Thursday, October 25, 2007

UNITY!!!

Unity is a buzzword that has been going around for some time now, but I have been hearing it more frequently these days and how terrible it is that we as a church are divided.

Anyhow, I have been putting my brain to the test of trying to understand this notion of "the church is not united as Jesus had intended."

I would like to challenge that notion.

Lets look at John 17:11b
Holy Father,(AG) keep them in your name,(AH) which you have given me,(AI) that they may be one,(AJ) even as we are one.

The Restoration Movement and the Campbellites have used this passage as their banner of truth for saying that the church is divided and needs to be united back to the Bible. I can truly appreciate the idea, and I think they should be commended for wanting Unity.

But, I think this misunderstands what Jesus was praying for, and it also lessons the power of Christ as the head of the church.

I will grant you that there are obviously many denominations... and within those denominations there are different slants or peculiarities that they have held as being important when in fact these things are secondary issues.

But, these many denominations does NOT mean that the church is divided as a BODY of Christ. It truly IS one!!!!

Look at it this way... if Jesus prayed that He wanted us to be ONE... You better believe it that we are indeed ONE. He is still the head of the church and we are still the body.

Of course I'm talking about the "invisible church" and not so much these many organizations, denominations, and sects that have segregated themselves. But, it seems to me that there were many small churches from the very beginning. They couldn't all meet in big church buildings like we have today.

Anyone who is a true believer, and any true church believes in the essentials of the Christian Faith... And especially when we are all united in Christ through the Holy Spirit. We are all ONE.

Look at it this way... When we hear about martyrs around the world and Christians being thrown in prison for their faith. How important does my denomination or congregation mean to me when I'm in prison with a Baptist, Lutheran, Presbyterian, Seventh-Day Adventist, or Assembly of God, etc. Those things seem to be less important, and our bonds as Brothers, and Sisters in Christ seem to be the only thing we have left. And in those moments, we see that we really truly are ONE in Christ.

Now, that we in America are not for the most part (yet) having to deal with being imprisoned for our faith in Christ, I can see an advantage for having many denominations.
I know you're thinking I've lost my marbles... but I haven't... hear me out.
1) Some denominations excel in traditions (Lutheran, Presbyterian, Reformed churches, etc.) We can learn tons from these churches about our history and the depths of scripture for those that have stayed loyal to scripture.

2) Some denominations we can see have a heart for those who are lost and are not stuck with traditions but tend to embrace the concept of being a family and caring for each other. They tend to focus on evangelism and growth more than those belonging to the 1) category. (Baptists, Christian Churches, etc.)

3) Some Churches excel in doing outreach ministries or they invest a lot of time, money and resources into missions in the community and/or around the world.

So, if you have a bent towards any of these it would be likely that you would feel at home somewhere in one of these denominations. Just like someone might want to go to a church where they speak the same languge.

Another advantage to having the many denominations is we make each other dig into God's Word and we challenge each other to "know what we believe, and why we believe it". And that drives us to understand God's Word and to study it more dilligently. After all iron sharpens iron.

I see that there are many blessings to be found in each denomination and I'm not certain I would want any one of them to change because they after all maybe functioning how Christ wants them too. Someone has to be the foot. Someone has to be the hands. Someone has to be the heart, lungs, nervous system, stomach (Baptists - Fried Chicken), etc. Not all the parts of the body do the same function but they are still part of the same body.

Well, that's my take on the whole UNITY thing. I know that we as believers can do a better job of showing the world on the outside that we are really United it is important that they understand it, because in Christ we truly are... ONE!

Grace and Peace,
Chris Allen
E Pluribus Unum - Out of many ONE
Coram Deo!!!

Monday, October 22, 2007

The Heidelberg Catechism

Hello friends,
It has been a challenging few weeks in all aspects of life, but God continues to show me how much I depend on Him daily in every compartment of my world. Whether at Church, work, home, interacting with friends and family, I find myself sometimes thinking... "There is absolutely nobody to talk to these days. Nobody has the time to talk about theology, or the church or the Bible, or any of these things that are always running through my mind."

Although, I do love to talk about my family and how blessed it is to have these wonderful gifts from God (6 children). It is the former things that I long to share the most.

Anyhow, during those moments I see how much I depend on God, and I see somewhat how a person might want to become a monk... but that thought quickly leaves my mind as I am someone who needs the encouragement and love of my wife, family, and of a brother or a sister in Christ. Maybe this is an area of weakness? But, that's why I depend on Christ since I always come up short anyways.

When it comes to those who are not believers I have come to appreciate their friendship, even though they may not be interested in Christ at this moment... I can still be a friend, without any ulterior motives to maybe convert them later, but just to show them love, the same love that Christ showed to all. So, I hope that I can be ready to give an answer to those who ask about the hope that I have, and I pray that I can give an answer with gentleness and respect.

Grace and Peace,
Chris Allen
Coram Deo!!!

_____________________
Lord’s Day 16
40. Why was it necessary for Christ to suffer “death?” Because the justice and truth [1] of God required that satisfaction for our sins could be made in no other way than by the death of the Son of God.[2]
[1] Gen 2:17; [2] Rom 6:23, 8:3; Php 2:8; Heb 2:9, 14-15
41. Why was He “buried?”
To show thereby that He was really dead.[1]
[1] Isa 53:9; Mt 27:59-60; Jn 19:38-42; Acts 13:29; 1 Cor 15:3-4
42. Since, then, Christ died for us, why must we also die?
Our death is not a satisfaction for our sin, but only a dying to sin and an entering into eternal life.[1]
[1] Jn 5:24; Rom 7:24-25; Php 1:21-23; 1 Thes 5:9-10
43. What further benefit do we receive from the sacrifice and death of Christ on the cross?
That by His power our old man is with Him crucified, slain, and buried;[1] so that the evil lusts of the flesh may no more reign in us,[2] but that we may offer ourselves unto Him a sacrifice of thanksgiving.[3]
[1] Rom 6:5-11; Col 2:11-12; [2] Rom 6:12-14; [3] Rom 12:1; 2 Cor 5:15; Eph 5:1-2
44. Why is it added: “He descended into hell?”
That in my greatest temptations I may be assured that Christ my Lord, by His inexpressible anguish, pains, and terrors, which He suffered in His soul on the cross and before, has redeemed me from the anguish and torment of hell.[1]
[1] Ps 18:5; 116:3; Isa 53; Mt 26:36-46, 27:46; Heb 5:7-10

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

The Heidelberg Catechism - Lord's Day 15

Hello Friends,
Here I am in Baltimore, Maryland on business travel. While I here, I have been blessed to be able to reconnect with my friends and classmates from Covenant Seminary. I was also able to attend a Bible study at their church.

Grace and Peace,
Chris
Coram Deo!!!
__________________

His Death
Lord’s Day 15

37. What do you understand by the word “suffered?”

That all the time He lived on earth, but especially at the end of His life, He bore, in body and soul, the wrath of God against the sin of the whole human race;[1] in order that by His suffering, as the only atoning sacrifice,[2] He might redeem our body and soul from everlasting damnation,[3] and obtain for us the grace of God, righteousness, and eternal life.[4]

[1] Isa 53; 1 Tim 2:6; 1 Pt 2:2-4, 24, 3:18; [2] Ps 22:14-16; Mt 26:38; Rom 3:25-26, 5:6; 1 Cor 5:7; Eph 5:2; Heb 10:14; 1 Jn 2:2, 4:10; [3] Rm 8:1-4; Gal 3:13; Col 1:13; Heb 9:12; 1Pt 1:18-19; [4] Jn 3:16; Rom 3:24-26; 2Cor 5:21; Heb 9:11

38. Why did He suffer “under Pontius Pilate” as judge?

That He, being innocent, might be condemned by the temporal judge,[1] and thereby deliver us from the severe judgment of God, to which we were exposed.[2]

[1] Lk 23:13-24; Jn 19:4, 12-16; Acts 4:27-28; [2] Ps 69:4; Isa 53:4-5; Mt 27:24; 2 Cor 5:21; Gal 3:13

39. Is there anything more in His having been “crucified” than if He had suffered some other death?

Yes, for thereby I am assured that He took upon Himself the curse which lay upon me,[1] because the death of the cross was accursed of God.[2]

[1] Gal 3:13-14; [2] Deut 21:22-23; Php 2:8