Monday, November 26, 2018

Landmarks (Part 1)

(Holy Word Of God)
In recent years, we have witnessed a number of changes within the Body of Christ, to some of us, these changes have been quite concerning, especially to those who trust, believe, and declare that the Holy Scriptures are the unadulterated and unchanging Word of God. As an individual who holds this belief, that the Holy Bible is more than basic instructions or clever stories intended to help us be better humans, but it is  instead, the very foundation of life itself. The scriptures are the Foundation and Landmark by which we are to traverse this reality and life, more than just a guide, the Holy Bible is, and contains within it's pages, the very meaning of life itself. Before moving forward, it is imperative to express to you that not all of these changes are to be considered negative, some change is always needed, for if the “body” doesn’t constantly evolve, change, and grow, it will simply cease to exist. While some of the changes to be discussed throughout this article are negative, many have helped to expand the reach of the truth and the Gospel in our world today. Some examples of this consistent adaption of the church can be found in technologies such as the internet, radio, and television broadcasting, these media resources have allowed individuals residing in church starved areas and those plagued with certain restrictive illnesses and ailments to participate in church services, and to feel a part of the Christian movement; however, it must also be said that there is no substitute for physically attending organized church services whenever possible. 

Hebrews 10:23-25 KJV
Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for He is faithful that promised;) And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching...

(The Only Constant Is Change)
It is well known that there is only one constant variable in this life, and that, my friend, is change. The continuous sifting, shifting, and evolution of what we call life is the only part of our existence here on earth that remains the same. No matter who you are, or where you are from, everything around us, everything around you will constantly change and evolve, including “church culture”. It is important to state once again that the modification and evolution of the way we “do” church has helped we as believers spread the Gospel, and in some ways remain relevant in today’s world; however, some changing attitudes and ideas within the church body need to be placed under a microscope and examined a little more closely. The desire to alter customary church operations and traditions in the name of progress and simplicity, may in itself appear to help the church grow and function more efficiently; however, others may seem, in all honesty, as an effort to conform the Church to the world in a time when the Church should be rising up and becoming a leader for the world to follow, rather than the church following the world, as presented to us in Paul’s letter to the Romans.

Romans 12:1-2 KJV
I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God...

In the above verses, Paul implored the church of Rome to present themselves as living sacrifices unto the Lord by not becoming conformed to the world that they lived in, that same warning applies equally to us today. One may ask the question, what does it mean to be conformed to this world, and that is a great question, and here is the answer. To become conformed, according to, is to act in accordance or harmony with prevailing standards, attitudes, and practices os a society or group. For the church, lowering expectations, and creating an atmosphere in which the statement "God accepts us as we are but He doesn't want us to stay that way," no longer applies and perpetuating a climate in which terms such as holiness, moderation, modesty, and maturity have been replaced by modernization, comfort and a quick dismissal, this is what it is for the church, as a whole, to be conformed to the world.

(Drive Thru Church Service)
Of course, we all know that wasting someones’s time is both rude and impolite; however, the “if this preacher doesn't hurry and finish, I'm leaving” or the “I gotta get home before the game starts,” attitude is not only immature and disrespectful, but it places other individual activities either  equal to, or above that of the Lord, and as the Bible states, our God is a jealous God, there can be no other gods aside from Him. It must be said that these types of attitudes should never be considered as the basis for placing time restraints on church services or church attendance, to do so minimizes the authority of our pastors and leaders, and more importantly the Power and Influence of the Holy Spirit. To comply to the directives of the world of today only works to turn modern Christianity into a quick drive through service in which we call upon the Lord as if He is a Jenny in the bottle. Remember this, a hospital is run by the doctors, not the patients, to be the opposite, most of the patients would remain ill, while still others would die from their untreated wounds and ailments. 

There was a time not so long ago when the instructions passed down through the preacher were adhered to without hesitation, nor question, a time when to stand up and walk about while the pastor was speaking was considered completely unacceptable, never to be done. Growing up as a child, I was taught that we should never walk across the front of the church, onto the platform, or in any area adjacent to or in front of the pulpit/alter area after church services had begun; however, these very acts have become commonplace in today’s church.

Unfortunately, gone are the days of men and women dressing appropriately for church, when change on the inside was reflected by change on the outside. Sadly, class,  and modesty have now been replaced by shorts and flip flops, and wearing our “Sunday Best” occurs for business meetings and holidays only, no more are Sunday mornings and Wednesday evenings the best dressed days of the week, displaced by Friday and Saturday nights, these two days have been regulated to “come as you are, and stay as you are,” apparently, God no longer expects us to reflect the change within, onto the surface without, no more must we offer ourselves up to God as living sacrifices for the world around us to see, no longer is the church a cultural leader, but she has now become a follower of trends.

The title of the article you are reading today is simply, Landmarks, and before we proceed any further, we must take a look at what exactly the term Landmark really means according to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary.

Definition of Landmark:
(1936 Texas Centennial Marker)
  1. An object, such as a stone or tree, that marks the boundary of land.
  2. An event or development that marks a turning point or a stage.
  3. An object or structure that marks a locality, a point of orientation.
  4. A structure of historical interest, one that is officially designated and set aside for preservation.

(Jewish Temple)
As we discuss the topic of the Landmarks of church culture and Biblical standards, there are not any iron clad “physical” Landmarks to speak of; however, there are a large number of what some may consider to be significant and spiritually important locations scattered throughout the world, beginning in Israel. These are not the Landmarks of which we speak; although, one should never overlook the importance of these historic and Biblically established locations, it should be stated that the Landmarks of which we speak, were put in place and ordained by God before time began. As for places such as Israel and Samaria, we all should strive to visit them if at all possible in our lifetimes, after all, they are the literal foundations of the Christian Faith by which we live, and the literal ground that Jesus Himself, and many other saints, walked on over 2000 years ago. 

Now, looking at the word Landmark, its definitions as listed above, and the “spirit” in which we are discussing the word today, a Landmark can be described as the traditions, rites, rituals, and standards established to help govern the church, and the Body of Christ as a whole. Many of these standards and landmarks, have endured over the millennia, from decade to decade, and century after century, when it comes to church culture, and one of these traditions is simply referred to as wearing your “Sunday Best.” Your Sunday Best is often used to describe an individual’s best looking outfits, or clothing reserved for Sunday church services, or other special occasions. As far back as I can remember, no one ever attended church services without wearing their very best, whether that was a suit and tie, slacks and a button down, or a fresh pair of jeans and a polo shirt, one common thread ran through everyone attending services, they had worn their Sunday Best to honor Christ Jesus, the One who died in place of us all.

Giving of oneself to the local church is another Landmark or standard that has clearly changed for the worse. You see, there was a time when giving to the church meant more than just a couple bucks on Sunday, but it was your time, your sweat, your tears, your love, and even your blood if need be, whatever it took, whatever you could give, was shared with the church, and those around you; however, nowadays, it is not uncommon for someone to place a five dollar bill in the offering tray, and then ask the usher for four dollars in change. Yep, that "old time religion," that saved souls, men, women, and children alike has become as rare as an African White Rhino, they’re just so hard to find. You see, If we keep selling out the old traditions and landmarks for the sake of making “things easier,” we may just end up losing our souls along the way. There’s a saying, and we have all heard it, the road to hell is paved with the best of intentions.

II Thessalonians 2:15
Therefore, brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions which ye have been taught, whether by word, or our epistle...

The traditions, standards, and Landmarks that once helped govern the Body of Christ and hold them accountable have all been replaced by special programs and home groups. Now, before we move any further, it must be stated that special programs and home groups aren’t in themselves a negative or “bad thing,” it is only when these types of programs are used to remove the ministers and pastors from the process of discipling the saints, that the results can become devastating. 

(Old Country Church)
At one point in history, Pastoral guidance and instruction during the decision processes of life was both requested and highly regarded, especially in the most serious of situations. Unfortunately, nowadays, most church members, seemingly, do not even take time to thank the pastor and shake his hand after preaching his or her heart out in order to save their souls, let alone ask them for assistance, heed their warnings, or adhere to the Biblical principles laid out before them by the Pastor, the preaching, and the Word of God. Throughout the time I attended the local church here in Austin, TX, there was not a time in which I, myself and family, missed a scheduled church service without alerting pastoral in advance. Letting the pastor of the house know exactly when we will be missing, and why, was then, and is now, the proper protocol by which we all should follow.

Honoring our pastors and leaders is actually an ordinance and requirement found in scriptures, but more than that, we should honor them simply out of reverence and respect for God. You see, the Lord has given our pastors charge over us, and they have expended immeasurable time and energy in prayer and study on our behalf. Our leaders put forth untold amounts of time and energy in order to help guide and lead us to heaven, they deserve our honor and respect. Unfortunately, just as some of the other Landmarks mentioned above have expired, the days when our ministers and spiritual leaders were honored and revered have seemed to have also passed us by, never to return.

To serve God is to serve the people, it is to honor His Word, by adhering to the instructions of those He has set over us, and it is to adhere to the Landmarks set before us by God and the elders who have gone before us.

Fred Blackman Jr


The Experience

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