What Should Be the Most Influential Institution?

what is the Most Influential Institution?When one thinks of an institution they may think of education, government, the church, marriage, family, and even state correctional facilities. What is considered an institution? Which institution holds the most influence? Which one should hold the most influence? Each holds its importance. Marriage and family are rooted at society and carry a lot of influence but not most important. Education, good and does it molding of children and influences (negative and positive) should not be the most influential in our society. The government which has its own institutions within it, and holds power, is not the most influential.
Pastor and teacher Ray Ortland defines an institution this way, “An institution is a social mechanism for making a desirable experience easily repeatable. An institution is where life-giving human activities can be nurtured and protected and sustained.” Here there can be many institutions that fit this definition like sporting events but where more than ever can human activities be nurtured, protected, and sustained the strongest? It is the church. (The church in this meaning is the Biblical church made up of Bible believing Christians. Pastor Mark Dever defines the church as “The church is that collection of people who are hearing the Word of God, responding to it with their lives, and who have obeyed Jesus’ specific commands to be baptized and proclaim his death in the Lord’s Supper.”)
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Are You a Healthy Pastor?

I just hit my mid thirties this year! Though I am not a Senior Pastor at the church I serve at, I realized that being in a sedentary job was catching up to me. As a kid I was always skinny or fit. I played sports. I could eat whatever I wanted and it didn’t matter. Things changed in my twenties when I wasn’t as active but still ate whatever I wanted. After having some different health challenges that took place in my early thirties I know I needed to change but why? It goes beyond what the mirror revealed when I looked at it.
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Are You Ready for Passion Week

Yesterday marked the start of Passion week for Christians around the world with it being Palm Sunday. Every year, I try to direct my family on what did the last week of Jesus’ life look like? How can we look through the Gospels and see how he spent his week leading up to his death and crucifixion and ending with his resurrection? As a Christian parent we put the emphasis on what Easter is all about, the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. A good resource that I keep going back to is The Final Days of Jesus by Andreas J. Kostenberger and Justin Taylor.  Continue reading “Are You Ready for Passion Week”

Having a Parenting Conference? 5 Things I Learned from having one.

This past weekend, a goal of mine was accomplished by being able to have a parenting conference for our church. It took years of thinking and praying and wrong times to finally pick a date and stick to it. Here is what I learned through the process that could maybe help those out there that are planning on doing something similar at their church.

Child-care is important!

I knew the audience was parents and many who signed up for the conference had younger children who were unable to watch themselves.  We knew planning this that child care was important but let me tell you, it was hard to get volunteers for it!
It was hard to find adults who were either not parents themselves who could benefit from the conference or were willing to miss it.
Continue reading “Having a Parenting Conference? 5 Things I Learned from having one.”

Why Church?

Why go to church? Why is it important for Christians to not only go to church but to be actively involved in a church? One of the obvious reasons is because of Jesus. In Ephesians 5:25 Paul gives the example of husbands loving their wives as Christ loved the church. How does Jesus demonstrate this love? He gave Himself up for the church (Ephesians 5:25). He died for the church. He prays for the church (John 17). He established the church (Matthew 16:18).
The church is more than a gathering place or a building. The church is the body of believers who gather together on a regular basis and exalt Jesus by teaching through the Bible. The church is the gospel made visible.
What Is Church About?

  • The church is about Jesus Christ.

Jesus is the reason why we meet together at church. He is it. It is for Him to be known and proclaimed. Jesus is the motivation for why we get up on Sunday to meet with other Christians. Because of Jesus we have more in common as believers than anyone else.
Jesus is proclaimed through the worship service and the faithful teaching of God’s Word. Jesus Christ is proclaimed when we live out the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19). When we make church not about us but about the reaching of the lost, we can encourage each other as we evangelize.

  • The church is about people.

As mentioned above, the church is the body of believers coming together to worship Jesus through songs and teaching and giving—we need to understand that church is about people. Paul exhorts the church in Ephesus with these words:
“I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:1–3 ESV).
We are called to be with other believers in unity. The church is about people and when you make it about others, it is hard for you to make church about you. Church needs to consist of other people—male and female, young and old. That is why church is unique. We have one focus and one purpose: Jesus Christ.

  • The church is about sinners being redeemed.

The church is made up of people who have sinned and now are forgiven. The church is made up of flawed individuals who are not perfect. But, the church rallies around the fact that believers are sinners who have been redeemed.
The church cares about the redemption of mankind by giving opportunities for people to repent publicly of their sin and follow Jesus. Every believer’s goal should be to encourage each other with the gospel, the Good News of Jesus Christ. That is why discipleship is so important. When we make church about others we help the Christian walk of other believers and apply what Paul said in Galatians 6:1–2, “Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch over yourself, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another’s burden, and so fulfill the law of Christ” (ESV).
The church is not about me but about God and His glory. When I realize that I am called to meet together with other believers and that it is not about me (Hebrews 10:23–25), I actually grow and gain from the church.
Back to the question, “Why church?” Because of what Jesus has done for me and the church, His bride, whom He loves and died for. The church is where I get together with my brothers and sisters in Christ, where we are united with our purpose—the gospel.
I love the church and I love my church!

The Room that Powers it All!

What room holds the power at church? Is it the room where decisions are made? Is it the office where things get done? Is it the sanctuary where the pulpit stands? No, the room that holds the power is the room where there is prayer for the church! When visitors would come to the nineteenth century pastor, C. H. Spurgeon’s church he would show them the room that has the power, it was the room where Christians would gather faithfully and pray for the church. He called it the “boiler room”
E. M. Bounds so prophetically in his book The Power Through Prayer,

“What the Church needs to-day is not more machinery or better, not new organizations or more and novel methods, but men whom the Holy Ghost can use — men of prayer, men mighty in prayer. The Holy Ghost does not flow through methods, but through men. He does not come on machinery, but on men. He does not anoint plans, but men — men of prayer.”

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When Should a Child Participate in Communion?

I love that children by nature want to experience so much. They are inquisitive and desire to be part of everything. I love that God made them that way. I have been asked about children partaking in Communion. When should a child participate in Communion? Is there a proper age? This is a great question to look at.
I have seen it: the Communion elements are being passed out and a parent sitting with their children asks, “Is this for kids?” Children by nature want to participate because you as a parent are doing it.
There cannot be a set age limit. I believe it varies based on their understanding of Communion and their spiritual maturity. Jesus tells us that we should partake of Communion often in remembrance of Him (Luke 22:14–23). Paul gives us the warning not to eat of it in an unworthy manner (1 Corinthians 11:27). This needs to be applied to children as well as adults. The remembrance of the Lord’s Supper is for the believer. This is to remind us of the cost of our sin, Jesus’ death, and to reflect on God’s grace. It is to be a reminder of how greatly loved you are by God. It is to remind you of your need for Jesus and Him alone for salvation. It is to be a time of celebration that your sins have been paid for by Jesus. The warning of “not taking it in an unworthy manner” means that not just anyone can partake of it.
I have heard different sides to this question. Some may suggest for children to wait until they can fully grasp the depth of Communion, such as in the teenage years. Others suggest that when a child has made a confession of faith in Jesus Christ alone for salvation, they are ready.
What matters before anyone can partake in Communion, regardless of age, is the “why.” Why are we doing this? If your child sees you partaking of Communion and wants to participate just like you, what a great opportunity for you as a parent to express what Communion is all about. You get to be their teacher! You can evaluate to see if they are ready. Here are some important thoughts when allowing children to participate in Communion.

  • Your child needs to have confessed Jesus as Lord and Savior (Romans 10:9).
  • Your child needs to understand the significance of Communion (1 Corinthians 11:17—32).
  • Your child should desire to be walking in obedience (2 John 6).

But, what if they ask during Communion and you know they are not ready? You may be afraid because you don’t want to make a scene by saying no when they don’t understand why they can’t. First, I would encourage you to talk to your child before this situation comes up. You should let them know what the Lord’s Supper is and why we remember it. There is nothing wrong with encouraging them to wait. Waiting is not a bad thing. You are viewing Communion as something very special and very serious. You do not want it to be taken flippantly or casually. Communion is a very serious time when we reflect on what Jesus has done and it shouldn’t just be taken by anyone and everyone. By guarding Communion as a special time, it will make that time much more important for your child when they are ready to partake of it. They will see it as important by your example and explanation. As a parent, use wisdom and discernment regarding when your child is ready.

How to Listen to a Sermon

How to Listen to a Sermon
There are countless books, articles, and even teachings on how to prepare, teach, and preach a biblical sermon, but there is not much out there on how we are called to listen to a sermon. In fact, I can scarcely recall a time where someone said, “Let me teach you how to listen to a sermon.” The Good Book Company came out with a booklet entitled Listen Up! A Practical Guide to Listening to Sermons by Christopher Ash. Here are some helpful thoughts that have been adapted from that booklet.
Come Expecting God to Speak Through His Word
Preaching is more than just someone reading Scripture. Preaching is more than someone talking about the things of God. As Charles Spurgeon said, “The purpose of preaching is to humble the sinner, exalt the Savior and promote holiness.” Preaching is the task given by God, gifted by the Holy Spirit, to the pastor, to point people to Christ (1 Peter 4:10—11).
How often do we come to church with the mindset of “What do I get out of this?” or we judge the sermon based on the entertainment value: “Did it keep my attention?” or “Was it funny?” We should be saying, “God, speak through your Word right now.” “Convict me of sin. “Show me Christ.” “Lead me in holiness.” “Help me to take this time seriously.” “Help me to not get distracted.”
God is speaking through His Word and we should look at the preaching time expecting that we are going to hear life-changing truth. When Ezra the preacher opened the written Word to read and preach it, all the people stood up as a mark of respect and attentiveness (Nehemiah 8:5). God’s Word is holy (2 Timothy 3:16). God’s Word is soul-piercingly powerful (Hebrews 4:12). We shouldn’t take the sermon lightly.
How can we listen to a sermon expecting God to speak through His Word?

  • We can come expecting by first praying.

I have noticed a difference when I pray before I hear the sermon, askin the Lord to help me to pay attention. I also pray that I would listen from the mindset that God’s Word is going forth.
Start by asking God to help you to approach the sermon the right way and value God’s Word. Ask the Holy Spirit to convict you of sin so you can confess it and desire to be holy. Ask that the Holy Spirit would help you understand the life-changing truth that is going to be spoken. Ask for help in seeing Jesus Christ in the passage (Luke 24:27).

  • We come expecting by being prepared.

I know that sometimes coming to church can be hectic. You are just happy that you made it to church! But let me encourage you that coming to church with the right expectation is being prepared.
You can come prepared by bringing your Bible. Not just any Bible, but your Bible! You know, the one that you are most comfortable with and the one you will keep going back to? That one!
Bring something that you can write in, such as a notebook. I have learned that if I bring a notebook instead of just a sheet of paper I am more likely to hold onto it and go back to it. Bring something to write with. You do not need to bring your arsenal of Bible reading pens and highlighters but at least bring something you can write down notes with and things you want to remember and reflect upon.

  • Come expecting by listening well.

Though listening to a sermon may seem one-sided, it is not. You can participate during the message by listening well. How can we listen well?
One way of listening is taking notes. Writing down notes from the sermon will not only help you pay attention to the sermon but also it will be useful when you spend some time to reflect throughout the week on what the sermon was about and how you need to apply it to your life.
Another part of listening well is checking the biblical passage against what the pastor is going over and verifying that what the pastor says is truth. The Bereans in the book of Acts were commended for searching the Scriptures to see all that Paul was saying was truth (Acts 17:11).
Listening well would also include putting away things that would distract you, such as your phone. I know some use their phone or tablets for their Bibles, which is a great use of technology, but if you find yourself distracted and opening up different apps because your device is right there, put it away so that you can listen better to the sermon without getting distracted.
Let’s all come expecting to hear from God through the teaching of His Word this Sunday!

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