Grow or Build

 
Talk to any pastor or full-time church worker and they will immediately discuss with either pride or shame how well their church is "growing." But what does that really mean?
Francis Chan points out that any group of talented people can grow a church. Give people the religious flavor they love and they will come. But it takes the power of the Holy Spirit to build a church. Jesus said, "On this rock I will build my church. " He didn't say he would "grow" it. He was talking about something else.
You can grow a church on the picked-over message of Positivity (God loves you, thinks you're awesome, wants to help you with your stuff, and give you the dreams of your heart.) You don't need the Holy Spirit for that because it appeals to our self-centered flesh. People come because they feel better when they leave. They get charged up on some awesome music, toss a tip in the offering bucket, get fed on a fattening diet of encouragement and religious hype about a cool Jesus who wants to use His powers to help their business succeed and their self-image inflate. They feel terrific when they leave for the game that afternoon and the casino that night.

Is that the kind of growth Jesus was talking about? The Holy Spirit builds His church on the foundation Jesus taught: total surrender, sacrifice, Lordship, and dying to self. A church is built in the hearts of each member and is based on the greatest commandment: "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength."
Growth churches have subtly replaced that message with: Love Myself with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength and find out how to use God to do it. We have a world full of growth churches, but very few built ones. Which one is yours?
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Is There Life After Life?

  

Where are you headed next?

The Bible is clear that there are two possible destinations for every human soul following physical death: heaven or hell. Only the righteous inherit eternal life, and the only way to be declared righteous before God is through faith in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The souls of the righteous go directly into the presence of God.

For those who do not receive Jesus Christ as Savior, death means everlasting punishment. This punishment is described in a variety of ways: a lake of fire, outer darkness, and a prison, for example. This place of punishment is eternal. There is no biblical support for the notion that after death people get another chance to repent. Hebrews 9:27 makes it clear that everyone dies physically and, after that, comes the judgment. Christians have already been judged and sentenced. Jesus took that sentence upon Himself. Our sin becomes His and His righteousness becomes ours when we believe in Him. Because He took our just punishment, we need not fear ever being separated from Him again. The judgment for unbelievers is still to come.

Second Thessalonians 1:8–9 says, “He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might.” The misery of hell will consist of not only physical torture, but the agony of being cut off from every avenue of happiness. God is the source of all good things. To be cut off from God is to forfeit all exposure to anything good. Hell will be a state of perpetual sin; yet those suffering there will possess full understanding of sin’s horrors. Remorse, guilt, and shame will be unending, yet accompanied by the conviction that the punishment is just.

There will no longer be any deception about the “goodness of man.” To be separated from God is to be forever shut off from light, love, joy, and peace because God is the source of all those good things. Any good we observe in humanity is merely a reflection of the character of God, in whose image we were created (Genesis 1:27).

While the spirits of those regenerated by God’s Holy Spirit will abide forever with God in a perfected state (1 John 3:2), the opposite is true of those in hell. None of the goodness of God will exist in them. Whatever good they may have thought they represented on earth will be shown for the selfish, lustful, idolatrous thing it was (Isaiah 64:6). Man’s ideas of goodness will be measured against the perfection of God’s holiness and be found severely lacking. Those in hell have forever lost the chance to see God’s face, hear His voice, experience His forgiveness, or enjoy His fellowship. To be forever separated from God is the ultimate punishment.


For more information about how to avoid this eternal separation, click here.
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How Do We Honor God?

 

Honor is universal in the human experience. In every society, people honor certain members for culturally-determined reasons. From medals to dinners to public acclaim, we honor those we deem worthy of ultimate respect. But how do we honor God?

Revelation 4:10–11 describes a scene in heaven: “The twenty-four elders fall down before him who sits on the throne and . . . lay their crowns before the throne and say: ‘You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power.’” The words translated “glory” and “honor” are closely related and often used interchangeably in the Bible. But there is a subtle difference between them. The word most often translated “glory” means “something that has inherent, intrinsic worth” while the word translated “honor” means “perceived value; to render or esteem glorious.”

Glory is a quality inherent in the one being glorified. Glory can be thought of as a mirror that accurately reflects what is there. When we accurately reflect the character of God, we glorify Him. To glorify God is to honor Him for who He really is. God has glory because He is infinitely valuable. Human beings have glory because we are created in the image of the One who is all-glorious (Genesis 1:27). We glorify God when we demonstrate through word or action His glorious character or deeds. Modeling the character of Jesus is a way to glorify God, because we are showcasing His attributes. When we glorify God, we bring Him honor.

Honor originates in our hearts and refers to the value we personally place on something or someone. Collectors hold certain items in higher esteem than non-collectors do. What others overlook may be highly valued by someone else and therefore honored. We honor other people to the degree that we consider their position and contributions significant. We are commanded to honor people because of their position, not their performance. We are commanded to honor our fathers and mothers (Deuteronomy 5:16; Mark 7:10), the elderly (Leviticus 19:32), and those who rule over us (1 Peter 2:17). When we honor God, we are demonstrating the high regard we have for Him. We are reflecting His glory back as praise and worship.

The Bible shows many ways to honor and glorify God. We show Him high regard and reflect His character by being sexually pure (1 Corinthians 6:18–20), by giving of our income (Proverbs 3:9), and by living lives devoted to Him (Romans 14:8). It is not enough to merely honor Him outwardly. God desires honor that comes from our hearts. “The Lord says, ‘These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me’” (Isaiah 29:13). When we delight in the Lord (Psalm 37:4), seek Him in everything we do (1 Chronicles 16:11; Isaiah 55:6), and make choices that reflect the place He has in our hearts, we bring Him the greatest honor.


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Hurray? Really?

 


Hollywood is more than a city in California. The name has become synonymous with the values, lifestyles, and philosophies of movie stars, celebrities and wannabes. In the Bible, the cities Sodom and Gomorrah had the same stigma (Genesis 18:20; Jude 1:7). They had become defined by their extreme values and lifestyle. To this day, when we hear of Sodom and Gomorrah, we think of sexual perversion great enough to bring God’s judgment (Genesis 19:24–25).

We often use the term Hollywood to refer to anything pertaining to the entertainment industry, even though other cities such as New York and Nashville contribute to it also. Although there are many Christians and ordinary people living in Hollywood, the city is known for its lavish materialism, adultery, sensuality, self-worship, idolatry, and anti-God bias. The overwhelming majority of movies and television shows Hollywood produces are filled with profanity, graphic or implied sex, and blatant promotion of all types of sin. Children are seduced by the “glamor” of Hollywood from their preschool years and grow up longing to be movie stars. Parents who recall their own star-struck childhood race to buy the latest product endorsed by the current heartthrob, regardless of the morals or lifestyle that idol embraces. Unfortunately, we are reaping the disastrous results of another generation raised by Hollywood’s standards.

There are several questions to consider in forming a response to Hollywood.

1. What, exactly, so attracts us to Hollywood? Part of Hollywood’s appeal is the covetousness it champions. From every newsstand and television set, we are told that we want what the celebrities have. Headlines such as “America Wants to Know!” or “The Life Every Woman Dreams Of” scream at us from checkout lines, planting the message that we cannot possibly be content if we are not following celebrities. Millions gobble it up and, in their attempt to live like their idols, become indebted, anorexic, or promiscuous. Hollywood is in the business of creating idols and foisting them upon us whether we want them or not.

God has strong words for the sin of covetousness. He included it in His Top Ten List (Exodus 20:17). Jesus said, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions” (Luke 12:15). Covetousness is a thief that steals joy, peace, and contentment—qualities God wants His children to have in abundance (Galatians 5:22; 1 Timothy 6:6). So, for a Christian to become enamored with the lavish lifestyles of the rich and famous is to break God’s tenth commandment and forfeit the contentment He wants us to develop.

2. Why is Hollywood so influential? Aside from the materialism it wallows in, Hollywood has come to represent the great American fascination with entertainment. Entertainment is an idol that has crept quietly through the back door of Western Christianity. It goes mostly unnoticed as a threat because it does not wear the mask of evil. Entertainment itself is neutral. We use it to distract crying babies, quiet restless children, and relax weary workers. Entertainment can help unify a family on vacation, give teenagers something healthy to do, and bring enjoyment in stressful times.

But in prosperous cultures, entertainment has become an addiction. Entertainment for its own sake steals time, money, and mental energy that could be spent on more worthwhile pursuits. The world’s appetite for entertainment is Hollywood’s lifeblood. Without a demand for entertainment, celebrities would have to get real jobs like everyone else. Hollywood could not sustain itself without the public’s hunger for more. As with any addiction, the craving for greater thrills increases, and that’s why the public demands spectacles that are bigger, louder, more exciting, more beautiful, and more sensual. The lust for entertainment replaces the joy of the Lord until time with God is seen as an interruption in the pursuit of pleasure. At that point, entertainment has replaced God as our supreme delight and has become an idol (Exodus 20:3; 34:14; Jeremiah 2:13).

Entertainment is also wrong when we allow ourselves to be captivated by things that displease the Lord (Romans 1:32). When we excuse a movie’s sex scenes with “It had a good message” or become fans of openly immoral entertainers, we are crossing a line. We are allowing Hollywood rather than God’s Word to define our values. When making entertainment choices, one good question to ask is: “If Jesus was coming to spend the weekend with me, would I be happy to share this with Him?” Would He approve of the movie? reality show? new CD? Would He buy a People magazine and feast on the stories of mate-swapping and infidelity? Would He applaud the sensual dancers on the stage? If He would not, then why do we?

3. Do we excuse language and behavior in movies and television shows that we would never endorse if it was done in our homes? If we willingly sit through acts of violence, immorality, profanity, and anti-Christian themes without it bothering us, then perhaps we have allowed the values of Hollywood to invade our lives. When we can fill our minds with vulgarities on Saturday night, yet show up for worship on Sunday morning with no awareness of the inconsistency, we have fallen victim to the lure of the Hollywood god.

Philippians 4:8 instructs us about our thought life: “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things” (ESV). Jesus said, “For out of the heart come evil thoughts—murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander” (Matthew 15:19). When our minds have entertained that which God calls evil, our thought life and eventually our actions will be affected. Proverbs 13:20 says, “Walk with the wise and become wise, for a companion of fools suffers harm.”

How we spend our time eventually defines us. If Hollywood is not reflecting the values we claim to cherish, then we must be careful how much time we spend with it. To honor God, we must compare the values coming out of Hollywood to the unchanging standard of Scripture. Then we must “hate what is evil; cling to what is good” (Romans 12:9). Hollywood flaunts what God despises. Why do we suppose God is indifferent when a culture clamors for depictions of sin? As Christians, we are to seek after God and His righteousness (Matthew 6:33). If any form of entertainment does not support that goal, our response must be to reject it.


What is Spiritual Enlightenment?


Many are on the quest for "spiritual enlightenment." It sounds quite lofty and inspiring, doesn't it? But what it is? Is “spiritual enlightenment” something everyone should pursue?

The term usually has overtones of New Age and Eastern mysticism, tracing its  roots to religions such as Buddhism, Hinduism, and Gnosticism. Teaching the goodness of the inner self, transcendentalism, or the worship of angels is all man-made ideology and is contrary to the Bible. Jehovah God is the ultimate Spirit, and any search for “enlightenment” must lead to Him, through His Son, or it is a false religion (Exodus 20:3; Isaiah 45:5; John 14:6).

The goal of spiritual enlightenment is to satisfy the human longing for immortality and purpose. People have attempted to meet that longing through a variety of emotional experiences that they call “god.” But we cannot create our own gods. Nor can we decide how we will approach the real God. He already exists, and the only way a human being can truly know Him is through His Son, Jesus Christ (John 10:30). Because of our sinful state, we cannot come to a holy God by any other means. All paths do NOT lead to God, regardless of how sincere the seeker may be (John 3:16–18). Jesus is the way. Any religion or movement that offers another path to spiritual wholeness is leading away from true enlightenment, not toward it.

God said, “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart” (Jeremiah 29:13). We seek Him by getting to know Him through His Word , accepting His Son’s sacrifice for our sin, and living a life guided by the power of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:16). As we grow in our faith, our understanding deepens. We begin to see life from God’s perspective (Isaiah 55:8–9), and, as we obey Him, we acquire wisdom (Psalm 128:1). So, within that context, everyone should absolutely seek spiritual enlightenment. To know God and align our will with His is the ultimate goal of human existence. The more we know Jesus Christ, the more enlightened we are (John 1:4–5). Any other path leads only to darkness (Matthew 22:13).

According to the Bible, a disciple of Christ is one who has made Jesus Christ the Lord of his or her life and has been “born again” into the family of God (John 3:3). The very act of receiving Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord is the ultimate spiritual enlightenment, because Jesus said, “I am the Light of the world” (John 8:12; 9:5). When we invite Him into our lives, He sends the Holy Spirit to dwell within our spirits (1 Corinthians 6:19). What was dead inside comes to life; what was dark becomes light. So a born-again Christian has already attained true spiritual enlightenment.