Saturday, April 27, 2024

“Let’s Do Church” -- NOT!



I am blessed to be part of a loving and supportive church family that honors and glorifies God in their worship, preaching, teaching, missions, outreach, and all that they do. But others may not be as fortunate, as I was reminded by a dream that I had recently of what a Bible-based, God-honoring church is NOT.

In the dream, my husband and I ran into a former business acquaintance. I half expected a vague offer of “Let’s do lunch,” but instead he invited us to visit his church. To avoid offending him, we accepted.

On the appointed day, we were ushered in, not to the ornate sanctuary, but into what appeared to be a large family room of an assisted living facility or other institution. Many elderly people, some drooling with vacant stares, occupied the large, overstuffed chairs covered in cracking vinyl. Yet there were also toddlers and young children looking bored, despite the attempts of a few frazzled women to amuse them.  There was no other place to sit, so we made our way to the back of the crowded room and sat down awkwardly on a daybed.

I had brought a pair of prescription glasses to read my Bible and made the mistake of setting them on the bedside table, for I soon realized that several other pairs were already there, gathering dust, and I could no longer tell which pair was mine.

Finally the gentleman who invited us came in, dressed in a finely tailored business suit and power tie, and asked my husband to go with him to assist in the service. He complied, and I assumed that he would be praying or perhaps reading a passage of Scripture aloud.

After a long while, no one had returned for me or the others, even though I was sure the service had already started. I heard a loud band blaring contemporary music and crowds roaring in response. I grew restless just sitting there, so I wandered out. To my surprise, I spotted the minister, dressed in clerical garb, apparently killing time in the hallway and reluctant to lead his own congregation in worship.

He seemed to welcome the diversion of my presence and offered to show me some artifacts the church had recently purchased. Not wanting to be rude, I feigned interest as he pointed out an extensive coin collection and an antique German spinet inlaid with a variety of finely carved woods, but too old and fragile to be played. I wondered to myself why church funds would be spent on these expensive trinkets that served no purpose in worship, rather than on supporting missions.

I excused myself with “Don’t let me keep you from the service,” to which he replied, ”Oh, no problem – hope you’ll both stay for the social after.”

I entered the sanctuary, but the service had ended, and I was sorely disappointed at not having heard God’s Word read or preached or having had the opportunity to worship in song or prayer. Most of the congregation was already outside, sunning themselves around a large pool, and many of them had changed into swim wear.

I suddenly realized I was hungry and thirsty, but I didn’t dare try the drinks they were sipping with paper umbrellas in them. “Dinner” was being served in a fenced area, but after I paid a hefty price for a plate, I realized that all they had was Twinkies and other junk food desserts.

Thankfully I awoke, more grateful than ever for our own church. The Biblical definition of church is NOT a building or a social organization, but a called-out assembly of born-again believers (Acts 2:47; 11:26; 14:27; 16:5) comprising the body of Christ (Ephesians 1:22-23; 5:23-32; Colossians 1:18,24) and the bride of Christ (Revelation 21:22; 22:17). Yet the dream left me wondering how many who attend church services do so for ungodly purposes, and how many churches pander to those unbiblical motives.

Church is NOT someplace to go to strengthen one’s social or business network, to meet people of influence or to be seen in a flattering light. Jesus criticized the Pharisees for wanting the best seats in the synagogues and for making a big show of prayers and tithing (Matthew 23:2-7; Luke 11:42-44), even though their hearts were far from him (Matthew 15:8).

The bride of Christ is to be separated from the world and holy in their lifestyle (1 Peter 1:15-16). If a church group seems no different from the world in dress, habits, music and behavior even while at God’s house, how can the members be salt and light (Matthew 5:13-16) when they leave the building and return to their communities, schools, and workplace?

God’s house should be well maintained to honor Him, but without ostentation and foolish spending on earthly treasures (Matthew 6:19-21). Good stewardship should ensure that funds are used to spread God’s Word locally and across the globe through missions (2 Corinthians 11:8-10; Philippians 4:15). 

Although churchgoers should assemble to encourage and build up one another through fellowship, prayer, and bearing one another’s burdens (Galatians 6:2; Hebrews 10:25), which should enhance our joy and peace in the Lord, church is NOT merely a form of recreation or a pleasant family pastime. Yet some churches seek to attract congregations by providing music, media, games or social settings that seem to be only secular entertainment, and not sacred worship or Scriptural teaching.

This trend seems to be most prevalent and appalling in some youth groups. Adolescents must cope with so many painful struggles in which God’s Word should be a great source of strength and comfort (Psalm 119:9-11). But instead, some churches subject their youth to foolish and demeaning “ice-breakers” like eating peanut butter out of the youth pastor’s armpit! Small wonder that so few remain in church once they leave home.

Smaller classes or worship groups based on age or sex may be appropriate, provided that they do not segregate or isolate anyone, and as long as all teach the Word. Yet in my dream, the elderly, young, and women were excluded from the main service, and no one was fed the daily bread of Scripture (Luke 11:3). Churches offering a great variety of classes, programs and services should be careful not to prevent families from worshipping together, to fragment the congregation into groups that are too small to be supportive, or to distract from teaching and preaching the Word.

In my dream, the eyeglasses collecting dust may symbolize a church that no longer bothers to read the Word. The boredom in the youth and apathy in the elderly (Revelation 3:15-16) were the exact opposite of a church that is alive through the Holy Spirit  (Revelation 22:17). This “church” must have been expecting the members to fall asleep, for it even had a bed!

The minister seemed more interested in the social aspects of church and in acquiring treasures of no practical or spiritual value (Revelation 3:17), while shirking his responsibility to lead and to feed his flock (Acts 20:28; 1 Timothy 3:15; John 21:15-16). I left feeling hungry spiritually as well as physically, for there is no nourishment in “church” without worship or the Word (Matthew 6:11; Acts 2:46-47).

We don’t need to “do church” – only the Holy Spirit can empower the body of Christ, by His light shining through every believer (Revelation 3:6,13,22). Only through Him can churches bond together in love, shunning disputes and divisions and unified by faith in Him and His Word (1 Corinthians 11:16), and using their spiritual gifts to grow the church and build up one another (1 Corinthians 14:12).

Why don’t all churches just devote themselves to Jesus – to telling others of how He died for our sins, was buried and rose again to give eternal life to those who trust Him? (1 Corinthians 15:1-4; John 3:16)) Why don’t churches just preach Christ (Acts 5:42; 8:5; 9:20; 17:3; 1 Corinthians 1:23), worship Him, and encourage one another in the Lord? Isn’t Jesus enough?

© 2013 Laurie Collett
Reposted from the archives

Saturday, April 20, 2024

Which Lion?


Photo by Clement Bardot 2014

In this dream, I am lying in the fetal position on a stone floor and realize I’m in the grasp of a lion, encircled by its front legs. It gazes at me intently, then gently extends its paw and touches each of my fingers.

Oddly, I’m not afraid, but I’m not sure whether it is about to devour me or is just protecting me. I get up very cautiously and back away.

When I awaken, I find the dream troubling but not frightening. The paternalistic, intimate, and loving gestures of the gentle giant reminded me of the Lion of the Tribe of Judah, Jesus Christ Himself (Revelation 5:5). His tender touch with His paw to each of my fingers reminded me of the touch of life as God created Adam and made him a living soul (Genesis 2:7), portrayed on the Sistine Chapel ceiling by the great artist Michelangelo as God, in human form, reaching out His finger to touch Adam’s outstretched finger.

In the allegorical novel the Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, Christian author C.S. Lewis used a lion, the noble Aslan, to symbolize Lord Jesus, Christ and King. Aslan portrays not only a just and victorious ruler, but one who sacrifices his own life for a traitor, just as Jesus died to save us while we were still His enemies (Romans 5:10). Yet Aslan arose from the dead by a supernatural force, symbolizing Jesus Christ rising from the dead through the power of the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:11). Aslan then kills the White Witch, a representation of Satan, whom Jesus Christ will defeat (Hebrews 2:14-15) at the battle of Armageddon (Revelation 16:7).

If the lion I dreamt of represented Jesus Christ, why, in the dream, did my doubt and reluctance outweigh my desire to remain in the lion’s loving embrace? Why did I back away from the One Who gave His life for me? Which lion was this – the Lion of the Tribe of Judah, or the evil predator wanting to consume me?

The morning after the dream, one of our daily devotional readings was by Charles Stanley, warning that Satan is a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour (1 Peter 5:8). Indeed, Satan is not only the father of all lies (John 8:44), but the great deceiver. He lacks originality and has no creative power from himself, so he imitates Jesus Christ, the Holy Trinity, His miracles and His teachings.

The devil has his ministers at the helm of governments, universities, corporations, and even churches (Ephesians 6:12), where they can appear as ministers of righteousness (2 Corinthians 11:14-15). This is not surprising, for Satan, whom God created as Lucifer (Isaiah 14:12-15), the most beautiful and eloquent light-bearer and covering angel, can also transform himself into an angel of light (2 Corinthians 11:4).

In contrast to the loving yet omnipotent Lion of the Tribe of Judah, Satan is a roaring lion on the prowl to destroy anyone susceptible to his traps (Revelation 9:11). Thankfully, once we are saved by the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15:1-4) as the only Way (John 14:6) to Heaven, we have His Holy Spirit living in our heart (2 Corinthians 1:22, 3:3; Galatians 4:6), to guide us away from Satan’s lies and deception, and a band of angels to protect us (Matthew 4:6; Hebrews 1:14). He Who is within us, namely the Spirit, is greater than he who is the ruler of the world, namely the devil (1 John 4:4).

The Spirit protected Samson from a lion, which was likely sent by Satan in an attempt to destroy Samson’s potential ministry, by empowering him with supernatural strength that allowed him to kill the lion as easily as he might have killed a baby goat. Yet Satan then used the lion to tempt Samson into a downward spiral of sin, beginning with defiling himself and his parents by eating honey from the lion’s carcass  (Judges 14:5-9).

Similarly, God empowered the young shepherd David with the strength to kill a lion and bear that threatened a lamb in his flock, in a foreshadowing of Jesus, the Chief Shepherd (1 Peter 5:4), laying down His life for His sheep (John 10:11). In a way, this defeat of Satan’s messengers prepared David for the battle to come against Goliath, chief of the Philistine warriors, whom David slew, giving a great victory to the Israelites (1 Samuel 17:32-58).

Lying on the stone floor in the dream reminds me of Daniel in the lions’ den. When Daniel was imprisoned for praying to his God, he was sentenced to a savage and cruel death by being thrown into a den of hungry lions. Yet God subdued the lions by His angel, who restrained and calmed the would-be predators, shutting their mouths, so that Daniel emerged unscathed. Then God permitted the same lions to be used to destroy Daniel’s enemies (Daniel 6:7-28).

The lion, King of the Jungle, may represent deadly forces at work sent by Satan to torment and destroy us. Yet we must remember that our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, Lion of the Tribe of Judah, rules over all and has infinite power to subdue our enemies (Isaiah 41:10).

May the Spirit give us wisdom to discern the good from the evil and the faith to trust Him completely and to remember that He will not allow any evil or harm into our lives unless it is for our ultimate good (Romans 8:28) and His ultimate glory!

© 2021 Laurie Collett

Reposted from the archives

Saturday, April 13, 2024



Solar eclipse photo by NASA

The long-awaited 2024 solar eclipse, with views of totality from parts of Mexico, 12 US states, and Canada, has come and gone. The contiguous United States will not experience another solar eclipse for two decades, and that event will be visible only from Montana and North Dakota. Even though my home state could see only 60% of totality, I still find myself basking in the afterglow of this amazing celestial phenomenon.

The day before the eclipse we were at our favorite beach, where we enjoyed beachcombing for shells and fossils, swimming in the pool we had all to ourselves, and spotting dolphins feeding and breaching the waves. That evening was a spectacular sunset, ablaze in deep red, orange, and gold contrasting against the cobalt blue of the shimmering waves.

It was as if God were teasing us with a preview of His artistry before the main event! That night’s stargazing was no less dramatic, unobscured by clouds or moonlight. It reminded us that a solar eclipse can occur only during a new moon, but that only an occasional new moon causes an eclipse. The tilting of the moon on its axis causes it to pass slightly below or above the line between the earth and the sun during most new moons, but all three celestial bodies must be aligned for an eclipse to occur.

On the day of the eclipse, we considered viewing it from the beach, but ultimately decided to return home, as we live further north where more of the sun would be obscured by the moon. Equipped with our certified eclipse glasses, we chose a prime spot in the back yard behind the ballroom where we practice most mornings. From this vantage point, no buildings or trees hid the sun from our view.

We arrived there shortly before the eclipse was predicted to begin. As we settled into our lawn chairs and decided to catch up on our daily Bible readings, I was struck by how God’s creation came alive all around us, in this spot I merely glance at most mornings when I open the door to ventilate our practice area.

Birds were chattering in the trees behind us. A stunning butterfly, orange with white spots outlined in black, flitted over as if to welcome us. The ground beneath our feet was carpeted with lush greenery, topped by delicate white and lavender blossoms that attracted velvety honeybees, their translucent wings whirring in the air. Nearby, industrious ants paraded in and out of their hills like a miniature army guarding their fortress.

How appropriate that among our readings was a warning to be a self-starter like the ant, not needing someone in authority to nag us until we get the job done!  (Proverbs 6:6-11). And a description of the fertile Promised Land of Canaan flowing with milk and honey! (Numbers 13:27).

At the scheduled start time we looked up through our eclipse glasses. Sure enough, there was a tiny black spot on the lower rim of the sun, around 5 o’clock on an imagined watch face, as if a mouse had nibbled on a wheel of Gouda cheese!

We took turns reading and viewing, awestruck as the dark spot grew. Over the course of an hour, it blocked increasingly more of the sun’s light, until the partially eclipsed sun resembled a crescent moon. Then the dark area receded, leaving the sun’s rim at around 2 o’clock on the watch face. Meanwhile, we felt a noticeable drop in temperature and light, a welcome relief from the Florida sun. The birds grew silent, only to chirp again once the eclipse abated, as if awakened from slumber.   

God continued to speak to us as we read the Bible, linking His handiwork to His Word (Psalm 19:1). We read Jesus’ prophecy that the End Times would be heralded by false prophets, wars, persecution of God’s people, earthquakes, famines, plagues, and “fearful sights and great signs…from heaven.” (Luke 21:7-11).

A perusal of the news headlines that evening seemed to reflect that prophecy. A tragic example of a false prophet was a young woman arrested for shooting into cars on a Florida highway, because “God told me to start a shooting spree during the eclipse.” There were new rumors of war between China and the Philippines, imprisonment of 11 Christian leaders in Nicaragua, the third earthquake in as many days, and the US Centers for Disease Control calling a meeting of all state public health leaders to warn them to prepare for human bird flu.

An “eclipse festival” in Texas, already a disaster because of oversold tickets, performers being unable to reach the venue, overcrowding, and exorbitant food prices, was canceled right before the concert and eclipse because of forecasted severe storms, tornados, and hail.

During the eclipse, we also read about how the sun grew dark for three hours while Jesus hung on the cross to pay for our sins (Luke 23:44), followed by the light of His glorious resurrection, appearance to the disciples, and ascension (Luke 24). Now all who trust Him have eternal life! (John 3:16).

Praise God that He is Light (1 John 1:5), Who has overcome the darkness of sin, death, and hell! (Luke 1:79; John 1:5; Acts 26:18; Romans 2:19; 2 Corinthians 4:6). The headlines are disturbing, but we can have faith in Christ’s promise to deliver us from the wrath to come! (1 Thessalonians 1:10). Viewing the eclipse – such a stunning example of God’s artistry and power – reminds us that He controls the cosmos and oversees the minutest detail of each of our lives. He alone can work all things together for our good and His glory (Romans 8:28).

Glory, praise and honor to our Lord Jesus Christ, Light of the world (John 8:12), and bright and shining Morning Star! (Revelation 22:16).

© 2024 Laurie Collett

Saturday, April 6, 2024

Signs in the Sky: Solar Eclipse

Photo by A013231 2010
 On April 8, 2024, a total solar eclipse will be visible across Central and North America, beginning over the South Pacific Ocean. Mexico’s Pacific coast will experience totality around 11:07 a.m. PDT. The path of the eclipse will continue from Mexico, entering the United States in Texas, and traveling through Oklahoma, Arkansas, Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine. The eclipse will enter Canada in Southern Ontario and exit continental North America on the Atlantic coast of Newfoundland, Canada, at 5:16 p.m. NDT. The next total solar eclipse visible in the contiguous United States will not occur until 2044, and it will be seen only from parts of Montana and North Dakota.

A solar eclipse occurs when the moon passes between the earth and the sun, partially or totally blocking our view of the sun. Because the intense light of the sun can burn our retina, scientists urge us to never look at the sun directly, but only with special protective glasses, whether during an eclipse or at any time.

This solar "sign in the sky" reminds me not only of the End Times, in which we now seem firmly entrenched, but also of our relationship to our Lord Jesus Christ. He, Who is Light, can be compared to the sun, while believers are like the moon, able to reflect His light but not to generate any of our own. His radiance is so intense that we cannot look at Him directly and live.

A solar eclipse may serve as a warning not to insert our own sense of self-worth or pride between our world and our Lord. If we do, we can no longer see His light, and we get in the way of others around us by blocking them from His light. May believers therefore maintain a proper perspective of Him as the pure, holy, righteous Light of the world reflecting from us to others, allowing us to be lights for Him in this dark, wicked world.

This thought, and the barrage of news headlines suggesting that the labor pains of the End Times are growing stronger each day, led me to repost the following:

The Signs of the Times -- increasing earthquakes, wars, rumors of wars, deadly disease, famine, wickedness, false prophets (Matthew 24-- truly seem to indicate that we are in the End Times!  Prophecy also tells us to watch for signs in the sky (Jeremiah 10:2; Daniel 6:27; Joel 2:10; Luke 21:11; Acts 2:19)

On November 19, 2021, was the longest partial lunar eclipse in 530 years, visible from North and South America, Australia, and parts of Europe and Asia. It was accompanied by a blood red moon, as prophesied first by the prophet Joel (2:31) and then repeated in Acts 2:20: 

The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and notable day of the Lord come. 

A comet that could be hailed as “Comet of the Century” flew around the sun on Thanksgiving Day in 2013, was given up for dead, but then emerged and was predicted to be best seen in all its glory on Christmas Day!

Signs in the sky will herald the second coming of our King of Kings and Lord of Lords (Mark 13:24-26; Luke 21:25-27). He will appear in the heavens like lightning (Matthew 24:27,30) in His triumphant return to defeat the enemies of Israel at the battle of Armageddon (Revelation 16:16), and ultimately conquering Satan, sin and death (1 Corinthians 15:54-57). All those who have placed their trust in His death, burial and resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:1-4) as the only Way to Heaven (John 14:6) will accompany Him in the armies of saints (Revelation 19:14).

Our Lord Jesus Christ said to look up when we see the signs of the times (Luke 21:28), for our Redemption is near! At any moment, but at least seven years before the glorious second coming described above, the trump could sound, heard only by believers. We shall be changed in an instant (1 Corinthians 15:52), caught up to meet Christ in the air, to spend eternity with Him in our glorified bodies (1 Corinthians 15:49,54) that will never age or feel pain or sorrow.

To date, the most radiant and long-awaited sign in the sky was the Star of Bethlehem, illuminating the birth of Jesus, the Word Himself made flesh (John 1:14), and guiding the wise men who sought the promised Messiah (Matthew 2:2-9).

When will His second coming be? No man knows the day or the hour (Matthew 24:36), but only God the Father Himself. Yet we are told to be vigilant and aware of the signs of the times (Matthew 24), which encourage us and strengthen our resolve to keep our hearts in Him (Matthew 6:21; John 15:5) and our lamps burning with the flame of the Holy Spirit (Matthew 26:1-13).

The comet that made a hairpin loop around the sun on Thanksgiving Day 2013 passed so close that some astronomers wondered if it would survive the encounter. Reports on Thanksgiving night proclaimed that the comet was destroyed, as it was no longer visible.

But on Black Friday morning, the headlines read: Hold the obituary! The comet has emerged from behind the sun and has begun to brighten. According to the initial predictions, it would reach its peak brilliance in December, even though its brightness to the observer already increased 25 times between November 13- 21! It may be ranked as one of the brightest comets of the past 50 years, and at its peak, it might even be visible in broad daylight!

For best night-time viewing, astronomers advise seeking rural areas, free from the light pollution of cities. The comet is most radiant against a backdrop of total darkness, seen without distraction from manmade lights. However, they strongly warned that only experienced observers should attempt to view the comet as it whipped around the sun. Although there is no danger in observing the comet itself, staring directly at the sun can result in blindness as infrared rays painlessly burn the retina of the eye.

As the comet approached the sun, the scorching heat and gravitational force of the sun presumably gave rise to a long, brilliant train, although this was not visible from the Solar Dynamics Observatory where NASA was focusing. Initial predictions were for the comet to climb noticeably higher in the north-northwest sky from December 21-31, and by Christmas Day, to no longer rise or set, but to remain above the horizon all night long.

By now you’ve no doubt guessed why I was so amazed by this comet, for it reminds me of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ! Its flight so close to the sun is like the proximity of Jesus Christ, Son of God yet God Himself, to God the Father. Even in His earthly ministry, Jesus and the Father were one (John 10:30), and now He sits at the right hand of the Father (Mark 16:19; Luke 22:69; Romans 8:34).

Even though Jesus told His apostles that He would rise from the dead (Matthew 20:19; Luke 24:7), they lost all hope after His burial and crucifixion (John 20:19). But just as He said He would, Christ rose again on the third day, that all who place their faith in Him would live with Him forever! (1 Corinthians 15:20-22)

How appropriate that the comet’s approach to the sun occurred on Thanksgiving Day! What better reasons do we have to be thankful than for the Word becoming flesh to pay for all our sins (Romans 3:25; 1 John 2:2;4:10), to give eternal life to those who trust Him (John 3:16), and now to intercede for us with the Father? (Hebrews 4 :14-16)

Yet not all are thankful, for many are lured away by the world and have not yet seen Him as their Lord and Savior. Even those who are saved can see Him more clearly away from the distracting glare of worldly light pollution (Romans 12:2). He is the Light of the world (John 1:9; 8 :12 ;9 :5 ;11:9) Who shines brightest against the darkness of our sin (Acts 26:18; 2 Corinthians 4:6).

The astronomers warned us not to look directly at the comet as it approached the scorching light of the sun, but to safely enjoy the view of the comet at night, When Jesus walked among us, bringing light to a world darkened by sin, looking at His face was no doubt the best blessing imaginable (2 Corinthians 4:6). Yet man cannot look directly at God the Father because of His supreme glory and holiness (1 Kings 19:13; Exodus 3 :6; 19 :21).

The astronomers initially predicted that this comet’s appearance to earth would culminate with an amazing display on Christmas Day, when it would neither set nor rise, but remain above the horizon all night long. Thanks to Emmanuel, God with us (Matthew 1:23), as celebrated on Christmas Day, those who trust Him are no longer in darkness (Isaiah 9:2). We have seen the bright light of the Morning Star!  (Revelation 22:16) He alone will light the New Jerusalem in continual radiance and there will be no night, nor any need for the sun (Revelation 22:5). 

How fitting that this Christmas Day comet was named Comet ISON! The name is an acronym for the International Scientific Optical Network, which discovered the comet in 2012. But to my mind, this is a contraction of I AM THAT I AM, the self-existent Name of God (Exodus 3:14), and GOD THE SON, Jesus Christ (Ephesians 4:13; 1 John 4:15, etc.), the Word from the beginning (John 1:1) and eternally our Lord (Hebrews 13:8).

Not that we need any sign (Matthew 12:39to have faith in Him, for the facts of His death and resurrection are sufficient! (1 Corinthians 15:1-8). Even though Comet ISON disappeared from view, we have faith – the evidence of things unseen (Hebrews 11:1) – that Christ reigns forever. Look up, and remember the Word made flesh, Our Redeemer, and His promise to return!    

May we all remember to look up, for our redemption draws nigh! 

© 2013 Laurie Collett

Edited now and in 2021 and reposted from the archives