What is Church?

Webster defines “church” as “a building for public and, especially, Christian worship”. In fairness, it does offer a secondary definition as “a body or organization of religious believers”.

The word “church” comes from the Greek word “ekklesia” which is “an assembly or gathering of the called-out ones.” In Romans 16:5, Paul clearly refers to the church as a group of Christians attending worship together in a private home. In Ephesians, Paul again refers to the church as the body of Christ.

Perhaps most importantly, what do you think of when using the word “church” in a sentence? I suspect it’s often a reference to where we are going rather than who we are going to see and fellowship with.
* We go to church on Sunday or Wednesday.
*  We need to drop something off at church.
* I need to…. at church next week.

Perhaps it’s understandable that we use the term “church” in this way. Words such as store, school, library, and home, all represent physical structures. The use of these terms is a shorthand way of providing location.

My only point is that thinking of “church” as just a place we go, rather than the public worship we experience, allows us to become immune to the true meaning of why we show up on Sunday mornings. When I was first saved, I was as an adult and in my childlike Christian state I saw no need for congregational “church”. For the first few months of our newfound faith, Judy and I worshiped at home with the kids, watching Charles Stanley. The more I learned about this new relationship with Christ, the better I understood the full scope of Luke 10:27. More specifically, I began to realize that there was wisdom in 1 Cor. 12:12-31 where Scripture talks about the value of many different talents and gifts coming together to worship as one body. I soon realized that our small family, new in our faith, simply did not have enough body parts to function on our own. We needed the mutual accountability, encouragement, and discipleship that comes from a “church”, an ekklesia, a gathering of the called-out ones.

Pastor Jarrod made the comment last Sunday that many consider a “regular church attender” someone who makes it to church two or three times a month. As you struggle to add one more thing to your crowded calendar, having to deal with getting kids up, dressed, and out the door, as well as all the other distractions life in this country throws at you, don’t underestimate the value of staying connected to the vine through fellowship with other believers in congregational worship.

Hebrews 10:24-25: ” And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.”

Jeff Hilles


Sing! . . . With the Local Church, pt. 6

1 Peter 2:4-5 “As you come to him, the living Stone – rejected by humans, but chosen by God and precious to him – you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ”.

We who are God’s people are being built together upon the solid Rock that is our Lord Jesus.  When we sing together as the Church, we are showing how we are a congregation of living stones.  Our singing is an audible expression of the bonds we share, testifying to the life that lies within these stones.  We are cut from the same elements of faith, united in one Lord, filled by one Spirit, brought in one Church, to offer our praise to Him.  We are being chiseled and refined through our singing, just as we are through every aspect of our lives.  We are forged together through our singing together.

So when you sing, look around.  Encourage others with what you are singing, and expect to be encouraged by the fact that there are others singing with you and to you.  We are reminded that we are not alone – we are members of a multi-generational, multi-ethnic, multi-everything family.  We are reminded that we are not self-sufficient, for we need a Savior.  We are reminded that we need not despair, for we have His Spirit with us.  We are reminded that we are not the center of the universe, but just one voice and heart among the great worldwide throng of people praising the One who is.  And we remind each other of all this as we sing together.

When we consider the early church, many of the people had nothing in common, except that they had everything that mattered in common: faith in Christ.  According to Ephesians 5:18-20  a sign of this core commonality would be their congregational singing.  This is your family, You and these folk around you are the only eternal pieces of this fading world.  You are called to serve them by singing with and to them.  Don’t view singing with a church as an opportunity to sing in a way that sounds like the culture you live, or like a past era you wish you lived in – come to sing to lend your voice to the timeless, boundless sound of the congregational voice singing to the One who is eternally worthy of our praise.  

Selections from Sing! How Worship Transforms Your life, Family, and Church. by Keith and Kristyn Getty.

Jarrod Scott

Florence Has a Question

Florence has been in the news a lot these past several days.  And not Florence, Italy, the capital of the region of Tuscany.  That historic city, which was home to the powerful Medici family and the misguided politician Machiavelli over half a millennium ago, went along peacefully while its namesake visited our coast.

Another Florence, named Nightingale, would have been right in the thick of the storm that has left its mark on dozens of communities and thousands of families.  This Florence, named after the Tuscan city in which she was born, was a nursing pioneer who changed the way women and nursing were viewed as she served her people during the Crimean War of the mid-1800’s.  She worked tirelessly, both day and night, to care for the sick and wounded.  Her efforts included addressing the unsanitary conditions of the hospitals and treatment areas where she served, and she very quickly made an incredible impact in reducing the death rate of wounded soldiers by two-thirds.  The Florence that left its devastation behind would have been the perfect situation for a person like Florence Nightingale to fulfill her calling.

Our area made out extremely well, especially compared to so many south and east of here.  But that doesn’t mean it’s been all rose petals and sunshine, though.  One of our growing partners where I work (a produce company) died yesterday from complications following surgery to remove a brain tumor.  A couple weeks ago, he was managing our farms like he had done for us for nearly 30 years, and today his family and friends mourn his passing.  Another co-worker lost her sister to cancer last week.  And our company’s 82-year-old founder is recovering from surgery to remove the infection from his leg and treat it as it had gotten into his bloodstream.  And tomorrow, it will be something else unwanted for someone who was probably not expecting it somewhere in our community.

When our CEO shared the news of our employee’s passing, he tried to offer some solace by encouraging us to trust and have faith.  But he could not bring himself to say the word Jesus or Lord.  He wanted us all to believe and have hope, but he would not urge us listeners to lean on Jesus.  I do not know his reasons, much as I do not know what brings him to his church on Sundays.  But this I do know, Jesus said that whoever is ashamed of Him and His words, Jesus will be ashamed of when He comes in glory.

It is not my intent or calling to judge my boss regarding his spiritual condition.  I use this example only to compel each of us to judge ourselves.  There is something greater than corporate appropriateness and political correctness.  When you offer comfort to someone, you should be doing it in the name and love of Jesus.  And that solitary motivation should not shrink from your lips.

If you’re helping out or consoling because you’re grieving and empathetic, that’s a good thing, too.  But if someone asks you what your message of hope would be to the one suffering and your response doesn’t include to trust in Jesus, then temporary comfort is all they’re getting.  But when the cancer strikes or the ceiling caves in or the waters wash away, more than that will be needed for eternity.  Be someone who shares living hope, because it’s living within you.

Rich Holt

True Love

As we continue to read our F260 Bible reading plan we have reached the New Testament Gospels and scriptures detailing the days leading up to the crucifixion.  And while it can be quite difficult to read, through it we get see a love displayed that no one on earth can duplicate.
In the days leading up to the cross, Jesus had been on a roll as we might say in our time.  He had been drawing big crowds when he spoke, he was performing miracles in his presence and from a far, and the people were eager to see Him wherever he went so things were great.  But what he knew was this would all turn around and get very different over the next few days.
Maybe you’ve found yourself in a situation where things are going great but you can sense a change coming, if so you know how that can feel and it’s not usually a comforting feeling.  Jesus was right in the middle of this as he approached the time where he knew God’s plan for salvation was upon Him so he heads up to Gethsemane to spend some time in prayer with the Father.   There he fell on his face praying and asking…”My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me, Nevertheless, not as I will but as You will.”  What a beautiful statement of love and obedience for us all to see.  He knew full well that over the next hours he would face ridicule, a brutal beating, and death on a cross but we are blessed that his love for you and me was bigger than all that.  And after the long and difficult walk to the cross, as he hung there he was still pleading to the Father for us, not for himself.  He said. “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34).  And even after that he shared his love and grace with a sinner like us hanging beside him who believed He was the Son of God.  He was loving us all the way to his final breath on earth  and as he said “Father into your hands I commit my spirit” and “It is Finished”,  love took on a whole new meaning!
We’ll never see or experience a deeper TRUE LOVE than this which the Father has lavished on us.  God’s word says without the shedding of blood there is no atonement for sin.  So praise be to God that his plan to show us what True Love is really about was to give his only Son Jesus, the perfect spotless Lamb to be that sacrifice of blood for our sin.   Now it’s our turn to Truly Love him back and share this great love with others.
Chris Best

Sing! . . . with your Family, part 5

“Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all  your strength.  These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts.  Impress them on your children.  Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up”. Deuteronomy6:5-7

Taking this command seriously includes singing the songs of our faith in the home.  The church should be a feasting place for singable songs, and the appetite for it is nurtured at home.  Singing is one of the best ways to teach kids, and we should start when they are young. Songs help us train children in the “language” of the Christian faith.  Singing the gospel changes hearts, and singing the gospel prepares hearts.  Our singing always remains more important than the sound it makes.

What should children sing?

Sing what you like, what you enjoy singing, the songs that are good for your spiritual well-being.  C.S. Lewis suggested that children don’t learn lke a train going form station to station but rather as a tree grows by adding rings.  Kids add and build on what they already know, and so do adults; so we must take care to try and make those first key rings of growth healthy and strong, providing a solid foundation a child can build on.  We can give children a little more than they understand in the songs we sing with them, and over time help them grow into an understanding of every part of a lyric, just like buying new shoes for your kid a size bigger than they need right now, so that they grow into them and get longer wear out of them.

Suggestions if your kids are teenagers . . .

  1. Tell and show your kids why this is important.  Be part of a church family that enables you to clearly show congregational singing done well, especially with opportunities where you can sing with your kids in church and not always send them away to another service just for them.
  2. Make it as fun and attractive to them as possible.  Find contemporary versions of good songs that appeal to a teenager’s ear.
  3. Get started.  Start playing songs in your home.  Let them see you singing.
  4. Don’t be scared of your kids.  You have the right and responsibility to parent them.

When parents, and particularly fathers, do not sing, it often leads to older kids inheriting similar tepid responses that sadly often go far beyond just the singing.  Be a parent who sings with joy, and pray that your kids, of whatever age, would follow you – not just in the singing, but in the faith that brings such joy.

Ten Practical Ideas

  1. Use all the help and opportunities you can get.  Stream the songs from Sunday during breakfast, or ver your smartphone during part of the bedtime routine.  Sing the blessing before a meal, such as the “Doxology.”
  2. Teach your kids songs you want them to grow old with.  The best songs for our youth are often the best songs for our old age.
  3. Talk about what you’re doing and what the songs mean.  Take tiem to talk about why we sing, what happens when we sing, and how we use the gift of singing to serve one another.  Teach the children a hymn of the the month and use the lyrics as conversation starter about faith.  A good resource might be Joni Eareckson Tada and Bobbie Wolgemuth’s series Hymns for a Kid’s Heart.
  4. Prepare for Sunday Services: make the most of the car rides to sing and listen to the songs from church.
  5. Model Passionate Participation in the Services.  Always remember when you sing at church, your children (and everyone else’s around you) can see you and are watching.  Sit somewhere in your church building where your kids are surrounded by strong singing.
  6. Be aware of all the music your kids are into.  There are ultimately no neutral lyrics.  All songs share a message about how we should view the world.
  7. If your kids are into music . . . Encourage them! Drive them to the music lessons and let your home be a rehearsal place.
  8. If your church has a children’s choir, Support it if you can.  At Green Pines, we will be integrating the children’s singing as part of the Sunday School beginning in September.
  9. Cultivate High Opinions of All Types of Art.  Issues of church music today are not that a certain style isn’t quite right but rather that we are too narrow and maybe even too boring in our expression.  Make use of different instruments, sounds, and languages.
  10. Sing Today.  The children are not too old or too young but begin today.

Excerpts from  chapter 5 of Sing! How Worship Transforms Your Life, Family, and Church by Keith and Kristyn Getty.

Jarrod Scott

Righteous Indignation

Earlier this summer Judy and I were visited by three Jehovah’s Witnesses (JW). Over the past three years one of them has come by (as part of differing groups of three) perhaps five or six times. This, however was the first time I was home to receive them.  After brief chit chat we got down to a conversation regarding the differences between JW false teachings and our Biblical Christian worldview. There are of course many fundamental differences in our viewpoints. Using the Green Pines “What We Believe” Statement (http://greenpines.org/guests/what-we-believe)  as a back drop, the more salient issues are as follows….

  1. Bible – JW’s use their own translation that twists the original language of Scripture to conform to their twisted theology (ex. John 1:1).
  2. Trinity & Jesus – JW’s consider only God the father as God. To consider Christ and the Holy Spirit as God, is a lie from Satan. Jesus is immortal, but not eternal as God’s first creation.
  3. Salvation – One must be a good, moral JW who has been baptized through emersion. One can never know if they are good enough until death.
  4. Eternal Condition – Everyone will get a second chance during the Millennial Kingdom to accept the faith tenants of JW and go to “heaven”. Those that still refuse will be annihilated as there is no such thing as Hell.

Today, Judy, Jenna (our daughter) and I sat down with two Mormons (LDS). There are major theological differences here as well. However, the LDS are much more subtle and less willing to clarify those differences. Some major ones include…

  1. Nearly everyone goes to one of three levels of “heaven”. Those who achieve the highest level ( “Celestial Heaven”) will be gods themselves and have their own planets to rule. There is a Hell, but since everyone is offered a second chance to accept the LDS theology after death (in “Spiritual Prison”) practically no one chooses Hell.
  2. Satan and Jesus are brothers, who are flesh and blood, just like us. We were all part of the two-thirds of the angels who did not rebel against God and have subsequently been re-born as humans.
  3. The LDS believe that their Prophets (leaders) have “continuing revelation” that allows for changing theology as the times change.
  4. The Bible is a source of truth but The Book of Mormon takes a superior position over the Bible and has been open to multiple updates over time.
  5. Trinity – God the Father and the Son are two distinct persons. The Holy Spirit is a force or fluid.

So, the commonality in these, and most other false teachings, is a works-based (rather than grace- based) theology. But, that’s not the point I want to make in this blog.

With both the Mormons and the Jehovah’s Witnesses there is a second, very significant commonality  that I admit I stumbled into as we talked. Notice above that with both false teachings, one gets a second chance after death. This, by the way, has a similar theme in Catholicism related to the false concept of Purgatory.

With the sweet three JW ladies and the two young, white shirt and tie Mormons, toward the end of our time together, I summarized my position with the following…. “Do you realize that if your theology is correct, and Its rejected, we all get a second chance after death to go to paradise for eternity. However, if my theology is correct, your proselytizing is sending people to Hell for eternity with no second chance?” In the case of the JW’s they wished us well, said that we should love one another and should be able to agree to disagree. I responded,  gently and respectfully, with the concept of righteous indignation (Jesus and the money changers John 2:13-16), choosing not to let them off the hook so easily knowing that they’re spreading a false gospel (Mat. 24:24, Acts 20:29) with each house they stop at. Today with the Mormons, as we wrapped up, the leader asked to close in prayer. I had already made clear that our theology limits us, as Biblical Christians, to a clear dichotomy of good or evil with no middle ground. This world may be full of shades of gray but God’s worldview only allows for these two states. My point to them was that Biblical Christians view their theology as satanic. So, when they wished to close in prayer, I asked if I could pray instead. The leader, in leaving, remarked that I did not respect them and their beliefs.

In the above situations, each of us has to strike a balance between loving our neighbor and righteous indignation. I am not suggesting I have struck the proper balance, but these limited encounters do not allow for building trust relationships that can grow into real opportunities to share God’s truth. To me  IITim 4:1-5 applies to those who are going door to door preaching a false gospel.

“I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.”

Jeff Hilles

Can You Relate?

I heard a well-known parent say the other day that one of the joys and fascinations of having kids is that you get to reproduce someone that you can relate to. So, let’s try that on for size:

My oldest is into politics and the investment of funds, big time. And though I want our country to thrive and I’d like to have more money, neither one of these arenas comes close to making my radar.

My next child, also a son, lives and breathes being outside and doing and making things with his hands. He would rather you throw him off the top of my office building than make him sit in front of a computer all day as I do.

My eldest daughter loves to dance, as evidenced by the six or eight dance classes she takes. To say I’m uncomfortable on the dance floor is to say that the surface of the sun is a tad warm.

My next daughter loves competitive cheerleading. To me, it looks like the small girls like her get tossed around like sacks of potatoes and the bigger girls are lifting weights and getting stepped on. Hmm.

My third daughter sings with the voice of an angel. I can perhaps carry a tune, and certainly love to sing along to whatever I’m listening to, but she has a natural gift that seems foreign to my DNA.

And my youngest girl is a fearless gymnast and consummate performer. She prefers to get from here to there via cartwheel, and if she can put on a show or make a video along the way, all the better. I’ve never tumbled, at least not intentionally, and the limelight is no place for me.

Conclusion? My kids are a chip off the ole block, but that block is far more complex than the simpleton that I am. And so, God is greatly to be praised for how He has woven various parts of me and my wife, intensifying some and muting others, to create six children who are intended to relate most and best to their Heavenly Father.

I love each of them so deeply it sometimes hurts within me, and I love trying to figure them out and enjoy them as they become who they will be. But God is who they are most intended to relate to, just as you and I are. He is our life, our salvation, and our purpose. However you are and whatever you are like, your greatest gift is that you are made to relate to your Creator, the Lord God Almighty. And I hope that in that relating, you will let Him shape you and remake you into the redeemed child that you are. I hope that you want to be like Jesus. I hope that that is something you can relate to.

Rich Holt

Sing! . . . with Heart and Mind, part 4

Selections from Keith and Kristyn Getty’s book Sing! How Worship transforms Your Life, Family, and Church.  People say you are what you eat. Well, songs are food for the soul. What you sing, and don’t sing, changes you.  The lyrics of the songs we sing in our churches and repeat in our hearts find their way into shaping our priorities, our behavior, our loves . . . into the quiet space (or not so quiet, if you have kids) of the car journey on a Monday morning, into the language of our prayers as we fall asleep, into the answers we give “for the hope that we have” (1 Peter 3:15).

  1. Singing takes Sunday’s truths into Monday.  Most of us sing at times in our week or hum a tune that reminds us of its lyrics.  be singing what you sang on Sunday, be singing the gospel.  Christ-filled songs can help motivate us into a day when we would rather stay in bed than get up and face the chore or meeting or project.  They help us remember scripture. They keep uprooting weeds of worry and fear that tangle our feet and trip us up.
  2. Singing sustains you in every season of life.  If we are to be prepared to live for Christ in the whole of life, we need to be singing about the whole of life.  In this question, God has given us a guide in the book of Psalms as a hymnal of songs to God, about God, sung in community with the people of God.  The Psalms give us a vast vision of who God is.  As we read through these Biblical songs see God’s character displayed with different emphasis according to our needs in life.  He is the judge, shepherd, holy God, King of all the earth, the creator, and the defender of the widow and fatherless.  We introduced to His voice, tears, glorious achievements for his people in the past and future.  The Psalms show us how to deal with real life.  In the Psalms, there is the full emotional spectrum of prayers to God moving from laments (Ps. 13:1) to rejoicing (Ps. 16:9-10).  These are songs that know the singer with the heavy heart and doesn’t glibly ignore the realities of life.  We sing, as the Psalms train us, to help us bring all of our lives, failures, successes, losses, gains, dreams, and ambitions into gospel perspective.
  3. Singing reminds you of what God has done in your life. As you remember God’s faithfulness in your past, so often etched in your hearts through a song, you are inspired and equipped to face the ups and downs of the week.
  4. Singing keeps your mind on eternity.   We need to sing those songs now that we want to grow old with – songs that will lift our hearts and sights to eternity and our eternal Lord when earthly life begins to slip from our hands.   We need to sing with others in our churches, that they, too, may look to eternity every day, including their last day.  May we fall asleep with gospel songs on our lips and awake to the sounds of heaven singing.

In light of this post, consider listening to this song, “Jesus my Living Hope” This is the song we have sung the last couple of Sundays.  Now try singing it on a weekday and consider the gospel expressed in song.

Jarrod Scott

Sing Part 3

Selections from chapter 3 of Sing! How Worship Transforms Your life, Family, and Church
by Keith and Kristy Getty

We are a singing people because the gospel of the Lord Jesus compels us to sing.  It’s what we do.

Alistar Begg says you can tell when someone who is on the sidelines of Faith has embraced their faith when you see them with full eyes and fully engaged in the singing.  Saved people are singing people.

God’s love for us inspires our response of love for Him and calls forth songs of joy from our lips.

Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 5:14-14.
“For Christ’s Love compels us, because we have concluded this: One has died for all, therefore all have died; And he died for all that those who might no longer live for themselves but for Him who for their sake died and was raised again.”

Our Motivation to sing comes from so much more than ourselves, our likes, our comfort levels, our musical taste and preferences.  Intrinsically, it’s driven by the one who died and was raised.

I sing because I’m free to run from all that tore me apart and to run to all that makes me whole.  Romans 8:15 says: “The spirit you received does not make you slaves so that you live in fear again: Rather, the spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship.  And by him we cry Abba, Father”

If I know this is true of me, in my heart as well as my head…..well, It opens my mouth.

The truth is we praise what we love.

Singing gives voice to a heart that deeply knows the gospel of grace.  It’s the overflow of a heart captivated by the gospel.  In as many voices that join together to sing, there are as many hearts that are called to know Christ as Lord and Savior.  From that place there is a genuine and rich overflow of praise.  This should reassure us, no matter how you are feeling, nor how good or bad a week you’ve had, you can lift your eyes to Jesus with relief, for He has washed you clean, and so you can sing wherever your life is at and whatever you are facing.

We will spend our eternity singing, for the gospel compels us to sing.  And we are a people who, as we reflect on the gospel, cannot help but sing.  We do not sing because we have to, we sing because we love to.

Enjoy your week and go ahead and SING, you have a lot be happy about!

Chris Best

Sing!, pt. 2

Selections from chapter 2 of Sing! How Worship Transforms Your life, Family, and Church by Keith and Kristy Getty

“Christian singing is far more than doing our duty, but it is never less.  We are commanded to, ‘Sing to the LORD a new song, his praise in the assembly of the saints.'” (Ps. 149:1)  There are more than four hundred references to singing in the Bible and at least fifty direct commands.  We are not to disregard the command because we don’t like the music or the personnel or are not in the mood.

We are commanded to sing in “the assembly of the saints.”  Since we are one in the assembly there will be songs you may not have chose and will be willing to lay down your own tastes for the good of the wider assembly.

Colossians 3:16 “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.” So we are to sing about God specifically as revealed in Christ and in His work upon the cross.  This passage also instructs us to sing with thankfulness and with heart.  This scripture is not instructing just mere lip service of song. Does our singing reveal what is truly important to us?

Have you considered that we have a singing savior in Jesus Christ?  Matthew 26 informs us that on the night he was betrayed and before He died for us he was singing with his friends.  Can you imagine his song as he knowingly was approaching his darkest hour?