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John Calvin puts forward a very simple reason why love is the greatest gift: “Because faith and hope are our own: love is diffused among others.” In other words, faith and hope benefit the possessor, but love always benefits another. In John 13:34–35 Jesus says, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” Love always requires an “other” as an object; love cannot remain within itself, and that is part of what makes love the greatest gift.
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About this blog

The purpose of this little blog is to highlight some of the aspects of the more conservative Presbyterian denominations.  Here we will discuss the nuances seen in everyday life amongst these churches.  From doctrine to everyday interactions.  Yes, we may delve into theology, but it is also important to discuss how relationships are built within this denomination, both between the individual and God, but also between fellow congregants.

 

Feel free to join in the discussion.

Entries in this blog

 

Of Holidays: St. Valentine's Day

I am sure that all of the one of you who read this blog are asking yourself, "Do we really need to keep God at the center of our celebration of any holiday?"  Well, here is a holiday that will allow us to explore that in a bit more detail.   "Valentine's Day" (February 14th), or otherwise known as, "Saint Valentine's Day".  This holiday, it should be noted, started as yet another Feast Day.  Though, this is a rare occurrence where more than one person was celebrated on the day in question.  There were possibly two or three different individuals that were remembered on this day.  This is also a rare occurrence that all of the individuals celebrated on this day were neither born nor died on this day.  However, there is very little historical record to rely on to know specifically who is being remembered.   Regardless, the day eventually became what we know it as today.  An arguably more secular holiday where we celebrate romantic love.  The origin of which really dates back to Geoffrey Chaucer in the "High Middle Ages".  Though, it is also important to mention a legend that involves at least one of the Saint Valentines the day was set aside for, where during the 3rd or 4th century AD the Roman Emperor, Claudius II, had decreed that none of the young soldiers in his army were permitted to marry under the belief that they made better soldiers than their married counterparts.  Saint Valentine took it upon himself to secretly perform wedding ceremonies for those young soldiers who wished to be married.  The Emperor eventually found out, of course, and had Saint Valentine thrown in prison.   But should we as Christians celebrate a holiday that has become much more secular than spiritual?  Well, that depends.  Are we able to bring God back into the holiday in a way where, even though we have couples celebrating their love for each other, we can still bring the glory back to Him?  Of course it is quite possible.  It simply depends on where your focus is when you are celebrating.   It is important to note, however, that what is being celebrated is romantic love, which, biblically, should only be reserved for married couples.  Otherwise you are venturing into a perversion of this kind of affection.  Also, even though it may seem innocent enough, should children really be participating in the celebration of this holiday?  What this really raises the issue of is dating and whether or not it is biblically appropriate.  Of course in today's society it is perfectly acceptable, even for children as young as ten years of age, to have a girlfriend or boyfriend.  But was this something that was intended by God, and as Christians should we be endorsing it, even when considering something as seemingly benign as the celebration of a holiday?  There is, arguably, no biblical support for dating, though many Christians do participate in it and in its more formal counterpart, courting.   This all really comes down to personal preference, but should we really do anything if there is no biblical support for it?  Personally, I see no reason to allow a child, even in their teens, to participate if, as a parent, you are not going to allow them to date since it would only incite confusion.   Coming back to the main point, there is certainly nothing in the bible that speaks against celebrating the love between two people whom God has brought together and joined in holy matrimony, as long as we keep that in mind in our celebration and give God the deserved glory.

Knotical

Knotical

 

Of Holidays: Palm Sunday

Palm Sunday, the Sunday prior to Resurrection Sunday, is the day Jesus enters Jerusalem on the back of a colt.  Upon His entry into the city the Jews, believing He was coming to liberate them from the Romans, lined the streets in celebration waving palm branches and laying them, and in some cases their cloaks, on the ground for Jesus to ride over.  They were anticipating something momentous, yet what they were anticipating and what ended up happening wasn't anywhere even close.  The Jews believed He would be their savior from decades, if not centuries, of living under the oppressive rule of one after another conquering nation.  Rome was just the latest of many.   But that is not what Jesus came to do.  What God had planned was astronomically more important than delivering one small nation from being a scattered, oppressed people.  What ended up happening on a human level was it became clear that Jesus had no intention of establishing, or reestablishing, a kingdom just for the Jews with Himself as their king, therefore, the Jewish leaders sought to discredit Jesus and had Him executed.  So, on a human level, as far as the Jews were concerned, Palm Sunday was just a glaring reminder of a huge disappointment.  So, there is no reason why, based on this example, the Jews should celebrate this holiday.   However, what really was going on was much more powerful and exceedingly more important.  Jesus rode into Jerusalem on that day to face the culmination of, and the fulfillment of, His ministry on this earth.  It was to save mankind from death and sin, a much more powerful and debilitating oppressor than the Romans could have ever hoped to have been, though they certainly did try.  Palm Sunday is, in Christianity, the beginning of Passion Week, which brings the end of the season of Lent, which ends on Maundy Thursday (Holy Thursday), and includes the betrayal, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  This is, arguably, the one event in the history of the world, much less the Christian Church, that should be celebrated as it is the impetus for the Christian religion, and the foundation on which Christianity is built.   So, the answer to the question: Should Christians celebrate Palm Sunday?  Is most certainly a big: Yes!

Knotical

Knotical

 

Of Holidays: St Patrick's Day

St Patrick's Day (March 17th) is probably the most recognized of the many Feast Days, followed closely by St Valentine's Day.  This was a day set aside to commemorate an individual who was instrumental in spreading the good news of Salvation to an, as yet, untapped area of the world, Ireland.  Though it is, as in many cases, quite unique how God brought about this occurrence.  St Patrick was born in 387 AD to a rich family living on the island of Brittania (England) back when it was still controlled by the Romans.  When he was about 16 years old he was abducted by Irish raiders and taken into captivity in Ireland.  According to his Confession he had a dream where God told him to escape from his captivity and go back to Brittania.  He successfully escaped and eventually made it a monastery in Gaul (France) where he studied to become a priest.  In 432 he had another dream where God told him to go back to Ireland and spread the Gospel to the Pagan, Polytheistic, people living there.  One noteable aspect of St Patrick's teaching methods was to use the shamrock (clover) to explain the Trinity.   One thing is certainly obvious when looking at this example of God's providence and mercy is how we can see God's hand throughout St Patrick's entire life and how He brought about His plan to spread His message of Salvation to another corner of the world.  And as part of the observance of the feast day of St Patrick we can praise God and give Him glory for another miraculous example of faith and mercy.  Of course it is not really miraculous for God, it just seems that way on a human level.   But what about what this feast day has become?  What started out as a commemoration of the life of St Patrick became more of a celebration of Irish culture and heritage, and ultimately another "drinking holiday."  Of course how you decide to celebrate is a matter of personal preference, but it is important why you are celebrating.  As a Christian really the only reason to celebrate is to bring glory, honor and praise to God for the good work He accomplished through his servant, St Patrick.  If it is just another reason to drink alcohol, and possibly get drunk, then some addition consideration should be made toward celebrating at all.  There is nothing wrong with imbibing in alcoholic beverages as long as it is done in moderation.  After all, you get an exemption from the Catholic Church during the Lent season's requirement of abstaining from drinking alcohol, so why not take advantage of it?   In regard to celebrating Irish culture, it seems rather odd that this should be celebrated on this holiday considering St Patrick was not even born in Ireland.  Yes, St Patrick did become the Patron Saint of Ireland, but the focus is, arguably, in the wrong place when observing this feast day.   To reiterate, the only reason for a Christian to observe this feast day is to praise God for the work He did through St Patrick, in Ireland.  Any other reason would be a waste of time.

Knotical

Knotical

 

Of Holidays: Lent

Lent is a period of 40 days and nights, the example of which comes from Christ's time he fasted in the desert up to His temptation by satan and embarkation of his ministry as well as the time Moses spent fasting on Mount Sinai when he received the first copies of the tablets with the Ten Commandments. This period begins on Ash Wednesday and ends on Holy Thursday (the day before Christ's crucifixion). The dates for these events are determined by a resolution made at the Council of Nicaea of 325 AD, where Resurrection Sunday falls on the Sunday after the Paschal Full Moon (the first full moon on or after the vernal (spring) equinox). Then Ash Wednesday is set 40 days prior to Holy Thursday, which is, of course, three days prior to Resurrection Sunday.   Ash Wednesday is preceded by the festival of Mardi Gras, or Fat Tuesday.  The idea behind Mardi Gras is to allow yourself one more day of basically doing whatever you want, within reason, before embarking on the solemn observance of Lent.  We will explore a little bit more about this philosophy later in this post.   First let us take a look at Ash Wednesday.  The ash used for this day comes from the palm branches that were burned after being used during the previous years Palm Sunday, when Jesus rides into Jerusalem on a colt, to great acclaim with people lining the streets waving the palms branches and laying them, and their cloaks, on the road in front of Him.   On Ash Wednesday it is traditional to place this ash on your forehead to symbolize your remorse and repentance of your sins.  At this point we should explore the wisdom of this practice.  Of course if you are going to observe Lent it is a good idea to reflect on what you are repenting of but if we use the example of Jesus criticizing the Pharisees for making their prayers a public spectacle rather than praying in private, we should consider not participating in any overt or outward sign that we are beginning this personal journey.   And in His teaching He said, "Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes and like greetings in the marketplaces and have the best seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at feasts, who devour widows' houses and for a pretense make long prayers.  They will receive the greater condemnation." Mark 12:38-40   I would suggest if you are going to participate in Ash Wednesday do not put the ash on your forehead but either forgo that tradition or put it somewhere that is less visible.  After all, as Christians, we are supposed to be known by our fruit, not a superficial tradition.   During Lent, as a whole, a Christian is required to fast, again based on the example given by Jesus and Moses, and reflect on any specific sin that God has put on your heart to repent of and ask for forgiveness.  Traditionally the type of fasting that is observed is to eat a sensible dinner while the other two meals during the day (breakfast and lunch) are not supposed to, in combination, exceed the amount of the evening meal.  Also, there are some who do not eat red meat or other things for this 40 day period.  Some people also abstain from drinking alcohol, or sex.  Though, many make an exception to the alcohol rule in the observance of St. Patrick's Day (March 17th).  There are also those that will, in addition to the above, give something up for this time period.   All of this is well and good if you are using this time to make a more concerted effort to focus on your spiritual growth, however, if this time is only being observed to "cover yourself till next year" then why bother?  Which brings us back to Mardi Gras.   Mardi Gras, as mentioned, is basically the French festival - though it is observed in many other parts of the world, not just France, such as New Orleans - where you pretty much have carte blanche to do anything you want, within reason, before doing your annual repentance and request for forgiveness.  However, if this is the attitude there is no point in observing Lent as it is then obvious you are not truly repentant of whatever sin you are focusing on.  Also, since all of this is tied to Christianity there is no real point for the secular world to even consider it.  Of course Mardi Gras is a large event in many cities around the world, and to a certain extent, part of their economies.   But really this comes down to motivation.  If the motivation is to build on your continuing spiritual growth then, by all means, use this time to do so.  Though if the attitude is that this is a time to make an "annual deposit" I suggest a serious reconsideration as your heart may not be in the right place.

Knotical

Knotical

 

Of Holidays: Feast Days

Feast Days are those in which the Catholic Church, whether it is a local congregation or the Vatican itself, set aside to commemorate those who made significant contributions to the growth of the church, especially during its most formative years.  Many were martyrs and the like and the day on which their feast falls corresponds with either their date of birth, or more routinely, the day they died.  But should we as Christians celebrate these feast days.   Sure, we as humans love a good celebration.  And why not celebrate the sacrifice made by some of the more iconic members of the church?  After all, in many cases, these individuals gave their lives for what they believed in.  But we should first ask ourselves would many of these individuals want this kind of fuss made over them?  I am quite certain, based on the many insights that can be gleaned from his letters, Paul would be completely appalled to think anyone would celebrate a feast in his honor.  He would be the first to point out that if it were not for the Grace of God he would still be known as one of the hypocritical Pharisees that Jesus dueled with on many occasions in His time on this earth.  And that there is nothing that has been accomplished on Paul's missionary journeys that cannot be attributed to God working through him; therefore, it is not Paul who should be receiving the praise for any of his accomplishments, but God.  So by celebrating a feast day specifically because of one person's accomplishments means that the emphasis is misplaced.   Should we celebrate feast days?  Maybe.  But let us make sure we are directing our praise in the right direction.  There is one feast day that comes to mind that has completely lost its purpose.  That being St Patrick's Day (March 17th).  This "holiday" has become something completely contrary to what it started out as.  This holiday was to commemorate the efforts of a man that brought Christianity to Ireland, and yet has become an excuse for people to get drunk.  Would this man really be pleased with how this day is currently celebrated?   As mentioned in the original Holiday post, when considering the celebration of a certain person or event it is important not to break the 2nd Commandment by making an idol out of someone or something.  The focus should always remain where it should be.  On God.

Knotical

Knotical

 

Of Holidays

This post is to spark a series on holidays.  Mostly holidays that are celebrated in the United States, though it is possible I may expand into holidays celebrated in other countries.  The main thing I would like to discuss is what are the holidays we have around us and whether or not, as Christians, we should participate/celebrate these various holidays.   While looking at these various holidays it will be important to take a look at their origins to better understand what is being celebrated and why.  So it is not without precedence that we take a look at the history and concept of the word "holiday".  Though the origins of the word "holiday" are traced back to an old English word "hāligdæg" we can agree the concept of it goes back much further than when the word we use was invented.   The word itself literally means "holy day" yet a religious event is not necessarily being celebrated on every holiday.  On many holidays what may be celebrated could be any of the following: the anniversary of an important battle, the death or birth of an important person, the anniversary of a country gaining its independence, the founding of a city or town, the harvest of a particularly bountiful crop, or any myriad of other reasons.  The point being that even though the day may have the title of "holy day" applied to it, it may not necessarily have anything to do with any kind of religious aspect other than the fact that it is celebrated every year.   The question ultimately comes down to, "Should we, as Christians, celebrate a specific holiday?"  Well, this can be further clarified with the following consideration: Is it possible to bring honor and glory to God when observing/celebrating the holiday?  If not then there really would be no purpose to celebrating it in the first place.  You could also go so far as to say you could be at risk of breaking the 2nd commandment.   Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth: Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me; and shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments. Exodus 20:4-6   As we look at many of the different holidays we need to keep this in mind.  Some may be easier than others when considering this aspect but, nevertheless, it is quite important.   Some additional points from the Westminster Larger Catechism   Q. 108. What are the duties required in the second commandment? A. The duties required in the second commandment are, the receiving, observing, and keeping pure and entire, all such religious worship and ordinances as God hath instituted in his Word; particularly prayer and thanksgiving in the name of Christ; the reading, preaching, and hearing of the Word; the administration and receiving of the sacraments; church government and discipline; the ministry and maintenance thereof; religious fasting; swearing by the name of God, and vowing unto him; as also the disapproving, detesting, opposing all false worship; and, according to each one's place and calling, removing it, and all monuments of idolatry.   Q. 109. What are the sins forbidden in the second commandment? A. The sins forbidden in the second commandment are, all devising, counseling, commanding, using, and anywise approving, any religious worship not instituted by God himself; the making any representation of God, of all or of any of the three persons, either inwardly in our mind, or outwardly in any kind of image or likeness of any creature whatsoever; all worshiping of it, or God in it or by it; the making of any representation of feigned deities, and all worship of them, or service belonging to them; all superstitious devices, corrupting the worship of God, adding to it, or taking from it, whether invented and taken up of ourselves, or received by tradition from others, though under the title of antiquity, custom, devotion, good intent, or any other pretense whatsoever; simony; sacrilege; all neglect, contempt, hindering, and opposing the worship and ordinances which God hath appointed.   Q. 110. What are the reasons annexed to the second commandment, the more to enforce it? A. The reasons annexed to the second commandment, the more to enforce it, contained in these words, For I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the father upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me; and shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments; are, besides God's sovereignty over us, and propriety in us, his fervent zeal for his own worship, as being a spiritual whoredom; accounting the breakers of this commandment such as hate him, and threatening to punish them unto divers generations; and esteeming the observers of it such as love him and keep his commandments, and promising mercy to them unto many generation.

Knotical

Knotical

 

Of Bullying

Bullying, obviously, is the act of one or more persons asserting their perceived dominance over another person or group of people.  It has gone on throughout time and has been instrumental in making the world what it is today.  Various forms have been employed from the schoolyard to the battlefield.  The most common motivations for it are envy, greed, and power.  Of course the question is, what would the world look like if bullying was not part of the fabric of humanity?  Some have asserted that bullying is a part of life and that it is one of the many things that ultimately define us as human beings.  But should we accept it as that?   I have certainly experienced my share of bullying throughout grade school and into high school.  I may have received worse than some, but not as bad as others.  This is evident in some of the stories heard recently, such as the girl who ended up committing suicide because of some unrelenting cyber-bullying perpetrated by her classmates.  Was that necessary?   A more severe example to be considered is war, and the atrocities that go with it.  The reasons for war can be attributed to the same reasons as bullying: a desire to obtain land owned by someone else, to assert one country’s power over another, or to wipe out another race or civilization.  But is it necessary?   To answer this we must look at the most perfect example of humanity known.  That being Jesus Christ.  He never used bullying, coercion, extortion, or anything of the sort to achieve His purpose, and yet He was the object of bullying by the Jewish authorities because He did not fulfill their preconceived idea of what their Messiah should be.  He was also the subject of bullying by King Herod and other Roman leaders because they perceived Him to be a threat to their authority.  They, of course, had no idea of His true purpose.  But here we come to the purpose of this post.  Though bullying is a cruel and destructive behavior, it is further proof that God can use any situation in order to bring about a greater good.  In this case He used what He knew man would do to His Son in order to bring about salvation for mankind.   But again, is bullying necessary?  God, as shown in the wonderful example expressed in His word, is able to bring glory out of suffering.  But when it comes to how we relate to our fellow man I assert that bullying is not necessary.  If we were to truly follow the tenets conveyed in The Bible there would be no bullying as it would be prevented by proper behavior brought about by proper discipline.

Knotical

Knotical

 

Of Living with Your Neighbors

In the previous post, which you most likely have read because you love this blog and would never miss a post, you saw that I commented on this article about a lady in the Los Angeles area who erected an over 24 foot high cross in her front yard.  I thought I would look again at this article through the lens of the above-referenced passage.   Sure, the apparent motivation, contrary to what the article states, of this lady is to tell her surrounding neighbors that she is a Christian.  This is something I will not try to confirm or refute as it is not my place, but I wonder if she truly considered the impact that having this cross in her front yard is actually having on any of her neighbors (which can be considered to be anyone she may come in contact with, or who would see the cross for that matter). Though she may consider that she is just being a witness for Christ in her community, she may also be, unintentionally, accomplishing quite the opposite.  On the one hand erecting this cross could be considered just as benign as erecting a flag pole just as tall, on the other some might consider it an eyesore.  But let us take a look, shall we?   Aside from the height of it, this cross seems rather benign, except for the fact that it is located in someone's front yard, as opposed to the front lawn, or the steeple, of a church.  According to the article, this lady's neighbors believe the cross is causing their property values to go down due to the increase in traffic in the quiet little cul-de-sac this house is located.  Of course property values is a rather subjective thing, but do the neighbors have a legitimate complaint?   In addition to the outcry coming from her neighbors, her city is stating that she either needs to take it down or get a permit for it, otherwise she is facing fines that could range up to $3000.  Not exactly the kind of example you want to make as a Christian.  Is it really a good idea to erect something this big without making sure that it is ok with the local authorities?  After all isn't it standard practice to obtain permits when making this big of a change to your property?   However, putting aside the lack of consideration she made in regard to getting permission from the city, has she really put any thought into how this is impacting her neighbors?  Would she be just as understanding of her neighbors if they were to erect a giant star of david, or put a budda statue in their front yard?   Thoughts?

Knotical

Knotical

 

Of Picking a Topic

When I first thought of starting this blog I thought it might be somewhat difficult to come up with specific topics to discuss on a routine basis, such as daily, weekly, or monthly.  Then Providence showed me a rather appropriate topic to get the ball rolling.  This happened when I came across this article that was posted on the Daily News website that is based in Los Angeles, California.  Let's see what topics rise to the top on this one.   The subject of the article is a woman who, having been, reportedly, led by a religious organization that is an off-shoot of the Roman Catholic Church called: the Cross of Love or Friends of the Glorious Cross of Dozulé constructed an almost 25 foot tall cross in her front yard.  This group, according to the article, "was launched in the 1980s by members of a church in Dozule, France, who said God told them in a series of apparitions to build crosses to ensure their salvation."   Now, the obvious topic seems to be Salvation in this article, but upon researching this group a bit more I discovered there is much more here than Salvation to discuss.  For instance, the author of this article did not report completely what this group is about.  Yes, it was founded by a priest of a church in Dozule, France.  But that is all they got right. This priest founded this group based on what he reported as apparitions and messages he received from Jesus, that "confirmed" prophecies that were made by a mother in the church, that had experienced an abundance of miraculous interventions.  One of the prophecies happened to be just another apocalyptic prediction that didn't come true in the early 80's.   Of course apocalyptic predictions now-a-days are a dime a dozen, which should automatically lend themselves to disbelief by the general populous, but every now and then there are those who take these things seriously.  Which, unfortunately, needs to be clarified by a simple truth about the end of the world, and to also reiterate there are false prophets everywhere, and Christians are called to be diligent to identify these individuals as the frauds they are.   It would be simple to just quote a very popular verse from Matthew Chapter 24 that indicates that no one knows when the end of the world will be, but it should be viewed in the entire context of the moment that Jesus is talking to his disciples about the end of the world, which also speaks of not listening to false prophets or those who say, "I am the Christ."   Jesus very clearly, in my humble opinion, articulates his point in this passage.  No one, not even Jesus himself, knows when the end of the world will be.  Of course there are signs that we can watch for, but God never intended us to constantly be obsessing over the end of the world.  We are called to be prepared for it, yes, but not obsess over it.  We are supposed to be doing His work, for His honor and glory until that day arrives.   This post has obviously become a bit long, but I welcome any comments and honest discourse in regard to this topic, or any others that may arise out of the article mentioned above, or the passage included here.  And, we can also carry further discussions into other posts.

Knotical

Knotical

 

Of Bearing False Witness

In studying the 9th commandment there are a number of call-outs in regard to how one may knowingly bear false witness against another person.  Here are a few:   Gossip Slander - or speaking something false about another person Libel - or publishing something false about another person Perjury - or providing false testimony, under oath, about another person   Anyone who has spent any amount of time online on a social networking site knows how easy it can be to say something and have it spread like wildfire across that site as well as others.  There have been infamous instances of the young people who were cyber-bullied so much they ended up committing suicide.   The 9th commandment speaks to both making direct and indirect false statements.  Although, gossip is primarily considered to be done in idle conversation there is another form of it that is quite a bit more troubling and may be overlooked by many Christians.  That is including false statements about one or more individuals in the guise of a, seemingly innocent or innocuous, prayer request.   The purpose of a prayer request is to garner support and encouragement from fellow Christians and to open a dialogue with God through more people to convey praise, thanksgiving, needs, wants, etc.  What it is not is an opportunity to indirectly air someone's dirty laundry or spread false rumors.   Really, the best way to approach prayer for a fellow Christian when it comes to negative reports about their reputation or character is to pray for guidance and divine intervention for that individual.  God already knows what is going on in their life and does not need details.   Also, as mentioned in the catechism questions below, we should be ready to defend our fellow Christian, as well as admonish anyone who is willing to speak ill of them.   Once again it all comes down to how you would want to be treated no matter if any negative reports are true or not.  
 

Of Church Authority

In this post I would like to open a discussion about the authority of the church as it pertains to its members.   It is important to point out first what I mean by "member".  A member is someone who does not merely attend a church every week.  Any Christian that regularly attends a specific church I respectfully suggest that they prayerfully consider becoming a member of the church they attend.  Becoming a member may be called different things depending on the denomination your church belongs to.  Some churches use the term "Communicant Member", others use the term "Professing Member", still others use the term "Voting Member".  Regardless of the term used a member basically takes on certain responsibilities, which are generally laid out in the by-laws of the church.  Those responsibilities may include, without limitation, voting in prospective elders or deacons, voting in a prospective pastor, major decision involving the direction of the church, or voting on which missionary organizations the church will support.  Were you aware that, as a member, you have those responsibilities, among others?   In contrast are you aware that when you become a member you are willingly and voluntarily placing yourself, and possibly your family, under the authority of the leadership of that church?  For many this is common knowledge as many churches are very articulate and forthright about this, yet others are not.  It would not be surprising to find out that Christians who have become members of some of the more liberal denominations are somewhat, to completely, unaware of this fact.  But what does it mean to be under the authority of the church?  For some of the less informed this may conjure up visions from medieval Europe of torture or execution because of heresy, but the modern church is nowhere even close to being that intense or intrusive.    It is important to point out that, all authority comes from God, but unfortunately it is up to man to use it as He intended.  Simply put the responsibility of the elders of the church include, without limitation, interviewing prospective pastors being considered to lead the church, to make sure what is being taught both from the pulpit and in the Sunday School classroom is in line with Biblical Doctrine and Theology, to routinely be in contact with the members and address or delegate any concerns a member might have, to be spiritual leaders within the church, to identify potential church leaders and provide guidance in that regard, to admonish and/or confront a member in regard to any obvious transgression that they have committed.  This last one has been the subject of many controversies which have led many times to splits within the church for various reasons.   Divisions in the church is a much larger topic so I will not go into it now.  Though I will say, most of the time it comes down to a few key elements, but they all have the same common denominator.  Sin.   What this all comes down to is making sure, when you are considering becoming a member of a church, that you are aware of what it truly means.  As mentioned, there are denominations that are very clear as to what this means, but if you are joining one of those Mega-Churches realize that they have very loose requirements for their members, much less who becomes an elder or deacon.  It is very important for every Christian to be very discerning when considering to become a member of a specific church.  Be sure to have an opportunity to meet with the Pastor and at least some of the Elders before coming to your decision.  Also, take a close look at the church's confession and make sure you understand and agree with everything that is stated therein.   A confession is literally an explanation of what the church believes and can usually be found on the church's website, or can be obtained from one of the Elders or the Pastor himself.     Here is some additional information regarding church government:  
 

Of Fellowship and Hospitality

While driving home one day from work I was listening to one of the many Christian radio stations where I lived in the Central California valley.  The DJ was talking about how when he had first moved to a new town he and his wife decided to attend a local church to possibly find some people to connect with. They showed up early to attend one of the Sunday school classes and purposely picked one with young couples.  There were about a half-dozen couples in the class.  The DJ said he was rather cordial and said hello to some of the people in the class.  They returned his greeting but not much more than that.  After the class they waited around for a little bit hoping to strike up a conversation with someone, but to no avail.  They then went to the service and exchanged some polite greetings but nothing more.  After the service they decided not to return to that church.   Fast forward to a few years later and an acquaintance of the DJ invited the DJ and his wife to his church, which turned out to be the very same one where they received the polite, yet indifferent, greetings.  They went and during the service they were seated in the front row.  The pastor introduced them to the entire congregation of a few hundred, or more, members.  The DJ found out afterward that someone from the church had discovered he was a DJ at a local Christian radio station and that was the reason for the invite.   This, unfortunately, illustrates how many large, and some small, churches welcome new people.  I have certainly witnessed both kinds.  One large non-denominational church I attended did not do a very good job at welcoming new people.  In fact they were one of those churches who even dissuade members from bringing their children under a certain age (generally middle school/junior high age) from sitting with them in the service.  They usually have Sunday school classes or nursery provided, or other places on the church’s campus where a whole family can sit together to hold down “distraction” during the service in the main sanctuary.    I did attend, however, an Assembly of God church that had a whole ministry around welcoming new people to the church.  Though, unfortunately, they also had the same philosophy on having children in the service, though it was much more subtle.   A church we attended up until our recent relocation takes hospitality and fellowship a step further and designates a “host family” who are responsible for inviting guests to the church, as well as members who live out of town, over for the afternoon for lunch and fellowship between the morning and evening services.   The church we attend now has incorporated a monthly "share lunch" where, in a potluck sort of fashion, congregants come together after the morning service and share dishes they have made and fellowship together.  Of course this works well with the size of a church this is, but could become more of a challenge the bigger the church.  However, this actually was handled rather well by a church we briefly attended in the San Diego area.  Instead of the entire congregation getting together for a share lunch, it was broken up by groups.  Specifically, each elder of the church was given a portion of the congregation for which they were responsible.  They would rotate through each of these groups.   But what the story about the DJ also illustrates is an unfortunate practice of only showing hospitality to those they deem “worthy” of it.  This is truly a sad approach to hospitality and fellowship.  It is almost worse than not being hospitable at all.   It is no secret that one of the ways people decide to continue attending, or even becoming members of, a church, aside from the very important issue of what is being taught, is how they are greeted and treated on their initial visit.  If a church not only has sound biblical doctrine being taught from week to week, but also has a warm hospitable attitude people will come from miles away just to make it their church home.   Fellowship is a large part of a healthy, growing congregation.  And it all is set by the tone of the leadership of the church.  If the leadership; including the elders, pastor, and deacons; has an attitude of intimidation it can filter down to the congregation.  In the case of the church in this example it seems that the leadership is more concerned with attracting more affluent people to the church, which was obviously displayed during the experience of this DJ’s two visits to the church.  Quite frankly, if it were me, I would have left and never returned after the, arguably, inappropriate display made by the pastor in front of the entire congregation.   How does your church receive/welcome new visitors?  Are they welcomed with warm hospitality and fellowship, or are they sized up before anyone even approaches them?   This is a call out to both church leaders and members of congregations to ask themselves how they welcome new people.
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