Jesus Wept……

Once again we as a nation are faced with Pure Evil, that being the heartfelt pronouncement of the Sheriff in Broward County. The shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, took 17 lives with an additional 14 in the hospital. Once the Governor, other state officials and law enforcement had weighed in there was the usual interviews with people of note and of course the usual questions. Politicians, an immediate influx of various different theories from experts in different fields as to the type of person that would do such a thing and still the same question remains, how do we stop this from happening?

What motivates anyone to do such a thing? Motivation is certainly a question that needs to be addressed. What can we do better to make this type of event an unusual occurrence? The last question holds a horrible truth. These shootings and the aftermath that follows is becoming the new norm of the day. Same questions, same results nothing of value ever really takes place. It’s as if it is standard practice, almost like a movie script, everyone knows their place, lines and demeanor needed to act out this phase of the story. I used to count and keep names but I don’t anymore, the Politicians who rush to stand on the bodies of the dead to push their political agenda and curry favor among certain groups. The many groups that will use this to further their interests. The gun lobbies and their supporters, pro-gun groups, and the anti-gun. We will hear from the President and religious leaders. Then there will be a parade of Hollywood’s best, I like to call them the Celebrity Caravan lending their face and voice and remarkable knowledge as their contribution to solving this gun problem.

I would suggest that we are the problem and the gun is only the tool. We have seen all over the world and here in the USA a variety of different tools used. Gun, knives, bombs, poison gases, cars, trucks, vans and even humans detonating explosives attached to their own bodies. Here in the Pew is not the place to debate this part of the problem. We find our ground in Mark 7: 21-23

Mark 7: 21-23
21 For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, fornication, theft, murder, adultery, 22 coveting, wickedness, deceit, licentiousness, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. 23 All these evil things come from within, and they defile a man.”

The secular community and even some of those in the religious community will never take responsibility for our failures or even the state we find our country in, the loss of values and a culture that fosters such evils as we read about in Mark 7: 21-23. We as people and a government find it much easier to place the blame on an inanimate object that is the tool used to commit this evil; it is the guns fault. It is not the purpose of the Pew to debate the gun issue. I stand to be corrected, but I believe the first murder took place a long time ago.

Genesis 4 King James Version (KJV)
8 And Cain talked with Abel his brother: and it came to pass, when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother, and slew him.

There has been a lot of speculation as to how Cain killed his brother, most agree we really don’t know what the weapon used was. We do know that Cain did a terrible thing and God punished him for it. Point being that the loss of life due to evil in any form, is not pleasing to the God we serve.

Luke 19: 41
41 And when he drew near and saw the city he wept over it, 42 saying, “Would that even today you knew the things that make for peace! But now they are hid from your eyes.

I feel that Jesus weeps over this world, over the people of this world, just as he did when he looked over Jerusalem. There will be many words written about Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, I do not have the words to express my sadness. I leave you with this……

Jesus wept. (John 11: 35)

God Bless

jk

Advertisements

A Petition to Contend for the Faith*… Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. Ephesians 6: 17


Obsessions can become a bad thing while in a totally different way a constant vigilance can be a good thing. Vigilance is keeping a constant awareness for any difficulties that might lie ahead and in our Christian world today there are many. Recent events have taken me to the Book of Jude again and some new thoughts. We all wonder at times what this Christian life expects of us, Jude tells us in the first two verses, what it means to be a Christian.

-Christians are those who are called by God.
-Christians are those who are beloved in God.
-Christians are those who are kept by Christ.

We are summoned to a duty and responsibility. We are called by God and loved by God. As Christians we are never alone. Christ is always watching over us and most anywhere we go there will be other Christians willing to shelter and comfort us. We are privileged to be called even though the challenges will be many. I as well as many others have spoken to or written about defending the faith and the third and forth verses of Jude speak to just that.In the third verse we read what prompted this letter.

Jude 3
Beloved, when I was in the midst of devoting all my energy to writing to you about the faith which we all share, I felt that I was compelled to write a letter to you to urge you to engage upon the struggle to defend the faith which was once and for all delivered to God’s consecrated people.

Jude has received news that there are some misguided people spreading destructive teachings. Jude knew his duty and he rushed to defend the faith. Ever had a Jude moment? Sometimes dealing with the moment instead of focusing on the future is necessary for the defense of the faith. I believe sometimes we forget that there were others who came before us. This faith we are defending has been delivered to us and is a tradition in an unbroken chain going back to Jesus Christ himself. The links of this chain are made and strengthened by the men and women who have experienced the truth and wonder of these facts. We did not discover these facts on our own, they were delivered to us and are unchanging. This tradition was brought to us in a very personal way, passed on from person to person through the generations. It is unchangeable in the sense that at the very center lies the permanence that is Jesus Christ, who brings salvation to all. This Christian faith is given to those who are called and it is strongest within the Church, not resting in the hands of just one person. We, each generation must pass it down intact and undistorted. This will not be easy but each generation must struggle to defend the faith. Jude sees the threat emanating from “The Peril From Within”. (William Barclay pg 204 DBS Jude)

Jude 4
For certain men have wormed their way into the Church – long before this, they were designated for judgment – impious creatures they are – who twist the grace of God into a justification of blatant immorality and who deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.

Jude wrote this letter to warn that the threat comes from within the Church. There are those who have come into the Church and these despicable people are distorting the grace of God as a means to justify their wickedness. There is much to consider in this small book and there is no way a simple blog can do it justice. Jude writes of bad examples of past transgressions, people who live by the their instincts, without reason and even less knowledge. He is relentless in his attacks, he turns to history, encouraging the Church to remember that the wickedness of others has never ended well. He does his best to paint a picture of these wicked people and questions their character. Jude is blunt and in his words of moral indignation there is even a hint of  repressed anger. So much is here in this book but one point I would make, these people have allowed the sins of the flesh to guide their actions and seek to distort the word of God so that they might justify those actions.

How important is defending the faith? There is a goodness in Christians that keep the faith. It is a faith that was passed on from Christ on the cross, his resurrection, from the Apostles to the Church and of course from the Church to us. Generation to generation without change and defended by the Church through the people of the Church. The world is a much better place because of the faith. We must practice a holy faith. The root meaning of the word holy is different. We are called to be different just as our faith is different. Ours is not a faith of opinions, a set of rules, no way! Our faith has the power to change people and situations.…..Our faith is God-given guided by the Holy Spirit.
One last thing about this faith thing. Faith must be defended because it is by faith we are called to reclaim the lost and there are things we must do to meet this calling.

we must pray and seek the Holy Spirit to guide us in our calling.

we must study and be able to give a reason for our faith, leaving no doubt as to its strength by how we live this life.

we must share that faith not only by how we live but verbally, we must tell the story.

Free will, we have all heard that. Sometimes it may become necessary to act forcibly.

we must never allow ourselves to be drawn into the sins of others.

we must be sure that our faith is strong before we try to lift the weak up out of their despair.

We defend what we know to be true because of the certainty of the promises of Jesus Christ and the resurrection and the life to come. I will close with this. In 1964 Barry Goldwater said this,“Extremism in the defense of freedom is no vice.” Some say it cost him the election for President of The United States. I would hope that as I write this I would not offend you, but “Extremism in the defense of the Faith is no vice.”

Keep The Faith, Life is Good
jk
Blog References: *The New Interpreters Bible, William Barclay DBS

 

Socially Accepted Convention…The Rise of a Culture of Hatred

Not everything that comes into the pew is centered on biblical thought or conversations. Our daily lives expose us to the other side, so to speak. For the Christian there is something more than just today or tomorrow or even the years to come, there is the promise of eternity, life everlasting, the reality of salvation. Stretching it a bit you could say there are two realities. The one of certainty which lies in the promises of Christ or the reality of these days, the uncertainty of what is to come. So let’s deal with the reality of today which means we will have to step out of the pew. Stepping out of the pew causes problems, because we tend to leave a large part of our Christian values behind. It is hard for Christians to live a life in which their values have been reduced by legislation or marginalized by “Socially Accepted Convention.” Like it or not our reality is one of what is to come, not of this day or this world. Yet we must live in the reality of today, which unfortunately causes many of us to try to blend in with or accept these “Socially Accepted Conventions.” What is this convention we are speaking about?

A convention is a set of agreed, stipulated, or generally accepted standards, norms, social norms, or criteria, often taking the form of a custom.
Convention (norm) – Wikipedia

These norms or standards, social or otherwise, were not necessarily due to legislative efforts but simply the results of the culture of the day. Such is the result of Christians not speaking up or in most cases just leaving our values in the pew and accepting things as they are. It is much easier to believe we can do nothing about these things and allow our silence to validate the culture of the day, accepting what is instead of what is possible. I suppose what led me to this is of all things the political climate in our country. Now politics is not the driver here but the total abandonment of our Christian faith to resist the marginalizing of our values is a big part of today’s disfunction. Is he bringing politics into the pew? No, it is the source of what I am about to write. I will try to be reasonable but what I saw the other night during the SOTU address confirmed in my mind what I have felt I was seeing every day. The disrespect, the reluctance to listen and the level of pure hate that enveloped the faces of those who were there was disturbing. Now it would not be fair to say that all of those in attendance were on one side of the aisle only. Hate is never confined to one place, person or thing. It permeates and effects everything around it. What I saw in that chamber was the culture of hate alive and well and to make it worse, no one challenged it. Just like our society today it appeared to be just an accepted social convention, how sad. It had become just another news story of our day. Here are eight core Christian values we sometimes leave in the pew.

• Grace – a subversive value! Giving people more than they deserve.

• Hope – not a guarantee of immunity from harm but a conviction that God is always
present

• Faith – the means to real depth in relationships of all kinds

• Love – means to love the unlovely

• Justice – for all (not ‘just-me’). A concept biased in favor of the disadvantaged.

• Joy – impossible to legislate for this but an essential social value

• Service – meaning is found in service rather than self-centredness

• Peace– not just the absence of fighting but positive well-being

These are theologically based values, God is in and through all of them. They are Christological values, they are all demonstrated in the life of Christ.
Brian Edgar, Director of Theology and Public policy for the Evangelical Alliance. (ethos.org.au)

I think I can wrap it at this point, 721 words so far, yeah I count words, weird but to many words can dull the point you are trying to make. Our acceptance of those “Socially Accepted Conventions” feeds this “Culture of Hatred” which seems to be becoming one of those “Socially Accepted Conventions”. There were many social norms in Jesus’ day although quite different from ours today, which of course is understandable. If we spend our life in righteous indignation there would be no time left to tell “the story”. I simply turn to scripture to offer a little help in a messed up world.

Philippians 4: 8-9
8 Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. 9 Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.

God Bless, Life is Good

jk

The Difference Between The Difference?

I am in a state of confusion. Not about my faith, but rather how hard it is for me to understand some of the finer points. In the pew things of religious and faith importance are often lost on us Lay people who sit there. I doubt if there is a large percent of us in the pew that progress beyond the study books and Sunday school books we receive at church and of course reading our bibles.We know the stories and there are certain verses that hold a special place in our faith walk but once past that we sometimes struggle to understand. If we, the layperson in the pew, decide we would like to learn more, we take the first step into the confusing world of theology. Now Merriam Webster’s short definition of theology reads as follows:

“the study of religious faith, practice, and experience; especially : the study of God and of God’s relation to the world (Merriam Webster)”

We make a decision to learn more about what the Bible tells us, to go beyond the words there and seek a closer relationship with our God. We do that by reading the Bible more, praying and seeking his will in our lives and then we take the next step. The books! Oh my the number of books that have and are being written about faith, how to live a Christian life, God’s plan for our lives, the list is endless. Then it happens, we suddenly discover the enormous amount of writings by biblical scholars and to make a point here, these are men who have spent their lives studying the Bible and seeking to understand what is written and it is a blessing that writings such as these are for the most part, thanks to this digital age, available to most of us. So we step out of the pew and enter the warehouse of this knowledge seeking to better understand God and our relationship with him.

For those of us in the pew, stepping into this warehouse of knowledge is like searching the shelves with a five foot ladder but the knowledge we need starts at seven or better. You see we have just been introduced to Theology, mans take on what God said, what it means, and what our relationship to it is. This week in our Wednesday evening study we got to the discussion of the Trinity and I was totally lost. Oh I know what the theology of the Trinity is, or I thought I did and after getting home I decided to go to that warehouse of knowledge. The next day I was still carrying that ladder to many different sources in my quest to better understand the Trinity. I have a nice collection of different commentaries by well-educated and spirit led men. Usually when I am writing a blog, or a study lesson, I will examine many commentaries, read the scripture, and yes, pray for the Spirit to guide me. Found this while working through that warehouse the source listed below:

“The doctrine of the Trinity has been a divisive issue throughout the entire history of the Christian church. While the core aspects of the Trinity are clearly presented in God’s Word, some of the side issues are not as explicitly clear. The Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Spirit is God—but there is only one God. That is the biblical doctrine of the Trinity. Beyond that, the issues are, to a certain extent, debatable and non-essential. Rather than attempting to fully define the Trinity with our finite human minds, we would be better served by focusing on the fact of God’s greatness and His infinitely higher nature. “Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out! Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counselor?” (Romans 11:33-34).”

I suggest you go to their website for the entire article. Here is their URL for this item. https://www.gotquestions.org/Trinity-Bible.html

The Book of Revelation, often called the Revelation to John, the Apocalypse of John, The Revelation, or simply Revelation or Apocalypse (and often misquoted as Revelations), is a book of the New Testament that occupies a central place in Christian eschatology. (Wikipedia)

Now sometimes, ok, most of the time I am doing research I find words that require more research. Happens a lot in the warehouse. Christian eschatology, meaning what? Christian eschatology is a major branch of study within Christian theology dealing with the “last things.” This book can be frustrating because of its amazing cast of characters, symbolic imagery and how is something written over 2000 years ago to be viewed in our day.

These are just two examples of things that confront us on our journey of faith.

For us in the pew there are sometimes more questions than answers. The wonderful thing is that in this as in all things God will make a way. I came into this blog confused about some things and I leave it still confused but having discovered a little gem. I am going to alter this quote from gotquestions.com just a bit.

“Rather than attempting to fully define the written Scripture with our finite human minds, we would be better served by focusing on the fact of God’s greatness and His infinitely higher nature.”

Scripture says:

“Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out! Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counselor?” (Romans 11:33-34).”  Amen and Amen!!

I will leave you with this thought….next time you find yourself stumped or confused, in any situation you have my permission to use the following. “The difference between the difference is relative to the unlikeness thereof.” While they are trying to figure out what in the world you are talking about, you will have time to get to the warehouse.

I greatly appreciate those who read this blog and want you to know that I have no problem being corrected. I spend time trying to be sure that there is reasonable accuracy in what I write. I always make it a point to credit others whose writings I reference. It is important that we christians continue to learn, know what we believe and share it with others. Thank you for joining me in the pew this week. To make it a bit easier here is my email if you have comments or other thoughts as to the accuracy of some material. kcarp4211@gmail.com

Life is Good
Jk

Ebenezer …….. Stone of Help

 

There is a fine old hymn many of us have sung and many of us may have tripped over that stone in verse two, not knowing where it came from or what it meant.

Sorrowing I shall be in spirit,
  Till released from flesh and sin,
Yet from what I do inherit,
  Here Thy praises I’ll begin;
Here I raise my Ebenezer;
  Here by Thy great help I’ve come;
And I hope, by Thy good pleasure,
  Safely to arrive at home.

The hymn was written in 1757 by Robert Robinson. Most of us associate Ebenezer with the character in “A Christmas Carol”. Ebenezer had a few problems but he did become a different man at the end of the story.

Today we look at a story from the Bible found in 1 Samuel 7 beginning in verse 7.

7 When the Philistines heard that Israel had assembled at Mizpah, the rulers of the Philistines came up to attack them. When the Israelites heard of it, they were afraid because of the Philistines.

The people told Samuel to not stop asking the Lord to rescue them from the Philistines (v 8) and Samuel sacrificed a suckling lamb to the Lord (v 9). Verses 10 and 11 tell of Israel’s victory. In recognition of the victory because of the help of the Lord we are told of Samuel’s action in verse 12.

12 Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen. He named it Ebenezer, saying, “Thus far the Lord has helped us.”

One thing we do not want to pass by here is the very first few verses of this chapter. The importance of repentance, verses 2-4. The people come together and confessed their sins and Samuel offers a sacrifice on their behalf. (verses 5-9) Ebenezer means Stone of Help, and Samuel put it there as a reminder to all Israelites that saw it of the Lord’s power and protection. The Lord had kept his promise to bless his repentant people.  V 3–4: Samuel insists that a returning to the Lord must include the putting away of foreign gods and idolatry, and involve a wholehearted commitment to serve Him. The Israelites do this and ‘served the Lord only’.

The people had not been living a Holy life and verses 3-4 indicate the seriousness of their actions. They embrace the fact that they must turn from their sins and do so in mind, body and soul. Not only do they turn from their sin but they dedicate themselves to changing the way they live. Repentance always demands a certain amount of contrition but without change it is a meaningless gesture. Back to verse 12… 12 Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen. He named it Ebenezer, saying, “Thus far the Lord has helped us.” We know from a previous episode that the Israelites carried the ark into battle only to suffer a resounding defeat. The Israelites presumed they could not be defeated in battle with the ark among them. An interesting thought I acquired while doing research for this blog, from the Reformation Study Bible.

“Now God has given them a great victory over the same enemies. Samuel sets up a memorial stone with the name Ebenezer, “Stone of Help,” not only to commemorate the victory but also as reminder of the different results brought about by presumption on the one hand and by repentance on the other.”

When we seek to live a Christian life, the challenges of this life do not cease. We won’t always be successful but from these scriptures we see that God is receptive to prayers for forgiveness and herein lies another lesson. Showing contrition and seeking forgiveness without changing our ways is worthless. Maybe I am being to harsh here. This I do believe to be true. Contrition, forgiveness and change of how one lives is a process that in the Christian world succeeds only when we give ourselves over to God completely, remembering this from verse 12… “Thus far the Lord has helped us”. We might ask ourselves if “thus far, have we have served our Lord faithfully?”

Life is Good

jk

 

Malachi…Standing Firm In The Faith

It is very difficult in this day to stand firm in the faith because the very nature of society as it is, places obstacles and challenges in our paths. The people of Malachi’s time had been restored to Jerusalem and the temple and walls were rebuilt. They sought instant gratification and had become neglectful of their duties to God and each other. They had been misled into believing that the Messianic kingdom was theirs immediately upon their return. They became discouraged because things had really not changed. The harshness of life, the unfairness and inequalities that they still saw and that the people endured led them to doubt the value of faith and God’s place in their lives. They, like us today allowed the pressures of life to allow a spirit of worldliness to reduce their commitment to God and their worship had become mere formality. Because of this attitude they had also allowed the sins and vices of their world to enter into the heart of their faith. I have written about Malachi in another post but was drawn back because of a devotional I read in the Our Daily Bread. It was written by Pho Fang Chia and the verses it centered on are the basis of this blog.

There are only fifty-five verses in only four chapters, Malachi is the last book in the Old Testament. Malachi was the last of the Old Testament inspired prophets. When read in the context of a letter in one sitting and allowing the flow of his words to build on each other, it is remarkable he said so much in so few words. He certainly held nothing back. God through the prophet addresses his love for his people, and follows that with accusations against the Priests and the unfaithfulness of the people. He is a God of justice and then accuses them about the giving and use of the tithes. We are all at one time or another discouraged when we see all around us the injustices of life and that many times those responsible are left to prosper. Malachi 3: 13-15 says this better than I…..

13 “You have spoken arrogantly against me,” says the Lord. “Yet you ask, ‘What have we said against you?’
14 “You have said, ‘It is futile to serve God. What do we gain by carrying out his requirements and going about like mourners before the Lord Almighty? 15 But now we call the arrogant blessed. Certainly evildoers prosper, and even when they put God to the test, they get away with it.’”
Malachi paints a picture of the righteous and the wicked, it is when we reach chapter 4 in verses 2 – 3 that we are given a reason to stand firm in the faith and in verse 4 a reminder of what God expects of his people.

Malachi 4
4 [a]“Surely the day is coming; it will burn like a furnace. All the arrogant and every evildoer will be stubble, and the day that is coming will set them on fire,” says the Lord Almighty. “Not a root or a branch will be left to them. 2 But for you who revere my name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its rays. And you will go out and frolic like well-fed calves. 3 Then you will trample on the wicked; they will be ashes under the soles of your feet on the day when I act,” says the Lord Almighty.
4 “Remember the law of my servant Moses, the decrees and laws I gave him at Horeb for all Israel.

Poh Fang Chia in his devotional speaks to a fear that many Christians share but never really talk about. Being different, fearing we will lose out if we don’t blend in. He asks …. How can we stand firm for God in a culture that tells us we will lose out if we don’t blend in? Malachi answers that question in this way in 3: 16-18

16 Then those who feared the Lord talked with each other, and the Lord listened and heard. A scroll of remembrance was written in his presence concerning those who feared the Lord and honored his name.
17 “On the day when I act,” says the Lord Almighty, “they will be my treasured possession. I will spare them, just as a father has compassion and spares his son who serves him. 18 And you will again see the distinction between the righteous and the wicked, between those who serve God and those who do not.

The Lord heard his people (v-16), God notices and cares for all who fear and honor Him. We are not called to fit in but to draw closer to Him each day as we encourage each other. (Poh Fang Chia) Malachi is also unusual in that we read a conversation , if you will, between God and the people. The thing I take away from these verses is that God will recognize those who stand firm in the faith, we are never alone or forgotten.

Standing Firm in the faith means we will be different, we may not fit in with the norms of the day but He has promised that we will be His special possession in the great day of the Lord.

Thanks for joining us in the pew this week

Life is Good

jk

The Nieuwhof Dossier

I have written often how I am always looking for interesting items to bring into the Pew and this week trolling through Facebook I found one. A pastor I greatly admire shared a blog that I found to be interesting and timely. I introduce to you Carey Nieuwhof. He is the founding and teaching pastor of Connexus Church north of Toronto Canada. His web address is ( https://careynieuwhof.com ) and I encourage you to take the time to go there. He has for the past three years started the New Year off with a series on Disruptive Church Trends to look for in the coming year. Starting with 2016 and following up with ’17 and ’18 he has listed a total of eighteen of these trends for these three years. In my blog October 17 of this year I wrote about “The Culture Trap” that the church seems to have fallen victim to. Mr Nieuwhof does not despair at the church of today and certainly does not play the gloom and doom card. Again, it’s worth taking the time to read his blog. “From The Pew……” is just that, a layman writing about things people in the pew talk about or I perceive to be a point of interest. With that in mind join me as I share a layman’s view of the church today.

The digital world we live in today allows us information on most anything we wish to examine or learn and you can bury yourself in polls, numbers and opinions, which you find to support your position. These thoughts are mine sitting here in the pew. First of all there is no doubt in my mind that what drives the church today, is the culture it inhabits. Why do you suppose that is? I find Mr. Nieuwhof comment from his 2016 Blog to be reasonable.

“Irrelevance happens when change inside the church is slower than the change outside the church.”

All churches today are struggling to remain relevant in a world that is consumed with the acquisition of “stuff”and being a part of “what’s happening”. Church has become a matter of convenience. Gone are the days of the simple church play, choir presentations and the special services we are accustomed to at the holidays and other religious observances. The larger the church is the larger the presentation. They take on the presence of a professional production. My next statement is an observation of mine not necessarily the norm, you be the judge. People today want to be entertained, the norm is not what they are looking for. This attitude carries over into their expectations toward worship. “Mega Churches” are pointed out as an example of the power of good programs that draw the people in and a great Pastor with an amazing vision of the future of how to “do church”. It is rare when you hear the question “is it a Gospel preaching church?” Most often the questions are about the services offered. Do you have nursery, is there pre-school, what about a family life center? These are just a few of the questions and seldom do I hear concerns or questions about the biblical beliefs or positions of doctrinal beliefs. Truth is, one of the trends of recent years has been less of a denominational relationship and more of a “what do you offer” in services that work for my family. Here is an interesting point offered by Mr. Nieuwhof. “Consumer Christianity Will Die Faster Than Ever, if your church is still defined by what you ‘offer’ members, the clock is ticking faster than ever.” That is from his blog at the first of 2017.

He also mentions several distractions that compete with church. I mention youth sports programs because I have personally seen that up close and personal. Many Sunday mornings as we drove to church we would pass by the local high school’s sports complex. In the season many a time there would be a game being played and to be fair, these were make-up games that were scheduled to cover weather related cancellations. Mid-week services or special classes were low in attendance because of school related activities or team practices or even special social or organization meetings. Before we move on please take note that I am not judging any of these things but I do acknowledge that they have an effect on “doing church” so to speak. Here’s another little nugget from the “Trend shelf” and is in my opinion a big one. Engagement:
“Only The Most Engaged And The Curious Will Attend, church leaders, if you want to raise attendance, raise engagement”.

I might offer a different way of saying that. Get into the teaching of the gospel , seek engagement of people to the power of the Holy Spirit and living a Holy life.

I am from the old school and admittedly set in my ways but I have come to the opinion that the church has to find a way to engage the culture of connivence that marginalizes today’s church. We must create an environment that gives people a reason “to do church”. We need to remove the convenience factor and replace it with a desire to be part of the mission to bring the gospel to all people.  I don’t agree with all of what Mr. Nieuwhof writes but I think his thoughts are worthy of serious consideration. If we don’t change inside, to go outside with a purpose and a plan that fits today’s needs, we will fail to fulfill The Great Commission.

Here is a thought I hope you will consider. Change is necessary in the way we “do church” but it should never change the intent of God’s word to fit the culture of the day.

Life is Good
jk

What Will you Do……..When It’s You Turn In The Garden?

I can’t explain why in this season of great joy I would bring into the Pew such a question but it is worth pondering a bit. Most of us think of two things when we hear the word garden in biblical writings. There is the “Garden of Eden” where the trust and relationship between man and God was broken. Then of course there is the “Garden of Gethsemane” we read of in Mark 14: 32-42, where Jesus, in total obedience to the Father, chose to stand and not run from the Father’s will. Thus the crucifixion, the resurrection and the process of the restoration of the relationship of the people with the Father through the mercy, grace and acceptance of Jesus Christ as the Messiah, the Son of God.

Two things we might consider at the first of these verses. The first being that to have stayed in the upper room would have been dangerous because the authorities would be looking for him along with the fact that Jesus knew what Judas was going to do, he needed a safe place to go. The safest place would be anywhere outside the city. This was no ordinary garden and because Judas knew where to find Jesus it is apparent that Jesus was in the habit of going there. Because the city had a weird law that its sacred soil might not be polluted with manure for the gardens, many wealthy people maintained private gardens outside the city to get away from the crowds and just rest. One of these wealthy people must have given Jesus the privilege of using his garden at night. There were two things that Jesus wanted on this night. He took his disciples with him because he wanted human fellowship and even more the time to fellowship with God. The agony of Jesus at this time was intense. When you are in times of trouble and uncertainty do you not want human fellowship and most of all to be close to your God?

As we continue through these verses we know that Jesus did not want to die, he was still a young man and there was so much more to be done in this world so full of sin; we also would be mistaken to think that Jesus did not know of the pain and shame of the crucifixion. How many times have you been in a situation in which you had to compel yourself to go on? At this point Jesus did not fully understand why and there are times I am sure that all of us have wondered why things in our life had to be a certain way, but knew we had to go on. Here is a lesson we who call ourselves Christian can learn from. Although he did not fully understand his Father’s will, he knew it was the will of his father. He accepted it and then with faith, continued on.

So some questions to for all of us. Where is our garden? Can we go there and in fellowship with others find God, seek his will and then follow in faith that which he has asked of us? Here is a quote from William Barclay’s Daily Bible Study.

“If we can call God father everything becomes bearable. Time and again we will not understand, but always we will be certain that ‘The Father’s hand will never cause his child a needless tear.’ That is what Jesus knew. That is why he could go on – and it can be so with us. “ (William Barclay, DBS, Mark page 401)

What about you? When you are in the garden, what will you do?
Will you stand and do the Father’s will…….or will you run?

Life is Good

jk

 

Drop The Blanket

I have gone back and pulled a post from January 2017. Great message and one of my favorites.

From The Pew

I am constantly 28973-linusdropsblanketsearching the internet for little gems of knowledge and wisdom that will enrich and encourage us ordinary folks whose frantic pace in this life causes us to rush by without even taking the time to “smell the coffee” so to speak. Well over fifty years ago we were introduced to the world of Charlie Brown. Charles Schultz created a community of loveable misfits each with their own recognizable frailties’ of mind, body and spirit, in which many of us saw a part of ourselves in the characters and took this lovable bunch into our hearts. Unlike some of the modern animated cartoons of this day the brilliance of Charles Shultz shows us our faults in a gentle and endearing way. Charlie Brown also helps us see the real value of community, the need we have for others and the power of a simple love that transcends the…

View original post 385 more words

Philippians 4: 8-9… Way Out Of The Chaos Of this World?

We could all use a little good news these days in a world changing rapidly moving from one set of normal to another and chronicled by the diversity of this digital world we live in. We live in a time of smoke and mirrors, things are never what they seem but are often a picture painted by a world of spin doctors, painted to fit their agenda. If that isn’t enough what is considered truth is only good till the next telling of the story.
In the verses that make up chapter 4 in Philippians there has been a dispute that has apparently disrupted the fellowship within the church. Christians are to remain strong in the faith by fellowship with each other and solving our problems or differences by working together. Paul is encouraging them to do just that. Prayer, supplication and giving thanks in all things, helps us to deal with the anxiety through the peace of God through Christ. It is a fact of life that if we think about something frequently and long enough we soon will not be able to stop thinking about it. Our actions and our demeanor will reflect our concerns and we will be overwhelmed by the concerns of this world. The truth is the mind will always set itself on something. Let’s take a close look at these two verses from Philippians Chapter 4.

We know that there are many things in this world that can let us down, promising things which can’t be delivered and offering false hope to gain peace of mind. Verses 8 – 9, Chapter 4, Paul offers us a list of things that we as Christians should dwell on, things that lift us up and give us peace. He starts off with the word Truth. The Greek is hard to translate and some versions of our bibles use honest and honorable as a means being worth the time to consider. There are things that are questionable both morally, or are not dignified in content in such a way that warrant serious consideration. There are people in this life that don’t take life seriously and it is not our place to judge them. Paul is simply saying there are things of worth that we as Christians should set our minds on.

Paul then uses the word Just, the Greek word being dikaios. The short way to this is that Paul is pointing out that a Christian’s thoughts should be on their duty to other people and God. He then moves on to things which are Pure. The Greek meaning, morally uncontaminated. Barclay points out that when used ceremonially it means that which is so cleansed it is fit to be brought into the presence of God and used in his service. This world is filled with things that are morally questionable. This filth and smut taints may things we encounter every day. The Christian mind should be set on those things that can stand the scrutiny of God. The next word is Lovely. Think of those things that bring forth love for each other and those things God finds pleasing in his eyes. I find William Barclay’s writing in DBS to say it best.
“There are those whose minds are so set on vengeance and punishment that they cause bitterness and fear in others. There are those whose minds are so set on criticism and rebuke that they bring out resentment in others. Christians set their minds on the lovely things – kindness, sympathy, patience – so they are winsome people, whose presence inspires feelings of love. “
There is so much hate and ill-will in the world today that does nothing to lift people up. Christians should concentrate on words and actions that are pleasing to God’s ears and eyes, only those things that are fit to be in his presence. There is so much in these two verses that it is good that we linger here among those things that Paul reminds us are worthy of our thoughts.

The language of today that has become all to common in our communications with each other and often on our minds are ugly, false and impure thoughts and words, that are not words that are fit for God to hear. We should realize that there are many good things in this world that deserve praise and have value. Paul closes with a simple request. While Christians do not seek praise, they should always live a life that would be worthy of such. All things are to be done to the Glory of God. So take the time to dwell on “…those things which are true, whatever things have the dignity of holiness on them, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are winsome, whatever things are fair-spoken, if there are any things which men count excellence, and if there are any things which bring men praise, think of the value of these things. Practice these things which you have learned and received, and heard and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you.”

As we prepare for the birth of Jesus let us make every effort to think good things, and prepare ourselves that we might be worthy of such a gift.
Life is Good
jk
Note: Reference material for this blog is taken from The Daily Bible Study, written by William Barclay.