A Hard Love … A Brighter Side

This week we continue in Hebrews starting in verse nine. This is the only   time in this letter that Paul addresses the people as beloved and it comes after a stern warning in verses 4-8. We all have heard of or perhaps experienced “tough love”. It is far better to speak the truth than being hurt by not doing so. It is even more important to love so strongly that you take a risk to protect those things and people you love. We need to note here that the writer is not speaking to a mass or even grouping them together, he is in his love for them expressing a desire that as individuals they hear the truth. The writer sees them as individuals of worth and worthy of God’s love.  There is a message here that applies to all of us. There are times the fire burns low, we began to fall away. Maybe the church services aren’t speaking to us, we are not receptive to the Sunday school teachings and maybe the music does not speak to us, in such times we have two alternatives. We can give up our worship and service and risk being lost and without hope, or the other alternative is to continue on in our service and faith because christian values and habits will return the joy to us once more.

Here we find something wonderful and important to the faith. Paul tells us to imitate those who have passed this way before us, noting that their faith and patience enabled them to inherit the blessings and rewards of faith. Scripture tells us of others and the results of such behavior of those,“before you and they have won.” We, you and I are to be an example to others. They are not treading a path where no others have been, they and we are treading a path where saints have tread. These next verses 13-20 concern the promise God made to Abraham. God made many promises to Abraham but one he made, followed by an oath is of great importance to the church today. From the DBS we find this: “the promise was to the Christian Church, for the Church was the true Israel and the true seed of Abraham.”  Just as Abraham never wavered from his hope and trust in God’s promises, we also must be of patient and trust in God. The writer of Hebrews lays out a path of hope and presents the underlying foundation that we as Christians processes the greatest hope in the world. There was a time that only certain people could pass that veil into the presence of God, but because of what Jesus did God became assessable to all who called upon the name of his Son, Jesus Christ.

This brings us to the end of chapter six and ends on a reference to the high priest Melchizedek. In the future we will look at Melchizedek in an expanded study. Next we move on to other things, join us here in the Pew as we continue to share a layman’s view of the Scripture. Hope to see you here next week.

Life is Good

jk

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Stern Warning … Surrounded By Hope

Welcome to the Pew, open your bibles to Hebrews 6:4, we start our study with these next few verses. Some have the opinion that these verses, (4-8) should be considered as one of  the most terrible passages in scripture. Who can possibly say that another person is beyond the forgiveness of God? That is one of the challenges of the verses we will read through this week. We will add a new word to our layman’s vocabulary, apostate, look at the word enlightened from a New Testament perspective and read words of warning that are surrounded by hope.

There is a pattern here familiar to Hebrews: a stern warning vv. 4-8, followed by words of encouragement and hope, vv. 9-12. One commentary notes an unusual point in that in the preceding unit vv. 1-3 there are words of encouragement. This produces the effect of a warning surrounded by positive and affirming words, which in this context makes vv. 4-8 stand out even more. To add to the difficulty of these verses they are not to taken as a description of the current condition of those to whom this is being addressed; if it were, these people would not be able any longer to hear it. The intention is that would be their fate should they turn their backs on the faith.

We must not let the word impossible become the center of the message being given here. There is an alternative here to not let the enlightenment of baptism be taken from us by the sins of the world. There is a list of good things that this enlightenment brings to a Christian life. Christians have the free gift of the forgiveness of God, they have the Holy Spirit, whose presence and power will guide and enable them to be good stewards of the Gift. In God’s word they have found the truth and meaning of life. They remind us that Christians are having the opportunity to experience now the blessings of living in a faith centered world, they have been given a foretaste of the joys of eternity. Then, without warning comes the warning … there are those who will reject all this and in times of hardship, they will become Apostates, those who rejected the faith and will find it impossible to renew their repentance. These verses lay upon the heart the unbelievable possibility that those who have fallen away, can never find their way back to God’s all forgiving love. Many of the commentaries I have read about these verses try to find a way around this word impossible. Erasmus, a Dutch reformer preferred the sense that it should be taken as being difficult almost to the point of impossibility. Then we have the writing of the German scholar Johannes Bengel, that what might seem impossible for us was possible for God’s mercy and grace. Bible and scripture study always leads us to the footprints of history left by those who walked in the day. It is an historical fact that this was written in an age of persecution and therefore apostasy would be the supreme sin. There is another thought that is disturbing also here in these verses. Throughout all history and in times of persecution people have always denied or turned away from something to save their lives, even to the point of denying Christ. To bring this a little closer to home, how many times have we denied or let slide our Christian values and faith because of relationships in family, job or just those around us? Could we as has been suggested, counted our lives and comfort dearer to us than Jesus Christ?

These verses are perhaps a condemnation of those who love life more than they do Christ. Most all writings concerning these verses agree that they were not intended to be built up into a doctrine that professes no forgiveness for post-baptismal sin. It should make us aware of the serious nature and intent of baptism, an enlightenment that says we choose loyalty to Christ over those things of this world. These first few verses presents an impossibility, There are three others in this letter to the Hebrews. Next week we will read through verses 9-12. It is impossible for God not to love, forgive and have mercy on you…. But without faith it is impossible to believe.

Come back next week,

Life is Good

jk

Back To Hebrews …… Immersion and Other Things

We pick up this week in Hebrews 6 1:1-3. People were coming to the church from all different directions. There were those that believed in one of the many deities of the day, some who had no religious affiliation of any kind and baptism was the means of reception into the Church and confession of faith. There was a book of instruction written about AD 100 called Didache, The Teaching of the Twelve Apostles. It contained instructions about living a Christian faith and Christian life. This is written about baptism, I am inserting those written remarks here. 

Concerning Baptism, baptize in this way. When you have instructed the candidate in all these things, baptize in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit in running water. If you do not have running water, baptize in any other kind of water. If you cannot baptize in cold water, baptize in warm. If both of these are unobtainable, pour water three times upon the head of the candidate in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Before baptism, let him who is to baptize and him who is to be baptized fast, and let any others who can do so do the same. You must bid him who is to be baptized to fast for two or three days before the ceremony.’

Using this early writing we see that baptism in the early church, if possible, was by immersion. It shows that there was a period of instruction and indicates that those who wished to become part of the church have been instructed in the way of Christian faith and life. It also sets forth alternatives should total immersion not be possible. There is a period of personal preparation that is to be considered. There is another interesting thing here. In the early days of the church no one, in the words of one commentary “ no one slipped into the Church without knowing what they were doing.”  In some ways I think we don’t communicate the importance and the responsibilities of living a Christian faith and life and the fact that it is a bit more than just church membership. You must now go on to build a stronger life based on your faith in Christ. As we noted last week you must go on to perfection, having a firm foundation never look back, press on in the faith. Another point of interest was the practice of the laying on of hands and in the early church it always accompanied the baptism as the way the Holy Spirit was conveyed to those just baptized. Christianity has always dealt with immortality and righteous living, thus there is the resurrection, the forgiveness of sins, a reason to live a Christ like life. You could say that as a Christian your life from the day you accepted Christ has been one of Christian judgement. Christian judgement will never let us forget that the day will come that we at the end of this life must face God. The judgement of God is far more important than what other people think of us.

Next week we will move on to verses 4-8 in Hebrews 6. Please read these verses and prayerfully consider their meaning. See you in the Pew next week.

Life is Good

jk

The New Year and The Necessity Of Progress

We start the new year off with Chapter 6 of Hebrews and a reminder that we have a responsibility as people of the Faith to grow and learn that which we are charged by our Lord and Savior to do. There must be progress in the Christian life. Just as a builder lays a good foundation, he moves on to other aspects of the build to ensure its completion. The word used by the writer of Hebrews translates from the Greek to perfection.

Philo. … 50 CE), also called Philo Judaeus, was a Hellenistic Jewish philosopher who lived in Alexandria, in the Roman province of Egypt. Philo used philosophical allegory to harmonize Jewish scripture, mainly the Torah, with Greek philosophy.’  (*1)

Philo divided his students into three groups. There were those just beginning, those who were making progress and those beginning to reach maturity. This is often referred to as going on to perfection. We must not allow ourselves to be mislead by this use of the word perfection. We know or should be aware of the fact that we will never reach perfection in this life. Most commentaries agree that what the writer is more concerned with here is the aspect of maturity, giving us two things to consider.

-He equates it to something to do with the mind. As we grow older we should have by this time thought out some things in life and be better able to articulate our faith in Jesus and why we believe he is the Son of God. We should have a deeper understanding of the importance and significance of the Christian faith and living as a disciple of Christ.

-He means it has something to do with life. Our lives should reflect Christ more and more as we seek to remove the spiritual faults and striving for a more virtuous life. There should be in our lives a spiritual peace that can be seen by those around us. We must continue to build upon the foundation of faith and share that faith with a maturity gained in reflective study of God’s word.

We are only into the first three verses of this chapter and the intensity of the writer can be experienced in the words he puts to the paper. There are some basic teachings of the early Church revealed in these verses. The repentance of sins is a major event in the early christian life. Putting aside those things that separate us from Christ, a literal change to how we live life. There is a faith that looks to God. Our actions are determined not by the actions of others but by the will of God as  given by the discernment of the Holy Spirit. Then there is the teachings about washings. Simply put, Christians must know what baptism really means. I am going to stop here and pick up next week with some things about baptism that are extremely interesting concerning the many different methods employed in the Christian church today. We will look at the biblical explanation of this very important step on our journey to perfection. Please join us in the Pew next week.

Life is Good

jk

Sources .   (*1) Wikipedia      DBS/Barclay  

Faith Of Our Fathers

It has been full evening, Christmas Eve services and dinner and gifts with Pat, Amy and Steve. It is hard to believe that I have been around for seventy-six of them. I can remember back in the day, way back, standing in the backyard at my grandmother’s house, looking up at the sky and wondering if Santa would be able to see the house with all these trees around it. I don’t remember when I first figured out about Santa and the connection between him and my parents, you just knew, nobody told you, it just suddenly happened. Just like girls and the fact that boys never got the connection with them, they just suddenly happened to be there and you never gave it a thought as to why you had always avoided them. Continuing in that vein of thinking I wonder why some of us suddenly become aware of Jesus Christ, after all he has always been there and unlike other things, he will always be there. I always believed Santa would come and my dad being a career military man, we weren’t always in the same place every Christmas. I never doubted for a minute that Santa would not find us wherever we were. I guess you might say that was my first exposure to faith. As young as I was I don’t know if I even understood what that meant. Even though we moved often it never kept my mother from keeping us in church. As the years went on I would gain a little more faith and that word began to insert itself into my life at a greater frequency . I don’t know why but as hard as it might be to believe I really did not hear it that much in church. My first real experience with faith left me with the knowledge that I was missing something and perhaps I needed to look that word up. My revelation came as I took my position at right tackle in the ninth grade, on a practice field in Texas. I believe a country band once had a song about “having a fiddle in the band if you want to play in Texas”. Well, if you’re not from Texas and you weigh 150 pounds, you have to have faith that the 185 pound tackle across from you, who has been playing football from the day he could walk will not get off the count before you make a pathetic attempt to block him. I had my faith tested many times but it was a while before I realized that it was my faith that made me stand in that gap, I always believed I could do it.Time after time my faith said I could do it but the result was not always to my liking. What brought me to think about this thing called faith on this Christmas Eve?  It is the perfect time to ponder the question of faith. Think about it. Mary is a virgin and yet she has conceived a child, her husband Joseph is confronted by an Angel and puts aside conventional customs, honoring the betrothal and they journey to Bethlehem which just happens to fill the prophecy of the scriptures. There in a manger, with a star to mark the place of birth the Son of God is born and the heavens are alive with the praises in song and word, honoring the birth of Christ. So begins God’s reconciliation to his people.

Faith can often be an elusive thing in the secular world. It is difficult when you realize that  having faith means understanding that you have no control, what will be, will be. Add to that the mistaken belief of some of your peers that there is a greater power, whether it be a God, the universe, or just karma that controls your destiny and you might start think you will need a bigger boat. Hebrews Chapter 11, what I call the faith and hero’s chapter states very plainly ….Hebrews 11:1  Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. You can’t get much plainer than that. Faith is also complete trust or confidence in someone or something, for the Christian that person is Jesus Christ. Christians are encouraged through scripture …Corinthians 16:13 ‘Keep alert, stand firm in your faith, be courageous, be strong.’ To have a relationship with God and Jesus you must have faith. You have to transcend the things of this world and value the things promised, believe the Word even those things unseen and have the conviction that what we believe in faith will come to pass, then faith becomes something real and a part of our lives that we now possess in its entirety. It is the assurance that a God given faith will overcome the things of this world, an overcoming faith that only a believer can possess. 1 John 5:5 Who is it that overcomes the world? Only the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God. It is taking God at His Word.

So as we celebrate the birth we might ask ourselves, does faith abide within our hearts or in the lights and presents and the seasonal celebrations we value so much. I hope you have had a wonderful time with family and the New Year brings you the Good News and may the FAITH of our fathers abide with you always.

Life is Good

jk

Drop The Blanket

My favorite Christmas Post. I also will be Posting a new blog this evening on fromthepewblog.com

From The Pew

**I am Re-Posting this blog. This is one of my favorites and it is brilliant. Have a wonderful Christmas Day and may God bless you and yours in the New Year to come. “From The Pew” will return January 20, 2019.

Drop The Blanket

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Sunday

Jan 2017

Posted by John Kurt Carpenter in Uncategorized

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I am constantly searching 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…

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Beyond The Words, A Time of Reflection

We have become so causal in our reception of this story of the birth of Christ that that the words have become just a marker or part of the seasons events as we make our way to the tree and the presents. The wonder of what happened that night so long ago is celebrated in song, candle light services for some of us and for some a Christmas Eve Mass and then the rush to gather round the tree and open presents. I wanted to move beyond the traditions and rote of the season to look a bit closer at the events leading up to the birth and the Angels in heaven as they celebrated “to you this day is born” and the humility of the Shepherds  as they stood watching over their sheep. I will turn to Luke’s account of this night of nights, Luke 2: 1-20.

First thing, over the years there has been some question as to the validity of the edict concerning the census. I use a reference from the DBS page 25 which is an actual government edict from that time and reads as follows:

Gaius Vibius Maximus, Prefect of Egypt orders: ‘Seeing that the time has come for the house-to-house census, it is necessary to compel all those who for any cause what- soever are residing outside their districts to return to their own homes, that they may both carry out the regular order of the census, and may also diligently attend to the cultivation of their allotments.’

This is important to the story because it another instance where increased knowledge shows the accuracy of the New Testament. It is understood that even in this time the old tribal ancestries still required men to go the headquarters of their tribe for all such things as well as religious duties. This important detail adds creditability to why Joseph and Mary undertook such an arduous journey at this time in her pregnancy. The journey would not be an easy one and the path of their route would expose them to temperatures as low as thirty degrees at night. The distance they traveled was about eighty miles and accommodations for travelers was primitive at best. I don’t want to burden this blog down with too much information but it is necessary to paint a picture in our minds other than Joseph, the donkey and Mary on a dirt road. The accommodations would be an ordinary eastern Khan which was a series of stalls opening off a common courtyard. So here in this common courtyard Mary’s child was born amid the chaos and usual sights and sounds of a manger. Manger translated means a place where animals feed.  Travelers provided their own food and there would be fodder for the animals and a communal  cooking fire, we need not burden ourselves with the numerous details that over the years have become associated with this moment. Again from the DBS is this little gem. That there was no room at the inn is perhaps symbolic of the fact that even now in this world today there is no room for his entry into the hearts of people around him. It is sad to admit that his rejection goes on even today. The child would have been placed on a square piece of cloth and then a long bandage like strip running diagonally off one corner would be wound around him. There were no special arrangements made and the Son of God, he who would reconcile the people to the Father, the bringer of salvation for all came among the people in a most ordinary way, subject to the elements of the day, fulfilling the prophecies as written and the world would never be the same.

As we read on the sounds of familiar hymns play out their stories in our minds and visions of Angels are seen before us as the heavens rejoice. The shepherds in the field have a story to tell also. They were despised by the good orthodox people because they were not able to keep the details of the ceremonial law. There job required their complete attention to the care and safe guarding of the sheep. They could not always observe all the rules like the hand washings, prayer before bed or when first rising in the morning, they had no regular schedules as the flocks made constant demands on them. To these simple men the message came first as they labored in the fields. There is a possibility or in all likelihood, that these were very special shepherds, most likely these were the flocks which were pastured close to Bethlehem. Because it was required to offer an unblemished lamb in the morning and evening it would be necessary to have the flocks close by and they were the private property of the Temple authorities. It was also a custom that when a boy was born musicians would gather at the home to greet the birth with simple music. Jesus was born in a stable in Bethlehem, there was no way for this custom to take place…but the angels sang the songs, all of the heavens rejoiced as the Son of God came among us. We today have the privilege of raising our voices in praise of he who came among us seeking no special privileges, to live as we live and to offer the gift of salvation, forgiveness of our sins and a fuller life for all God’s people.

May you raise your voice in praise, fall on your knees and know the wonder of this night, beyond the tree, lights and presents.

God Bless, Life is Good

jk

The Value of Bridging The Gap

There is the fact that society’s values are in an ever-changing mode. Because of the many means of communication available to us today that change happens much quicker. The haste to comply, accept, or find ways around these changing values is proving to be a difficult task for the church. We, society and our changing culture tend to bring this issue of values down to one or two, focus on them, not seeing an overall vision for society, in short we focus on those issues we hold personally acceptable. We tend to believe that values are a personal thing and are restricted to a specific group, which in turn leads us to the acceptance that there is a natural gap between community life and life within the community of faith, the church. We lose sight of the fact that it is our responsibility as Christians to bridge that gap and take to society what the church has to offer. When we speak of values exactly what does that word mean. The dictionary gives this answer to the meaning of personal values as a person’s principles or standards of behavior; one’s judgment of what is important in life.

The gap we are looking at is the one between the church community and society. Like all things in this era of digital enlightenment nothing is ever simple. Just a side thought to this is that perhaps we have become so dependent on this world of digital enlightenment we forgot how to think things through, just put it in and press enter. I did just that to get a definition of the word values. Wasn’t all that bad and I settled on this one.

‘Basic human values refer to those values which are at the core of being human. The values which are considered basic inherent values in humans include truth, honesty, loyalty, love, peace, etc. because they bring out the fundamental goodness of human beings and society at large.’There is that word toward the end of the paragraph that is what I refer to as an influencer. The word society makes the task of the church difficult because the concept of society is so viable as to content it is hard to access it as anything other than confusingly inclusive.

Here is a definition of society: ‘society is a group of individuals involved in persistent social interaction, or a large social group sharing the same geographical or social territory, typically subject to the same political authority and dominant cultural expectations.*

 Let me add to the paragraph above this little caveat. Social values are a set of moral principles defined by society dynamics, institutions, traditions and can be influenced often by cultural beliefs. Consider this…  Social values form an important part of the culture of the society. … They provide the general guidelines for social conduct. Values such as fundamental rights, patriotism, respect for human dignity, rationality, sacrifice, individuality, equality, democracy etc. guide our behavior in many ways’**

 At this point it is clear that the gap is more than just a small divide or reasonable disagreement as to how we bridge this gap. Faith and good intentions requires works and that requires going outside the walls and being among people. Matthew, Mark and Luke gave us some direction. The charge has been given, the command has been received and it has been written…. We are to go out into all the world, share and teach what Jesus has taught us. Luke writes that we also must  preach repentance and remission of sins to the world in Jesus’ name, the same beginning at Jerusalem, in other words it starts at home. The values that create the gap are a reflection of what we teach at home to our families, within our church community and are the foundation of our faith. We have the power to influence the cultural influences that shape society by showing people a better way to live. If I were to list the first thing we must do to bridge the gap, it would be to restore the family. The destruction of family values and moral teachings has weaken the impact of faith based values in our country and allowed the impact and acceptance of cultural changes to set societies values and norms. Last week I focused on those Advent candles, Peace, Hope, Joy and Love, which were part of a paper written by Brian Edgar about the ‘Eight Core Christian Values’. The other four are grace, faith, service and justice. I am going to bring this weeks blog to a close looking at two of these last four, service and justice. A Christian perspective of justice puts many of us in a state of uncomfortableness. We all accept the fact that slavery in any form is wrong and justice would demand we not enable it in any way or accept it as having ever being right. The fact that so many people are hungry and without shelter in a nation of such wealth is an injustice. Christian justice demands that the weak and disadvantaged are cared for wether they deserve it or not. Simply put, we cannot apply the concepts or agreed values of society to do justice for those less fortunate among us. The grace, mercy and love of all people is God’s way and he calls on us to do the same. I encourage you to go to the scriptures and seek justice as defined by God. Closing out with service, and the thought that we should be able to do what suits me, my family or my group best is really opposite a biblical perspective. We as Christians are called to lay that notion aside and embrace the fact that service is giving of ones self that others might be saved. The laying aside of our needs to meet the needs of others. The putting aside a self-centered attitude and serving all humanity as Christ did when he died on that cross for all God’s people.

We can bridge that gap by showing the community what we have to offer in the way of improving our social and cultural community by sharing the values of our Christian community and going beyond the word and doing those things that matter to those in need. Knowing and doing God’s will is a wonderful thing but love without a hug is just a word. Thanks for being in the pew this week, come back, there is always room.

Life is Good

jk

* https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Society‘ 

**http://www.yourarticlelibrary.com/sociology/the-meaning-and-functions-of-social-values-sociology/8522

Behind The Candles

It is that time of year, “Tis The Season” a time of the year that family, friends and oddly enough people we don’t have a close relationship with can and do affect our lives. It is a time more than any other that cruelly empathizes the haves from the have nots. For many it is a time of great joy and families coming together but for others it is a time of stress brought about by family discord, financial worries and the memories of those who will not be around the table this year, just to name a few. This is also a time that the cultural pressures of the season overwhelm the “reason for the season”. This brings me to those candles, the ones that speak to Peace, Hope, Joy and Love. I am always looking for those little gems that can enrich our lives and I am not bashful to share them and the remarkable people who give them to us. Such is the case of  an article I found in the publication Evangelical Alliance Faith and Politics, Eight Core Christian Values, written by Brian Edgar, Director of Theology and Public policy for the Evangelical Alliance. I share with you some points he makes in the article, always remembering the Christian celebration of Advent prepares us for the birth of Jesus Christ and the beginning of the reconciliation of the creator to his people. It brings to us four core values of the season which are presented in the four candles that are part of the advent wreath.

Here then are some remarkable observations and expanded thoughts behind those candles from Brian Edgar.

PEACE

For many of us peace means an absence of war but taken in a biblical sense, there is a much broader concept to the word. Peace is the state of being at peace with our God, having positive interactions with other people, both secular and spiritual. There is for lack of a better word a material security and the understanding that also includes the realizations that this is a peace given of God through the gift of Jesus Christ to the world. There was at one time a Roman Peace known as paxromana which was established and maintained by force. We can mistake stability as peace but the truth is that no Christian should be complacent as long as injustice, greed and dissension are present.

HOPE

Contrary to popular thinking there is no guarantee that bad things won’t happen and sometimes positive thinking or looking on the bright side of life will not always work. Hope is knowing that Jesus Christ has gone on into the future for us and will always be there for us. Hope encourages us to not overlook the good of this life and it gives us the strength to take risks with an attitude of humility and a prayer of thanksgiving, knowing that God is still at work. There are so many situations that we will encounter in this life that will test our hope but we must always remember this. ‘May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him.’ (Rom. 15:13)

JOY

Here are some thoughts about joy.

-Joy is a quality of being and much more than just an emotion.

-It comes from being a part of God’s ministry in the world and from seeing lives being positively changed and relationships enhanced.

-Relationships are an important part of our experience in church society. We should celebrate with great joy the successes of our church family effort. 

-Joyfulness should mark the life of the Christian community and all relationships between Christians as they live and work together for the Lord. (‘Evangelical Alliance Faith and Politics, Eight Core Christian Values’ )

LOVE

The meaning of love is found in Jesus Christ. Our Lord’s unconditional love is the most powerful of all things and is extended to all of creation. There are many things in this life that bring fear and uncertainty to all people. They are fueled by destructive relationships and damaging situations that in turn make us defensive, distrusting and fearful thus keeping us from experiencing a God who is loving, giving and a source of strength. Love conquers all fears and enables us to extend God’s invitation to all to be transformed and saved.

I alluded to it a bit in the opening paragraph but just as a reminder it is also the season for compassion, a state of being that makes us conscious of others’ distress together with a desire to alleviate it. Join us again next week here in the pew.

Life is Good

jk

There Will Come a Day ……

…Therefore I will make the heavens tremble, and the earth will be shaken out of its place, at the wrath of the Lord of hosts on the day of his fierce anger’ (Isaiah 13:10–13).

In 2 Peter 3:10 we see Peter tie the OT picture of the day of the Lord with the NT picture of the second coming of Jesus Christ. Painting a picture with words was a staple of Old and New Testament writing. The concept of the second coming is in many ways difficult for many to understand or accept because there is the accountability factor to be considered. Many spend a life time avoiding or refusing to accept religion, faith or Jesus Christ into their lives but the truth is we cannot escape from the certainty of the entry of God into our own life experience. This week in the pew we will look at the moral dynamics, the certainty of that day, the avoidance of scripture pointing to it and the need for all Christians to have a firm foundation in the faith and to grow continually unto that day.

We will be looking at 2 Peter 3:11-18. Peter is interested in the moral condition of the people he is dealing with. When these things come to pass those who have sought to live a holy life will be judged righteous and fit to live in this new world. Those who have sought with all their minds and hearts to be righteous in his sight will be rewarded. As Christians we have the goal of preparing for the day of the Lord and our salvation. If there is nothing after death, life is taking us nowhere. The Gentiles of the day had no goal for this world or for individual life, you were born, lived and died … that was it. If we live a life with no goal other than death, then we develop an attitude that mirrors this ancient Greek or Roman epitaph. ‘I was nothing: I am nothing. So thou who art still alive, eat, drink, and be merry.’ Nothing matters much if the end of everything is just that … the end. Here we can appreciate Petter’s concern for the way people are living. When you have nothing to live for but just today there is a feeling of emptiness, of being lost and no self worth, the second coming is important, it is hope, it demands a certain amount of preparing with the goal being ready for the Lords Day. These people were living as if they were coming from nowhere on the way to nowhere. When we ignore the teaching about the second coming and the truth it preserves, that life is going somewhere is gone, then without that conviction there is nothing to live for. There is more in these first three verses. Peter allows that there are ways we can hasten the coming of Christ.

-The earnest prayers of Christians ‘your kingdom come’ (Matthew 6:10). Prayer opens our hearts to the coming of the King.

-Proclaiming the word throughout the world, everyone must know. Active evangelism can help hasten the coming of the King.

-Lastly we should remember penitence and obedience. The old Rabbis used to say , “it is the sins of the people that prevent the coming of the Messiah.” True penitence and obedience and the opening of our hearts to Christ will hasten the day we all look for.

In the next set of verses Peter warns of those who would distort the Scripture for their desires and he then closes this last set of verses with  reference to a firm foundation and continual growth. (2 Peter 3:15-18) A couple of thoughts here, Peter cites Paul as having the same thought as himself, that a pious and holy life is necessary in preparing for the coming of the Lord. Both Peter and Paul agreed that the fact that God withholds his final action is never to be used as an excuse for sinning but always as a means of repentance and the goal of reaching everyone with the word. Peter says, there are things in Paul’s writings that are hard to understand; there are things which people will use to benefit their way of living. Three things come immediately to mind.

-Paul’s doctrine of grace was being used as an excuse and even a reason for sin (Romans 6).

-Paul’s doctrine of Christian freedom was twisted into an excuse for unChristian behaviors. (Galatians 5:13).

-Paul’s doctrine of faith was twisted into an argument that Christian action was unimportant, as we see in James that way of thinking is wrong (James 2:14–26). 

Taking Christian truth and Holy Scripture and turning it into an excuse and even a reason for doing what they want to do instead of taking them as guides for doing what God wants them to do had become the norm of the day and unfortunately that is also the situation we in the Christian community are facing today. Peter closes in verses 3:17-18 with a warning and some instructions. Christians are people who are forewarned, they cannot plead ignorance.When you know what is right and do wrong you are under a double condemnation. Christians have a reason for life, which is rooted and founded in the faith.We should never cease to be aware that it is our duty of making our lives fit that belief. The Christian life is both a life with a firm foundation and at the same time a life which continues to grow outward and upward. Glory to Christ, Now and Forever ….

Life is Good

jk