Category Archives: Church

Give Me Chapter and Verse: A Brief History

My wife and I went to Turkey a few years ago on a tour of the seven ancient cities mentioned in chapters two and three of the Book of Revelation. In many of the places we traveled, we saw engravings dating back nearly two millennium and written in Greek. Since I know some Koine Greek, I was eager to read these signs.

It was more difficult than I expected, partly because the Greek sometimes differed from the Koine I know, but largely because (as I anticipated) the Greek letters were all capitals and there was no spacing between words. Students of biblical Greek usually learn the language as it is printed today, with lower-case letters and with spaces between words and sentences.

Try reading the following well-known Bible verse in English: JUDGENOTLESTYOUBEJUDGED. You were probably able to read this and may recognize it as something spoken by Jesus and recorded in Matthew’s Gospel. But imagine what work it would be to locate and read a particular passage if the entire Bible ran together like this.

We take our Bibles for granted, but navigating the text was not always as easy as it is now. Translating the original language into English was, of course, an enormous task, but even after it was translated, and word spacing was introduced, and upper and lower cases were used, it was still much more difficult to find a text than it is today. That is because the books of the Bible were not divided into chapters for more than a millennium or into verses for more than 1500 years. Continue reading

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Pray for Your Pastor During the Covid-19 Crisis

After the reading of the Gospel, I pray. Today it was a disjointed prayer of submission, adoration, and intercession. As I prayed, I found myself wondering why I have been feeling so anxious. I am not, by nature, an anxious person but the last couple of weeks have been stressful. As I thought about this before the Lord, three particular stressors came to mind.

I find making decisions very stressful when I don’t have sufficient information. During the Covid-19 crisis, I (and tens of thousands of other pastors) have had to make one decision after another: First it was, “Do we cancel in-person services?” Then, how long must we cancel in-person services?

The decisions just keep on coming. How do we communicate during this time? Do we live stream Sunday services? How do Family Ministry, Youth Ministry, Kid’s Min communicate? Do they live stream? How do we care for our most vulnerable population? What about our staff? Will they work from home? Will they have enough to do to occupy their time? Can they afford the time off?

All this is uncharted territory. We do not have the facts, don’t know how long the social distancing measures will be necessary. Continue reading

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Good News (in the middle of the mess)

Is there any good news in the middle of this mess? You bet! The same good news that has sustained the people of Jesus through many crises and continues to change the world. Read Philippians 1 and take note of every use of the world “gospel,” which means “good news.” Consider its context and think through how Paul was using the word. Then, listen to the message at one of the links above, and share your thoughts below. Continue reading

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Join Our Church's Worship Time

Like millions of others, we are streaming today’s (abbreviated) worship service. If you’d care to join us, just go to http://www.lockwoodchurch.org and click the link titled, “Click for Links.” It will be on YouTube and Facebook at 11:00 AM. Continue reading

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Dealing with Isolation During the Covid-19 Crisis

In 2016, long before the advent of Covid-19, The New York Times ran a piece by a Dr. Dhruv Khullar titled, “How Social Isolation Is Killing Us.” “Social isolation,” Dr. Khullar wrote, “is a growing epidemic—one that’s increasingly recognized as having dire physical, mental and emotional consequences. Since the 1980s, the percentage of American adults who say they’re lonely has doubled from 20 percent to 40 percent.”

What effect will the social distancing measures ordered by state and federal leaders to combat the spread of Coivd-19 have on this older and more pervasive social isolation epidemic? When it’s over, will people make an extra effort to connect with others following weeks of enforced social distancing? Or will these temporary measures have legs—will they continue on after the executive orders have expired?

Digital distractions have already replaced human interactions for many people in daily life. The coronavirus may exacerbate this new reality.

Experts say that about one in three people in the U.S. lives alone. Among those who are over 85, the number is more like one in two. Katie Hafner, reporting in The New York Times, writes that “studies … show the prevalence of loneliness among people older than 60 ranging from 10 to 46 percent.” Khullar states that “A wave of new research suggests social separation is bad for us,” impacting sleep, altering immune systems, and raising stress hormones levels.

When isolation becomes the norm, outsiders become a threat—and for many people, isolation is the norm. Continue reading

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Powerful Prayers: The One Who Is Able (Ephesians 3:20-21)

We began the “Powerful Prayer” series eight weeks ago. Each week, we have looked closely into one or the other of the Apostle Paul’s great prayers for the church. What we have seen has been extraordinary. We have had a master of prayer – St. Paul himself – show us why he prayed and what he prayed. Yet our in-depth study of these remarkable prayers will make no difference if it doesn’t inspire us to pray.

If we’ve learned anything, I hope we’ve learned that God expects us to pray for the church, including Lockwood Church. I hope we’ve learned that praying for the church is critical. So, after two months of hearing about praying for the church, are we praying for the church? Have you prayed for Lockwood this week? Have you used what you’ve learned to pray for our church family?

I’ve met people who believe in God but don’t believe in prayer. They think God is going to do what he is going to do, whether we pray or not. That prayer is just a matter of adjusting our attitudes and expectations.

But I don’t believe that. I agree with Henry Emerson Fosdick, who said: “Now if God has left some things contingent on man’s thinking and working, why may he not have left some things contingent on man’s praying? The testimony of the great souls is a clear affirmative to this: some things never without thinking; some things never without working; some things never without praying! Prayer is one of the three forms of man’s cooperation with God.” Continue reading

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The Curious Origin of the Word “Church”

Ask people about the church, and most will tell you where the church is. It’s on the corner of Main and Fourth – as if the church is the building in which a group of people meet.

Some may tell you the denomination of the church. It is a Methodist church, a Presbyterian church, or maybe “a holy roller church.” Don’t bother asking what a holy roller church is. For that matter, asking the difference between the Methodists and the Presbyterians will probably not yield an adequate answer, either.

I once invited a man to visit our church and he immediately replied that he had his own church, which was obviously meant to put me off. It didn’t. I said, “Great! Which church is that?”

He seemed surprised by the question and I could see he was searching his memory for a name. The best he could do was: “Uh, it’s the one on Parkman Road … uh, just before you get to the overpass.”

I said, “You mean the Nazarene Church?”

His eyes lit up, he pointed is finger at me and said, “That’s the one!”

It was like I’d won the prize on “Let’s Make a Deal.”

The word “church” has a complicated history. It is probably derived from Old English “cirice,” which in turn came from the German “kirika,” which likely came from the Greek “kuriake,” which means “of the Lord.” Continue reading

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Pastors: Targets to Aim at or Leaders to Follow?

According to the Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, there are currently around 380,000 church congregations in the United States. Christianity Today’s Rebecca Randall reports that number was higher in 2006, with approximately 414,000 congregations. From 2006 to 2012, an estimated 30,000 congregations closed.

That’s the bad news. The good news is the church still has the lowest closure rate of any institution in the country. And while 30,000 churches closed between 2006 and 2012, there are still something like 50,000 more congregations in the U.S. than there were in 1998.

Most of those 380,000 congregations are led by pastors, sometimes by large pastoral staffs. How often do these pastors leave their churches? It is difficult to be sure, since study results vary widely, but in 2011, Lifeway Research found the average pastoral stay to be 3.6 years. Other studies show the typical pastoral tenure to be between 5 and 7 years.

What this means is that churches need to find new pastoral leadership more frequently than I need to find a new car. Continue reading

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Powerful Prayers: Make Yourself at Home

Why pray? Or, to be more specific, why do you pray? To be more specific still, why do you pray for other people – friends, family, your kingdom comrades from Lockwood or other churches? We often talk about what to pray but seldom talk about why to pray.

I suspect – I know this is true of me – that we usually pray because we are aware of a need, of discomfort, or of danger. We pray when we see a threat to someone’s health or security or faith. And when we are unaware of a threat, we don’t think to pray.

That we don’t think to pray when things are going well betrays a faulty understanding of prayer and probably a false belief: that God left us here to muddle through and keep ourselves intact in the process. When that becomes more than we can manage, then it’s time to pray.

But do you see what this reveals about our view of God? We think he’s like the butler in a Jeeves novel – the smartest, most capable person around – who (for some reason) has nothing better to do in life than to get us out of scrapes and make us comfortable. But to think that is to misconstrue our purpose here and God’s, his role and ours.

The Apostle Paul doesn’t think of God as if he were “our Jeeves in heaven.” It’s not that he doesn’t want us to pray about our need—he tells us to do just that: to present our requests to God. But most of Paul’s prayers in the Bible don’t seem to come out of a sense of discomfort or fear or even need. They come out of a readiness to join God in what he is doing. That’s different than a readiness for God to join us in what we’re doing. Continue reading

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Powerful Prayers: The Spirit of Wisdom and Revelation III (Incomparable Power)

Imagine you are at your high schooler’s track and field regional finals. She has already run the 100-meter relay and won’t run the 200 for at least a half-hour, so you mosey over to watch some of the field events. The shot putters are competing right now and they are well-matched and they are remarkably good. A couple of them are throwing around the 60-foot line.

Imagine you are at your high schooler’s track and field regional finals. She has already run the 100-meter relay and won’t run the 200 for at least a half-hour, so you mosey over to watch some of the field events. The shot putters are competing right now and they are well-matched and they are remarkably good. A couple of them are throwing around the 60-foot line.

What word would you use to describe the difference between this shot putter’s throw and all the rest? Greek has the perfect word for it: huperballon, which means literally “throw beyond,” and figuratively to outdo something by a long shot. That is the word St. Paul uses to describe the power of God. It is not even in the same ballpark with any other power we can name or conceive. It is beyond our grasp. Continue reading

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