68. Glory in the Church

Robert T. Henderson

This message is from author and pastor Robert T. Henderson. Enchanted Community and other book titles from Pastor Henderson are available from amazon.com

Commitment: An Exercise in Love

Bill SerjakDevotional Writings

“By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:35). We become Christians in a very personal way. Individually, we put faith in what Jesus did on the cross to pay the penalty for our sins and invite Jesus into our lives to begin a personal relationship to Him. However, it doesn’t stop there. We are not known to be Christ’s disciples by how much faith we have in Christ’s death on the cross or how close our personal relationship is to Him. According to John 13:35, all men know Christians to be disciples of Jesus because we have learned to love each other. We receive Jesus Christ individually, but, once we do that, we find ourselves as a part of the Church. The growth in our faith does not come from only understanding more of who Jesus is, but primarily from learning to love the others in the body of Christ. That isn’t easy. Those of us who follow Jesus aren’t as easy to love as He is. Some of us may be the very people you would try to avoid, except for the fact that you keep running into us in church on Sunday. Nothing stretches us in our growth as disciples more than learning to love other Christians.

Some people stunt their growth as Christians by not becoming deeply involved with a group of God’s people. They just keep attending a church until something happens that they don’t like, then they move on to another church, hoping to find one that will operate the way they like. According to I Corinthians 13:4, “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.” Paul goes on to list other things that define love. If in the church we always saw things alike, we would never have to exercise our love. If we never exercised our love, we would not grow as disciples of Christ. It is important to be a part of a church, not only for the support we receive, but also for how working together stretches our ability to love. That is the best reason I know for joining a church rather than just attending. Joining a church causes us to make a commitment to a group of Christians and that commitment holds us together and forces us to learn to love each other even when it would be much easier to just go somewhere else. That is also why we make a commitment in marriage. Commitments force us exercise our love.

God’s Grace and Niceness

Bill SerjakDevotional Writings

Christian Smith, the Stuart Chapin Distinguished Professor and Associate Chair in the sociology department at the University of North Carolina recently conducted a survey on the religious beliefs of teenagers. Many surveys have been done on today’s teens but most were about how to sell products to them. Dr. Smith’s survey may have been the first to study what teens believed about God. They interviewed over 300 teens from across the country and carefully documented each interview. The results were remarkable and have been published by Dr. Smith in a recent book called Soul Searching.

After the data was compiled, Dr. Smith found that the religious beliefs of teens are remarkably similar. Most believe that God exists, that He was the creator and has ordered the universe, that we understand the world because it has been ordered by God. The purpose of life is to be nice, good, and pleasant. They believe that good people go to heaven and almost everyone is good. They see the goal of life as being personal happiness. They view God as a cosmic therapist and divine butler. They don’t go to God unless they are in trouble. When they do go to Him, He acts as their therapist or gets them the things they need. After that, He just quietly goes away and does not stay involved in their lives. The survey found these beliefs to be remarkably consistent across denominational lines. Even Muslim teens held pretty much the same beliefs. The teens had very little content to their faith. When Dr. Smith did a computer word search to find out how many times teens used the word grace in their responses, he found that most used it in referring to the TV show Will and Grace and hardly any used it in a theological way. You might wonder where teens got these heretical beliefs. Is there some conspiracy to lead teens away from the tenets of their faith? The survey showed that the teens primarily got their beliefs from their parents.

When thinking about this, I have to agree that those are the dominant beliefs of the people in our culture. Folks will talk about spirituality and even about God but few will talk about Jesus, because that is too particular. That would imply that Jesus is the way to God and other ways are wrong, and that isn’t nice. It is no wonder why few people share their faith. If the primarily goal of life is to be nice, sharing faith in Christ might be interpreted by many as not being very nice. To be a biblical Christian in today’s world, one of the first obstacles to overcome is the need to be nice. If the Apostle Paul were dropped down into today’s world, most would not think he was very nice. I don’t think even Jesus would pass the niceness test. According to the Bible, many nice people will end up in hell. If this bothers you, it may well be that your belief system is the same as that of today’s teens. We go to heaven when we admit ourselves to be sinners and trust that Jesus’ death on the cross paid for our sins. That is called God’s grace. That seems to be a very hard thing for today’s people to believe. It is still true.

51. Obedience to the Gospel

Robert T. Henderson

This message is from author and pastor Robert T. Henderson. Enchanted Community and other book titles from Pastor Henderson are available from amazon.com

In Beginning Intro: Welcome Church / A Genesis Prologue

Bill Serjak

This is a message from pastor and teacher Bill Serjak from the Genesis series “In Beginning”

In Beginning 01: The Beginning

Bill Serjak

This is a message from pastor and teacher Bill Serjak from the Genesis series “In Beginning”

The Beginning
Genesis 1:1-5

When we studied the Bible in seminary, we began with the twelfth chapter of Genesis with God’s calling of Abraham to become a great nation. We studied how the Jews came together as a nation and then later how the Christian Church was formed. Unfortunately, there are eleven chapters that come earlier in Genesis and I think they lay important groundwork for understanding the rest of the book.
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In Beginning 02: Sky, Water, and Earth

Bill Serjak

This is a message from pastor and teacher Bill Serjak from the Genesis series “In Beginning”

Sky, Water, and Earth
Genesis 1:7-13

The Book of Genesis begins, “In the beginning,” but as I mentioned last week, there is no direct article in the original Hebrew, so literally it could be translated, In beginning. That difference might be significant if we think of this not as creating a time line, but as meaning that God is currently at the core or at beginning of all the universe and that our world is still being held together by God. That is not the way we are taught to think in our modern educational system: we are taught to think of the universe as eternal and infinite and not being held together by anything outside itself. It changes our conception of our world, our default thought mode of thinking, if we start to think, as the Bible says in Colos-sians, that the molecules of our world are constantly being held together by God. The world doesn’t exist on its own and would cease to exist, would melt down, if God didn’t keep holding it together. That new default mode of thinking means that God is eternal and He is all that exists eternally. Genesis tells us that God took chaos and brought order to the universe. He is now still bringing order to the universe and keeping it together. Without God, the universe would go back to its natural state of chaos. Everything in the world goes to chaos unless someone, something, or some group holds it together.
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In Beginning 03: Light and Darkness

Bill Serjak

This is a message from pastor and teacher Bill Serjak from the Genesis series “In Beginning”

Light and Darkness
Genesis 1:14-25

Some think a biblical contradiction is found in these verses. They say that if God created light on the first day that could not be since He did not create the sun until the fourth day. They think there could not be light without the sun. That comes from what I have said we often run into in reading the Genesis account of creation. We have been taught to think that the universe is infinite and eternal; so, whenever we imagine God, our minds automatically put Him somewhere in that infinite universe. But the Bible says He transcends the universe. We also think light must have a source within the universe. We don’t think of light as existing apart from a source like the sun or stars, which are also suns, or the moon, which reflects light. It would not occur to us that light can be created apart from a source. However, since Einstein it is possible for scientists to think of light existing apart from a source. He put together the basic building blocks of the universe in his famous equation E = mc2 , those building blocks were mass, energy, and light. Einstein’s theory of relativity is that everything is relative to the speed of light; nothing can travel faster than the speed of light.
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In Beginning 04: The Living Creatures

Bill Serjak

This is a message from pastor and teacher Bill Serjak from the Genesis series “In Beginning”

The Living Creatures
Genesis 1:20-25

God’s creation is becoming more complicated. In the beginning, God made light, sky, water, and earth. Those things are inert and unchanging. They are so static that we can mark property boundaries or navigate by them. When surveying property, large rocks or trees can be markers, but trees are alive and can grow enough to throw markers off, or they can die and decay. All living things have growth and some movement; the creatures God created later have greater and greater movement. A property boundary could never be marked by where a rabbit is located; God’s more complicated creatures have a great deal of freedom of movement. If God is to guide the movement of those creatures, it is done by less rigid rules than those that guide the stars. A more internal guidance system is needed for complex living creatures. Complex creatures also can participate in creation through growth and reproduction.
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In Beginning 05: God’s Image

Bill Serjak

This is a message from pastor and teacher Bill Serjak from the Genesis series “In Beginning”

God’s Image
Genesis 1:26-31

This passage teaches us several things. When the passage refers to God creating man, it says, “Let us make man in our image.” The main emphasis of the Jews is that God is one, but their word for God is plural. It may seem a contradiction, but it is quite true; God is both plural and singular. God being three persons in one person is taught in the Bible from the very beginning. That is not a logical understanding of God but is a mystery. It is not surprising that trying to understand the nature of God could result in a mystery. Later this month, I will teach a C. S. Lewis seminar. I like to include in that teaching the limits of logic in understanding life, let alone its limits in understanding God. Much of what we know is not reasonable and pure reason will not cause you to arrive at a true understanding of the universe. The basic nature of God is one of those things that can’t be understood by logical derivation from what we see; it comes mainly from revelation.
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