Sunday, May 27, 2012

What is the purpose of church membership ?

Membership has been on my mind lately. At the business meeting on Sunday, Dennis and Debby Erickson were welcomed into membership and given the right hand of fellowship. Recently, as we work to revise the bylaws, the deacons and I spent a great deal of time thinking about membership, and the question comes up. Why join a church? Seriously? At most churches, you can do almost anything that a member can do, other than vote, and serve as the senior leaders. We even have a term in the bylaws for attending non-members – friends of First Baptist. Church membership for all practical purposes seems meaningless to many people. Why should a person become a member, when they can have all of the “benefits” without membership? Since I have not taught on this, and that means we have not talked about this in any significant way together for 4 years, let me give you one reason not to join, and five reasons to join.

Why you should not join. You should not join if you think of church membership as a club membership. The church is not the rotary, or the lions, or a country club, where you can pop in and out as it pleases you, and “if you pay, you get to stay and enjoy the benefits”. It’s not like that; when you become a part of his church, there is a level of commitment that is expected of members in the church. This may fly in the face of our individualistic self absorbed culture, where you are the consumer of everything, including church, but so be it. The church is something far greater than a club or a consumer item, the church is the body of Christ, His divinely created institution, which exists to present the gospel and bring him glory as it furthers His kingdom. To be part of that is to be committed to serve and take part of the life of the church in this place, and to accountable to your brothers and sisters in this place. This is part of the reason we have covenant vows that we recite. We are affirming together our commitments that we have made to God and each other. Is it grateful, joyful commitment flowing out as a response to the gospel? By all means! But it is a commitment, with all that the word commitment implies.

Now, five reasons to join a church.

First, because Jesus established and loves the church. Matthew tells us that Jesus established the church. He sends out his disciples, who establish the church, his new people, who make disciples and baptize his people into his church, but in the end, it is his church that he is building. An old church father once wrote, no man can have God as his father and not have the church as his mother. Why would he say that? Because Christ established the church, and loves the church. he loves her so much he died to establish her Ephesians 5 tells us that “he loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless (Ephesians 5:25-27).

Second, because the language of body implies that no one is rootless. When you join a church, you putting down roots in this place, in this local expression of the church that Jesus established and loves. This is the expectation of the Bible. There is no expectation in scripture of Christians who are not members of a local church. The very word that we use, members, is rooted in the idea that you are part of one body, the church. When you look at 1Corinthians 12-14, Paul repeatedly uses the word member as he gives the analogy of the body to describe the church. What’s the implication of this, John Piper notes that “The implication of this is that local church then—not just the global church, but the local church—is a body. The reason we know it's local and not just global is because, while in Ephesians 1 and Colossians he talks about Christ as the head of the body, in 1 Corinthians 12 he's talking about a head with eyes and ears that are members of the body. So, the body analogy has a global meaning, and it has a local meaning. There's global membership in the body universal, and there's local membership in the body where you and I serve as the finger or eye or ear or foot. 

Third, to serve and worship and be devoted to the people in this kingdom outpost. When you pick a church and settle in, you are committing to worship and serve with a group of people, as a family. You are saying, “I will come and hear the word of God preached, and take the ordinances with these people”. But more than that, “I will take part in the work of God that is done through this place. I will pray faithfully, I will serve diligently.” That may mean on a ministry team like Christian Ed or Trustee’s (where you can serve as a non-member), or it may mean that God calls you to some of those leadership positions where you do need to be a member (for example, only members may serve as part of the deacons). But being a member is about more than service, being a member also means that you are deciding to devote yourself to these people (Romans 12:10, Acts 2:42). It means that you commit to walk alongside one another, as part of this body, bearing one another in love (Galatians 5:13, 6:2 Ephesians 4:2).

Fourth, for accountability to a church body and in submission to spiritual authority. This main advantage to being a member. By joining a church, you have an increased sense of accountability. You have brothers and sisters in Christ, and a pastor, calling you to accountability, reminding you of what God’s word teaches, and calling you to live in light of your calling as his people. Understand, Jesus established the church to be a public, earthly institution that would mark out, affirm, and oversee those who profess to believe in him (Matthew 16:18-19, 18:15-20). It is only here that you are able to be obedient to the command of scriptures to submit to a spiritual leader (Hebrews 13:17; 1 Thessalonians 5:12-13),and it is only here that redemptive church discipline is done.

This is where the rubber meets the road. Membership seems to be at the very core of church discipline. In 1 Corinthians 5, we see the crazy story of a man who is sleeping with his stepmother, and Paul says that this man should be put out of the church because he is in proud, open, unrepentant sin, and is resistant to any kind of exhortation. Here’s the question, how do you put him out? If he’s just an attendee, he can say, who are you to say? You can’t tell me what I can and can’t do! You can’t put me out I'm not in anything! Membership is a way of submitting yourself to be accountable to a body of believers, who can lovingly call you to live for the glory of God, push you to greater service and faithfulness, and at times, exercise redemptive discipline (I say redemptive because the story in continues in 2 Corinthians, as the man put out in 1 Corinthians repents and in 2 Corinthians Paul says, let him come back).

Fifth, as a witness to the world around. The church was established to publicly declare those who belong to him in order to give the world a display of the good news about himself (John 17:21, 23; Ephesians 3:10). 9 Marks (probably Mark Dever but not credited to him) points out that "Jesus wants the world at large to know, they are with me, they belong to me. Through the church he is saying, this is what my people look like. And how will they know, who does and doesn’t belong to him? They are to see those who have publicly identify themselves with his people in the visible, public institution he established for this very purpose. They’re to look at the members of his church. And if some people claim to be part of the universal church even though they belong to no local church, they reject Jesus’ plan for them and his church. Jesus intends for his people to be marked out as a visible, public group, which means joining together in local churches".

Now, here’s my final thought. There is no direct command, “thou shalt join a church”. I used to say, it’s just practical, someone has to get a say. The more I read the Bible, the more I realize how wrong I was. Jesus established the church, and loved the church. The expectation is that if you are worshiping in a place, if God has led you here, that you should plug in and join as members, worship consistently, serve faithfully, and be devoted to the body that God has placed you in.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Charles Bridges on Psalm 119

Charles Bridges writing on Psalm 119.
Come, Christian pilgrim, and beguile your wearisome journey heavenward by “singing the Lord’s song in this strange land” (Psalm 137.4).  With the statutes of God in your hand and in your heart, you are furnished with a song every step of your way [see Psalm 23].  How delightfully does this song bring before you Him – who, having laid down His life for you, engages Himself as your provider, your keeper, your guide, your faithful and unchangeable friend!  Such a song, therefore, will smooth your path and reconcile you to the many inconveniences of the way, while the recollection that this is only the house of your pilgrimage and not your home and that “there remains a rest for the people of God” (Hebrews 4.9) will support the exercise of faith and patience to the end.  How striking the contrast between the wicked who forsake the law [see verse 53] and the Christian pilgrim, who makes it the subject of his daily song and the source of his daily comfort.  Yes, these same statutes, which are the yoke and the burden of the ungodly, lead the true servant of the Lord from pleasure to pleasure and, cherished by their vigorous influence, his way is made easy and prosperous.  Evidently, therefore, our knowledge and delight in the Lord’s statutes will furnish a decisive test of our real state before Him.
From: An Exposition of Psalm 119 by Charles Bridges; reprint (Edinburgh: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1974), pp. 133-134.  Comment on Psalm 119.54.  First published in 1827.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

How to read the bible

More quotes on reading the bible through a Christ centered lens, they are both from Monergism.
There are two ways to read the Bible. The one way to read the Bible is that it’s basically about you: what you have to do in order to be right with God, in which case you’ll never have a sure and certain hope, because you’ll always know you’re not quite living up. You’ll never be sure about that future. Or you can read it as all about Jesus. Every single thing is not about what you must do in order to make yourself right with God, but what he has done to make you absolutely right with God. And Jesus Christ is saying, “Unless you can read the Bible right, unless you can understand salvation by grace, you’ll never have a sure and certain hope. But once you understand it’s all about me, Jesus Christ, then you can know that you have peace. You can know that you have this future guaranteed, and you can face anything.”
Tim Keller
The hermeneutical question about the whole Bible correlates with the question, ‘What do you think of Christ?’ … The hermeneutical center of the Bible is therefore Jesus in his being and in his saving acts – the Jesus of the gospel. … We can say that, while not all Scripture is the gospel, all Scripture is related to the gospel that is its centre. … The Bible makes a very radical idea inescapable: not only is the gospel the interpretive norm for the whole Bible, but there is an important sense in which Jesus Christ is the mediator of the meaning of everything that exists. In other words, the gospel is the hermeneutical norm for the whole of reality.
Graeme Goldsworthy from Gospel-Centered Hermenutics

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Dever on Membership

With the Deacons, I have been reading Mark Dever's book,The Deliberate church. Here is a powerful word by Dever on Membership.
"Most local Rotary clubs will take a persons's name off the membership roll if he fails to attend the meetings for an extended period of time. Yet many churches will allow a person to say on the membership roll for years after he or she has stopped attending! Membership should mean more in the church than it does in a Rotary club. One of the best ways to reinforce this is to teach n why membership in the local church matters. No one is saved by either church membership or attendance. But membership in the local church is a church's external, public affirmation that the member is continuing to give evidence of genuine Christian conversion.
Biblically if a member shows prolonged negligence in gathering with God's people, how can he say he loves them? And if he doesn't love them, how can he say he loves God (cf. 1 John 4:20-21)? Pastorally, if a member who could attend continually neglects to meet with the people of God, church leaders simply are no longer in a position to externally witness the fruit of his life, and for that reason can no longer externally afffirm his conversion by uninterrupted membership. Evangelistically, meaningless membership damages the corporate evangelistic witness of the church in the surrounding community. Members usually go AWOL to cover up more serious sin; but they are committing that sin as people who are still likely to be known by others in your community as members of your church! In other words, they are sinning in ways that make your church look hypocritical o the unbelievers in your community.
Most seriously of all, when we allow prolonged nonattenders to keep their names on the membership rolls, we actually help deceive them into thinking they are saved when their behavior is in fact calling their salvation into question. If membership is the church's public affirmation of a person's conversion, then to leave a nonattender on the rolls could very well be damningly deceptive. What's more, if you are the pastor of your local church, then God will hold you in some sense accountable for the spiritual well-being of every member of your church (Heb. 13:17). Do you really want to be held accountable for the spiritual well-being of a member whom you have not seen at church in four years--or worse, a member you've never even met? Everyone loses when we allow nonattendance to go unchecked. It doesn't serve you well, it doesn't serve the nonattender well, it doesn't serve the church's reputation well, and it doesn't serve God's reputation well. For all these reasons, it is wise to remove from the rolls those members who have shown prolonged negligence in meeting with God's people."
The Deliberate Church on pages 47-48

Monday, May 21, 2012

Its all about Jesus

This Sunday, I used  part of this list in Sundays sermon. Here are two videos.

The list floats around in the Keller library. Keller has used it in several sermons. I first heard it in some lectures he did at Gordon Conwell called Preaching to the Heart (which was the first time i ever heard anything by him). It's also in his lecture on preaching the gospel that he did with at a resurgence conference awhile back. It's worth meditating on.

Jesus is the true and better Adam who passed the test in the garden and whose obedience is imputed to us.

Jesus is the true and better Abel who, though innocently slain, has blood now that cries out, not for our condemnation, but for acquittal.

Jesus is the true and better Abraham who answered the call of God to leave all the comfortable and familiar and go out into the void not knowing wither he went to create a new people of God.

Jesus is the true and better Isaac who was not just offered up by his father on the mount but was truly sacrificed for us. And when God said to Abraham, "Now I know you love me because you did not withhold your son, your only son whom you love from me," now we can look at God taking his son up the mountain and sacrificing him and say, "Now we know that you love us because you did not withhold your son, your only son, whom you love from us."

Jesus is the true and better Jacob who wrestled and took the blow of justice we deserved, so we, like Jacob, only receive the wounds of grace to wake us up and discipline us.

Jesus is the true and better Joseph who, at the right hand of the king, forgives those who betrayed and sold him and uses his new power to save them.

Jesus is the true and better Moses who stands in the gap between the people and the Lord and who mediates a new covenant.

Jesus is the true and better Rock of Moses who, struck with the rod of God's justice, now gives us water in the desert.

Jesus is the true and better Job, the truly innocent sufferer, who then intercedes for and saves his stupid friends.

Jesus is the true and better David whose victory becomes his people's victory, though they never lifted a stone to accomplish it themselves.

Jesus is the true and better Esther who didn't just risk leaving an earthly palace but lost the ultimate and heavenly one, who didn't just risk his life, but gave his life to save his people.

Jesus is the true and better Jonah who was cast out into the storm so that we could be brought in.

Jesus is the real Rock of Moses, the real Passover Lamb, innocent, perfect, helpless, slain so the angel of death will pass over us. He's the true temple, the true prophet, the true priest, the true king, the true sacrifice, the true lamb, the true light, the true bread.

The Bible's really not about you – it's about him.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Jesus in Every Book of the Bible

Something that I saw as I prepared for Sundays sermon on Jesus appearances in Luke 24, Hero. All I can say is awesome.
 All I can say is... "Wicked!" (in the good New England Sense). Here is the transcript.

In Genesis, Jesus Christ is the seed of the woman.
In Exodus, He is the passover lamb.
In Leviticus, He is our high priest.
In Numbers, He is the pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night.
In Deuteronomy, He is the prophet like unto Moses.
In Joshua, He is the captain of our salvation.
In Judges, He is our judge and lawgiver.
In Ruth, He is our kinsman redeemer.
In 1st and 2nd Samuel, He is our trusted prophet.
In Kings and Chronicles, He is our reigning king.
In Ezra, He is the rebuilder of the broken down walls of human life.
In Esther, He is our Mordecai.
In Job, He is our ever-living redeemer.
In Psalms, He is our shepherd.
In Proverbs and Ecclesiastes, He is our wisdom.
In the Song of Solomon, He is the loving bridegroom.
In Isaiah, He is the prince of peace.
In Jeremiah, He is the righteous branch.
In Lamentations, He is our weeping prophet.
In Ezekiel, He is the wonderful four-faced man.
In Daniel, He is the forth man in life's "fiery furnace."
In Hosea, He is the faithful husband, forever married to the backslider.
In Joel, He is the baptizer with the Holy Ghost and fire.
In Amos, He is our burden-bearer.
In Obadiah, He is the mighty to save.
In Jonah, He is our great foreign missionary.
In Micah, He is the messenger of beautiful feet.
In Nahum, He is the avenger of God's elect.
In Habakkuk, he is God's evangelist, crying, "revive thy work in the midst of the years."
In Zephaniah, He is our Saviour.
In Haggai, He is the restorer of God's lost heritage.
In Zechariah, He is the fountain opened up in the house of David for sin and uncleanness.
In Malachi, He is the Sun of Righteousness, rising with healing in His wings.
In Matthew, He is King of the Jews.
In Mark, He is the Servant.
In Luke, He is the Son of Man, feeling what you feel.
In John, He is the Son of God.
In Acts, He is the Savior of the world.
In Romans, He is the righteousness of God.
In I Corinthians, He is the Rock that followed Israel.
In II Corinthians, He is the Triumphant One, giving victory.
In Galatians, He is your liberty; He sets you free.
In Ephesians, He is Head of the Church.
In Philippians, He is your joy.
In Colossians, He is your completeness.
In 1st and 2nd Thessalonians, He is your hope.
In I Timothy, He is your faith.
In II Timothy, He is your stability.
In Philemon, He is your Benefactor.
In Titus, He is truth.
In Hebrews, He is your perfection.
In James, he is the Power behind your faith.
In I Peter, He is your example.
In II Peter, He is your purity.
In I John, He is your life.
In II John, He is your pattern.
In III John, He is your motivation.
In Jude, He is the foundation of your faith.
In Revelation, He is your coming King.
He is the First and Last, the Beginning and the End!
He is the keeper of Creation and the Creator of all!
He is the Architect of the universe and the Manager of all times.
He always was, He always is, and He always will be...
Unmoved, Unchanged, Undefeated, and never Undone!
He was bruised and brought healing!
He was pierced and eased pain!
He was persecuted and brought freedom!
He was dead and brought life!
He is risen and brings power!
He reigns and brings Peace!
The world can't understand him,
The armies can't defeat Him,
The schools can't explain Him, and
The leaders can't ignore Him.
Herod couldn't kill Him,
The Pharisees couldn't confuse Him, and
The people couldn't hold Him!
Nero couldn't crush Him,
Hitler couldn't silence Him,
The New Age can't replace Him, and
And Oprah, can't explain Him away!
He is light, love, longevity, and Lord.
He is goodness, Kindness, Gentleness, and God.
He is Holy, Righteous, mighty, powerful, and pure.
His ways are right, His word is eternal,
His will is unchanging, and His mind is on me.
He is my Redeemer, He is my Savior,
He is my guide, and He is my peace!
He is my Joy, He is my comfort,
He is my Lord, and He rules my life!

Friday, May 18, 2012

The Old Cross and the New

A.W. Tozer on how we water down the cross in His article "The Old Cross and the New.

All unannounced and mostly undetected there has come in modern times a new cross into popular evangelical circles. It is like the old cross, but different: the likenesses are superficial; the differences, fundamental.

From this new cross has sprung a new philosophy of the Christian life, and from that new philosophy has come a new evangelical technique-a new type of meeting and a new kind of preaching. This new evangelism employs the same language as the old, but its content is not the same and its emphasis not as before.

The old cross would have no truck with the world. For Adam's proud flesh it meant the end of the journey. It carried into effect the sentence imposed by the law of Sinai. The new cross is not opposed to the human race; rather, it is a friendly pal and, if understood aright, it is the source of oceans of good clean fun and innocent enjoyment. It lets Adam live without interference. His life motivation is unchanged; he still lives for his own pleasure, only now he takes delight in singing choruses and watching religious movies instead of singing bawdy songs and drinking hard liquor. The accent is still on enjoyment, though the fun is now on a higher plane morally if not intellectually.

The new cross encourages a new and entirely different evangelistic approach. The evangelist does not demand abnegation of the old life before a new life can be received. He preaches not contrasts but similarities. He seeks to key into public interest by showing that Christianity makes no unpleasant demands; rather, it offers the same thing the world does, only on a higher level. Whatever the sin-mad world happens to be clamoring after at the moment is cleverly shown to be the very thing the gospel offers, only the religious product is better.

The new cross does not slay the sinner, it redirects him. It gears him into a cleaner and jollier way of living and saves his self-respect. To the self-assertive it says, "Come and assert yourself for Christ." To the egotist it says, "Come and do your boasting in the Lord." To the thrillseeker it says, "Come and enjoy the thrill of Christian fellowship." The Christian message is slanted in the direction of the current vogue in order to make it acceptable to the public.

The philosophy back of this kind of thing may be sincere but its sincerity does not save it from being false. It is false because it is blind. It misses completely the whole meaning of the cross.

The old cross is a symbol of death. It stands for the abrupt, violent end of a human being. The man in Roman times who took up his cross and started down the road had already said good-by to his friends. He was not coming back. He was going out to have it ended. The cross made no compromise, modified nothing, spared nothing; it slew all of the man, completely and for good. It did not try to keep on good terms with its victim. It struck cruel and hard, and when it had finished its work, the man was no more.

The race of Adam is under death sentence. There is no commutation and no escape. God cannot approve any of the fruits of sin, however innocent they may appear or beautiful to the eyes of men. God salvages the individual by liquidating him and then raising him again to newness of life.

That evangelism which draws friendly parallels between the ways of God and the ways of men is false to the Bible and cruel to the souls of its hearers. The faith of Christ does not parallel the world, it intersects it. In coming to Christ we do not bring our old life up onto a higher plane; we leave it at the cross. The corn of wheat must fall into the ground and die.

We who preach the gospel must not think of ourselves as public relations agents sent to establish good will between Christ and the world. We must not imagine ourselves commissioned to make Christ acceptable to big business, the press, the world of sports or modern education. We are not diplomats but prophets, and our message is not a compromise but an ultimatum.

God offers life, but not an improved old life. The life He offers is life out of death. It stands always on the far side of the cross. Whoever would possess it must pass under the rod. He must repudiate himself and concur in God's just sentence against him.

What does this mean to the individual, the condemned man who would find life in Christ Jesus? How can this theology be translated into life? Simply, he must repent and believe. He must forsake his sins and then go on to forsake himself. Let him cover nothing, defend nothing, excuse nothing. Let him not seek to make terms with God, but let him bow his head before the stroke of God's stern displeasure and acknowledge himself worthy to die.

Having done this let him gaze with simple trust upon the risen Saviour, and from Him will come life and rebirth and cleansing and power. The cross that ended the earthly life of Jesus now puts an end to the sinner; and the power that raised Christ from the dead now raises him to a new life along with Christ.

To any who may object to this or count it merely a narrow and private view of truth, let me say God has set His hallmark of approval upon this message from Paul's day to the present. Whether stated in these exact words or not, this has been the content of all preaching that has brought life and power to the world through the centuries. The mystics, the reformers, the revivalists have put their emphasis here, and signs and wonders and mighty operations of the Holy Ghost gave witness to God's approval.

Dare we, the heirs of such a legacy of power, tamper with the truth? Dare we with our stubby pencils erase the lines of the blueprint or alter the pattern shown us in the Mount? May God forbid. Let us preach the old cross and we will know the old power.
This article first appeared in The Alliance Witness in 1946. It can now be found at awtozerclassics.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Valley of Vision: Contentment

Heavenly Father, 
If I should suffer need, and go unclothed, 
  and be in poverty, 
 make my heart prize thy love,
 know it, be constrained by it,
 though I be denied all blessings. 
It is thy mercy to afflict and try me with wants, 
  for by these trials I see my sins, 
  and desire severance from them. 
Let me willingly accept misery, sorrows, 
  if I can thereby feel sin as the greatest evil, 
  and be delivered from it with gratitude to Thee, 
 acknowledging this as the highest testimony
   of Thy love.
When thy Son, Jesus, came into my soul
    instead of sin He became more dear to me 
    than sin had formerly been; 
  his kindly rule replaced sin's tyranny. 
Teach me to believe that if ever I would have any sin 
  I must not only labour to overcome it, 
  but must invite Christ to abide in the place of it, 
  and He must become to me more than
   vile lust had been; 
  that His sweetness, power, life may be there. 
Thus I must seek a grace from Him contrary to sin, 
  but must not claim it apart from Himself.
When I am afraid of evils to come, 
  comfort me by showing me 
   that in myself I am a dying, condemned wretch, 
    but in Christ I am reconciled and live; 
  that in myself I find insufficiency and no rest,
     but in Christ there is satisfaction and peace; 
  that in myself I am feeble and unable to do good, 
     but in Christ I have ability to do all things. 
Though now I have His graces in part, 
   I shall shortly have them perfectly 
   in that state where thou wilt show thyself 
     fully reconciled,
   and alone sufficient, efficient, 
     loving me completely, 
   with sin abolished.
 O Lord, hasten that day.

From The Valley of Vision pages 294-195

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Greater than Apple

This week, I was struck by the story on the Huffington Post about an inspiration note that was left on the desk of an employee at Apple when they got hired. Here it is. The person who put it up on Instagram  included these words: “What greets you on your first day at Apple. I've had this taped to my dresser for two years. Words to live by.” The text of the letter is interesting. "

Now here's my thought. As Christians, there is an even greater word to live by. The scripture, God's inspired word, and it's calls us to work that we should never compromise on. Work that we would always be willing to sacrifice a weekend for.  Work that we should be willing to sacrifice everything for. This work is to important to play it safe. This work is so important that we must be willing to live for, and if necessary, die for, because it's way bigger than us.

And here's what amazes me. This is what Apple challenges it's people when they come on board. What challenge do we lay before our people? Our work as Christians is far greater than the work done by corporations. Do we take it half as seriously? The work of the church, as a community, and as sent individuals, is work that is way bigger than anything Apple does. It's greater than the greatest business venture ever. It greater than the greatest venture ever - of any kind. This work is the work of the kingdom of God. It's the work of living in such a way that God is glorified, and people encounter the saving power of the gospel. It's work done only through the power of the Holy spirit, and as a result of encountering the Risen Savior.

All to often, church act as if we are offering something safe, and tame. We present Christ as the sweet Jesus boy, forgetting that "He is not a tame Lion" (with respect to C.S. Lewis). He is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. We cannot do that. Faith in Christ, a life lived for Christ, is not the shallow end stuff. It's heavy, and powerful, it's life at the deep end, and we should be challenging people, "come swim in the deep end", "encounter the king who is able to do more than you can ask or imagine, live for the king who is able to do more than you can ask or imagine,and understand that He wants to do more than you can ask or imagine through you, for the glory of his name".

Furthermore, in relationship to our work, Apple is right. We want our work to add up to something. Something big. I know that's true of me. I'll bet it's true of you. I believe that there is nothing bigger than living all out for God and seeking furthering of the kingdom of God and bring Him Glory in all you do. Apple says that they are doing something big that couldn't happen elsewhere. I disagree. They are making computers and phones. The church is doing something big, something that couldn't happen anywhere else. We are proclaiming and living out the life saving message of the gospel and seeking to get people to live for him and his glory as they move deeper and deeper into relationship with him through the gospel.

Therefore, to any new attender, to any new Christian, to anyone that we have the opportunity to bringing to faith in Christ, we should say, welcome to the family of God, welcome to gospel centered life, welcome to the church. Something big will happen here, something that couldn't happen anywhere else.

Welcome to life in Christ.

No one is impartial towards God

I was struck by this thought by Thomas Nagel, a professor of philosophy at NYU, and a non Christian.
“In speaking of the fear of religion, I don’t mean to refer to the entirely reasonable hostility toward certain established religions and religious institutions, in virtue of their objectionable moral doctrines, social policies, and political influence. Nor am I referring to the association of many religious beliefs with superstition and the acceptance of evident empirical falsehoods. I am talking about something much deeper–namely, the fear of religion itself. I speak from experience, being strongly subject to this fear myself: I want atheism to be true and am made uneasy by the fact that some of the most intelligent and well-informed people I know are religious believers.
I want atheism to be true and am made uneasy by the fact that some of the most intelligent and well-informed people I know are religious believers. It isn’t just that I don’t believe in God and, naturally, hope that I’m right in my belief. It’s that I hope there is no God! I don’t want there to be a God; I don’t want the universe to be like that.”(”The Last Word” by Thomas Nagel, Oxford University Press: 1997)”
What this means is that no one investigates Christianity unbiasedly. Everyone has a distinct bent against it. They don't want Christianity to be true, because of all that it means. Which is just one more reminder to us that faith in Christ is a miracle of God for which we can only respond in one way. Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!