The Church With No Name

There is a fifteen year old girl in Iceland who legally has no name.  On every official document when it comes to her name she is simply called “girl.”  In renewing her passport or any dealing with the bank she legally presents herself as “girl.”  It is obvious that she is a girl, what is not so obvious is what her name is.  And legally, in the eyes of the government, she is known as “girl.”  Now she really does have a name, it is just not recognized as her name by the government of Iceland.  Her given name, her birth name, is Blaer; pronounced “Blair.”   It seems like a great name!  Blaer means “light breeze.”  That is a lot better than having your name mean “liar” or “deceiver” which is what the name James means.  The government of Iceland refuses to recognize this young lady as Blaer.  The reason being is that in Iceland, and apparently this is true in Germany and Denmark, the government must approve your name.  So when parents name their child, in order for that name to be officially that child’s name, the government must approve it.  Parents are directed to pick their child’s name from the official Personal Names Register.  This register includes 1,712 male names and 1,853 female names.  These are official names because they fit pronunciation and grammar rules.  This fifteen year old girl cannot be named Blaer because grammatically the name requires a masculine article meaning that this is a boy’s name.  It gets stranger.  The name Elvis is a permissible name, but names like Cara, Cesil or Christa are not permitted names because those names begin with the letter “c” which is not part of Iceland’s 32 letter alphabet.

I think what is so neat about that story is that “girl” knows exactly who she is, she is Blaer.  Even though the government refuses to recognize her name and instead simply call her “girl” (which I suppose she should be grateful that the government does not go ahead and pick out a name for her), she knows who she is and her family and friends know who she is, they know her.

It made me think about the church with no name. The very first local church in Scripture is found in Jerusalem in Acts 2, specifically Acts 2:41-47.

“So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls. And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.”

The church in Acts 2:41-47 had no name but they knew who they were.  Who were they? I believe the simplest yet sobering definition of “church” is Acts 2:44.  The church is believers who are together.  I said it is simple and I believe anything else that is said about the church has this supporting it.  There is something very exciting about that simple, sobering definition. The excitement is this:  the church is believers who are together building something.  The church is believers who are together building something with Jesus Christ and, get this, it is called the church.  “I will build My church” (Matthew 16:18).  Jesus said those words.  I love the church and I love my local church.  I am a member of  Calvary Community Church and we are building something at Calvary in our time and we are doing it with Jesus Christ and it is because of Jesus Christ.  And what we are building has a three-fold purpose of enjoying God, enjoying one another and bringing others into that joy!  And we are doing it together.  Do not ever lose that for this is who we are! This is what the church is!  And I am stressing this importance because there is a great crisis at hand.  It is a crisis that I pray that we never face and that no local church will ever have to face.  It is the crisis of not knowing who we are.  The church in Acts 2:41-47 had no name, but they knew who they were.  The crisis is real and the crisis affecting churches is the church not knowing who it is.

So, the church, the Christian church, is called a church because that is what it is; it is just a gathered group of people. The difference is, the distinction is, as to the purpose of the gathering. Are you ready for this? Look at Acts 2:39. “For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to Himself.” Acts 2:39 says that the Lord is calling people from all over the place to Himself. The Lord is gathering people for Himself, He is grouping a people for Himself.  So, what are these people being added to in Acts 2:41-47? These people are being added to the group that God calls to Himself.  That is the church – a group of people that belong to God. These people are being added to the group that enjoys God, they are being gathered to the church that enjoys God.

Hold on to something. Who were the first people that the Lord called to come and enjoy Him? Who were the first people that God called and added to His gathered group of people?  Read Acts 2:36-41.

Words for the New Year

2012 is about to come to a close.  That sounds a lot better than saying that 2012 is coming to an end.  Perhaps that is all that the Mayans foresaw; 2012 was simply coming to a close, not an end.

I look at the year ahead as a great journey that God has already planned out for me and for you.  The journey is the purpose of life.  The journey is the reason that there is this gathered group of people called the church.  The journey is enjoying God, enjoying one another (joining with those who enjoy God), and bringing others into this joy.  This the reason mankind was created.  This is the reason that Jesus Christ said that He would build His church (Matthew 16:18).  We are placed here on this planet in this vast universe to enjoy God.  He made us and He made us to know Him.  We are His and the great need is to have eyes opened to reality and that reality is that God knows your name and He wants you to know His.  He has made you.  All those who realize this reality cannot help but be overcome with joy and find themselves worshiping God (Psalm 100).

So life’s grand purpose is to enjoy God, worship God, serve God.  Those are just three ways of saying the same thing.  And we are not isolated in this grand purpose.  There are others who are enjoying God and the point is that we are to join with them in this enjoyment by enjoying one another.  Enjoy one another by enjoying God together.  We want others to share in this same joy, to have this joy that is unmatched – a joy found in God alone (1 John 1:3-4).

So that is the grand purpose of our time on this planet.  Enjoy God.  Enjoy others who enjoy God and bring others into this joy.  Ten thoughts come to mind in fulfilling this grand purpose.  These are things to see and do for 2013 in view of this purpose.

1. Actively embrace and proclaim that God is here and He is in charge.

2. Fulfill the simple order of leadership that God has gifted to the church for the function of His church.

3. Grow – may there be gospel growth and relational growth (knowing God better and knowing one another better).

4. Get with a small group made up of those who enjoy God.

5. Know that you have value to Jesus Christ and a place and value in His church.

6. Be a part of the multi-generational ministry of the church; each generation transmitting truth to the generation after it.

7. Develop a special time of knowing God and His Word better together with those who are enjoying God.

8. Vacation Bible School

9. Be a reader and thinker.  Reading begins and ends with a thoughtful, daily reading of God’s Word.  Reading good books complements this.

10. Expand your missions outreach to the neighborhood and world around you.

Very First Words

I am blogging now.  It is actually rather exciting.  As of writing these words I have just one person following this blog – me.  I feel like I can say anything.

Life is such a precious gift.  I know that those words are not unique or dare I say profound.  Perhaps it is because the wonder of life has gotten lost in our pursuits in life.  The letter by James the half-brother of Jesus Christ writes what I think is probably the most staggering assessment about life.  Life is but a mist (James 4:14).  Should we illustrate this truth?  The next time you spray Windex on your bathroom mirror, count how long the mist from that bottle lasts before you go to wipe the mirror clean.  Or how about this, how often have you asked, “where did today go?” The brevity of life intensifies the value of life.

I will never have yesterday  back.  I love time travel discussion and time travel movies, but there is no flux capacitor to make time travel possible.  I cannot go back to yesterday and see the moment my parents fell in love.  I cannot reclaim yesterday.   However, there is God and He has reclaimed me.  He has opened my eyes and has given me perspective.  When I remember my past I now see His hand.  When I look at the days ahead of me I do so with a courage found in the promised presence of God.  In other words, I face today, tomorrow, and the regrets of my past knowing God has never left me.  He has never disappointed me.  He has never abandoned me.  Will there be trouble?  Has there been trouble?  Have I been depressed?  Yes. Yes. And yes.  But God has always been God.  And He has always been with me.

So, I must make the most of my life.  I must make the most of the life ahead of me.  And since God is always with me, I am always in His presence and He is God, I must know Him.  I must enjoy Him.  And the great thing is that He wants me to know Him.  He wants me to enjoy Him.  “You make known to me the path of life; in Your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore” (Psalm 16:11).

Since I live in His presence and you live in His presence then the goal of life for both of us is the same.  This goal is three-fold.  We must enjoy God; we must enjoy each other; and we must bring others into this joy!