Tag Archives: holy spirit

Same Words Different Meanings

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Christianity is a culture with many terms that are used almost exclusively within that culture.  When was the last time you heard the word propitiation used outside a church context (or inside one for that matter)? We often talk about righteousness and grace and justification.  Those words are good English words, but their meaning inside church culture holds great significance.  Outside that culture, however, these words are seldom used.  

We have other words that we use commonly but we’ve given them a different definition than their original intent.  

The term “pastor” is used nowadays to refer to anyone who is in a preaching role in a church.  Usually the pastor is the “head” of that branch of the church.  The bible doesn’t use this term this way.  In fact, I’m surprised that the bible includes this term at all.  It is only used once in English translations and the Greek word that it is translated from is always translated as “shepherd” in the other instances it is used in the New Testament.  A pastor is supposed to be one of a group of shepherds or elders of a church.  

Pastor is a term the church of Christ has tried to avoid for many years, but culture keeps using that term in its new definition, so many churches are giving up on fighting this original definition.  The original definition of “pastor” is being lost on this generation.

There are a couple other terms we use commonly in church culture that we gave up on a long time ago.  We don’t even readily argue for the perpetuation of the original meaning anymore.  

The first is “church”. 

I recently had the blessing of serving with a friend of mine who is living in a missional community with the intention of driving the darkness out of the city in which they live.  They live together – Christians in common – being the church in community.  

At this service opportunity a teenager asked my friend if they all attended church together.  My friend looked bewildered and said, “yes, this is it.” 

He was bewildered because he was living in the biblical definition of the word “ekklesia” that many translations interpret as “church”. Church didn’t become a building until after the Catholic church began to build buildings around holy places as shrines for worship. The english word, “church”, comes from a German word that was used to signify such buildings.  Ekklesia, on the other hand, denotes community.  It is the assembly of saints in every place.  It is the people – not the place, and definitely not a denomination.

The other term is “ministry”.

This same teen asked my friend where they did ministry.  This was still in the context of the previous question about where they attended “worship” (another term that has been redefined throughout the years). My friend looked around again and said “we do ministry by living.”

Christians often think of ministry as a program of the church where they attend where people who have something to offer provide goods or services to those “less fortunate”. This cannot be further from the biblical idea.  Ministry wasn’t intended to be relegated to a specific activity.  Ministry is an outpouring of love to those living all around us.  Ministry is seeing others as equals and treating them as such even if they are drug addicts and prostitutes.  Ministry isn’t enabling dependence on a welfare-like activity.  Ministry is living with those the world sees as less fortunate and encouraging them and respecting them and expecting the same from them.  It’s not a top-down kind of mentality; it is an equality mentality.  Ministry doesn’t feed the poor; it frees the poor.

If you’re reading this chances are you are part of a church that does ministry.  Read the book of Acts.   See how the church functioned.  Imagine what the world would be like if we were actively battling the forces of evil in the spiritual realms while living together in community without need for all the pomp and circumstance.  Could this really be what we are called to? 

This group that my friend is involved with has been actively battling the darkness for at least five years now, and they now have watched Jesus drive the darkness out of two whole neighborhoods that were the most dangerous places in their city.  They are now actively pursuing the darkness into a third neighborhood.  Even the police recommend they don’t follow, but they do anyway – family and all.  God continues to scatter the darkness as the light and salt of Jesus is spread in strongholds of the enemy.  

This isn’t just church talk.  This is really happening.  The book of Acts doesn’t have to be a historical document.  It can also be a playbook for how to live for Christ today, but that would require us to give up on fear and be filled with an unquenchable love and desire to follow the Holy Spirit’s guiding.  It would also require us to remember the original meanings of so many biblical ideas.  It would require a restoration of first-century discipleship. I’m praying for a generation to rise up and change the world, and the generation I’m praying for is mine.  Won’t you join me?

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Cake and Roses and Fluffy Puppies

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I’ve written before about my love for mountain climbing or just climbing in general. The feeling of standing on the top of a high place and seeing the world from above is breathtaking. However, the top isn’t the only part of the journey worth talking about.

When you set out to climb a mountain there are a lot of undesirable issues you must deal with to get there. There is the hassle of camping and gear if you choose to make it an overnight trip. There is the issue of sustenance, for you will surely need the energy to make it to the top. Because you must have sustenance you will have to carry that weight on your back. This creates more weight for you to have to haul up the mountain.

Then there’s the sheer feat of climbing the mountain. No mountain is “easy”. Some are less difficult than others, but your body does strange things above 10,000 feet of elevation. As you climb there are rocks that you trip on. There is often snow to be traversed. There are aching muscles from the constant upward motion. Then there’s the dreaded issue of having to go to the bathroom above tree line (embarassing).

Climbing a mountain is fun and rewarding, but it is also difficult and painful.

When you listen to many preachers talk about life in Christ you hear about love, joy, peace, kindness and other such beautiful ideas. You hear about grace and forgiveness. Who wouldn’t want those things? Christianity sounds awesome, right?!

What they don’t tell you is that Christianity is like climbing up the mountain. The summit experience is awesome, but you have to go through the climb of life to get there. It isn’t all cake and roses and fluffy puppies. Sometimes Christianity is tears and pain and division and struggle.

Jesus was very clear that the Kingdom of Heaven – the kingdom that is here and now in those allowing Christ to rule in their hearts – is much more desirable than the kingdoms of this world with their selfishness and tyranny. However he also made a couple of statements that aren’t so popular.

“Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.”

“Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me.”

He also promises this:

“In this world you will have trouble.”

Well, that’s not very happy. It doesn’t seem like Jesus is doing the best job marketing this new kingdom life.

Think about it though. Have you ever made a decision you knew was right, yet everyone around you was angry with you for the decision you made? Have you ever loved someone even though they hurt you? Have you ever risked your life for someone else? Then you know what Jesus is talking about.

We choose to live for Christ because He is teaching us the way of love, but not everyone likes this way. Some people even hate this way of life because our living this way exposes the darkness within them. They revile against it, and division is created, and relationships are damaged.

In Luke 14 Jesus encourages us to count the cost of being his disciple. It will be a struggle, and you will have to be wiling to sacrifice everything for him, but what you gain is so worth it. Forgiveness, grace, eternal life, relationship with the Creator, purpose in this life. Those things cannot be given a value.

After Jesus promised that we will have trouble in this world, he said “but take heart because I have overcome the world.”

Jesus doesn’t leave us alone to deal with these struggles ourselves. He has promised to never leave or forsake us (Hebrews 13:5). He has promised to take every circumstance and bring good out of it (Romans 8:28). He has promised to love you, and he showed it by dying for you. He gave his life for you. Are you willing to go through a little bit of struggle for him?

One more thing.
In Jesus there is a new perspective that I learn day by day as I follow him. The more I live like Jesus the less concerned I am with myself because I am learning to love others more. This brings pain at times when I am rejected, but this also brings hope in all things because of the resurrection. I now have a choice on how I look at the hard times. I choose to look at them as learning experiences and refining fire that makes me stronger. I choose this because I know that this life is not all there is for me. My eternal life began when I gave my life to Jesus, and it reaches its fullness once this physical life reaches its limits. Death is not the end, so I live this life with joy and hope whatever the situation.

Count the cost before you come to Christ, but know that the cost is well worth it for the joy of knowing the Creator and living in His presence. And if you’re already in Christ, live with the perspective of hope in all circumstances. Jesus is with you. His Spirit lives inside you. You are eternal – your pain doesn’t have to be.


a-Moral Dilemma

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I have been a part of churches all my life. I have worshipped all over this country with various denominations and even experienced worship times with various faiths. In the Christian realms, however, there is a trend that isn’t catching on…it’s running full steam ahead through our church cultures.

This trend is to claim belief in God but live any way we want to live. It is a claim of faith but coupled with a self-indulgent lifestyle devoid of church attendance.

As a minister I cannot sit idly by and not say anything about this disease. If this is what we expect Christianity to be then Satan has won! We cannot claim belief in God and ignore what His word says. If you believe that God doesn’t care about how you live, then you believe in a God that you created. It is NOT the God of the bible. It is a human-invented creation. It will NOT save you.

I continually have conversations with people who profess deep belief in God yet are not a part of His church in any way. I meet people who are “Christians” yet live with their significant others in a very NOT-marriage relationship. I know Christians all over who publicly, through Facebook and Twitter and other social network sites, profess to have no issue with and even support those living lifestyles that are blatantly against the moral standard that God has set in His word. God’s word, the bible, clearly speaks against each of these things.

Friends, if you are a Christian but don’t even attempt to conform to God’s expectations for your life, then you are not a Christian.

A Christian is a Christ-Follower. A Christian values the words of God and seeks to live them the way Jesus lived them. Christians aren’t proud drunkards. Christians aren’t openly living with their boyfriend or girlfriend. Christians don’t actively encourage others to continue in their ungodly lifestyles. Christians aren’t disconnected from the church.

Christians are sinners who are trying to sin less. Sin is something they want to be rid of, not brag about. Sin is a very real thing in the life of a sinner. Sin is the reason they need Jesus. Sin is the reason I need Jesus. I cannot be a Christian apart from the church any more than a finger can live severed from the rest of a body.

I am not perfect, and I am sure you aren’t either. I receive the forgiveness of God through the death and resurrection of Jesus as the Holy Spirit guides my life, but if I’m continuing to openly, unashamedly live a sinful lifestyle then I’m not following after the Holy Spirit. I’m following after my flesh, and that is easily influenced by the evil one. It’s even easier for the evil one to be in control when I’m not strengthened by the encouragement of my brothers and sisters in Christ.

If you’ve been living this kind of lifestyle then the good news is that Jesus offers new life today! Repent! Turn away from your sin and turn to God. Get involved in church. You won’t be perfect, but your heart turned toward Him is reflected by your actions. You’ll see change in your life, and others will too. And God honors that.

Jesus didn’t die so that we could continue to sin. He died so that He could show us the way out of this sin-led life, and He gave us his church to help us live the life He called us to through encouragement and fellowship. If you’d like to come back to Jesus in a real way, then I’d love to visit with you. You are invited and welcome to be a part of His family – it is not full of shame regarding the way you used to live – it is full of celebration that you left that life to live the life He intended for you to live all along.


Ignoring the Guest of Honor

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Imagine yourself at a party. You were invited, and you like the people who are there. However, it is late in the party and no one has spoken one word to you. You have tried to initiate conversations to no avail. When you speak it is as if your words dissolve before they leave your mouth. You are a ghost at the party though you are as real as everyone else there.

Have you ever been ignored? The feeling is very frustrating. There is a significant amount of disrespect that is shown when a person is ignored.

I say “Hi!” to people all the time. It’s just in my nature to do so. Most of the time the other person will smile and say it back. Sometimes they will merely smile, but it is those times when the person, who clearly saw me, simply walks by without acknowledging my existence that stick in my mind. I want to stop them and find out why they felt justified to ignore me, but I just let them keep walking. Ultimately it is no big deal for a stranger to ignore me. The times it hurts are when it is someone I love that does the ignoring.

I wonder if the Spirit feels that way. We invited Him into our lives when we were baptized (Acts 2:38) yet we ignore His existence for the most part. How much time do you spend thinking and focusing on Jesus and God compared to the Spirit. There’s a party inside your soul, but the one who lives inside you is often ignored.

It’s pretty obvious to see who is ignoring this guest of honor. Paul noticed it when he wrote to the Galatians church. He asked them, “What happened to all your joy?” (Galatians 4:15)

I know so many people who want to be happy in this life. They try all they can to pursue it. They put forth much effort and a good amount of their concentration to find it. They try and try to get rid of the sin in their life in hopes that it will bring the happiness they desire. People are literally dying to find happiness, yet it is a temporary feeling.

Have you ever seen someone with happiness in the moment but no joy in their life? I see it all the time. Maybe it is you. One of the fruits of the Spirit, whom we often ignore, is joy. I don’t know about you, but that’s what I really want. It is joy that will see you through any circumstance that befalls you. Joy is eternal – happiness is temporary.

So, where’s your joy? Are you living in the Spirit in such a way that there is true joy in your life? Have you been ignoring the guest of honor in your life? If you’ve been baptized, then the Spirit is in you and wants to guide you to the life you’ve always deeply wanted.

Want to know more? Let’s talk. I’d love to study more about this with you. God bless you as you allow more and more of your life to be centered in the Spirit.


Strange Math in the Bible

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Have you ever seen the movie “Cast Away”? In the movie, the main character, Chuck, is a FedEx worker that is traveling back to the United States to be with his girlfriend for Christmas (when he plans to propose to her). On his flight back home his plane crashes into the ocean and he is the lone survivor. He is able to inflate the life raft and survives a major squall to wash ashore on a lonely island a thousand miles off course from where he should have been.

As he learns his fate of being completely alone on this island he is overwhelmed with a myriad of emotions. One day he is working on a project necessary for his survival when he cuts his hand. A volleyball is one of the items that was being transported on the FedEx plane that washed ashore with him. He grabs the ball with his hurt hand and tosses it. When he sees it again, he notices that the blood from his hand has made a face shape on the ball.

He decides to keep the ball as his new friend, and he names it Wilson (it was a Wilson volleyball).

A couple of times during the movie Chuck gets rid of, or loses Wilson. Each time the realization of this loss throws Chuck into a panic. Why? Because it is not good for man to be alone.

Even in this movie that has no injection whatsoever to God or religion we see this basic human need for community. Where do we get such a need? Well, let’s look at our Creator.

In Genesis 1, God, whom we usually refer to in the singular, announces that he wants to “make man in our image”. God is referring to himself in the plural. People across the Christian spectrum refer to this plurality of God as the Trinity. God is three in one.

In relating to our current discussion it is important to understand that God is in perfect community with himself. He is in complete love with himself, and He doesn’t need you or me to complete or add to His community. The love God has among himself is such that He is inseparable from Himself.

This all sounds a bit schizophrenic, but I am referring to God the Father, Jesus the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Jesus on multiple occasions commented that he could do nothing without the Father and that he and the Father are one. This relationship is perfect example of what every marriage should strive to become. In God, one plus one plus one equals one. In marriage, one plus one equals one.

So, God is in perfect community with himself. Then He invites you into His perfect community. When Jesus gave the great commission in Matthew 28:18-20 he says that the disciples are to baptize people into the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Then they are to teach them to do what has been done and taught to them. This teaching still rings true today. We are connected with the Trinity in baptism; it is then that we come into community with God.

We also come into community as we fellowship with others who have joined into community with God. Ecclesiastes talks about the need for us not to work alone for we could be easily destroyed. We need each other in our walk with God. Satan is constantly out to get us. Sometimes he uses our own minds when we are alone to trip us up. Sometimes he uses people to attack us when we are alone. When we are living in that community of Christ we are strong and can live much fuller lives in Christ.

Does that mean we move into little communes where we escape from the world? No! What that does mean is that we engage the world together. We are called to be the church with the church.

When I was younger I thought I could maintain my community with God without having to participate in the community of believers called the church. So I quit going. It wasn’t long (days) before Satan came in and attacked, and I had no defenses or support group to help me stand strong.

We need the community of believers. Hebrews 10:25 encourages us to make the habit of meeting together (we call it “going to church”) a priority in our lives.

What’s more, we are given the opportunity each week to celebrate our community with the Trinity and with the believers in a time we call “Communion”. When we “eat his flesh and drink his blood” we sustain the life inside us that was given at baptism. We maintain our fellowship with the Trinity, and we celebrate all this in community with other believers. This is a very important, very significant celebration each week. Jesus said that if you don’t participate in this you you have no relationship with him.

We are called to do it often. If there’s ever a Sunday you are looking to celebrate communion, then you can always come to the Nichols St. church of Christ. We offer this every Sunday in celebration of the life that was given to us through the death of Christ. You are always welcome there.

To sum it up, God is in community with himself, and he doesn’t need you, but he wants you desperately. He wants you so badly that he came to the earth in the form of Jesus to make a way for you and me to join his community in spite of the many times we have gone against his will for our lives. He then calls us to stand strong and not fall away as we fellowship with the other believers. Let me tell you, life as a Christian is much easier when there are other people walking alongside you going the same place you’re going.

How does this relate to you? Have you joined in the community of the Trinity through baptism? No one can force you to join. It has to be your choice. God loves you, but he won’t force you to love him back and become one with him. Have you ever thought you can be a Christian without the church? It’s time to come home. Churches are made up of sinful humans saved only by the grace of God. Naturally they aren’t going to be perfect places. If you’re looking for a church where the people don’t make mistakes, you won’t find it. You can, however, find churches all over teaching the truth of God’s word, celebrating in His communion, and striving to live righteous lives as we celebrate the grace that covers over our many shortcomings.

May you come into that community with God and with his church. You are invited into this fellowship. If you’d like to know more about any of the things discussed here, feel free to email me at jddobbs@verizon.net or call the office at 245-1611. God bless you as you come into community with the love of God and the church that is His body.


Splish splash!

[tweetmeme]I know this is a sticky subject with a lot of people, but we should be able to express our ideas in a civilized manner, shouldn’t we? Here we go…

What are your thoughts on baptism? Dunking, pouring, sprinkling. Necessary or not? Sinner’s prayer? Baptism of Holy Spirit? Does it begin your Christian walk? Is it when you are saved? I’d just like to know your thoughts and why you think so.

Remember that this is viewed by many people from many different backgrounds, so no church bashing…we are still following Jesus here!

Rich discussion…part of life on the sharp end.


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