Tag Archives: god

What is the Church? 10 Things the Bible Says About the Church

Cornerstone Church at Lee-Scott Open Air Worship Service

Cornerstone Church at Lee-Scott Open Air Worship Service

Over the past several years of seminary work I have had the privilege of studying the church. There are a lot of different answers to that question (just look how many different churches there are in this country). Yesterday was our first open-air outdoor worship service at our Cornerstone Lee-Scott site. Not because we all wanted to sit in the sun and fry, but because they were refinishing the hard wood floors in the basketball gym where we worship, but it ended up being a fantastic service, and a great reminder to all of us what exactly we mean when we say we are “going to church.” Today our churches can be places that become so internalized with our own events and “church life” we don’t even realize we have stopped living out Matthew 28:16-20. So yesterday, as we sat out in the heat, we got a good reminder that church is not a building, or a gym, or a place to “go,” but a people we serve with.

I think those in my generation and older are still quite set that we “go to church” at a church building, and that was just never the case with the New Testament Church. Our site pastor, Josh Agerton, gave a very appropriate message on this very topic, to discuss what misconceptions we bring to the word “ekklesia.” This word, ekklesia, meaning local church, was established by Christ Himself (Matt. 16:18), and then we see it in action for the first time in Acts 1:12 when Matthias was chosen to replace Judas.

I love that our particular church is willing to do things like worship in a gym, or outside on a hot day, to better reach our community for Christ. Our culture today tends to the Bible with tradition, and personal preference, to create these glorious buildings we can go hide in from cradle to grave in some cases. Clearly, God’s plan is that born again Christians be a part of a local church. Nowhere in the New Testament, after the institution of the local church was established, do you find believers serving God outside the authority or rule of the local church.

So what are a few things the bible says about the church? This top ten list below is no where near a complete and total list, nor is it compiled into any specific symmetry, but it does show what the Bible says about the Church. Notice there are a TON of things the Bible doesn’t say the church should that we have made it out to be (but that is a whole different post).

10 Things the Bible Says About the Church

  1. The Bible is the Sole Authority
    There is no only authority for the New Testament church other than that of Scripture for the faith and practice of a True New Testament Church. (2 Timothy 3:16-17; 2 Peter 1:20-21; John 5:39 and many others).
  2. Believers are Instructed Not to Forsake Meeting Together
    If a believer is not part of a local church, whatever form that takes today, is in disobedience to God’s word. Scripture clearly teaches we are to meet or “assemble” with each other periodically. When the church meets, we should be there to support it (Hebrews 10:24-25).
  3. Believers are to be Under the Leadership of the Pastor and Church
    This is so difficult for us today, especially in the U.S.A. where we are told we are our own authority in everything we do. We are supposed submit to the authority of the church, and be lead by it’s leadership (Acts 20:28; 13:2).
  4. The New Testament Church is Only Made Up of Saved Individuals
    This is clearly indicated in Scripture as well. The church body is not made up of secular people as with any other civil club, members are believers, that’s it (Acts 2:41, 47).
  5. The New Testament Church Has Only Two Ordinances
    The Lord’s Supper and Baptism, which are not sacraments, are the only two ordinances called for in Scripture (Acts 2:41-42). We have a lot of other traditions and things that take place in the church, but these are the only two ordinances Scriptures calls for.
  6. All Believers are Placed in the Local Church upon their Baptism (Acts 1:15; 2:47)
  7. Believers are to Learn Doctrine in the Local Church
    For those of us who love to learn Scripture, here we go, but our culture today is moving more and more towards an anti-intellectualism, which is no more Biblical than forsaking the widows and orphans. This also means the local church is supposed to TEACH doctrine as well (Eph. 4:11-16; 1 Corinthians 12;  2 Timothy 4:1-4; Matthew 16:18; Ephesians 5:25; Acts 20:28).
  8. A Believer’s Responsibility to Missions as part of a Local Church
    A believer ought to be a part of supporting missions through their local church. The clear New Testament example is that it was the local church which sent forth missionaries. No church has the authority to delegate this responsibility to anyone else which would include mission boards, conventions, or any agency outside the local congregation (Acts 15:3, 20:38, 21:5, Rom. 15:24, 1 Cor. 16:6,11, 2 Cor. 1:16, Titus 3:13, 3 John 6).
  9. If One Member Suffers All Suffer With Them
    The local church is the support center of people to surround the believer in good times and in bad (1 Corinthians 12:26).
  10. Believers are Given the Responsibility and Privilege of Supporting the Local Church Financially
    There are probably more ways to get out of this than there are ways to count, but Scripture clearly says we are to financially support our local church, and it says this clearly and unequivocally that we are to give money to our local church, even Abraham did this. (1 Cor. 16:1-2, 2 Cor. 8-9)
On a practical level, what is the church? These shots below are just a very few examples of where our church assembled for fellowship yesterday. But this location at Lee-Scott Academy is not where the church is, the church is dispersed all throughout our city and county, this is just where we met yesterday.

Church and Amazing Lyrics of How Deep the Father’s Love for Us

Cornerstone Church at Lee-Scott Band Warmup

Cornerstone Church at Lee-Scott Drummer Warmup for Worship

The shot above was one I took while the band was warming up for worship this morning. I never get tired of being around the worship band and their practices. It is just as much a part of worship to me as when the official worship time begins. This church location, our second site, has been meeting in a basketball gym since February, and I love how it forces us to look at church from a new perspective again.

One of the songs we sung today, a modern hymn called How Deep the Father’s Love For Us by Kings Kaleidoscope on their album Sin, which was original written by Stuart Townend many years ago, has become one of my favorites because of the amazing lyrics and how it was written. It was released almost 2 years ago at this point but every time I read this poem, or listen to it being sung, it just hits home why we believe what we believe.

As mere created beings we can’t possibly fathom how deep God loves us, but the part that always rests with me is when the writer says “I hear my mocking voice, call out among the scoffers.” What an incredible thought to process and ponder. You can listen to the song from a link at the top of this post, but the rest of it goes like this:

How deep the Father’s love for us,
How vast beyond all measure
That He should give His only Son
To make a wretch His treasure

How great the pain of searing loss,
The Father turns His face away
As wounds which mar the chosen One,
Bring many sons to glory

Behold the Man upon a cross,
My sin upon His shoulders
Ashamed I hear my mocking voice,
Call out among the scoffers

It was my sin that left Him there
Until it was accomplished
His dying breath has brought me life
I know that it is finished

I will not boast in anything
No gifts, no power, no wisdom
But I will boast in Jesus Christ
His death and resurrection

Why should I gain from His reward?
I cannot give an answer
But this I know with all my heart
His wounds have paid my ransom

I guess everyone has different stretching points in words and in music that makes them emotionally tied to one work over another. This one for me brings out the beauty and sadness in sacrifice for someone who finally gets it. I love that we can worship a God this great, through these words, and do it with a basketball goal above our heads.

Intentional and Consistent Time in God’s Word :: Friday Feet

Friday Feet with the Word

Normall for my Friday Feet posts, which I know has been a while, I like to take a shot of what I was doing out and about during the day. After being outside for about 30 minutes in this heat I realized I wasn’t going back out again. Something that has been on my mind is this notion of being intentional about spending time in God’s word.

I use to get sick of hearing pastors tell me I should be reading the Bible, that is until I actually started reading it for all it’s worth, then I totally understood what in the world they were talking about. The Christian life, our daily walk, must have some component of daily strengthening in our relationship with Christ.

If praying is God’s way for us to talk to him, God’s word is His way of talking to us. How would our relationship with our spouse or children be if we listened to them as often as we listened to God through reading his Word?

Yesterday it hit me when I read this tweet by D.L. Moody (and The Resurgence). Then after that, still yesterday, I received a video from a friend of mine who basically said everything I was already thinking, so I stole his title and wrote my thoughts down as I tend to do.

While the conclusion Moody was probably making in the tweet may be true, the reality of 1% of men reading the Bible is… alarming, tragic, pathetic, pitiful, ridiculous, or whatever other adjectives you want to use here for us men.

It just made me wonder how can we truly lead our families without being grounded in God’s instruction? This isn’t a condemnation of everyone else, I have struggled with this for years. Every day I pray I have an overwhelming desire to spend time in God’s word.

There is no better time than today, right now, and it has never been easier in the history of the world to read God’s word. We have more access to the Bible and read it less than probably any generation before us. If you are busy, like most of us are, YouVersion’s selection of reading plans is outstanding. As far as online, web, mobile, and Internet resources that give you countless ways to read the bible, YouVersion has no match.

This morning, right before I took the photo above, I finished the Psalms in 31 Days YouVersion plan, which I have read a few times this year. Since going to work for the church in 2008 I had never had a more difficult time trying to stay grounded in God’s word, until I went through a spiritual disciplines study in one of my seminary classes in 2009-2010. Since then, I have been very intentional about spending time in God’s word every day (with a break on a specific routine in Saturday).

This was not something that was a light switch event, it took time, it took effort, and it was far easier to let it slide a day or two here or there, but now it has become routine, and when I miss a day, I really long for that time back. It’s no longer a dreaded, oh now I have to read, it’s a desire that makes me look forward to this time every day. I truly believe this desire to read came from my prayer for God to give me that desire, so prayer to read is important as well.

I am personally a canonical reader, I have a specific personal reading plan to read through the entire Bible each year, and this year I finished that in June, so I decided to just start over. I do this using three different reading plans on YouVersion, one for the entire bible called the Canonical Plan, one for the NT called New Thru 30, and one for Psalms I listed above. I do not use the time frame on the plan, just the order to keep me on track, but there are hundreds of plans to chose from. Trust me, there is one that fits within your schedule. If you don’t want to use YouVersion, there are countless other resources available, just pick one, and create a habit around it.

Anyway, there you have it, I wholeheartedly agree with those pastors who say daily reading of God’s word is important, very important. After all, your wife probably expects you to listen to her today, right? And God is supposed to be ahead of everything. There is no more important time in the day than the time we spend in God’s word. It affects everything else we do throughout the day and into the evening, even if it’s just a short time amount of time at first, it adds up over time.

It may not seem like it at first, but being intentional and consistently spending time in God’s word will strengthen your relationship with Christ, but also with your family, your spouse, your coworkers, and those who still haven’t heard the Good News.

A Look at the Visioning and Planning Process of the Church Body

Monthly All Staff Meeting at Cornerstone

It may not look like it at first glance, but this is part of the hard work that goes into following Christ wholeheartedly, what we call, Leading People to Know and Serve Jesus. I have learned an amazing amount about how the church body functions since I went on staff in late 2008. One of the incredible things about being on staff is the behind the scenes look you get at the visioning and planning process the church body goes through, continually. To see God actively working, guiding his people through the process of being the church, is a great privilege. Today was one of those rare monthly staff meetings where almost everyone on staff was in the room. There are almost as many people behind me in the photo above as there are in front of me, and still we had a few people who couldn’t be there today.

One thing that never stops amazing me is how hard everyone works, not just at my church, but at most all the churches I have come into contact with over the years. There are so many people who make the church body what it is. Countless volunteers who have sacrificed time, and money, to be the hands and feet of Christ. Of the many topics discussed today, one was how to tell the stories of these volunteers and other people who’s lives have been changed by Christ’s work through his church, like some of our seniors going to Uganda last week instead of going somewhere like Panama City Beach for a party.

I’m not really sure why this particular post came to be tonight, this just happened to be what was on my mind as I recalled events from my day. I do know this type of planning and these type of stories, go on endlessly, because God is at work in His people endlessly. If you haven’t been in church for a while, there is no better time than now. Sunday is less than 7 days away, and you aren’t reading this by accident any more than I wrote this by accident. Don’t just keep looking around for that perfect church, there isn’t one. Christ, who built the church out of imperfect people, can change your life forever, and he can use us imperfect people of the church to do it.

What’s More Useful to the Glory of God Than 95% of All We Do?

Amos 9:5-6

I’m guessing you didn’t think poetry was the answer to the question in the title, but it is. Poetic language and the language of prose put together in a sentence is sort of a misnomer, since they basically mean the opposite, but such is my relationship with metric and non-metrical language. Over the years I have tried to study poetry here and there, written some, read some, and every once in a while, appreciated some. I seem to have this back and forth argument with myself on the importance of poetry. In one respect, I find it useless, confusing, hard to understand, and not worth the time to learn. On the other, I do find it speaks to all aspects of life, and could be more important in affecting change than much of what we do in our every day lives. A post on Desiring God called Piper and the Role of Poetry in the Christian Life says it like this:

Poetry is not the answer, but it is a greater part of the answer than 95% of what we do with our time. Woe to me if I think souls are saved by me or them becoming poetic. But few are damned by it. And of the thousand things we fill our days with, this could be more useful to the glory of God than what we do most of the time.

So according to Piper, and some may disagree, poetry is more useful to the glory of God (the very purpose of our existence says 1 Peter 4:11), than of large majority of our other endeavors in life, or put differently how we spend our time. This is actually a pretty bold statement if taken at face value with no context. To understand this statement, it’s important to look at what else we do with our time, and how if at all, those things are more or less useful to the glory of God than poetry. I suspect many would say that statement is absurd, and dismiss it altogether, but God himself doesn’t do that.

Of course a great deal of Scripture is poetry. So that tells me right there that God finds poetry important, regardless of what I think. Some of the greatest poets in history were writers of Scripture. Of course being inspired I would say they had a little help, otherwise how in the world could any individual mind come up with and make Psalm 119 work other than God? If you have never attempted to create a perfectly metered acrostic (forget one the size of Psalm 119), try it, you will quickly see it isn’t all that easy.

To answer the question I posed in the title I think can only be answered by someone who has a great deal of knowledge about poetry, and can define its worth. For many of us, we just don’t have a strong enough understanding to say one way or another. Our time isn’t readily filled with words on a page in metric meter, it’s more filled with screens presenting video and media. This all got started from a quick read through Amos 9.5-6, which is an incredible short piece of inspired poetry.

On This Day 19 Years Ago We Said…

Scott and Deborah Fillmer June 11 1993

This is of course the day we said “I DO” to each other, some 19 years ago now. I’m not going to post a ton of photos as I have in the past, but I will share this one random shot above when we were walking away down the isle. On a side note, being able to look back historically at blog posts over a period of years is really interesting. I have posted on our anniversary, only on the odd years, like on year 15 and year 17, and now year 19. I’m thinking next year I will have to break that tradition for our 20th. Have no idea why, but, there you go.

Today is year number 19 and I can honestly say, I love my wife more now than I ever thought I could 19 years ago when we got married. Being married this long the question of the meaning of love gets discussed here and there, and of course Scripture tells us a lot about the truths of love. Paul makes his famous statements in Ephesians that I try to live by as a husband.

Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing that she might be holy and without blemish.

and then he goes on to say

Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh… this mystery is profound…

That is what marriage is, what love is. God forming two separate and distinct lives between a man and a woman, into one, mysterious union, becoming over time, one unit, with the two distinctions in the past. That may scare some, but it encourages me, and I find it completely true, in all sense of the word.

Biblical Basis Question for Vacation Bible School :: VBS

This, like other posts on this particular blog, are unfinished thoughts, and this one is beyond unfinished. This time of year, churches all across the country are going to great lengths to setup for their versions of VBS. As the chaotic week arrived, I asked the stupid question, “What is the Biblical basis for VBS?” Apparently that is not a proper question to ask when VBS is only a few days away, though I think it is deserving of a theological response nonetheless.

In my inquiry, I asked 6 people around the country I know, which came to be the widest range of people in the greater universal church I could find, and only one could answer my question. I asked a College Pastor, a Music Leader/Pastor, a Children’s Director, a seminary student, a Senior Pastor at a small Baptist church, and a homeschooling mom. Now it was pointed out to me that there is never a bad time to teach children about God’s word, and about Jesus. This is true. But not a single one could give me a reason, based from Scripture, why we put on these elaborate shows and productions for VBS, other than we have always done it, or it’s fun, or “VBS is great!”

For the typical church staff, it can be one of the most stressful times of the year. For parents, some are looking for a place to just dump their kids for a few hours during the summer, for the kids, it’s a big party. None of that is inherently bad, but is it something the church body should put so much money and effort into each summer? I guess we are at the point in society where we have to make things multimedia enough for the kids to even pay attention. No kid is going to sit and listen to the word of the Lord without a band and a screen of some type glowing in the background.

What does this say about how do worship today? What does this say about our kids, about our skills as parents, or best of all, what does it say about our understanding of Scripture, and what the Bible instructs us to do? VBS may fit into some nice church mold where a Biblical basis can be made for our elaborate productions, but no one as of yet has been able to explain to me the exegetical, hermeneutical history, or any other actual Biblical basis for VBS, other than the general, kids should be taught the Bible [format notwithstanding i guess]. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not just bashing VBS across the board, there is a great need today to teach our children about Christ, but maybe that’s all there is to it and there doesn’t need to be some higher theological explanation for VBS. I’m still going to ask the question because it just needs to be asked.

How Deep The Father’s Love For Us

We used this modern day hymn in our service this past Sunday and the lyrics were just incredible to me… the line “I hear my mocking voice call out among the scoffers” really puts an emphasis on God’s love for us. I know the song is about 10 years old at this point but still well worth reading the words below.

How deep the Father’s love for us,
How vast beyond all measure
That He should give His only Son
To make a wretch His treasure

How great the pain of searing loss,
The Father turns His face away
As wounds which mar the chosen One,
Bring many sons to glory

Behold the Man upon a cross,
My sin upon His shoulders
Ashamed I hear my mocking voice,
Call out among the scoffers

It was my sin that left Him there
Until it was accomplished
His dying breath has brought me life
I know that it is finished

I will not boast in anything
No gifts, no power, no wisdom
But I will boast in Jesus Christ
His death and resurrection

Why should I gain from His reward?
I cannot give an answer
But this I know with all my heart
His wounds have paid my ransom

Heavenly Wisdom vs Earthly Wisdom :: James 3:13-18

A few weeks ago I was given the privilege of preparing a short message on James 3:13-18 for our series on the book of James, which is the small section at the end of James 3 on wisdom as it pertains to the taming of the tongue. The entire message is available on PDF at Heavenly Wisdom vs Earthly Wisdom :: James 3:13-18 or you can go to my writing section and find it there as well.

After reading this little section on James over and over and over again, and studying it as best I could, I have really come to love the words of wisdom found in James 3:13-18.  At the end of James 3, in a chapter almost entirely dedicated to taming the tongue, we come across this small section, which almost appears to be thrown in by James as an afterthought on wisdom. While it may seem out of place at first, James knew it was not intelligence, or great knowledge, which could tame the tongue, but wisdom, a heavenly wisdom found in “humility, grace and peace” (BKC, 828). There is just no other way to control the tongue than with a heavenly wisdom from above.

James 3:13-18 is a story of wisdom presented as two completely different sides of the same coin, one that we still see played out in our world today. On one side of the wisdom coin, we have a heavenly wisdom from above, which is full of mercy and peace. On the other side, we have an earthly wisdom, which is characterized by jealousy, envy, pride, and selfish ambition. James says seeking after a heavenly wisdom results in an abundance of God’s peace in our lives, while seeking after earthly wisdom, leads to disorder, and “every vile practice” we could possibly conceive.

Our own culture thrives on this earthly wisdom to fulfill the “American Dream” by “looking out for number one,” or “climbing that corporate latter,” and in using our abilities and knowledge to gain an advantage over someone else.  Obtaining more earthly wisdom, whether it comes from our latest smart phone, music, movies, or from the most esteemed pastor we know, doesn’t help to control the tongue. Earthly wisdom might temporarily satisfy our desire to outdo our brother, but rarely will this show God’s love. We probably all know people who have accumulated vast sums of knowledge, which can impress us with fancy arguments, competition, or rivalry. But I can still find this in myself as well, buried deep in my heart where many sins can reside without ever seeing the light of day.

So what is the difference between heavenly wisdom and earthly wisdom? James gives us a great way to test ourselves for Heavenly wisdom, and it sounds unlike what we normally hear in many other parts of Scripture, it comes from our behavior. At some point, knowledge can turn into heavenly wisdom through proper application of living out our lives manifested in our actions. What this means is heavenly wisdom will be seen by our conduct through humility, and meekness, not by gaining vast sums of knowledge, or in our ability to outdo one another. We can ask ourselves, are we gaining in the wisdom of God? Apart from a true desire to walk in a manner pleasing to God, no one really has true wisdom, and without true wisdom, we have little hope of taming our tongue.

I sometimes have a tendency to argue my point with just about anyone who will listen. This only solidifies my understanding of how difficult it is for a tamed tongue to coincide with an earthly wisdom, which James even calls demonic. If heavenly wisdom is applying knowledge properly, according to God’s will, how do we really know we have achieved wisdom from above at all? We know we have the wise answer, the response of wisdom, because it won’t be argumentative, contentious, or self-seeking. It will be gentle and peacemaking, and clearly seen by others through our actions in Godly behavior.

Not One is Missing Among 10 Billion Trillion of Them :: Isaiah 40:26

The Milky Way Galaxy and Jacob

I have been walking, and sometimes running, through the book of Isaiah over the last week or two. There are so many incredible passages in Isaiah, but this morning I came across something that made me stop, it was just one phrase, just four words, “not one is missing” (Isaiah 40.26.d). This passage, in context is Isaiah 40:25-26, is talking about the pagan worship practices, many of Isaiah’s contemporaries had failed to resist, which now surrounded the Israelites. They often worshipped astrological phenomena, but Isaiah here is saying that Israel’s God is the only thing worthy of worship, and he created the stars themselves.

Apparently astronomers say there were about 5,000 stars visible in ancient Israel, so saying that God created these stars would have been an awe-inspiring thing (and it reminded me of the star images above from last summer).[1] What is always so awe-inspiring to me, in a time and culture where not many people worship the actual stars, astronomers now estimate there are more than 400 billion stars in our own Milky Way galaxy, there are 125 billion galaxies in the universe, making the total number of stars 1×1022, or about 10 billion trillions. If this isn’t mind boggling enough to contemplate, Isaiah says God knows all these stars by name! In His own strength He created, controls, and sustains millions upon millions of stars, each one of which He, amazingly, has named (cf. Ps. 147:4).[2]

I’m not even sure I can fully understand what 10 billion trillion is in a numerical order. The only thing I could think to compare a number like that to is something huge, like our national debt which is around 15.6 trillion. Even something we are told is as huge as the national debt looks absolutely minuscule when compared to how many stars God has created. The point being of course, if God knows the name of every single star, such a God will surely never forget even one of his own people. After all, there are only about 7 billion of us for God to remember!


[1] See EXIF Data of Star shot above on Flickr

[2] John F. Walvoord, Roy B. Zuck and Dallas Theological Seminary, The Bible Knowledge Commentary : An Exposition of the Scriptures (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1983-), Is 40:25–26.

cf. confer, compare