Be The Church

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They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.  (Acts 2:42–47, NIV 1987).

My Musings – While these are clearly challenging times as the world comes to grip with this global pandemic, (perhaps unprecedented to most of the world’s population living today), they pale in comparison (at least to date) to challenges that previous generations have endured.  Our grandparents sent an entire generation of young men off to fight fascism and aggression in Europe, North Africa and the South Pacific.  This came just a few short years after the great depression, where U. S. unemployment peaked at nearly 25% (probably much greater in other countries).  The Spanish Flu (probably not a politically correct name by today’s standards) infected an estimated 500 million people and claimed the lives of an estimated 50 million (some estimates go as high as 199 million) souls.  This was when the world population was around 1.8 billion.  During the 14th century, it is estimated that 30% to 60% of the world population of 450 million died from the Black Plague.

One might ask, how does the Church respond to the crisis facing the world we live in today?

I would propose that it should have very little to do with how we “dochurch and very much to do with how we “be” the Church.

In certain respects, the above text gives many a overly romanticized impression of the first century Church.  “Why can’t we be more like the first century Chuch?”  But we must remember, as persecution spread, the Church in Rome was driven underground into the catacombs beneath the city.  Then, of course, there was persecution in the middle ages where people like Wycliffe, Hus, Zwingli, More and Tyndale were put to death, not to mention the religious persecution the led to settlement in the “new world.”  Even today, in certain communist and Islamic countries, Christians constantly face persecution and death.

In light of all this, how we “do” church (worship style, time of service, length of sermon, systematic versus topical versus textual preaching, color of carpet, etc.) is fairly trivial compared to how those mentioned above were committed to being the Church.  As we reflect on the crisis facing the world today, our focus as well should be on how to be the Church in a world that needs the hope that only Christ offers.  Especially if we are just beginning (much worse to come) to experience the “birth pains” that Christ warned about in His Olivet Discourse and the tribulation to follow that the Apostle John recorded in Revelation.

My Advice – Be the Church.  What are some practical ways we can put into practice some of the following ways of being the Church to our neighborhoods and communities?

Love One Another – “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”  (John 13:34–35, NIV 1984).

Do Unto Others – “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.”  (Matthew 7:12, NIV 1984).

Live At Peace With Everyone –   “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.”  (Romans 12:18, NIV 1984).

Be A Servant – “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave— just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”   (Matthew 20:25–28, NIV 1984).

Do For The Least Of These – “I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.  “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’”    (Matthew 25:35–40, NIV 1984).

Practice Pure and Faultless ReligionReligion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.  (James 1:27, NIV 1984).

Be A Witness – “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”  (Acts 1:8, NIV 1984).

Be Prepared With Your Reason For Hope Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.  (1 Peter 3:15–16, NIV 1984).

What Remains? – “And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.”  (1 Corinthians 13:13, NIV 1984).

Here are some suggestions from my local church: (https://www.fbcsycamore.com/)

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When No Is Good

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Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death.  (Romans 8:1–2, NIV 1984).

No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.  (1 Corinthians 10:13, NIV 1984).

“I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.”  (John 10:28–30, NIV 1984).

As it is written: “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him”— but God has revealed it to us by his Spirit. (1 Corinthians 2:9–10, NIV 1984).

God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him. In this way, love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment, because in this world we are like him. There is no fear in love.  (1 John 4:16–18, NIV 1984).

My Musings – No – in no respect or degree. No is probably the third word that toddlers learn to say after, after mama and dada.  Typically, no is not something we want to hear or be told.  Typically.  But not always.

  • No Condemnation – “For those who are in [accepted] Christ Jesus.” He took our condemnation upon Himself.  If we are “in” Him the condemnation is gone, being already paid for once for all.
  • No Temptation – Once we are in Christ Jesus the Holy Spirit lives within us, making it possible for us to “just say no” to temptation.  “He will not let [us] be tempted beyond what [we] can bear.”  Often we do, but we do not have to.
  • No One – “Can snatch them out of my hand.”  We are firmly in His grasp and He will never let us go.  No one has the power to loosen His grip on us.
  • No Eye, Ear or Mind – Can see, hear or conceive “what God has prepared for those who love him.”  There is no end to His benevolence towards His children.  It is beyond our ability to fully comprehend and beyond our wildest imagination.
  • No Fear – In love.  The only fear one could possibly feel from a loved is the loss of their love.  Never will He leave or forsake us.  Jesus did not go to the cross for a “romance” that would not last.

My Advice –  There really is no way anyone should ever want to say no to this kind of a relationship.  Say yes to no.

 

The Love of God

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For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” (John 3:16–17, NIV 1984).

My Musings – In his book “The 7 Habit of Highly Effective people,”  Stephen R. Covey writes:

I have a friend whose son developed an avid interest in baseball.  My friend wasn’t interested in baseball at all.  But one summer, he took his son to see every major league team play one game.  The trip took over six weeks and cost a great deal of money, but it became a powerful bonding experience in their relationship.

My friend  was asked on His return, “Do you like baseball that much?”

“No,” he replied, “but I like my son that much.”

Read that again.  How many of us make a habit of going to kindergarten plays?  Not many, right?  But how many, if at all possible, would miss one that their child or grandchild was in?  Is T-ball really a sport we cannot get enough of?  It is if our child or grandchild is in it.  The examples could go on and on.  But I think you get the point.

What would cause Jesus to leave the fellowship of His Father, become one of His creation (yet retaining His divinity), only  to die a cruel death at the hands of the people He came to save?  I think you get the idea.

Could we with ink the ocean fill
And were the skies of parchment made
Were every stalk on earth a quill
And every man a scribe by trade
To write the love of God above
Would drain the ocean dry
Nor could the scroll contain the whole
Though stretched from sky to sky

“The Love of God,” Frederick M. Lehman

My Advice – For Covey’s friend, it was a powerful bonding experience.  But that’s nothing compared to the born again experience.   If you have been born again, continue to bond by growing in Him.  If you have not been born again, you can experience the love of God today.

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Want to become a Christian? See my blog series “The Born Again Experience.”
Want a closer walk with Christ? See my blog series “Got Spiritual Milk?”

 

Not A One

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Read this several years ago, and never forgot it.

Little Chad was a shy, quiet young man. One day he came home and told his mother that he’d like to make a valentine for everyone in his class. Her heart sank. She thought, “I wish he wouldn’t do that!” because she had watched the children when they walked home from school. Her Chad was always behind them. They laughed and hung on to each other and talked to each other. But Chad was never included. Nevertheless, she decided she would go along with her son. So she purchased the paper and glue and crayons. For three weeks, night after night, Chad painstakingly made 35 valentines.

Valentine’s Day dawned, and Chad was beside himself with excitement. He carefully stacked them up, put them in a bag, and bolted out the door. His mother decided to bake him his favorite cookies and serve them nice and warm with a cool glass of milk when he came home from school. She just knew he would be disappointed and maybe that would ease the pain a little. It hurt her to think that he wouldn’t get many valentines – maybe none at all.

That afternoon she had the cookies and milk on the table. When she heard the children outside, she looked out the window. Sure enough, there they came, laughing and having the best time. And, as always, there was Chad in the rear. He walked a little faster than usual. She fully expected him to burst into tears as soon as he got inside. His arms were empty, she noticed, and when the door opened she choked back the tears.

“Mommy has some cookies and milk for you,” she said.  But he hardly heard her words. He just marched right on by, his face aglow, and all he could say was: “Not a one. Not a one.”  Her heart sank.  And then he added, “I didn’t forget a one, not a single one!”  (by: Dale Galloway, Source Unknown).

We have a Savior like that. Despised and rejected by men, but he forgot not one.

Lavished On Us

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In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding. (Ephesians 1:7–8, NIV 1984).

My Musings – “The riches of God.”  Riches. Plentiful amount. Abundantly supplied.  How plentiful and abundant do you suppose it could be coming from the Creator of all there is? How about His only begotten Son? “God’s grace.” Grace. The free and unmerited favor of God. “The riches of God’s grace” are free to all who would receive them, even though it is not merited.  Could never possibly be merited. “He lavished on us.”  Lavished. Bestowed in generous or extravagant quantities. Exceeding what is reasonable or appropriate.  It is neither reasonable or appropriate that we should receive God’s favor, apart from His mercy and grace.  “With all wisdom and understanding.”  God understood what the cost of His grace would be.  It doesn’t seem all that wise to give so great a cost to those so unworthy.  But He was wise enough to understand it was the only possible way to lovingly satisfy His own Holy and Righteous character.

My Advice – Be thankful that you either have it or that it is within your grasp.

Like Father, Like Son

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The LORD is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love.  He does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities.  For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.  As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him. From everlasting to everlasting the LORD’s love is with those who fear him.  (Psalm 103:8, 10–14, 17, NIV 1984).

When [Jesus] saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.  (Matthew 9:36, NIV 1984).

My Musings – These verses are loaded!

Compassionate – A sympathetic consciousness of others’ distress together with a desire to alleviate it.  And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world.  (1 John 4:14, NIV 1984).  It was more than a desire to alleviate our sinful state that compelled the Father to allow His Son to bear our sin and shame on the cross.

Gracious – Unmerited divine favor given to mankind for their salvation.  For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.  (Ephesians 2:8–9, NIV 1984).  Unmerited, not earned.  Not something you can work for.  It is a gift, freely given, freely received, if we are willing to accept it.

Slow to Anger – Lacking in readiness, promptness, or willingness to display His displeasure and judgement.  The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.  (2 Peter 3:9, NIV 1984).  When He returns, those who have not repented, who have not accepted Christ will be judged and bear the full weight of His wrath.  But because He is reluctant for this to be the case for anyone, He delays to allow the unsaved more time to consider.

Abounding in Love – Abundantly supplied goodness and kindness.  A steadfast (not subject to change) love.  “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.”  (John 3:16–17, NIV 1984).  It cannot be more abundant than for Him to send His only Son.  It cannot be more steadfast, that when we betray Him in sin, He still loves us enough to redeem us.

As High As the Heavens Are From the Earth – How high do you suppose that could possibly be?  Scientists estimate at least 93 billion light years (and still expanding).

As Far As the East Is From the West – No matter how far east (or west) you travel, you will never reach the west (or east).

From Everlasting to Everlasting – Enduring through all time.  No matter how far back in time you go, there was never a time He did not love us.  No matter how far into the future you go, there will never be a time when He stops loving us.

My Advice – How could you possibly turn away from such love? Why would you want to?

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Want to become a Christian? See my blog series “The Born Again Experience.”
Want a closer walk with Christ? See my blog series “Got Spiritual Milk?”

 

 

The Overflow Of The Heart

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For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks. The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him.” (Matthew 12:34–35, NIV 1984).

My Musings – Sometimes we Christians will intentionally speak (post, tweet) maliciously and no amount of “thinking” can stop us.  In these cases the “overflow of [our] heart” is quite clear. The old man, the evil man is still controlling us and the overflow of our heart brings out the evil of our old sin nature.

At other times, it’s just a matter of speaking (posting, tweeting) without thinking.  It is then that the overflow of our hearts reveals how far along we are in our walk with Christ.  Is the old, evil, sinful nature still in control or are we being transformed into His likeness?  Are we being controlled by the Spirit?

My Advice – Think before you speak (post, tweet).  The truth is, of course, paramount.  But sometimes, we can use the truth to be hurtful not helpful, to discourage rather than inspire.  It is never necessary to lie, but it should never be used to be inconsiderate, cruel or unkind.  “Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ.” (Ephesians 4:15, NIV 1984).   For  “those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.”  (Galatians 5:24–25, NIV 1984).  Then the overflow of your heart (intentionally or without even thinking) will be “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.”  (Galatians 5:22, NIV 1984).

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Want to become a Christian? See my blog series “The Born Again Experience.”
Want a closer walk with Christ? See my blog series “Got Spiritual Milk?”