The license plate arrived in the mail, and I could hardly wait to put it on the van! I wanted everyone to know that a staunch supporter of Liberty University was on the road (it beat the previous WV BLNDE, as everyone gave me plenty of space when passing…)
Someone came to the house a short time later, and my first response was to show them my new plates! “What’s an.. uh.. ‘ee-wee’?” they asked. I gawked at them. “Are you serious? You were raised in sheep country, with flocks on almost every hill, and you don’t know that is how you spell ‘ewe’ [pronounced yew–like ‘you’ for you non-farmers]? It’s the female sheep!”
Here I had thought it was so clever: El, as in God in Hebrew, and Ewe, since I am His “ewe” or His female sheep. At the same time, the phonetic of El Ewe (LU) was perfect (my thinking).
When we had first found a move to Lynchburg was in our immediate future, we were living about 1/2 mile from Virginia Tech–with all its traffic, students, party-atmosphere and cliquishness. Now, less than a year after the move to Blacksburg, my husband was being transferred to Lynchburg. As our son and I drove the first truck load of household goods across the rural countryside, as soon as we began hitting the topography of central Virginia I felt as though I had come “home.” It was so much like North Carolina, and yet still felt “country.” I loved it immediately. For the first time in a year I began to think there might be peace somewhere in the future.
It did not take long before Liberty University became a part of our lives, from their sports to education, from their chancellor, Jerry Falwell, Sr., to their desire to become the biggest and best Christian university in America. We embraced it all. Thus, my pride in having a tag that proclaimed our allegiance to Liberty!
As we became more well-known around Lynchburg, I realized that not everyone felt it a privilege to have a massive university in their formerly small town. The best analogy I can think of is a rural country church, where the membership has been a stagnant 80 since the 1800’s when it was organized. When a newer, more modern pastor came who loved the Lord, who wanted to serve his community and win souls, strangers began attending the church: strangers who did not look like, think like or act like those who had been there for decades. Why, they didn’t even wear 3 piece suits! Didn’t they know that was part of being saved?? So it was with Lynchburg. People who wanted their small town to remain a small town resented the building progress that was eternal. Shops, malls, road construction, new restaurants, more churches–well, there is no way to serve an extra hundred thousand people without all the amenities. But not us–we wanted to be a part of all of it.
Driving down the highway, I was cut off by a driver not looking where they were going. I started to yell “Idiot!” when I remembered my tag. Shucks. So much for defensive driving. What had I gotten myself into? Was I not going to be able to go 75mph on Rt. 460, with it’s 55 mph? Get in the right hand lane and drive sane? Soooo not me. As a former pastor once said (from the pulpit), “it just aggravates me to have anyone else on the road who is going faster than me!” Yes, he really did say that. I hoped he didn’t have a plate that reflected which church he preached at. (No, that is not my attitude–I’m always glad when someone flies past me, hoping they will get to the cop before I do…) Still, I was right that my tag was a deterrent to bad driving. Here it is, five years later, and I’m still not only driving with that plate, but EL EWE 2 on my other car. And every time I’m tempted to tailgate someone who is going slowly, toot when they don’t peel out when the light turns green, or some other action that causes me to want to blow them off the road, I think of my plate. Am I being a testimony of what LU stands for? If I don’t drive with safety and the welfare of others in mind, will they remember it was a woman, or will they think “Those LU people!” Yep, they’ll blame the university.
This past Sunday Jonathan Falwell preached how not only our own personal lives, but our church itself should be relevant in an age when it seems “everyone does what is right in his own eyes.” People are watching you as you go through the routine of daily living, trying to be a Christian in spite of everything thrown at you, the porn, the evil lusts, the profanity, the adultery… and they’re waiting for you to slip. Now is a good time–if you didn’t see the sermon Sunday, to click on http://www.trbc.org/sermon-archive, and select A New Day In the Old Way. Watch the sermon, and keep your notebook and a hot drink handy, then do the study below, and ask yourself, “how is my behavior reflecting on Christ? Do the things I do represent Him in a way that would make others know I’m different?” Hopefully you can answer yes. If not, change your behavior, or change your “tag,” right?
A New Day in the Old Way
Have you ever held a position, whether possibly by birth or at your job, that caused you to conduct yourself carefully when you are in public? Can you think of an example?
We have entered the new year of 2018, and already the first week has passed! Sunday we looked at the church, and its relevancy in the 21st century. It has had to evolve throughout centuries of change, but the past one hundred years has wrought the greatest transformation, as technology enables all parts of the earth to be interconnected. Is the church still important? Let’s see what God says.
Focal Passage: Matthew 16:13-18.
Think About or Discuss:
WHAT IS THE CHURCH?
The Church is God-ordained
- Read Matt. 13-18. In verse 18a, Who builds the church? What was Jesus speaking of?
- Many of you have lived long enough to see massive changes in the world; what are some ways the church (as a unit) has changed during the years you’ve lived?
- What are some signs your church is in line with New Testament doctrine?
WHY IS THE CHURCH IMPORTANT?
The church is not a building or an organization, it’s YOU!
- Read 1 Cor. 1:1-3. Who was Paul writing to? What did he call them? What were the common characteristics of each “church”?
- In the ice breaker, you thought of the way you sometimes present yourself, either as a representative of your family or company. How do you see your behavior as a believer in Jesus Christ as being a testimony to others?
- Do you “go” to church, or are you the church, wherever you are? Explain.
IS THE CHURCH STILL RELEVANT TODAY?
Jesus is the Head of the church
- Read Col. 1:18. What does Paul say in this verse? How are the underground churches that meet in basements in foreign lands, the groups who meet in Africa under trees, or Christians meeting in air-conditioned buildings in America the same? Which might possibly hold their faith more precious, and why?
- Each day newspapers are reporting businesses that are closing their doors after decades of trade. Verse 18b assures us of what fact? How can this be?
- Every business or organization has a focus, either on fashion, health, or spirituality. Why will people find no “rest” for their souls (Heb, 4:9) in any place except a solid Bible-teaching group of fellow-believers?
DO I REALLY NEED TO BE A PART OF THE CHURCH
Jesus gave a Plan for the church
- Read Acts 2:42. What were the apostles doing in the early days after Jesus’ resurrection and ascension back to heaven?
- Read Matt. 28:19. Why did the church in Jerusalem have to undergo tribulation to get them to begin changing the world?
Jesus gave us the Keys to the church
- Read John 1:12. What does Christ expect of you once you have given your life to Him?
- Read Eph. 2:19. Becoming a member of a family requires what responsibility? Is this the same as becoming a Christian?
- Read Heb. 10:23-25. What is so important about fellowship?
God is so incredibly above “all that we could ask or think!” and you will never figure Him out. When He ordained the church (the body of believers who meet to worship, praise and learn of Him), its purpose was to bring together those of like minds and common goals, and spread the good news that salvation was now available to all men. We meet together to know Him better, praise and draw near to Him, depend on Him for our very life, and to take care of each other. The church is magnificent in its function, and if we carried out its duties as He intended, we would see many souls added to it. In the early days after Jesus had returned to His Father, the apostles and believers shared what they had, met together, did life together, and took care of their own. There may be some civic organizations that take on some of those roles, but none focuses on the spiritual to the extent the church does. But do you realize that you—even when alone—represent the church? When people know you are a Christian, they observe what you do and how you speak. When you go out among strangers or friends, you need to keep your heart focused on the truth that you represent Him to those you meet. As we begin this new year, let us keep our thoughts centered on being the “church” that most people avoid. Do you smile at them? Say hello? You are drawing them to you, showing them a love they get few other places. Eventually you may earn their trust and a time will come when you can share your faith. Don’t be afraid of being the church in the world—embrace the possibility and be a pleasing aroma to God!
Key Verses: Matt. 16:18: “And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.” (NKJV)