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How is church membership like a marriage vow?

It seems like far too many people treat relationships of all sorts as being disposable. As soon as they hit a rough patch of any sort they decide to pull up stakes, move on, and find a new relationship. This is especially the case, I believe, when it comes to church membership.

Rather than viewing one’s church membership as something closer to a marriage, they treat their membership like a health club. When the church does not meet their expectations, they start looking for the door. In this vein I think many in the church look at their membership with a product consumer’s mentality. The membership is all about receiving benefits and service.

A marriage is supposed to be nearly unbreakable. The Bible gives very few legitimate reasons for breaking a marriage vow. The words, “till death do us part,” captures the nearly unbreakable bonds of marriage. Now, while church membership is not a marriage, we should nevertheless treat our membership vows like a marriage vow. In other words, just because we hit a rough patch should not mean that we immediately look for the door.

These are the opening paragraphs of an article written by J. V. Fesko entitled, “Church Membership–Like a Marriage.” Click on the link to read the rest of the article.

 
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Posted by on October 22, 2018 in Church, Quotes

 
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A good reason for an annual physical

 
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Posted by on October 22, 2018 in Fun, Health

 

Preparing for Victory

National Geographic once ran an article about the Alaskan Bull Moose. The males of the species battle for dominance during the fall breeding season, literally going head-to-head with antlers crunching together as they collide. Often the antlers, their only weapon, are broken. That ensures defeat. The heftiest moose, with the largest and strongest antlers, triumphs. Therefore, the battle fought in the fall is really won during the summer, when the moose eat continually. The one that consumes the best diet for growing antlers and gaining weight will be the heavyweight in the fight. Those that eat inadequately sport weaker antlers and less bulk. The Bull Moose has to learn the principle that strength for trials is best developed before it’s needed.

What is true for the Bull Moose is also true for us. Victory is not won during the battle. Victory is won during the preparation. If we want victory over the trials that will come our way, we must commit ourselves to holiness. Only then can we enjoy the protection and blessings that God promises.

In Joshua 5:1-15, Joshua learns four key principles about preparing for victory. He must recognize God’s providence, recommit himself to obey God’s plan, rejoice in God’s provision, and recognize God’s presence.

Recognize God’s Providence (1). The miracle of the parting of the Jordan River accomplished two key things. One is that the surrounding nations were completely intimidated. The second is that the enemy understood God was fighting for Israel. If we want victory, we must train our spiritual eyesight to see where God is already at work. Then we join him and participate in his plan.

Recommit yourself to obey God’s Plan (2-9). Israel now finds themselves between the flood swollen Jordan River and the city of Jericho. Rather than issue the order to attack, Joshua instructs the people to prepare themselves spiritually. In so doing, Joshua helps the people understand that they were facing a spiritual battle, not merely a physical one.

On the one hand, it seems odd that God would reinstitute the practice of circumcision at this point in time. If nothing else, Israel will be vulnerable while the men heal from the operation. On the other hand, since circumcision was the sign of the Abrahamic covenant, Israel needed to reaffirm their relationship with God before they could claim the covenant land. They also needed to be circumcised before they could celebrate the Passover.

Since the nature of our battle is spiritual, it requires that we not only prepare our bodies and minds, but that we prepare our hearts to obey.

Rejoice in God’s Provision (10-12). Now that they have reaffirmed their commitment to God, Israel could celebrate the Passover in their new home. God stopped providing their daily provision of manna and the people started living off the land.

Sometimes God provides through extraordinary means. Sometimes he provides through ordinary means. Sometimes he provides manna and sometimes he provides through the normal cycle of planting and harvesting. Either way, we need to discover that God’s grace is enough and we should give thanks.

Recognize God’s Presence (13-15). Feeling the lonely pressures of leadership, Joshua seemingly goes for a nighttime stroll near the city of Jericho. He encounters an unknown warrior and challenges him, “Friend or foe?” The warrior identifies himself as the Captain of the army of heaven.

Like Joshua, there are times when we ask, “Whose side is God on?” Instead, God asks us, “Whose side are you on?” Like Joshua, we need to learn to depend on God for success. We must come into his presence with humility and worship him. Only then do we discover that God is ready and willing to fight our battles for us.

Where do you need victory today? Are you dealing with a difficult boss? Are you facing opposition at school/home/work? Are you trying to share the gospel with a neighbor? Do you need strength in caring for a loved one?

Public victories are won in private. We must be spiritually prepared if we want to do God’s work effectively. We must commit ourselves to holiness if we want to enjoy God’s protection and blessings.

This is the synopsis of a message preached at First Central Bible Church in Chicopee, MA, on October 21, 2018. It is part of a series of sermons on the book of Joshua. Please click on the link to download a copy of the sermon notes.

 

Put on the Armor of God

Book Review: Overcomer: 8 Ways to Live a Life of Unstoppable Strength, Unmovable Faith, and Unbelievable Power, by Dr. David Jeremiah

What would happen if you faced your challenges in the name of the Lord? What would life be like if your goal in every situation was to bring glory to His name? What would happen if you fully embraced God’s strategy for victory?

If you did those things, you would be living as an Overcomer. And believe it or not, that’s who you are if you have placed your faith and hope in Christ: “Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us” (Rom. 8:37).

This enticement is found in the prologue of pastor and author Dr. David Jeremiah’s latest offering, Overcomer: 8 Ways to Live a Life of Unstoppable Strength, Unmovable Faith, and Unbelievable Power. The book describes how to put on and take full advantage of the armor of God in daily living.

Using the 8 pieces of the spiritual armor listed in Ephesians 6, the author describes how we can overcome weakness with strength, falsehood with truth, evil with good, anxiety with peace, fear with faith, confusion with wisdom, temptation with Scripture, and everything with prayer. Dr. Jeremiah focuses on King David in the first chapter as he was the Old Testament’s greatest overcome. In the final chapter, he tells the story of Jesus, history greatest overcomer. The author combines biblical teaching, personal illustrations, encouraging stories, insightful quotes, and practical ideas that will encourage the reader.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers <http://booklookbloggers.com> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

 
 

My Convictions About the Role of Women in the Church

When I was ordained to the ministry in 1988, I had to write a paper stating my views on a number of areas of theology—Scripture, God, Christ, Holy Spirit, Man, Salvation, Church, Future Things, Angels & Demons, Spiritual Gifts—as well as several current issues—Marriage & Divorce, Homosexuality, Abortion, Social Drinking, and the Role of Women in the Church. When I transferred my ordination to the Evangelical Free Church in 2005, I had to rewrite the paper. Since people periodically ask me questions about these areas, I think it is time to restate my convictions about what Scripture says on these issues.

Here are my convictions about what Scripture says about the Role of Women in the Church

Scripture affirms that women are equal with men as image-bearers of God and in their personal standing before God and the church (Geneses 1:27-28; 5:1; Psalm 8:4-8). In the following areas, men and women share a personal equality: 1) Salvation by faith (Ephesians 2:8-9; 1 Peter 1:18-19); 2) Co-heirs of the grace of life (1 Peter 3:7); 3) Equality in the new creation (Galatians 3:28); 4) Indwelt by the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:9b); 5) Temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19-20); 6) Standing before God (Romans 5:1-2); 7) Men and women are interdependent (1 Corinthians 11:11-12); 8) Access to God in prayer (1 Corinthians 11:4-5); 9) Nurtured by the Word (1 Peter 2:2); 10) The priesthood of all believers (1 Peter 2:5); 11) Receiving spiritual gifts (1 Corinthians 12:7-11; 27-31; Romans 12:3-8; 1 Peter 4:10-12).

While Scripture teaches that men and women are equal, it also teaches that within the church there is a basic pattern of functional order in which men are given headship—the task of leadership, and women are to be subject to this leadership (as are men who are not designated leaders) (1 Corinthians 11:2-16; 14:26; 14:34-35; 1 Timothy 2:9-15). These role distinctions are the result of God’s established order in creation and the principle of headship (Genesis 2:21-22). In addition, they find their pattern within the Trinity where a functional subordination is practiced by Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit even though they are equal to God the Father.

Scripture also demonstrates that women have unique and significant ministries to fulfill along with men in the church because they are gifted with the same spiritual gifts as men. There are no gender distinctions in the distribution of spiritual gifts. The office of elder or pastor is not open to a woman (1 Timothy 3:2; Titus 1:6), but as with a man, she can exercise her gifts without holding this office. The Scriptures indicate that a woman may participate actively in corporate worship, but she is not to teach or engage in activities in which she has authority over a man or men in this sphere (1 Timothy 2:12).

 

 
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Posted by on October 19, 2018 in Church, Scripture, Theology, Women

 

A change in our Sunday morning worship schedule

Beginning December 2 as we enter the season of Advent, we will make a change to our Sunday morning schedule at First Central Bible Church in Chicopee, MA. Below is a letter to the congregation explaining the details.

 
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Posted by on October 18, 2018 in First Central Bible Church, Worship

 

My Convictions About Social Drinking

When I was ordained to the ministry in 1988, I had to write a paper stating my views on a number of areas of theology—Scripture, God, Christ, Holy Spirit, Man, Salvation, Church, Future Things, Angels & Demons, Spiritual Gifts—as well as several current issues—Marriage & Divorce, Homosexuality, Abortion, Social Drinking, and the Role of Women in the Church. When I transferred my ordination to the Evangelical Free Church in 2005, I had to rewrite the paper. Since people periodically ask me questions about these areas, I think it is time to restate my convictions about what Scripture says on these issues.

Here are my convictions about what Scripture says about Social Drinking

I believe that Scripture does not condemn drinking (John 2:1-12; 1 Timothy 5:23), but rather drunkenness (Proverbs 20:1; 23:35; Ephesians 5:18). However, I believe alcohol, tobacco, and drugs should be avoided because they can control a person (1 Corinthians 6:12). While I may feel I have the freedom to drink, I choose not to because I don’t want this issue to become a stumbling block for others (Romans 14:1-15:7).

 

 
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Posted by on October 17, 2018 in Scripture, Theology