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Archive for May, 2011

Church and Community

Way of the Cross

 

Church As, and In, Community

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The Apostle Paul writing in Philippians 2v3-4 “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.

And finally, the Apostle Peter writing in 1 Peter 5v5-6 “All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.

Individualism

Contrast those values to those of the twenty first century society, where morality can be summed up in this kind of attitude: “The more you care for others, the more they will care for you.” So look after the interests of others and you will also be looked after. In other words everyone is on level parity and there is total equality within society. In some of the more narcissistic and cynical parts of society, there is no other, the order is “me, me and more me and I am far more important and higher than anyone else”. Individualism is where the individual’s importance is placed higher than all others and is imbued with self-reliance and personal independence. Even when help and compassion are offered, so often there are strings attached and hoops to be jumped through. If you do this, we will do this for you. And sadly, it is not just within society that this exists, but also within the church and amongst Christians.

It is as if we are denying the basic rule of compassion and mercy, which dictates that we are to be serving others, because they are also humans created in the image of God, loved by God and so should be loved unconditionally by those who proclaim to be God’s people – the Church. Denying that basic need to others is pure unadulterated selfishness and places others below our own selves. Individualism within the church, lends itself to hypocritical behaviour and attitudes, which are inconsistent with Scripture and behaviour. Individualism, where you as an individual are placed at the front of the queue, is not loving others and not considering others higher than yourself. It certainly could not be construed as serving other people to always place your own desires above all others. There is an old acronym JOY – Jesus first, Others second, Yourself last.

Relationship

The basic aspect of love is that it involves relationship, so therefore there must be more than one person involved. God is love, and is a trinity of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. If God were not Trinity then God could not also be love. The church community is meant to be a radical community of service and love, which is a reflection of the Trinitarian God. Being part of a radical community of service and love would mean the Church going back to basics. The Church needs individuals to be living radical lifestyles of devotion to Jesus Christ, engaging with the culture, counting the cost of discipleship and reflecting true humanity. But being an individual in community involves much more than merely being an individual in isolation. Christians are to be involved within communities, and not as isolationists. So what does a radical Christian community of individuals look like?

Creative Community

Firstly, the church needs to be a community that is seen to be radical by the surrounding society. At Pentecost, the church began when the Holy Spirit filled the Disciples (Acts 2v4). This momentous occasion started the Discipleship process of how Christians were to live as God’s people. The hallmarks of this community were commitment and transformation. This community was radical. It was where people’s lives were being changed as the Holy Spirit filled them. Instead of being a withdrawn people filled with fear of retribution from the Roman government and Jewish leaders, they became a people filled with boldness and joy. The New Testament church grew by being a radical community imbued with radical individuals engaging with others. The very existence of the church today is proof that Jesus Christ really did rise from the dead, for if He did not, those who were His disciples would have disbanded and gone back to their old lifestyle and the Holy Spirit would not have come.

Creatively Radical

If we want the church of today to grow then we need to be building a strong community of faith. A community, which involves joining together isolated and solitary individuals and where people are imbued with love, valued and are showing care to each other, in particular the frail, elderly and young, with what the theologian Jürgen Moltmann calls a “creative passion for the impossible.” An inherent human need is the need to belong, and by fulfilling relational needs, the radical Church community will become relevant to the people within it. It will then also become relevant to those who are on the outside and looking in. For example, by using virtual reality, digital space and social networks, the housebound and geographically isolated peoples can also be included and cared for.

This involves improving present societal conditions, rather than remaining a conservative community, which merely repairs the status quo. In doing this, today’s church will be emulating characteristics of the early church (Acts 2v44-45). As individuals Christians were added to the church, discipline helped ensure that the community was being seen as a holy community. We see in the early church as recorded in the Book of Acts, that to be excommunicated from the community for gross sin, was a severe punishment. However church discipline is not primarily about punishment, but rather a formative and corrective service as part of Discipleship. Church community discipline is foundational to the making of Christian Disciples, because it concerns the community’s spiritual health, and strengthens the bonds with the local community.

Committed Community

The church must be a community of committed individual Christians, willing to radically follow God in lifestyle and behaviour. Being holy for the Christian means radically exhibiting love for God and others. It is by being seen as different from the surrounding society, that the church community will grow. Often when prayers are said, it is within the perception of the individual pray-er of what the answer to that prayer will be! It is as if the answer is there, we are just waiting for God to confirm our presupposition. When, in fact, prayer is to be where God is answering the prayers in His own way and timing – often unexpectantly! By the church community and Christian individuals thinking and acting creatively, many more people would be seeing God in action. Instead of independence, one of the prime hallmarks of being a follower of Jesus Christ is the need to be dependent on others as well as being dependable. This is imbued within the story of Jesus Christ washing His disciples feet.

Transformed Community

The Church community is to be actively engaged in radically helping people to be transformed and not merely happy. Transformation is a powerful witness to the power of God and shows the relevancy of God and His people. The best way to show this transformation is for the Church leadership to set the example, and show a way forward. Good leadership has good accountability to each other and to the whole Church community. If the church leaders are displaying a transparent life of creatively loving God and others, then the individual Christians within those churches will also seek to be transparently loving God and other people. The media love to report when a Church and/or Church leader has done something inherently wrong

Finally, Jesus recommends that those who follow Him be wise like serpents and innocent as doves (Matthew 10v16b). This means that we are to be skilful and shrewd in making decisions that are characterised by intelligence, patience and shrewdness. Additionally, we are to be gentle and harmless, like doves. This would make our church leaders and us accountable to live a life of integrity worthy of the gospel (Philippians 1v27). This is a life, which is seen to be as holy and blameless. In order to do this, we need to depend on the Holy Spirit for strength and caring for others is a vital necessity for you and I. By relying on the Holy Spirit who indwells us, we are therefore perpetually connected to Jesus Christ, who is after all, the Head of the church community who are His bride.

The antidote to individualism is the continual creation of radical communities of transformed individual Christians, willing to be totally devoted to God, and each other and being sustained by the Holy Spirit who indwells, empowers, comforts, transforms, sustains and guides! By being radical communities thinking and acting creatively, we will be reflecting a creative Trinitarian God, and the Church will fulfil her bridal mandate of faithfully serving Jesus Christ, in submission to God the Father in the power of the Holy Spirit. Jesus in Matthew 5v43-45 gloriously explains how to do this: “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbour and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven.” And then to verse 48 “In a word, what I’m saying is, Grow up. You’re kingdom subjects. Now live like it. Live out your God-created identity. Live generously and graciously toward others, the way God lives toward you.” Now that is the key to radically transformed communities and the antidote to individualism!

For more to think about please do ask yourself the following questions, writing them down if you can, and see how you respond or react to them. Then why not share your answers with your spouse or a close friend, so that you can pray over any issues together.

Q1. What in my life could I change, so that the focus is away from myself and onto helping others?

Q2. How can my church and I reflect the Trinitarian God by being creatively loving, transforming and serving?

Q3. How can I help my church be more relevant in the community where it is located?

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Glimpses 52

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Dietrich Bonhoeffer

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G’day and welcome to Partake Glimpses Stories, where we see together how Jesus is alive today, working in different peoples lives in different ways. We aim to show Jesus as being relevant to the world today, some 2000 years after He walked the earth, died on a Roman cross, rose again to new life from physical death and ascended back to the right hand of God the Father. Today, once more we take a step back to recent history, into the 20th century, and a very brief glimpse at the Christianity of a well-known Christian.

Beginnings

Dietrich Bonhoeffer was born on February 4, 1906 in Germany. He was a a Lutheran pastor and theologian and had spent time studying in the USA and pastored two churches in London, England in the early 1930s. He returned to Germany to lead an illegal training centre for pastors during which time, he also called for more vocal and active opposition from the churches towards Hitler’s treatment of Jews. Because of this, he was forbidden from preaching, teaching, and all speaking in public to gathered audiences. Dietrich was ultimately arrested and imprisoned for his part in a plot to assassinate Adolf Hitler. What we will concentrate on in this study is how he viewed and lived Christian discipleship. In doing so we will look at some excerpts from two of his published writings “The Cost of Discipleship” and “Letters and Papers from Prison”

Discipleship

Jesus Christ, when He talked about the cost of following Him and being His disciple said this:If you refuse to take up your cross and follow me, you are not worthy of being mine. Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross, and follow me.” (Matthew 10:38; 16v24-25)

Echoing these words, Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote “When Jesus Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die. … Discipleship is not an offer that man makes to Jesus Christ, nor is it hero worship, but intimacy with Christ.” (The Cost of Discipleship). He knew that as a Christian, a person has to take up their own cross in following Jesus and count the cost of being a disciple of Jesus Christ.

Dietrich also wrote “Earthly goods are given to be used, not to be collected. … The Christian disciple must receive his portion from God every day. If he stores it up as a permanent possession, he spoils not only the gift, but himself as well, for he sets his heart on accumulated wealth, and makes it a barrier between himself and God. Where our treasure is, there is our trust, our security, our consolation and our God. Hoarding is idolatry.” (The Cost of Discipleship)

In a Sermon on 2 Corinthians 12v9, he said that “Christianity stands or falls with its revolutionary protest against violence, arbitrariness and pride of power and with its plea for the weak. Christians adjusts themselves far too easily to the worship of power. Christians should give more offense and shock the world far more than they are doing now. Christians should take a stronger stand in favour of the weak rather than considering first the possible right of the strong.

A Cost of Following Jesus

These are strong and powerful words I am sure you would agree! So did Bonhoeffer’s life match his words? In one extreme example, we look at his first days in prison

“For my first night in prison I was locked up in an admission cell. The blankets in the camp had such a foul smell that in spite of the cold it was impossible to use them. Next morning a piece of bread was thrown into my cell; I had to pick it up from the floor. The sound of the prison’s staff vile abuse of the prisoners who were held for investigation penetrated into my cell for the first time; since then, I have heard it every day from morning to night.

The first night in my cell I could sleep very little because in the next cell a prisoner wept loudly for several hours. Nobody took any notice.

After twelve days the authorities got to know of my family connections. While this was of course, a great relief for me personally, from an objective point of view it was most embarrassing to see how everything changed from that moment,. I was put in a more spacious cell which was cleaned for me daily by one of the men. When the food came round I was offered larger rations, which I always refused, since they would have been at the expense of other prisoners.” (Malcolm Muggeridge, The Third Testament)

So, after just twelve nights in atrocious conditions, because he had good connections on the outside of prison, he was moved to a more spacious, cleaner and quieter cell. He probably had no choice about the cell he was given. He could have just eaten the extra food given to him there. But he decided not to, because to eat that extra food, he would have robbed somebody else. For him, material possessions and food were part of his Christian discipleship – part of the cost of following Jesus Christ faithfully. Just as they are of your Christian discipleship – whether you are aware of it or not.

Speak Out!

But another facet of the cost of Dietrich Bonhoeffer following Jesus was speaking out for those who had no voice. In the case of Bonhoeffer, the Jewish race undergoing systematic persecution and extinction under Hitler and the German Nazis.

He wrote those: “We have been silent witnesses of evil deeds; we have been drenched by many storms; we have learnt the arts of equivocation and pretence; experience has made us suspicious of others and kept us from being truthful and open; … Will our inward power of resistance be strong enough, and our honesty with ourselves remorseless enough, for us to find our way back to simplicity and straightforwardness?Letters and Papers from Prison

He ultimately paid the price for his speaking out for those who had no voice. His life motto could be summed up in these 2 sentences from his writings: “One act of obedience is better than one hundred sermons … Action springs not from thought, but from a readiness for responsibility,” He was eventually hanged on April 9, 1945 following the failure of an assassination attempt on Hitler on July 20, 1944. His life actions echoed his words. How are you counting the cost of being a disciple of Jesus Christ? What do your material possessions and consumption of necessities of food say about your being a Christian? Are you willing to speak up for those who have no voice in your local community, national community and global community?

If this has helped you in your journey of faith, please do let us know how it has helped your own journey of faith by making a comment below!. Thank you.

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Glimpses 49

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A Father’s Plea!

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G’day and welcome to Partake Glimpses Stories. Where we see together how Jesus is alive today, working in peoples lives in different ways and is relevant to the world today, 2000 years after He walked the earth, died, rose again and ascended to the right hand of God the Father. I tell you today a story told to me by Jim Allis about one of his experiences!

Help Me!

A man who we will call “G” had told me that his daughter just had to get saved and healed. He then asked me to go and see her. He added “She intends going to a spiritualist; please stop her.” I sought the Lord in prayer that morning and I received an assurance in my heart that He was going to heal her, but first she must hear the gospel and become a Christian.

Telling the story

Arriving at her front door she readily invited me in . I said “I know your Dad has told you the way to God; may I have ten minutes to do the same?” She agreed and listened attentively as I went to Genesis 3 and explained how sin came into the world. I moved on to the prophecies in Isaiah concerning the Messiah, and then the fulfilled prophecies in the Gospels, especially dealing with Isaiah 53 in relation to the cross and Jesus purpose in coming into the world. All this I explained is unveiled in the gospels and showed her the relevant passages.

What must I do?

She listened carefully and then said “Can I ask Him now into my heart ?” The Holy Spirit had prepared her, and she prayed and simply, sought forgiveness and asked Jesus into her heart. Then I said “I believe the Lord wants to heal you, what is wrong with you? She said “Well, it’s very painful, tennis elbow” I was ignorant regarding this problem but others tell me it is extremely painful. I prayed with her and our Lord drew near and touched her and she was healed. Praise the Lord! Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever!

If you have found this helpful, please do let us know how it has helped your own journey of faith. Thank you.

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Issues – Things to come

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Things To Come

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In the light of Howard Camping predicting Jesus’ coming again at 6pm on May 21st 2011, this is reposted…

Some of the final words of the Bible are in Revelation 22v7 Jesus speaking “Behold, I am coming soon! To which the Apostle John replies in Revelation 22v20, “Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.”

As Christian Disciples living almost 2000 years after Jesus spoke those words, this is our hope – to be with Him who is coming again. He who is the object of our faith, worship and life of discipleship! And not just Christian Disciples talk about the “end of the world as we know it”.

There are a plethora of books written about it from all sorts of people, from all sorts of backgrounds with all sorts of opinions. But what does the Bible say about the time when Jesus comes again and how are we to respond to this fact? What does the Bible say about the future things to come, seeing as it is the authorative source for the Christian Disciple?

1. The Second Coming of Jesus

I will come back and take you to be with me (John 14v3). He will come back the same way He went to heaven (Acts 1v11)

When will He come?

  • No-one human knows (Matthew 24v36)
  • It will be unexpected (1 Thessalonians 5v1-3)
  • There will be signs preceding His coming (Matthew 24)
  • When the gospel has been preached in the whole world (Matthew 24v14)

2. Our Response to Eschatological Prophecy

  • Be ready, waiting, watching and working (Matthew 24v42-44).
  • Be alert, self-controlled, sanctified and encouraging of each other (1 Thessalonians 5v6-8, 11)

3. Different Responses to Eschatological Prophecy

The three main schools of prophetic interpretation are Amillenialism, Postmillenialism & Premillenialism. These 3 views depend on whether the prophetic parts of Scripture are to be interpreted literally or figuratively (Spiritually). I wont tell you my opinion as to which I think is the correct interpretation, but let you decide that for your self!

  • ·Amillenial View– Primarily a figurative/spiritual interpretation. This view sees the O.T. promises to Israel are being fulfilled in the church. The Millennium is the reign of Christ in the Church – the new Israel. The Church is already experiencing tribulation.
  • ·Postmillenial View – Christ will return at the end of the millennium – a golden age of the Church.
  • ·Premillenial View – Christ will return to set up His kingdom on earth for 1000 years (Revelation 19v1-7). God promises to Israel of restoration, a future king and temple will await fulfilment. God has a separate programme for the Church.

4. Second Coming of Christ

The Premillenial view sees 2 stages in the second coming:

  • ·His coming in the rapture. This is when Jesus Christ returns to take His people to be with Him (1 Thessalonians 4v16). The dead in Christ are raised and the living are changed (1 Corinthians 15v51-54)
  • ·His coming to Earth (Revelation – parousia). He will return to the Mount of Olives (Zechariah 14v4; Acts 1v11). He will come with power and glory (Matthew 24v30) and everyone will see Him.

5. Christ’s return to Earth

  • ·To judge the antichrist and his followers (Revelation 16v12-16, 19v11-16)
  • ·To bind Satan (Revelation 20v1-3) during the Millennium. Amillenialists see this as having already been done. However, Satan is still the ruler of this world (John 16v11).
  • ·To save Israel (Zechariah 14v1-3). Israel will repent, recognizing the One they pierced (Zechariah 12v10-13v1; Romans 11).
  • ·To judge the nations (Matthew 25v31-46; Joel 3v11-17)

6. Premillenial return of Christ

Christ will come and set up an earthly kingdom for 1000 years (Revelation 20v2-7). Amillenialists see this as speaking figuratively about Christ’s current reign in the Church.

7. History of Premillenialism and Amillenialism

The view of the church for the first 2 centuries was of a literal millennial return of Jesus Christ after the Holy Spirit’s return. Early church fathers such as Papias, Ireneaus and Justin Martyr taught this, and these men were not far removed from the Apostle John. Origen promoted the figurative (spiritual) method of interpretation and Augustine developed an Amillenial view, identifying the Church with the fulfillment of the O.T. promises to Israel and this became official Roman Catholic doctrine. Many scholars returned to the Premillenial (literal) view after the Reformation.

8. Pre-tribulation Return of Christ

Rapture – The tribulation is a time of judgment for unrepentant men (2 Thessalonians 2v9-12). God’s people would be excluded from such judgment (1 Thessalonians 1v9-10; 5v9). The Lord will come suddenly bringing destruction, while people are saying ‘peace and safety’ (1 Thessalonians 5v1-3). These conditions will exist before the Rapture, but not at the end of the tribulation.

ResurrectionThe bodily resurrection of the dead, saved and unsaved, is clearly taught in Bible (John 5v28-29; Acts 24v15). Christ’s resurrection is the guarantee of our resurrection (1 Corinthians 15v20-22)

Christian Disciples

  • ·Like Christ’s glorious body (1 Corinthians 15v49; Philippians 3v21; 1 John 3v2)
  • ·Not flesh and blood (1 Corinthians 15v50ff)
  • ·Not partly spiritual (Luke 24v39; 1 Corinthians 15v42, 53)

Unbelievers

  • ·They will be resurrected (John 5v28-29) and cast into the lake of fire

Timing of the resurrection

  • ·1st Resurrection – when Christ comes in the air to take Christian Disciples (1 Corinthians 15v23; 1 Thessalonians 4v16); some place resurrection of O.T. saints at the end of the tribulation.
  • ·2nd Resurrection – Resurrection of the unsaved after the Millennium (Revelation 20v5, 11-13)

Judgment – Certainty of judgment – He will judge the whole world with justice (Acts 17v31). Humanity is destined to die once and after that to face judgment. (Hebrews 9v27)

The Judge – God is the judge of all the earth (Hebrews 12v23). The Father has given all judgment to the Son (John 5v22-27)

Judgment of Christian Disciples

  • Christian Disciples will not be judged for sin – this has been judged already (Isaiah 53v4-6; 1 Peter 2v24)
  • ·Christian Disciples will be judged for their works. We will give an account of ourselves to God (Romans 14v10). We will be judged according to our works (2 Corinthians 5v10). The quality of our work will be tested (1 Corinthians 3v11-15). Our motives will be exposed either for God’s glory (1 Corinthians 4v4-5) or for our own glory.
  • ·We will give account of the opportunities and abilities entrusted to us (Matthew 25v14-30)
  • ·Rewards may be gained or lost (1 Corinthians 3v14-15)
  • ·Incorruptible crown (1 Corinthians 9v25)
  • ·Crown of glory (1 Peter 5v4)
  • ·Crown of righteousness (2 Timothy 4v8)
  • ·Crown of rejoicing (1 Thessalonians 2v19)
  • ·Crown of life (James 1v12)

Judgment of unbelievers

  • ·The Great White Throne of Judgment (Revelation 20v11-15).
  • ·After the Millennium (Revelation 20v11-15, 21v8).
  • ·They will be cast into the lake of fire with satan and his angels (Revelation 20v15; Matthew 25v41). This punishment is eternal (Matthew 25v46).

For more to think about please do. Ask yourself the following questions, writing them down if you can, and see how you respond or react to them. Then why not share your answers with your spouse or a close friend, so that you can pray over any issues together.

Q1. Read 1 Thessalonians 5v6-11. How am I living out these Scripture in my life as a Christian Disciple?

Q2. Read 2 Corinthians 5v10. If I were to give an account of my work today, what would occur?

Q3. Read Matthew 25v31-46. As a Christian Disciple, how does this affect my urgency to tell others about the Gospel of Jesus Christ?

You can make a comment by clicking on the word “Comment” below! Thank you!

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POD – Psalm 43

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Psalm 43

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43:1 Vindicate me, God, and plead my cause against an ungodly nation.

Oh, deliver me from deceitful and wicked men.

43:2 For you are the God of my strength.

Why have you rejected me?

Why do I go mourning because of the oppression of the enemy?

43:3 Oh, send out your light and your truth.

Let them lead me.

Let them bring me to your holy hill,

To your tents.

43:4 Then I will go to the altar of God, to God, my exceeding joy.

I will praise you on the harp, God, my God.

43:5 Why are you in despair, my soul?

Why are you disturbed within me? Hope in God!

For I shall still praise him: my Savior, my helper, and my God

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