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

Philippians…..The Untold Story

First we have to go to Acts 16 for an interesting story about Paul’s stay in Philippi. There was Lydia a wealthy merchant and possibly Paul’s first convert in Europe. The slave girl who was used by her masters to tell fortunes and the civil servant who was a Roman jailer. Three people who represent a cross section of ancient life. Lydia was from Asia, the slave girl was a native Greek and the Jailer was a Roman citizen. From all over the empire people were coming to the Christian Church. Think about this. Not long ago and it still may be so, the current “buzz” word was inclusion. All kinds of programs and encouraging articles were written about how the church needed to be more inclusive. Paul had no program or written words about the need for inclusion, the all-embracing faith which Jesus Christ brought to men and women spoke to all peoples and that was all he needed. The Holy Spirit, faith and love of all people couldn’t be constrained in written words, it was best understood in life changing actions. Read Acts 16 for a better understanding of this part of Paul’s ministry, now Philippians.

Philippians is a special letter because it is just that. You get the feeling right off that this is a letter to friends. Paul does not, as he does in other letters, feel the need to state his position or why he has the right to write to them. Paul knows they will read, listen willingly with love and respect. This is a letter from a friend to his friends. A lot of information is here in just the first two verses. Paul does make one claim for himself and Timothy, they are slaves of Jesus Christ, but interestingly enough he expands that to include the people of Philippi who belong to God because of their relationship and acceptance of Jesus Christ. He makes it very plain that he is there to serve them also in their faith walk; I am your friend because you are my friend. There is an important difference here between a servant and a slave.

-A servant could pretty much come and go but a slave was the possession of his master forever.

-He makes note of the fact that he is the absolute possession of Jesus Christ. Christ bought him and paid a price for him and he could never belong to anyone else. Just as a slave has no will of his own, he too has absolute obedience to the will of Christ in his life. To be a slave to Christ is not a matter of cowering subjection but an honor of the highest order. As Paul is known to have written and I paraphrase, to Die for Christ is to Live. “To all the saints in Christ Jesus”as found in the Revised Standard Version could be a bit misleading. The word saint is translated from the word Hagios and the Hebrew equivalent Kadosh usually translates as holy. As a layman I can easily get confused and in this case I am reading three references trying to get this right. So…to keep it simple, to a Hebrew it all washes out to mean set apart. That which is holy is different from other things. The word Holy is often affixed to the Jewish Nation. They had been called out to be different and they were different for they had a special place in God’s purpose. Paul refers to the Philippians as saints in Christ Jesus. If you live a Holy life, strive to be a saint in Christ Jesus you are to be different from other people. You are different because of your special relationship to Jesus Christ – and that is what every Christian should strive for.

PAUL’S greeting to his friends is: Grace be to you and peace, from God the Father, and from our Lord Jesus Christ

These being the normal greeting phrases of two great nations, we are reminded of the weaving, binding or could we say, inclusiveness  of the power of Christianity to bring together God’s people, Greek and Jew. Grace and Peace, Paul’s prayer for his people. The joy of knowing God, being reconciled to God and having a grace and peace in their life that can come only through a relationship with Jesus Christ.

Quite a revelation for just two verses. Hope you come back next week as we look closer at Paul’s love and friendship for the Church at Philippi.

Life is Good

Philippians A Closer Look….

 

 

Getting back to the gospel is always a good thing. Philippians is a book I have often wanted to look at closer. In this first segment we will introduce ourselves to the book of Philippians. I hope you will return each week to the Pew and if there is a particular section or verse we could explore together email me at kcarp4211@gmail.com

We start on a happy note, Philippians is undoubtedly an authentic letter of Paul. You can say that Paul was a man that chose his ground carefully. Always being aware of God’s will, the direction of the spirit and he looked to places that were key to the area and provided the opportunity to preach the word to as many as possible. Philippi was one of those places. It had become a great commercial center of the ancient world due to the gold and silver mines that had once been there. Philippi was founded by Philip, the city being named after him and he was the father of Alexander the Great. The city was so situated that it commanded the road from Europe to Asia. A great battle was fought there which decided the future of the Roman Empire. One result of this battle was that soon after Philippi was raised to the status of a Roman colony. There is a lot of interesting facts that give us a bigger picture of the Roman Empire, that impacted Paul’s ministry in Philippi but for now lets just look at one that stands out more than the rest because it confronted Paul the most in his daily ministries there. These colonies were like little Romes, and their pride in their Roman citizenship was their dominating characteristic. The Roman language was spoken; they wore Roman style clothing; observed Roman customs and those who ruled there did so under Roman titles. Their ceremonies and procedures were the same as those carried out in Rome. 

‘You are a colony of heaven’ (Authorized Version), Paul wrote to the Philippians church (3:20). Just as the Roman colonists never forgot in any environment that they were Romans, so the Philippians must never forget in any society that they were Christians. Nowhere were people prouder of being Roman citizens than in these colonies; and Philippi was one such colony. (DBS W. Barclay)

One result of this kind of Roman pride is best recorded in Act 16: 20-21. After Paul’s vision of the man of Macedonia (Acts 16: 6-10) he set sail from Asia Minor, landing in Europe, then made his way to Philippi. In the coming weeks we will meet Lydia, a slave girl, a Roman citizen and a member of the Roman middle class who was a jailer; the top, the bottom and the middle of society are all represented. Paul would eventually have to leave Philippi due to persecution and at one time suffering an illegal imprisonment. Paul was a proud man who boasted he had never taken anything from any individual or from any church but there was a strong bond of friendship between him and the Philippian church. He would at a later date accept a gift from them.

There would be more gifts to Paul over the years from the Philippians church.This letter we are reading is a letter of thanks to the church and written by Paul in prison in Rome. We will also be introduced to Epaphroditus whom the Philippians had sent as not only a bearer of their gift, but also to stay with Paul and help with his needs. It is also intended to be a letter of encouragement to the Philippians during the trials they are going through. This letter also is an appeal to maintain the unity of the church. Philippians is a personal letter and includes many of Paul’s thoughts about the church and the people of Philippi. There are parts that change the tone and direction of the letter as new information from Philippi arrives and gives us an insight into the things on his mind as he wrote the letter. The letter has had other titles, Epistle of Excellent Things and Epistle of Joy.

Next week we will take a closer look at this interesting letter from Paul to the church in Philippi.

Life is Good

jk

Compassion, Love and The Authority of Scripture Pondering in The Pew

Part 2

Returning to Bishop Wilke’s article I was taken aback by this paragraph containing the words I have underlined.

So I began my own journey. I reached out to other families with homosexual members, and I listened to their stories of struggle in the church. And I began a more in-depth examination of the Scriptures that address the issue of homosexuality. You may be surprised to know I hadn’t fully done my homework here, but the truth is, if you have a big-picture grasp of the Bible as I do, then you will understand just how insignificant these few passages are. (Bishop Wilke)

As a layman my theological knowledge of scripture pales and most assuredly lacks much when compared to that of the Bishop. Throughout this whole issue, I always focused on scriptural integrity and never considered it a problem with those people. There are some things in this paragraph that deserve our attention. God created us with the best of intentions and from that day in the garden till now,  we have excelled in not living up to them. From the article I understand that his daughter is living a very productive life of service to others and the church and remains to this day in a loving and faithful relationship and they as a family have learned to live with the constraints of the church and society. In the paragraph before he seeks to address the real concern of the issue facing the church.  

I needed to reconcile my commitment to scriptural authority with loving and accepting my daughter. (Bishop Wilke)

To me scriptural authority is the one area that has been avoided as the church deals with this issue. It is for this reason that I disagree with the statement that anything of scripture in the Bible could be considered insignificant. I believe every word is of importance to the whole. My belief is shared by many people in the lay community. When it comes to the theological side of this issue I like many in the lay world find our simplistic interpretation of scripture inadequate to defend our belief. Theology is the study of religious faith, practice, and experience and the study of God and of God’s relation to the world and sometimes it does result in creating a systematic response to biblical translation as to meaning. Take note of what Bishop Wilke does here. He throws all that aside and turns to love and compassion and acknowledges the possibility that he needs to look at himself as well and then turns to scripture for direction. I have struggled with this blog, both last week and now, because of what is at stake here. There is something more important than the Methodist Church, or for that matter any denomination. Oh, how we have woven a web of confusion with the assistance of many different agendas and yet in all of this Bishop Wilke has found an important part of the Christian faith. From his article and in his words:

Again and again Jesus placed kindness and acceptance over custom and social norms. “Love one another,” he commanded, “as I have loved you.” He also emphasized hospitality: “When you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame and the blind. And you will be blessed.”(Bishop Wilke)

So what have I learned from this journey? Bishop Wilke is right. It would be an injustice to split the church over this issue, in fact that is the easy way out. The real issue to me is that of living a holy life, as we have been commanded to do. What does living a holy life entail? While you work on that consider this. Sin separates us from God and that is not a debatable statement. There are many sins and man wrote that list through his disobedience to God. The Methodist Church welcomes everyone, OPEN DOORS, OPEN HEARTS, OPEN MINDS. I may not have them in proper order but the last one needs some work. I could continue to write about this article but it would only be redundant. From the Methodist Book of Discipline:

The practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching.

So is gluttony, drunkenness, adultery, cursing and a host of other things that can be found to be an abomination is God’s eye.  The fact is that all sin separates us from God, and that can’t be said enough! Like it or not we are charged to bring people to Christ, all people. How can we minister to the sins among us if we turn people away? Who among us has the mind of God and to borrow from the words of our Lord, let him be the first to judge.

In conclusion…..The Church can legislate doctrine and church law but until it can change what’s in the people’s heart, it has failed. Until the leadership of the church can discern God’s will without social and cultural pressures of the day, it has failed. What would Jesus do? Well, I don’t think he would kick the can down the road again by taking the easy way out. It might be wise to take some time to consider Compassion, Love and The Authority of Scripture.

Life is Good

jk

Looking Back……the day we were one…

Three years ago….we must never forget…

From The Pew

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I had prepared and uploaded my blog for today but I set it aside late last night. I can’t get past tomorrow, September 11 or as it has become simply 9-11. There will be many words today, few will be able to capture the impact in loss of life and the realization that our enemies now had the ability to bring the horror of war to our soil. Here are a couple of things I take away from that day.   Death is never an easy thing to cope with and I don’t hold much with the advice that “things will be better in time; every day it will get a little better.” Don’t believe that, I believe we just learn how to live with it or for lack of a better term tolerate the loss. Like everyone else I remember exactly where I was and what I was doing. Been…

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A Bishop, Compassion, Love and The Authority of Scripture….. Pondering in The Pew

(A Two Part Series)

First Peter 4:8  “Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins.”

The above Verse is one of ten important bible verses on love according to the writer, Jack Wellman, from an article he wrote in Patheos. As a matter of trivia Jesus’ commanded us Five times altogether, according to the New King James version to love….

John 13:34 “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another.

John 13:35 “By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”

John 15:12 “This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.

John 15:17 “These things I command you, that you love one another.

The number of times that love is mentioned in the Bible depends on the version of the Bible. In the King James Version, love is mentioned 310 times, 131 times in the Old Testament and 179 times in the New Testament.  I will be using the KJV as a reference point in this blog. There are figures available for other versions. As the Methodist Church continues to vote and then vote again I believe I my have found some hope in an article in the latest Methodist publication of, The Call, written by Bishop Wilke. I will post the link to the article at the end of the blog. To quote the Bishop, “ Thirty years ago our daughter Sarah shared with Julia and me that she is gay and that she had entered into a committed relationship. She came out to us when she was 27 years old. We never imagined this was anything that would touch our family.”

Most articles about the same-sex issues facing the church are fueled by talking points and are agenda driven, peppered with social and cultural reasoning and here and there a scriptural reference. I have no doubt that years ago when this first became a discussion among well meaning lay and clergy members that they were attempting to find a way to minister to those who were truly not being encouraged to come to the table. I do feel that what started out as a journey to discern God’s will and bring the church together was hijacked by social justice warriors. Rainbow ribbons, hastily lettered signs, slogans and disrupting legally convened meetings to conduct church business does not speak to a spirit focused search for the answer to this issue. It should also be noted that pulling certain scripture and not considering the context in which it rests is also a habit many of us have adopted over the years. Bishop Wilke goes back to scripture but with and open mind, open heart, and hopefully may have opened a door to a much needed healing. The first step to healing this wound will be to admit all have sinned and fallen short of their calling. Having said all of this I found Bishop Wilke’s article pointed to the need to consider context, and the need we all have to better understand the scripture as written. While it didn’t change my mind about the intent of scripture it did open my heart to that which is most powerful….I believe the love of God is a powerful thing and right beside it is the love a parent has for their child. So before I go too far, some points to list taken from this part of the article.

-Context is important

-One or two verses do not a story tell

-The written word is best understood in its entirety

-God is Love

Let’s look at some scriptures found in or alluded to in the first part of the Bishop’s letter. The Bishop presents not an argument but a scriptural reason for all of us to consider the power of love as a factor of value in this issue. I will start with the story of Sodom and Gomorrah. The sin of Sodom and Gomorrah has over the years always been used to point to homosexuality as a sin. Bishop Wilke puts forth another reason for God’s anger at these cities. Ezekiel 16:48-50 requires me to ponder a moment the rest of the story so to speak.

Ezekiel 16: 48-50

48 As I live, saith the Lord God, Sodom thy sister hath not done, she nor her daughters, as thou hast done, thou and thy daughters.

49 Behold, this was the iniquity of thy sister Sodom, pride, fulness of bread, and abundance of idleness was in her and in her daughters, neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy.

50 And they were haughty, and committed abomination before me: therefore I took them away as I saw good.(KJV)

Here plainly is a compelling reason, scripture based, that deserves prayerful consideration. The abomination the Lord speaks of is no  doubt in my mind, the demand that the men be sent out for the pleasure of the crowd gathered there. In these verses the Lord plainly lists the actions of the people that he found wrong and punishes them for their actions and lack of compassion for others. Context, context, exactly how does this fit contextually with the account in Genesis? For years Chapter 19: 1-13 has been used by people to condemn same-sex practices. It has been noted that it was this activity on that night that was the reason for God destroying these cities. Give this some thought. It has been said that the Bible never contradicts itself but over and over scripture does validate itself in other scripture, adding proper context that we may miss simply because we want so much for the scripture to validate what we believe and works for us.

I am going to rest here awhile, be back in the Pew next week with more of the Bishop’s letter. Please take time to read the scriptures we looked at this week, pray and re-think the importance of LOVE between God, his people and you and others.

Life is Good

jk

Reference Notes:

Bishop’s Letter:

https://www.umnews.org/en/news/bishop-gay-daughter-sent-him-back-to-scriptures?

https://www.funtrivia.com/askft/Question112529.html

https://www.reference.com/art-literature/many-times-love-mentioned-bible-f8eb228f4fe0a4

“Come and See”….Evangelism In Three Words

A picture is worth a thousand words, so they say but sometimes just a few words can bring about a revelation. Come and See is a simple phrase that is repeated a few times in the Book of John but when we go beyond the words and understand its theological meaning  a  revelation takes place.I will share with you today some of those places it can be found and go beyond the words to suggest a powerful way to share God’s word, that invites and challenges and has the potential of changing lives.   

The first of these can be found in John 1: 35-39. The first two of the verses John makes note of Jesus walking by. Two of John’s disciples heard his remark and followed Jesus. 38 When Jesus turned and saw them following, he said to them, “What are you looking for?” They said to him, “Rabbi” (Greek translation means Teacher), “where are you staying?” Jesus replied “come and see” and they remained with him the rest of the day. They wanted more than a causal few words with this man John had referred to as the Lamb of God. They wished to linger with him, talk about their problems, seek direction and have someone to share their troubles with. There are many such people in this world we live in today that just want to feel someone is listening. When Jesus said, come and see, they knew what he was saying. Jewish Rabbis used this phrase often. It meant do you want to know the answer to the question? Do you want a solution to your problem? Come and see, we will think about things together. Those seeking Christ will never be satisfied with a passing word of comfort, help them meet him, ask them to come and see. The next passage is found in John 1: 46.

 46 Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and See.” John 1:46

Nathanael quickly replied that Nazareth was not the kind of place that anything good was likely to come out of. Philip was wise. He did not argue. He said simply: ‘Come and See!’ We  find within this exchange a little nugget that we all can profit by. No one has ever been argued into Christianity. Philosophical and argumentative preaching or teaching will do little to win men and women to Christ. We will do better to confront them with Christ, the story of the cross and a simple invite…Come and See.

From here we go to Chapter 4:29-30 and once again we find that phrase Come and See. 4 She said to the people, 29 “Come and see a man who told me everything I have ever done! He cannot be the Messiah, can he?” 30 They left the city and were on their way to him. John 4:29-30

We won’t always know or even be aware that a person has suddenly discovered Christ. We should understand that discovery requires a need for communication. It is a very simple equation. Most discoveries require sharing and with this woman at the well that is exactly what happened. She could not wait to share this encounter with Christ, she had found an amazing person and she was compelled to communicate that with others. Isn’t that what we are called to do today? We cannot communicate Christ to others until we have discovered him for ourselves. Again, it is a simple equation, we find and we tell the story to others. It may very well be that a very simple phrase,Come and See, will open the door to discover Christ and give us the opportunity to tell the story. Thank you for coming by the Pew we will be back here next week.

Come and See .   

 Life is Good

jk

Galatians 6: 1-10…and for me….a New Word

When you step out of the Pew, go to the library and stumble into the theology section, for the layman seeking to increase his knowledge a new word will arise to test his perseverance. I started this week to work with verses nine and ten but as I read and researched them, up came the old Wesleyan habit of being sure of the context leading to these two. I decided to include verses one through eight. For those of you keeping count we will now look at verses one through ten. At this point I introduce you to that new word.

eschatological.

1:  of or relating to eschatology or an eschatology

2:  of or relating to the end of the world or the events associated with it in eschatology

Now the theological side of the word.

eschatology.

1: a branch of theology concerned with the final events in the history of the world or of humankind

2: a belief concerning death, the end of the world, or the ultimate destiny of humankind specifically : any of various Christian doctrines concerning the Second Coming, the resurrection of the dead, or the Last Judgment

This very important part of Christian faith prompted Paul to share some very practical advice with the Galatian churches and in some ways that advice fits well into the narrative of the church today. From the very start of time it is obvious that God did not intend man to live a life of solitary. Paul believed that Christians should live as a community of faith. Paul viewed the church as an extended family, sharing the good times as well as the bad, feast and famine and to do good to everyone; specifically to those in the community of faith. There is a point here that many find uncomfortable. Living life in the Spirit is not meant to be a solitary endeavor, it is a life lived in a community of faith. Herein we find an interdependence that many are not comfortable with.The concept of an extended family and the responsibilities that it entails can be overwhelming. As a community of faith we are responsible for each others spiritual health, which may require concern as well as encouragement for other “family” members. We must learn to live together in a spirit filled and loving way, never forgetting that common bond that holds us together……we are members of the body of Christ and our welfare depends on our willingness to care and comfort each other as the spirit leads us. There were those in this time that favored the teachings that pointed to an elaborately detailed law of Moses as a guide to life, which was in direct contrast to a community guided by the Holy Spirit, Paul’s vision of living a holy life. Many Galatians desired a comprehensive manual of instruction so to speak. Paul gave them some simple thoughts as to how a spirit led community might look and the values that would be needed. Jesus led a life of self sacrifice always giving and never asking anything in return. Jesus presented a picture of loving service to the Father and putting others first. Paul urges the Galatians to bear each others burdens by conforming to the self-sacrificial pattern of Jesus’ life. The modern term might be to ask yourself “what would Jesus do?” Galatians 6:2 presents a quality of Christian behavior that is found in Christ’s service through which he brought the fulfillment of the law as intended. There are those that would use the law as a barrier against other people. There are those that use it to further their own standing in the community of faith. So one of the simple thoughts would be to emulate the life of Christ by being imitators of Christ and his love and service to others. 

There is discord and rivalry within the community as suggested in parts of chapter five and in 6: 1-5 it is an issue Paul addresses here. Much like the churches of today this conflict produces situations that weaken the ministry of the Christian community and presents hard realities the church must face. One of the issues causing problems was the questions about circumcision. I will put my own twist on this and hope not to offend those of a different view. This issue attempts to decide who can and cannot belong to the church. Any time the church becomes involved with fleshly practices and uses those to set the exclusionary criterion for membership in the community, the will of the spirit is by-passed for things not of God’s will. Our rivalries and conflicts will never be settled until we accept the leadership of the Spirit and understand our common identity is centered on our relationship with Jesus Christ. We must be willing to accept personal accountability and self examination. We must look within ourselves and our service to the faith and to Christ. We must not do things just too boast to ourselves later, or worry about how we appear to others. We must test our own works to see that it is pleasing to God and strengthens our Christian life as we strive to live our lives with God. It is in this way we will be able to eliminate the  things that lead to corrupting our relationships with one another. Now I will use the word. The church has lost sight of the eschatological factor, God’s judgement. Our present state has become our evil age yet we hear little if any judgement preaching. Will we be judged solely on our own works? Some say that is what 6: 5 implies. Did we do all these Godly things on our own? Here is another point to add to Paul’s letter. Our works were not of independent achievement but rather the spirit working through us. We are the instruments of God and it is only our letting Christ work through us that we are able to accomplish his will. This next point is one I put great value in. Verse six seems to imply that Paul thought the Galatians had a need for proper teaching. With all that’s going on in this world the church sometimes finds itself short of those needed to instruct others in the word, or lacks the resources that make that teaching ministry possible. The church can and often does lose its sense of direction without a proper teaching ministry. I believe the word, the Bible, provides the best orientation for a path forward and is critical to the spiritual health of the faith community. Faithful study and instruction of the scriptures is necessary in a Godly faith community.

It seems there are always new issues that the church must confront and in Paul’s day this was also true. The church is new and many of its first members are Jews who have accepted Jesus Christ. Imagine, many of these people not only saw Jesus but many heard him speak in the synagog, so it is not surprising that this particular issue was causing some discord in the new church. Circumcision was a topic of great debate. Must you be a Jew first before you could be a Christian? Do we sow to the flesh or to the Spirit? We have reached the last point in Paul’s letter. The Parable of the Sower is a parable of Jesus found in the three Synoptic Gospels in Matthew 13:1-23, Mark 4:1-20, and Luke 8:4-15. In the story, a sower sows seed and does so indiscriminately. Paul presents the Galatians with a choice. Will you sow your trust to flesh or Spirit? This time it is Paul who uses the seeds to teach and instruct. These seeds will either fall to the flesh or the Spirit and where you commit your hope, energy and resources will determine the course of your life. Here we must understand the theological path of the word flesh. Reading it in that manner it is simply referring to any activity that seeks security in anything other than the promise of God. From a community of faith view it can be those activities that promote ethnic exclusivity, valuing material possessions or seeking to impose the will of the flesh with intimidation and false words. When we sow our seeds in the Spirit, trust in the Spirit’s leading we will discover a more excellent way.

Being of one mind in truth and spirit will allow us to live and accomplish those things we have been called to do. It is good to be back in the Pew. Have a blest day and may the week ahead bring us closer to God and may the Spirit fill our hearts to do good to all, whenever and wherever we can.

Life is Good

jk 

There is No Practicality In God’s Love…. Matthew 18: 12-14

 

 

Some weeks I have to go looking for something to write and this was one of them. I usually have several places I look but this week I was drawn to my desk-side bible. I have read many religious pamphlets and study helps and over the years and they have been invaluable in helping to craft a discourse when the well runs dry. In my bible inserted between different pages are snippets of devotionals from different publications over the years, today I re-read one by Doug Ralls. It was written in January of 2013 and published in “Our Daily Bread”.

Matthew 18:12–14  ‘What do you think? If a shepherd has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go in search of the one that went astray? 13 And if he finds it, truly I tell you, he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine that never went astray. 14 So it is not the will of your Father in heaven that one of these little ones should be lost.

Here I will do something I rarely do and insert a small paragraph from his article. Remember, these are his words, I did not write them.

“But ultimately, I don’t think this parable is intended as a practical solution to an everyday problem. See it more as a description of the radical love that abounds in the kingdom of heaven. God loves us with such reckless abandon that God will ignore practicality in order find us and bring us home.  That’s astounding love. (Doug Ralls)

Reality, and practicality would seem to suggest that to risk losing ninety-nine for one, would not be a wise thing to do. So here in this story of the ninety-nine and one, a very familiar reading and one most Christians know well, Mr. Ralls goes beyond the words and presents us with a wonderful possibility, that in reality, is fact. Here are the facts.

-God’s love is an individual love. As a parent would you not love all your children? You would not rest until all were safe with you.

-Sheep are known to do foolish things. We all know people who do foolish things and often we take the attitude that they got themselves into it, let them get themselves out of it. Give thanks that we have a God that loves us  no matter how foolish we might be. When we have no one to blame for our sins and the sorrow they bring upon us, our God still loves us. It is a patient love of mercy and grace.

-Our God is not content to wait for us to come home to seek forgiveness. The Jews could not understand that God sent his son Jesus Christ, to seek and bring home those that had wandered away. God will not be content until all his children are at home, no matter what it costs.

-Imagine, forgiveness with no grudge, no recriminations and no sense of contempt, just total and complete joy. That is a rejoicing love, a God that loves us with no pre-set conditions and at any cost. When we return to him he puts all our sins behind his back. His joy is boundless.

-Our God’s love is a protecting love. God seeks and saves removing from our lives the sins that cripple, we are free and in his love we become conquerers of temptation.

Yes, let’s give thanks that There is No Practicality In God’s Love…. Mr Ralls article is a great example of how to read and study the scriptures. Going beyond the words, always expect a revelation, hope and encouragement, it is sometimes referred to as the living word and for reason. Pray you have had a good week and I invite you back to the Pew next week.

Life is Good

jk