A Story With Many Lessons…Luke 24: 13-34

These verses are sometimes referred to as one of those enduring stories we find in the scripture and after a closer read we find some lessons we often overlook. Late in the day and on a long and dusty road toward Emmaus two men were discussing the events of the day.   Their grief and disappointment were so great that they failed to recognize their savior when he approached them. Do we not at times allow our sorrows in this life to hide God’s glory from us?  Focusing on their grief and feeling that their hopes died on that cross, they felt their lives had lost all meaning.‘We were hoping that he was the one who was going to rescue Israel.’ If we allow ourselves to ponder a moment here we can see what the followers of Jesus were failing to see. In bad times and when we are bewildered and lost, it is only through Jesus that we learn what life means. Our creator, our savior, our God, has given us the gift of free will and we can use it to invite Christ into our lives or pass him by. Another lesson hidden within this story is the power of the ordinary . The men had been walking and talking with Jesus for some distance and still did not realize it was the Lord. That realization came to them in a very ordinary situation. It was an ordinary meal in an ordinary house with an ordinary loaf of bread but it was as Jesus was breaking the bread that they suddenly realized who this stranger was. The Christian lives in a Christ filled world and with Christ our lives transcend the ordinary. We can also look to the behavior of these two men when they realized what had happened and who was speaking to them. They immediately started back to Jerusalem, seven miles away because they could not wait to share the good news with others. The good news of Jesus Christ is meant to be shared with everyone. The power of the message is released through sharing with others. One of the great glories of Christian fellowship is sharing our experiences with those of the faith.

One final word about these verses. These two men were blessed to be in the presence of the Lord and from this story we learned it all came about because they invited him into their home. What about you? Will you invite Christ into your home, your heart and your life?

Life is Good

jk

The World, Sinners and The Church

 

 

There are many things the church does right but there is as with all things those that are wrong. If I were to list my number one concern with the church right now, it would be the SIN of COMPLACENCY.  In chapters 5 and 6 of 1 Corinthians Paul deals with some very practical things that could create some very grave situations within the church.  Today we will ponder the message found in 1 Corinthians 5: 9-13. In the first eight verses of chapter 5 we see a practical truth. Discipline sometimes is necessary to maintain a healthy Church. To shut our eyes to the need for Christian discipline will most of the time result in damage to the church and its people. There are confusing elements involved and sometimes we Christians forget our place and calling, becoming  both judge and jury. Today’s verse’s 9-13, chapter 5, Paul deals with a couple of these situations. One thing is very evident, discipline must never be vengeful and should have as its goal  the purpose of reconciling  the person or persons to God, restoring them to the fellowship of the church and preventing such behavior in the future.

IT appears that Paul had already written a letter to the Corinthians in which he had urged them to avoid the company of all evil men and women. The problem as Paul sees it here is that it would be impossible to carry on a normal life without coming into contact with those  whom the Church would utterly condemn. This is also an impossibility because that would require our withdrawal from the world and that would not allow us to live out our calling and allow others to see Christ in us. It is always interesting to me how the scripture spans the centuries and has practical application in the world of today. Paul zeroes in on three sins which he sees typical in his day and they translate well into our world today and the people that we associate with them.

  • fornicators, those guilty of lax morality

Paul has a very healthy dislike for a lack of moral grounding among God’s people. He sees people living to satisfy their physical needs and using each other or others to meet those desires. All Christians who considers themselves to be children of God should never seek to only satisfy their desires for they will  lose their souls in the process. We have a body and a spirit created by God. A lax attitude of those things God considers to be immoral could banish us from his saving grace.

-There are those who are greedy for this world’s goods.

I call it a get it syndrome. We judge the goodness of life on our ability to acquire stuff. We are slaves to a material standard, the more we have and acquire the better life is. A true christian values service to others and finds joy in giving not getting.

-There are the idolaters. Mortals have always had a need to worship something. It seems to be a natural thing and all through the ages man has had his good luck charms, idols, religions, and even closely followed the stars to plan the course of his life. When people turn from the true God and worship these god’s of luck, their faith and religion grow weak while superstition grows strong.

Within these three basic sins we can find three directions a person could be led.

-Fornication is a sin of personal degradation. It reduces the person to less than what they can be and is a moral condition which is unfavorable in God’s eyes. It allows the lower nature to rise above the higher and we become less than God created us to be.

-Greediness is a sin against our neighbors and our fellow men and women. When you exploit people or situations to feed the greed, so to speak, you ignore the fact we are to love our neighbors as ourselves. If you cannot love others you cannot love God.

-“Idolatry is a sin against God. It allows things to usurp God’s place. It is the failure to give God the first and only place in life.”  (Barclay DBS) No more needs to be added to this statement.

Paul seems to set forward the principle that we should not judge those outside the church. The Jewish meaning was anyone that was not a Jew, one of the chosen people. Paul felt that their judgement was to be left to God, as only God knows what is in the hearts of men and women. There is a reason for this view he had. Those in the church have special privileges. They have accepted Christ and therefor have special responsibilities and they will held accountable if they do not keep them.

Paul brings the letter to an end by alluding the following verses to command the people to drive out the wicked person among them.

Deuteronomy

17: 7  The hands of the witnesses shall be the first raised against the person to execute the death penalty, and afterward the hands of all the people. So you shall purge the evil from your midst.

Deuteronomy

24: If someone is caught kidnaping another Israelite, enslaving or selling the Israelite, then that kidnaper shall die. So you shall purge the evil from your midst.

It should not be any Christians desire to hurt anyone, but we must put the evil among us out and preserve the purity of the faith. We must protect the Church from the threats of sinful behavior at work in the world today.

Remember….Ours is not a faith of condemnation but a faith of restoration and hope. Thanks for coming by this week, we hope to continue these as soon as we get to our new pew.

Life is Good

jk

A special note: I will be relocating the pew within the next two weeks. I hope to be able to continue the weekly schedule and if I miss a week the wagon hasn’t got there yet.

jk

 

 

A Place With No Borders

Ephesians 2:19–22

So then you are no longer strangers and foreigners resident in a land that is not their own, but you are fellow citizens with God’s consecrated people and members of the family of God. It is on the foundation of the prophets and the apostles that you have been built up; and the cornerstone is Christ himself. All the building that is going on is being fitted together in him, and it will go on growing until it becomes a holy temple in the Lord, a temple into which you too are built as part, that you may become the dwelling place of God, through the work of the Spirit.

Oh if only we as a nation could be like what Paul writes about in the above verses. We have been a nation divided for quite awhile now by many issues that without God will never be solved. One good example would the issue of segregation which was addressed in the late fifties and early sixties but damage was deep and could only be reconciled by legislative actions. While things are better now the one glaring lesson learned was that you cannot legislate what is in a persons heart. We still see the distrust and animosity between people and I can’t help but believe that when God is not present in our hearts there is no room for respect or love for others. That brings me to the issue of this day, our southern border and the influx of people illegally entering our country. As a society and a people we try to let this issue slide because there is no other explanation for what they are doing. There are many compelling reasons for it but by law it is illegal, period. It is compelling and begs for something other than just legislation, but the lack of divine wisdom, politics and the desire to prevail make a human solution impossible. John Lennon wrote a song, Imagine and I ask you to do that with me today.

Some theologians believe that this letter, Ephesians, was a circular letter to all of Paul’s Asian churches. It is with certainty that there was a letter circulating among the Asian churches and it is believed that letter was Ephesians. I could stumble through more words but this paragraph from William Barclay’s Daily Bible Study does a much better job.

Ephesians, as we see it, is the one letter Paul sent to all the eastern churches to tell them that the destined unity of all people and of all things could never be found except in Christ, and to tell them of the supreme task of the Church – that of being Christ’s instrument in the universal reconciliation of all men and women to one another and of their reconciliation to God. That is why Ephesians is the Queen of the Epistles. (DBS Barclay)”

Look at our southern border situation today. As the crisis worsens there, the politicians get louder and different agendas proliferate, the animosity and fervor of the opposing views overpowers humanitarian efforts and reason is no longer at the table. The result is most often we lose all hope of solving this problem. I say again, without God not all things are possible.

The similarities are there so let’s take a look back. Paul was also very good at painting a picture with words. In his day the word for foreigner was “xenoi” and they were in every Greek town. They were disliked and did not have an easy life. They were strangers in a foreign land. The Greek word for stranger was “paroikos”. They were described as a resident alien, one who had taken up residence but had never become a naturalized citizen. These people paid a tax for the privilege of living there. They had one thing in common with the our illegal aliens today. They were never really accepted and were always on the fringe. With all this in mind I ask you to imagine a place with no borders. Within the family of God there are no borders. Through Jesus Christ we have a home with God, there are no borders, come home you are always welcome. It might be a hard stretch to make but please consider this. If God were present in the hearts of those who can make a way here, things would be so much better. We put up barriers, close our minds to anything that might threaten our agendas, even at times refusing to let our own people come to the table of deliberations.

We are the church and Paul saw the church as a building with each of us as a stone, with Christ as the cornerstone that reconciles us to our God. We are many different people with many different ways but our unity in the faith makes us a family, The family of God. There is a lesson here or what I like to call “A God Thing”

Using the church as an example perhaps we would be better off as a nation and avoid such problems if we understood what unity as in the United States could mean. It would not all be about organizations, agendas, political affiliations or even the propagating the views of any body of individuals but just one simple fact. To get back as a nation to God and provide a home with no borders where everyone can dwell in peace, and placing God through Jesus Christ at the table. Maybe we can only imagine because we have allowed our hearts to be harden by the demands of this world.

Yes, it is a stretch….but one can hope. Thanks for coming by the pew this week. I will have some news to share with you next week.

Life is Good

jk

2nd Timothy The Rest of The Book

2 Timothy 4:6–8 

For my life has reached the point when it must be sacrificed, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight: I have completed the course: I have kept the faith. As for what remains, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness which on that day the Lord, the righteous judge, will give to me – and not only to me, but also to all who have loved his appearing. 

Paul, who has put on the armor of God and fought the good fight lays it aside that Timothy might pick it up, put it on and continue the good fight. Paul has poured out his life to God, he has offered everything he had and now had only his life to offer and he would do that with great joy. Paul had made many journeys, sharing the good news and gospel of Jesus Christ. The journeys had taken him to Asia Minor and Europe through stormy seas and the confines of Roman prison but now he was to set out on his last journey from this life to haven an eternity. This journey would end in the presence of God. The old warrior had no fear. This faith, courage and joy of Paul is open to everyone who also fights that fight and finishes the race and keeps the faith. 

2 Timothy 4:9–15
Do your best to come and see me soon. Demas has deserted me, because he loved this present world, and has gone to Thessalonica. Crescens has gone to Galatia, Titus to Dalmatia. Luke alone is with me. Take Mark and bring him with you, for he is very useful in service. I have sent Tychicus to Ephesus. When you come, bring with you the cloak which I left behind at Troas at Carpus’ house, and bring the books, especially the parchments. Alexander, the coppersmith, did me a great deal of harm. The Lord will reward him according to his deeds. You yourself must be on your guard against him, for he hotly opposed our words. 

Paul makes known his displeasure with some of those who have let him down, and of course makes mention of the fact that only Luke is still there with him. So what happen to Demas? Paul says he loved this present world more. The first mention of Demas was in Philemon 24, he is listed as a fellow worker. The next time he is mentioned it is without any comment at all. The finial mention is here in Timothy as a deserter. We don’t really know what happen but I would suspect it would fit many a situation of these present times. The years of service, the pressures of the world at that time and the constant temptations of that world might have caused him to walk away. The frustrations of just coping with the needs of the faith were overwhelming. To live a Christian life these days is a demanding task and one that requires a close relationship with God. It could also have been that he underestimated the cost of living contrary to the standards of the world, the constant conflict between that which is holy and that which is not. Do you and I run the risk of falling away? Take heart….the grace of God can once again lay hands on us and bring us back…we have only to ask.

2 Timothy 4:16–22 

At my first defense, no one was there to stand by me, but all forsook me. May it not be reckoned against them! But the Lord stood beside me, and he strengthened me, so that through me the proclamation of the gospel was fully made so that the Gentiles might hear it. So I was rescued from the mouth of the lion. The Lord will rescue me from every evil, and will save me for his heavenly kingdom. Glory be to him for ever and ever. Amen. 

Greet Prisca and Aquila, and the family of Onesi- phorus. Erastus stayed in Corinth. I left Trophimus at Miletus. Exibulus sends greetings to you, as do Pudens, Linus and Claudia, and all the brothers. 

The Lord be with your spirit. Grace be with you. 

I guess the place to start with these verses would be how Paul was utterly deserted, not one of his friends stood by him. It was too dangerous to proclaim oneself the friend of a man on trial for his life. Paul knows and does three things even in this dangerous situation. Everyone had forsaken him; but the Lord was with him. Jesus had said that he would never leave his followers or forsake them, and that he would be with them to the end of the world. Jesus kept his promise. Paul was alone but he was alone with God….. that was a good thing. Even during the trial he would continue to proclaim the message of Christ. At that moment he might well be a victim, considered a criminal and condemned by Roman justice but he knew he would be rescued. There was the present danger of judgement by the Romans but what ever the outcome he would be safe for eternity. Paul ends this letter to Timothy by invoking the Spirt of the Lord upon his friends, his last words being Grace,the spirit and peace be with you all.

Drop by the pew again next week

Life is Good

jk

The Charge And Other Things

2 Timothy 4:1–2

I charge you before God and Christ Jesus, who is going to judge the living and the dead – I charge you by his appearing and by his kingdom – herald forth the word; be urgent in season and out of season; convict, rebuke, exhort, and do it all with a patience and a teaching which never fail.

In the days of Timothy, people were surrounded by false teachers. We see that in our world today. There are those who will go to any length to find arguments that will justify or allow them to do anything they want to do. This behavior is not confined to only the church but is particularly damaging to the faith today. For the church it is a matter of those who tend to think less of sin, they are doing great damage to the church and society.

Paul continues this last chapter of Timothy with a charge and a challenge and shares three things about Jesus. Jesus will be the judge of the living and the dead and the day will come when Timothy’s work will be tested. Did he take the good news everywhere he could and did he do so in love and truth? We today are charged to do the very same thing. Christians should not concern themselves with the criticisms or judgements of others. I am sure Timothy as well as we today looked forward to hearing Well Done from our Lord and Savior. We must stay focused and allow the spirit to lead us in this very important calling. The spirit will enable us to not be distracted by the criticism; it will save us from our egos which in turn could make us self-centered and demanding thanks and praise for everything we do. It will save us from being hurt by others ridicule and ingratitude. Jesus will return in victory. As christians we are preparing the way so that all things will be ready whenever he appears. Christians should live their lives in such a way that at any moment they are ready for the coming of Christ.

Jesus is king. The day is coming when all the kingdoms of this world will on bended knee become the kingdom of Jesus Christ. Our work, Our lives and Our service must be such that it will stand the scrutiny of Christ and be a sign of the reality of our citizenship of the kingdom of God. As christians we must be persistent and carry the word every day to all peoples wasting no opportunity but remembering to be courteous and respectful in our duty to get the message out. We have to get back to making people aware of the sins of this world. The church must address sin and not excuse it to the new norm. People must be compelled to recognize it and see themselves as they really are. There was a day when the church was fearless in rebuking those behaviors that distracted from living a holy life. Not only did good things happen but many bad things were set aside and God had a place in the hearts of his people. All are sinners, there is a common guilt and we should not set ourselves up as moral judges but we have a duty to rebuke and warn, when a such words need to be spoken. In rebuking the sins of this world we should also take care to encourage things which support Godly behavior. Paul recognized that a message of constant rebuke would remove any hope and cause despair among the people. We as christians must have a tireless patience, avoid becoming irritated and never ever look at someone as being beyond salvation. We willingly encourage and enable another’s way to salvation because we have a resolute belief in the changing power of Christ.

I will wrap this weeks blog with things that were expected of Timothy and apply to us this very day.

-stay focused on our calling

-stay steady and not allow the craziness of the world to distract us

-there will be a price to be paid and we must accept it without complaining or regret

-we must remember we are the bringers of good news

-we should always be of service to God, to the Church and to other people

Paul also wrote in another book a good thought to end this day’s blog.

Philippians 4

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. Keep on doing the things that you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you.

Life is Good

jk

The Road Ahead

2Timothy Chapter 3

16 All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 so that everyone who belongs to God may be proficient, equipped for every good work.

In the verses 10 through 13 Paul recounts persecutions and sufferings, that took place at Antioch, at Iconium, at Lystra. He points out to Timothy that the Lord rescued him from all of them and notes the fact that Timothy had been his disciple through it all. He reminds Timothy that those who wish to live a holy life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted. Timothy should however be aware that evil men and impostors will go from bad to worse, deceiving themselves and deceiving others. Paul makes note of the conduct of others with their false messages and their continued efforts to harm the Church. Paul points out the service of his loyal disciple Timothy, the word itself cannot even began to express the depth of its meaning as a single English word. Here are just a few of the values that expand and add to the depth of this word.

The Greek word parakolouthein, literally means to follow alongside. It means to follow someone physically through any and all difficulties. To mentally follow and  pay careful attention to that person’s teaching and fully to understand the meaning of what is being said. Simply put to be a disciple one must remain loyal at all times, a friend that understands what is being said and follows in complete obedience. There is much here between the lines and Paul shares a list of things in which Timothy as his disciple has been a part of. An apostle has duties, two of which are teaching and training. Real teaching comes out of real experience. Taking that teaching and training others in its value requires the fact that you have lived it. These two duties require that you know Christ and have striven to live in his way. You truly are training for life. Paul had an aim in life. From that moment on that road to the restoration of his sight he saw nothing but Christ on the cross and took the message of salvation to all he could. As members of the Christian community we should always have a goal, the focus of our aim so to speak. Is our goal Christ centered and faith driven or do we just bend which ever way the wind blows? We must have faith in our God and patience toward others allowing love to guide us to two major requirements of christian living. God forgives and cares and only God enables us to do that. Paul completes these verses by addressing the experiences of an apostle. First in his mind is endurance, not a passive endurance but one of spirit filled faith which faces evil in a way that some good will come out of it. It is not a spirit that takes things as they are but a spirit that through faith takes control of life. That kind of endurance is necessary if we are to conquer the persecutions that will come our way because of our Christian faith. Persecution and hardships will come. Paul is sure God will rescue those who put their faith in God. For those who believe there will always be a future but there is no future for those who refuse to accept the way of God.

These last three verses of chapter three Paul speaks to the value of scripture.

-Scriptures give the wisdom which will bring salvation.

-The Scriptures are of use in teaching.

The Scriptures are valuable for reproof.

The Scriptures are of use for correction.

The scriptures instill in us the burning desire to save others and equips us to do that which we have been called to do.

It was my intention to continue on through 2nd Timothy. After some study and thought I think it best to leave that final chapter to another time. If you have made it to this point I hope you take away with you something that will strengthen your faith and give you the endurance to defend the faith by living the faith each and every day.

Life is Good

jk

Big Warning From a Little Book

This week in the Pew I share with you from the second Book of Timothy, Chapter 3: 1-9 .The two letters to Timothy and the letter to Titus and a short letter to Philemon differ from the other Pauline Letters, in that they are private letters, written to individuals.

Although private in nature, their purpose is set down in 1st Timothy 3: 14-15. 14 I am writing these things to you now, even though I hope to be with you soon, 15 so that if I am delayed, you will know how people must conduct themselves in the household of God. This is the church of the living God, which is the pillar and foundation of the truth.

In time these two letters were referred to as the Pastoral Epistles. There are five points that Paul makes in these two letters to Timothy.

-care and organization of the flock of God

-how men and women are to behave within the household of God 

-instructions as to how God’s house should be administered

-what kind of people the leaders and pastors of the Church should  be   

-threats which endanger the purity of Christian faith and life should be dealt with. (WB DBS)

I intend to  focus on the last one.I am not given to doomsday essays that are based on the current condition of society. I do believe that the spiritual health of the church in an indicator that we are moving closer to The Day of The Lord. The early church believed that the time was short, they expected Christ to come at any moment. I believe that within scripture we can find the knowledge to recognize those changes that will lead us to the time that God will challenge all evil and the finial victory of God’s coming will be established.

I must start by telling you that I am 76 years old. The importance of this is that I believe I am qualified to speak to the current state of the church and world today as I have traveled some years to get here. You might say that in these verses Paul takes no prisoners. He sees some disturbing events happening in the church and the world that go beyond normal change and growth as would be expected in this new way. Paul paints a picture of what a Godless world would be like in verses 2-5 and it closely mirrors our world today. People are living a life that is centered in self, destroying divine and human relationships. They value their stuff and money more than they do their relationship to God. They become arrogant and boastful for personal gain and prosperity. A person who is boastful is not hard to spot but arrogance is a matter of the heart and is often mistaken for confidence. Here is an interesting thought. Boasting and arrogance leads to a false pride and the result most often is insults to other people and the church. The old Rabbis called it the sin of insult. This becomes an action of contempt and results in hurtful words or harmful actions toward others. That which comes from such behavior is ugly, hard to understand and hard to forgive. People will be disobedient to their parents. I won’t stay long with this but it is a sure sign of a decadent civilization when youth loses all respect for age and fails to recognize the place of respect it owes to those who gave them life. People will become thankless. They will refuse to recognize the debt they owe both God and others. People will refuse to recognize even the basic decencies of life. People will allow their passions to rule their lives will seek to gratify them in the most shameless ways. They will be without human affection and so centered on themselves that even the closest ties of family and friends will be nothing to them. They will be relentless in their hatred of others, unable to come to an agreement or to forgive. They will not remember the words of the Lord, ‘Father, forgive them.’ It just keeps getting worse…people will slander another’s good name and engage in unfounded gossip with no regard for what it will do to someone else. They will be unable to control their desires, they will behave savagely with no human sympathy for man or beast. They will no longer value the good things of life such as the joy in keeping good company. They will fill their minds and hearts with sordid literature losing the good things of life and corrupting their minds. They will be treacherous in  their actions toward others, rushing headlong into things driven by their conceit and contempt for all things contrary to their direction in life. Lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God. They will retain the outward form of Godliness but deny its power. They will turn from God and seek their own way. In the remaining verses 6-9 are disturbing patterns that are present in today’s church. There will be a time of seduction in the name of religion. There will be those who will gain an undue and unhealthy influence over others, especially with those who are easily impressed.  They will use the normal curiosity of people about new trends and changing moral and societal changes to ease moral resolve. People will turn from the day to day discipline of Christian life, lured into a desire to be a part of the newest fashionable movement or intellectual remake of the scripture, losing the battle to live a Christian life. These distractions will in time be defeated if we, God’s people remain strong in our resolve to pursue the more excellent way.

There is much going on in the Christian community this day. There will always be those who will wish to debate what has been written, turn a scripture to fit a situation they favor or oppose and mixed in among them will be the false teachers who attack or seek to change the word as written to fit their desires. Next week we will continue in 2nd Timothy starting at verse 3:10 and go through to the final chapter, of this very important letter.

Thanks for stopping by the Pew, mark your bibles and return next week.

Life is Good

jk

The Bible….The Christian Dictionary

Last week my Pastor shared the fact that we, people of the faith are facing more and more attacks  and even the very structures we worship in are being destroyed or desecrated. Even more disturbing is the increased attacks on anything of moral value that might be advocated by the faith of an individual or religious organization. We have become rather docile to the current stream of written and verbal abuse of the faith. Anything that can marginalize our Lord, the church and now the use of open hostility toward God’s people is an accepted social norm. This trend has now evolved to the next step. Physical violence is an unfortunate reality in many parts of the world and here at home we are seeing an increase in such activity. What is the proper Christian response to those who demean, threaten and go as far as to destroy property and use physical violence as a way to intimidate those of the faith? Well, the “answer my friend” is not blowing in the wind, you will find it in the word. We will take that up at another time in the pew. One way the world comes against us is the use of words that are used to hurt or confuse the believers.

I want to look at one word that is often mistakenly associated with being a Christian. The word weak, has a totally different meaning when Godly attributes are applied to it. If we apply the secular definitions to this word it can be misleading to those outside the faith.

Dictionary Definition: weak – The primary sense of the root is to yield, fail, give way, recede, or to be soft.

I suggest you go to this link and read a very good accounting of the word Weak.   https://av1611.com/kjbp/kjv-dictionary/weak.htmlKJV

The biblical assessment is much different.

The point I wish to share today is simply that as Christians we are called out to be different and while it might be a stretch to get there, I used this reasoning to arrive at the thought that it might be we view the world and the words we use differently than some others. While the word weak, denotes a condition and position of negative meaning, in God’s eyes it is one of opportunity. In 2 Corinthians 12 we see this in verses 9 and 10.

2 Corinthians 12:9

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. (ESV)

Weakness comes in many shapes and forms but it brings with it to the Christian, the grace of God. To Paul came the promise and the reality of the all sufficient grace. For Paul it was…

It was sufficient for physical weariness.

It was sufficient for physical pain.

It was sufficient for opposition.

It made him able, as all this letter shows, to face slander.

(William Barclay, DBS, pg 307)

We are subject to the burdens of life, all of us, but just as Paul discovered there is this wondrous grace available to those of the faith. Our weakness is God’s opportunity. Please take the time to follow up on this weeks blog by going to the link below for a wonderful read of faith.

https://www.learnreligions.com/power-perfected-in-weakness-day-15-701656

Stay safe and God Bless

Life is Good

jk

God Bless This Mess..and My Methodist Friends

We are warned, through scripture, that in the last days people will not endure sound doctrine, but seek teachers who tell them what they want to hear… a ‘feel good’ or ‘prosperity’ gospel without true repentance or the power of His words to sanctify and guide us to life eternal by transforming our hearts, minds and lives to do the will of God. We are living in a time that defies sound doctrine, we, the church, have set aside sound doctrine in our rush to be remain relevant in the changes taking place in our culture and society.  I have heard people give many different reasons for this mess the church finds itself in. One phrase that sticks in my mind is one I hear often, those people. I have found an interesting anomaly in this term. I have found that those people without question think that it is those people who’re the problem. Confused, read the next sentence. I have found that those people, all those people, believe in God and believe Jesus Christ to be the Son of God. If those people are truly believers we have a whole other problem to deal with. You see if they were non-believers it would be so much easier to push them aside with the old southern phrase “bless your heart” but in this case they are as good as family, well they are family. After last weeks blog I got to thinking that maybe this mess is not about those people, yes including all those people. It just might be about us. We, after all have always been told, we are the church. We might be known for “Open Minds, Hearts and Doors” but is it possible somehow our minds are shut to meaningful study and discussion. We need to put aside this blame game, word play and the disgraceful lack of leadership in the defense of the written word and get back to what we are called to be doing.  Please read the following statement from the Methodist Church.

Wesleyan Quadrilateral

The phrase which has relatively recently come into use to describe the principal factors that John Wesley believed illuminate the core of the Christian faith for the believer. Wesley did not formulate the succinct statement now commonly referred to as the Wesley Quadrilateral. Building on the Anglican theological tradition, Wesley added a fourth emphasis, experience. The resulting four components or “sides” of the quadrilateral are (1) Scripture, (2) tradition, (3) reason, and (4) experience. For United Methodists, Scripture is considered the primary source and standard for Christian doctrine. Tradition is experience and the witness of development and growth of the faith through the past centuries and in many nations and cultures. Experience is the individual’s understanding and appropriating of the faith in the light of his or her own life. Through reason the individual Christian brings to bear on the Christian faith discerning and cogent thought. These four elements taken together bring the individual Christian to a mature and fulfilling understanding of the Christian faith and the required response of worship and service.

http://www.umc.org/what-we-believe/wesleyan-quadrilateral

Consider…There are  611 commandments which Moses passed down to the Jewish people. Those along with the first two of the Ten Commandments, which were the only ones heard directly from God, adds up to 613. Now understand that I am not a theologian, just a layman trying to write a blog. These 613 laws, can be found in Old Testament books and the Jewish Torah.

Torah refers to the five books of Moses which are known in Hebrew as Chameesha Choomshey Torah. These are: Bresheit (Genesis), Shemot (Exodus), Vayicra (Leviticus), Bamidbar (Numbers), and Devarim (Deuteronomy). Jesus was a Jew and scripture shows us he went to the synagogue as all good Jews of that day did for worship and instruction. We must note that each and every teaching of Jesus is found within the Torah, Psalms and Prophets. We would do well to remember this and put aside the notion He did away with what He was taught and what He taught. He clearly said it is His word that will judge us on that day and that His word could by no means pass away. What about today? There are 1,050 commands in the New Testament for Christians to obey. It might be too many of us are living under the false impression that because that we go to church, accept Jesus Christ as our Lord, and have been baptized we are good to go. None of us will ever  be without sin, a common condition of our mortal status. The link listed here will list all of these sins and bible verses associated with them. It is long but an interesting read.

https://www.abc.net.au/reslib/201407/r1308729_17984331.pdf

So to all my Methodist friends, do not flee the church as I did. Stay and demand that those of leadership within explain why the very first of the Wesleyan Quadrilateral ….. For United Methodists, Scripture is considered the primary source and standard for Christian doctrine”, is not being considered in this mess.  The covenant within the resurrection, the promise of life eternal requires acceptance of Christ and doing our very best to live a Holy Life and that requires repentance of our sins.  We are  all guilty of sin in God’s eyes and sin, all sin, is just that in God’s eyes. There is no wiggle room in God’s word, so what do you believe? How did you arrive at that belief? Was prayer and a sincere desire to seek the guidance of the Holy Spirit what led you  to it? Even as laypeople we are called to go on to perfection which leads me to this question. The big part of this mess concerns a life-style the church finds objectionable based on scriptural content and God’s word and yes they are different. As Christians we are called, set apart to live a life that allows others to see Christ in us. How is that working for you? I left the Methodist Church because I truly believe that the content of the scripture should be the basis for living a Christian life-style and the establishing of church doctrine. We are to love not to condemn or judge but we should take seriously before we condone a life-style that is contrary to scriptural content and intent. We miss our calling when by doing this we encourage people to commit to that which is viewed unfavorably in God’s eye. There are 613 + 1050 sins we know of and none are seen favorably in God’s eye.

Be in prayer for me for I have fallen short of my calling. I stood up when I should have been on my knees and I ran when I should have stood. You have always been good friends and I do miss each of you. Stay the course, stand your ground, defend the faith and always serve and seek his will.

Life is Good

jk

The Methodist Church…..The Scripture Dilemma

For many years I sat in the pew, comfortably surrounded by those of faith and safely ensconced in the word, the good way as inscribed in scripture. The scripture, the fundamental teachings and written record of God’s will and relationship with those of his creation or as I prefer to say, the inspired word of  God. We know it as the bible, to theologians a treasure trove of information for those who are experts in the field of theology. Theology is the study of the nature of God and religious beliefs. That brings us to ‘laymen’ a non-ordained member of a church, a person without professional or specialized knowledge in a particular subject…. That would be me. It seems that the turmoil within the United Methodist Church is not in any way ready to go away. To me the greater concern is the marginalizing of God’s word in order to meet a social and cultural agenda. The attack on this denominations scriptural integrity is not a new thing. This is a decades long endeavor by people who are driven by their social or cultural belief to obtain what they believe is necessary to bolster the many causes of social justice. Forgive me if I sound harsh but at times this movement seems to take on an all about me attitude. As to the matter of hurt, we all have been hurt by this decades old process that has been forced upon the Methodist Church. The greatest victim in all this is the word, the scripture that has been ignored or marginalized by these events.

It is important that I make you aware that after well over thirty years in the Methodist Church, three years ago I left. People change churches all the time for a number of reasons and worst case being they just quit church altogether. My reason was not the church as much as it was my inability to control an obsession I had with the direction the church was moving. My decision to leave was not an overnight thing but a three year process of prayer, talking with other members and following closely the directional signs one can see in decisions made by governing bodies of the church. If you have read this far I hope you will stay with me, as I have been wanting to write this one for a while now. I have written other blogs in the past about this subject, then would put it aside awhile but it always seems to pop up at a later date. I consider this to be a distraction and an embarrassing weakness in my ability to stay focused on that which is important to my serving God and growing in the faith. The number of articles, blogs, comments and denominational news letters about this cancer that has been attacking the faith always draws me back. I strongly feel that the issue now on the table is destroying the Methodist Church and is part of a social justice agenda that has grown into a motivating factor in redefining our culture identity and practices. I have come to favor the term same-sex issues. The discomfort they cause on both sides of the aisle truly hinder any attempt to approach the issue from any point other than that of a debate as to the understanding of our differences. When you engage in a debate someone has to lose. To that point, I don’t believe that this is an issue that belongs in the church, any church. This is a social issue that needs to be addressed within the social and cultural expectations of society at large. On the human rights side to this, any discrimination that lessens a person’s rights or self esteem is of course everyone’s concern anywhere it occurs. 

The real issue within the faith is the disturbing lack of scriptural support that lends itself to their (same-sex advocates) position that this is acceptable behavior in living a Holy Life as we have been called to do. On my side of the aisle is the astounding lack of knowledge as to the Methodist Church and its position governing whom is acceptable and who is not. Let’s start here. The Methodist Church is open to all persons and no one is to be turned away from the Communion Table. Let’s be honest about this. Not all Methodists or Methodist Churches practice this. There is always an element within that just can’t accept people as they are, even though Christ did and even preached the need to love all people. Now to be fair we must go a step farther. The entire Christian Community is guilty of this. The issue is that this debate is about a social and cultural change that has been taking place for some time now and it has become a part of redefining the church as we know it. There was a time when the church changed society and culture but today it has flipped. The church is now being changed by society and culture and to its detriment, in order to make this change the very foundation of its soul, the scripture, the written word of God is being re-defined in order to meet the demands of this changing world we live in. In my research to prepare for this blog I discovered The Free Methodist Church and their position on the issue of same-sex and the place of  scriptural authority in decisions which affect church positions on this matter. The following is from one of their positional papers…

The biblical understanding and evaluation of homosexuality stand at the center of the Church’s response. This centrality of the Bible in the current discussion stems from two considerations. First, the Christian Church in general and the Free Methodist Church in particular hold the Bible to be the ultimate authority in all matters pertaining to faith and conduct. Indeed, the refusal to accept homosexuality in the Christian tradition throughout history derives from the biblical witness. Second, the Bible’s consistent negative appraisal of homosexuality is the primary obstacle to the acceptance of homosexuality by the majority of contemporary Christians and Christian bodies.

There has always been a broad consensus throughout history as to the interpretation of biblical passages dealing with homosexuality. This consensus is now being challenged by a few revisionist voices. From these few a vast amount of writings have emerged that challenge past interpretations.  It is my thought that the real issue is how do we as a church view scriptural integrity? If we believe it to be the inspired word of God are we to also believe it is subject to revisions crafted to meet the pressures of societal and cultural changes of the current day? Without going into great detail, we will just deal with intent. What was God’s intent in the creation of this world? Genesis from the very beginning sets forth the fundamental framework for human sexuality.

The whole of Gen. 1-3 functions as a “foundational narrative,” whose purpose is to set forth not only the origins of the cosmos and more specifically of the human race, but also the divine purpose and design for humanity. (David R. Bauer)   

I do not believe consensus of any kind can be reached amid the level of animosity that prevails concerning this issue. Read carefully this insert: “Paul would object most strongly to heterosexual Christians assuming an attitude of moral superiority and condemnation towards homosexuals. Homosexuality is a sin; but it is one sin among many. And all persons, “Both Jews and Greeks, are under the power of sin” ( Romans 3:9). It is thus imperative for Christians to embrace a proper perspective regarding homosexuality in relation to the sinfulness of all humanity, and to adopt an attitude that acknowledges and indeed emphasizes their own sinfulness outside of the grace of God rather than delighting in excoriating the sins of others.”(David R. Bauer) 

There are so many sides to this issue that many of us struggle to understand but to me the real motivator is God’s intent and his superiority over his creation. The fact that God created humankind “male and female” means that human beings are meant to be heterosexual. The bible, both Old and New Testaments suggests that  legitimacy of the heterosexual intent and in both books of the Bible the total denunciation of same-sex practices is consistent. This consistency is not subject to specific times or places but applies to all people, in all places and at all times, up to and including now. Until the Methodist Church deals with the issue of sin as determined by biblical definition and ignores the pressure of those who consider social and cultural change the dominant factor, there will be no peace in the church. The real issue is scriptural integrity.

Thanks for being in the pew this week, come back and join us next week.

Life is Good

jk