What’s The Church Supposed To Do?

If you ask the church that I’ve spent most of my life in what their mission is they have a ready answer: preaching the gospel and preparing a people. I can’t speak for your churches, but I imagine many (perhaps even most) of them would also point to some version of what we call The Great Commission as their mission statement.

Jesus came to them and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to me in heaven and on earth. Go, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I commanded you. Behold, I am with you always, even to the end of the age. (Matt. 28:18-20, WEB)

Is this a commission? yes, it’s “an instruction, command, or duty given to … group of people.” Is it great? since it came from Jesus and involves a responsibility given His disciples, yes. But is it really meant as the defining mission statement for the entire church from Jesus’ resurrection to His return? I’m not so sure.

What's The Church Supposed To Do? Looking At Scriptural Mission Statements For People Following Jesus | marissabaker.wordpress.com

Photo credit: Pearl via Lightstock

A Sobering Warning

The religious leaders of Jesus’ day were the group He spent the most time criticizing and correcting. They professed to follow God’s highest standards but were in reality hypocrites. They did righteous looking things just to get attention (Matt. 23:5). They went to great lengths to convert people only to pervert their faith (Matt. 23:15). They placed too high an emphasis on money received as tithes and offerings (Matt. 23:16-19). They neglected the “weighty matters” of God’s law and instead followed their own traditions. They even turned the temple itself into a marketplace where they exploited people coming to worship God (John 2:14-16).

The scary thing is, these people honestly thought they were the most righteous God-followers out there. That serves as a warning today that church leaders and organizations have to be very careful where they place their focus. And so do we as individual members of Christ’s body.

A Greater “Commission”

We certainly shouldn’t ignore Christ’s instruction to go, disciple, baptize, and teach. But we need to make sure we’re thinking of that command from Matthew 28 in its proper context. Because there are two other commissions that Jesus plainly told us are His greatest commands. Continue reading

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Approaching The King: Keys To Entering God’s Presence

Suppose you’ve been invited to meet the Queen of England. You don’t just walk in, wave, and say, “Hey there Elizabeth.” There are rules, protocol, and etiquette. You should bring a gift, remember to use the right form of address (“Your Majesty” first, then “ma’am”), and not turn reach out and touch her. These days, you won’t get in too much trouble for a slip in convention. But there have been many countries and many times throughout history that approaching royalty in the wrong way could get you killed.

Traditionally, people have recognized something special about royalty. Part of this was religious — rulers were seen as gods, or representatives of the gods, or appointed by God. It’s also a matter of recognizing and respecting an authority role.  Even in countries without a monarchy, we’ll still tend to recognize that some social positions command a certain amount of respect (i.e. you won’t talk with your boss the same way as a close friend and you’d probably show the President even more respect).

Approaching The King: Keys To Entering God's Presence | marissabaker.wordpress.com

Photo Credit: “Romania-1603,” by Dennis Jarvis, CC BY-SA via Flickr

A Question From God

The Bible applies several titles to God that demand respect, including Father, Master, Lord, and King. But do we take them seriously? Historically, God’s people have fallen short in this regard.

A son honors his father, and a servant his master. If I am a father, then where is my honor? And if I am a master, where is the respect due me? Says Yahweh of Armies to you, priests, who despise my name. (Mal. 1:6, WEB)

Yes, God loves you and He wants to be your friend. But we’re not to forget who He is and the respect due Him. “‘For I am a great King,’ says Yahweh of Armies, ‘and my name is awesome among the nations’.” (Mal. 1″14, WEB). God deserves more respect than worldly authority figures, but do we even give Him that much? Continue reading

Clean Temples For Yom Kippur

Back in the Old Testament when there was a tabernacle or temple standing, it included a room called “the most holy place” or “the holy of holies.” This was where the ark of the covenant was and a heavy veil separated it from the rest of the inner temple. It wasn’t a place that people, even the priests, could just walk into.

and Yahweh said to Moses, “Tell Aaron your brother, not to come at all times into the Most Holy Place within the veil, before the mercy seat which is on the ark; lest he die: for I will appear in the cloud on the mercy seat. (Lev. 16:2, WEB)

The only time someone could enter this most holy place was on the Day of Atonement, or Yom Kippur. Even then only the high priest could go in and only if he followed the proper rules for entering a place God had sanctified.

Clean Temples For Yom Kippur | marissabaker.wordpress.com

Photo credit: “Clean” by Sara Laval, CC BY via Flickr

But why bring this up now? We don’t have a temple or a priesthood or sacrifices anymore. And many Christians will say all that Old Testament stuff belong in the past. Or does it? There actually is a temple today, for “you are a temple of God” (1 Cor. 3:16, WEB). There’s a priesthood, too, because Jesus Christ is the High Priest and He has “an unchangeable priesthood” (Heb. 7:24, KJV). We’re even included in that because we’re meant “to be a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices” (1 Pet. 2:5, WEB). So given these facts, what can we learn from Yom Kippur today?

Temples Defiled By Association

When I was re-reading Leviticus 16, I was surprised to notice that the high priest was told to “make atonement for the Holy Place, because of the uncleanness of the children of Israel, and because of their transgressions, even all their sins” (Lev. 16:16, 33 WEB). I knew he was to make atonement for himself and “all the assembly of Israel,” but hadn’t noticed the holy place needed atoned for as well (Lev. 16:17, 30). There was something about being in the midst of an unclean, sinful people that defiled even the part of the temple where God’s presence appeared.

Today, the church body is described as a temple of God (there’s also a temple talked about in heaven, which we’ll get to later). The Greek word used in those passages is always naos (G3485), which refers to the inner sanctuary rather than the entire temple complex (which would be hieron, G2411). We are now God’s most holy place. And like the other holy of holies, we can become defiled by choice (see 1 Cor. 3:16-17) or by the sinful world around us. Continue reading

God Won’t Let You Fight Alone

It’s easy to talk about trusting God when things in our lives are going well. It’s harder to recognize His presence when it feels like life is falling apart all around us. In times like that, we need reminders that God will not abandon us in our fights and that He will fight for us.

Several weeks ago, we talked about claiming God’s promises. There’s quite a few made in the pages of our Bibles, and that post only covered His promise to give the holy spirit, to be friends with those who love Him, and to hear when we call on Him. And even after adding another post about the promises in Psalm 91 we just barely scratched the surface of this topic.

One of the promises in Psalm 91 is about God’s protection in the midst of trials. Sometimes He doesn’t take us out of a dangerous or uncomfortable situation, but rather brings us through it. God doesn’t intend to coddle us. He wants us to be thriving and growing and overcoming. He knows we need a shelter and provides that, but He also wants to give us courage to keep going as well.God Won't Let You Fight Alone | marissabaker.wordpress.com

He Won’t Let You Down

When Moses addressed the Israelites before appointing Joshua as his successor, he reminded them that their human leader isn’t really the one who takes care of them. The Lord God is the one who fights for them and who they must obey. He then shares a promise from God:

Be strong and courageous. Don’t be afraid or scared of them; for Yahweh your God himself is who goes with you. He will not fail you nor forsake you. (Deut. 31:6, WEB)

Later, the Lord personally reiterates this promise to Joshua (Josh. 1:5). And we know the promise extends beyond Joshua and the Israelites because the writer of Hebrews tells us we can be emboldened by the Lord’s promise, “I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee” (Heb. 13:5, KJV).

Though “leave” and “fail” seem quite different in English, the Greek word used in Hebrews is actually a perfect translation for the Hebrew word used in Deuteronomy. Both words mean “to let sink,” as if you’d been holding something up and then let it go (H7503, raphah and G447, aniemi). In modern terminology, we would say that God promises not to let you down. Continue reading

To Seek And Search Out By Wisdom: INTP Christians

I started my project about Christians of different Myers Briggs types because of comments I’ve received from INTP Christians. INTPs are often stereotyped as the “least religious type” and hearing from so many INTPs made me curious about how different types approach their faith. And so I’m very excited to share this post where we dive-into the perspective of INTP Christians.

This is the fourth post in a series talking with Christians of different personality types. When you start discussing faith with different people of different types, you notice not all the personalities feel equally valued and understood in Christian churches. If Christianity is a faith meant for all people why aren’t we doing a better job of connecting with all personality types?

Our walks with God don’t all look the same. We’re influenced by our backgrounds, variations in beliefs, and individual personalities. And even though the goal is for us all to become “like God,” that doesn’t mean we become indistinguishable from each other. God created great variety in people and I believe He did that for a reason. So let’s spend today’s post hearing from and talking about the unique perspectives of INTP Christians. I also want to take a moment to thank the five INTPs who got in touch with me, shared their perspectives, and let me quote them.To Seek And Search Out By Wisdom: INTP Christians | marissabaker.wordpress.com

Identifying With Bible Characters

The first question I asked people was which Bible characters and/or stories they identified with most. The INTPs’ choices reflect highly individual thought processes and ways of relating to the Bible. The only overlap is that several INTPs explain their choices by saying they personally identify with an aspect of their chosen character’s story.

Meredith says she relates to Moses not wanting to confront Pharaoh “probably because he didn’t want to come across as stupid and weak,” “to Asa, doing good stuff and being devoted for a while, and then pouting at God’s disciplinary measures when I messed up,” and to Solomon, who “was a very intellectual person.” Anonymous commenter kittyess also mentioned Solomon, but in her case it’s because he was “struggling with the apparent meaninglessness of life yet trying to find joy and contentment in life through God.” The fact that two INTPs mentioned Solomon, together with this type’s interest in digging down to the truth of the matter, is the reason I chose a quote from Ecclesiastes for this post’s title. Continue reading

In The Secret Place: The Promises of Psalm 91

Last week we talked about claiming promises from God. But we didn’t talk about the verses that got me started on that study. Psalm 91 is packed full of promises that are clearly meant to include the reader. There isn’t even a writer credited, so there’s no clear historical context, and the psalm is addressed to all who make the Lord their God. There’s nothing to distract from the fact that this psalm was written for everyone who’s in a relationship with God, including you as a Christian today.In The Secret Place: The Promises of Psalm 91 | marissabaker.wordpress.com

Claiming Relationship With God

He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of Yahweh, “He is my refuge and my fortress; my God, in whom I trust.” (Ps. 91:1-2, WEB)

The psalm begins with a promise to those who remain, inhabit, and abide (H3427, yashab) in the hiding place or shelter (H5643 sether) of the Most High God. They will “stay permanently” (Strong’s H3885 lun) in the shadowing protection (H6738 tsel) of El Shaddai.

Because of that promise, we get the only “I” statement from this psalm’s writer. They claim the Lord as “my God” and say they will have confidence in Him (H982 baach). And they demonstrate that trust by making Him their refuge, shelter (H4268 machaseh) and defensive stronghold (H4684 matsud). That’s something we can do as well.

Stripping Fear of Power

This psalm contains truly incredible promises of protection in the midst of trials. We’d probably prefer it if God’s protection meant we didn’t have to go through trials. But to be delivered “from the snare of the fowler, and from the deadly pestilence,” there must be someone trying to trap you or a pestilence threatening your life (Ps. 91:3, WEB). And if “A thousand may fall at your side, and ten thousand at your right hand,” then you must be in a location where people are perishing right and left (Ps. 91:7, KJV). Continue reading