Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Update on Monday Night's meeting ...

We have sent the information around the prayer chain concerning Monday night's meeting (April 23rd), so I wanted to share it here as well.  The Zeeland Classis will be meeting tomorrow (Thursday, April 26th) at Faith Reformed Church in Zeeland at 7:00 p.m.  We will know a little more after that meeting.  I shared the following verses with leadership last week:  "Do not be afraid.  Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the LORD will bring you today.  ... the LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still" (Exodus 14:13-14).  May the joy and enthusiasm of the Spirit of God fill each of us as we seek to be faithful to Him in all things, for HIS glory!!  Below is the letter we sent out on the prayer chain ... it is also on the Lighthouse Facebook page if you want to refer others who are praying to it ...

Update on the meeting of the Executive Board of Lighthouse Community Church and the Executive Committee of the Zeeland Classis, RCA, Monday, April 23rd, 2012:

1)    As stated in the letter given to the congregation on Sunday, April 22nd, the leadership of Lighthouse communicated to the Zeeland Classis that they “demit,” or resign their offices as Elders and Deacons of any RCA congregation …

The Executive Committee of Classis agreed to recommend to the Classis that the “demission” (resignation) of Pastor Steve and the Elders and Deacons from any RCA congregation be accepted by the members of the Zeeland Classis at their meeting on Thursday, April 26th, and that the “trial” which was going to take place based on their charges that Consistory disobeyed Classis and violated the Book of Church order be cancelled.

What does that mean?  Pastor Steve and the Elders and Deacons continue as the leadership of Lighthouse Community Church and Classis acknowledges that they are no longer part of the RCA.  The Classis will then appoint a “new Consistory” for what they consider to be a continuing RCA congregation.  The continuing RCA congregation would be made up of anyone who does not intend to continue as part of Lighthouse Community Church.  (See below, #2 explanation)

2)    The Executive Committee of the Zeeland Classis agreed that we will keep our name and should there be a new congregation in the building now occupied by us, they would not use our name.  We will continue as Lighthouse Community Church and as a non-denominational congregation.

Your leadership will be filing new articles of incorporation today (Tuesday, April 24th) as Lighthouse Community Church of Allendale, Non-Denominational.  At some time in the near future we will ask all confessing members to sign a document expressing their desire to be members of Lighthouse Community Church Non-Denominational.  At that time those names will be removed from the membership role of the RCA.  (This is an exciting time as we move forward to proclaim God’s truth in the Gospel of Jesus Christ as a non-denominational congregation.  We have also been approved as members of the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals.) 

3)    At its meeting on Thursday, April 26th, the entire body of the Zeeland Classis will vote on a request from Lighthouse Community Church that the Zeeland Classis relinquish its claims on the property of Lighthouse Community Church, thus allowing the ministry of the body to continue from its present location, with its current leadership, as a non-denominational congregation.

The Zeeland Classis Executive Committee agreed to put this before the Classis for a vote.  It should be understood that if the members of the Zeeland Classis vote “No” to this request, the property would become the possession of the Zeeland Classis and of the “new Consistory” and the continuing congregation of the RCA.

Should the Zeeland Classis approve our request we would remain at our current location.  However, should they deny our request, your Executive Board has agreed to offer a negotiated settlement of our current mortgage, plus $100,000, to the Zeeland Classis.  This may or may not be voted upon Thursday evening, should our previous request be denied.  It is the desire of your leadership to continue to honor Christ and to glorify God in all we do.  Realizing that from the perspective of the Zeeland Classis and some of you, our brothers and sisters in Christ, we have previous commitments concerning past dues, we felt making such an offer was in keeping with our desire to honor Christ, to glorify God and to advance His kingdom.

4)    If the Zeeland Classis votes on Thursday to deny our request and does not vote to accept our offer concerning the property, the Executive Committee of Classis agreed to the following:

-       we will be allowed to stay in our current location through June 30th, providing we continue to pay the expenses, including the current mortgage payments, as “lease payments” while we make all the necessary preparations to leave the property and to establish a new base of operations for the congregation
-       should we desire to remain one more month, until July 31st, we have the option to do so with the same arrangements, providing we inform the “new Consistory” of our desire no later than May 31st.
-       the “new Consistory” would approve all reasonable requests to remove items that have been donated from the property prior to our leaving
-       the church van and trailer would remain in the possession of Lighthouse Community Church
-       the name of Lindsay Bakale will remain on the Prayer Chapel

5)    Because we will now be incorporated as Lighthouse Community Church Non-Denominational, all offerings and funds received from this point on will belong to Lighthouse Community Church.  This will be completed by Thursday, April 26th.  All tithes and offerings, donations and gifts, designated offerings, etc., may still be made out to Lighthouse Community Church and will go into a new account for Lighthouse Community Church Non-Denominational.

From III John, verses 4, 6b-8:  “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.  … You will do well to send them on their way in a manner worthy of God.  It was for the sake of the Name that they went out … We ought therefore to show hospitality to such men so that we may work together for the truth.”

The Executive Board of Lighthouse Community Church, Non-Denominational

God is at work in the midst of all that is going on around us and in our world.  Jesus is seated on His throne at the right hand of the Father, and the angels are worshiping, "Holy! Holy! Holy!"  It is our privilege to join them!

There is ONE true body of Christ, and all who believe are part of that body, whether they exist in congregations of the RCA, in non-denominational congregations like ours, or in other denominations.  God calls each of us to be faithful to His Word, and His Spirit unites us in the truth that God has revealed:  "One body and one Spirit ... one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all (believers)"  - Ephesians 4:4-6.

It is important that we express this oneness (that for which Jesus prayed in John 17:20-26), and that we in the "organized church" express this oneness not through some mere organizational unity, but in our stand upon the truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  This Gospel is good news because it is the "power of God unto salvation" to all who believe.  May God give us enthusiasm and zeal for the work of sowing the seed and reaping the harvest until Jesus returns to gather His Church!!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

"Can those who follow Jesus really forget the Church?!"

For anyone who believes the Bible to be the very Word of God the idea that you can be a follower of Jesus and "forget the Church" is as absurd and impossible as telling a newborn baby that they can go ahead and live life without growing up.  Perhaps, if you are Peter Pan, you can imagine a place called Neverland where people never grow up, but Jesus said that He came to gather a people for God's kingdom, and He called it the "Church," the "ekklesia," the "called-out ones."

In an article for Newsweek which was the cover story for the week prior to the celebration of Jesus' resurrection, a man named Andrew Sullivan (a name that certainly pales in comparison to that of Jesus!) wrote an article entitled, "Forget the Church, Follow Jesus."  In the article he encourages people to leave the organized church and simply follow the lifestyle of Jesus; doing what Jesus did and loving others as Jesus loved others ... caring about the poor, seeking to transform the world into a nicer place.  He complains about the Catholic Church for their scandals, among other things; he complains about the Protestant churches for being out-of-date and for their denominationalism; he complains about evangelicals and their political involvement and emphasis on social issues that are, in his opinion, out-of-touch with reality ... things like abortion and homosexuality.  He does a lot of complaining.  But as usual, is blissfully ignorant of what the Bible teaches because he has already determined that the Bible is not the Word of God - at least not in the sense that we believe it is.  It may contain some truth that points to a higher being, but most of it is the opinions of men and has produced untold horrible consequences through the centuries.  In short, we would be better without it and without the church at large.  He does a lot of complaining, but offers nothing but a stale old idea that continues to be recycled by those who have nothing better to offer.

To make his point, Sullivan uses Thomas Jefferson as an example of a man who just wanted to follow Jesus.  It is said that at the age of 77, Jefferson took a razor blade to a Bible and cut out the parts that HE believed revealed the real Jesus and pasted them into another book, effectively making his own New Testament.  Fortunately, the Thomas Jefferson version of the Bible never caught on, but if Sullivan and others had their way, they would resurrect it!  They want what they call a simpler Christianity.  They just want everybody to be nice people and to get along and to love each other.  Let me quote one brief paragraph from Sullivan's article which points out the problem with his suggestion that we can and should forget the Church and just follow Jesus:

"The thirst for God is still there.  How could it not be, when the profoundest (not sure that's a word!) questions - Why does the universe exist rather than nothing?  How did humanity come to be on this remote speck of a planet?  What happens to us after death? - remain as pressing and mysterious as they've always been?"

Well, Mr. Sullivan, you have just finished throwing away the BOOK with the answers to those questions!!!  What is not amazing or surprising is that the argument made in this article is as old as the history of mankind.  It is nothing new!  Since the Tower of Babel in Genesis 11 people have been making up their own religions.  This is just another attempt to do so.  What IS amazing is the number of people who are "buying it!"  Sullivan holds up St. Francis of Assisi as the new model of holiness, of selfless living.  He says that the crisis of our time is that "self-help" has replaced "ascetic self-denial."  In other words, people care more about themselves than about others.  REALLY??  News flash:  the Bible explains that problem by pointing out the sinful nature with which every human being is born.  Because of his utter Biblical illiteracy, Sullivan fails to understand that Jesus came to bring freedom from the disastrous effects of sin upon human nature ... AND that the CHURCH is the central piece of God's plan to make this new life that Jesus offers available to others.

Now, before I go further, let me say that I understand the cynicism and skepticism and criticism of the organized church.  Not only do I understand it, but I agree whole-heartedly that the organized church as it exists in many places is a disgrace to the cause of Christ.  This is NOT what Jesus said He would build.  The hierarchical system of authority and control coming from organizations that lord it over individual congregations is not only unbiblical, but also destructive to the life of the true body of Christ, the true Church.  When people say they don't like the church, they are usually referring to this organizational structure that inevitably becomes political and focuses on power and control rather than service and love and grace and compassion.  The organizational structure takes on a life of its own and exists for its own purposes rather than God's.

With that being said, there IS a purpose in God's plan for the Church, the body of Christ, made up of those who know who Christ is and who are willing to deny themselves, take up their cross daily and follow Him.  This gathering of true believers is God's idea.  If you throw out the Old Testament and its prophecy about who Jesus is, and you throw out the New Testament and most of the Gospels as perversions of truth concerning the purpose of Jesus' coming, you have nothing left.  You have then made a new religion based on a man who lived a long time ago who is now dead.  That's not Christianity as Jesus came to establish it.  That's not the Church Jesus came to build.  What Sullivan and others want is a religious social movement ... nothing more.  Take the best of all the social movements that attempt to help people in various situations in life, mix in a belief in a generic "god" and the teachings of a dead prophet, Jesus, who called everybody to love each other, season it with what is good from other dead religions and see how the landscape of the earth's peoples evolves.  Surely, it will be better than what the church is doing with the teachings of Jesus (whoever he was).

One person, a man named Trig Bundgaard, who commented on the article in his blog, pointed out that he believes the church needs to strip away its "archaic doctrines" and get down to the Jesus who surrendered himself to the cross and so transcended our world in order to be with "God."  He says that Jesus was never meant to be worshiped the way we worship him, as an exalted King, as the eternal Son of God, as the Savior who died to pay the penalty for our sins and who is coming back to reign in a new world.  No, this "scholar" tells us that the best way to worship Jesus is to be like him - to love as he loved and to go through life as a homeless ambassador for human kindness.  (Who ARE these people???)

He says that he "walked away from a dead corpse hung on a cross and toward a vibrant loving conscience of Christ that can, could and should pervade all humanity."  Then he challenges people to do the same:  "You should walk away, too.  Abandon the dead and old, and start something simple and good.  Start your own Yeshua small-group in your town.  Serve others.  Love as God loves."  Isn't that interesting:  love as God loves??  "God do loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him would not perish but have everlasting life."  Jesus said, "My kingdom is not of this world."  Jesus is not a dead corpse hanging on the cross.  He is the risen and exalted King who is ruling over all things until He has put all His enemies and ours under His feet.

This writer goes on to say that we should do this "not for the sake of your own salvation, but for the sake of all God's children ... no matter what faith (or lack thereof), gender, age, race or sexual orientation."  Once again, nothing new here.  It is the old universalism promoted by Satan and his messengers for countless centuries.  Forget about the God who is the Creator, who is holy, just, righteous, loving, compassionate and merciful.  Forget about the plan of God in choosing Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and Israel as His people.  Forget about God's promise to send a Savior and the significance of the Old Testament prophecies.  Forget about Jesus being the fulfillment of those promises and the fact that Jesus came to suffer the penalty for God's wrath against our sins on the cross (Isaiah 53), so that we might receive forgiveness as the Spirit moves us to repent and believe.  Forget about the darkness of the human soul without the Spirit of God, the darkness that makes our world what it is.  Forget about God's plan to join Jews and Gentiles together in the Church (Ephesians 2:11-22, 3:10).  Forget about God's call to believe in Jesus and to look towards a new heavens and a new earth.  Forget about the Bible!

We have entered the time of the apostasy predicted in the Bible - the falling away from the truth (II Thessalonians 2:3).  This is no longer something for the future.  It is NOW!  There are so many holes in Sullivan's premise that there is nothing to even shoot at, except to say that it is the same old lies that Satan has been telling since the Garden of Eden.  "Did God really say ..... ??"  YES!  He did!!  Jesus is the Seed of the woman who defeats the power of Satan.  Jesus died on the cross to satisfy God's justice and to remove His just wrath against the sins of those who by His grace are moved to receive Jesus as their Savior and to acknowledge Him as their Lord.  Jesus sent His Spirit into the world to transform people, not to make the earth heaven.  That is coming later, when God creates a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness, when God will dwell with men.  Until then, the Church, the true Church, brothers and sisters in Christ from every people, nation, tribe and tongue who confess Jesus Christ and who believe in the God of creation who has revealed Himself in His Word as Father, Son and Holy Spirit ... THIS Church will continue to be God's instrument in the world to accomplish His purpose to save those whom He has chosen to be His for all eternity.  And we will do that by proclaiming the true Gospel of Jesus Christ from the Bible, the very Word of the living God.

ALL who believe are part of THIS Church.  There are still some pastors, some congregations, where God is honored and Christ is exalted and people are loved.  Is any congregation perfect?  No.  But does that mean we can "forget the Church to follow Jesus?"  No!  The Church is the Bride of Christ.  Not the organization, but the body.  God has given to this body (Ephesians 4:11-16) a structure.  Pastors and teachers, elders and deacons, are GOD's idea.  They are servants of the body.  You can tell those who are following Jesus because they are servant leaders.  Those who are following Christ are doing so not to make a name for themselves, but to exalt the name of Jesus.  These love God above themselves and give themselves to the task of loving others and sharing with them the good news that in Jesus Christ they can find forgiveness, hope, joy, peace and LIFE with God, now and forever.

Once again, our mission statement hits the mark of what God has called His Church to be and to do:  We exist to proclaim the reign of Jesus Christ over all things; glorifying and enjoying God, now and forever."  May God help us to be faithful to that calling!!

In Christ's love and grace,    Pastor Steve

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Gay Christians? Yes! ... and No!

Having been contacted by WOOD TV-8 News to do an interview responding to questions about a billboard in Grand Rapids advocating the inclusion of LGBT persons in the church, I hesitantly agreed, knowing that only a small bit of what I shared would be aired or included in the article.  For those who may come to the Lighthouse website to find out more, I wanted to share some of the things I spoke with Joe LaFurgey about earlier today.

First, let me say that ALL people are welcome at Lighthouse Community Church, regardless of their sexual orientation.  No one is condemned because they are sinners.  We are ALL sinners.  None of us are yet perfect.  While some try to frame the discussion as being "for" or "against" people, nothing could be further from the truth.  We are all sinners in need of God's forgiveness and grace, and it is only through faith in Jesus Christ that we can know God's forgiveness.  The real issue is whether homosexuality is sin, and whether the identity of a person is tied to their sexual "orientation."

God says that He made us in His image and that He created the man and the woman to complement each other.  The Bible knows nothing of same-sex unions or marriage.  When mankind rebelled against God sin and death entered the world.  Homosexuality, while appearing to be more and more "normal," and certainly being more and more "accepted" today by more and more people, is a result of sin.  It is only ONE result of sin.  There are thousands.  There are many heterosexual sins.  There are all different kinds of sins.  The problem with homosexuality is that Satan is convincing people that it is NOT sin and that God will not judge those who practice sin.  What complicates the discussion for many is that we are being told that people are born "this way" and it becomes their identity.

But look at our society.  Look at the human race.  We are all born as sinners and are prone to sinful behavior in all different areas of life.  Sex and food are two of the main areas.  Heterosexual sin is also related to "who we are."  How many times do you hear something like, "Boys will be boys" or similar observations based on general human behavior.  Sin affects us and we can either accept that identity or seek to overcome the sin that holds us bondage and prevents us from finding our true identity - special creations of God, created for His glory.  Our lives have the potential of revealing the power and the glory of our God, our Creator!!  How does that happen?  When we confess our sin and repent (turn from sin) as the Holy Spirit works within us and we experience God's forgiveness and cleansing.

The billboard advocating the inclusion of gays without repentance was timed to be put up during "holy week," as we remember the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross to pay the penalty for sin.  How sad that this group misses the whole point of what Jesus came to do:  to set people FREE from the guilt and power of sin.  We are not judging or condemning anyone, but rather, offering forgiveness and true love and grace and mercy and hope.  Jesus offers a new identity.  God calls those who have put their faith in Jesus Christ "saints," which means, "holy ones," not because we are holy in ourselves, but because God SEES us as holy in Christ.  We have been joined together with Christ, united to Him by His Spirit.  A Christian is one who has been born again by the very Spirit of the living God and who thus desires to please God by living according to His Word.  Loving God means obeying God.  Satan wants to keep people in bondage.  Jesus came to set people free!!

Paul writes in I Corinthians 6:11:  "And that is what some of you WERE.  But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God."  That is what it means to be a Christian!  It means to be transformed by the power of the Spirit of God.  "Gay Christians" is an inaccurate term to say the least.  To claim to be a Christian, but to accept what God says is sin in your life is at best a contradiction and at worst evidence that you have not been born again.  Joe asked me to explain how some people seem to repent, then turn back to their sin.  The truth is, we all do that sometimes.  God's call to repentance is a continual call to align our lives with His revealed will.  Romans 12:1-2 tells us that in view of God's mercy we are to present our bodies as living sacrifices of thanksgiving, no longer conforming to the patterns of THIS world, but being transformed by the renewing of our minds.  But where there is no acknowledgement of sin, no confession of sin and no desire to turn from sin there is only judgment - not by "other Christians" or the church, but by God and His Word, and ultimately by Christ.

The old nature of sin brings bondage.  The acceptance by our culture of any sin does not change the fact that sin brings consequences, the worst of which is God's judgment.  Christianity is about God's grace being offered to all who repent and believe.  Without repentance there is no forgiveness.  Without confession there will be no repentance - no desire to turn from sin.  In Luke 24:47 Jesus said that He was sending the disciples out to preach repentance for the forgiveness of sins.  In Acts 2 those who heard Peter's message were told that they must repent and believe.

We are not judging anyone when we confront people, including ourselves, with the sin that still entangles us.  We are offering people FREEDOM in Christ!  "Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.  Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith" (Hebrews 12:1-2).  "He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus" (Philippians 1:6).  "Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 3:13).

May God bring freedom to those who seek Him, "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness" (I John 1:9).  Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me!  I once was lost, but now am found, was blind, but now I see.  Praise God for His amazing, marvelous, wonderful grace!!!