Choose : Love or Hostility?

Aussie blogger Onesimus posted this yesterday and i commend this message to all

see https://onesimusfiles.wordpress.com/2017/06/26/the-choice-between-love-and-hostility/

Recently I’ve been posting a lot of material from and about people who recognise the need to share the gospel with those from a Muslim background, a sharing in both word and deed.

I’ve felt the need to give prominence to that ministry direction because I’ve become increasingly aware that the complete opposite is happening – that too many professing Christians are responding to Muslims with hostility and fear. And it’s happening at a time when opportunities to reach out to those from Muslim backgrounds are increasing, and are becoming more and more critical.

Many of those Muslim background people are in an extremely vulnerable position. Many have witnessed the worst of what’s being done in the name of Islam, have lost everything because of it and are in desperate need of help.

Consider what response they’ve been getting from those who are able to help.

I’ve seen far too much hostility directed against them, even by recognised Bible teachers. I’ve drawn attention to some of that in previous posts.*
While individually we may not be in a position to personally interact with a person of Muslim background, we can ALL do something about the toxic atmosphere that makes the ministry of others more difficult.

I feel that the professing Christians are at a critical point in history, when we will face the choice between obedience to Jesus and His gospel, and the security of our comfortable lifestyles. If we choose the latter we’re likely to see our fears realised and we’ll lose the security we idolised and tried so hard to protect.
And even worse than losing that revered security, those misplaced priorities potentially put our relationship with God at risk.

The Challenge of Islam

One of the major thrusts of the New Testament, is not grace, nor the love of God even, but the need for Holiness in our own lives. We are called to obedience. But crucially, all the references in the New Testament are to the church being called to Holiness, the church being purified. There is little or no mention of the world, perhaps because God expects nothing better from the world. From beginning to end, the NT calls for repentance and obedience within the church, the body of Christ.

For too long, too much sin has been allowed to flourish in ‘the church’ and go unchallenged and unnoticed. When we have substituted a personal, daily relationship with a living God into an attendance-based activity, sin was always going to gain the upper hand. When we dress up for our weekly attendance, yet continue on as though nothing has changed in the rest of our lives, we make a mockery of what Christ’s coming was all about.

The most powerful thing about the church in Acts, was the body of Christ, living a unified, Holy life in his daily presence. How I live on Tuesday, is no different to how I live on Sunday. In case we’re unsure of this, it is exactly how life will be like for eternity. The Kingdom of God is within you, means we need to start thinking about this now. God, at least, is deadly serious about how the church looks for the coming groom.

Of course, none of this will happen with the current church structure. Not ever. While Sunday is still the ‘holy day’ and the priesthood still lives out our daily Christian lives for us, and when we only ever gather together for an hour a week, our lives will be no different to those around us. Sorry to burst the bubble. Smaller gatherings, led by the Holy Spirit, meeting regularly – challenging each other how they live before a Holy God so that ‘a little leaven doesn’t unleaven the entire batch,’ and reaching out into their community with the joy of the Lord, is exactly what the Lord calls us to do and how we should be living. Outside of the West, I would challenge that is exactly how the church looks – and is flourishing as a result.

Reading ‘Small Beginnings’ recently, the true story of a community in the West, formed by believers who all moved into the same neighbourhood and lived church as they did in the book of Acts is a remarkable story. Our faith becomes so attractive to the outside world, as we love, serve, sacrifice and live Holy lives in a daily relationship with each other and before our Lord; again, it is exactly how we shall live before the Lord throughout eternity. Most importantly though, and this is vital, we cannot hide our sinfulness when we live daily in each other’s lives.

It is our refusal to live differently that makes it so difficult in our culture to make disciples. Last week our entire gathering was out on the streets (what a delight!) but we hear the same story – surely, I am good enough to stand before God? This comes, in my view, from a long held belief in Western civilisation that it is okay for someone to believe in God and continue living unchanged before him. Nowhere in the Bible does it say that though. But, the world buys into it. Hold on a moment…so does much of the church.

The last word Jesus says to his church is ‘Repent’ (in Revelation). Rethinking Pawson’s original prophecy, it would seem that God is not so much interested in punishing us as changing us. Like the nation of Israel, his intention for the church is to be a light in the world, to be so pure before the world that many in the world will choose to join it.

There is a great cost in this though, and that cost is our choice to live differently. Are you, am I prepared to pay that price for Him? The rewards are out of this world.

Memorizing Facts is Not the Same as Thinking

The author of this post writes under the name of  Jeff at https://antiitchmeditation.wordpress.com/2017/05/05/memorizing-facts-is-not-the-same-as-thinking/

I fully endorse the wisdom he expresses. Too many believers fall into this trap of just memorizing what to say and what to believe and remain inactive and immature believing everything the pastor or their denomination or faction tells them. Ian.

 

The modern atheist/science movement is hostile to religion. That being the case, they don’t bother to learn lessons from the history of religion. Now their atheist/science movement is becoming religious and falling into the same traps.

Increasingly we are hearing about scientists who want to silence people on the “other side” of their opinions. Bill Nye, among others, think climate change deniers should be imprisoned.

As I pointed out yesterday, Neil Degrasse Tyson celebrates the scientific method, which is a process of testing. Science is based on testing, which is based on questions and thinking. As soon as you desire to silence the questioning side, you have fallen from science.

Walter Bradly, a professor of Mechanical Engineering at Texas A&M, testified recently about proposed changes made to science curriculum that in his mind eliminated critical thinking skills. Here is part of his testimony:

When I was in tenth grade I took biology. Biology in those days was taught as sort of a, memorize a zillion details. I memorized all the details and I made a 99 percentile on my biology achievement test and I got invited to go to three different colleges for a summer program.

And I thought, all I could imagine was just memorizing stuff all summer. I ended up not going, I just took a construction job and worked.

The point I’m trying to make here is when you teach science without providing, I think, opportunity for people to see the magic of the scientific method, the discovery opportunities, the conundrums that we have, and to see this is something that we have that’s a very active…it’s not a set of facts to be memorized. It really is a process to be understood.

Science is becoming more about memorizing the proper lines and less about thinking, testing, and analyzing.

Church History is filled with groups who insisted they had the truth. Just memorize our lines. Just repeat what we say. Don’t think. Don’t test. Don’t question. Don’t assume for a second you can figure this out on your own.

Bad things happen in those groups.

Questions are messy. Testing is annoying. It might be possible that if people thought for themselves they will disagree with you. Your power structure might collapse if too many people start thinking!

Not thinking makes everyone’s job easier. You don’t have to ask or answer hard questions. You can zone out as long as you spout the right answer at the right time. Teachers don’t have to do any work and students don’t have to do anything either. Everyone can take it easy and pat each other on the back all day.

Science, now that it’s becoming religion, will increasingly fall into these traps. For all their hatred of close-minded, brainwashed, religious types, science seems to be doing a good job of creating their own.

Don’t be afraid to think. Ever. About anything!

Come, Let us die to self

This recent post by my friend ‘disciple’ says it so well

See his other provocative posts at http://www.nobrokenreed.org

 

“But why can’t I come now Lord?”  he asked. “I’m ready to die for you.”

“Die for me?” Jesus answered. I tell you the truth Peter – John 13:37-38

It’s a universal tale isn’t it, one that everyone knows how to finish. The cock crows, and Peter (and Jesus) suffers great anguish. As I read this time and again, it is Jesus’ reply that catches my attention. You can hear the tone through the scathing comeback – “Die for me?” Peter had no idea what was coming, and had no right to be so presumptuous.

But, because of Christ, the story doesn’t end there. In fact, Jesus’ other prophesy about Peter alsocame true. When filled with God’s Spirit, he went from a brazen, brash weakling, to a bold yet humble leader. In the end, by all accounts, Peter was also crucified, upside down as he considered himself unworthy to be hung the same way as his Lord.

I’ve been reading these past few months, and praying, and thinking about this word ‘die’. If I am not mistaken, our willingness today not to die to ourselves and take up our cross, is the very reason why we, modern Christendom, are as weak as we are. We simply don’t take Jesus seriously enough as he urges us to ‘take up our cross daily and deny ourselves – before following him’. In fact it is far worse than we can ever imagine.

Today, rather than simply taking up our cross and follow the Lord at undoubtedly great cost to ourselves, we have paid others to do that for us. Rather than smash the idols in our lives that Paul refers to in the very first chapter of Romans, we have assumed that we can live with them happily by our side.  If we can do the very minimum – attend a weekly service, listen to somebody else’s interpretation of Scripture (presumably because we don’t have time to read it and listen to the Holy Spirit ourselves) and sing some ‘worship’ songs, then we can get out and get on with our lives as normal people do.

We have been conned into thinking that this is enough to get us a ‘ticket to heaven’ which after all is simply brilliant, because it means we can have our cake and eat it too. We get the benefits of this life here, and eternity with Christ in the next. We will gladly sacrifice a small “fee” to enjoy these ‘out of this world’ benefits, and anyway the fee is Biblical and such a small price out of our standard of living, that we are glad to pay it so someone else can “do” our Christianity for us. We are in short, the most deluded group of people alive today.

There was a time in Peter’s life when he could say with absolute certainty, “Lord, I’m ready to die for you,” and be willing to follow through on it. But for you, or for me, is that the real truth? What remains in my life that I have not yet died to? Television, instead of prayer? Families, work, lifestyle, fear, pride, church, the list is endless. Do we understand what Jesus said though:

“If anyone comes to me, and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters – yes, even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.”

Do you find that, like me, you read parts of what Jesus said and skip over it because it simply doesn’t make sense, or it’s too difficult? We have created a Jesus in our own image, but friends, this IS Jesus, and it is the only one we have. There is no other.

Jesus is telling us, as he always does, that he is anti anything and everything that would cause us not to obey him, because our heart strings, comforts, prejudices and pride are tied up in something other than him. He tells us that if we don’t leave our nets there and then and follow him completely, then eventually we will fall, we will fail as Peter did, and that we are deluding ourselves about the unseen world, a world which he knows and understands everything about.

We read Acts today, and create a ‘wax museum’ alternative, before proclaiming, this is how it was! But still, we don’t die to ourselves. The price of our delusion though, is astronomic.

This week, on the streets we spoke to more than a few young people, and asked them whether we could pray, or talk to them about Spiritual things, about Jesus. Everyone to a tee, declined, even if politely. We see them walking, living, talking and eating, and completely blinded to the God that created them. Yet here is the point of all of this, all of them, without exception, talk about a ‘church’ or religion to do with an older generation and they scoff. They know, they see this ‘wax work museum’ of the real thing that we have created, how ineffective and pallid it is, how those that have gone before them have simply gone through the motions, with no authenticity. They don’t want to know. They see a wax statue of Jesus, and never experience the real thing. Is it any wonder?

Friends, it must change and for that to happen, He must change us, and we must be prepared to give up everything. Only when Jesus has the community of believers that he wants, a community that is defined by a total dying to self, and sacrificially loving all others, will the world sit up and take notice, and respond to Him.

Believe me, this present generation is only interested in the Real Thing, they, like Him, will accept no substitutes. What about us? Lord, forgive us for this, surely the very worst we could do to you.

OH, THAT WRETCHED WORD ‘CHURCH’

English translators of the scriptures saw the New Testament with religious (catholic) lenses. So these obeyed the politico-religious powers and consistently translated the Greek word ekklesia into a current religious word, ‘church’ which everyone already knew, being taught and accepted as truth, instead of the real meaning of the Greek word, which is assembly or gathering—a word in the Ancient World which had no religious or institutional connotations at all. None.

This is clearly shown by the translators’ inconsistency in translating the same Greek word by assembly or gathering three times in Acts 19—the story of Paul’s gospel stirring up the silversmiths in Ephesus—instead of the c… word! Check me out. I kid you not.

Ekklesia always meant assembly or gathering in the Ancient World of the New Testament period. When Paul wrote to those gatherings of Jesus’ people in the New Testament period, he qualified the word ekklesia by e.g., the ekklesia in God the Father and His son at . . . . (wherever—Corinth, etc) or similar language. It had to be distinguished from all the other local gatherings—religious, political or commercial which abounded in great numbers.  Get it?

And if Paul was talking about more than one gathering of believers, he used the plural, ekklesiai, gatherings. So we read about the “assemblies or gatherings of Judea” and not “the gathering of Judea”. John does not address any “assembly of or in Asia” in the Book of Revelation but as “the seven gatherings in Asia”. Seven! And that’s because they are assemblies not denominations or institutional religious organisations.

In fact, a strong case can be made that ekklesia originally meant “a gathering actually gathered” so that when the assembly broke up there was no longer a gathering. For example the riotous assembly, Acts 19:41. Naturally for a group of believers meeting regularly it would continue in their minds as a spiritual gathering, a virtual one, which had a (hopeful) continuity while not meeting—though could never be guaranteed that it would gather again exactly the same as it did the previous time.

So it’s like our parliaments which sit for a period but then when not sitting, there is no parliament. And a city council is really only a council when it is meeting. The employees are not the actual council, are they?

William Tyndale in his groundbreaking 16th Century English New Testament translation, rendered ekklesia as ‘congregation’ which then had no traditional religious connotation. This led to his being persecuted and strangulated by the religious establishment—that’s 1534 English history.

So why did the English Bible translators three times translate ekklesia as ‘assembly’ in the story in Acts (Acts 19:32, 39, 41)? The word church clearly wouldn’t fit these three meeting contexts. But wearing their religious glasses, they consistently translated the Greek word in other contexts as ‘church’ as if this Roman Catholic term was its equivalent and not as the word was understood in the Ancient World.

A century later, the translators of the King James Version (KJV)  were commanded by James the King of England to abide by about 14 conditions one of which the Greek word ekklesia had to be translated as church. They had no option but to do what James wanted so he could maintain his political agenda. They did translate the word as assembly in the Acts 19 story.

You may be interested to know that now we can use a recent scholarly translation called World English Bible (WEB) which translates the Greek word ekklesia with the English word assembly in the New Testament. In this version, the word ‘church’ cannot be found.

What has kept English translators so long to correct this?

Tradition! which obscures the word of God.

We may ask: why did the apostles use the Greek word ekklesia (gathering) and not other words which had a similar meaning? They did not use the word synagogue for the obvious reason that their gatherings were distinguished from those of the Jews.

Now, the Hebrew word qahal (=gathering, assembly) had been used in the Old Testament over 100 times and in the Greek translation of the OT (called the Septuagint or “LXX”) this Hebrew word was translated ekklesia (gathering). The early New Testament writers widely used the LXX and so probably chose this word which was also used by Jesus (see Matthew 16:18 and 18:17—the only places in the 4 gospels).

Simplicity: Hold fast what you received

How simple it all is!

But so much has been added to the simplicity of Christ and as a result, that simplicity has disappeared.

In robbing us of that simplicity and embracing instead the religious ideas of human thinking, what has not been given to us, we have lost just about all.

I invite you to consider with me the utter simplicity of what was revealed to the first communities of Jesus.

For starters, consider these words from the mouth of Jesus to believers recorded for us in the book, Revelation.

 “To the angel of the church in Ephesus . . . . . ‘You have forsaken the love you had at first. Consider how far you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first.’” Rev 2:4-5.

“I say to the rest of you in Thyatira ‘I will not impose any other burden on you, except to hold on to what you have until I come.’”  Rev 2:24-25

 “To the angel of the church in Sardis write  . . . . . . ‘I know your deeds; you have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead.  Wake up! Strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have found your deeds unfinished in the sight of my God.  Remember, therefore, what you have received and heard; hold it fast, and repent. But if you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what time I will come to you.’”  Rev 3:1-3.

And “To the angel of the church in Philadelphia . . . .  ‘I am coming soon. Hold on to what you have, so that no one will take your crown.’” Rev 3:1, 11

Consider also these words from the pen of apostle John . . .

Let what you have heard from the beginning abide in you. If what you have heard from the beginning abides in you, you will abide in the Son and the Father. 1 John 2:24

Need I comment?

Dare I comment?

If you have ears to hear, then please join me in hearing, that is, obeying.

SHE SAID YES

a_annunciation-edward_burne-jones_the_annunciationGod has given His creation over to the men and women He created out of the earth, the humus. He provided the first humans us with everything good and it says that God was very pleased with His work. We read that God gave authority to the man and woman to control the Creation He had provided.

This authority to the humans is real and true. God has decreed that this is so and so it stands to this day.

But the humans surrendered this authority and power and control to the evil being who deceived the humans into believing their Creator was not acting in their best interests so that they trusted in the dark side instead of the light.

And we have suffered ever since.

And He has pursued us ever since to woo us back—to change our thinking and say ‘yes’.

So complete and final was God’s declaration of the transfer of control upon His Creation to the humans that God did not, could not, intervene in the drama of the Garden. If He had stepped in to reverse what the humans were about to do—turning from love, light and life—His promise, His word of what shall be, in this momentous act of rendering to humans such privileges and sonship, would have been exposed as a sham. His humans would not have free will.

Nevertheless, the great love of God and His desire for fellowship with humans set in motion a plan which would mean finding humans to fully cooperate with Him—to hear His voice and agree to do His will—to put Him first and love Him, pleasing Him, in the great drama of the progress of redemption.

This was—and still is God’s Great Mission: to find us lost ones, us humans, who had been destined to walk with Him in abundance and creativity, but who, as a whole human race, elected to embrace lies and turn from the great Lover into the hands of the great hater, destroyer, deceiver.

The biblical accounts tell an amazing story of this progress of God’s Mission, in which He woos us, seeking those who will walk with Him in His Great Work.

For any work to be done in His Creation, it has to be done—it had to be done—by a fully human person. It could not be done by a half-god-half-man. It had to be done by one of us; born like us; raised as any helpless infant by parents as we are, taught and trained to fit in this world, exposed to suffering, educated by the flawed community into which he was born, subject to every possible test and temptation and privation, weakness and even death.

So in the fullness of time God found a willing woman, a mere peasant girl to give us all a human who would not need forgiveness as we do, and who allowed Him to use her body to bring a man who was the very image of the invisible God, who could be handled, heard, seen doing the works of God for all in his generation to see.

She said ‘yes’ to the will of God.

She was from a very imperfect race of people who struggled with God their Lover and Protector in belief and unbelief. Yet there was “a great cloud of witnesses” in the Hebrew history who in varying degrees of faithfulness had said ‘yes’ to their Creator, the great I AM.

She had said ‘yes’ in contrast to the first woman who had listened to the dark one. What an example she has shown! Her firstborn child we are told followed her example and continued saying “yes, I will to do Your will and that is why I have come.”

This amazing human allowed God to fill him with the Holy Spirit—he said ‘yes’ and God said ‘yes’ and the Kingdom of God could at last be clearly seen and experienced. He said ‘yes’ to the awful death on the stake—the climax of God’s Great Mission to bring us back into friendship and oneness with God Almighty.

God still waits for us to say ‘yes’ to Him—“yes I will do Your will so that You can use my body, my mind, my spirit” partnering with You in Your Stupendous Work.

This festive season and beyond, will we allow Him to do in us what He did in Mary’s spirit, and most of all, what he did in Jesus? Will we accept His love and companionship?

He waits, with infinite patience and love, for you and me to say ‘yes, I will’.

And that is Christmas.