Sadly, as a pastor and a church, we have too often had to deal with the aftermath of sexual sin in a marriage or divorce. Also sadly, they both are growing in frequency in the church in America. Separated spouses even dating or living with other people. Too often, churches have failed to deal with it either because they don't know how or because it's simply easier not to get involved. --- even when it involves those in church leadership. Or, go to the opposite extreme and brutalize those who have fallen.
How do we regain purity in the church? How do we regain a grace-filled, biblical understanding of Biblical Separation, Divorce and Remarriage? How do we restore? Because of the devastation this brings upon a marriage, family, the church and the testimony of Christ, we want to help those who may be struggling in this area. The following is reprinted from our church By-Laws. Not everyone will agree;. Some will think we're too harsh, others thinking we're too lax.
We recognize, that there are times when God permits a believer to seek a divorce without sinning against God or a spouse. Based upon our prayerful study and understanding of Scripture within its historic, cultural and linguistic contexts, we believe divorce may be permissible for the following, three, limited reasons:
1. Adultery and Sexual Immorality. When the other spouse has violated the Marriage Covenant through sexual sin (Scripturally, this applies either prior to or after the marriage). (Dt. 24:1 and affirmed by Jesus in Matt. 5:31-32 & 19: 3-12).
Please note that the Greek word pornea translated “fornicators” or “fornication” in the Bible refers to any physical act, or intimacy of a sexual manner, causing sexual stimulation outside of the Marriage Covenant. (It is not limited to sexual intercourse). The following relationships and behaviors are Biblically considered sin: fornication, adultery, homosexuality, bi-sexuality, pedophilia, incest, bestiality, necrophilia, etc.
2. Abandonment: Including Emotional & Physical Neglect. Historically, both Old Testament and early New Testament marriage vows included outlining marital responsibilities as based upon Exodus 21:10-11. These responsibilities included the idea of provision, protection and due benevolence (conjugal rights of each spouse). Although God originally created these rights for the benefit and protection of the wife in an ancient, male dominated culture (Ex. 21:10-11), New Testament Judaism, the Early church and the Apostle Paul affirmed that they were God's ideal for mutual blessing and extended to each spouse (1 Cor. 7:12-16. Also cf. 1 Cor. 7:3-5 & 1 Tim. 5:8). Modern marriage vows still reflect this influence.
3. Abuse. This was traditionally and contextually included in, and considered a form of neglect. (Please see item-2 above, “Abandonment: Including Emotional & Physical Neglect.” Also cf. Eph. 5:25-29).
If church involvement has been exhausted and has failed to bring genuine repentance, separation and/or divorce may be a Biblically permissible option. (Rm. 1:18-32; 1 Cor. 6:9-11 & 7:12-16; Mt. 18: 12-20).
Divorce Is Permissible, Not Required. Even though divorce is permissible in these situations, it is not required. God patiently bears with our sins, repeatedly calls us to repentance, and freely forgives us when we turn back to Him (Ps. 103:8-12; Isa. 55:7). When divorce becomes an option, an offended spouse can imitate God’s love by offering a straying spouse these same evidences of grace (Eph. 5:1-2). This may involve patiently bearing neglect or lovingly confronting serious sin (Col. 3:12-14; Gal. 6:1). In some situations, love may require asking the church to initiate formal discipline to rescue a spouse and a marriage from the devastating effects of unrepentant sin (Matt. 18:12-20).
Involvement Of The Local Church. Just as church leaders are involved in beginning a marriage, we believe they should be involved when it ends. Therefore, when someone is considering divorce, he or she is encouraged to bring the situation to our leaders and cooperate with them as they determine whether grounds exist, promote repentance and reconciliation, and exhaust redemptive discipline, if appropriate.
Separated Spouses. Separated spouses who have separated because of unrepentant sin in the relationship, and after attempts of loving, redemptive correction as outlined in our By-Laws under (“Involvement Of The Local Church”), or who have filed for divorce, should consider themselves married until the day a civil court issues a divorce decree. Thus they should refrain from dating or any other activity that is inconsistent with being married.
Remarriage. We are always interested in helping divorced people restore their previous marriage if that is possible and appropriate. We will support a decision to pursue a second marriage to a different person only when we have determined that it is Biblically valid and that every reasonable effort has been made to seek and grant forgiveness of the sins that contributed to a previous divorce.
We believe in those situations where God has provided (not commanded) a Biblically permissible reason for divorce, that He also has provided biblical permission (not a command) for remarriage. In 1 Cor. 7:15, Paul addresses specific situations not addressed by Jesus’ general principle regarding divorce. Paul deliberately chooses to use the wording in a Jewish divorce document and gave the “innocent party” in a divorce permission to remarry as long as the new marriage was a Biblically-based marriage. He also applied to divorce the exact language used in a legal document drafted to set a slave free. (E.g., being “bound” would mean the individual was still married in God’s sight. Not being “bound” or “free” meant that the individual was free to remarry.).
God’s Grace, Love & Forgiveness. We rejoice that divorce never diminishes God’s free offer of love, grace and forgiveness. He cherishes and loves every person who has been unwillingly divorced, as does our church. God graciously extends this same love to those who have wrongly left their marriages. That love moves Him (and us) to call them to repentance, to encourage and aid reconciliation when possible, and to gladly restore those who have done all they can to rebuild broken relationships.
* C.f., What God Has Joined, (Christianity Today, October 2007), and Divorce and Remarriage in the Church (IVP), both by David Instone-Brewer. Marriage, Divorce, and Remarriage in the Bible, by Dr. Jay Adams (Zondervan). The Divorce Dilemma: God’s Last Word On Lasting Commitment, by Dr. John MacArthur (Day One) The Exemplary Husband, Appendix-5: Divorce And Remarriage, by Dr. Stuart Scott (Focus Publishing). The IVP Bible Background Commentary: NT, 1 Cor. 7:10-16, by Craig Keener (IVP). “What To Do When Your Spouse Says, ‘I Don’t Love You Anymore:’” by Dr. David Clarke.
The Puritans spoke of the Mercy, Might and Majesty of the Triune-God --- all shrouded in His Mystery. We don't speak of God in those terms much anymore, And from conversations, counseling and most sermons available, it's also obvious we don't "think" in those terms much anymore either. We're all about self-help, self-fulfillment, and self-advancement. We speak of God in terms of the "Great Provider," and that is certainly legitimate. An OT name for God tells us He's our Provider. Another primary name for God tells us He's the "Becoming One" Who becomes whatever it is that we need. But we fall short if we stop there --- because He's so very, much more!
Scripture, the Early Church Fathers, the Reformers, and most men and women used greatly of God had an entirely different focus. They were "Christ-Centered" not "man-centered." They understood "Orthodoxy" (right believing) and "Orthopraxy" (right practices). They lived with an awareness of God that many of us simply have yet to discover. They embraced an understanding of their primary purpose on this earth, "To glorify God and to enjoy Him forever." (Q-1 from the Westminster Confessional).
God's Mercy included all His attributes such as: His goodness: love, grace, long-suffering, etc.
His Might included His Omnipotence (All-Powerful), Omniscience (All-Knowing) and His Omnipresence (Eternal, Universal Presence).
His Majesty was represented by His Splendor, Glory, Greatness and Holiness, etc.
In totality, they were referred to as His Perfections, as God is Perfect in all He is and does..
But as much as God allows us to "know" Him as revealed in Creation, Scripture and the person of Jesus Christ --- He is also Transcendant (other-worldly and beyond knowing). All this shrouds Him in Mystery. But mystery can be a fearful thing, and that may be exactly our problem. We've become too comfortable with our idea of a "safe" and "homogenized" God --- we've lost our reverential fear of God --- and with it our need for spiritual and moral holiness, courage and power.
The Puritans, and many who came before them, were willing to pay any price to live for and die for Christ! That's a far ways from the average mindset in many of us today. And sadly, it reflects on our priorities and life-styles.
I pray before it's too late, that we begin praying for God's Glory and personal revival while seeking the God of the Scriptures.
And, if speaking of God's Mercy, Might and Majesty seems a little too archaic for us --- how about speaking of God's Sovereign Wisdom, Power and Goodness.
Let me recommend a book. to start us all on our journey, "The Knowledge of the Holy," by A.W. Tozer. It might just be what the doctor ordered to help us rediscover a knowledge of God lost.
In His Holy Love ~ Pastor Bob
I was up early this morning praying for some families going through crisis in our church; I was also doing some personal studying about Heaven. From there I started thinking about my primary purpose as a pastor. Sadly, it wasn't what most "Church Growth Guru's" and the "Seeker-Friendly" crowd advocate. Scripture tells me the what and to a great extent, the how.
The What. If I could boil it all down, I think I can come up with three broad categories:
1) Preparing people and souls for Heaven and Eternity;
2) As A.W. Tozer would so eloquently, and bluntly, state it, "attempting to make Worshipers out of Rebels;"
3) Discipling others to grow in the knowledge and grace of our Lord and Savior --- and equip them for useful service to the Master.
The How. Scripture is pretty specific.
Praying for and with His people;
Feeding His flock God's Word --- whether in groups or in Personal Pastoral Discipleship ("counseling");
Ministering to the sick, poor, shut-ins --- and the dying,
Interestingly enough, I couldn't find things like:
Entertaining His flock --- souls are at stake;
Addressing their "felt needs" --- souls are at stake;
Treating them as consumers --- souls are at stake;
Failing to address unrepentant sin which may put their souls, and others, at risk;
We're talking about people's souls and eternity! Sadly, at times I lose that priority.
I could add to each list but you get the point.
Look at those three general purpose statements above again. Pray that God grants me the wisdom, discernment and faithfulness to be the type of pastor He desires and you may genuinely need.
Thank you ~ Pastor Bob
What we believe matters --- because what we believe effects how we choose to live and treat others. It's true that "you can tell me what you think, but you will live what you believe.
What is a Worldview? A Worldview is the framework and set of filters we view the world around us from and our place in it; it's how we interpret things. It governs our attitudes, choices and behaviors.
Every worldview contains five components whether or not it is acknowledged --- or even recognized. Try discussing these at your next family gathering!
Theology = Beliefs about the existence, nature & source of God. Everyone has a belief about God even if they say He doesn't exist.
(E.g., atheism, deism, monotheism, pantheism, etc.)
Anthropology = Beliefs about the existence, nature & source of man.
( E.g., basically good, fallen nature, evolving animal, image of God, etc.)
Axiology = Beliefs about the existence, nature & source of morals.
( E.g., relativism & situational ethics, self-truth, social norms, moral absolutes, etc.)
Metaphysics = Beliefs about the existence, nature & source of ultimate reality.
(E.g., experience & natural world, biblical truth, etc.)
Epistemology = Beliefs, methodology & approach to science.
(E.g., “No Bible, only Science”, “Only the Bible, no Science” or "Bible & Science")
America and Western Civilization was originally built on a Judaeo-Christian Worldview. Interestingly enough, I just read a secular article on the "least corrupt" countries in the world. Although the article didn't say it (I knew immediately by looking at a color coded atlas), the common denominator? Those founded on a historic Judaeo-Christian Worldview. Not only that, those with a distinctly Judaeo-Christian AND Protestant Reformation historical lineage.
Judaeo-Christian Worldview is based on the idea there is a holy God with established moral absolutes (e.g., the Ten Commandments), who all men are accountable to. It gets it's viewpoint from Scripture.
Secular Humanistic Worldview is based upon the idea that there is no God and no moral absolutes; only moral relativism leading to situational ethics and moral compartmentalization. E.g., just because a pastor recently had to flee out of a congregant's bedroom naked after being caught in adultery by the woman's husband, doesn't mean we shouldn't trust him to be faithful to God and his people as a pastor. Or, just because a president repeatedly violates his oath made to God in his marriage, doesn't mean he can't keep his oath made to God and the American people.
A historic Judaeo-Christian Wolrdview has all but disappeared in the life of our country --- even among so-called Evangelicals. We now live in a post-Christian America. The predominate Worldview in America today is a Secular-Humanism. While within the "Evangelical" church itself, studies indicate that the predominate Worldview is now "Moralistic Therapeutic Deism (MTD)." MTD consists of some combination of moral teaching, pop-psychology, and generic God-talk. It is the primary theology of most "Seeker-Friendly" churches. As a result, studies now indicate that only 9% of CHRISTIANS in America have a Biblical Worldview.
Worldviews impact our view on sexual, economic, social and political morality and justice. E.g.,
Traditional Conservatism defines it as equal opportunity, and is more closely related to a Judaeo-Christian and Capitalistic Worldview.
Modern Liberalism defines it as equal outcome, and is more closely related to a Secular-Humanist and even Socialist Worldview.
Traditional Conservatism defines it as the right to pursue those things that don't impinge upon the rights of others. The right to take risks in the pursuit of non-guaranteed rewards while accepting personal responsibility for the outcomes.. It's more closely related to a Judaeo-Christian and Capitalistic Worldview.
Modern Liberalism defines it as the right to pursue those things I want, regardless of how it might impact others; to live any life-style chosen without restraint --- BUT --- if it doesn't work out it's up to everybody else to bail me out --- or to support me so I can continue a life-style I can't maintain on my own. It's more closely related to a Secular-Humanistic and even Socialist Worldview.
Traditional Conservatism = much like an "exegesis" study of Scripture attempts to get at the original intent and meaning of the writer, Constitutional "Originalist" attempt the same thing when interpreting the Constitution; what was the original intent of the Framers? The Constitution itself was the work of men who had been influenced by a Judaeo-Christian Worldview.
Modern Liberalism = Muck like an "eisegeses" study of Scripture, it reads into the text whatever it desires. It treats the Constitution in the same way, as a "living" document that supports what they want and can force upon others. It has even been interpreted in a way that ignores rights specifically written in black and white, all in attempt to create a new set of unwritten rights that don't even exist in the Constitution itself. E.g., the "right" of homosexual marriage and transgender bathroom and shower room "rights," now trumps religious liberties.
Whatever Worldview we may have, let's be honest enough to admit that we each have one. And, let's be honest enough if we call ourselves a "Christian" to make sure we have the Worldview that Christ Himself taught and lived by. His was the original "Originalist" Worldview based on truth and love; one that empowered and didn't enable; one that helped the masses without denying their own personal responsibility. One who had a perfect and balanced Worldview based on Eternity.
Used by permission of "GotQuestions.com"
Question: "How should Christians view refugees?"
Answer: One of the things that have marked the 21st century so far is the global refugee crisis caused by warfare, genocide, and oppression in various places around the world. Some estimates place the number of displaced people at close to 60 million globally. Syria has endured a civil war since 2011, displacing nearly 14 million people from their homes; nearly 5 million Syrians have fled to other countries. The United States admitted almost 85,000 refugees from all over the world in 2016. With the refugees come opportunities, risks, and debates over what the Christian response to refugees should be.
First, all Christians should be able to agree that the issues surrounding the refugee crisis are more complex than the rhetoric on social media would have us believe. There are Christians who, in the name of compassion, believe we should open all borders and take in all refugees, no matter what. There are other Christians who, in this era of terrorism, believe we should close all borders and refuse most refugees. For one group to malign the other as “un-Christian” or “unloving” or “racist” is wrong. To insist that one’s own view on refugees is the only possible view for a Christian to have is neither helpful nor realistic. It’s not as simple as “love vs. hate” or “compassion vs. security.” There are nuances to consider. There may, in fact, be more than one Christian view on the matter of refugees.
Second, still laying the groundwork for considering the refugee crisis, we should acknowledge that forming personal convictions concerning refugees is a separate matter from setting governmental policy. Christians have many shared priorities, but the practical outworking of those priorities can vary from person to person. A government, even when informed by Christian principles, has different priorities. Governments must be concerned with national security, even if Christians give no thought to personal security. An individual Christian may be willing to risk everything in order to assist refugees, but that same Christian cannot demand that his neighbors share that risk. We must strike a balance between our (God-given) personal responsibility to show compassion and the (God-given) state responsibility to protect its citizens.
It’s good to look to Scripture for some examples of displaced people. Jacob and his family could be considered refugees in Egypt, fleeing the famine in Canaan (Genesis 46:1–4). When Moab faced destruction at the hands of the Assyrians, the Moabites pleaded for Israel to take in their refugees (Isaiah 16:3). Edom was condemned, in part, for refusing to help Jewish refugees (Obadiah 1:14). Psalm 146:9 says, “The Lord watches over the foreigner.” Ruth, who was more of an immigrant than a refugee, was welcomed in Judah, but note, in her words to Naomi, her willingness to assimilate into Jewish culture: “Your people will be my people and your God my God” (Ruth 1:16).
The Old Testament Law contained this instruction pertaining to refugees and immigrants in Israel: “Do not oppress a foreigner; you yourselves know how it feels to be foreigners, because you were foreigners in Egypt” (Exodus 23:9). This principle is reiterated in Leviticus 19:33, “When a foreigner resides among you in your land, do not mistreat them.”
The New Testament does not give any specific command concerning nations admitting refugees. The New Testament was not written to be a civic handbook or legal charter. What we do find in the New Testament are specific commands concerning individual treatment of others. Jesus said the greatest commandment, right after the command to love God, is “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:31). And in one of the end times’ judgments, Jesus will commend those who helped the hungry, the thirsty, and the stranger (Matthew 25:35). So, without a doubt, Christians have a mandate to show compassion to the needy.
The Christian response to refugees must include love. And it’s worth pointing out that biblical love always includes risk. It’s impossible to love someone the way Christ loves us and not face a certain amount of risk. And that factor—risk—is what necessitates that Christian compassion be tempered with caution when implementing national policy. Any nation that brings in refugees opens itself to the possibility that terrorists have infiltrated the ranks of displaced internationals. The Paris attacks in November 2015 and the Boston Marathon bombing in 2013 are grim reminders of the deception employed by terrorists to gain entrance into a country.
So, a Christian forming a biblical response to the refugee crisis will do several things:
1) Commit to administering care and compassion to refugees. Christians should welcome refugees into their homes and churches as a way to show God’s love and share the gospel. Standing before the throne of the Lamb one day will be those “from every nation, tribe, people and language” (Revelation 7:9).
2) Pray for our nation’s leaders. Governing authorities have a divine responsibility to “bring punishment on the wrongdoer” (Romans 13:4) and to ensure “that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness” (1 Timothy 2:2). Pray that our leaders would have the wisdom of a Daniel or a Joseph.
3) Support ministries that assist refugees. Many Christian ministries exist to help refugees in relocation, job training, language skills, and cultural adjustment.
4) Promote government policies that are effective in screening refugees to prevent those with evil intent from entering. We must show compassion to those in need; at the same time, we must show compassion to our fellow citizens and not place them at undue risk.
5) Pray for the refugees, their families, and their troubled homelands. “Be exalted, O God, above the highest heavens! May your glory shine over all the earth” (Psalm 57:5).
6) Research the best ways to help the displaced. From “safe zones” abroad to Christian ministries at home, there are many options that deserve serious consideration.
Jesus told us to go into all the world and preach the gospel (Matthew 28:18– 20). With the surge of refugees, the mission field is coming to us, and many of those who come are from nations closed to traditional missions. Wouldn’t it be just like God to turn a bad situation into something good and full of glory?
Recommended Resource: Seeking Refuge: On the Shores of the Global Refugee Crisis by Bauman, Sorens, & Smeir
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Questions about Christmas
We receive a lot of different questions about Christmas. Rather than focusing on any one particular question, we thought it would be more helpful for us to give you the list of our most frequently asked questions related to Christmas. Whether or not you choose to celebrate Christmas, rejoice with us that Jesus was born. Without that day around 2000 years ago in Bethlehem, Jesus could not have become the Savior of the world.
Should Christians celebrate Christmas?
What is the true meaning of Christmas?
How should Christians respond to the War on Christmas?
Do some Christmas traditions have pagan origins?
Should we have a Christmas tree?
Does giving gifts take away from the true meaning of Christmas?
Why is the virgin birth so important?
Was Jesus born on December 25th?
Is Christmas related to Saturnalia?
Was Jesus actually born in September?
What does the Bible say about the three wise men?
What should parents tell their children about Santa Claus?
What is an advent calendar? How does an advent calendar relate to Christmas?
Should a Christian celebrate Hanukkah (Christmaskah)?
What is Epiphany / Three Kings’ Day and should Christians celebrate it?
What is Christmastide?
What was the star of Bethlehem?
Does Luke's claim that Jesus was born in Bethlehem at the time of Quirinius' census match the historical record?
Why did the Magi bring gold, frankincense, and myrrh to Jesus?
Is it wrong to say "Xmas" instead of "Christmas"?
What year was Jesus Christ born? When was Jesus born?
What is the origin of Christmas?
What is Kwanzaa? Should a Christian celebrate Kwanzaa?
What is a Christmas nativity?
Why was Jesus born in a manger?
What does it mean that baby Jesus was wrapped in swaddling clothes?
What is the meaning of Noel?
Where was Jesus born?
What is Advent?
What is the Annunciation?
What are holy days?
What are Chreasters?
Why do we celebrate Christmas?
Recommended Resource: The Case for Christmas by Lee Strobel
Reprinted with permission of "GotQuestions.com"
Growing up, one of my favorite guitarist was Alvin Lee from Ten Years After. In a sense of his own bewilderment at the world. he penned a song entitled, "I'd Love To Change The World." In it, there are two verse, that although are probably 40-45 years old, reveal that things haven't changed much.
The first is, "Tax the rich to feed the poor until there are no rich no more." The "have-nots" continue to demand the same rewards as those who have taken risks, worked hard, worked smart, and God has blessed. Yes, those blessed by God have a responsibility before God to be good stewards of their wealth, but their responsibilities are to God --- not a government who mismanages it's own budget, and now looks for ever increasing revenues somewhere else. In addition, Scripture teaches that all men are equal under the law --- that doesn't speak to a right to income equality."
The chorus of the same song adds, "I'd love to change the word, but I don't know what to do --- so I'll leave it up to you." Ever felt like that? So much that needs to be changed --- so much that needs to be made right! Don't forget that we live in a fallen world where the effects of sin have damaged everything in God's creation --- including us. Sometimes this can become overwhelming can't it?
Jesus and the Apostle Paul have some advice for us:
Jesus reminded His disciples that "he poor would always be among us --- we will never rid the world of poverty before the return of Jesus.
The Apostle Paul also encouraged us "not to grow weary in well doing."
We can become overwhelmed at the unmet needs of the world to such a degree that we either: 1) live a life of false guilt because of what we have that others don't, 2) shut down and give up, or 3) become selfish and self-absorbed with no care about the plight of others.
But there's another way, a better way:
First, we learn to live a life of thankfulness for what God has "richly" provided for us to enjoy. It doesn't mean that we consume it all on ourselves --- we just abandoned false guilt.
Second,. we learn to live as stewards, realizing that all we have has been given to us from the hand of God --- it's God who blesses our hard work, our ingenuity, and our success. It also means that we need to realize that we have a responsibility before God in how we choose to manage and spend our God-Given resources. It means helping others wisely --- without enabling sinful behaviors and "co-dependency." It means not enabling but empowering others. E.g., Oxfam, a humanitarian organization has a motto that fits well, "If I give you a fish you'll eat for a day --- if I teach you how to fish you'll eat forever." By the way, Scripture teaches both workfare and welfare --- in that order. Remember, work was God's design before the fall and the curse --- it's designed for dignity and a blessing --- not a curse in itself.
Third, realize that God is God --- and we're not! Too often we try to play God in others lives. Rather, we need to point others to the Savior, offer opportunities --- and then respect their decisions. Tough to do when we think folks are headed for disaster and we want to "rescue" them. Some people will only learn by experiencing the consequences (and pain) of their own attitudes, choices and behaviors. AND REMEMBER --- Proverbs describes "a fool" as --- someone who will not listen, will not learn, will not change, and will not repent. AND, that if we rescue them from their folly, we'll just have to do it again.
A better way to live. Let me encourage us all to realize that we can't do it all, but we can do something. Lets learn to focus on what we can do --- and leave the rest with God. He alone has unlimited time, energy and resources. He simply asks us to do our best --- without enabling sinful behaviors in others (or ourselves) --- and trust Him for the rest.
We serve an All-wise, All-powerful and All-good God --- life is short --- and sin and neglect have serious consequences!
Be at peace!
A recent article by Chuck Swindoll encouraged that we all need three people in our lives:
1) "Someone who has gone before us" --- someone who has mentored and discipled us. A person who has encouraged us, corrected us, helped us identify our strengths and weaknesses, and who by their own life, has been a role model and led the way for us.
2) "Someone who now walks along side of us to help share the burdens." Someone we can share our hearts with: our trials, temptations, failures and successes with. Someone to pray with. Someone for mutual encouragement and accountability;
3) And "someone we can mentor and disciple." Someone we can "pay it forward" with and invest our lives into. We need them as much as they need us for our own personal growth.
So it's time to personally take stock --- do we have these three people in our lives, and if not, why not? And remember the following pointers I've learned over the years before entering into any of these relationships:
First, "Unless two agree, how shall they walk together." (Amos 3:3) This is the biblical basis of all relationships. Don't strive trying to create a relationship where God isn't putting one together --- it has to work for both of you.
Second, Jesus chose His own disciples --- after much prayer. Be prayerful about relationships we enter into;
Third, Jesus chose His disciple. they didn't choose Him. But, they had the freedom to accept or reject the offer. Don't allow others to force us into relationships we're not comfortable with or aren't a natural "fit." Manipulation, coercion and codependency are never a good basis for healthy relationships.
Fourth, Jesus had differing levels of intimacy with others:
There were "His detractors;" some who even faked friendship but were looking to hurt Him or His plans. It was a relationship based upon deception and malice.
Next, there were "the multitudes" who came and went, depending upon if they felt they were getting something out of Jesus and having their own "needs" met. It was all a one-way relationship --- Jesus gave and they took.
Next, there were "the seventy" who faithfully followed Him around desiring to learn while supporting His ministry. It was a mutually, beneficial relationship.
Next there were "the Twelve" whom He chose to take deeper and pour Himself into.
And lastly, there were "the Three" with whom He was the most intimate with (Peter, James and John)..
May I suggest that our own relationships will be similar, and it's a wise individual who knows which group both they and others are relationally members of? It can save us much pain and frustration in misinterpreting relational intimacy, and disappointment in not getting our own unrealistic, unmet expectations met.
Those who have gone before us --- those who walk along side of us --- and those we can invest ourselves into. Now, who comes to mind as we think about these three types of relationships. Are we as invested in them as they are to us? Are they invested in us as much as we a are to them?
We serve an All-wise, All-powerful and All-good God --- life is short --- and sin and neglect have serious consequences!
Today we continue with part-2, on the power and the purity of the early church.“The disciples remained steadfast in ... fellowship.”
In Greek the word is “koinonia” and refers to relational communion. It suggests living in community in agape love; a caring and participation in each others lives.
Why is this important? Because it was Jesus that founded and died for the church! Jesus designed it:
Many of us have been hurt or have “grown weary in well doing.” Maybe we’ve lost interest in becoming vulnerable, taking relational risks with others, or even in investing in others lives.
Few have probably experienced this as greatly as those in ministry --- those who are the targets of unrealistic, unmet expectations or who have been misunderstood, misrepresented and even mistreated. But where would the church be if all those in ministry were to simply drop out? The same applies to each and everyone reading this! The Body of Christ needs your spiritual gifts operating properly and fully within the design of the church.
Maybe this is why we need a fresh move of the Holy Spirit --- a fresh empowerment of agape love --- and of forgiveness.
But it also requires wisdom and discernment because the church attracts those who simply aren’t trustworthy: deceivers, wolves and false brethren looking to take advantage of us all.
That’s part of the reason that the church lacks purity and power today, because those responsible for caring for God’s sheep fail to protect them. It’s why in the Book of Acts we’ll see the Holy Spirit and the Apostles having to clean house, even in the early church. It’s why Paul wrote church and pastoral epistles, outlining church correction and discipline. Sadly, as Dr. James MacDonald relates through personal experience, “It seldom goes well.” I can personally testify to that.
Pop Quiz! Are we “remaining steadfast … in genuine biblical fellowship?”
Bottom line. What dies it reveal about our own hearts when we could care less for the only organism that Jesus birthed and died for? Maybe it's time to come in out of the cold.
God is sovereign, life is short, and sin and neglect have consequences!
In Acts 2:42, we see the foundational pillars of power and purity in the early church. In addition to the sovereign empowerment of the Holy Spirit, the disciple’s “remained steadfast” in Christ-centered:
The Living Bible expresses it this way; “They joined themselves with other believers in regular attendance at the Apostles teaching sessions and at Communion services and prayer meetings.”
Why is each so important? Today we’ll look at the importance of remaining steadfast in the Apostles doctrine (biblical, Christ-centered teaching).
There are only three things that are eternal: God Himself, the human soul, and God’s Word. That in itself should make it important to us! Why? Because it is “the power unto salvation” and restoration with God. It has the power to change lives and conform us into the image of our Master, Jesus Christ --- “a leopard can’t change it’s spots” without the sovereign power of the Holy Spirit and the Word of God causing regeneration, transformation and sanctification in our lives.
God’s Word also tells us the heart and mind of God --- what He is like, what He thinks of us, what He’s done for us, what He promises to do for us --- and yes, what He expects of us in return.
It’s God’s written source of comfort, strength and stability. It’s also designed for the equipping of the saints for ministry to others: preaching, teaching, evangelism and service.
And unlike pastor or pope --- the Apostles spoke God’s Revelation “ex-cathedra” (without error). That ended with the Apostolic Age and the death of the last apostle (John). The Canon of Scripture, as we have it today, is what God deemed enough for us for faith and conduct. We can trust that all Scripture is:
Pop Quiz. Are we remaining steadfast in God’s Word? Do we:
Challenging stuff! Is that perhaps why the church in America is lacking spiritual and moral purity and power? Is it why the culture is making a greater impact on the church than the church is making on the world? Is it why perhaps, some in our own church --- lack power and purity? Perhaps why individually we each may lack it? What about our children?
Is it time to get serious --- genuinely serious --- about the things of God?
God is sovereign, life is short, and both sin and neglect have serious consequences!
Pastor Bob Morgan is the founding pastor of HCCF. His pastor's "heart-cry" is to see God glorified through the liberating power of the Gospel by leading people to freedom in Christ, and positive, biblical life-change.