Breaking The Bonds Of Fellowship

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My Musings – Let there be no mistake about this.  The Day is rapidly approaching.  “When you see all these things, you know that it is near, right at the door. I tell you the truth, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened.” (Matthew 24:33-34, NIV 1984).  Read Jesus’ Olivet Discourse, and pay attention to current events.  Are we not at least beginning to see “all these things” happen?

And yet, are we not also seeing an increase in forsaking the meeting together?  The habit of some is becoming the habit of more and more?  It has always been important that we not give up meeting together, but the urgency today is more so, because the day is approaching.   And yet the congregations in many places are dwindling.  Maybe their “itching ears” are not hearing what they want to hear?  Perhaps they are following another gospel that  “is no gospel at all?”  It could be that other priorities have displaced their “first love?”  How many have simply decided to “abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons?

God said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.”  (Hebrews 13:5, NIV 1984).  So why are so many forsaking Him?  Because Jesus said they would (Matthew 24:10).

My Advice – “A day may come when we forsake our [Lord] and break all bonds of fellowship! [Let it] not [be] this day!  By all that you hold dear on this good earth, I bid you stand!”  My paraphrase of Aragorn’s speech before the black gate in “The Return of the King.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Cry For Revival

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My Musings – The above verse is a conditional statement.  Conditional statements contain a hypothetical (if) and a consequence (then) when the conditions of the hypothetical are met.

If – Something(s) that must happen:

  • My people, called by My name – In the context of the above verse, this was Israel.  Today, we could apply it to the Church.
  • Will humble themselves – Freed from pride and arrogance. An expression of deference or submission.
  • Pray – To speak to God especially in order to give thanks or to ask for something.
  • Seek My face – To go in search of, to look for, to try to discover.
  • Turn – To face an opposite or different direction.
  • From Wicked Ways – Morally very bad, evil.

Then – Before something else can happen:

  • I will hear – To pay attention to.
  • I will forgive – Pardon, cancel a debt.
  • I will heal – Correct or put right an undesirable situation.

My Advice – We often attribute the declining state of morality on society in general.  Yet the above verse places the responsibility on the people of God.  We know what we (the Church) need to do (if) in order for God to hear our appeal for the “land” to be healed.  A verse from an old song states “that it only takes a spark to get a fire going, and soon those all around, can warm up in the glowing.”  Be a spark in your local Body, then “pass it on.”  We have to have a spark before we can have a fire.  We have to get it going, before we can expect the glowing.

My 85 Year Old Mom Is A Cheerleader

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My Musings – The above quote from Jesus follows immediately after Peter’s great confession to Jesus’ inquiry ““who do you say I am?”  Peter replied, “you are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” (Matthew 16:16, NIV 1984).  Most of the focus on this verse is on what Jesus meant by “this rock.”  Did he mean Peter?  Was He referring to Himself?  Or is the rock Peter’s confession that Jesus is the Messiah?  Learned theologians cannot agree on this, so I am sure I cannot shed any light on it.  But what I want to focus on in today’s musing is “My Church.”

“My Church.”  There is no mistaking whose Church it is.  But today, many within the Church  want to wrest control from Jesus and make it (keep it) their Church.  They want the worship style to be this way or that.  The time of the service must start no earlier (or later) than this time or that time.  The preacher must not speak any longer than… Well, you get the picture.

Now today, the Church is under increasing criticism, if not downright persecution.  With the increasing influence of secular humanism, relative morality, and it’s “my” view or no view in our schools, in the media and society in general, we (the Church) are in danger of losing the “next generation.”  While there are many things worth “fighting” for in the Church, the above mentioned “non-negotiables” (style, time, length) don’t make the list.

If the Church loses the next generation, where will the Church be?  God will always have His remnant, but how big will that remnant be?  Are we really so vested in the way it’s always been done that we risk that loss?  Are we so insistent that it be “my” Church to such an extent that we have no one to pass it on to?  Now I am not saying we water-down the Gospel to Christianity lite.  There are certain things that are non-negotiable, and we know what those are.

My 85 year old mom understood this.  “Her” Church (the one I grew up in and accepted Christ) was in decline.  It was literally dying off.  Either the lampstand’s light would go out or it needed new oil.  That’s why they voted to become a “satellite” Church of a much larger congregation in a larger town.  And this brought a lot of changes.  Most of which involved those sacred items (style, time and length).  The unadulterated proclamation of the Gospel was not one of the changes.  And in the final analysis, that is what really matters – that the Truth continues to be proclaimed.

While my mom has her own ideas and preferences of what she would like worship services to be, she understood.  She embraced the changes and became one of the leading “cheerleaders” for the Church she knew was not hers, but His.  Her name is not Gladys (its Roberta), and she cannot jam on the electric guitar, but she knows “a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth.” (John 4:23-24).

My Advice – Always remember, and never forget, it’s His Church.  He wants to build it, not see us tear it down over things that really do not matter.

Here are a couple snapshots of my 85 years young mom:  on her knees on the floor  showing me how to fix her vacuum and snow blowing her sidewalks (plans to give that up this year).

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Just Say Whoa to Woe

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My Musings – It’s easy to dump on the Pharisees. After all, their name has become synonymous with self-righteous hypocrisy making them easy marks for criticism and condemnation.  But what if we substituted the word Pharisee in the above verses with the word Christian?  Is that how the world sees many of us?  Are they justified in seeing us that way?  We want to scream that they are way off base.  That we are under attack and being unjustly persecuted.  But we need to be very careful before we dismiss it outright.  For you see, “the problem with self righteousness is that it seems almost impossible to recognize in ourselves. We will own up to almost any other sin. but not the sin of self-righteousness. When we have this attitude, though, we deprive ourselves of the joy of living in the grace of God. Because you see, grace is only for sinners.” ― Jerry Bridges, evangelical Christian author, speaker and staff member of The Navigators.

We might think, why should we care what the world thinks of us?  Well, if they are wrong, and perhaps they are in most cases, we need not care.  Jesus did say, after all that in this world we will have persecution, and that if the world hated Him, we should not be surprised if they hate us too.  But if they are right, even about a minority, we should care very much.  For Jesus also said they (the world), will know we are His followers if we have love for one another.  And if they do not see His love in us and from us, then the truth that we are proclaiming will not seem very much like the truth.

Another reason we should care is because Jesus cares.  He had nothing but condemnation and anger (yes, anger) for the teachers, scribes and teachers of the law that exhibited such self-piety and hypocrisy.  His attitude was not a casual “well actually,” but a very much heated “woe to you!“…”You snakes! You brood of vipers!”  Whoa.  Let’s take a closer look at these “woes” from Matthew 23, NIV 1984, and learn from them.  We do not want to become 21st century Pharisees.

  • Hypocrites – “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the kingdom of heaven in men’s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to.
  • Sons of Hell – “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as you are.

  • Blind Guides – “Woe to you, blind guides! You say, ‘If anyone swears by the temple, it means nothing; but if anyone swears by the gold of the temple, he is bound by his oath.’ You blind fools! Which is greater: the gold, or the temple that makes the gold sacred?”

  • Neglectful – “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cummin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former. You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel.

  • Greedy and Self-Indulgent – “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean.

  • Whitewashed Tombs, Dead Men’s Bones – “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men’s bones and everything unclean. In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.

  • Full Measured Sinners – “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You build tombs for the prophets and decorate the graves of the righteous. And you say, ‘If we had lived in the days of our forefathers, we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.’ So you testify against yourselves that you are the descendants of those who murdered the prophets. Fill up, then, the measure of the sin of your forefathers!

My Advice – I am sure that the vast majority of Christians are not this way, or at least not blatantly.  But are there times we “deny” God’s grace to those whose sins seem greater than our own?  On occasion, is the way we behave on the outside inconsistent with how we are on the inside?  Do we overly focus on certain evils (“strain out a gnat“), to the exclusion of others (“swallow a camel”)?  Are we so self-absorbed by the “injustices” that we must endure that show no mercy to others?  Let’s just say whoa to woe.

 

Belong

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Romans 12:3-6For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you. Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given us.  (NIV 1984).

My Musings – Far too many Christians are going their own separate ways these days, believing that they can worship anywhere (which they can) and can get along just fine with the fellowship of a local church (which they cannot).  Others prefer to skip in, blend in and skip back out, without building relationships within the body.  In they process they gain little and contribute little. Often on their way back home they comment “well, I didn’t get much out of that service,” missing the point entirely.

It is never about how much we get.  It is always about how much we give.  And ironically, the more we  give the more we end up getting.  Iron sharpens iron, and it is hard to sharpen anything without something to rub up against.  It is difficult for anyone to grow sharper spiritually without rubbing up against other believers in fellowship, worhsip, prayer and the Word.  Sure, we can get by, but that’s somewhat like the steward that buried his talents and was only able to give back to the master what he had been given, nothing more.

“As much as we like to think that it is our smarts [spirituality] that get us a head, it is not everything.  Our intelligence [Spiritual maturity] give us ideas and instructions.  But it is our ability to cooperate that actually helps us get those things done.  Nothing of real value on this earth was built by one person without the help of others.  There are few accomplishments, companies, [churches] or technologies that were built by one person without the or support of anyone else.  It is clear that the more others want to help us [and we them], the more we can achieve [grow].” (From Leaders Eat Last, Simon Sinek).

My Advice – Don’t you want to give back more?  Don’t you want to help others do the same?  Find a local church and do more than just blend in – belong.  Because whether you admit it or not, that is where you do belong.

Enriched in Poverty

Revelation 2:9 – “I know your afflictions and your poverty-yet you are rich!” (NIV 1978)

My Musings – It’s all a matter of perspective. The world may see poverty on the outside, but God sees the riches of Christ in our hearts.

My Advice – There may be lean years early in your career. But remember, no matter how little you have in your bank account, you are rich because you have Christ in your heart.

Who Are You Following?

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1 Corinthians 1:10-13I appeal to you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another so that there may be no divisions among you and that you may be perfectly united in mind and thought. My brothers, some from Chloe’s household have informed me that there are quarrels among you. What I mean is this: One of you says, “I follow Paul”; another, “I follow Apollos”; another, “I follow Cephas”; still another, “I follow Christ.” Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptized into the name of Paul? (NIV 1984)
My Musing – It can be a dangerous thing to do, to get so wrapped up in a leader, that you lose sight of who it is that you were following in the first place.  We’ve gotten a taste of that in recent weeks and months as certain high-profile ministry leaders have “fallen,” or at least stumbled.  Where does that leave the faithful flock?  Or the “replacement” shepherd that must carry on?
We also see it on occasion, when there are changes in leadership due to retirement, pastors moving on to a new flock, or other such changes in a Church.  Some followers, leave the flock to follow the past leader to their new “pasture,” never giving the new shepherd a chance.  Others simply fall out of the flock altogether, so tied to the former shepherd to continue on anywhere.  Still others remain as “baaad” sheep, criticizing the new shepherd (“our old shepherd never did it that way”) or otherwise causing quarrels and creating divisions amongst the rest of the flock that is trying to remain faithful.  Then, there is that last group.  Staying faithful throughout the changes, some of which might be hard, uncomfortable or involve a shepherding (worship?) style they really don’t prefer, all for the sake of the rest of the flock and the shepherd they really have been following all along – the Good Shepherd.
My Advice – When changes come (some that may personally disappoint), and they will, stay faithful to the flock and to Christ.  Paul, Apollos and Cephas were all good shepherds of the flock.  But all were following Christ.  Eventually, they passed the torch to others. Paul was martyred and left his calling to people like Timothy, John Mark and Luke, also all good shepherds.   And the Church survived.   After all, who was it that was really crucified for the Church?  For you? Soli Deo Gloria!