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Posts tagged ‘Issues’

Issues – Words

 Partake - Issues

Words

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G’day and welcome to Partake and our series looking at some of the issues facing Christian Disciples in the twenty first century. Last time we looked at Materialism, and today we look at something that has the capability of affecting every person on the planet.

Jesus, our Master, said in Matthew Chapter 12 How do you suppose what you say is worth anything when you are so foul-minded? It’s your heart, not the dictionary, which gives meaning to your words. A good person produces good deeds and words season after season. An evil person is blight on the orchard. Every one of these careless words is going to come back to haunt you. There will be a time of Reckoning. Words are powerful; take them seriously. Words can be your salvation. Words can also be your damnation.” Jesus took words extremely seriously and so must we for we are a result of our speech and we will be judged for what we say.

Words Alive!

Have you guessed what issue we will be talking about? Yes – that’s right – the issue is about Words! Words matter and for the Christian disciple they are off the utmost importance as the building blocks of communication: whether by thought or through the tongue. One of the greatest sins of the twenty first century, that all Christian Disciples need to be wary of, is the use of words. Communication, which is cynical, sarcastic, murderous and discouraging, surrounds us and we are coerced to join in, when in fact we should be standing alone against it. The twenty first century is the communications century – everything can be communicated around the world at the click of a mouse button. What we say, think and write has the potential to be a sinful action of sinful inaction. Regardless of what other people say or do, we are to speak, think and write without sinning. Let those be responsible before God for their own actions and inactions – you are only responsible for yours!

Words are the central means of communication regardless of our language, nationality or culture. Needless to say that every one of us has either been hurt, or has hurt others, by communicated words. The power of the tongue in communication and speech is awesome. It has the power of life & death and those who love it will eat & bear its fruit. The tongue is a fire, which left unguarded, can corrupt the whole body and set the whole course of life on fire. We need to watch the words we speak and control our speech, or it will control us.

A Right Use!

So what is a right use of the tongue in communicating? We are to use our words to nourish others, encourage and lift them up. For the tongue of the righteous is choice silver. (Prov.10:21). Pleasant words are a honeycomb, sweet in the soul and healing to the bones. We find that if we give an apt reply we will find joy and discover the goodness and healing a timely word brings! But we are not to speak glibly and hypocritically but with truth, sincerity and love – as a mother speaks to her daughter.

Guard it!

How can we guard its use? By asking the Holy Spirit to watch over our lips and set a guard over our mouth, according to the Psalmist in Psalm 141:3. It is a measure of wisdom to speak words when required and with discernment. Any fool can speak words all the time, but sometimes there is a need for silence, for even then foolish people are thought to be wise. Frequently, we are told by the world to be quick to speak and slow to listen. But as Christian Disciples we are to do the opposite, and stand alone against it! We are to be slow to speak and quick to listen, according to James 1:19.

Jesus’ Words

Jesus’ words encouraged and healed, such as to the woman caught in adultery, when he used discernment and wisdom. He actively encouraged others gently towards paths of right living. He spoke words lovingly to his mother. He even spoke words of kindness whilst He hung from His cross, during his last moments before death! He is to be our guide and Master in the use of speech, thoughts and words. That is not to say he didn’t rebuke with an attitude of love, as he most certainly did on occasion to the Pharisees and other religious leaders.

Matthew 5v21-22 is an example of the seriousness of words. Jesus speaking: “You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to his brother, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the Sanhedrin. But anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.

Here Jesus equates calling somebody a fool with the physical act of murder! Murder has its beginning in anger developing into uncontrollable rage! Words, thoughts and attitudes of anger can lead the Christian Disciple to sin even more if they aren’t stopped quickly. Similarly, adultery has its beginning in lustful thoughts! The words we formulate in our minds and those that proceed via our mouths are of utmost importance to God and therefore should be of utmost importance to us! Let the words you communicate and think about, be like those of Jesus – “full of grace”. Do not sin, either in your deeds, in your thinking and all means of communicating.

How are you doing?

How are you doing in your use of words? Are your actions backing up your words? Are the words you use always full of grace, uplifting, encouraging and building! Sure there are times when words are to be used for rebuking in love, but always used under the control of the Holy Spirit. The words you speak reflect your inner attitudes, your inner thoughts and your inner being. The words you speak and communicate reflect who you are. If the words you communicate are derogatory, inflaming and cursory then that reflects your inner thoughts and attitudes. Control your tongue, commands James. A person who controls their tongue can be likened to a ship with a rudder, and able to be steered to safety! An uncontrolled tongue reflects a ship that is heading into dangerous water! Your words and all your communication have the power to bring life and encouragement but also on the contrary, has the power to bring corruption, degradation and death. Let the Holy Spirit who lives inside you if you are a Christian Disciple; help you to use your words for the supreme glory of Jesus Christ, who after all is your Master! By doing that, you will truly be seen to be one of His disciples and be Standing Alone for Him and His majesty! He is to have supremacy over all things in your life, including your words! Make no mistake, one of the issues facing Christians and a possible barrier to standing alone, is the use, abuse and misuse of words.

For more to think about please do read James 3vv1-11. Ask yourself the following questions, writing them down if you can, and see how you respond or react to them. Why not share your answers with your spouse or a close friend, so that you can pray over any issues together.

Q1. Are the words I speak, words that heal and encourage, or are they also used to hurt and damage people?

Q2. When I am talking with other people, is it for gossiping, maliciousness or are they for healing, encouraging and uplifting others?

Q3. When was the last time I confessed and asked forgiveness for my sinful use, misuse and abuse of words?

Thank you.

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Issues – Radical Church

 Partake - Issues

Radical Church

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Luke writes of the early church in Acts 2v42-47 “All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need…” then onto v47 “And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.”

G’day and welcome to Partake Issues! Today we are going to talk about the church and its members being radical: radical within both its local and global contexts and in fulfilling its purposes.

1. The Purpose of the Church –

First of all, the purpose of the church! The church, we know, is described as the body, bride and temple of Jesus Christ. We, the church, are to be as Jesus Christ and fulfilling His purposes! From the Bible, we can see at least 5 purposes of the church.

  • To glorify God (Ephesians 3v10 & 21)
  • To build up spiritual maturity (Ephesians 4v12-13)
  • To equip for service (Ephesians 4v11-13)
  • To reach those outside the church (Matthew 28v10)
  • To promote the spiritual and physical welfare of all people – (Galatians 6v10)

Every church is to at least have those 5 things as its purpose. Your church is to exist, not for those who belong to it but also for those outside its walls! If the church gets the balance wrong at all, then surely it is failing in all of its purposes! One of the key things for churches in the 21st century is in the area of providing welfare, both for its members and those in the local and global community. Too often churches and its members have fallen into the ideological trap of consumer-based materialism. There is a saying that God helps those who help themselves. I want to tell you that that is clearly unbiblical. As a Christian and a church, you are to help those who cannot help themselves. After all that’s what God through Jesus Christ did – helped those who couldn’t help themselves! The church is to provide welfare for all on all levels – physical, psychological, emotional and spiritual. Too often the church only concentrates on one or two of those areas.

2. What will you say?

Judged accordingly! And in fulfilling those purposes, we will be judged! We are aware, I am sure, that God will judge all people for their sin. That is clear within the Bible. But did you know that there is to be a judgment for all those who profess to follow Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour? It will not be a judgment for sins and wickedness, because for Christian followers, those have already been judged when Jesus Christ died on the cross (Isaiah 53v4-6; 1 Peter 2v24)! Of that you have been declared innocent and accepted by the Lord Jesus Christ, as you have accepted His free offer of forgiveness!

However, you and I will be judged for what we have done with our gifts and talents!. We will all give an account of ourselves to God, if we profess to be Christian and a follower of Jesus Christ (Romans 14v10), and will be judged according to what we have done with what we have been given (2 Corinthians 5v10). The quality of our work will be tested (1 Corinthians 3v11-15), and our motives will be exposed. Exposed as to whether things were done for God’s glory (1 Corinthians 4v4-5) or for our own glory.

As we give account of the opportunities and abilities entrusted to us (Matthew 25v14-30), rewards may be gained or lost (1 Corinthians 3v14-15). Rewards such as the Incorruptible crown (1 Corinthians 9v25); the Crown of glory (1 Peter 5v4); Crown of righteousness (2 Timothy 4v8); Crown of rejoicing (1 Thessalonians 2v19) and the Crown of life (James 1v12). Therefore, do all you can for the glory of God the Father, as you submit to the Son Jesus Christ in the power of God the Holy Spirit! Go and help your church fulfil those 5 purposes of its existence: to glorify God, build and equip, to reach out and provide spiritual and physical welfare for all people within its community and beyond. Don’t wait to do it, take every opportunity to do it!

How do we go about this? Let me suggest two ways to be radical: radical care and radical finances!

Radically caring: Too often people in need, are shown care and concern for a little while, but gradually as time goes on, the caring ceases. All sorts of excuses are given, but in reality, there can be no excuse or reason for not caring. Not caring means not loving. Love is to be for all people, regardless of personalities, conflicts, opinions, gender, sexuality, prejudice and bias. Lots of people leave churches and house groups, through the back door, because they don’t get the care they need and desire. Too often, I would say. Too often the church is too interested in its own little world of new buildings, new programmes, new schedules or new members, as important as those things can be!

Rather than churches that look after only the interest of select people within its walls and community, the church is to look after all interests of all, both its members and non-members and within both the local and global community. We are to eschew, cast off, being insular, self-seeking and materialistic. If your own church can’t supply the need required, then it may just be that one of the other churches in your community can provide the need! Local churches, working together, to show that churches can work together – something we are often accused of not doing! By loving and caring for others, we show true fellowship with Jesus Christ. We can be seen to be one church, even though we are separate expressions of the one global church.

Most people who are sick, both short-term and long-term, will appreciate contact or even a visit! There must be someone you know in your church you can do that for! Be caring!

And on a even more radical note, lets look at money!

Lets talk money! For a lot of people there are three subjects never to be raised within church circles: money, sex and politics! We may look at the others in another podcast, but lets look at the Christian and money! Jesus certainly talked a lot about money, even just a cursory look in the Gospels will reveal that! Before I go further, this is aimed at all Christians, not just a select group!

We all desire to mature spiritually (one of the Church purposes remember). Perhaps the greatest indicator of this in the 21st century, concerns financial giving. Giving is to be done whole-heartedly and cheerfully (2 Corinthians 9v7). It is not so much how much is given, but how much is left after giving. God looks beyond the amount that is given to the motive behind it. All our money and possessions belong to God anyway, so giving is to be in response to this..

Failure to give back for God’s work, what He has given in the first place, robs God (Malachi 3v8)! The reason it is robbery is because the giving cannot be used to support those who are working for God.

Most churches with one busy pastor could quite easily afford another pastor on the payroll if more people gave money using those biblical principles. Missionaries shouldn’t have to literally beg for funding as some do, particularly when some professing Christians continue to build up massive pension pots to keep themselves in the luxurious manner they are accustomed to when they retire.

The hallmark of the early church is clearly seen in Acts 2. The New Testament church made sure that giving was done and that the poor, the oppressed, the lonely and the widows were taken care of. People gave. When anybody was in need, another member of the church fulfilled that need: physical, emotional, psychological and spiritual needs. That is radical church! It is not to be for just the first century church but also for the 21st century church. It is not communism under another name as I have heard it called. Those who say that are entrapped within the snare of materialistic consumerism and political dogma, looking after their own interests rather than the interests of others. Its biblical welfare as commanded by Jesus Christ and exemplified by His life. Anything outside of that can be regarded as deplorable, revolting and an abomination.

That is also radical! Churches and Christians are to be so radical so that even today, people outside the church can say with amazement: “These people love their God because we see that they love each other and us!” Go! God gave everything so that you may life and life in abundance, so by caring and giving, you will reflect that. Be radical church and encourage others to be likewise.

For more to think about, please do ask your self 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. How is my church fulfilling the 5 purposes of Church?

Q2. How can I help my church be more biblically radical?

Q3. When God judge me for what I have done with what He has given me, will I will be accused of having robbed Him?

Thank you.

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Issues – Materialism

Issues

Materialism

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1 John 2:15-17, the Apostle John writing: “Don’t love the world’s ways. Don’t love the world’s goods. Love of the world squeezes out love for the Father. Practically everything that goes on in the world-wanting your own way, wanting everything for yourself, wanting to appear important-has nothing to do with the Father. It just isolates you from him. The world and all its wanting, wanting, wanting is on the way out-but whoever does what God wants is set for eternity. “

I wonder what you think is quite possibly one of the greatest challenges to the Christian Disciple standing alone and being faithful to God in the twenty first century? I want to propose to you that this threat is the temptation of materialism, or to be materialistic. This is where following Jesus’ command to follow Him, take up the cross for ourselves becomes practical. This is where loving God and loving others becomes difficult. Materialism grips both the Church community and also Christian Disciples if it is allowed. Eschewing and casting off materialism will see Christian Disciples who are radical by the very society, which we are trying to win for Jesus.

What is materialism?

Every person has in differing quantities: possessions and money. These things, in and of themselves, are not evil. It is however our reaction and attitudes toward them that causes us to be seduced in this area. Materialism is a reliance on possessions, money people or even the church, as our ultimate objects of trust, instead of God. The Apostle John writing in 1 John 2v16 gives a very accurate picture of materialism: “lust of the flesh, lust of the eyes and the pride of life.” That, brother and sisters, is materialism!

A Particular Sin

If there were to be a particular sin that marks our generation, especially in the West, then it would be this sin of materialism and the worship of money, objects and people. Every day hundreds of thousands of people die from lack of food, water, clothing and shelter. For each of us in the West, these things are taken for granted. When we feel like a change of house or location, we just move. The whole Christian community is one that reflects the Holy Trinity, Father, Son and Spirit. The Church is to be a community where the strongest members support the weakest members. Where one member of the Christian community suffers and hurts, the whole Christian community suffers and hurts! This applies not only to the local church in a local community context, but also to the universal Church and therefore has a national and international context as well. Too often as Christians we are found turning a blind eye to the suffering of others where the bare necessities of life are in sparse existence. Too often we gather possessions and people, instead of giving up our time and money generously to help the poor and needy of both our local and global communities. When one member of the universal body of Christ is hurting, the whole body hurts!

So what?

As Christian Disciples living in the world of the twenty first century, where wealth is seen as a sign of success, the cult of celebrity is rife and where family, morals, ethics, community and God have taken a back seat, how should a Christian Disciple respond to materialism? A lot of Churches measure their success solely by the number of members in the congregations or by how much money goes into the offering pot each week. However, not just good things grow. Islam measures its success on the so-called growth in those who would consider themselves a Muslim. It is probably the fastest growing religion in Australia. However, every gardener will tell you that even weeds grow! So counting numbers is not the best way to measure success.

The measure of a successful Christian Disciple can be seen in thee verses from 1 John 2:15-17. The Apostle John writing: “Don’t love the world’s ways. Don’t love the world’s goods. Love of the world squeezes out love for the Father. Practically everything that goes on in the world-wanting your own way, wanting everything for yourself, wanting to appear important-has nothing to do with the Father. It just isolates you from him. The world and all its wanting, wanting, wanting is on the way out-but whoever does what God wants is set for eternity. “

Also in Matthew 22v37-40: where Jesus is saying: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your passion and prayer and intelligence.’ This is the most important, the first on any list. But there is a second to set alongside it: ‘Love others as well as you love yourself.’ These two commands are pegs; everything in God’s Law and the Prophets hangs from them.”

Action Stations!

By doing these two things, we show we trust in God and not in anything or anybody else. By exhibiting these commands, we cast off materialism and any thought of materialism from our lives. By doing those two things, both as a Church and as individual Christian Disciples, society will see we are neither dangerous nor deluded. To Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens and his aficionados who think all religion is pure evil, based on delusion and that religion has never done a good thing in history to benefit humanity, it will help show the folly and irrationality of their thinking. If Church communities and Christian Disciples make radical steps such as eschewing materialism, both in being and making Disciples, I think the Church and Christian Disciples would no longer be seen as evil, deluded and irrelevant. Rather they would be seen as a thriving community of people, resulting in Jesus being glorified and holy transformation sought. After all, Jesus is to be the master of those who would call themselves a Christian Disciple and the Head of the Church.

As a Christian Disciple and the church as a whole, you and I are to eschew materialism, cast it off and live a life worthy of our God, living in total obedience to Him and reflected in the love we display for both our local and global communities.

For more to think about, please do read for yourself Matthew 22:37-40. 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 – As a Christian Disciple, in what ways am I being seduced by materialism and the gathering of possessions, people and power?

Q2 – What things can I do, not do or give up in order to aid the weakest members of my community – local, national and global?

Q3 – How can I better use my “passion, prayer and intelligence” this week for the glory and honour of God?

Thank you!

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Issues – Individualism

 Partake - Issues

Individualism

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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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Issues – Government

 Partake - Issues

Government

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G’day and welcome to Partake Issues! Today we are going to talk about government! At the time of producing this, we are in the final stages of the run up to a General Election, where people will be voting for their political representatives. After al the votes are counted there will be a government elected! This of course, is not unique to the UK! All people all over the world live under some from of leadership or government. That government may be democratically elected, a monarchy or even an oppressive dictatorship. Whatever kind of government we find ourselves with, we have one! If there was not a government in place, as hard as it is to imagine, total chaos would reign and people would just do whatever pleases them, regardless of consequences and regardless of other people. Therefore, regardless of whatever government we live under, what does the Bible say should be our reaction and attitude to the government. By government, I mean all levels of government and authority – from local authority to federal government. But first of all, lets look at what the Bible has to say about the function of human government, before going on to look at our responsibility to Government and our community.

The Function of Human Government

Paul writing in Romans 13 “Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and he will commend you. For he is God’s servant to do you good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword for nothing. He is God’s servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also because of conscience. This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing. Give everyone what you owe him: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honour, then honour.”

Here Paul indicates that there are at least three functions of a human government: protection, punishment and promotion.

Protection: From the moment Adam sinned, it was plainly obvious that human civilizations would need some form of restraint and law, in order to protect their citizens – form themselves and others. We see this clearly in Acts 21, where the Roman soldiers step in to save Paul from being killed by other people in Jerusalem.

Punishment: Paul stipulates that duly appointed government officials and servants are to be considered as servants of God (even if they don’t believe in God!)

Promotion: Human government, as thought by Paul, was to promote the broad-spectrum welfare of all the community and not just select groups, where its laws are in effect.

Christian Response to Human Government

Paul in 1 Timothy 2v1-3 writes: “I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone- for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Saviour,

The Apostle Peter goes further when writing in 1 Peter 2v13-17 “Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every authority instituted among men: whether to the king, as the supreme authority, or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right. For it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish men. Live as free men, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as servants of God. Show proper respect to everyone: Love the brotherhood of believers, fear God, honour the king.

From these passages of Scripture we see that it is clearly impossible to be simultaneously a solid Christian and a poor citizen. As Christians we have responsibilities to our government.

Firstly we have a responsibility to recognize and acknowledge that God ordains the Government. We see that from Paul’s writing in Romans 13 and Paul was writing when the Emperor Nero was in power and systematically persecuting and torturing Christians! We also see this thinking in the passage from 1 Peter. There is no authority except as given by God. Even to the most sadistic, dictatorial or atheist governments – they have power only because God has allowed them. So we are to obey our government! But it is not to be slavish obedience regardless of what laws are decreed! No! The exception to this is where obedience to the Government would require the Christian to actively or passively disobey God. For we read in Acts 4v18-20 that the believer is to live in obedience to God rather than man.

Secondly, as much as we probably hate to, we are commanded to pay taxes to the government! For by doing so, the government can set about ensuring, for example, that the weaker and more vulnerable sections of the community are cared for and protected!

Thirdly, and quite possibly, most importantly, Christians are to pray for their leaders, governments and those in authority! Both Peter and Paul command and recommend it! To pray for them is to love them and it is also a way for God to shine into the lives of people. One of the things we are to pray for, is that the government governs righteously, honourably, honestly and with integrity.

The Christian, as a citizen, is free to be law-abiding, conscious that they are under submission to Almighty God. It also means giving respect to all members of society from the lowest to the highest! As Christians, we are to submit ourselves to our Government and be living lives worthy of the Gospel of Christ. This may indeed win some for God, win the recognition of their government as well as influencing Government policy and law. Whatever government you find yourself under, pray for your leaders even if you thoroughly disagree with some or all of their actions. They are in power, only because our God has allowed them. They will answer to Him one day for what they have done with the power given to them by God alone. God is in control, and He is on the ultimate throne and is the definitive power!

Community Responsibility

But just as we have responsibility to our Government, we also have a responsibility for those in our community – both local and global. We are also to work for social justice and be involved in social action – that’s part of our loving of other people. The oppression and persecution of people is to be anathema to us as Christians, just as it is to our God! Where a minority is maltreated and discriminated we should be at the forefront of demanding justice for all! We are to be promoting civil rights and using all aspects of the law to do so. We are to be working to ensure the poorest members of our community, both local and global, are cared for and the oppressed freed!

In your country, this could mean peaceful demonstrations and interacting with your political representatives! Look at some of the great reformers or social activists of the past: Wilberforce helping to abolish slavery; or Martin Luther King Jr. at the forefront of ending segregation and racism. May each one of us, on both a local and international scale, play some small part in ending prejudice, suffering, racism, poverty, bigotry, abuse, oppression and other injustices. As John Stott once said: “The reason for our acceptance of social responsibility… is simple uncomplicated compassion. Love has no need to justify itself. It merely expresses itself in service wherever it sees need.” As Jesus of Nazareth once said: “Love God and love other people.”

For more to think about, please do ask your self 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. In what way can I influence and encourage my government to promote justice, free the oppressed and take care of the poor?

Q2. How can I help my government authorities to protect, punish and promote?

Q3. When was the last time I actively prayed for those in authority over me, whether Christian or secular?

Thank you.

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Issues – Self Interest

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Self Interest

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G’day! Welcome to Partake Ministries and our current series, Issues. Today we are going to look together at self-interest.

Philippians 2:4,21 “Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. For everyone looks out for his own interests, not those of Jesus Christ.”

Those verses written by Paul almost two thousand years ago still resonate loudly today. In our culture, particularly in the west, selfish individualism is endemic and rife. “I can do what I want, when I want, because I am right and always right.” “Me, me, me”, people cry through their actions and attitudes! Where material possessions take precedence and the desire for more is ever evident throughout all aspects of life. The interest of others is placed at the bottom of the pile – people are placed below possessions. These are twenty-first century gods and idols. The god of the twenty-first century is “self-interest” and humanity bows to this god quite willingly, because it offers no threat. At its very source is pride! Their actions and attitude proudly proclaims “I am first, and everyone else is last”. As Christians, what should our reaction be to this aspect of our culture? as Christians living within this societal culture, how are we and the Church to respond?

Story of the Rich Young Ruler

Within the Gospels, there is the story told of Jesus’ encounter with a man, who runs up to him and falls on his knees before him. Matthew 19v16-26 describes him as a young man. Mark 10v17-22 he is simply a man and in Luke 18v18-27, he is described as a wealthy ruler. Put altogether, that makes him a rich young ruler. This man wants eternal life, wants it now and so asks Jesus about how to get it. This young man had fully kept the commandments listed by Jesus. However when Jesus said to the young ruler that in order to follow Him, he would have to give up all his wealth and possessions in order to have treasure in heaven and eternal life, the man left disconsolate. His life reflected is absorption with self and his self-interest.

That was a step too far for the rich young ruler. He wanted his riches and also everlasting life but Jesus said he couldn’t have both. He remains the only man who left Jesus’ presence sorrowful, and that due to putting his trust in his riches and wealth alone. Now riches are not necessarily wrong but they do make trusting fully in God very difficult (Mark 10v23). One of his primary problems was that he was not content with what he had materially. He always wanted more and possessions were more important to him than people. He was not willing to make the sacrifice required to follow Jesus. This attitude is endemic throughout our society, and sadly in some sections of the church, but what is the counter-cultural response that Christians and the Church should be making

Contentment

Paul commands Christian Disciples to be content with godliness (1 Timothy 6). By combining contentedness with godliness, Paul means not being worried about anything, because Jesus Christ is to be your sufficiency. Paul says this, because we came into this world with nothing, and we will leave this world with nothing. The bare necessities for contentment of life are food, clothing & shelter. However, we could in the twenty-first century, with some justification say that some other things are also necessary. For example, cars, books and computers may well be a necessity. That is up to our own individual consciences. But what we need to do, when considering purchasing things is, not to so much to ask “Can I afford it?” but rather “Can I justify it, and could the money be better used elsewhere?” Further on in 1 Timothy 6, Paul states that we are not to desire riches, lest we fall into the temptation of coveting and wander away from faith of God (vv9-10) as well as not to love money because it is a source of all kinds of evil. Every day, Christians pray that God would not lead them into temptation; and you know what, He does not need to, because they do that quite easily enough by themselves. And those that are rich are not to flaunt it arrogantly and are certainly not to place their hopes in them (v17). Those who are rich are commanded to be also rich in good deeds, to be generous and sharing (v18), building up heavenly treasure instead of earthly rubbish (v19). I should hasten to add, that contentment should also carry with it, the idea of living simply, in sympathy and solidarity with the poor of the world. Every one of us could to some degree, live that little bit more simply. That is contentment with godliness.

The contented person of humility says, “God is first, others are second, and I come last” and puts people before possessions. They have placed their total trust in God alone, and not in their material possessions. It so easy to fall into the trap of saying – “If only I had that new computer, camera, a new car or an easier job with more money?” It is so easy to say these things, and forget to be content with what we have. And it is even easier to forget to say thank-you to God for giving us all our good things. We hardly ever thank him, for friends and all the material blessings He does provide and the pleasure we gain from what He gives us. A key question to ask ourselves when seeking biblical contentment is: “Could I really thank my Lord for this particular item I want?”

By showing we are content, whether because we have much or because we have little, we reflect a difference to a world, which is all about gaining more and more things. In a culture, where the order is: myself first and others last. As Christians we are to be counter-cultural and put God first, others second and ourselves last. By being content with what we have, we reflect that we are comfortable with what we have.

The culture around us needs to see Christians living with contentment that only comes through trusting actively in Jesus Christ. This contentment is expressed by placing the interests of others first and above self-interest. Placing people before possessions is contentment displayed. They need to see Christians sacrificially loving each other, which is the outcome of being content. They need to see Christians and the Church being loving, caring, compassionate, kind and putting people ahead of material objects. If people see Christians that are not doing those things, rightly or wrongly, the whole Church is branded as a bunch of fakes and hypocrites. Worse still, God is seen, at best, as nothing more than a distant, uncaring and increasingly irrelevant myth.

People should be seeing God’s love, through your love and godly contentedness. For as Jesus said, “All people will know that you are my disciples if you have love one for another” (John 13:35). We are commanded to love, regardless of what or who the other person is or does. Godly contentment, which is humility in action, is part of unconditional love in action – unabandoned love for God, and unconditional love for others. Too often, even within the Church and the lives of professing Christians, financial profit, the seeking of possessions and pleasure and wanton greed takes priority over people – any people. When that occurs, that means the Church has compromised. They are no better than that rich young ruler who left Jesus’ presence because the demands were too great. Don’t be like that rich young ruler, but rather seek to emulate Jesus Christ, who was the most content person ever to have lived. We are commanded to be in the world but not of the world. We can do this by exhibiting contentedness in action through love to a world and culture that is in need of our Almighty God. Contentedness is the antidote to self-interest.

For more to think about please do ask your self 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. How can I show others that I am content with what I have?

Q2. What would others say, if they could see how and why I buy things?

Q1 Do I ever say to myself: “Can I justify it, and could the money be better used elsewhere?” rather than “Can I afford it?”

Thank you.

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Issues – Times of Trouble

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Times of Trouble

G’day and welcome to Partake Issues! Today we are going to talk about times of trouble. Paul writing in 2 Corinthians 4v16- 18 “Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

I wonder if sometimes you feel just like giving up, throwing it all away and just be buried by whatever is burdening you. I guess, almost everyone has felt like that at one time or another. Maybe its because you are undergoing troubles or suffering – physically, emotionally, mentally or spiritually. Whatever it is, as a Christian you are to persevere. We persevere, because we are not alone in our troubles. Also, if we think about it, in the light of eternity, the time of endurance through these troubles, is but the blink of an eye! Wow!

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Persevere!

How are you and I to respond to suffering and other troubles? Naturally, we either treat them too flippantly or far too seriously. The response that God wants His followers to have is to be exercised by it. When we undergo any suffering or trouble, we are to commit it to God, endure it and understand that He is faithful and that it will eventuate in His glory and for our own good (Romans 8v28; 1 Peter 4v18). We are to be joyful when enduring suffering (James 1v2). Now I admit, that that can be pretty hard to do, but we are not left alone. The Holy Spirit indwells us if we are His followers and as one of His names suggests, as the Comforter, He provides comfort during the difficult times. So, just as He perseveres, so are we!

Perseverance in relation to God and His work is the continuous operation of the Holy Spirit in your life as a believer. It is a work of divine grace that is begun in your heart, which is continued and brought to completion.

As a Christian, you will never perish, and nobody or nothing can snatch them out of His hand (John 10v27-29). You have eternal life and you will not be condemned, passed from death to life (John 5v24). God, who began a good work in you, will carry it on to completion (Philippians 1v6). You are shielded by God’s power (1 Peter 1v15). Nothing can separate you from God/Christ’s love (Romans 8v38-39).

God’s whole purpose for you is to transform you into the image of Jesus Christ. His purpose for you is to make you holy. This is where perseverance for you as a Christian comes in. He may well, as we have seen, use some form of temporal suffering in order to achieve it, but in the light of eternity, it will not be for long!

You are to keep your eyes focussed on Jesus Christ, carry your cross daily and be willing to obey Him. You are to run the race with eyes fixed ahead, forgetting what is past and not looking back at what in the past had entangled us. And yes it is hard to forget, but with the help of the Holy Spirit, it is possible! As a Christian, persevere in your relationship with God. Obey Him and follow Him. Ask questions humbly of Him and expect Him to answer, particularly if you don’t understand something. Persevere in your prayers, your relationships with God and with other people. God will persevere with you, turning you gradually into the image of His Son, Jesus Christ. God will not abandon you, but you are free to abandon Him. If you did abandon Him, He would still continue to call you back to Himself. So if He perseveres, so must we! But why do we persevere?

Character

Character results from persevering! As a Christian you are to be transformed and developed, working on improving your service and being transformed in the image of Jesus Christ. That is God’s ultimate purpose for you! But in order to do that, we need to find out what needs to be developed! These characteristics will help you to measure how much the Holy Spirit has been free to develop your character.

1. Persistence & EndurancePersistence & endurance is developing staying power, to hold courageously under fire. In other words – bulldog tenacity. Things like criticism, circumstances, opposition & problems can stop you cold, if you allow them.. The problem is that we sometimes think the Christian life is a sprint race. When in fact it is a marathon, where a second wind of the long hard grind is necessary. What is it that stops you? The size of a person is determined by what it takes to stop him or her. Winners are people who have formed the habit of doing things that failures hate to do. Don’t let anything stop you!

2. Resistance – This is not resistance to ideas but resistance to opposition. Criticism is the occupational hazard for leaders (1 Peter 2v20-24). Discouragement is a cancer of the Spirit. Be resistant to discouragement and hyper-criticism. Let the Holy Spirit encourage you!

3. ServanthoodMatthew 20v26-28 “Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave.” The first shall be last and the last shall be first. Priority is be given to service. An essential part of developing character, is serving.If Jesus, as King, could be a humble servant, in that He came to earth as a member of His own creation, then you and I can also be identified as humble servants..

4.Consistent Example – Modelling is the greatest unconscious form of learning what we know. As Paul writes in Philippians 3v17 – 4v9 “Follow me as I follow Christ”. Whether you like it or not, people are following you, but are you following Christ closely? Those who are following and watching you, do not do what you tell them to do, but do what you do!

5. Self-mastery – You need to be unencumbered by the things that weigh you down. This is the danger of an affluent society. (Hebrews 12:1-2) “Travel light”. You need to decide what is good and what is evil. The real decision is between that which is good, that which is better and which is better or best. Choose the best!!

6. Virile Private Life – Two things to keep in balance are involvement & isolation. You cannot do enough for others if you are constantly in the company of others. You also need time alone but not as a complete hermit!

7. Confidence – The number one problem in our culture today, is a lack of confidence. Paul said in Philippians 4v13: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me”. For you as Christian Disciple, self-confidence is Christ-confidence – this is not egotism. Say to your self “I can’t lose. I can only make mistakes”. Confidence is spawned by the ability to say no. The New Testament is the doctrine of moderation in all things. You don’t have to do everything you are capable of achieving.

8. Teachability – You are to be teachable because you have an unlimited ceiling of being taught. A key part of your being a Christian Disciple is a willingness to be taught by other people, even if you are in a teaching role!

9. Positive Attitude – A danger in becoming negative, is that a root of bitterness sets up. The greatest therapy is that of thanksgiving & prayer. God says you can do it. Satan says you can’t do it.

10. Your capacity to believe God – What is there in your life that you are trusting in God for that He alone can do? (2 Corinthians 4v7) In your life, Jesus is to have the supremacy and glory over all things!

Whatever you are going through – persevere and develop character. Allow yourself to be transformed daily by God the Holy Spirit into the image of God the Son in obedience to the will of God the Father.

For more to think about please do ask your self 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. After reading 2 Timothy 2v11-13, what motivates me to endure and persevere?

Q2. After reading Philippians 3v17, how can I follow Jesus Christ more closely?

Q3. After reading 2 Corinthians 4:7, what is there in my life that where I show trust in God for that which He alone can do?

Thank you.

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