Ask Your Preacher

Ask Your Preacher

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Meeting Needs

Monday, April 25, 2011
Where we worship, there are a great number of people in need of healthcare.  It seems every time the announcements are made, we mention several who have missed because they are sick or in the hospital.  Where does the burden of responsibility lie for a church meeting the needs of its sick?  Considering the purpose of the church includes assembling, where do we stop in our efforts to help people assemble?

Sincerely,
Support Staff

Dear Support Staff,

Technically, it isn’t the job of the church to make sure people get to church services; it is the church’s job to make sure services happen.  That distinction can be seen in Heb 10:24-25 because individuals were rebuked for forsaking the assembly.  It is the individual’s responsibility to make it to services, not the church’s job to drag them there.

Having said that, we shouldn’t be cold-hearted toward people’s needs.  If there is a way for others to “do good to the household of faith” (Gal 6:10) by providing rides, that is more than appropriate and a great example of christian hospitality (1 Pet 4:9).  But once again, we are talking about individuals helping other individuals.

The church is told to assemble on the first day of the week as a minimum (Acts 20:7, 1 Cor 16:1-2).  That is the sum total of God’s command for the collective local body – it is very generic.  Within that generic command, a congregation can decide where, when, etc. based upon what is expedient and useful.  The specifics are left up to the local church to decide using wisdom (Pr 4:7).  The church has to factor in the needs of every member (ailing and healthy) when deciding when to meet.  It isn’t about meeting the needs of one particular group of people; it is about trying to balance everyone’s needs.  That looks different in each congregation because each congregation is made out of a unique collection of people.

 

Keeping In Tune

Sunday, April 24, 2011
Is it right or wrong to use musical instruments during church services?

Sincerely,
Musically Minded

Dear Musically Minded,

Before we go into the specifics of this issue, it is important to note that how we feel about a topic is not the same as the truth on a topic.  We may feel that a certain activity is pleasing to God, but that doesn’t mean it is.  God tells us that His ways are not our ways (Isa 55:8) and that every man’s ways are right in his own eyes (Pr 21:2).  The issue isn’t whether or not you feel that you are pleasing God when using instruments to worship – the question we have to ask is: “What do the Scriptures say about instruments in worship?”

The fact is that God has given us instruments to use for worshipping Him – our hearts (Eph 5:19).  In the New Testament, God tells us to sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to Him.  He wants the only melody He hears to come from our hearts.  Instrumental music wasn’t introduced into the church until over three hundred years after Christ.  In fact, ‘a cappella’ singing (singing without instruments) literally means ‘as the church’.  There are no examples of the church using instruments to worship God in the New Testament.  If we start using them, we are adding something to God’s Word (Rev 22:18-19).  All we are ever told to do is “sing and make melody in our hearts”… pluck your heartstrings as you sing to God, and you will make God happy.  If a congregation begins to use instruments in worship, they must do so without any New Testament Scripture to back up the practice.

The problem with instrumental music in worship is that it isn’t a part of the Bible pattern, and the moment we start doing things outside the Bible, we have gone beyond what God intended (1 Cor 4:6).  Instrumental music may sound appealing to us, but it is just one more manmade additive that adds to the division and confusion found in the religious world.

 

Congregation Investigation

Saturday, April 23, 2011
How can you tell if a church’s teachings are false?  What must I look for?  Thank you for your time and help.

Sincerely,
On The Alert

Dear On The Alert,

Look for a church that is trying to follow the New Testament pattern as closely as possible. A congregation doesn’t need to be full of perfect people, but they need to be trying to faithfully follow God’s Word and not their own ideologies. The following are a few markers of what you should find in every church that is faithful to Christ’s Word:

  1. Their name should be Biblical. Church of Christ (Rom 16:16), the church (Acts 14:27), church of God (1 Cor 1:2), the Way (Acts 24:14) – all of these are Biblical names given to a local congregation. Having the right name on the front of the building doesn’t mean they are the right church, but if they can’t even get their name from the Bible, they probably aren’t worth wasting your time on.
  2. Their doctrine should be a copy of the New Testament (Acts 2:42). Any creeds, ‘statements of faith’, articles of belief, manuals, or handbooks are from man and not from God. You want a congregation that uses the Bible to decide their practices.
  3. They are autonomous. Every congregation of the New Testament had independence. Only local elders were over them (1 Pet 5:1-2, Acts 14:23). They were bound to follow Christ as their only head (Eph 5:23). No boards or committees, no headquarters in some other state, no popes or potentates – what you are looking for is a local body of believers which is accountable to Christ and His Word.
  4. The church’s work should be simple. The church of the first century wasn’t involved in every community and political arena. Their work was focused on three things – caring for needy christians (Acts 4:34), preaching to the lost, and teaching the saved (Acts 15:35). Find a congregation who is committed to being about Christ’s work.
  5. They should be open to examination. Any congregation that is serving Christ should be willing to explain why they do what they do. They should be willing to be examined because they are constantly examining themselves (2 Cor 13:5). There is nothing wrong with asking a congregation where their practices can be found in the New Testament. Ask questions and expect Bible answers for them.

These five things are by no means all of the characteristics of Christ’s church, but this should help narrow down your options significantly. Most people accept mediocrity from their church; don’t do that. It is unfair to expect the people of a congregation to be perfect… you will never find perfect humans. However, you should demand intellectual honesty and Biblical faithfulness from any congregation you want to be a member of. If you would like additional help as you look for a faithful congregation in your area, please email us at askyourpreacher@mvchurchofchrist.org and we would be happy to help you look.

 

Fool's Gold

Saturday, April 23, 2011
Does the Bible condemn alchemy?

Sincerely,
Alchemist

Dear Alchemist,

Alchemy is defined by most encyclopedias as a mixture between science and religion.  The science part of alchemy involves working with various metals and other inorganic substances in order to create new substances (like turning copper to gold) – this has absolutely nothing to do with religion and is often referred to as ‘practical alchemy’… which is a tad ironic because there isn’t anything practical about trying to turn copper to gold!

However, alchemy also involved a philosophical and religious desire to find a way to cheat death and create an elixir that would allow you to live forever.  Several of the early alchemists are recorded as viewing alchemy as a spiritual discipline.  This aspect of alchemy is immoral – and there is a decent argument that the two sides (practical and spiritual alchemy) are inextricably tied together.  The Bible says that there is only one true path to eternal life – Jesus Christ (Jhn 14:6).  Anything else is of the devil.

 

The Faithless' Faith

Friday, April 22, 2011
I work with a co-worker who claims to be an atheist.  There are a myriad of apologetic books that speak to these types of people and their claims.  However, I would like to seek your insights on how to best reason with this person.  In the process of talking with him, he has actually asked me to share Scriptures of encouragement that he could share with his girlfriend.  I have bought him his first Bible, Bible Dictionary, and a pamphlet on how to study the Bible, which he was moved by and gladly received.  I also offered to study with him, but he has not yet accepted my offer.  Still, he needs to be convinced that God is real and that we did not get here by accident.  Is there a simple format or practical approach I can use?

Sincerely,
Theist

Dear Theist,

Ironically, one of the best places to start with an atheist is to discuss their faith.  The relationship you mentioned sounds like it is a “talk when we can” sort of situation, and so it can be hard to cover anything in a systematic, step-by-step way.  Lord willing, you will eventually be able to have a sit-down class with this individual, but until then, you are really just trying to get him thinking about how important this issue is.

In the past, we have talked with our atheist friends about their faith, and it can really jar their eyes open.  Most atheists believe they don’t have faith, but this simply isn’t true.  An atheist cannot prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that there is no God any more than you or I can prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that there is.  At some point, both the atheist and the theist have faith.  Faith is an inevitable element of life.  Anytime you trust something you can’t see, it is an act of faith (Heb 11:1).  When we take an aspirin, we have faith that it isn’t laced with arsenic.  When we drive, we have faith that the traffic light is telling the other lanes to stop when it tells us to go.  We visit restaurants because we have faith in the recommendation our friend gave us, and we buy houses based on our faith in the home inspector’s report.  Everyone lives by faith – this is an important aspect of life.  If your atheist friend had no faith, he couldn’t function in life.

This is a great place to start because when an atheist realizes that they already live by faith, you can begin to discuss the fact that faith is based off of evidence.  We believe in God because we have been given enough evidence that we can reasonably believe in His existence.  Read “Does God Exist?” for a basic list of evidences.  When an atheist begins to view their life as a life of faith, it changes the discussion from “science vs. religion” to “which faith do I choose?”.  In our humble opinion, this is a good, practical place to start.

 

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