Pastor Neal

Author's details

Name: Neal Abrams
Date registered: February 16, 2015

Latest posts

  1. God is Light and There is No Darkness in Him — August 12, 2017
  2. The Church’s Prime Directive — August 5, 2017
  3. Looking Forward to 2017 — December 31, 2016
  4. The Message of Christmas — November 30, 2015
  5. Some Things Change, God Remains the Same — October 2, 2015

Author's posts listings

Aug 12 2017

God is Light and There is No Darkness in Him

Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone
— Colossians 4:5-6

We know that God is light and there is no darkness in Him. Light by its very nature will always offend the darkness. So whatever issue you may find yourself discussing or illuminating, if you are being the light of God in this world by speaking the truth born of God’s love and His Word, you are sure to offend those who love the darkness and wish to remain there.

However, as Christ followers, I believe we must guard our hearts to make sure we do not find ourselves rejoicing because we are offending.   Hans Fiene, in his recent Federalist article titled, Google Firing Over Diversity Memo Shows How Outrage Addiction Is Making Us Stupid, wisely observes and articulates how outrage has become an addiction and has suppressed the critical thinking of many as a result.  He also points out how we can all fall in to that trap regardless of our political leanings.  I would dare to say that I believe the other side of that same coin is that we can become addicted to the thrill of being offensive, suppressing our willingness to actively listen to understand where a person is and extend a hand up.

While sarcasm and satire can sometimes be very effective at illustrating a point, habitual use of satirical and snarky comments and comebacks are the fallback position of someone who may have become either too proud, too lazy, or perhaps emotionally indifferent and apathetic to their hearers, so that they are no longer willing to respond thoughtfully (with grace) and intelligently.

We have not been commissioned to offend for the sake of offending, rather as foreigners and exiles in this world (but no longer of this world), we are to “seek the welfare of our city”.  Our goal is to be a light that shines the light of God’s truth born of His love, in the hope of redemption.

If you only see yourself as a hammer, then soon everyone becomes a nail.

There is a saying that says, “If all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.”  Similarly, if you only see yourself as a hammer, then soon everyone becomes a nail or potential nail.   But if we are following the way of Christ, we are more than mere hammers, we are ambassadors of Christ and His kingdom.  Yes, Jesus said, “I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves”, but we must take care not to be so focused on exposing wolves (and wolfish ideas) that we ignore His words that followed:  “Therefore be wise as serpents and as harmless as doves.”

May all who love and obey God continue speaking the truth in love as we ought to, doing so boldly and courageously. But let our conversation be “full of grace and seasoned with salt”.  We must always bear in mind what is written, that our battle is not against flesh and blood (people), and the weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world, as we demolish ungodly arguments.

And do not rejoice because the light in you causes the darkness to flee (or be offended), “rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”

The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.

Aug 05 2017

The Church’s Prime Directive

If you are familiar with the science fiction series Star Trek, you probably recall that one of the main subjects of the various TV series’ and movies was the prohibition against interfering with the internal development of alien civilizations.  This was always referred to as “the prime directive”, a principle handed down by the fictional “United Federation of Planets”.  As you may know or can imagine, this prohibition created various moral dilemmas (and interesting entertainment), as the various star ship crews traveled the universe “exploring strange new worlds” and “going where no man has gone before”.

In thinking about the Church, made up of all those who believe in Jesus Christ, follow Him, and obey His teachings, I am reminded that we too have been given a prime directive by the Lord, the One True and Living God, handed down to us from those who were with Him from the beginning of His earthly ministry.  A directive that is intended to continue, with the Holy Spirit dwelling in us until Jesus returns at the very end of the age:

Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” — Matthew 28:18-20 (NIV)

He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. And these signs will accompany those who believe: In my name they will drive out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up snakes with their hands; and when they drink deadly poison, it will not hurt them at all; they will place their hands on sick people, and they will get well.” — Mark 16:15-18 (NIV)

Not just any kind of disciple.

Simply put, a disciple can be thought of as a person who is wholly committed to being trained through repetition, to adhere to some standard of thought which guides and impacts how they live every day of their lives.  For example, a soldier in any branch of armed forces can be thought of as type of disciple.  Another example would be a professional or Olympic athlete.  In each case these are people who are committed to both the mental and physical training that impacts how they think, what they eat and drink, and where and when they travel.

Whether it’s successfully defending the nation on the field of battle, winning a gold medal, or winning the super bowl, each discipline is designed to accomplish a specific goal.  It requires each person to be committed to the appropriate process and very often to be committed to working together with the other “disciples” on the team.  It is no different with the disciples of Jesus Christ, and based on the above biblical passages, it can be summarized as follows:

 

  1. Go everywhere and preach the Gospel (The Gospel message of Jesus Christ and His Kingdom).
  2. Baptize those who believe in the name of the Father, of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.
  3. Teach them to obey everything Jesus commanded His first disciples which includes:
    1. Reminding them that Jesus has been given all authority in heaven and earth (not just in heaven).
    2. Encouraging them that signs will accompany those Gospel proclaiming believers in accordance with what Jesus said as recorded Mark 16:15-18 and demonstrated and in the book of Acts and the Gospels.
    3. Encouraging them not to be fearful by reminding them that Jesus is with them until the end of the very end of the age.
    4. Commissioning them as Jesus did to repeat steps 1 to 3.

 

This is a biblical summary of Jesus’ authorized process of what it means to both become and remain one of His disciples.  It is often referred to as ‘The Great Commission’.   Missing the mark on any one of these points means that we are becoming or making some other kind of disciple, but not one of His.

The Great Commission isn’t just for leaders in the Church.

In many Church circles and traditions, especially in the United States, preaching the Gospel, becoming a disciple, and making disciples has become something that is reserved for leaders in the Church.  Many of our traditions have unwittingly or not, taught and demonstrated the false notion that the Great Commission, if taught at all, is only something that pastors and other ordained ministers are to be concerned with.   But when we read Jesus’ words, they were directed to His eleven disciples who were “sent” out make disciples (of whole nations).  Though these eleven were called Jesus’ apostles, which means “sent ones”, the clear implication is that all of Jesus’ disciples are apostolic (sent), but not all will hold the office of apostle.  This is also affirmed by the letter Paul, the Apostle, wrote to the Church at Ephesus:

So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. – Ephesians 4:11-13

From this passage we can see that the fulfilling of the Great Commission is not just reserved for believing disciples who are ordained as leaders in the Church.

The Church’s “prime directive” is Jesus’ Great Commission to disciple nations, not Star Trek’s principle of non-interference at all costs.

The Church’s “prime directive” is the very antithesis of the hands off, non-interference principle of the Star Trek science fiction series.  Unfortunately there are many professing Christians and ministries who follow the Star Trek principle.

This idea might challenge us to our core, especially if we are only content with seeking out and attending good Church gatherings with good music, good sermons, and a good children’s ministry that don’t take us out of our comfort zones, equipping and encouraging us to actually “go”.

If our ministries aren’t making disciples of Jesus and equipping them to “go”, then what kind of disciples are we making if we are making any at all?  Do we think that Jesus’ parable of the talents (Matthew 25:14-30) doesn’t have application today?  Can we truly call Jesus, “Lord” and not do what He says? (Luke 6:46-49)

Church gatherings with loving people and families who gather in Jesus’ name to hear good sermons and have good children’s ministry are not bad things to seek out.  But all these things, when built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Jesus Christ himself as the chief cornerstone, are intended to equip each of us in the Church to become spiritually mature believers (followers of Jesus who are being conformed to His image), that do the work of Jesus’ ministry (according to our gifting and calling), to fulfill the Great Commission wherever we may be right now or where God may have us in the future.

Dec 31 2016

Looking Forward to 2017

Without a doubt 2016 has been a very challenging year for Lighthouse Tabernacle Church.  Many of us and members of our family have had to face many kinds of trials this past year.  Some are still experiencing them even as we speak.

During this Christmas season, as I was reading about the events and experiences surrounding Mary, Joseph and the birth of Jesus (Matthew 1:18 – 2:23), I came to realize that very often those who God commissions for a special purpose face great opposition and challenges.   It could even be said that the greater the purpose, the greater the opposition.

For example, both Mary and Joseph were commissioned by God to be the earthly parents of Messiah!  Imagine what Joseph had to deal with trying to explain to his family and friends that Mary had never been with a man and was pregnant by the Holy Spirit and carrying Messiah?  Imagine what Mary had to deal with from her family and friends?   I thought about what happened after Mary gave birth to Jesus.  One minute they are visited by Magi who are worshipping Jesus, opening their treasures and showering Him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.  Then soon after, Joseph having been warned by an angel of the Lord in a dream, is fleeing to Egypt with his family! Can you imagine what was going through the minds of Mary and Joseph, especially after hearing how Herod had all boys two years old and under killed in their home town of Bethlehem in an attempt to kill Jesus prematurely?

But even if no one else understood Mary and Joseph’s commissioning or the challenges they had to endure in completing it, Mary and Joseph knew they had heard from the Lord and that God was with them and actively helping them finish the good work that He had given them to accomplish.   That good work resulted in “the sins of the land (the whole world in fact) being removed in a single day.” (Zechariah 3:9).

Whatever trials and difficulties 2016 may have brought, I urge you to remember and hold fast to what the Lord has spoken to you regarding your purpose and the purpose of the Lighthouse Tabernacle Church family.   The devil has attempted to kill the work (and me personally), but the Lord has not allowed it because God has not changed His mind!  Just as He said He would do, He restored me to perfect health after having been diagnosed with stage 4 colon cancer.  He will do no less, bringing His word to pass for Lighthouse Tabernacle Church in 2017!

So as it is written:

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.  Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. – James 1:2-5

May the New Year be filled with God’s best for you and your families!

Pastor Neal

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