How to Stand Firm in Your Convictions

It’s time for big transitions.  One big change is leaving home and going to a new town for work or college.  Starting new projects with new teams is another.  In these times of transition we need to engage with new ideas – to take on new perspectives.  However, taking on changes in convictions just to socially assimilate is unwise.  Unwittingly aligning with the majority view can often be costly.  So how do we stand firm in convictions which might already be wise?

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  • Do not take on the judgement of others

By judgement here, I mean contempt.  It is foolish not to let others judge us in terms of assessment and tests, but when they condemn us they have gone too far.  Growing up in a loving environment may not prepare some people to be condemned because of their views.  Republicans frequently have contempt for Democrats.  Democrats frequently condemn Republicans.  Atheists look down on people of faith.  The faithful write off those of little faith.

Receiving that judgement may be a shock and it may be devastating.  At the College of St. Mark and St. John, my professors mocked my views and obviously showed their lack of respect for me.  Our self-image, though, will be shaky if it is founded on how others feel about our views.   Sometimes we define who we are by the views we hold.

My undergraduate school professors praised and built up those who easily forsook their beliefs.  Which leads us to the next point.

  • Do not let others sideline your beliefs

To be intellectually authentic and healthy, work environments and colleges need to entertain multiple perspectives.  That means yours, too.  Colleges grow stale if they only entertain views they can already stomach.  Work places cease to innovate if they embrace the status quo.  Find an opportunity to colorfully present your opinion.  Let it be critiqued and compare and contrast your opinion with others in the room.  The discussion will frequently lead to mutual respect.  And when it doesn’t end well, the true hate and intolerance in the room might expose itself for what it is.

Some views will be hard to converse with.  You may need support.  Which leads to the next point.

  • Stay connected to the wise people whom you have respected

Before you arrive in a new location you have already been educated, socialized, and formed.  The people who have invested heavily in you are often as smart as the people you are about to work or study with.  Don’t let fancy titles or an extended list of qualifications fool you.  I am a college professor, and the more I study the more I realize my limitations.

Respect those in your new environment, but maintain the respect you have had for those in your old environment.  It is easy to stay in touch in these days of increased technology.  Text regularly.  Use FaceTime or Skype to talk face-to-face.  Share the new ideas you are encountering with old friends.  Let their wisdom boost your participation in the new environment.

  • Assess whether the new information you encounter is true

Truth is connected to reality.  To grow in truth is to grow in understanding reality.  There are many things that are real that each of us does not know yet.  However, there are many things we think are real that are not.  They are untrue.  In academic circles we invent new names for things so we can talk about them.  When we talk about them for a long time they slip into the common consciousness.  People then accept the unproven presuppositions in our conversations as real or true.  Test the presuppositions.

Science is not everything, but it is helpful.  Assessing with the senses and through common experience can be a first step.  The more people experience a phenomenon with their five senses the more likely it is true reality.  The more likely it can be counted upon.

However, there is knowledge beyond the senses.  There is reality that can not be proven in the lab.  True ideological foundations and beliefs are arrived at in philosophical and theological investigation.  Art and poetry are not really understood fully by science.  However, art and poetry communicate truth.  How do you discern truth in literature?  When do you accept an ideology has something true to say about reality?

  • Assess thoroughly why your behaviors are changing

In new environments our behaviors often change.  Old patterns and habits are not sustainable and new ones take their place.  Sometimes an emptiness creeps in because we have been too strongly shaped and formed by peers or parents.  At other times a suppressed desire to let loose comes out in wild partying and reckless behavior.  In most cases the patterns are less dramatic.  Maybe bedtime shifts. Maybe we start to skip breakfast and have a bigger lunch.  Why is that?

Looking at why we do what we do can often reveal our values.  Things we prioritize get done first, or for a long time.  Things that were important to our previous community, but we don’t really care about, get pushed to the side.  Be honest about what is going on.  Let it be part of your conversation and your habits will become more rewarding and meaningful.

***

In Colossae, the faith of the Colossian Christians was challenged by the religious philosophy of the majority.  The majority believed in following strict rules to earn acceptance from God.  They also believed in the occult and manipulating angelic beings to their own ends.  Paul calls them back to the faith they had in the beginning, which was faith in Christ.  He declares that good rule keeping is just a shadow of the life-giving relationship that can be found in Christ.

Colossians 2:16-23

Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ. Do not let anyone who delights in false humility and the worship of angels disqualify you. Such a person also goes into great detail about what they have seen; they are puffed up with idle notions by their unspiritual mind. They have lost connection with the head, from whom the whole body, supported and held together by its ligaments and sinews, grows as God causes it to grow.

Since you died with Christ to the elemental spiritual forces of this world, why, as though you still belonged to the world, do you submit to its rules: “Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!”? These rules, which have to do with things that are all destined to perish with use, are based on merely human commands and teachings. Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence.

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Six Qualities of a Love-filled Life

Image result for heart flameTo be loving is the aspiration of many people across the world.  What markers show a person to be loving?  Here are six to begin with.  You can use them to evaluate the health of your own love.  You can also think about them as ways to improve the quality of your love for others.

  • Compassion

Compassion sees the state of another person and is moved to action.  Firstly, compassion is not possible in a fast-paced life.  We need to slow down and truly see each other, if we are to reach out and support each other.  Secondly, compassion is emotionally engaged.  It is not cold.  It is the warm embrace of those whose path is different or who are less fortunate than us.

  • Kindness

Kindness sacrifices self for the good of another.  Kind people are touched by another person’s story and bring good things to them so they prosper.  They say kind things and they do kind things with a genuine care.

  • Humility

Humility ends the battle in relationships to prove ourselves or to gain power.  Truly humble people are free from pride to wound.  They do not think of their own needs without thinking of how those needs can serve others.  When a task needs to be fulfilled, humble people do not assume they are the only people who can do it well.  They also do not feel  so especially unimportant that they should not do the job.  Humble people are truly free from thinking too much or too little of themselves, so they engage with a purity which comes from inner peace.

  • Gentleness

To be gentle makes allowance for others’ lack of strength.  Gentle people are willing to accommodate. People like this accommodate differences in strength and differences in opinion. Gentle people are reasonable.  Their voices are even and calm.  Their plans include others.

  • Patience

In any relationship a line will be crossed – it may be crossed multiple times.  Loving people do not strike back blow-for-blow or pound-for-pound.  Patient people do not fight every battle.  They know the truth that emotions ebb and flow and mistakes are made by everyone.  They endure.

  • Forgiveness

Patient, loving people forgive many times over.  The desire to maintain the relationship will see many do-overs or restarts.  Solid relationships are like havens where truth can be told without repercussions.  When there is repentance there is restoration.  When a person makes a mistake they do not fear rejection, they know that true love is not contingent on performance.  True love longs for fresh starts.  A lover chooses to forget.

Becoming a Better Lover

We all need to be better lovers.  Not only in the romantic sense, but in the human connections we all have in daily life.  There is enough love to go around, we need to stop fighting like we are competing for a scarce resource.  We need to see transformation, so we can love from the generous abundance of the resources we are given within.

***

These aspects of love are drawn from Paul’s letter to the Colossians.  He declared that love binds these six aspects together.  Love is a gift from God, and to truly love means to be united with God in His love.

Colossians 3:1-17

Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.

Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. Because of these, the wrath of God is coming. You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.

Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

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Why Is the Phrase ‘In Christ’ Important?

Image result for in christIf we claim to be a Christian, we claim to be ‘in Christ.’  Our roots are in Christ and so we are built up and strengthened by him.  Jesus called us to be branches abiding in the vine – He is the vine and we are the branches.  People try to pull us out – isolate us.  Break us.  It used to happen particularly in colleges or universities.  A Christian disciple would meet all kinds of new ideas, and one idea or another would take them captive.  It didn’t have to be a new religion, it could just be the lust of a new romance, the promise of financial success, or the supposed wisdom of recent ‘thinkers.’   Now students have access to ideas from all over the globe from a very young age.  It’s hard to keep the faith – but those who are truly in Christ can develop resilience.

It is important to be strong and to be unafraid in the face of religious pluralism and postmodern ideas.  If Christianity is true, though, there are a number of things available ‘in Christ’ that are available nowhere else.

  • All the fullness of God is in Christ

God has made known to us His own nature.  There is nothing about God that can be known to us apart from Christ.  There is nothing about God that can not be known or experienced in Christ.  Because of this Christ is the center of our worship; He is our first love because there is no higher focus a person can have.

  • We are made full/complete in Christ

The aim of mankind’s development is in unity with another.  We have the fullness of God available to us in our intimate relationship with Christ.  Being inseparable from Jesus conforms us to him.  Moving around in His complete being completes us.

  • We are set apart as God’s people in Christ

Not everyone is in Christ.  Being in Christ makes a people distinct.  Just as Israel was marked as the distinct people of God by their circumcision, so Christ followers are marked by Jesus.  Jesus’ act of sacrifice on the cross allows his followers to be God’s people.

  • We are made alive in Christ

A new life becomes available to Christians.  However, this new life is in unity with Jesus.  A true self, previously unattainable, is the most Christ-like self.  We live a new life as the image of Jesus to our world.  We do what Jesus would do and we say what Jesus would say.  It is not a religion of works, as if we are trying to prove something to Jesus.  It is a faith where Jesus ministers to the world through his disciples in every age.

‘In Christ’ makes Christianity better than …

Because of the supremacy of Christ – because of his unity with his followers – Christianity is superior to other philosophical, political and religious systems.  Other systems do not know Jesus or are not centered on Jesus.  Because Jesus is superior, a way of life ‘in Jesus’ is superior.  This does not lead to pride because the believer in Jesus does not bring anything to Jesus he does not have in himself.  Jesus brings to the relationship everything lacking in the disciple.

***

John Piper has written about six things being in Christ means for the believer.  He draws mainly from passages other than Colossians.  The four facts listed above were all taken from Colossians 2:6-15.

Colossians 2:6-15

So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.

See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy,which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world rather than on Christ.

For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, and in Christ you have been brought to fullness. He is the head over every power and authority. In him you were also circumcised with a circumcision not performed by human hands. Your whole self ruled by the flesh was put off when you were circumcised by Christ, having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through your faith in the working of God, who raised him from the dead.

When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross. And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.

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How Can Suffering Be Good?

Many of us are ease and comfort junkies.  We want a little time on the recliner in front of the T.V.  Maybe it’s to watch World of Dance, or maybe it’s to see if Liverpool can topple Manchester City in the English Premier League.  We long for the children to be quiet, the house to be problem free, and a cup of tea and a chocolate biscuit would be perfect.

How come we live in a world so full of suffering?  Some religions do not question suffering.  The goal is to accept that suffering simply is and then to detach from it through acceptance.  My understanding on suffering is a little different, and that understanding has matured through the years.

  • Suffering as Punishment

When I was young, I frequently asked myself what I must have done to experience any unpleasantness or suffering.  In fact, I’d think I must be suffering ‘for my sins.’  I would become frustrated trying to make sense of suffering in this way.  I would become self loathing, thinking I should be free from suffering if my performance was better.  I condemned others who suffered because their nature must be worse than mine.  In some cases, I would have an heir of superiority over people on welfare, those who got divorced, or even those who had trouble with their children.

As I have grown older this cause-and-effect connection between behavior and punishment has lessened.  I don’t believe karma-like retribution from the universe or God explains suffering well enough.  I also do not believe the Bible teaches this eye-for-an-eye system is part of the Kingdom of God that Jesus brings.

  • Suffering as Discipline 

I believe that suffering is essential to growth.  I have joined the YMCA in order to use their gym.  Yesterday my wife hugged me and gave a very pleasant, “Oooh!”  She told me that my shoulders were shapely and hard.  Those results would not be possible if I had not suffered in the weights room in the gym.  Suffering strengthens us and makes us into better versions of ourselves.  This is true physically, but it is also true emotionally, socially, and spiritually.  The coddling we pursue for ourselves and our children is harmful to our families and our culture.  A few more bloodied knees and broken hearts might make us more resilient.

What is your goal in life?  If it is a worthy goal, it will take suffering to achieve it.  As the Marines say, “Pain is weakness leaving the body!”

  • Suffering Vicariously

The highest form of suffering is suffering we do not have to take on.  It is virtuous to choose suffering for the sake of another.  Those of us who have adopted a child know the truth of this.  I know many adoptions that are fraught with suffering because of the choices of the birth parents, the sickness of the child, or the emotional trauma associated with adoption.  Adoption often involves pain.  Parents are not forced to adopt.  Does that mean they should leave adoption alone?

Entering into suffering to redeem a person or situation is good, but it does not always FEEL good.  In a world defined by feeling, this is a hard truth to grasp.  Relationships are often evaluated by the warm fuzzies they bring, but that is not an accurate measure of their value.  The measure is whether I am causing a situation or a person to flourish.

Can Suffering Be Good?

The answer to the question is, “Yes.”  However, ease and comfort can also be a blessing for a time.  The way to evaluate suffering is to see if it serves a greater good.  Is it moving an individual, a family or even a culture toward something better.  Of course, this short evaluation does not cover earthquakes and volcanoes necessarily.  It does, though, help us to see what we are enduring in our own private world in a more positive light.  It helps us to train to be better people, and it helps us to sacrifice ourselves to create a better people.

***

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These thoughts were inspired by Colossians 1:24-2:5 where Paul tells the Colossians he has sacrificed himself for them.  His life is marked with suffering, toil and struggle, but it is for the sake of the gospel of Jesus Christ.  Paul argues that he is a servant, even a slave, of Jesus and is compelled to live his whole life oriented around Christ.  If people find Christ, Paul reasons, it is worth the suffering.

Colossians 1:24-2:5

Now I rejoice in what I am suffering for you, and I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ’s afflictions, for the sake of his body, which is the church. I have become its servant by the commission God gave me to present to you the word of God in its fullness— the mystery that has been kept hidden for ages and generations, but is now disclosed to the Lord’s people. To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.

He is the one we proclaim, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom,so that we may present everyone fully mature in Christ. To this end I strenuously contend with all the energy Christ so powerfully works in me.

I want you to know how hard I am contending for you and for those at Laodicea, and for all who have not met me personally. My goal is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. I tell you this so that no one may deceive you by fine-sounding arguments. For though I am absent from you in body, I am present with you in spirit and delight to see how disciplined you are and how firm your faith in Christ is.

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How Is Jesus Greater than Angels?

Image result for Colossians 1:15-23 In the ancient world people had a high regard for angels.  In the town of Colossae the regard for angels was particularly high.  Because Colossians looked to angels so much, their view of Jesus might have been obscured.  This led the apostle Paul to write a list of attributes of Christ which elevated Jesus and put the angels in their place.  Because of some of the amazing things Paul claimed to be true, some scholars claimed Paul created a ‘Christ’ who was quite different than the historical person Jesus.  Here is a list of things Paul claimed were true about Jesus Christ.

  • Christ is the image of God.
  • By Christ all things were created.
  • Christ exists before anything else.
  • Christ holds everything together.
  • Christ is the head of the church.
  • Christ rose from the dead.
  • Through Christ all things are reconciled to God.

Paul makes it clear, Christ is to have supremacy in all things.  Some people call this Christ the ‘Cosmic Christ’ because of the scope of these truth claims.  He definitely doesn’t look like any normal human being.  The church tries to get its head around these claims.  The church has always claimed two natures for Jesus – a human nature and a divine nature.  Jesus, the man, was born in Israel two thousand years ago.  Before that he preexisted in eternity past.  Theologians think it is Jesus who appears in the Old Testament to Abraham and stands with Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego in the fiery furnace.  They say The Angel of the Lord who appears in the Old Testament is the preincarnate Jesus visiting Earth.  Bold claims.

If Jesus does have supremacy in all things, Christianity is a religion like no other.  No other religion has the Cosmic Christ.  However, if Jesus was just a moral teacher whose bones are somewhere in Palestine, Christianity is one more man-made myth among the many created through the ages.  As I get older, I am more convinced that Christianity is true and an exceptional being walked humbly among us.  I believe the Bible is true, so I believe Paul’s words are worth meditating upon.  If such a being exists, we have reason to turn away from angels, ouija boards, other religions, and self help-philosophies.  We need to look first of all to him and see where he leads us.  Then we follow the only one who is worthy of our everything.

Colossians 1:15-23

The Son [Jesus] is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.

Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation— if you continue in your faith, established and firm, and do not move from the hope held out in the gospel. This is the gospel that you heard and that has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven, and of which I, Paul, have become a servant.

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How to Start Praying for Churches

Christians are meant to be continuously praying.  One subject on the prayer list is the local church.  Are you lifting up any churches to God regularly?  I know it is something I have struggled with.  Recently, I have started praying for Grace Community Bible Church (GCBC) and Underwood Chapel with more regularity.  GCBC is my home church in Grayslake, Illinois.  Underwood Chapel, Plympton, England, is the church that raised me and sent me out into the world.  We should all be connected to a church or two.  The early church met in each others’ houses every day.  We consider ourselves connected if we meet once a month.  Praying for the church might lead to a desire for more connection.

The first thing I have done is to get a paper and pen and put it in the book I use for my daily devotions.  Then I have written the names of the churches on the paper and a list of things to pray for.  Here are six areas of prayer we can all pray for with respect to our local churches.

Image result for praying for church

  1. That the church may know God’s will
  2. That the church will live a life worthy of their calling
  3. That the church would bear fruit
  4. That the church would know God
  5. That the church would be strengthened
  6. That the church would be thankful

That the church may know God’s will

God calls individuals for a purpose.  God has a plan he longs to execute: to do good in the world.  God also has a plan for groups of people working together.  We need to not think of a church as a local location or a building.  The church is a group of people who share a common purpose.  That purpose is to increase worship and the glorifying of God in the community.  The members of the church need to know how this mission is best worked out, then they need to execute the vision.

That the church will live a life worthy of their calling

Because it is God who has called the church, there must be something transcendent about the life Christians live.  If the life of individuals in the church is to be centered around God, the life of the whole church must reflect that.  This does not mean the local church has to run at about 20,000 members and have excellent light displays, and a cafe in the lobby.  There is nothing wrong with that, per se.  The measure of a church is shown in the character of their leadership.  The godly example of those in charge should permeate the membership.  If the leadership is not centered on God, there is no way the church will live a life centered on Him.

That the church will bear fruit

Churches need to be visible in their community and they need to be a blessing to their community.  The fruit of improving character, communion with God, and increased numbers can show God is at work.  Some churches defend their lack of growth because they lack self-awareness.  Some churches are unaware that they are toxic.  Churches need to be safe places to grow.  Of course we must speak truth, but the most winsome fruit of the Spirit is love.  If we grow in our love of God and our neighbor, other fruit will be added.

That the church will know God

Some people revel in ignorance in the church.  They know enough to cover ‘getting saved,’ but they have no desire to know more about their faith.  Some openly scoff at theologians as wasting their time.  I know churches that are anti-intellectual.

Part of every healthy relationship is increased knowledge.  If I knew nothing about my wife except that I had married her, you would be skeptical about the health of our relationship.  If I told you each new thing I was learning about her, you would be reassured.  Walking with God is like that.  We flourish and grow deeper through studying who He is and what He is doing in the world.  This is not the stale knowledge of some lifeless Bible studies.  We do not study to know about God but to know God in intimacy.

That the church will be strengthened

In the West, churches are being weakened and are losing members.  The church is only as strong as its members, and individuals are confused or only mildly convinced about their faith.  Churches need us to be members who are ‘all in’ and confident.  Doubts need to be talked about and addressed.  The church needs to be equipped for meaningful action.

Sermons are a good place to start.  If the sermons are weak, the people’s understanding of God will be weak.  Weak sermons focus on man and not God.  Weak sermons lack majesty and holiness.  Weak sermons lack the underpinning authority of The Word of God.  Weak sermons do not apply God’s Word to twenty-first century living.  Of course, the more of these weaknesses are addressed, the stronger the church will be.

Secondly, churches need members who are mature in the faith to take responsibility to pass that faith on.  This can be done in classes, mentoring, or in writing.  As you pray for the church to be strengthened, maybe you might consider whether you should be strengthening someone.

That the church should be thankful

To be thankful means to realise someone outside of ourselves has done something we could not do.  Of course, a group of people working together can achieve more than an individual.  This will lead to thankfulness to the members of the church.  God working through a group of people makes that exponentially true.  We will be thankful to God when we gain this perspective.  God has done more in and through us than we could possibly imagine.  Because the world is created by God, all good gifts find their origin in Him.

Aaron Buehrer, our worship leader at GCBC, leads us in worship and thanksgiving.  He has us focus on the good things God has done in the world around us.  In this way our worship is lifted to a higher plain.  We should not take the things around us for granted.  We need to pray for the church that its attitude of thanksgiving will be maintained.

***

The Apostle Paul prayed these things for the church at Colossae.  It is not an exhaustive list of things to pray for a church, but it is a helpful start for people like me.  I have prayed too seldom for the churches I know.  This list will be a launch to bring to mind other areas where the church needs prayer.

Colossians 1:9-14

 For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you. We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives, so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light. For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

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Four Qualities to Be Thankful for in a Healthy Church

Image result for racially diverse church

To be in a healthy church is a blessing.  Beyond personal tastes in musical styles or forms of preaching, there are some qualities which are a bedrock of church health.  Here are four qualities to be thankful for, if you have them in abundance in your church.  Are you part of building a church that looks like this?

  • Faith

Churches are essentially a meeting of the faithful.  Faith goes beyond mere belief.  Belief is generally understood as intellectual assent to some statement or other.  James states, in his biblical book, that The Devil and his demons believe the truths of the Bible and shudder.  Obviously, their belief does not qualify as true faith.  True faith results in action.  True faith acts in accordance with what is believed.  James makes this point clear in his book also.

A church with faith is faithful in its weekly gatherings, it is faithful to its members, it is faithful in its service in the community.  This goes beyond a robust statement of faith left unseen on a website somewhere.  The statement of faith is regularly evaluated to see if it shows up in action, and it is a guide for all that is done.

  • Love

A misunderstanding of love has led many churches into trouble.  Love has been downgraded in the last century to a positive emotion.  It is now often confused with lust or infatuation.  Because the emotions ebb and flow, love has become unstable and so it ceases to provide security.

An enduring understanding of love needs rediscovering.  An enduring understanding of love chooses to serve another person for their own good.  This commitment is not easy.  There will be storms of negative emotion and disagreement to navigate.  There may be times when we choose to love people who do not love us in return.  Love sometimes makes hard decisions for the good of everyone involved.

A church that loves serves its members.  It pursues them when they are wandering.  It embraces them when they are suffering.  It disciplines them when they need to improve.  In a church that is loving, you do not need to feel lonely.

  • Hope

Disney encourages us to wish upon a star.  For many hope is just wishful thinking.  However, the hope that truly grounds us is hope in a certainty.  In wartime, we might live in hope of the war’s end.  The war will not last forever.  Those in college live in the hope of their eventual graduation.  The hope of the Bible is more in line with the word ‘expectation’ than it is with the word ‘wish.’

An old hymn states ‘my hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.’  Christians live in expectation  of a positive end to the story.  In a limited sense Christians know whatever happens in this world they will endure.  Christians also have a hope that the end of mankind’s story will end in all things being made new.

Churches, therefore should be places of optimism, not despair.  Churches that despair at the loss of Christian influence in society should have more hope.  Churches that are melancholy at the loss of the good old days should look to their future.  Churches who see the reason for their hope are empowered to bring hope to their members and the neighborhoods where they live.

  • Truth

It is said we live in a post-truth culture.  When we become that culture, we embrace madness and anarchy.  Anarchy has been re-framed as something positive in popular movies by the Wachowski brothers, but really we will descend into a dystopian lawlessness.  In an anarchic society each person can have their own truth.

In academics we have ever been in the quest for true objectivity.  In the culture we are promoting ever more subjective perspectives.  We are really careful not to invalidate anyone’s point of view and definitely not their feelings.  As a human being I understand the need to develop understanding in both directions.  The human experience is complex and multifaceted.  The world is so immense, to try and be objective is a daunting task.

The boldness of the Christian faith is that it claims to be truth from God’s perspective.  This is both humbling and empowering.  It requires us to put aside our own perspective as having the power to explain everything.  It also puts in the hands of the church ‘true truth.’  Although the church must be kind and sensitive to other perspectives, ultimately those who proclaim the gospel can have confidence in the Word of God – truth that is universal in its application.

If you are looking for a healthy church which exhibits these properties, come to Grace Community Bible Church, 15 Commerce Dr #106, Grayslake.  We meet at 10 o’clock on a Sunday.

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In his letter to the Colossians Paul opens with giving thanks to God.  He thanks God for the qualities listed above.  He also wishes for them the peace of God and God’s grace.

Colossians 1:1-8

Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother,

To God’s holy people in Colossae, the faithful brothers and sisters in Christ:

Grace and peace to you from God our Father.

We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, because we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love you have for all God’s people— the faith and love that spring from the hope stored up for you in heaven and about which you have already heard in the true message of the gospel that has come to you. In the same way, the gospel is bearing fruit and growing throughout the whole world—just as it has been doing among you since the day you heard it and truly understood God’s grace. You learned it from Epaphras, our dear fellow servant, who is a faithful minister of Christ on our behalf, and who also told us of your love in the Spirit.

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