Is God In The Church…?

Church. What does that word make you think of? What images pop into your mind? The word, “church” is derived from old English and German words which mean “the Lord’s house.” Essentially, the word refers to a structure, a building. In the New Testament, however, that is NOT the word that is used in the original language. The Greek word that we see translated as “church” in the Bible is the word, ekklesia (which looks like this in ancient Greek: “ἐκκλησία”). Ekklesia never referred to a structure but to a people. It refers to the family of faith, not the buildings we construct and call “churches.”

Why is this important?

Throughout religious history, mankind has been in the habit of building temples. There have been multiple temples dedicated to seemingly countless gods. The idea is that the temple is constructed in order that these gods would have a home… an abode. To go to the temple was to go into the presence of whatever god the temple was built for.

When God first engaged the Hebrews, He brought them out of Egypt and through the wilderness. Ultimately they established their permanent residence in Palestine. During all of these travels, they had tents in which they lived. They also had a tent dedicated to Him that we refer to as the “Tabernacle.” It was mobile and went with them everywhere they went. When they set up camp, they did so around the Tabernacle. Never… not once… did God ever tell them to build a Temple for Him. That was David’s idea much later on. David, out of his love for God, wanted to build God a house. He believed that since he had a place to live, it was only fitting that the God Who provided for them all had one as well. God gently rebuked him and said that His plans were the opposite of David’s. He didn’t desire or need a house but would indeed build a house for David. The house He was referring to, however, was one of family lineage. It wasn’t made from wood or stone, but of people and would bring forth the Messiah.

David wanted to build a temple anyway, but God forbade him from doing so due to him being a man of war. He said that He would allow for David’s son, Solomon, to build it. And that’s what happened. And God did enter into that Temple in all of His glory and make His presence known and felt.

Skipping waaaaaaay ahead to the New Testament.

When the resurrection occurs and then Jesus went back to the Father (which we call “The Ascension”), He sent His spirit to indwell His people… His ekklesia. Never one time was there a command to construct a building. Instead the command was to be in motion… always going forward with the Gospel… never anchoring down to a locale in order to establish a place “where God is.”

If you’re still reading, you likely are wondering what on earth I’m going on about. Why does any of this matter?

Because our idea of how the church exists is totally inconsistent with what He established it to be. He never intended for us to think of it in terms of real estate, buildings, and budgets. He planned on it always being an understanding that no matter where we were, there He was as well. He was not and is not confined to a place. When anyone has certain rules or preferences for things that go on “in the Lord’s house,” then they have illustrated a major misunderstanding of what and where the Lord’s House is.

This is not an attack on the church at all. It’s more of a redirecting of our energy and thoughts relating to it. A Temple (which is very similar to the modern day church building) gave the idea of a fixed and unmovable location. It presents as a permanent home where we go to visit God.

God’s design was never for us to park Him somewhere, but to be on a journey with Him. These buildings that we have are not evil in intention or usage. They are just often misunderstood. To answer the question above: yes. God is in the church… when we are. But when we cease to be there, He has no need to be there either. It’s just a utilitarian structure that facilitates our activities related to the worship of and teaching about God.

This is vitally important because this helps us understand that God is not in a church but is very much in His ekklesia. Peter refers to us as “living stones.” This is a clear indicator of an understanding that although we often think that we need to build church buildings, He has established His people long ago and is simply adding on and renovating as time marches forward.

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Image taken from: http://www.countrychristianchurch.com/

The Time I Was Chased By A Mountain Lion…

You read that title correctly… let me explain:

We were on a family vacation last year. It had been a little over a year since I had sustained a serious head injury. I had spent that entire year and then some (and still some) working towards recovery from said injury. Head injuries affect all of you. It’s not like a broken arm or leg where the injury, although awful, is localized to a specific region of the body. It’s a journey of re-establishing how your brain works with the rest of you. Part of my recovery was getting back into running. I’ve always loved to run. I was restricted from doing so for several months, therefore every chance I got to run, I was going to run. The place where we vacationed is a beautiful and rural place. Lots of hills, trees, and a big lake. I went out for a mid-day run and was about 3 miles in… and then I saw it…

I was coming down a semi-flat stretch of road… recovering from a serious hill I had just ascended. I was trying to regain my wind… and as I was concentrating on the workout, something caught my eye. It was in the pine thicket just up ahead and down the road embankment. It couldn’t have been more than 25-30 feet off the road’s edge, but it was hidden within the cover of the edge of the woods. It was crouched down with it’s length parallel to the road. The color was unmistakable. In a moment, I was terrified. I knew if I turned around I was as much a goner as I would be if I kept going. I tried to figure out a way to fight it off when it pounced, but I had nothing with me. Runners don’t want to carry much. I was cussing myself for not grabbing one of those pepper sprays that could strap on to my hand. The irony went through my mind of the fact that I had endured a bad head trauma and come so far only to meet my demise right here… being mauled and eaten by one of nature’s most fearsome predators.

I was frozen in pace. The only thing keeping me going was pure adrenaline. I couldn’t have changed pace, stopped, or sped up if I wanted to. I was at the mercy of nothing but absolute terror.

Then… I came upon it… and I only glanced a little towards it. I didn’t want to make if feel threatened and thought that if I just kept going and kept to myself, I may survive. I guess it was kind of like that thing you do when you don’t look at others in the attempt to slip past them without them taking notice of you. I knew this was folly but it was the only thing I could think to do.

I came right along side of this monster… in my periphery, all I could tell was that it was huge and it ready to pounce.

I passed it… which scared me more… because now it was in my blind spot and it was behind me… just like a predator would want.

BOOM!

There it goes!

It came bursting out of the edge of the treeline and made straight for me! I became like a cartoon character and jumped involuntarily, running on thin air for a good distance. When My feet finally hit the ground, I was keeping pace with the Indy 500. I’m pretty sure I was going fast enough that I saw the beginnings of a wormhole developing in front of me… and then I glanced over my shoulder… I saw the horrible creature that had given me chase. It had stopped after about 20 feet. It sat there in the grass… just minding its own business.

It.

Was.

A.

Squirrel.

I stopped running and looked back at where the Cougar had waited and only then did I discover that it was a large rock that had the same color and shape as a Mountain Lion.

I checked my underpants to ensure that I was clean enough to continue my run and then chuckled at myself and continued on, heart still pounding.

Why tell this story?

Because many times in life, we treat completely harmless situations just like this due to our own paranoia and insecurities. Things are not usually nearly as dangerous or ominous as we make them out to be in our imaginations. People who struggle with insecurity or paranoia have a tendency to make much more out of situations than they warrant. Ever since my injury, my issues along these lines have magnified. But I have to remember that.

Most of the issues we see as predatory beasts are nothing but misunderstandings or bad assumptions. We would do well to stop and think through everything and compare it to what makes the most sense.

I hope this made you laugh a little, but I also hope it gives you something to think about.

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Image taken from: https://americanexpedition.us/learn-about-wildlife/mountain-lion-facts-trivia-information-and-photos/

My Many Faces

One thing I cannot stand is a lack of authenticity. I don’t like when people act one way in some situations and put on an entirely different persona for others. We refer to these types of people as fake or two-faced (or maybe even politicians). I prefer to know exactly whom I’m dealing with at any given moment, but when someone is constantly changing based on their environment… well they become more like personality chameleons and we never know which is the real version of them. I was thinking about this yesterday. And it occurred to me why I despise this particular bent so much… it’s because I’m pretty well guilty of it also… and I hate that about myself. Continue reading

Don’t Get Saved…

I remember the difficult thing about preaching… It wasn’t the getting up in front of people that bothered me the most. It wasn’t that I was concerned whether or not they would like my message. It wasn’t a concern over whether I would have enough to say (never been a problem). All of these things and many more would go through my head repeatedly as the time approached for me to stand and deliver. No… the biggest concern was how to wrap it up in such a way as to make sure people felt a need for salvation. I don’t mean that it was ever manipulative (at least not in an intentional way). But one of the primary things we’ve seen modeled is that we must always make sure people understand the need to come to Christ for salvation. I would approach it with urgency and true concern over their hearts and souls… and on numerous occasions, they would come forward and make a decision right then and there to “get saved.” Continue reading

Where’s The Baby…

Martin Luther is probably the most well known proponent of the protestant reformation. If you’re not sure what that is, then let me give you the bullet points: Several hundred years ago, the Roman Catholic Church had a monopoly on “truth.” This isn’t an attack on Catholicism. It’s just history. Like anything with that much power, corruption became a serious issue. One of the things they did was sell “indulgences” which were basically written documents that absolved it’s bearer of sin. It was like buying forgiveness or buying one’s way into Heaven. (I know there’s more complexity to all of this… I’m just trying to establish a basic premise.) They would sell these in order to gain monetary power and fund their own plans… say like building a church or the like. Luther became angry at these abuses of power and kick-started a massive uprising against the authority of the church. A lot of our beliefs to this day stem from his teachings. All in all, he was a hero within our history… or was he…? Continue reading