In a few short weeks, the world will turn to look and discuss the Messiah. Every year, one day has the world looking at the cradle which would rock the world. Whether you celebrate December 25th as the birth of Christ or another holiday in the giving/receiving of gifts, the fact is, people are thinking about the baby Jesus. Most likely, your family and friends will be thinking about Jesus.
While we know that Jesus grew into a man, the Christmas season causes us to reflect on the baby Jesus. It was a humble birth that God chose to bring His Son into the world. It would not be a birth that would amaze the world as it does now, but it would be a quiet entrance of the Promised Deliverer.
The first years would be a silent reflection of the humility of His life. Common people would be His first visitors and around two years of age magi from the east would bring Him earthly, honorable gifts. As His life would be sought by a power-hungry king, His family would become refugees. Finally, returning to His homeland, His family settled in a common town.
Amazingly enough, the Messiah grew up among the people without notice. Even after He grew into adulthood and began His earthly ministry, the people still saw His as Joseph and Mary’s boy. As His fame was growing and multitudes followed Him, some still saw Him as an earthly man and others saw Him as the Messiah the nation had waited so long to see. To the latter, He was their deliverer, their Savior, their King.
How do you see Jesus?
Just some thoughts,
I love the Church of Christ because of the beauty and simplicity of the doctrine which comes directly from the Bible. To understand my love for the Church, one would have to understand my conversion.
I grew up a staunch Methodist. My mother raised me that way as did her mother. Anything I could do, I did. I was not a lukewarm Methodist. It was my intent in college to attend seminary and go to Liberia in West Africa to be a missionary. I had two other roommates in college. One was the son of a Baptist preacher and the other was from the Church of Christ. Baptist and Methodist were the dominant churches in the area and I knew nothing about the Church of Christ.
We were good friends except when we got on each other’s nerves. One thing we did regularly was to sit in the commons room and discuss religion. It is the intent of most men to win religious battles and I was no exception. The question that stumped me the most for my roommate from the Church of Christ was: “Where do you find that in the Bible”? For example, “Where do you find Christians partaking of the Lord’s Supper quarterly and on special days?” After all, the Bible says in Acts 20:7, “Now on the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread…” When did the disciples break bread (have the Lord’s Supper)? On the first day of the week which was Sunday. Which Sunday? Every Sunday. So on the weekends when I came home I would wear a trail to my preacher’s house which was next door and we talked about this topic. “Well”, he would say, “That’s the way they did it back then in the Bible but as Methodist we have specific days to have it.” Check one for the Church of Christ for biblical accuracy. But I was determined to win the war.
Our next battle would be over titles like Reverend. Here we go again. “Where do you find that in the Bible?” he would ask. So there I went to my preacher for the answers. “Well”, he would say, “They didn’t use titles like we use them today. It’s a Methodist thing to help distinguish between the different roles.” “Humm”, I thought. “It’s not in the Bible but we use them today?” I found it interesting that not even the apostles were called Reverend. Check two for the Church of Christ for biblical accuracy. But still I was determined to win the war.
The next battle would be fought over special clothing and the clergy / laity system. Here we go again. “Where do you find that in the Bible?” I could not think of any place but surely my preacher would know. “No, it can’t be found in the Bible” he said. “All the special robes and the clergy / laity system kind of evolved over the centuries to what you see today.” So I’m thinking to myself, “All of this is not in the Bible but we are doing it today?” I’m starting to see a trend. The only thing I could reason is that the system developed that way to elevate some above the masses to make them feel special, superior or more holy than others. I remembered in Acts 10:25-26 where it says, “As Peter was coming in, Cornelius met him and fell down at his feet and worshiped him. But Peter lifted him up, saying, “Stand up; I myself am also a man.” I think men and women like the lofty positions that the religions of today have made for them. Check three for the Church of Christ guy. But I was still determined to win or at least put a chink in his armor that would close his mouth.
Other battles were fought and months passed by but the biggest one was over the importance of baptism for one’s salvation. Finally, I thought. At least this was one point that we would agree upon. After all, I was baptized (sprinkled) when I was several months old. I even had the card from it and it said “Baptism” on the outside. Then came the question “Where do you find babies being baptized in the Bible.” This time I had an answer for him from the Bible. The Bible says in Acts 16:15, “And when she (Lydia) and her household were baptized…”. Besides, in the case of the Philippian jailer that “he took them the same hour of the night and washed their stripes. And immediately he and all his family were baptized” (Acts 16:33). See their “household” and their “family” were baptized. There must have been babies there. “How do you know?”, came the response. After all, one who comes to the Lord must come repenting of their sins (Luke 13:3, 5 and confessing (Romans 10:9). A baby can neither repent nor confess. Baptism is for those who are old enough to understand the commitment they are making to the Lord. That made sense.
Besides he said, “Baptism is always an immersion or burial (Romans 6:3-6) in water. It was never a sprinkling and the purpose of baptism was for the remission of sins” (Acts 2:38; 22:16). This was a big one because it was not only a religious argument but it affected my very own salvation. So there I go back to my preacher with this wagon load of doctrine to sort out. This took time but most of the answers came back in silent or in snappy little jokes. Finally it got down to the point when I said, “I want to be baptized just like they were in the Bible, by immersion, and for the remission of my sins.”
So we agreed the following weekend when I came home we would go down to the river and he would baptize me. Next week came and so did the excuse that he could not do it that weekend but to come back the following weekend. This happened two more weekends. Seeing that I would not be deterred, he finally said, “Find someone else to do it. If people found out that I baptized (immersed) you for the remission of your sins, I could get in trouble.” I was floored and greatly disappointed. Why could he not do what the Bible clearly stated must be done for salvation, my salvation? It was then that I realized that the church in which I had devoted all of my young life to was not built on God’s word but upon human traditions.
I left there because it is so much easier and reassuring to follow God’s word, book, chapter and verse than it is to defend the traditions of men and cross my fingers and hope that God would save me. I love the Church of Christ because I can know that when I follow God’s word that I can be saved. 1 John 5:13 says, “These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life…” I pray that you are never content with man’s traditions but that you too will come to love the beauty and simplicity of God’s word that is found in the Church of Christ.
Roy Knight is the minister for the St. George church of Christ located in St. George, South Carolina. Roy also has a weekly podcast entitled, “The Christian Gentleman” located at http://thechristiangentleman.podbean.com/
Personal Note: I appreciate Roy’s words and thoughts on his love for the church. Since meeting Roy for the first time, I have respect for his work and words. Roy has a great heart for the church and a great knowledge. His work in the coastal South Carolina area has been a benefit to the Kingdom and the churches in the area.
Seven years ago, Chris Gallagher asked me to write a post of What I love about the church. I gave three reasons then. Here are the “edited for content and to fit in the allotted space” reasons I gave then.
- I love the Church in view of the fact that God loved Her enough to purchase Her at a sacrificial price.
- I love the Church that is precious to Christ.
- I love the Church that has the promise of an eternally joyous relationship with Christ, the Holy Spirit, and the Father.
I still love the Church, in fact, I can honestly say, “I love her more now than I did then or ever have.” But before I list more reasons, allow me to tell you a little about my background.
I grew-up church. My grandparents raised my mother in the Church and my father’s mother and aunts taught him about Christ and His Church. When my parents married there was no question in their young married life about the role of Christ and the Church. As they started a family the role of the Church increased as did their roles within her. During my growing up years my parents taught Bible classes, had members, church leaders, and ministers over for dinner, and held church socials at our house. Dad served as a deacon and was the volunteer minister for the deaf ministry. He later became an elder and continues to serve in that role.
I literally grew-up in Church. I attended a private Christian elementary school, where my mother served as a secretary. When were not at school or school functions we are at Church or church functions. By my upper high school years my peers and I were leading the youth program – we did not have a youth minister. Church was my life.
As high school graduation approached and all the opportunities for adulthood came, I could not think of a better way to live than to dedicate all my time to the Church. I went to school to become a minister. For 28 years, I have served in fulltime ministry with three different congregations. Church involvement was never an option in my mind. I knew I would be a part of Her. I love the Church.
I think of the Church the way the psalmist thought of the House of God. “I was glad when they said to m, “Let us go to the house of the Lord!” (Psa 122:1)
I LOVE THE CHURCH!
- I love the Church because she is the Elect Bride of Christ. (Eph 5:21-33). Paul’s description of the Church as the betrothed of Christ is a beautiful portrait. Whenever I see a long-lasting marriage relationship that is beautiful and I see the way the husband dotes on his bride of many years, I think about Christ doting on His Betrothed Bride – the Church. I think of how He is preparing Her for the day He presents His Chosen Bride to the Father. How proud He is of Her beauty and accomplishments that glorify Him. I love the Church because the Christ loves Her.
- I love the Church because she is the Kingdom of Christ. (Col 1:13-14). Jesus earthly ministry was about repentance and the Kingdom. As Christians, we are a citizen in that Kingdom now. Our citizenship is in heaven (Phil 3:20) as we are part of the earthly kingdom, His Church now. I love the Church because the King of kings is Her Sovereign.
- I love the Church because the Bride and Kingdom are a glimpse of heaven. Christ will present his Elect Bride to the Father at the Great Wedding Day (Rev 19:6-10). Christ will turn the Kingdom over to the Father when the end comes (1 Cor 15:24). I love the Church because the Bride and Kingdom will be translated to heaven.
- I love the Church because I love Her people. Here people share a common bond. There is a love that is not easily broken. We understand each other’s struggles and pray for each other. We are there to help each other with spiritual, emotional, and physical battles. We rejoice and weep with each other (Rom 12:15). I live hours away from my parents and my brother, but I have family near me, the Church is our family. I love that family and the fellowship we have.
Maybe these are some of the reasons the Hebrew writer penned these words, “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. (Heb 10:24-25)
Why do you love the Church?
Scott McCown is a minister with the Central Church of Christ in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. He and his wife, Amy, have one son, Andrew, who is a Junior at Faulkner University. Scott is a graduate of Faulkner University with a BA in Bible and an MA in Ministry. He regularly publishes The Morning Drive (scottmccown.com).
Personal Note: This month I have asked several people to write for a Guest Post on the Preacher’s Pen website. You will see articles written by people you know and people you don’t know…yet. There will be articles from men, women, preachers, non-preachers, etc. This is an opportunity to see how others love the church. So, enjoy the month of “Why I Love the Church!”
I thank Scott for writing the beginning article for the guest post series, “Why I Love the Church!” I have always enjoyed Scott’s writings and encourage you to check them out at his website – http://www.scottmccown.com
A few years ago, I strolled up to a door of a nearby house without a thought in my head, as I began to knock on the door I looked around to my see my door-knocking partner one house down. He had already knocked on the door and was passing along information about the upcoming gospel meeting. As the door opened I invited the resident to our meeting and heard the fateful words, “Sorry, I’m Baptist.” I gladly smiled, handed the resident some information and proceeded back to the road to walk to another house. As I told me friend the news, he smiled and told me he had gotten the same response. I asked what he said to the lady and his response was simple, “That’s OK, you can come too.”
How many times have we let our religion get in the way of truly seeking to understand the message of the Father and His Son?
If you have done any door-knocking you have heard them all…
“I’m Baptist.” “I’m Methodist.” “I’m Lutheran.” “I’m Presbyterian.” “I’m Episcopalian.” “I’m Mormon.” “I’m Catholic.” “I’m Pentecostal.” “I’m Church of Christ.” (yeah, I have heard that one too.) “I’m Community Church.” “I’m First Baptist.” “I’m ______________________.”
All of those labels and nothing about, “I’m with Jesus.”
I often wonder what Peter, James and John would say when asked with what religious group they identified. I have found a pretty close answer in Acts 4…
“Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they were astonished. And they recognized that they had been with Jesus.”
(The Holy Bible : English standard version. 2001 (Ac 4:13). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.)
Did you read that? “And they recognized that they had been with Jesus.” They knew that Peter and John were not educated at the greatest schools or the greatest secular teachers, but they realized they had been with Jesus.
Can people tell you have been with Jesus?
The labels of this world should mean nothing to us, instead our focus should be the label of “Christian.”
While the disciples of Christ were first called Christians in Antioch, the name with which their character was founded has become the focus of their lives. Even today, Christians are seeking the majesty of the Creator God and that, only that should be the continual goal of our lives. Being close to the Father is not a position to be won, but a life to behold.
Can those around us see that the religious labels of the day hold nothing to the power of the Almighty?
Our lives should not be a reflection of the building we attend, but the life we are following!
Just some thoughts,
Last night, Senator Ted Cruz suspended his campaign after a second place finish in the Indiana Primary. As soon as the Senator suspended his campaign, social media was flooded with disgust over the elections, concern for our country and an unwavering pattern of whining about what to do next. Some say they will not vote, others will go to the polls and hold their nose as they pick the lesser of two evils and still others are joyous to pull the lever (or push the button) on election day.
May I remind you this election season has not turned out the way it has not because of the past year or even two years? It is due to a pattern of behavior which began years ago with the entitlements, a “that’s the way we have always done it”, a troubling financial system and a pure lack of respect for mankind. If you do not believe me, I would challenge you to research it.*
The fate of our country is not in the hands of the politicians, but it begins at our kitchen tables. It begins in our homes, not in Washington D.C. Our homes are suffering due to a lack of parenting, a lack of relationships and a lack of respect. If you want to turn the culture of our nation back to its founding principles, then start at home.
Let your family know that you are committed to them and their future; along with the legacy that you are leaving to your family. Let them know what you will make mistakes, but it is time to rise above the status quo and begin living for a greater purpose.
Start by talking; not texting. Put away technology and begin a conversation with your family over their interests, their goals and even how their day went. It is time we build the family through our relationships and not through problems. Allow your children to speak and allow them to learn.
Continue by getting your hands dirty. This nation was not built on watching television, but it was built by the hands of those willing to get out and work to make things happen. With the summer approaching, I believe there is ample opportunity for you and your family to get outside, breathe a little and get a little dirty. Teach your children the benefits of growing your own food, digging in the dirt and living a fulfilled life.
Teach your children respect. Just because you disagree with someone does not mean you have to throw up your hands, degrade them, unfriend them and never speak to them again. It means you disagree. The current process of disagreements is filled with insults, hatred and anger; instead of a respectful discussion.
Teach your children that they can respect others, but not agree with them. Allow them the ability to have a discussion over a disagreement and not a blatant, cutthroat domination. This country needs to talk, not fight like cats and dogs over the smallest of matters.
Teach your children there are things worth fighting for in life. There are standards and morals that must be fought over, but fought the right way and with the right information.
Stop giving everyone a trophy. Not everyone wins in life and each person needs to understand that every day. Some people will lose; they will fail. Some of the greatest winners in life have had the greatest failures. Allow your children to fail. It is ok, they will survive. Teach them.
Teach your children the value of hard work. Notice I did not say, “teach them to work,” but instead “teach them the value of hard work.” The future generations will need to work harder than we do; even with the power of technology. Teach them to value hard work. The value of hard work is remembered best in the value of a day off. Many people see a day off as another day because they have not valued hard work during the week. Value hard work.
Read the Bible. It does not matter if you are religious or not, just read it. It is the best-selling book of all time and so many will never read it. Begin in Psalm 11.3 if you want, but read it. (read the verses that follow it too)
My friends, this world is not over because of one election, it is over when a people of standards, morals and power cower behind the excuses that are currently being made.
Step up. It is time.
Just my thoughts,
*I really dislike providing all the information to people, but instead letting them do some groundwork and find out for themselves. I believe it is better that way.
Today, you stand on trial.
Your nerves shake your body to the core, as you sit in the hard wooden chair behind the defendant desk. You are alone. No attorney would take your case because the evidence is stacked against you. Behind you sits no one; the courtroom is empty.
In front of you, behind the large wooden bench, sits the judge, gavel in hand. He listens intently as the prosecuting attorney makes his case. After each piece of evidence is presented, the judge shakes his head as his eyes glance toward you. Your stomach sinks.
At the prosecuting attorney’s every word, you feel the plea for mercy slipping away. The evidence continues pile. When he speaks, his firm, raised voice announces; you are guilty. There is even a little smirk on his face; he is enjoying every moment.
The evidence against you sits as a mound on the prosecutor’s desk. It is as if it has followed you for your entire life. Every lie you have ever told is there, every harsh word is there, and simply put…everything is there.
Your life of bad is in front of you; the good is gone. Seeing the evidence, your heart weights itself with the consequences of your actions. There is nothing you can do to show yourself not guilty.
The prosecutor has done his job—well…you are guilty.
As the prosecutor closes his arguments, you sit with your head in your hands, already knowing the judge’s decision. The judge looks at you, waiting on your defense but you have none; your guilt shines as the most condemning piece of evidence. You know you have no words, no case or plea strong enough to account for mercy.
While the judge looks on, you struggle to raise your head just to acknowledge that you are guilty. Lifting your head just enough, you see the look of disappointment in the judge’s face; it breaks your heart.
The judge asks you, “Any words?” You can hear the heartache in his voice. You wonder just for a moment if he will break down. The evidence is so great it weighs on his shoulders too. Your heart breaks.
Your voice trembles and cracks as you speak, “No.”
The judge lowers his head as he raises the gavel. The sound of the gavel hitting the block scares you out of your seat. “Guilty” the judge says in a quiet tone. The decision has been made.
The courtroom is silent. You can hear the beating of your heart. It is growing louder by the moment. The silence only lasted for thirty seconds, but you were sure it was thirty minutes.
“Now, we move to the sentencing,” says the judge. “Let’s make this quick.”
You can tell in the judge’s voice, he is hurting for you. He wants to get the pain over as fast as possible and move on–as do you. Even though you know the punishment will be great.
For the second time in the day, the prosecutor approaches the bench. As he approaches, he speaks, “Your honor, there is only one punishment for these crimes. The evidence shows the guilt and now the sentence must show the consequences of these heinous acts. Your honor, the prosecution seeks death.”
“Death? Death!? Oh judge please no!” you blurt out with tears.
Your body is in shock from the prosecutor’s words. Your thoughts are rampant, “I never did anything worthy of death—maybe a few days behind bars, but not death. What is he thinking? Not death.”
While your mind races at the thought of death, you notice silence. The prosecutor is no longer speaking and everyone is looking behind you.
As you turn you see one man who just walked through the door. He walks slowly down the aisle, focused on the judge.
While he walks through the gallery section, you look back at the judge just to see the judge nod at the unknown man. The man walks through the gallery and toward the bench. Even the outspoken prosecutor remains silent–looking nervous at what is about to happen.
The unknown man looks like he is lost in time. In fact, he looks like he definitely does not belong. His robe almost reaches the floor and his sandals are as worn as any you have ever seen.
You watch in anticipation as the man speaks to the judge. Even though you are looking at him from behind, there is something familiar about this man. But you do not know what it is. The prosecutor is halfway to the bench, standing there waiting anxiously.
The judge and the unknown man shake their heads in agreement. The prosecutor quickly approaches the bench and begins to argue silently. The unknown man remains silent, before stretching out his arms. The prosecutor goes silent.
The unknown man turns and walks toward your seat. When you see him coming your way, you move to your left and give him the aisle seat.
“Is this my attorney?” You ask yourself silently, still trying to figure out who this is.
When he sits down, he looks at you and smiles. Immediately, you feel at ease.
After a few moments of discussion, the prosecutor sits down. When he sits, he plops himself in the chair like an upset child who just had something taken away.
The judge speaks again, but this time, his face looks different. Before, the judge looked burden by the sentence, but now it almost looks like he is smiling, at least on the inside. A slight grin is seen in his lips as he asks the defense to stand.
As you begin to stand, you notice the man beside you is standing too.
Quickly you glance up at the man who was once unknown to you, only to see him already looking at you. From the look in his eyes, you see that he knows that you’ve figured out who he is. A smile comes across his face. He knows you. Slowly, you finish standing up, still glaring at the man beside you. Before this moment, the robe was your focus, but now, your eyes are opened and you see the man for who he truly is.
The judge speaks, “This was not an easy decision to make, but the evidence is clear. A sentence is intended to be the consequence for the crime. The sentence will be…”
As he speaks he looks at the prosecuting attorney who is still sitting in his chair; still looking like an upset child. The prosecuting attorney nods his head in agreement, but never looks at the judge. Something is not right. When he spoke of the evidence, there was a smile on his face. He knew he has the case sealed. However, after the discussion with the unknown man, things were different. The smile has been replaced with a grimace. Who was this unknown man and what did he say?
The judge asks everyone to be seated and you begin to weep. The sentence is final and now a series of events will unfold in your life as it draws to an end. If anyone were there supporting you, they would have been in tears. But no one is there—no one but this man with a familiar face.
While you are grasping with the thought of the end of your life, the man beside you places his hand on your shoulder as he stands. Without looking at the man’s face, you turn your head to see his hand. You can feel the roughness in his hand through your shirt; this hand was worn and battered. As the man stood, the sleeve of his robe rose and exposed the rest of his hand and wrist. Through teary eyes you see a scar. At first, it looks as normal as any scar but then you remember…
“…and with his wounds we are healed.”
“It couldn’t be! There is no way!” You question yourself at every thought. “How could this be him? How? I don’t…”
Just as you are trying to grasp your thoughts of the man whose hand is on your shoulder, you hear his words. “Father, forgive him. Let me, just me take the punishment for his crimes. He is but a troubled soul in need of compassion and care. He is a sheep who has lost his way. Let me take his place.”
The prosecutor, upon hearing the man’s plea, exhales a deep breath, just like a child who has lost his favorite toy. He has been defeated by this once unknown man, who came in, gave his plea and now has accepted your sentence.
Who has accepted your case?
“My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.” (1 John 2.1-2; ESV)
Advocate – One “who takes up the cause of another” (ESV Study Bible Notes)
Propitiation – “A sacrifice that bears God’s wrath and turns it into favor” (ESV Study Bible Notes)
Just some thoughts,