Our church website is updated to show the 2013 Bible reading schedule each day. Look at the lower left side of the page and you will see it. It changes every day to keep pace with the printed reading schedules (available below).
Have a happy new year! May God's Word change you entirely, from inside out.
The Bible reading plans for 2013 are now available. There are five of them depending on where you are in age and how much time you want to invest in your spiritual growth.
I hope you will read along with us. Repeating this program over the years is a very good way to hide God's Word in your heart. --MAP
Wednesday evening we had a combined meeting at Faithway Baptist Church in Ypsilanti. We sang some hymns, listened to a men's trio and ladies quartet sing, shared testimonies of salvation and of God's goodness in many other ways, and heard preaching from Ephesians 5:20 on "An Exhortation to Thanksgiving." The service concluded with the baptism of two young people who gave testimonies and shared a verse regarding their salvation. It was the first time that I remember when our two churches got together for a meeting. It was great to meet the folks of Faithway Baptist and to let them know personally that we are praying for their ministry. Thank God for others of like faith and practice.
In yesterday's entry, I mentioned the issue of the cross as a decoration in our church. We do not have a cross upon the front wall or on the outside of the building. There are some historical reasons why this was the case up to the time I started the pastorate at Fellowship Bible. So what is wrong with putting a cross up in the front now?
The way some folks have talked, they might be surprised to hear my answer. NOTHING!
There have been some pragmatic concerns that have led me to ignore putting up a cross. Some of them include preparation for preaching, counseling, teaching, transitional work from the previous pastor, managing all the infrastructure projects around the church, spending large amounts of money to install major new HVAC systems in our building, and many other small details. In short, there have been many more important issues with which to concern myself. Further, those folks to whom the task could be delegated are also busy with other things around the church or just don't have time for other reasons. But at this point there is a far more important reason that the cross-decoration is not high on my priority list.
And that reason is that we have a great "teachable moment" going on here. What might also be surprising is that the push for a cross tells me more about the theology and heart desires of the folks doing the pushing than they might at first realize. It demonstrates a misunderstanding of the doctrine of Ecclesiology, the Church. It also demonstrates a focus on the external, the visible, the unimportant. Some have said that people don't come to our church because it doesn't "look like" a church. To which I respond, "What is a church, anyway? And what does a church look like? Did they have crosses in the churches in the first century? Did they even have church buildings?" I have tried to remind folks that the church is not the building, it is the believers. Further, it is there, among the believers, where the Bible is preached. People still come to our church, not because we have a cross as decoration, but because we preach the cross as the way of salvation. Unfortunately, there are many well-decorated churches that are not well in their doctrine. And as far as decoration goes, I'm far more concerned that our lives make the gospel attractive (Titus 2:10), not that we first make the church attractive!
So, maybe I should modify my answer to the question, "What is wrong with putting up a cross?" The answer is "NOTHING--as long as we understand decoration does not make a church, and decoration is not important when set over against how we decorate our lives with the practice of the gospel."
Lately I was reminded that some folks that have left Fellowship Bible Church have spread the word that we are a "cult." I wondered what that meant. When I inquired of the best source I could find for information on what these folks are saying, I found that the we are a cult because:1. We believe the Bible teaches that divorce is displeasing to God and should not happen.
I would hope it is obvious that among any community of believers, including ours, there is not complete agreement on all details of theology. For instance, my position on divorce is "No divorce, but if there is divorce, no remarriage (Mark 10:1-12, 1 Cor. 7:10-11)." But there are divorced folks in our church; there are divorced-and-remarried people in our church; there are folks who disagree with me who have stated their disagreement; and there are probably folks who disagree who have remained silent. And I'm glad they are in our church. But everyone in the church knows that I am going to do the best job I can to show them from the Scriptures why they should not be divorced, and not get themselves into a situation where it becomes an issue. Same goes for the issue of women preachers. I believe 1 Tim. 2:12 is unequivocal on this issue. Others may disagree, but they know I'm not going to invite a woman to preach! I'll leave the issue of the cross decoration for another blog entry, since I don't have any Bible verses to appeal to on that one.
Well, that list still did not satisfy me that I understood why we are a cult. So, I looked up a definition of the term "cult" that is consistent with our fundamental Christian position. From the Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry, I found this helpful definition:
"A religious group that follows a particular theological system. In the context of Christianity...it is a group that uses the Bible but distorts the doctrines that affect salvation sufficiently to cause salvation to be unattainable. A few examples of cults are Mormonism, Jehovah's Witnesses, Christian Science, Christadelphians, Unity, Religious Science, The Way International, and the Moonies."
That did not help me either, because we are very plainly teaching the gospel of God's grace alone, through the Lord Jesus Christ alone, received by faith alone--the Biblical way of salvation and the only way that it can be attained. I suspect the term "legalism" may have some bearing on the issue (i.e. we are a cult because we are legalistic, that is, hold to some standards of Christian behavior), but I'm not sure. Maybe those folks who are spreading the word that we are a cult could communicate with me directly () and share some more reasons why they think we are a cult. I will report in this venue if I learn anything more.
In July four new babies were born to families in our church. The baby brigade, with proud parents, is shown below. "Goliath" on the left was born at the end of March; the rest were born in July. We rejoice that God has gifted these little lives into their families and into our care as a local church.