What’s Your Bedrock?

Screenshot (1440)Caption:  A typical family, as they “shelter in place,” worshiping in spirit and in truth via FBC of Sycamore livestream on Sunday, March 22 @ 10:30am.  FBC Sycamore Livestream

The magistrates ordered [Paul and Silas] to be stripped and beaten. After they had been severely flogged, they were thrown into prison, and the jailer was commanded to guard them carefully. Upon receiving such orders, he put them in the inner cell and fastened their feet in the stocks. About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them.  (Acts 16:22–25, NIV 1984).

My Musings –  Greetings from northern Illinois (the “s” is silent), where we are sheltering in place.  Yesterday Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker issued an executive order telling all Illinois residents to shelter in place until at least April 7. “My bedrock has been to rely upon science,” Pritzker said of his decision.

I don’t mean to disparage science (after all God created the science behind His creation) but our bedrock is, and always has been to rely upon God.  Whether we acknowledge Him or not.  Whatever the circumstances we find ourselves in.  Even when we “shelter in place.”  Maybe it will be an inconvenience.  But we have not been “stripped and beaten.”  We have not been “severely flogged.”  While some may feel like it, we have not been “thrown into prison.”  Under such extreme circumstances, “Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God.”  We can do the same.

A final musing: “the other prisoners were listening to them.”  During these scary times, the world around us is listening to and watching us.  What are they hearing? Are they hearing griping, complaining and wailing, or are they hearing positive, reassuring words of encouragement and hope about the God we trust?  What are they seeing?  Do they see the same kind of fear that is gripping the world around us, or do they see calm, peace and assurance?

My Advice – Our circumstances have changed.  Our attitude, behavior and outlook need not change. Our bedrock is on “Christ the solid rock.”  Be like Daniel. “Now when Daniel learned that the decree [executive order] had been published, he went home to his upstairs room where the windows opened toward Jerusalem. Three times a day he got down on his knees and prayed, giving thanks to his God, just as he had done before. Then these men went as a group and found Daniel praying and asking God for help.”  (Daniel 6:10–11, NIV 1984).  In Illinois, for a season, we cannot come together in person to worship, as is our custom.  But we can still gather together “virtually” to worship in Spirit and in truth “just as [we] had done before.”  And that’s what really matters.  And as you do, remember, people are listening and watching what the Christians do during “such a time as this.

God bless, and have a “yabba, dabba do time,” and draw closer to God and your family  whether you are required to shelter in place or not.

 

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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My Fellow Citizens

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You are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.”  (Ephesians 2:19–22, NIV 1984).

Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.”  (Ephesians 4:14–16, NIV 1984).

My Musings – We are no longer foreigners, we are citizens of His Kingdom.  No longer aliens, but members of the household of believers.  This we became when we accepted Christ as Savior (justification).  In the secular world we would call it “naturalization,” the admittance of a foreigner to the citizenship of a country.  In the spiritual world, there is nothing natural about it.  It is supernatural, attributed to some “force” beyond scientific understanding or the laws of nature.

In Him, we are being built (sanctification) together (community).  Spiritual growth works best in community, the geographic (visible) church.  When we were foreigners and aliens, we were outside the body of believers, the universal (invisible) Church.  We could not be “joined together” any more than oil and water can.  For what fellowship can light have with darkness?  Like aliens, we could live amongst the community, but not be of the community.

As citizens of the Kingdom, members of the body, being built together, we will eventually “grow up into Him.”  For “we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.”  (1 John 3:2, NIV 1984).  This is glorification.

My Advice – If you are not yet a citizen of the Kingdom, it is open to all.  There are no “walls” preventing your entering in other than those of your own construction.  Why not “apply” for citizenship today?

If you are are citizen of the Kingdom, but are not associated with a local body of believers (a church), you are not enjoying the full benefits of being a member of the body (The Church).  Why not “join” one today?

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Today’s musing was inspired by Worship and Youth Pastor Nate Miller’s sermon on February 16, 2020. Check it out at https://www.fbcsycamore.com/sermons. If you live in or are visiting the area, come and join us Sundays at 10:30 a.m. We’d love to be partners in the Gospel with you.

 

Change of Habit

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And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”  (Hebrews 10:24–25, NIV 1984)..

My Musings – “As some are in the habit of doing.” A habit is a behavior pattern acquired by frequent repetition.  Acquired means gained by effort.  Effort means conscious exertion.  Conscious means critical awareness.  A committed Christian does not unconsciously, without effort, fall into the habit of not regularly attending Church. Many reasons (excuses) are given for this, none of which can be supported by Scripture.

Rather than focus on the excuses, let’s focus on the positives of regular Church attendance.  The above text provides two reasons: encouraging one another and stimulating each other to positive (love and good deeds) action.  Things one cannot get in isolation.   Here are a few more.  Bear with another.  Serve one another. Love one another.  Challenge one another.  Sharpen one another. Care for one another.  Belong to one another.   Commit to one another.  Accountable to one another.  Comfort one another.  Complete one another.  Worship with one another. Fellowship with one another.

And all the more as you see the Day approaching.” Why wold this be increasingly important?  Do we see the Day approaching?  Do we see Church attendance declining?  What’s wrong with this picture?  Wake up Christians!

My Advice – The things mentioned above are all things that people generally crave.  Things that we do not get (or are able to give), when we “give up meeting together.”  Have you forsaken the Body?  It’s about time for you to consciously make the effort to make regular Church attendance your habit once again.  Whatever habit you have is your choice.  Choose wisely.  Choose community.

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Today’s musing was inspired by Lead Teaching Pastor Kevin Rutledge’s sermon on February 9, 2020. Check it out at https://www.fbcsycamore.com/sermons. If you live in or are visiting the area, come and join us Sundays at 10:30 a.m. We’d love to be partners in the Gospel with you.

 

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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