Tag Archives: church

Do You Have to Go to Church?

Let’s find out the true meaning of church.

Written by Joy on 30/11/2014
Series: Weekly Devotional
Tags: Church And Community
“Do not give up meeting together as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.” Hebrews 10:25

There are church services on television and the Internet. But is it ok to stay at home and watch a church service? Or do we have to go to a physical church building? Let’s find out the true meaning of church.

Church: The Body of Christ
When God talks about the church, he isn’t talking about a physical building. The church is all the people in the world who have put their faith in Jesus, sometimes called the body of Christ.

Christians are instructed to meet together regularly. (Hebrews 10:25) Many Christians go to church buildings (local churches). But if there isn’t a local church near you, don’t worry. You can meet in a house church, a secret meeting place or a public place where you can fellowship. The important thing is to meet with other Christians so you can learn, fellowship, and work together to teach others about God.

Divide and Conquer: Enemy Strategy
It’s not easy to overpower a group of people because there’s strength in numbers. But if you divide them, you can easily conquer. The Bible even talks about the benefits of being with another person instead of being alone. “Two are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble.” (Ecclesiastes 4:9-10)

As Christians, we have an enemy who wants to divide us. “Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour.” (I Peter 5:8). Satan tries to separate you from other believers because he knows you are weaker when you are alone. When we are in a group, we can support each other, hold each other accountable and pray for each other. Satan will not be able to drag one of us off into the wilderness of unbelief, doubt, or despair.

United in Love: Jesus’ Prayer
Jesus prayed for us to be united. (John 17:9-11). He told us to “Love one another” (John 13:34) and “Encourage one another” (I Thessalonians 5:11). You’ll be able to do all of that and more when you’re united with other believers by meeting together. If you haven’t put your faith in Jesus yet, become a part of the body of Christ today and you can begin meeting with other believers too!

Pray this week:
That God will direct you to a local church where you can belong and how you can be an encouragement to other believers.

Alan Zibluk Markethive Founding Member

Is Online Church Enough?

Online church services are a great resource — make sure they don’t become your only community

Written by GodLife on 04/09/2018
Series: Weekly Devotional
Tags: Church, Church And Community, Fellowship, Online Church
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.

Hebrews 10:24-25
Balancing Online and Physical Church 
My husband and I found a great church. This place has excellent, Bible-based teaching, opportunities to serve, with a young, growing membership. The church offers multiple service times and great music. Unfortunately, we ended up moving. “No problem”, we both thought. “We can just go online and watch the services. At least that way we can still get great teaching while we look for a church in our new town.” 

Here’s what we discovered. Finding a church can be hard! Especially when the one you attended before was so great. Some weeks it was easy to say, “let’s just watch online today.” That counts, right? 
No matter where you live, you have to decide what to do about church and community, both online and in-person. The reality today is the online church community has so much to offer and may feel like an easier place to fit in. Many people are a part of multiple communities, online and offline. How do you balance them? Can one substitute for the other? 

The purpose of going to church
Notice I didn’t say “the purpose of church” because ‘church’ is not a physical place. the church is made up of people who follow Jesus. As Christians, we work together as “the church” to share the love of Jesus with others. Acts 2:42 provides some of the reasons for church. “And they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.” 

You can do many of the same things online and offline. You can share Jesus’ love, learn about Jesus, and read the Bible. With so many sermons and studies online, it is easy to find just about any material you need to help you grow spiritually. Online church allows you to build community fellowship globally and expand your perspective, while your local church may be limiting your connections to people who are just like you. So why go to a physical church rather than bonding and worshipping only in an online community? Physical touch, serving and gathering are just three reasons.

Physical touch
Britain recently appointed its first ‘minister for loneliness’ acknowledging how isolated many people have become. Part of that isolation is not simply mental loneliness but a lack of connection physically, too. I remember my mom saying several years after my father died that one of the hardest things she faced was not having daily physical contact with anyone – hugging, a touch on the hand, and just close proximity to another person in the room. There were those around Jesus who needed to hear His message in this way because there are people who are best wired to receive communication about love by physical touch. "And behold, a leper came to him and knelt before him, saying, 'Lord, if you will, you can make me clean.' And Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him, saying, 'I will; be clean.' And immediately his leprosy was cleansed." (Matthew 8:2–3)

Going to church is a way to physically connect to followers of Jesus and remind ourselves that we are not just mental or spiritual beings but we exist together and have a common purpose. 

Serving in your community
Sure, you can give money through your phone to help others – even those in your neighborhood. The community church makes it more personal. As the church opens its doors in times of disaster or through helping local families with specific needs, Jesus can shine through your face when you participate in service. James 1:27 tells us: “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.” 

Gathering
We are here to gather with other believers in Christian fellowship, and a smartphone can never completely replace that. The term “church” in Greek (ekklesia) means a called assembly. In ancient times when a city called its people together for a certain purpose, this was always called an ekklesia. My husband and I once had a “Skype dinner” with some friends who had moved away. We just wanted to see their faces and eat together like we did when they lived near us. While it was fun, it wasn’t the same as being together. 

Balancing your online church practices with your physical ones can be a challenge. Both have so much to offer, it can be tempting to replace one for the other. How you use those resources God provided in a balanced way is a decision you have to make. “Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise.” (Ephesians 5:15)

Pray this week:
Father, show me how to serve you. Lead me to more fully be a part of the church in all areas, through worship, teaching, giving, fellowship and prayer.

Do you struggle with balancing your life online and offline? Do you view your community church differently than online church?

Alan Zibluk Markethive Founding Member

Forgiving Others in the Church

How can I forgive someone who keeps hurting me?

Written by Ruth on 21/08/2018
Series: Weekly Devotional
Tags: Church, Church And Community, Forgiveness, Reconciliation
Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.

Ephesians 4:32
Is this true for you? – someone at the church you attend bothers you so much that sometimes you would just rather stay home from church! 

Does an “enemy” keep you away from church?
The day before He died, Jesus told His disciples that the most important command He was giving them was to love each other (John 15:12-17). During the whole final evening with them, He was preparing them for life after His death, resurrection, and ascension to Heaven (John 13-17). He had kept them together as His disciples for the past three years, and now they needed to know how they could remain together even though they would be spread to different parts of the world. Jesus’ answer was love for one another, which would unite them.

We also need help in loving each other, even when there are disagreements among us in the church. The disciples had missed Jesus’ point so often, argued with one another and hoped to gain advantage over one another. (Luke 22:24-30). Without Him walking with them, would selfishness and bitterness divide them? Not if they listened to what He said. He told His disciples they must always forgive each other, and this is what we, too, must do. We must not allow anger and bitterness to grow. When that happens, we become ineffective witnesses for Him.

How am I to forgive another Christian who hurts me?
Jesus was committing His disciples to one another as an eternal family. This means a few things:

First, it's pretty much impossible to avoid offending others in this life, so we should not pretend we're never offensive. Siblings don't always get along. But they never stop being family. What does it take to maintain peace? You have to go to someone who feels wronged—even if you don't know what you did wrong. Jesus even gave this priority over our worship in Matthew 5:23-24.

Second, because we know we've done things that give others reason to be offended, forgive others. They may not even know what they did wrong. Go to them. Be persistent and patient. (Matthew 18:15-22) Jesus never runs out of forgiveness for us; we have to be the same way.

Why should I forgive, even when they are not sorry?
One of my dear friends was the victim of a conspiracy in her family. Divorced and raising two children on her own had made life a struggle, but then her father and younger sister agreed to bypass her in the inheritance of some family property. It caused her to curse and forsake her family for years. She even emigrated to another country in order to make an irreversible break in her family relationships. 

But then, something happened to change her mind. She found Jesus. It was a few years before she reconciled with her family. They didn't recompense her for the lost property or years of hard work. But when God changed her life, He gave her first the desire, then later, the actual power, to forgive. Looking back, she now sees clearly how unforgiveness is really what hurt her and cost her the most. It really wasn't until she released her hold on it that she herself was free.

When Jesus said in Matthew 6:14-15 that we cannot be forgiven if we do not forgive others, He was telling us two things: 1) not forgiving someone is disobedience to Him, and 2) we cannot see our own need for forgiveness if we keep anger and bitterness in our hearts. In essence, forgiving someone is more about our relationship with Jesus than with that person. 

How do we forgive when we do not feel like doing so? Forgiveness is a choice, not a feeling. We must choose to obey. It may be that we must say to Jesus, “I do not want to forgive because that makes what they did right, and it was not right! But I want to be near You more than I want to keep this anger, so I choose to forgive. Help me, Lord Jesus!” Then, the next time you remember what they did or you see them at church or anywhere else, you can simply say to Jesus, “I have given this to You, I will not take it back.” It will not be long before you realize you are free from the slavery of what this person did. You are free from anger and bitterness. You are free to do or say whatever Jesus asks you to say to them with peace in your heart (Philippians 4:7, and Luke 12:11-12).

Pray this week:
Lord Jesus, I have trouble forgiving ___ in my church. I choose to obey You because I need Your peace more than I need proof of being right or even worldly justice. I give this situation into Your hands; help me to leave it with You. Help me also to speak Your words to them so we may be reconciled to each other for the work of Your kingdom.
 

Who do you need to forgive and reconcile with?

Alan Zibluk Markethive Founding Member

Serving the Body

How can we use our spiritual gifts to serve the Church?

Written by Ruth on 24/10/2017
Series: Weekly Devotional
Tags: Church And Community
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.

Hebrews 10:24-25
Have you ever wondered why you should be part of a church? The Bible says in Hebrews 10:24-25 that gathering with other believers is something we should not neglect.

What is so important about church?
Jesus wants us, as a member of a local church, to complete the ministry He began while He was on earth. He wants you to be part of this ministry. But none of us can do this on our own. We need Him as our leader (our Head), and all the rest of the body (other believers) to get the mission accomplished as He has planned. None of us can do it alone, but all our abilities together are used by Him for His purpose. Here’s how you can be a healthy part of the body:

Encouraging each other
First, church is meant for mutual encouragement. In Hebrews 10:23 we read God’s desire for us to “hold fast to the confession of our hope without wavering.” None of us can do that by ourselves because our enemy, Satan, attacks us more when we are alone. Our responsibility to other believers is to encourage them to keep following Jesus closely.

Completing what he began
Second, Jesus left us a task to do. Just before He returned to heaven after His resurrection, He said we were to “go and make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:20). He says He is “not wishing that any should perish” (2 Peter 3:9), but no one can know Him unless someone tells them.

In John 14:12, Jesus also said that the Church would do “greater works” than He had done while He was here. None of us who follow Him can accomplish this in our own strength. We, the Church, are called His body and are left on earth now so He can do in the whole world what He did in one region while He was here.

For this reason Jesus gives gifts (called spiritual gifts in the Bible) to each person in the church to help with this task. We read the lists of spiritual gifts in passages such as Ephesians 4:11-12. Alone, we cannot complete all the duties Jesus wants to do, but together we can. Jesus’ body, the Church has different parts just as a body has – ears, nose, mouth, hands, feet, and so on – and each part is important to completing the task. Each of us, with the spiritual gifts He has given us, have our own work to do.

Strength in unity
Third, we as believers must work together. We cannot work as a body if we are not in agreement with each other. The Bible calls this “unity of the Spirit” (Ephesians 4:1-6). Hands cannot help a person in need if the feet will not take them to that person. The heart cannot love someone if the ears have not heard the one who needs encouragement. The arms cannot lift a heavy burden for another if the legs and back do not help with balance and strength.

Jesus gave His disciples, including us today, a wonderful promise in Matthew 16:18 – that the very gates of hell cannot stop what He wants to accomplish. Gates are not attack weapons, but instead used to keep someone out or in. The gates of hell are pictured because Satan wants to keep people from hearing Jesus’ words of hope and follow Him. However, his gates cannot stop us from entering his strongholds to tell them.

There will be times, however, as we enter those gates to invite people to follow us to Jesus, that we will be injured by Satan’s attacks. In those times, the Church – the body of Christ – rushes to help the injured one. We bind the wounds, encourage the disheartened and give strength to those who have suffered in the attacks.

Discovering your spiritual gifts
Finally, every believer is given at least one spiritual gift with which they serve Jesus’ body in a local church. It is our duty to use each gift we are given to help the local body in the church we attend. (1 Peter 4:10)

How do we discover our spiritual gifts? A few will hear God’s call to become pastors. Others will be asked to do something and discover joy in fulfilling that task. Many will try different things to find what gives them the greatest satisfaction as they serve Jesus in their church – encouraging others, giving someone a verse of wisdom when someone is searching for answers, visiting the sick and praying with them, helping a disabled person by taking them to the grocery store and carrying their bags home, or even greeting a foreigner with a word of welcome in their own language. In doing this, you will be serving the body while also finding how God has crafted you best to serve.

Pray this week:
Father, as my love for you grows, teach me also to love my church and use the way you’ve prepared me to bless and build others within it.

What do you do in church that helps others?

Alan Zibluk Markethive Founding Member

Why Do I Have to Go to Church?

s it enough to just follow Jesus?

Written by GodLife on 02/05/2017
Series: Weekly Devotional
Tags: Church, Membership, Gifts, Baptism, Fellowship
Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.

1 Corinthians 12:27
Did God give us a list of steps we must take before we can go on to maturity? In a way, yes! An interesting Bible passage warns us not to get stuck in our growth, but to move on to maturity. In doing this, it actually gives us seven “basic things” mature believers need to understand clearly. It begins with our personal relationship with God. It moves to our earthly identification with God’s people. And it ends with the ultimate heavenly destiny of all God’s people.

Are you ready for a tour? Turn to Hebrews 6 and follow carefully along.

Just You and God
“Therefore let us leave the elementary doctrine of Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God…” (Hebrews 6:1)

Every follower of Jesus needs to clearly know Who He is. He’s “the only Son, who is truly God” (John 1:18). He loves us so much that He left heaven to live under His own Law. He was tempted in every way, but He remained perfect and sinless. He suffered rejection, mockery and a cruel execution to take the punishment our sins deserve. He said, “It is finished,” (John 19:30) when He died, and His resurrection proved it was true.

For this “once for all” sacrifice (Hebrews 10:10-14) to work for me, I had to realize all I ever did only increased my guilt. My works were “deeds that bring death.” If there were any other way for me to escape hell, “it was useless for Christ to die” (Galatians 2:21). Believe this, pray humbly to receive Him, and trust that He’s able to save you forever, and you become a child of God (Hebrews 7:25; John 6:37).

You and the “local church” — the people of God near you
“And we shouldn’t need to keep teaching about baptisms or about the laying on of hands…” Hebrews 6:2a

As the passage implies, God did not save you simply so that you could enjoy eternal life. As His child, you’re part of a family with a mission. Not to keep teaching already-saved people the same things over and over, but to “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit…” (Matthew 28:19) But until a new believer has been baptized, he or she needs to be taught.

Water baptism is a public ceremony identifying you with Jesus and the other “called-out” people of God (that’s what “church” means). In order to do this, you have to have fellowship with other Christians, even if it’s only with one or two other people who follow Jesus. “Laying on of hands” takes it a step farther — this means publicly choosing and sending someone out for service. God empowers each believer “so that his people would learn to serve and his body would grow strong” (Ephesians 4:12).

You and the “universal church” — the whole family in heaven and earth (Ephesians 3:15)
Finally, the passage ends with two more important points: “…the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment.” (Hebrews 6:2b).

When Jesus returns, there will be a resurrection (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18, 1 Corinthians 15:51-58). Believers who have died will be raised and united with those still living on earth. This is so that, in heaven, the work of the entire Church can be judged at once by Him (2 Corinthians 5:10; 1 Corinthians 4:5), and He can “show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.” (Ephesians 2:7).

In this lesson, it’s easy to see that we’re not meant to live the Christian life alone. You might be able to think of exceptions: missionaries who travel to places where there is no church. Isolated believers in countries where Christians are persecuted. Those whose family members do not allow them to attend. But these are the special cases, because those who are denied church fellowship are the very ones who want it most! Christian children whose parents do not take them to church long to know what it is like. Isolated believers do their best to meet in secret or find a substitute, like broadcast or online services. Remote missionaries are going for the very purpose of establishing a church.

As Hebrews 6:1-2 shows us, there really is no way to move on to Christian maturity, to serve in the role for which God has called and empowered you, to accomplish the deeds for which He deserves praise in heaven, without being a part of an assembly of believers.

Pray this week:
Father, will you teach me everything I need to know about being a member of the Body of Christ?

Alan Zibluk Markethive Founding Member