23Aug

8 years

Arrant misery closed over me.
I wanted to go back and see
Happiness not of a myth
Like a pale blue summer’s kiss

Smothered I tried to breathe
Madness had collapsed my knees
I could not move or love or speak
I watched the crimson as it leaked

Loneliness is strange and distance
Is it fact or is it fiction?
Yellow voices fill the spaces
They are murky harsh and faceless

Emptiness has filled me up
An eager waitress to a cup
Every theory is uncertain
Is that me beyond the curtain?

Winter’s coming summer’s faded
Autumn holds me cold and jaded
Stark chill water starts to drown me
I smile as the end surrounds me
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This poem was written by a very close friend of mine at a time in our lives when we both suffering from the incurable wariness of monotonous living and concepts of having to forever put one foot in front of the other. My friend suffered from a tragic mental deficiency and in her words this poem is “about the one cure for her condition, saying good bye.”

She thought that suicide was the one way to to fix her problems. I was dealing with my own set of issues at the time and we helped each other limp through daily life. She was right. Death was the only escape from the suffering we were experiencing. The lesson I learned that she never got to though is that there is a way to die and keep living.

Jesus death on the cross was the ultimate victory for all man kind ever. He defeated all the power of sin and death in one decisive move for all time ever. Now he has left that same path wide open to us. We can die his death with him and be raised to new life. The normal Christian life is about the death of a normal Christian and letting Jesus come to life in you every day of your life. Being a member of his body means we are tasked with sharing his grace and compassion with everyone in our daily lives. We have died and he has come to life in our place. I had the chance to step up and make a difference in my friends life, I knew exactly what dark path she was walking down and I never did anything to stop her because I was too concerned with my own problems. 8 years ago today I was forced to say good bye to my friend forever.

A few weeks before I had a dream where God had asked me to be his “Jesus of Suburbia.” I didn’t know right then what that meant but I was struggling to make the choice to follow Jesus or go my own way. That last night that I had a conversation with my friend she urged me to follow the path in front of me and find out who I was meant to be. I promised her I would chase that vision of “Jesus of Suburbia” for the rest of my days.

That same night I lost her forever because I couldn’t step up and share God’s grace with her. I am a Christian and that means that is my great privileged to stand in the place of my Lord and represent Jesus to the people around me. Being the Jesus of Suburbia means that it is my job to live a life of radical sacrifice just like the Lord did and whenever I have a chance to step up and make a difference in someone’s life again I have done my best to always take it.

The “suburbia” God has planted me in is Ogden City and for better or worse I owe this community my everything because that is the mission God has handed down to me. There is still a tone of work that needs to be done and I’m still a work in progress but by the grace of God alone the work continues. For the glory of Jesus and in memory of Eily keep moving forward.

Galatians 2:20 I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

17Jul
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Do You Feel Unworthy of God’s Salvation?

Before I became a believer, I did not want to accept His offer of salvation because I did not feel ready. A part of me thought that I needed to be worthy of it first. I told myself that the only way the gospel applied to me would be if God spoke to me or miraculously zapped my heart so that I suddenly found myself completely different. There were intellectual roadblocks too, but the heart of it was the deep unworthiness that pressed upon my conscience which prevented me from believing the gospel applied to me. I let my self-judgement rule over God’s offer of salvation in which He would personally judge me as righteous because of Christ’s sacrifice. I treated the gospel as a mere abstraction, rather than a personal offer. I’m here to tell you the good news: I was wrong.  Read More »

22May
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Word of Encouragement: Undying Resolve for Holiness

It will take an act of God to terminate my resolve for holiness, but all it takes is one impulse of my flesh to fail that resolve. The secret is to continue in your resolve in the Spirit’s strength, so that when you do fall, you are not discouraged because His amazing grace is like a trampoline that catches your fall and propels you back up. If you fail this resolve daily, it takes persistent unbending faith in His unconditional love to hope in spite of your hopeless guilt.

Do not let your guilt and sin tear down your faith because His death on the cross covered ALL of your sins. Do you truly believe that? If you did, then no amount of failure will weaken your faith. Faith is dependence on God, so instead let your failure increase your faith. After all, if you keep failing then you must depend more on God who cannot fail. As you increase in this faith, your sin will decrease because you will walk in the freedom of the Spirit. Someone who walks in the Spirit is not striving to abide by the law because his mind and his desires are being transformed so it becomes a natural inclination. Read More »

18May
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A Secular Argument Against Same-Sex Marriage

I know it’s considered unpopular, bigoted, and homophobic to be against SSM these days, but before you shut your ears, please hear me out and at least think about these questions: Why should the government be in the marriage business in the first place? If we remove marriage altogether, homosexuals and heterosexuals still have the freedom to love and be committed to each other. Why is a relationship license a basic human right but a friendship license is not a basic human right? I made this article for my political science class and even my Professor, who turned out to be in a gay relationship, said “Very nice paper, Gil. Well researched and argued.” So if a lesbian can hear me out, then maybe you can too.

What Is Marriage?

In response to the Supreme Court’s recent approval of same-sex marriage (SSM), those in favor of traditional marriage (TM) have argued that “before we can conclude that some marriage policy violates the Equal Protection Clause, or any other moral or constitutional principle, we have to determine what marriage actually is and why it should be recognized legally in the first place.” For example, TM supporters point out that someone cannot claim a right to life without knowing what life is and why human life in particular has a “right” to life when plants do not. The same principle applies to marriage; heterosexuals and homosexuals must justify why they have a right to marriage. Consequently, TM advocates argue that no right can be something society subjectively invents (otherwise rights can be changed to allow for murder and other crimes), but rather something society objectively discovers. In other words, this objection can be outlined in the following way: Read More »

6May

What Should I Name My Church? BIBLICAL Practices for Naming Your Church

So you’re planting a new congregation and you’re looking for name ideas? Or maybe you’re changing the name of an old assembly and looking to find the biggest trends in church naming to help you make a decision.  Everyone knows that it is nearly impossible to choose an original church name.

I’ve been looking online at different articles that give advice for how to name or rename assemblies and the thing that has me worried is the titles are always something like “Best practices for naming a church” or “How to pick a trendy/relevant church name.” My earnest hope is that with this article I can show you that the Bible gives us a clear and obvious and logical formula for picking the name of your meeting of the saints.

Before we take a look at the clear and logical Biblical pattern let’s first take a very quickly run down the “trends” in church naming and compare them to scripture.

(1) Naming a Church after a figure.
This is the configuration that decides to name itself after a person, this could be a founder, a historical figure or maybe a Biblical figure.  Some examples would be Church of the Apostle Paul or  Pastor Billy E. Edwards Configuration under God.

What does the Bible have to say? Let’s take a look at 1 Cor 1:10-17

10 I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another in what you say and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly united in mind and thought. 11 My brothers and sisters, some from Chloe’s household have informed me that there are quarrels among you. 12 What I mean is this: One of you says, “I follow Paul”; another, “I follow Apollos”; another, “I follow Cephas”; still another, “I follow Christ.” 13 Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptized in the name of Paul? 14 I thank God that I did not baptize any of you except Crispus and Gaius.

In this passage, the Apostle Paul is pleading with the Church of Corinth to stop the infighting and to act in unity in their worship. Does Paul not clearly say that saying “I follow Paul” or “I follow Peter” and so forth is all wrong. In fact he says “am I the one who died on a cross for you? Were you baptized into my name?” Clearly the only name we Christians should put on ourselves is well CHRISTian. We should only meet under the name of and follow Jesus.

(2)  Naming a Church after a denomination.

You know this one they have names like First Lutheran, Second Weaslyan, Trinity United Methodist, Grand Island Baptist and so on. This one is Convenient because it both tells folks what flavor of Congegration you belong to and also is there is another fellowship of the same denomination a mile away then they can be Fifth Whatever Church and you can be Sixth Whatever Church. So it seems like an easy option but…

What does the Bible Say?
Well first of all, of course everything we already know about naming a church after a figure applies to this trend. Wesleyan’s are named after John Wesley, Mennonites are named after Menno Simons and so on. Denominations are in effect the same thing as saying “I’m for Paul” or “I’m for Apollos.” But additionally let us take a look at Galatians

Galatians 5:19-21  “19 Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, 20 Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, 21 Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.”

Did you catch that, we have here a list of sins that come from being in the flesh and not in God’s Spirit. The Apostle says that these acts will not inherit the kingdom of God and that should scare all of us. But let us zoom in on just four items in this list.

  • Wrath is extreme anger i.e. what happens when you refuse to forgive someone after a huge argument.
  • Strife means: angry or bitter disagreement
  • Sedition means: conduct or speech inciting people to rebel against the authority
  • Heresies: simply means “a group with a different opinion.” So by definition all denominations are heresies.

I don’t think the Apostle Paul would have been happy if he knew how very divided the church would become in the thousands of years after his death. I don’t think that God is pleased by us cutting up the body of Christ into thousands of smaller and smaller pieces. We don’t get all of this division and dissension without being wrathful towards our brother. Deep strife leads us to break off from our brethren and we become seditious and as big personalities break away from our fellowship to form their own “movment” we go with them and it leads to more and more heresies in this world. I don’t the Bible allows us to have 400,000+ Christian groups in this world and most of them all thinking “we’re the only ones who have it figured out.” There are deep wounds in the church today and we need to learn sooner rather than later that our divisions are not pleasing God. I think denominations are a very bad idea and I think identifying a meeting of the saints by the denomination they follow is doing no good to heal those deep wounds.

(3) The Uber trendy, Hipster, Latte, Mac, Soul Patch, Postmodern, Contemporary,  Church Name

I doubt that I need to do much explaining for this one. We all know at least one of these configurations. My friends have in the past called them “party churches” or even “cupcake churches.” These fellowships are some times (but not always) very dangerous because they belong to the icky squishy amorphus “emergent church”  other times they are mega-denominations where personal growth is basically non-existant. The youth pastor might have have pot leaves tattoos on his wrists and argue that “hey it’s natural man” folks probably show up more for the coffee and movie night instead of a desperate hunger to have fellowship with other members of the divine family.

What does the Bible say?
James 4:4 You adulterous people, 
don’t you know that friendship with the world means enmity against God? Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God.

I really hope that the problem with these of congregations is obvious… they are seeking the flesh of people they are too concerned about marketing and being appealing to people and creating “safe spaces for worship.” The Bible says that being like the world and doing the same song and dance as them is the right way to go the wrong way. In short group worship is NOT ABOUT US it is about the Lord and we must be focused on Him alone.

SO WHAT’S THE ANSWER: THE CHURCH NAME BASED ON LOCATION.

It’s time now to take a look at that very clear, logical pattern that is laid out in scripture. Take a look at these verses and brace yourself there are a lot of them.

Act 8:1 And Saul approved of his execution. And there arose on that day a great persecution against the CHURCH IN JERUSALEM, and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles.

Act 11:22 The report of this came to the ears of the CHURCH IN JERUSALEM, and they sent Barnabas to Antioch.

Act 13:1 Now there were in the CHURCH AT ANTIOCH prophets and teachers, Barnabas, Simeon who was called Niger,fn Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen a lifelong friend of Herod the tetrarch, and Saul.

Rom 16:1 I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a servant of the CHURCH AT CENCHREAE,

1 Co 1:2  To the CHURCH OF GOD THAT IS IN CORINTH, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours:

2 Co 1:Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother, To THE CHURCH OF GOD THAT IS IN CORINTH, with all the SAINTS WHO ARE IN THE WHOLE OF ACHAIA:

Col 4:16 And when this letter has been read among you, have it also read in the CHURCH OF THE LAODICEANS; and see that you also read the letter from Laodicea.

2 Th 1:1 Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy, To the CHURCH OF THE THESSALONIANS in God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ:

Rev 2:1 “To the angel of the CHURCH IN EPHESUS write: ‘The words of him who holds the seven stars in his right hand, who walks among the seven golden lampstands. Tools specific to

Rev 2:8 “And to the angel of the CHURCH IN SMYRNA write: ‘The words of the first and the last, who died and came to life.

Rev 2:12 “And to the angel of the CHURCH IN PERGANUM write: ‘The words of him who has the sharp two-edged sword. Tools specific to

Rev 2:18 “And to the angel of the CHURCH IN THYATIRA write: ‘The words of the Son of God, who has eyes like a flame of fire, and whose feet are like burnished bronze. Tools specific to

Rev 3:1 “And to the angel of the CHURCH IN SARDIS write: ‘The words of him who has the seven spirits of God and the seven stars. “‘I know your works. You have the reputation of being alive, but you are dead. Tools specific to

Rev 3:7 “And to the angel of the CHURCH IN PHILADELPHIA write: ‘The words of the holy one, the true one, who has the key of David, who opens and no one will shut, who shuts and no one opens. Tools specific to

Rev 3:14 “And to the angel of the CHURCH IN LAODICEA write: ‘The words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of God’s creation.

Wow…. OK I know that was a lot but hopefully you got the jist after the first few verses and just skimmed the capitalized part of each verse. Do you see what I’m getting at here? The only church name that we are allowed to have according to the Bible is the name of the city that you live in. So if you are in Dallas, then your configuration should be called “The Church in Dallas” or “the Dallas Fellowship” or “The Church of Dallas on 4th Ave.”

Now I can see you complaining “But that doesn’t leave a lot of room for creativity” and again I remind you that the Church is not about you, it’s about God and worshiping him the way He prescribed in scripture. But to kind of help you scratch that creative itch let me just remind you that CHURCH and MINISTRY are different things. So even though the Bible won’t let you name your configuration something fancy that doesn’t mean that you can’t have one ministry or several ministry with creative names. For example, the “Church in Dallas” could have a clothing ministry called “Joseph’s coat” and a Children’s ministry called “King Josiah’s Friends” or whatever fun names God wants you to use.

OK now I can see you saying “Well if my church is supposed to be the ‘Church of Metroville’ then what about the other churches, won’t we all have the same name? How are people going to know we are different churches??” And to that I say: EUREKA!!!! YOU GET IT!!! Your configuration is  the Church of Metroville, but so is the Church of Saint John the Baptist up the street from you, they are the City of Metroville too. You know what, Third BapBaptistwn the road is the Chruch of Metroville too!!! And guess what… you know that mega-congregation down the road called Mocha Church of the One Soul they are very likely the Church of Metroville too!

Please let me simplify this for you, what I’m saying is that even though you think that your meeting places is it’s own separate and distinct ‘church’ apart from all the other ‘churches’ in town that thought is mistaken. Biblically speaking there is only one church in your city and that church is the community of communities. You’ve likely noticed that I’ve been creatively avoiding using the word “church” throughout this article and that is because we here in the west have a warped idea of the church that has been molded and shifted over time. Biblically speaking every Christian who lives in your city is part of the same church, that doesn’t mean that you all meet at the same location on Sunday, and in many cases that might be impossible (IE in NYC where would that many people gather?). But we are all one body, one family, cleaned by the same blood and following the same God. This means that we are one church and the only reason the Bible gives us to split up the church is based on city boundaries.

Choosing a church name is important because it tells everyone both believers and non-believers who you belong to. You might belong to a denomination, or belong to a biblical figure and others of us belong to the community we live in. My true hope is that you have found this article informative and that I may have shown you the Bible’s teaching on how to name a congregation.

 

Be blessed dear brethren.

11Mar
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Should Christians Be Political?

Some people ask me: “Why are you so political?” or “Why are you so religious?” And I retort back with this: Because I’m made for truth, so I love truth. It’s only the truth that sets people free and that truth is Jesus Christ. I’ll speak the truth even if my voice goes unheeded. The prophets of old spoke even when they knew it wouldn’t change the Israelites’ hearts. Naturally then, knowing and speaking the truth is valuable in God’s eyes regardless of whether it changes anyone. In fact, I leave the changing of hearts completely up to God.

Sometimes I’ll get political because as a Christian, I believe only the gospel saves and the government can only conserve. I hear people say, “Stop being political. Stick to Jesus.” But it’s precisely because I am a Christian that I am a conservative. People are enslaved or deceived by the idea that the government can fix our problems. I am being political only in the negative sense, which is to point out what the government can not do. A conservative wants limited government because it’ll let politics stay in the background of our lives as much as possible so that we can focus on obeying Jesus’ commands.  Read More »

29Feb
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City Church Index

My goal with this post is to simply compile the most complete and comprehensive index of information on a concept called “city church” or sometimes “the local church.” This list will consist of information on movements, personalities who have tried to restore the city church in different parts of the world, it will also include many quotes, links to articles, some videos and essentially anything at all that I can find about the idea of a city church. I will not here provide a detailed explanation of what the City church is, but I will link to as many resources as I know of on the subject.  I may in some cases provide brief notes on the topic but this will not be necessarily true of anything.  Read More »

21Feb
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Does Evolution Refute Purpose?

Objection: Evolution shows that organs do not have an inherent purpose.  We know that organs are the product of random mutation and natural selection – neither of which are directed toward some goal. Those with certain organs tended to be more conducive to survive than others and that’s all there is to it.

Response: Evolution doesn’t assign a purpose because it’s built not to look for purpose from the get-go. The goal of evolution has been to discover the efficient cause of life, not its teleology. If an organ like the heart was caused by random mutation and natural selection (R&N), this doesn’t entail that R&N can’t cause the heart to have the purpose of pumping blood through your circulatory system. For something to have a purpose, all that’s required is that it have a function or regular tendency toward a certain outcome. Under this definition purpose need not be driven by some conscious agent but can be completely unconscious.  Read More »

18Feb
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Meditation: Isolating Yourself Is Wrong

“One who has isolated himself seeks his own selfish desires; he rejects all sound judgment.”(Proverbs 18:1)

The immediate question is why the text associates selfishness with pursuing isolation. Isn’t it okay to isolate yourself from crowds to spend time with the Lord as Jesus did? What’s wrong with not wanting to be with people if that just happens to be your personality? First we should keep in mind that Proverbs’ literary genre is proverbial wisdom. This means it’s written with short memorable phrases that are not meant to apply to every circumstance. A modern example would be the saying “practice makes perfect.” In general this saying makes sense, but there are times when natural skill makes perfect in a way that practice alone cannot achieve. Similarly, Proverbs isn’t saying that all cases of isolation are selfish but it’s merely saying that those consistently driven toward isolation often do seek their own desires.  Read More »

13Feb
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Don’t Date A Girl By Her Cover (Or For Neediness)

I have had a desire in my heart for intimacy and admittedly there’s an attraction to the opposite sex. This is natural, as far as I know, but I cannot help but feel like I am superficial. I’ll look at a girl and think: “Wow, she is pretty!” without thinking about her soul or character. It seems like my flesh comes in when I focus on the easy part of love, which is finding someone attractive and acting on my passion. What makes me realize just how foolish I’m being is when I start to think about the character of that person. I see their immodest dress, what they talk about, and how they act.

Suddenly the initial attraction I had for them seems to dwindle into a black hole because I realize that if I was with this girl, I would start being insecure about her dress and her actions, or we would just flat out disagree about how to live life. And I know from past experience with my first relationship how this ends: your insecurity comes across as controlling to the other and she fights back, and you have opposing goals in life. You two get angry and consider breaking up or taking a break. You start having communication issues and can’t seem to understand each other’s hearts. The passion that your love once had from initial attraction and similar interests just can’t withstand that kind of pressure. Read More »