Monday, June 21, 2010

Dem Bones

I've been doing a little studying about Ezekiel and his valley of dry bones. What an incredible vision that was, and what a statement for God to make through His prophet.
As I read the news, catch glimpses of the tabloid covers, and listen to various conversations around me, I realize how much like those dry bones we in America are becoming. The fact that the bones were just lying there on the ground was a statement in itself. Israel had great respect for the dead. Bones would never be left out in the open for wild animals to disturb. The bones had been around quite a while. There was no flesh left on them at all. In fact the bones were even scattered so that one was not connected to another. These were dead people. Long dead. There was no hope of life left in that valley. In spite of that God asks Ezekiel if these bones can live again. Stupid question? It would seem so from our perspective, but Ezekiel knows that he serves the Almighty God who is able to do all His holy will. Ezekiel's answer? "God, you know."
Is this a parallel to America of today? Is the respect gone? Are we turning into a pile of dead bones that can not see or hear the truth? Is there no hope for life in this valley? Some would answer "yes". I say, "God knows" and since God knows, we must continually hope and work as if there is life. So what does that mean for us as Christians?
Ezekiel was able to see those bones reconnect, develop sinews, grow flesh and lastly get the breath of life to become a vast army. How did it happen? Through the preaching of the Word. That was all it took. There was no concern for cultural relevance. How do you relate to dead bones? You can't. They don't need you to play contemporary music, perform dramas, or offer exciting children's programs. The only thing that can bring the dead to life is the Word of God.
Do you want to see the dead bones of America become a vast army for God? I sure do. Preach the Word. That is not just the job of the paid professionals. It is the call to all Christians. Tell the world who Jesus Christ is and what He has done. Belief in His perfect life and atoning death on the cross is all that will bring the dead to life, and they will not hear if we do not preach.
Al Mohler tells us that "Above all this story of the bones testifies to the power and the sovereignty of God. It reminds us that god glories in bringing life out of death. In fact, that is the very essence of the gospel we preach. It is the hope of our calling." Isn't it, in fact, exactly what God did for you?

Saturday, June 5, 2010

9 Marks of a Healthy Church

What makes a church strong and healthy? How can we know if our church is on the right path? What should be the concerns of the church and what should not? These are questions that have recently come to the forefront of our family's discussions as we struggled with where God would have us meet weekly to worship Him.

Mark Dever's 9 Marks of a Healthy Church does much to answer these questions by holding the church to biblical standards. In this day and age of conflicting standards it is good to be reminded that there is only one truth, and that is the standard we need to hold. God has a plan for his bride, and we forget that to our detriment.

Ex positional preaching, Biblical theology, the Gospel, a Biblical understanding of conversion, evangelism and church membership, a concern for discipline, discipleship and growth, and Biblical leadership are those things that Dever's feels mark a healthy, Biblical church. Healthy churches are not concerned with conforming to the culture, but to the Bible. They do not worry that the church is too formal, too "churchy" or too uncomfortable for those who are lost, but rather depend on God to fulfill his promise that His Word will not return void.

I found this book to be very helpful in evaluating churches as we looked for a new church home. I think that every Christian would want to sit down and have serious look at the church they are involved in. Ask yourself, " Is my church healthy?" If not, look at the standards and figure out what you can do to improve the health of your church. It is our responsibility as Christians to hold all churches to the Biblical standard. Sometimes that job is best done from within the church, but sometimes it requires that we "saturate the church with our absence" in order to find a healthy home. Remember too, that just because your church is healthy today, you can't sit back and relax. We must be ever vigilant against the lies that the enemy will use to move us off the right path.