A Picture Perfect Church

church1Picture Perfect was a 1995 movie about two teenagers from neighboring families who joined their families in hopes of winning a soda company’s grand prize for the perfect family. What they didn’t know was the company CEO had to live with the family for a week before making a decision. The two teens were eventually forced to reveal their predicament to their parents who reluctantly agreed to live out the farce for the week, never imagining they would actually be chosen. After being selected as winners, they were forced to reveal the lie. Of course it had a happy ending and the two single parents fell in love and married.

How does a perfect church look? The immediate problem is there are none. I once knew a lady who was accustomed to saying something like, “It may be a perfect church now, but after I join, it won’t be.”

Ben Campbell Johnson tells a story illustrating the role of the church in the world. A young lady’s parents are killed. The church she attends adopts her, cares for her needs, and even sends her to college. Upon graduation, she returns to the community and asks the pastor to let her address the church. Standing before the congregation, she thanks God for all he has accomplished in her life, looks at the congregation and thanks them, then addresses various sections of the congregation. Summing up the feelings of her heart, she says “You are Him here. You are Him here.”

This is the mission of the church. We are extensions of Christ’s ministry on earth. We are his body, and he has left us the responsibility of carrying forth his work. We are his arms, hands, feet, legs, ears, and eyes. It is unfortunate many local churches have lost their purpose and others have a hard time determining what it is to begin with. They have no clear sense of direction. God’s Word, however, is very clear on the reason for the church’s existence.

A picture perfect church is:

  • A Chosen Community
  • A Body of Christ
  • A Fellowship of Redemptive Love
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Why Good Friday Is Good

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At about three o’clock, Jesus called out with a loud voice,
“Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Matthew 27:46 NLT

How could something as terrible as the crucifixion–the cruelest means of death around–be so good?

Christians celebrate the Friday before Easter Sunday as Good Friday. The day Jesus was crucified for supposedly claiming to be a rival king. Jealousy was the real reason. Religious leaders who refused to believe He was God’s Messiah, and who were upset that many of their followers were following Jesus instead, trumped up charges against Him and forced the Roman governor’s hand. With Rome’s permission, nothing stood in their way of having Jesus crucified and out of their hair once and for all.

A dainty picture of Jesus cleanly hanging on the cross hardly mirrors how He actually looked after the beating, mocking, and crown of thorns He received. Add to this the nails through His hands and feet, the shame of hanging almost naked before passerby’s, and the pain of trying to breathe while hanging suspended in mid-air, and we can only imagine the pain He endured.

Just before His death, Jesus asked His heavenly Father why He had forsaken Him. No answer flowed from heaven, but the entire message of the Bible tells us why. Jesus’ pain was more than from the agony of the crucifixion. His true pain came because He was paying for the sins of all humanity. In a brief moment, He endured what He never had before: a turning away by His Father.

God is holy, and in the moment Jesus’ payment was made, God had to look away. But God’s turning away from sin made it possible for Him to turn toward humanity. Now He could view them through the perfect sacrifice of His Son.

Jesus’ payment on Calvary on Good Friday makes it possible to change life situations. We come into the world as sinners, but through faith in Christ we can change positions. Saint is the biblical word. Though we’ll never be perfect this side of heaven, we can live with victory over sin and our arch enemy who seeks nothing more than to kill, steal, and destroy.

Good Friday is good because forgiveness is always good news. Resurrection Sunday is even better. An empty grave testifies that the Father accepted the Son’s sacrifice.

 

No Body

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Situated in Red Square in the center of Moscow since shortly after his death in 1924, Vladimir Lenin’s corpse requires daily moisturizing and injection of preservatives under his clothes to safeguard its appearance. His sarcophagus is kept at 61 degrees Fahrenheit and humidity between 80 and 90 percent. The corpse is removed every eighteen months for a chemical bath.

Honoring those who serve faithfully is admirable, but viewing a lifeless body only reminds us a person is just that-lifeless. Had someone produced and preserved Jesus’ body, Christianity would have no message and doubtlessly not survived.

Many balk at the notion of Jesus returning to life, but while Jesus’ earthly ministry changed countless lives and his death portrayed unconditional love, only the resurrection validates his death’s purpose and provides Christianity’s central message.

But are there proofs of Jesus’ resurrection? A carefully guarded tomb is one. Jewish authorities didn’t question Jesus’ death but took precautions to keep his followers from stealing the body and concocting a story about his rumored return to life.

Then there’s the empty tomb. Some propose Jesus only swooned on the cross and was revived by the cool tomb, but even the soldiers sent to hasten his death by breaking his legs didn’t because he was already dead.

The women coming to the tomb early Sunday morning to anoint Jesus’ body were greeted by an angel who confirmed Jesus’ resurrection: Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. (Matthew 28:5-6) Though afraid, they left with immense joy to share the news with others.

Eyewitness accounts also prove the resurrection. Two believers on their way to Emmaus encounter the resurrected Jesus. After realizing who he is, they too pass along news of their encounter to others.

A carefully guarded tomb could not hold a resurrected Lord. As early believers spread the wonderful news to others we should too. There is no body.

Prayer: Lord, may the joy of Your resurrection give us reason to share the good news.

Catching the Vision

What happens when we live with vision personally and collectively as a church?

  • Happiness follows.

People search for what will make them happy and have been since the beginning of time. Eve thought doing what God had forbidden would. The nation of Israel thought worshiping false gods would. In today’s culture, we think it’s found in possessions, money, financial security, relationships, games, sports, social media, education, friends, etc. Narcissism is commonplace.

But true and lasting happiness is not tied to any of the above or anything else we could mention. Happiness is connected to a relationship with Christ. Lasting and true happiness is impossible without this connection.

  • Personal fulfillment is birthed.

When we settle the happiness connection, we can move on to personal fulfillment. People walk down numerous avenues trying to find this as well. How many times during your lifetime have you felt unfulfilled? There’s got to be more, you think. If this is all life has to offer, I will die unhappy.

When we have vision, we will live a fulfilled life. Emptiness won’t creep in—at least not to stay. We’ll want to do what God created us to do, and when we do, fulfillment will follow.

  • Depression will find it more difficult to overcome us.

This isn’t to say we’ll never experience moments or short periods of depression, but when we are following God’s vision, the happiness and fulfillment we experience will fight against any depression Satan attempts to throw at us.

  • Spiritual growth will take place.

When we catch the vision of what God wants to do in our life—a vision that may change numerous times over the course of our lifetime, we will grow spiritually. Ignoring or simply not knowing God’s plan and purpose keeps us in a state of flux. By following God’s vision for our individual lives, we move closer to him and grow in the process.

  • Church growth will take place.

Since we are all part of a local body as well as the church universal, personal growth will naturally lead to spiritual and numerical growth in our churches.

  • Excitement won’t be able to be contained.

When God’s people are following his vision for them personally and collectively, we won’t be able to contain the excitement that will follow. We were created to worship our Savior and follow his plan for our lives.

Have you caught the vision? If not, what will it take for that to happen?

Connect, Serve, Grow

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New Life PH Church is a body of believers walking boldly under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, connecting with each other, serving our community, and growing in our walk with the Lord. If you are looking for a church home, we invite you to come grow with us and let us help you on your spiritual journey to be all God wants you to be.