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

The Methodist Church and A Need for Unmediated Divine Teaching

It is an ongoing saga that if past events hold true it will have no end. I am referring to the same-sex debates that have and are raging in the Methodist Church this very day and decades past. In conferences, annual and general, districts, small groups and regional, the number of meetings, resources and time devoted to this issue is staggering. The damage done and still being inflicted on the Church is taking a toll in our ability to “answer the call”. The saddest result of this ongoing train wreck is the amount of time and resources that could be better used sharing the word of God with all people, every where, every day. As I write this today I do so from a laymen’s view from the pew. I say to you up front that there is a certain amount of personal opinion in this weeks blog and like most opinion not to be taken as fact; opinion is not fact. I am using for reference material a two letters written in 1859 and 1860 by James Smith and also referencing The New Interpreter’s Bible. Let’s start with the NIB. Last week I shared with you some facts about Psalm 119. One of the interesting comments at the end of the Reflections section has remained with me all week. Psalm 119 does not encourage us to retreat to a narrow view of Scripture, such an action would make the Bible an idol. The writer of 119 recognized written forms as one source of God’s word but does not encourage us to limit our relationship with Him to just written sources. Being open to God’s word in other sources leads us to a greater understanding of the Scripture as the word of God. What follows that statement is what got my attention. While Scripture should be honored as a source of God’s revelation to us, pay close attention here, “it is always to be heard… in conversation with the theological tradition of the church and within the context of the contemporary place and time. Without such action God’s ability to speak to His people is anchored entirely in the past and there is no possibility of God’s continuing to reveal God’s self.” Many times the Bible is referred to as The Living Word, that which inspires, teaches and is the foundation of our faith. It is to be read, heard,  and proclaimed with an openness to the direction of the Holy Spirit. It is at this point we encounter unmediated divine teaching. That leads us to the question of who leads this Methodist Church to discern the word of God for our time and place?

Let’s start with the word unmediated, the simple meaning of which is, without anyone or anything intervening or acting as an intermediate. Next let’s look at the word divine. Simple definition would be, like God or of God. We could say that life’s distractions can keep us from discerning God’s divine will in our lives and the life of the church. The distractions and pressures from within and without the church concerning this issue are numerous and at times confusing. Now here is some of that opinion I wrote of earlier. One fact is that influence and time do change people over time and time is one of the most valuable assets of those who favor the changes to the Book of Discipline and the more progressive wing of the church. The pressure from outside groups has been unrelenting. Social justice warriors and the cultural changes that naturally occur overtime have increased the attention to the issue and if that is not enough, it seems the people in the pews lost their voices somewhere along the way some time ago. One other disturbing point has been the lack of leadership in regard to enforcing the laws of the church and speaking to the doctrine and church law as expressed in the Book of Discipline. One of the bigger things of this debate to emerge is the concern in regard to monies and properties. It’s kinda like a who gets what if we divorce thing. Like many of the others in the pew I just want to worship, praise and serve my God and my Church. That brings me back to the question of who leads this Methodist Church to discern the word of God for our time and place? One thing is for certain, if God is not in it then it will fail and that brings me to the only solution I believe will serve God and the Methodist Church. We are in dire need of Divine Teaching.

The Holy Spirit is the great teacher of the church and no one can teach like him. Our subject should be Christ, and to know Christ is life everlasting. What we have now matters, but then the little we do know will not meet our needs unless we know Christ. No one can learn to know Christ by himself — a teacher is necessary. It is our hearts, not our heads which need to be taught, and no man can get at the heart — thus a Divine teacher is necessary. That teacher, the Spirit is provided as promised by Jesus. “But the Comforter, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things.” John 14:26. The Apostle John, speaking of the Holy Spirit, as the anointing, says, “The same anointing teaches you.”

“As a teacher, the Holy Spirit . . . enlightens the darkened mind, shines on the truth to be taught, and so informs and corrects the judgment. The Holy Spirit, leads us directly to Christ; and the more we experience of his teaching, the more precious Christ becomes, and the more simple and entire is our dependence upon him.” (James Smith)

It does matter how we as the people in the pews, the leadership both organizational and in the Pulpit arrive at our decision. A Spirit anointed people have no need of painted signs, disrupting meetings, creating disturbances to hinder open discussions or any of the numerous distractions designed to confuse. Through the Spirit we will get to know ourselves by knowing the Savior better. We will be rewarded with practical results because the Spirit leads us to Christ. In the Spirit we will find great wisdom and we will be humbled by His grace as He teaches and informs us. We must assume an attitude of humility and bowing in prayer acknowledge that if we are not taught by the Spirit we are in a dreadful state, having no real understanding of ourselves. We need a saving acquaintance with the Lord Jesus. There should be a day when all the church comes together and on bended knee prays for the Spirit to give us the discernment needed to understand the Scripture as it applies in this day and is God will for his people and the Methodist Church.


“Teach me what I do not know.” Job 34:32

“Show me your ways, O Lord, teach me your paths; guide me in your truth and teach me!” Psalm 25:4-5

“All your children will be taught by the Lord, and great will be your children’s peace.” Isaiah 54:13.

May we come together and end this nightmare.

Life is Good       

jk

The Bible… At The Center

Psalms has been described by some as God speaking to his people and the people speaking to God. Psalms are one of the most read books of the Bible. They are quoted often in the New Testament writings and are a prominent part of church liturgy often quoted in many prayers and doctrinal statements. There are 150 psalms and they are divided into five books. We are going to go to Book 5 which includes Psalms 107 through 150. As the title above indicates we are going right to the center of the Bible. It has been said that Psalm 119 is at the very center of the Bible. There are those who dispute this, believing Psalm 118 to be that point. There is one fact about Psalm 119 that is undeniable, it is the longest psalm, 176 verses, nearly double the length of the longest psalm in the whole book and also we have to mention its curious composition. I wanted to be sure I got this right so here is an excerpt from John Gill’s commentary.

“It consists of twenty two parts, according to the number of the letters in the Hebrew alphabet; the names of which letters stand between each part; and every part consists of eight verses, all of which begin with the same letter: thus, for instance, the first eight verses begin with the letter א, “aleph”, and the second eight verses begin with the letter ב, “beth”, and so on throughout; hence the *Masorah calls this psalm the Great Alphabet. (*the collection of information and comment on the text of the traditional Hebrew Bible by the Masoretes. the Masoretic text of the Bible.) There are many reasons for this, a couple being to gain attention and the other being to help the memorizing of this psalm. Most all of the verses has something concerning the word of God as to precepts and ordinances and there are the use of words that convey that point; laws, statutes, judgements and testimonies to name a few. There is no mention of tabernacle worship or rites and ceremonies, leaving the impression that the whole design is to show the passion the psalmist had for the word of God, and to stir up the same in others. For this week we will look at the First Part verses 1-8.Psalm 119

Psalm 119    The Glories of God’s Law

Happy are those whose way is blameless,

who walk in the law of the Lord.

These are those who seek the straight and narrow way to salvation and eternal life. They walk in faith while others stumble, become prisoners of sin and turn a blind eye and deaf ear to the word of God. They value the commandants and ordinances of their God. They will be influenced by the love of God and strive to live to their God given ability to persevere enabled by His presence in their lives.

Happy are those who keep his decrees,

who seek him with their whole heart,

We should hold fast the faithful word of the Gospel, let no circumstances take it from us. We should be desirous of observing the law of God, obeying the ordinances of the Gospel, with love and faithfulness; doing so by prayer and supplication, with a true heart, and in sincerity seeking to know more of him. We must seek earnestly  our God and Christ, his kingdom and righteousness and the mercy and grace of his love for us. We must do so with our whole heart and mind.

3 who also do no wrong,

but walk in his ways.

None of us are free of sin or from the acts of sin that surround us each day. We will make mistakes from but that is not our desire or goal. We are not corrupt by nature and seek to walk in the ways of God and Christ. It is here we find good and happy people.

You have commanded your precepts to be kept diligently.

We sometimes overlook the fact that God did not ask this of us, he commanded that it be done. We should hold in high regard the precepts, commandments, statutes, and judgments of God because they were commanded by him. Repeat, there is no option or other choice.(Deuteronomy 6: 5 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.)

O that my ways may be steadfast in keeping your statutes!

The steps of those of the faith are directed by the Lord. Man’s mind, affections, and direction are the results of the guidance of the Spirit and grace of God. A good man knows that he alone cannot keep the statutes and remains steadfast in the way with God and Christ in his life. (Jeremiah 10:23I know, O Lord, that the way of human beings is not in their control, that mortals as they walk cannot direct their steps.)

Then I shall not be put to shame,

having my eyes fixed on all your commandments.

I shall no longer be afraid of God, instead there shall be a wondrous awe and need to speak of Him in the presence of others. I shall not fear His coming or the judgement, for I have salvation through Him. This promise is mine and I shall guard it by steadfastly continuing in the commandments not merely in the theory, but in the practice and experience of them, always seeking God’s will in my life.

I will praise you with an upright heart,

when I learn your righteous ordinances.

Psalm 9: 1-2

I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart; I will tell of all your wonderful deeds. I will be glad and exult in you; I will sing praise to your name, O Most High.

We can add very little to these verses from Psalm 9. We should note Verse 7 mirrors verse 6 to some degree. Here in verse 7 there is notice of the need to learn the precepts, to become proficient in them and to continue to utter forth the most sincere praise and thankfulness.

We finish this first section in verse 8.

 8 I will keep thy statutes,

O forsake me not utterly

The Psalmist admits here that he alone cannot possibly keep the statutes but was desirous of observing them in the best manner he could, as assisted by the grace of God.

I encourage you to read the entire Psalm 119 and you might consider making a visit to the Psalms a regular part of you personal worship plan. Here in Psalms you will find “the biblical vision of faithful folk from all times and places, gathered, as the psalmists of old, to acknowledge God’s reign by singing a new song.” (New Interpreter’s Bible, Volume 4, PG 675)

Glad to have you in the pew this week, come back, we are blessed and thankful for your presence.

Life is Good

jk

Membership Has Its Privileges

Crude way of saying that within the Christian fellowship and The Family of God there are privileges, referred to as blessings within the faith. To lead a christian life is difficult and requires a great deal of faith and perseverance. You will at times fail and sometimes the way back is not that easy. Today’s world has many hills to climb and every now and then a mountain to climb and the pressures of this life will bring about a certain amount of anxiety, depression and can overwhelm your faith. There are many ways to comfort those who we know to be facing these things in their life, the most common being a kind word, offer of help and one that I hear often, the quoting of scripture. One of the most quoted is from Philippians.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7).

You might say it is a family tradition, this comfort found within the word, of which there are according to my research at least 53 relevant verses. Something about this family thing you should know. When Christ died on the cross, was resurrected and ascended to heaven to sit on the right hand of the Father, you were, on the blood of our savior adopted into the Family of God. What does that mean? To us, all of us there is the gift of salvation and all the rights and privileges of the Family of God, it is our inheritance.

Psalm 69: 29

29 But as for me, afflicted and in pain— may your salvation, God, protect me.

The Bible refers to anxiety, but the word itself may not be found all that often. In the English Standard Version, it is used 8 times. In the New International Version, it is found 7 times. The King James Version does not use the word at all. Words often used in its place are trouble, heaviness, distress, and cares. There are many causes for anxiety and the severity of which will vary from person to person. Broken relationships, guilty conscience, unfilled desires and the list goes on. One primary reason is the weight of sin. All sin separates us from God and many times we forget the way back due to the weight that anxiety puts on us. We must learn to look to our God for restoration and forgiveness, remember it is a family thing. 

Psalm 68:20  Our God is a God of salvation, and to God, the Lord, belong deliverances from death.

As Christians we must recognize that there are times that more than words are needed.

Acts 3 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

One day Peter and John were going up to the temple at the hour of prayer, at three o’clock in the afternoon. And a man lame from birth was being carried in. People would lay him daily at the gate of the temple called the Beautiful Gate so that he could ask for alms from those entering the temple. When he saw Peter and John about to go into the temple, he asked them for alms. Peter looked intently at him, as did John, and said, “Look at us.” And he fixed his attention on them, expecting to receive something from them. But Peter said, “I have no silver or gold, but what I have I give you; in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, stand up and walk.” And he took him by the right hand and raised him up; and immediately his feet and ankles were made strong. 

Note here in this story from Acts that Petter reached out and physically took the man’s hand, assisting him to rise up. There will be times when more than just words will be needed to assist those for whom the anxieties of life have overwhelm their faith.

Matthew 6: 25-26                      NRS                            

25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 

Let’s take a moment and go beyond the words. Why would you not worry about your life in general? It would seem that food and clothing would be a natural. God gave us life and it should follow that he would provide us with the lesser things in life. We should also have the faith to believe that He who gave us life would also give us food to sustain that life and garments to clothe those bodies which He created for us. Verse 26 does not imply that the birds do not work hard for what they have but rather they do so not worrying about tomorrow. They do not waste precious time worrying about accumulating stuff for the future, God will provide.

Matthew 6: 32-34

32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

Anxiety destroys faith and in verse 33 we have a very specific command for living a Christian life. I will close with these verses from Philippians 4: 8,

Finally, beloved,  whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.

Life is Good  God is Great

jk

Christological Hymn

As we move on into chapter 2 let’s take a moment to review the past verses. Paul has asked the Philippians to live in harmony, to put aside their differences and to remove from their behavior personal ambitions, pride, and to not seek prominence and prestige at the expense of others. They must have in their hearts a humble, selfless desire to serve which he has put forth as the very essence of the life of Christ. Starting in Verse five he sets forth the example of Jesus Christ. It is important that we understand what is being put down here in Verses five through eleven. This is Paul’s final appeal to the Philippians and as I wrote above, he points to the life of Christ, no more powerful example is available.

The word within the word is Christology, which literally means “the understanding of Christ.” Within this Christological  Hymn is the study of the person Jesus Christ and his role in salvation. In the next few verses we have a record of Jesus Christ’s humanity and divinity, and the relationship between these two aspects; and the role he plays in salvation. Here we have a summary of the life and work of Jesus Christ while he walked among us. The divine nature of Christ that even existed before the incarnation. Paul proclaims the divine nature of Christ, even though he assumed the humanness of an ordinary man and his humble obedience to the Father, even to death on the cross.  We can get into a lot of theology here but we are better off leaving that to another time. This Hymn along with Paul to points toward Jesus as being the fulfillment of OT prophecies and Jesus, being the fulfillment of the promise of salvation for all.

We all know that phrase God is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow. I had never thought of what I am about to share with you but it was the crux of Paul’s plea to the Philippians. Look at Verse 6: Being in the form of God; he was by nature in the very form of God. For those of us who don’t know Greek, an old timer might say there is a wonderment of information and understanding here. In the Greek there are two words for form. They are both translated as form because there is no other English word that will fit, they both mean the same thing. The Greek word morphe ̄ is the essential form that never changes. Stay with me now. The other word sche ̄ma is the outward form which changes over time or due to circumstance. Paul presents for our consideration a truth of Divine revelation. Jesus being in the form of God is morphe ̄; that is to say, his unchangeable being is divine. However his outward sche ̄ma might alter, he remained in essence divine. Jesus Christ, the Son of God came among us as a man, walked among us as God incarnate, in appearance was the same as us,  assumed the form a servant and laid aside his sonship to reveal to us the glory, love and compassion of God. Paul charges us to not always think of ourselves but of others, not of our own glory but of the glory of God. I encourage you to read and allow the wonderful words of this hymn bring you closer to your savior. (Philippians 2:5-6)

Looking at this weeks verses from a layman’s view brings a new light on the time Christ walked among us. It is Paul’s fervent belief that the divinity of Christ never was put aside to spend time among the people. Jesus Christ put aside privilege and power to become a servant of the people, a means of salvation and reconciliation between the Father and his people. There is a great gift here … we too can be a way of salvation for those around us. Paul said ‘you must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had’. I do not know if it is possible to have the mind of Christ but I do believe that if we follow his example we can  at least be of one mind. Have a great Lord’s day, hope to have you back in the pew next week.

 Life is Good / God is Good

jk

Reference Material: Essay by Jaime Zarse.    Daily Bible Study / Barclay

Disunity….and The Church Today

This week we return to Philippians, starting in chapter 2: 1-4. Paul recognized many dangers that the church in Philippi would be facing but put the danger of disunity as a greater threat at that time. Most of us recognize disunity being brought about by disagreements among the membership which in turn is driven by egos, selfish agendas and directional desires. There is another type of disunity which in some cases can be hard to control. It can happen in a very healthy church. People on fire for the Lord, they are very protective of their beliefs, and they really matter to them. Their very enthusiasm leads to conflicts within the faith, becoming unwilling to respect the interests of others and so the seeds of disunity are spread. We start off a list of these causes with selfish ambition. We see this often in that a persons work is not directed toward the advancement of the work but toward their own advancement; this leading us to the next cause for disunity.

Recognition, the desire to be admired, respected, to have a seat at the table of decision and to have people seek our opinion. It is nice that people know your name, recognize you and on occasion offer you a flattering word. Consider this …. As with the Baptist, we must give way. Our goal should be to bring glory to the Father, our good work should elevate and glorify God. People need to see in us the wonder and goodness of our savior. It should be the Christian’s desire to focus people’s eyes on God.  To concentrate on self, when our goal in life is to be the best or do the best at the expense of others we find ourselves putting others down so that we may rise up.

Paul gives us five behaviors to consider as helping us to avoid the disunity, that fosters disharmony. When we walk with others in Christ, there can be no disunity. The very fact that we are walking with our Christian brothers and sisters keeps us in that unity of the spirit. The spirit will not walk where there is disunity. The power of Christian love should keep us in unity. God’s love for all people cannot be conquered. This love is not a matter of the heart but is result of the Spirit infused into us with the help of Jesus Christ. We must love all people, as required by our creator, it is the very essence of Christian life. We are bound by the Holy Spirit to love each other and all people. Where there is disunity the Spirit will not dwell. Compassion, sympathetic pity and concern for the sufferings or misfortunes of others, gives testimony  to the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. Paul brings these thoughts to an end by revealing a very personal appeal. If there is disunity in the church he loves so much, then there can be no happiness for him.  There will be no happiness for us in our Christian walk if we are not unified in the faith. There is great value in these words of Paul to the Christians of Philippi for they are not shared as a threat but spoken as an appeal of love and Christ like concern.

As with the previous chapter the first few verses of Chapter 2 have much to say to the church. The one thing that I find most disturbing is the disunity brought about by social and cultural changes. Yes, the church does have to adapt and the early church did just that. I do not want to editorialize the sharing of the word. So I will leave you with this thought. The church needs work harder at changing the world through the gospel, not allowing the world to change the gospel to fit its needs and agendas. Next week we will continue in Philippians Chapter 2.

Life is Good

jk

The Parousia … Part 2 False Prophets

There have always been false prophets and heretics, every generation will be visited by them. The Old Testament is full of stories about them and here the NT 2 Peter the second chapter we find Timothy dealing with a recurrence of such. We should be aware today church that they still appear from time to time. These people can do damage to the church and its teachings, can and have brought disaster on a nation by leading God’s people astray. These false prophets told people, what they wanted to hear, we see the same thing even today. We find in the OT in Jeremiah 6:14, Ezekiel 13:16 that even though the Lord God was saying there was no peace these false prophets were seeing visions of peace. Zedekiah because of his popularity was able to lead Jehosapht to a bad decision involving the Syrians that was a total disaster. False prophets always will tell people what they want to hear and not the truth they need to hear. We can continue to add character flaws to these false prophets but the important thing is to remember that these same things occur in the church today. They used the God’s word for personal gain, using religion as a money making thing, being desirous of others possessions, greedy and acquisitive individuals who preach and taught so to deceive and exploit people for their own ends. They were immoral in their own lives. Their lifestyles led people astray, their recklessness and total abandonment of Godly morals led people to evil ways. These false prophets more than any others drove the people away from their God and into a state of being separated from God by their sins. The characteristics of these false prophets are still the same in our world today. Isaiah relates how these false prophets smell of strong drink, they are confused by their overindulgence in wine(Isaiah 28: 7) Jeremiah said in reference to the prophets of Jerusalem whom he found to be committing adultery and lying, they have strengthened the hands of the evil doers and led the people astray. (Jeremiah 23: 14, 23:32) They presented a temptation to evil rather than an attraction to lead a holy life.  These are a few of the things that Peter finds difficult to accept. It is Peter’s thought and mission to destroy these prophets who are leading the people in the wrong direction. It is time for the church to stand in the gap, we can no longer accept such behavior because social convention deems it necessary to promote tolerance and inclusiveness, two words that have weaken the resolve of the church because the contextual meaning of such is misunderstood. Continuing in chapter 2 verse 1 Peter then addresses the actions of these false prophets. Here we add a new word to our discourse. He accuses them of subtly introducing destructive heresy into the struggle to control the message and mission of the church.

What is happening here is the confrontation of the God given truth challenging the heresy of the false prophets. There was a time when heresy was nothing more than one of the definitions of a word. The Greek word is heiress from the verb haireisthai, which means to choose, and originally it was a perfectly honorable word. I chose to keep this simple by just pointing out that as with all things, things change. Why this sudden change and opposition to other choices being offered? With the coming of Jesus, God’s truth came to the world, and people had either to accept or to reject it.  Now there was the way, the truth, the life. The certainty of Jesus Christ, the resurrection  and the promise of life after death revealed these false prophets and heretics as someone who believed what they wished to believe and not accepting the truth of God. They were a sly group as they did not assume the position of an adversary, they sold themselves as the very best and learned of available Christian thinking. They were so good that little by little and subtly Peter’s people were lured away from God’s truth and began embracing the false opinions of these prophets and heretics.

Before Christ purchased us with his death and resurrection on the cross, we were slaves to sin. Paul reminded us that we were bought with a price… 1 Corinthians 7:23. We who have accepted him as our Lord and Saviour belong to him. The cost was great and should not be marginalized by the false teachings of these people. These heretics were denying the Lord. There is so much to share here but the bottom line is that the things they taught and did were a complete denial of Him. They were teaching SIN and that would lead to their condemnation.

Parousia, Eschatology and the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ and Second Petter’s defense of such against false teachers has brought us to this weeks blog. We have now met these false teachers and I hope have a better understanding of how important it is for the Church to know that the Jesus who died on the cross will be the Jesus that will preside over the completion and joy of God’s gift of salvation. Peter set out to defend the faith, we today need to be doing the same. Here in our day false prophets and heretics are still among us. They continue to believe what they wish to believe, not accepting the truth of God.

Life is Good

jk

The Parousia …Not a Cleverly Devised Myth…..Part 1

Parousia, Eschatology and the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ and Second Petter’s defense of such against false teachers are the subjects of this weeks blog. We will first look for an understanding of Parousia and how, eschatology, the study of the last things or ultimate end of creation finds common ground in 2 Timothy. Parousia a Greek word meaning “presence” or “arrival,”and is often translated as “second coming.” The parousia is thought to mean the completion of God’s gift of salvation, which occurs on Jesus’ return to earth. This will be at a future time and

judgement and evil will cease, God’s purpose for the creation will be fulfilled. In simple talk it will be the completion of God’s gift of salvation.

The next subject to keep it simple is referred to as Eschatology.Two Greek words meaning “last”and the study of ‘end things’. Whether the end of an individual life, the end of the age, the end of the world or the nature of the Kingdom of God, Christian eschatology is a major branch of study within Christian theology dealing with the “last things. Christian theology is the theology of Christian belief and practice. Such study concentrates primarily upon the texts of the Old Testament and of the New Testament, as well as on Christian tradition. Christian theologians use biblical exegesis, rational analysis and argument. (Wikipedia)

Let’s leave the library and get in the scripture. In 2 Peter verses 1:16-3:13 we read of the refutation of the accusations of the false teachers. The section we will look at is all about bringing the message concerning ‘the power and the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ’. Peter is attacking the heretics whom no longer believed in it and even the people were beginning to doubt it and think it would never happen. We will go through the end of Chapter 1 this week.

We need to go back to the first part of this chapter for some background material . I will bypass verses 1 and 2, they are a whole blog in themselves. In these following verses we see Christ as Peter saw him. Christ is power, generosity, great promises. Step away for a moment and consider this. There are those even today that believe as many did then that believing in Christ can gain forgiveness for any and every sin.  As crazy as it may sound there were those that gave no heed to sin, after all there was grace aplenty for all. That is not the way it works. With Christ in our life we can put aside our fascination with sin and the lusts of this life because of his presence in our life. There were those that believed that by the very virtue of our humanness we had a right to share in this divine nature. Life itself contradicts that. Everywhere we look we see our failures as humans. The decay of our Christian values and morals and the bitterness, crime and suffering that accompanies such behavior. If we look to John 10:10, we have an answer, ’I came’, said Jesus, ‘that they may have life, and have it abundantly’. Because of Christ we all have within us the ability to share the nature of God. The divine nature that often eludes us. Peter urges his people to equip their lives with every virtue and this letter even provides a list to add to other lists we already have. Let’s list those here.

Faith, courage, knowledge, self-control, steadfastness, piety, brotherly affection, and of course Christian love.

Peter continues to encourage the people and speaks to the value of knowledge. We can understand even today how important it is to know what we are about, the more we know the more we can learn. By making these virtues he speaks of a part of our daily lives the closer we will come to knowing Christ. Should we choose not to do this we will become blind, unable to see the light; we become short-sighted and unable to follow the good way. The Methodists have a saying for this….Going on to perfection. Peter knows these false teachers will make the way difficult but with God’s help we will reach the journey’s end. Verses 12-15 Leaves us with this. We must teach God’s truth as long as we are here and we must make plans to see that we keep the truth in the minds of the people; we must lift up the name of Jesus Christ to all people.

Now in these next verses 16-18 Peter reaches the point of his message, the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Repetitive I guess, but can’t be repeated enough. Peter was on a mission to bring the people back the certainty of the second coming of Christ. The false teachers no longer believed that and the heretics said it would never happen, it had been too long. Now the detail here can be overwhelming so I will pick a few points that stand out. First of all Peter states his right to speak to this subject, defend the faith so to speak. He was with Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration and that there he saw the glory and the honor which were given to him. He heard the voice of God speak to him. The importance of this revelation is that it paints a picture of the triumphant glory of the second coming. To sum this part up Peter wants to bring the people back to a living belief in the triumphant return of Jesus Christ. Peter is saying, ‘I have seen Christ in his glory and have heard the voice of God in praise of his son’. I take liberty here to paraphrase Peter as he speaks to these people. ‘You also have through the eyes of your faith seen the cross, seen him die for our sins and many have testified to his resurrection. You must return to living your faith and be made one with Jesus Christ in his death and in his risen life and power.’

I think I will wrap this up for this week by sharing this with you. There is also the defense of the Prophets in verses 19 -21. This I will address in a future blog. For now to sum it up, consider this. Scripture should not and is not about any individual’s private opinion. We in the church need to understand and respect that more. Scripture is the revelation of God, through the Spirit to all men and women. The interpretation of scripture must always be guided by prayer and the Spirit. Do not be misled, the Spirit is still very active in the church today. The sad part is many people choose to ignore it for the convenience of their agendas and lifestyles. Next week we will pick up in Chapter 2 verse 1 and explore those false Prophets that Peter is attacking.

Life is Good

jk

*Quick Note: I use several commentaries, bibles, other web sites when researching for my blogs. For this blog I visited Wikipedia, Daily Bible Study / Barclay and Bible Gateway for sources of information used to write this blog. I am grateful for these publications and the world of information available in this digital age.

Philippians ….Priority and Purpose

As we continue our study of Philippians, in chapter 1: 3-18, we find Paul praying for these Christians with whom he shares a gospel fellowship and states his confidence of their salvation. He prays that this fellowship and the love they share will be full of the knowledge and discernment that will lead them to live holy lives. Paul recounts that he is a prisoner in chains which only seems to increase the boldness of his preaching. Although he does feel that some preaching is wrongly motivated, Paul rejoices that Jesus Christ is proclaimed. Today I will focus on the remaining verses in chapter 1, 19-30.

Paul’s priority is to serve Christ and he feels he will gain greatly when he dies, but we see here his priority is to live for Christ until such time he is called home.Verses 19 and 20 offer an interesting question for us to ponder over.

Paul speaks of his salvation. What does it mean to him? Is Paul one of those people of eternal optimism, believing the situation he is now in will end with his release. That won’t fit here because Paul goes on to say he is not sure if he will live or die.  Does it have to do with his salvation in heaven? The situation in which Paul finds himself provides an opportunity to conduct himself in such a way to be a favorable witness on Judgement Day. How we meet challenges to our faith in the present will be a witness for or against us in eternity. Just consider that maybe where Paul finds himself at that moment is exactly where God wanted him to be. We may find ourselves in situations that don’t bode well for us but would be useful to God in that present time. Our difficulties in the present will be rewarded with joy and peace in eternity. Paul also has two very powerful means of support. He has the prayers of his friends and time and time again Paul asks for those prayers of his friends. There is nothing so welcome in times of personal troubles as knowing there are others presenting our needs before the throne. Paul never felt too good or too important to forget how much he needed their prayers. There was something else which in today’s vernacular could be called Paul’s ace in the hole. Paul knows that he has the support of the Holy Spirit. The presence of the Holy Spirit is with us in times of difficulty and will be with us till eternity as promised by Jesus Christ. It is Paul’s mission to never be ashamed of the gospel or to be marginalized by silence or cowardice behavior. I believe that all believers should strive to be effective in the sharing of the gospel. We must strive to live a holy life, for once we have chosen Christ we must be ever mindful that others not only judge us but our behavior brings either glory or shame to Christ.

As we continue on through these verses we encounter the eternal question to live or to die. Paul then gives us these words….For living is Christ to me, and death is gain. That day on the Damascus Road was in Paul’s mind the day he truly started living, his life began on that very day. It is not hard for us to relate to this, because for all of us who have found Christ, it was the beginning of life for us also. It has been said that from the day we are born we began the journey to death. For a Christian the day our life begins in Christ we are on a journey to join him in eternity. We are weak but Christ will give us the strength for life. And we will be made perfect in our weakness. Christ is the beginning and the end, without Christ there is nothing left.

The priority of course is to preach the gospel and the purpose is to share the good news of salvation through Jesus Christ and to live lives worthy of the gospel and to strive together, standing up to persecution without fear by God’s grace. Next week we will break away from Philippians for a short time but in the future we will return for some more of this lovely letter to the  friends in Philippi. Come back next week and visit with us in the Pew.

Life is Good

Jk