves in sheep’s clothing, the false teachers (as in the Book of Jude), the power hungry, money grabbers, the lord it over you leaders, and the politically motivated bandwagoners. For some believers, who have been burned by such abuse, the local church can be a terrifying place that has impacted them so negatively that when they hear the word “church” they immediately cringe. It’s a place they don’t want to go because of their bad experience. Other believers may go to church regularly, worship and find value in it, but are still reluctant to join, get involved, and serve others because of their past experiences. Then every believer, whether they attend church every time the door opens or not, will struggle with sin because we are prone to wander from the truth of God’s Word. Oh, and the Bible teaches that the shepherds, sinners too, will be held accountable for the sheep. From this view, the church is a scary place.

House of Healing
But God, in His infinite wisdom, established the church to make disciples and further His kingdom and told us not to avoid assembling together. When the local church is functioning effectively, that is Biblically, and correctly, it is a house of hope and healing – a healing that may take a long time for those who have experienced abuse. The true church is a beautiful mess of sinners saved by grace, still being sanctified, struggling, yet victoriously perfected positionally in Christ. Where else can you find reprieve from the world? Where else will fellow believers care for each other, provide meals, send a note of encouragement, pray for and cry with one another? Where else will believers sharpen each other like iron sharpens iron in preparation for battle? Where else is there a victory cry over sin because of what Christ has done? Where else can ultimate victory over sorrow and death be expressed at a funeral? Where else are we taught to overlook offenses, forgive seventy times seven, while still talking about the consequences of sin and holding each other accountable through church discipline? Where else can difficult questions be asked and answered, differences of opinion and theological disputes debated, sometimes agreeing to disagree out of love for Christ and one another?

Exit Here
Yes, the imperfect local church can be scary and beautifully hope-filled at the same time. If you’ve ever been hurt in or by the church, know there is healing in Christ and that healing is often manifested in how His love is carried out through a local body of believers. So, be discerning, persevere, and don’t cut yourself off from the church out of fear. Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ is victorious over all evil and His perfect love drives out fear. The same Jesus who drove the money changers out of the Temple will one day return, and the church will be made perfect, no longer stained by sin.

17 But you must remember, beloved, the predictions of the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ. 18 They said to you, “In the last time there will be scoffers, following their own ungodly passions.” 19 It is these who cause divisions, worldly people, devoid of the Spirit. 20 But you, beloved, building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, 21 keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life. 22 And have mercy on those who doubt; 23 save others by snatching them out of the fire; to others show mercy with fear, hating even the garment stained by the flesh (Jude 1:17-23).

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Sin and Strength

andreas-achenbach-85762_1280I must confess my sinfulness,
I’ve been conflicted and confused,
Lord, I have sinned, I’ve sinned again,
I have grieved You.

So my heart cries, it cries,
My heart cries…

Only You can walk on water,
Lord, I just sink,
Only You can overcome,
I don’t have the strength,
I’ve tried to do this on my own,
The harder I try, I fall,
Lord, I just sink,
Without Your strength,
Without Your strength.

Your Law and Light expose my crime,
My heart cheats, and I breathe out sighs,
I’ve lost the way a thousandth time,
Yet, You still died!

You bring sorrow and eyes to see,
You tell me, “There’s no sin to find.”
And You supply the grace I need,
You are so kind!

I need Your strength,
Your grace, Your peace,
I confess I am weak,
I need Your strength.
I need Your strength.

Encouraged by “You Can Change”

If you’re not interested in changing sinful behavior and negative emotions stop reading now.

However, if you desire change and want to grow closer to Christ I encourage you to read on and pick-up Tim Chester’s encouraging and practical book You Can Change: God’s Transforming Power for Our Sinful Behavior and Negative Emotions.  

Chester will challenge you with the gospel and God’s grace which is where change begins. We often hear (or think) that change begins with us, but it must begin with God’s grace and His transforming power working in and through us.

“You Can Change” is a good book to read with others in a one-on-one discipleship scenario, accountability group, or small group. The chapters are laid out with direct questions. For instance:

“What would you like to change?” Why? “How are you going to change?”

“When do you struggle? What truths do you need to turn to? What desires do you need to turn from?”

We all struggle with something (sin, fear of man, negative emotions, or not doing what we know we should). This book helps us identify what we need to change and helps us deal with it by focusing on the truth of scripture and God’s grace.

Chester reminds us to speak the truth to ourselves and “hold every thought captive.” He quotes the famous preacher Martyn Lloyd-Jones who said, “Have you realized that most of your unhappiness in life is due to the fact that you are listening to yourself instead of talking to yourself.” We should constantly remind ourselves of the truth (which sets us free).

He gives us four life changing truths that we must consistently preach to ourselves:

  1. God is great – so we do not have to be in control.
  2. God is glorious – so we do not have to fear others.
  3. God is good – so we do not have to look elsewhere.
  4. God is gracious – so we do not have to prove ourselves.

Chester points out that “the number-one reason why people don’t change is pride, closely followed by hating the consequences of sin but actually still loving the sin itself.”  “Often we don’t change because we don’t really want to.” He states, “we avoid responsibility for our sin by minimizing it.” Yet, “true repentance grieves over sin, it never minimizes it.”

He goes on to write, “give up – give up on yourself. Repent of your self-reliance and self-confidence. Your second step is to rejoice in God’s grace – his grace to forgive and his grace to transform.”  This is so counter to our culture of  self-esteem and self-help and it’s a refreshing reminder that our hope and joy is in the Lord and not our ability.

So, what do you need to change? Are there areas of sin and pride that God is uprooting in your life? “What truths do you need to turn to?”

You are the Word


Forever, Lord, Your Word remains,
Your truth endures and does not change,
You are revealed page by page.

Desperately, oh, I need your grace,
Your Word shows me my sinful ways,
My heart revealed page by page.

You are the Word in flesh,
Perfect in righteousness,
You are the Holy Word.

You are the Word with pages ripped,
Your cover torn, nailed and pierced,
As blood poured from Holy Script.

My Treasure, Lord, you are my Friend,
Your Word guides me time and again,
Your path revealed page by page.

Come quickly, Lord, in victory,
Your Word brings joy and comforts me,
My Hope revealed page by page.

You revive my soul,
Yes, You are the Word,
You rejoice my heart,
Yes, You are the Word.

Behind the lines

This song combines the idea of the Word made flesh with the physical Word that we hold in our hands. How precious is the Word of God!

May the Holy Bible be our treasure. May we learn it, love it, meditate on it, and use it to spread the gospel until our Bible’s are torn and the pages are falling out.

Do you have a Bible like the ones pictured above? As we move forward in the digital age, the traditional paper Bible may disappear in favor of hand-held devices. However, we can still take notes, highlight and wear out the batteries.

One thing we do know, “the word of the Lord remains forever” no matter what form it takes or how it is stored.

 

 

Hymn of the Joyful Flood

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Father flood the world within me,
Wash the filth from my heart,
Seal me with Your waters of joy,
Make clear the murky dark.

Send mighty rivers of Your grace,
Flowing from heaven’s gate,
To uproot trees of sin and shame,
With crushing righteous weight.

For when You open up the deep,
Torrents of precious blood,
My joy filled heart will burst and sing,
Of Your redeeming love.

Drown out the distracting noises,
Calling me from the world,
Tune my ears to great swells of truth,
Rising up from Your Word.

Flush my eyes from the mud that blinds,
So I can clearly see,
Then fix my gaze upon the cross,
Where tears will keep them clean.

Channel my tongue so hard to tame,
So I can humbly speak,
And tell the story of the blood,
That flowed when I was weak.

When I see that crystal water,
And finally make it home,
I’ll join the joyful chorus there,
To flood praise to Your throne.

Behind the lines

From streams of grace beyond measure, it is truly wonderful to be “regenerated” and sealed by the Holy Spirit. One day…all who are born again will be able to praise Christ perfectly and flood His throne with joy forevermore.

Inspired by the scripture references, these lyrics are the result of the first “true hymn” I wrote using Common Meter (8.6.8.6). I was encouraged to write traditional hymns after reading a post from My Song in the Night on Modern Hymn Writing.

One of the neat things about writing in Common Meter is the songs will seem familiar. As Bobby and Kristen Gilles point out on their site (My Song in the Night linked above) you can sing this hymn to the tune of “Amazing Grace” or  “Alas! And Did My Savior Bleed.” If you know those tunes, try it…

Titus 3:4-7, Hebrews 10:22, John 3:5, 1 John 2:15-17, Romans 5:6, Ephesians 1:7-813-14, Revelation 22:1-3

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