The Appeal To Timothy

 

 

We return this week to the Book of Timothy, Chapter Four. We need to be reminded that judgement before Christ is a certainty for all of us. There are always motivators in life, those things that take us down different paths. For Christians those things we do should be presentable to Christ. The criticism or judgement of others should not be a motivator of our behavior. We can remove a great deal of the uncertainty in our lives if we sought the leading of the spirit in many of the things we do. Perhaps we would be less offended by others criticisms, be less likely to develop the self-importance that fosters an attitude of personal prestige and can lead to being self-centered. We should not expect or require thanks for every right thing we do. Paul goes on to encourage Timothy to be prepared for the return of Christ. He is saying to Timothy, “do your work in a way that all of the people  will be ready whenever and wherever he appears.” We should live our lives in a way that we will be ready for the coming of Christ. We should remember that the day is coming that all the kingdoms of this world will be the Kingdom of Jesus Christ. For us to become citizens of his kingdom, our lives must stand up to his judgement making it possible for us to become a citizen of the Kingdom of God.

As we continue on in these first five verses the message from Paul moves to the duties of Christian Teachers. It is necessary that we convey an enthusiastic effort to share the word and we must be able to express the message with an urgency that compels others to listen. The other point to be made here is the value of persistence. We should not only be aware of but should always seek, or even dare I say, make opportunities to speak about Christ. We should always remember we must be courteous and respect others time and place. Sin is to be addressed as such and it is the Christians job to create an awareness of sin. Ours is not a goal to condemn but rather to establish or restore people to a relationship with Christ. It is difficult to compel people to see things as they really are and it takes patience and love to do that. I have written before how it seems that the church no longer has a place at the table. There was a time when the opinions and objections to questionable acts or policies were given by the church with fearlessness and many times that made a difference in the quality of life for all people. The church has lost its voice when it comes to speaking up about those things that marginalize God’s word, fearing to rebuke those acts that challenge Christian values. Here we must be careful to not become moral judges and juries but it is our duty to speak up when a word needs to be spoken. It is important to tie every rebuke with an encouragement. A Christian has an obligation to exhort others to do better and to help in any way they can. We must learn to believe in others because we have a resolute belief in the changing power of Christ. Here is a thought for your consideration. In Timothy’s day and even now in our day, we are surrounded by people who encourage us to believe we should be able to do whatever we want to do. It is our right or to put it as we have heard it said “it is our God given right.” Such should not be the plight of we who would answer the saviors call……”run from these people for they and those of like mind are a menace to Christianity and society in general.”(DBS)

Next week we will return to the fourth chapter of Timothy. Come back, there is always room in the Pew.

jk

You Cannot Legislate Unity

“Stipulations in the Traditional Plan approved by General Conference 2019 are unacceptable, said the executive committee of The United Methodist Church in Germany, and the church in Germany will not impose the stricter penalties laid out in the plan.”  This is a direct quote from the executive committee of the United Methodist Church in Germany. I have provided the link to the full statement below and encourage you to take the time to read it.

https://www.umnews.org/-/media/umc-media/2019/03/12/15/21/2019_03_10_botschaft_eng.ashx

There are times that even in the pew the discords of the day find their way in. I have written other posts on this subject and I started to pass by this latest bit of news from Germany but I find some things here worth discussing and to use an old term, worth pondering. I again encourage you to go to the link above and read the full statement from the brothers and sisters in Germany. One point I will make at the outset here is at least we are talking about this situation but I fear it is to little to late. The damage to the UMC is overwhelming in regard to the time money and effort spent over, pay attention here, the last four decades. I want to be as accurate as possible and for that reason I will be including some research material here at different spots in this blog. With that said the following is added for your consideration.

The Council of Jerusalem or Apostolic Council was held in Jerusalem around AD 50. It is unique among the ancient pre-ecumenical councils in that it is considered by Catholics and Orthodox to be a prototype and forerunner of the later ecumenical councils and a key part of Christian ethics. The council decided that Gentile converts to Christianity were not obligated to keep most of the Law of Moses, including the rules concerning circumcision of males. The Council did, however, retain the prohibitions on eating blood, meat containing blood, and meat of animals not properly slain, and on fornication and idolatry, sometimes referred to as the Apostolic Decree or Jerusalem Quadrilateral. (note information below**)

**Accounts of the council are found in Acts of the Apostles chapter 15 (in two different forms, the Alexandrian and Western versions) and also possibly in Paul‘s letter to the Galatians chapter 2.[1] Some scholars dispute that Galatians 2 is about the Council of Jerusalem (notably because Galatians 2 describes a private meeting) while other scholars dispute the historical reliability of the Acts of the Apostles. (Wikipedia)

As you read this, understand it is not the first time that an issue of doctrine versus the word of God has happened and won’t be the last. One point here is that they are looking to the Law of Moses and how it would pertain to those coming into the church. The Church is still young and many of its members are Jews who have accepted Jesus Christ but still look to the first five books of the Bible for guidance and remember there was no New Testament writings at that time. We must also remember that Social Justice causes have always been a part of the Methodist Church. This situation of same-sex discourse, being driven in my opinion by those within and outside the Methodist Church and by social justice warriors along with cultural changes is quite the norm of a denomination which has always been at the forefront of meeting the needs of God’s children, Scripturally and otherwise. So what is different here? Let’s start with Church leadership. The Book of Discipline for many years has stated the position of the Methodist Church in reference to same-gender unions and “self-avowed practicing” gay clergy. There have always been penalties and accountability for transgressions of those bans. The Church in Germany has stated that they will not accept the Traditional Plan because they will not follow the chosen way of controlling people in their chosen lifestyle by imposing stricter penalties. The words  they use for chosen lifestyles is disposition. They have some very compelling reasons for this decision. Here again I quote direct from their article.

“There is hardly any region on the (United Methodist) map of the world where, according to the decision of the General Conference, shards, break-ins and deep trenches did not emerge,” said Germany Area Bishop Harald Rückert in opening the session of the executive committee.

The area Bishop shared that there was a “great sadness” concerning the state of the unity of the Church. I find them to be genuine in their desire to find a way to preserve the unity of their church. This issue of same-sex relationships reaches into all areas of the church all over the world. Back to the LEADERSHIP THING. There has been none as to the enforcement of the Book of Discipline. We have seen and continue to see an outright disobedience to the Church polices and doctrinal standards or rules of behavior if you wish. I do not want to be harsh but this extends to the highest level of leadership, the Bishops themselves. We have among us a culture that accepts guidance and direction only if fits their opinions, beliefs and agendas. I believe that the pressures of social change, culture change and the desire to be relevant in the changing world has created a culture within our church that minimizes the place of Scriptural guidance, discounts Christian compassion and in our rush to be at the table of societal change, not truly seeking the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Having read their statement several times I am certain they are in a great deal of pain and uncertainty but are resolute in their determination not to accept the Traditional Plan that was passed last year.

“ Even so, we want to stay together as a church where people of differing opinions can live with each other. We don’t want to let go of each other and we don’t want to separate from each other, but we want to hold on to each other and to be there for each other. For we are convinced that Jesus wants to use us and our gifts jointly and together.”

The above is taken from the statement of the German Executive Committee and was sent to all the congregations. Some items of interest here are the recognition that there are many differing opinions but they wish to find a way to co-exist. They feel that the many diverse gifts can be of benefit to the whole. They follow that up by the realistic admission that they must be able to come together even if they can’t agree on the important questions. They then make very plain what their expectations are.

“We therefore want to be a church where people with homosexual sensibilities can be ordained and blessed in a marriage ceremony, and also where traditionally minded people can uphold their ideas and lifestyles. The “Kirchenvorstand” has reached agreement on this objective.”

This is an interesting approach to an issue that really has no middle ground, for years the church has “kicked the can down the road” and the laity has for the most part not been a part of the discussions. Now we find ourselves scrambling to preserve the financial obligations of the Church such as properties and other assets and the point we are at now is how do we split and retain, who gets what? These brothers and sisters in Germany do have what seems to be an inflexible position, putting that aside it is a blessing to see what seems to be their most important goal is how do we stay together, how do we remain a family of God? 

I do not believe there is a clear path for those such as myself who have a problem with the same-sex issue in relation to how we have been lead by prayer and seeking of the Holy Spirit. Then there is the inescapable fact that Jesus Christ came to offer salvation to all people, no one is to be turned away from the Lord’s table. Sin is anything that drives a wedge between a person and God. Simple fact is any sin is incompatible with Christian teaching. The Book of Discipline puts it this way.

Regarding the ministry of the ordained

  • ¶ 304.3: The practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching. Therefore self-avowed practicing homosexuals are not to be certified as candidates, ordained as ministers, or appointed to serve in The United Methodist Church
  • 341.6: Ceremonies that celebrate homosexual unions shall not be conducted by our ministers and shall not be conducted in our churches.

The whole situation is fluid and it is no wonder we have been decades working through this. Consider this….

  • Methodist viewpoints concerning homosexuality are diverse because there is no one denomination which represents all Methodists. The World Methodist Council, which represents most Methodist denominations, has no official statements regarding sexuality. British Methodism holds a variety of views, and permits ministers to bless same-gender marriages.[1] American Methodism concentrates on the position that the same-sex relations are incompatible with “Christian teaching”, but extends ministry to persons of a homosexual orientation, holding that all individuals are of sacred worth.

So there you have it. I think I have a way out of this. No Christian should ever condone or fail to recognize the cost of sin but we must never become judgmental of others…. What….? It is the Christian obligation to welcome all to the Lord’s table and community of faith. I would suggest that when we allow sin to be put aside or leave unchallenged we fail in our responsibility to lead people to Christ. It is not our task to judge, it is our calling to present the Gospel of Jesus Christ to all people. We do an injustice to the Faith when we look the other way in regard to Christian values and discipline. I say we remove this language from the Book of Discipline and instead simply attach the caveat that the Methodist Church believes same-sex practices are one of many sins but the Church welcomes all people to the community of faith and leaves God’s judgement to just that….God. We pray for all people to find peace, dignity, love and forgiveness within the community of faith. Let’s get on with the calling of the Church….Salvation and forgiveness through the redemptive power of the Holy Spirit.

Life is Good

jk

Living In a World Of Contrasts

Two weeks from now I will once again have the privilege of sharing God’s word with others. I will be sharing the life of the Apostle Paul and the wonder of redemption, dedication and single minded perseverance that were the qualities of one of the greatest purveyors of the Good News in the early church. Our bible study will cover some thirty or more years of his ministry and we will travel some 10,282 miles he covered in four journeys as he served God and preached the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I am not an Apostle nor am I Timothy, a loyal disciple of Paul and it is from this Book of 2 Timothy chapter Three vv. 10-17 that this blog is inspired.

This world will never be perfect but in my seventy plus years I feel overwhelmed by the contrasts of human behavior that shape how I live and try to influence my behavior and the principles I live by. I love to study and read the bible, I find peace within its words and take comfort in the promises made by our Lord, resting in the promises and the assurances of a better day to come. Paul in these verses from Chapter Three lists the duties and the qualities of an Apostle in this letter to Timothy. I am struggling to find a word that best expresses who or what we need to be or do  that fits all of us who choose to walk in the Way. I think the word I am looking for would be Disciple. The Greek word is parakolouthein and literally means to follow alongside but it means much more. It means to follow someone physically, Mentally and spiritually and to put it simply, with the complete obedience of a dedicated servant. It is Paul’s belief that there are certain duties, qualities and experiences that both an Apostle and a disciple share, things which are common to their ministries. First the duties which he, Paul, considers to be a shared responsibility of their ministry.

-Teaching – We cannot teach those things we do not know. We must prepare ourselves through study, prayer and divine leading to know the Glory and the story of Jesus Christ. Even after much study we will find ourselves lacking if we do not know Christ ourselves. Have we as a person experienced the forgiveness, redemption and infilling of the Holy Spirt? Have we had our Damascus Road experience?

-Training – Christian life is not only knowing something but should consist of living what we know and believe. Telling the story of Christ is just the start, we should also be training others to live in the Way, to be an example of the faith and what it means to live for Christ.

  • Life – As Christians, what is the aim of our life? What is it we are trying to communicate to people? Is it solely knowledge or is it life? What do we think will be the most useful to them? I will say life because without it there is no goal, no reason to be. From a Christian standpoint, Jesus Christ is life, therefore our purpose, our aim, should be to tell the world about Him.
  • Paul then speaks of faith, faith that God will do what he says he will do. He alludes to the importance of patience. People will always do stupid things and in some instances evil things but we  must have the patience to forgive them just as we have been forgiven. That requires the love that our God has for all people. God loves and forgives all our human follies. It is the Christian’s duty to have the patience born of the love of God to forgive. It is important to acknowledge that only God can enable us to do that.

Paul has shared with Timothy some of the experiences he has encountered in his mission to share the good News. He then speaks to the quality of endurance which has a most wonderful meaning in the Greek. It is not an attitude of bearing things, being passive in the face of challenges but rather facing those challenges in a way that from evil can come hope, good things and a better day. It is not a matter of accepting what life throws at you but stepping forward and taking control of your life. I like the way William Barclay puts it. It is an attitude of conquering endurance because as a person of the faith and the way, persecution will be a large part of your experience in your ministry. Timothy has seen first hand what Paul has shared with him and Paul has kept nothing back but to Timothy’s credit and strength of character he never hesitated to join with Paul in the ministry. We move on from these passages with the assurance of these things. Persecutions, will always be part of a Christian life and the ungodly will continue to sow the seeds of sin. There is no good that comes from a life of sin and those who refuse to accept the way of God have no future here or in the life to come.

The last three of these verses also completes chapter three. Timothy’s mother was a Jew married to a Greek. It is reasonable to assume that Timothy’s knowledge of Jewish law was instilled in him via his mother and grandmother. Two points to make here…. The first being that Timothy from his earliest childhood had known the sacred writings and we secondly remember that the New Testament had yet to be written and Paul was imparting not only what he knew from his spiritual enlightenment but also scripture from the Old Testament. Here in these last verses he stresses the usefulness of Scripture.

-Scripture opens the way to God, it has the wisdom of the Saints and most importantly is the Word of God. Scriptures hold the key to the book of life here and of the life to come.

  • Scriptures are to be used to teach. They provide accounts of the life of Jesus and paint a picture of his ministry as written in the New Testament. This is the place where we get first hand accounts of Jesus and his teachings. The church today would find it impossible to teach without the gospels.
  • The Scriptures are valuable for reproof. They are not meant to find fault but are to be used to convince people of the error of their ways and point out the better way to live this life. They can when shared with love and patience convince others of the power of Christ.

-Using Scriptures for correction: Wherever we go in the world today there are many theories, theologies, ethics or just plain opinions that seek to influence or even test our faith. We should use Scriptures to test all of these, do they contradict the teachings of the Bible? Are they in agreement with the teachings of Jesus Christ as put forth in Scripture?

We must study the Scriptures to equip ourselves to serve, to bring the power of the word to those who are lost. Certainty such study will improve our own knowledge and strengthen our faith but the bottom line must be a burning desire to serve and save others. Have a great week in the faith and may the word be with you.

Life is Good

jk

 

 

 

 

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