An Apostolic Fellowship – Part Five

We are talking about apostolic fellowship. And a simple phrase in the New Testament leads to an understanding of how Christians are to relate together in true fellowship. That phrase is one another, the Greek word alleles. Verses that contain this phrase speak of believers lives together and how they are to treat one another.

The basis of their relating to one another is the relationship they have with God. As a result of being born agin they have received the gift of eternal life (Romans 6:23b). This gift of ‘eternal life’ is defined in John 17:3 which states: “And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.” As a result of this intimacy with the Lord and our heavenly Father we can then have fellowship with one another. We can then share the most precious things together.

1 John 1:7 “But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.”

Christians are to fellowship with one another in the following ways:

    • “Have peace with one another” (Mark 9:50) In this way we will be the salt of the earth.
    • “Be kindly affectionate to one another” (Romans 12:10) We are to love one another as members of one family.
    • “Giving preference to one another” (Romans 12:10). We are to prefer others in specific acts of service.
    • “Be of the same mind towards one another” (Romans 12:16). We are to be unified in values and goals. (See: Romans 15:5)
    • “Receive one another” (Romans 15:7). Fully accept one another.
    • “Admonish one another” (Romans 15:14). Caution one another, reminding each other of the dangers that might lie ahead.
    • “Greet one another” (Romans 16:16). Embrace one another in a full-hearted welcome. (See: 1 Corinthians 16:20; 2 Corinthians 13:12; 1 Peter 5:14).
    • “Wait for one another” (1 Corinthians 11:33). We aren’t to selfishly move ahead of one another.
    • “Have the same care for one another” (1 Corinthians 12:25) Treat every member with the same concern and affection.
    • “Serve one another” (Galatians 5:13). We are now free to dedicate ourselves to one another, being a blessing, serving in practical ways. (See: 1 Peter 4:10). Koinonia may also have reference to the collection and distribution of gifts (Romans 15:26; 2 Corinthians 8:4; 9:13; Hebrews 13:16).
    • “Bearing with one another” (Ephesians 4:2). We are to bear with one another’s weaknesses,. Standing strong in our devotion to one another no matter how offended we might get. (See: Colossians 3:13)
    • “Be kind to one another” (Ephesians 4:32). Be gracious and easy going with one another.
    • “Tenderhearted, forgiving one another” (Ephesians 4:32). We Must be filled with compassion for one another, graciously forgiving one another from our hearts. (See: Colossians 3:13).
    • “Speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs” (Ephesians 5:19). Bring the presence of the Lord into the center of our fellowship.
    • “Submitting to one another” (Ephesians 5:21). Respect one another and respond to one another with a word of encouragement in times of crisis and discouragement. (See: 1 Thessalonians 5:11; Hebrews 3:13; 10:25).
    • “Edify one another” (1 Thessalonians 5:11). Always build each other up and not tear down; be a blessing and not a curse.
    • “Consider one another in order to stir up love and good works (Hebrews 10:24). Positively provoke one another to press forward in the will of God.
    • “Confess your sins to one another” (James 5:16). Be open and honest with one another.
    • “Pray for one another” (James 5:16). Stand in the gap for one another in the presence of the Lord.
    • “Having compassion for one another” (1 Peter 3:8). Be sympathetic for one another, identifying with each other at the point of need.
    • “Be hospitable to one another” (1 Peter 4:9). Have a sincere desire to host one another in our homes. 

These are summed up in 1 Peter 3:8 “Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind.”

An Apostolic Fellowship – Part Three

The Doctrine of Christ

The apostles’ doctrine emphasized the centrality of Jesus Christ. The doctrine of Christ is the first, last, and central of all truths. He is the Truth. Leaders today must continually point to Jesus and lift Him up. Lost souls must be directed to come to Him, and believers must be admonished to abide in Him. Jesus is not a hope. He is the only hope for this world, so he must remain the central  point of all teaching.

Acts 5:28 “We strictly charged you not to teach in this name, yet here you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching, and you intend to bring this man’s blood upon us.”

Acts 5:42 “And every day, in the temple and from house to house, they did not cease teaching and preaching that the Christ is Jesus.”

Acts 9:20 “For some days he was with the disciples at Damascus. And immediately he proclaimed Jesus in the synagogues, saying, ‘He is the Son of God.’”

Acts 15:35 “But Paul and Barnabas remained in Antioch, teaching and preaching the word of the Lord, with many others also.”

The Bible gives the pattern for balanced Christian living. Local churches fed a diet of basic truths and foundational doctrines and so the people were settled and grounded in God’s Word. When this is true, they are less susceptible to being controlled by feelings or led astray by curiosities. To make it faithfully to the end, they need balance.

Colossians 1:22-23 “He has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him, if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, became a minister.”

The Bible says doctrine is like the dew of heaven (Deuteronomy 32:2), yet so often church leaders and church members get carried away with so many other things some of which are not biblical in the least. It seems that Jesus is no longer enough but we need Jesus + angels, or Jesus + the third heaven teaching, Jesus + talking to dead saints, and on the list could go. I have simply found that I can (and do) fill my life with Jesus and little else. He is enough to occupy both my personal time in the Word and prayer as well as in my teaching ministry. He was THE central doctrine and focus of the early church and should still be today.

Critics object to an emphasis on doctrine claiming:

1> It is divisive. Critics say doctrine divides the church into denominations/ Really doctrine existed before the Church began. God originated it. The Church did not. Doctrine is not divisive; people are. The way people use doctrine causes conflict in the Body of Christ. 

2> It is irrelevant. Some say, “What you believe does not matter; what matters is who you believe in.” Jesus said, “False Christs … will arise” so when people say they believe in God or in Jesus, which Jesus do they believe in? Where do they get their information about God? Knowing God personally requires knowing truth — doctrine — about God and thus accepting the beliefs of the early Church as written in the Bible.

3> Being right in doctrine is not acceptable to God is you are wrong in spirit, yet being right in spirit while wrong in doctrine is acceptable. The world is filled with people who are sincere — sincerely wrong! Why not determine to be right in spirit and doctrine?

4> Doctrine is dry, dull, dead, useless. Doctrine is not as exciting as dancing and shouting. It does not draw big crowds like miracles and loud music. But only doctrine builds genuine strength and sustains growth.

Here is a true saying: If you have the Word with the Spirit, you will dry up. If you have the Spirit without the Word, you will blow up. If you have the Spirit and the Word you will grow up.

Healthy churches with life and power always have a combination and balance of the Spirit and the Word, true to the New Testament pattern. 

The Bible identifies four sources of doctrine:

1> The doctrine of God. This doctrine is refreshing and the foundation for growth. “May my teaching drop as the rain, my speech distill as the dew, like gentle rain upon the tender grass,

and like showers upon the herb” (Deuteronomy 32;2)

2> The doctrine of Christ. Jesus was accepted as a Rabbi in His day. He was a Master Teacher. He spoke with authority and clarity. “And when Jesus finished these sayings, the crowds were astonished at his teaching, for he was teaching them as one who had authority, and not as their scribe” (Matthew 7:28-29).

3> The doctrine of the apostles. The apostles’ doctrine guided the New Testament church. They continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine” (Acts 2:42).

4> the doctrine of devils (demons). Doctrine can be empowered by evil spirits speaking through evil men. Not all teaching comes from the mind of God. “Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons …” (1 Timothy 4:1) Believers know the doctrine of demons by discernment and by examining it in the light of Scripture. 

Foundations of the Faith – Part Five

So, why must people repent? Biblically there are eight reasons:

1> God commands people to repent. It is not an option. His command is immediate and universal … “God… commands all men every where to repent” (Acts 17:30).

2> Christ came into the world to call all men to repentance, and everyone will be judged by his or her response to Christ’s call. “I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance” (Luke 5:32).

3> Repentance guides people away from destruction. “Unless you repent you will all likewise perish” (Luke 13:3, 5). A man may be sincere. He may be morally good, but if he is not in full agreement with God’s truth, if he does not reply on Christ alone for salvation and righteousness, then he is a sinner, separated from God and headed for destruction.

4> Forgiveness hinges on repentance. “If your brother sins against you, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him” (Luke 17:3). Notice repentance occurs first, then forgiveness can follow.

5> Repentance qualifies people to enter the Kingdom of God. “Repent, for the Kingdom of haven is at hand” (Matthew 4:17). The Kingdom of God is within reach, but the only way to enter is through repentance.

6> God desires all men repent. “The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). God’s heart longs for all men everywhere to repent, turn to Him, and receive His life.

7> Repentance leads to life. “When they heard these things they fell silent. And they glorified God, saying, “Then to the Gentiles also God has granted repentance that leads to life” (Acts 11:18). Repentance does not lead to bondage. Turning to Jesus produces true (real) life.

8> Repentance makes true faith possible. The words repentance and faith often appear together in the Bible. People repent so they can become connected with God. They repent so they can believe. Jesus Christ calls people to repentance because Hw wants them to place their faith in Him, to come to know Him and to receive His life. 

Acts 20:21 “… testifying both to Jews and to Greeks of repentance toward God and of faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Mark 1:15 (see also Hebrews 6:1) “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.”

Acts 5:31 ”God exalted him at his right hand as Leader and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins.”

A Simple Faith

I read about a very religious father whose son was studying for the ministry. The boy had decided to go to Europe for an advanced degree, and the father worried that his simple faith would be spoiled by sophisticated, unbelieving professors. “Don’t let the take Jonah away from you,” he admonished, figuring the swallowed-by-a-great-fish story might be the first part of the Bible to go. Two years later when the son returned, the father asked, “Do you still have Jonah in your Bible?”

The son laughed. “Jonah! That story isn’t even in your Bible.”

The father replied, “It certainly is! What do you mean?”

Again the son laughed and insisted, “It’s not in your Bible. God ahead, show it to me.”

The old man fumbled through his Bible, looking for the Book of Jonah, but he couldn’t find it. At last he checked the table of contents for the prophet page. When he turned there, he discovered the three pages composing Jonah had ben carefully cut from his Bible.

“I did it before I went away,” said the son. “What’s the difference between my losing the Book of Jonah through studying under non-believers or your losing it through neglect? 

Someone has observed that the worst dust storm in history would happen if all church members who were neglecting their Bibles dusted them off simultaneously. 

Sometimes I Deceive Myself

https://rhm.podbean.com/e/sometimes-i-deceive-myself/

 

Sometimes I Deceive Myself

Slogan: Deception Infection

I don’t watch a lot of television but I do watch on You Tube parts of American Idol

I am careful, since it does sound kind of … idolatrous

If you were to watch the first few shows of the season — when the judges travel around the country for auditions

You soon become aware of how easily people are self-deceived

You watch people trying out for a spot on the show when competition starts in ernest

It is seriously difficult to comprehend how many horrifically bad singers truly believe they deserve to be the next vocal superstar! Read more

SOMETIMES THE FIRE DIES

Sometimes The Fire Dies

 

The Scriptures frequently comment on living the Christian faith with passion

It is very clear that as believers we cannot be passive

We must embrace the truth and engage with the world for that truth

Jude 3b “I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints.” 

TPT “(I) felt the need … to challenge you to vigorously defend and contend for the beliefs that we cherish. For God, through the apostles, has once for all entrusted these truths to his holy believers.”

“vigorously defend and contend…”

My personal favourite Scripture regarding living the faith with passion – serving Jesus with my heart and soul 

God spoke it to me … planted it deeply in my heart in July of 2007

Romans 12:11 “Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord” Read more

Retire? You Must Be Joking!

Paul the apostle said in his final letter: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” (2 Timothy 4:7). He finished well and was ready to face those who were about to put him to death. 

I am planning on finishing well. To do so I have had to decide the retire with resilience — and with some sanctified resistance. Someone asked the late motivational speaker Zig Ziglar if he was thinking about retiring. He laughed and said, “Retiring? No! I’m re-firing.”

There is someone I recently read about who is still active in his mid-nineties. For the last twenty or so years, people have asked him is he was retired. His rely: “Yes, I retire every night to go to bed so that I can get up the next morning to find out what God has for me to do.”

When psychologist Michael Longhurst left his high-level management position in the corporate world, he undertook a major research project on the subject of retirement. He interviewed over two hundred retirees and discovered that too many are unprepared for retirement — especially mentally and emotionally. 

One man summed up the problem when he wrote, “I feel so lonely and depressed. I miss my job, the office, my lunch buddies, and friends at work. I used to be very busy at work, and now suddenly there is nothing to do, no deadlines, etc. So, this is what retirement is — boring and lonely. I wish I [could] be happy again like the good old days.”

A wife said to her retired husband, “What are you planning to do today?” He replied, “Nothing.” She responded, “But you did that yesterday.” “I know,” he said, “But I’m not finished yet.”

Many people have followed the general expectation in North America and the western world that when we reach a certain age, we retire. It’s just what you do. Retirement has become the final rotation in the cycle of life. Just as we ask children, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” We ask adults, “What do you plan to do when you retire?” Seldom do we hear the value of typical retirement plans questioned, and certainly not the value of retirement itself. 

But retirement as we know it today was virtually nonexistent throughout history. Retirement made little sense when the average age expectancy was only thirty to forty years. It has its roots in the early 1900’s, when many large industries, including railroads, banks, and oil companies began offering pensions.

In 1935, President Franklin D. Roosevelt introduced the Social Security Act. An employee’s income was taxed throughout his or her working life to fund a retirement income beginning at age sixty-five. In North America today, most workers expect to retire, and the culture is geared to accommodate it.

Interestingly, the Bible records only one example of retirement: “This applies to the Levites: from twenty-five years old and upward they shall come to do duty in the service of the tent of meeting. And from the age of fifty years they shall withdraw from the duty of the service and serve no more. They minister to their brothers in the tent of meeting by keeping guard, but they shall do no service. Thus shall you do to the Levites in assigning their duties” (Numbers 8:24-26).

While the Levite tabernacle workers were instructed to retire at age fifty, they were not put out to pasture to spend the rest of their lives twiddling their thumbs and gazing at the sundial. They were charged to minister to the younger Levites who took over their jobs. They became mentors and advisors. Today they would probably hand out business cards and call themselves consultants.

I’m not saying you shouldn’t take advantage of your retirement income or pension benefits. But you might want to avoid the word retirement. You don’t have to continue in your profession until you are just about to drop dead. But if you do leave your job, remember — retirement is simply God’s way of freeing you up for further service. God always has a plan for you next day. 

RIP … Maybe

You have seen it a thousand times. Well, I have seen it a thousand times. Especially when a celebrity athlete, musician, or actor “passes”. You know, dies. I hate that word “passes.” I prefer to face the reality of the fact that they did not pass ( I pass cars on the highway, pass gas on occasion, past the salt to the other end of the table.) Let’s just say it – they “died.” 

When someone dies – immediately, a barrage of epitaphs are posted on social media with the acronym RIP. Which, of course, means “rest in peace.” I’m always amazed at how many Christians post this without really considering what they’re saying or what their friends and coworkers will read in their sentiment. Now, we all know that no one can truly see what is in another person’s heart. It is very possible that a particular celebrity did have a relationships with Jesus Christ as her Lord and Saviour. However, I can think of rimes when an athlete passed away who was a very outspoken follower of a religion other than Christianity, or a musician dies whose lifestyle was the opposite of how the Bible describes an authentic follower of Jesus. Yet even from Christians, the RIP statements were ever flowing.

But if we’re going to commit to the truth, then we’ve got to be all in. The whole truth and nothing but the truth, even when it makes us uncomfortable. Especially in difficult moments of sadness and grief, people often check their faith at the door. However, it’s in these moments when we need the truth of Scripture and the freedom it provides.

Truthfully, according to the Bible, the only ones who will get to rest in peace are those who have an authentic relationship with the Prince of Peace, Jesus. Sadly, for those who have lived life without knowing Jesus as Lord and never had His Spirit dwell inside them, there will be no eternal rest. As gut wrenching as it is to write, their eternity will be marked by the very opposite of rest. Just as heaven is real, so also is hell.

Jesus Himself often used the word Gehenna to describe hell. The word literally meant “the Valley of the Son of Hinnom.” It is just south of Jerusalem. It is known as a cursed place. Some of the ancient Israelites sacrificed their children to false gods by burning them alive in this valley (see 2 Chronicles 28:33; Jeremiah 19). In Jesus’s day, it continued to be an unclean place used as the city dump. Gehenna was always on fire from the burning of trash. It was a place that people didn’t even like to discuss because it was marked by sadness, maggots, fire, and curses. 

One day, Jesus used an extreme illustration to show how serious sin is and how we must do everything necessary to avoid hell: “And if your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life crippled than with two hands to go to hell, to the unquenchable fire” (Mark 9:43). Of course, Jesus is not asking you to literally cut your hand off to keep from sinning. Besides, sin is a heart issue, not a hand issue. “For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander” (Matthew 15:19). However, He is so serious about sin that you also must take sin seriously enough to turn your heart over to Him.

Jesus also described hell as “outer darkness,” a place of extreme sadness and torment. “Then the king said to the attendants, ‘Bind him hand and foot and cast him into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matthew 22:13). The worst thing about this place is the separation from anything good. For all eternity, there is now a chasm between God and everyone in this “outer darkness.” It wasn’t created for humans. It was created and reserved for the devil and his fallen angels: “Then he will say to those on his left, Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels” (Matthew 25:41). 

As heartbreaking as it is, hell will be the eternal home for all those whose name is not found in the Book of Life. “And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire” (Revelation 20:15). If you live your whole God-given life and exhale your last breath without ever turning to Him as the Saviour from your sins, you’ll miss out on His saving grace, be left out of His Book of Life, and be trapped in an eternity of separation. 

The irony of life is that you can have a great name here on earth. Your name can be on the sides of buildings and in history books, but the only thing that matters is whether your name is in the Book of Life. Arrogantly, some say, “I don’t care if I end up in hell, because all my friends will be there anyway. We’ll have a heck of a party.” How stupid. There is nothing fun about this place. There is nothing to celebrate there. Nobody to turn to, nobody to talk to, and never-ending loneliness. People in hell endure constant suffering and remorse, knowing they had the opportunity to enter heaven with God but turned it down. There is no exit, no way out, no second chance, no redo, no mulligan. There is absolutely no rest in hell. There is no peace there. Anyone who ends up there will not be resting in peace. RIP does not exist for those there. 

As awful as this place sounds, the good news is that the Lord does not desire any human being to be there. He desires all those made in His image to have their namers in His Book of Life. This means you. Yes, even you. You may say, “You don’t know what I’ve done. There is no way He wants me in His Book of Life.” I am telling you in love that you can’t out-sin His power of grace and forgiveness if you turn to Him in faith. His grace is more than sufficient to cover your mistakes. His desire is that none would perish and that all would come to a saving knowledge of truth. “The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). “[He] desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:4). 

Only when you have a personal, intimate relationship with the Lord is your name written in the Book of Life. Only then will you enter heaven when you die. And, in heaven, you will be so busy celebrating and living life to the fullest as it is meant to be lived that you won’t even consider the letters RIP as a description of what you are experiencing. 

Because God Loves Us – Part Six

Because God loves us, we can love our enemies

Matthew 5:43-45, 48 “You have heard that it was said, You shall love your neighbour and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust … You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

So far we have seen the circle of love expand step-by-step. First we love God, then ourselves, then our fellow believers, and then our neighbours. Now Jesus tells us to take one more step and love our enemies. This is where it gets interesting. For many, it is a step too far.

Knowing the difficulty in loving our enemies, Jesus gives us an excellent rationale for the command. He says that if we love only our friends and family, we are no different from unbelievers who don’t know Jesus or His commandments. What we can offer that they cannot is love for our enemies.

If I knew the name of your worst enemy and suggested that you go serve that person in some good way, you might say, “I just can’t!” But Jesus knows it can be done because He did it. He found a way to love that race of enemies known as humanity, and we must be eternally grateful that He did.

Christ could have said, “Those men are driving nails into My hands. They’ve beaten Me, gambled for My clothing, and deeply grieved those who love Me. I just can’t love them!” No one would have blamed Him — or remembered Him.

Instead, from the agony of the cross, Christ looked down on those who had brutalized Him and asked Good to forgive them (Luke 23:34). Stephen, the first Christian martyr, did the same (Acts 7:60). Peter points out that Jesus, “When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly” (1 Peter 2:23). Because Jesus loved His enemies, we live forever. Because Jesus loved His enemies, we can love ours.

As Jesus pointed out, God sends sunshine and rain to both the good and the bad — to those who love Him and those who don’t (Matthew 5:45). It’s known as God’s common grace. He does not shut out people who might be deemed unworthy, so we don’t have that right either. We love people not for who they are, but for who they can become — not for the value of their behaviour, but for the value of their souls. That’s when the world knows we are serious.

Paul, who built friendships with his prison guards, wrote: “Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them … To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head” (Romans 12:14, 20). It may seem that Paul is urging us to be “passive-aggressive,” until we understand a certain custom of the day. As an act of public contrition, some Egyptians wore a pan of burning coals like a hat to express their shame and guilt. Paul is simply urging a bit of human psychology: Return gentleness for aggression, and your persecutor will be shamed into being contrite. It will be as if he is wearing such a hat.

Because God loves us, we can, we must, love our enemies.

  Sometimes I am Not Thankful (Grateful)

Sometimes I am Not Thankful

 

I am bothered by a response that you now hear when you say “thank you” to someone

Instead of “You’re welcome” we now mostly hear “No problem!”

As I checked out with two turkeys yesterday I wanted to scream – “Of course it’s no problem. I am a gentle person, I am not angry, what I have caused you to become involved in is part of your job for which you are paid and is not really that taxing on your abilities….”

But, the real issue is how seldom you even hear people say “thank you”

As I was thinking about this all week – mostly because we were approaching Thanksgiving – God said that this was true even in my relationship with Him

That I am not expressing thanks to Him for who He is and all that He does for me

When I do something for someone I always appreciate it when they thank me for my time, my work, my concern… Read more