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Archive for October 2010

ADD - World View

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Christian Disciple and World View

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Paul writing in Philippians 2v1-4: “If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose. 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.”

What was your worldview before you became a Christian? What is your worldview now that you are a Christian? Are there any similarities and differences between the two? What does a Christian worldview consist of and what are some of the thoughts behind opposing worldviews that are prevalent in Western society today?

Contemporary Society

Shock rock group, Slipknot, in one of their songs, describe people as the equivalent of excrement. Reality television programmes love to show the degradation and embarrassment of human participants. The London Zoo has in 2005 exhibited humans and treated them as animals, in order to reflect humanity's "basic nature" and place on earth. The pornographic industry, despite protests from both religious and non-religious groups, shows both men and women in airbrushed degradation, with pictorial and verbal humiliation. All these treat humans as mere, undignified 'glory-less' commodities to be used and degraded, albeit, in the main part willingly. Some treat other people as either their equal or of lesser concern than themselves. This is following what is commonly called the “Golden Rule“, which is “do to others, what you would have them do to you”. Furthermore, there is the thinking that there are no certainties or absolutes in life, just your own perspective. Morality is a private thing and what is right for you, may not be right for me and don't dare tell me that I am wrong in any aspect of my life. My morals are mine and mine alone, and it is my right. As for religion, all religions inevitably lead to some form of god or gods, that is if any exists at all.

Darwin & Scientific Materialism

Richard Dawkins, the eminent Oxford biologist and atheist, decrees that humans are merely a miniscule section in nature's rich spectrum, and Darwinism explains not only how we got here but that our purpose has evolved just as we have evolved biologically and sexually. Based on this hypothesis, he sees no reason for a creator or any form of intelligent designer, as man evolved by "chance and random variations". Further to this, he views "humanity as just one little twig", amongst the order of primates. He does however admit, that humans have probably evolved as far as they can and further concedes that there is "no definitely accepted account" regarding life's beginnings. This atheistic and naturalistic theory goes on to deny the very existence of a spiritual world and claims that our emotions such as love, fear, hatred and guilt, or our thoughts and feelings, are merely physical or chemical in origin.

A Christian Worldview

Contrast these with a Christian worldview. Atheistic views are entirely theoretical and are based entirely upon presupposed disavowal and disbelief in any form of deity, whether personal or impersonal, and belief that any kind of faith is blind, non-evidential and irrational. Juxtaposed against this thought, Genesis 1 asks us to rejoice in the knowledge of who we are, as the pinnacle of creation. Early Greek Patriarchs likened the creation of humanity to a royal leader being shown his new palace.

Again, contrast those worldviews against Scripture, which says, that humanity, both male and female, is made in the image of God, the imago dei, and is therefore according to one of the church fathers made to "reflect the Divine". Paul when writing to the Thessalonian church said: “May God himself, the God who makes everything holy and whole, make you holy and whole, put you together—spirit, soul, and body—and keep you fit for the coming of our Master, Jesus Christ” (1 Thessalonians 5:23).

When God created humanity, it was in His image that they were created. The Bible indicates that humans are composed of 3 parts - Body, Soul and Spirit. The spirit and soul are only separable in thought and are probably best seen as two separate dimensions of the non-material side of a person - the spirit relating to God, and the soul relating to earth. All three parts, spirit, soul and body have an important role to play in our humanity. The whole person is valuable to God, not just the spirit as Paul wrote to the Thessalonians (1 Thessalonians 5:23). Other philosophies and religions have tried to portray the body as evil or irrelevant, and this has crept into some parts of Christianity, with the tradition of priestly celibacy and asceticism. A break down in any of these areas can cause imbalance in the other areas. For example, research has shown that sometimes, physical sickness can be caused through emotional turmoil. Studies have also revealed that mental illness may occasionally be caused through guilt or unforgiveness. As humans we are created in His image, and as Christian Disciples we were bought at a price when Jesus died on the cross.

A biblical Christian worldview should include the following:

God created humanity, in His own image therefore higher than the animal world. Humanity subsequently rebelled and disobeyed God. God then took the initiative and promised a way out through His chosen Messiah. This Messiah was Jesus Christ, and he had simultaneously both human and divine natures. It was He, who as God, stepped into history and became confined for a short while by time and space. He was born so that when He died on the cross, it was to pay the price so that all of humanity could be freed from slavery to sin and disobedience, if only they chose to accept and believe in Him as God. He rose again physically from the dead, ascended into heaven and now sits at the right hand of the Father.

Those who don't accept Him as Lord and Saviour wil spend eternity apart from Him. He is the only way to God, and all other paths lead to destruction. That is why Christianity is the only true and permanent hope for the world. As Christians Disciples, living in the 21st century, we are to place God first, others second and ourselves last. That is the path a Christian Disciple is to walk, following and serving both God and others. It is done by taking up our cross, just as Jesus Christ took up His cross (Luke 9v23) and following His life devoted to being a servant of others. As Christian Disciples, we have God in the person of the Holy Spirit, living inside us as a deposit for our future life with Jesus Christ (Ephesians 1v13-14). With His help, we are being transformed into the very image of Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 3v18; Philippians 3v20-21). You may well be able to add other things to this in order to form your own worldview.

For more to think about please do read for yourself: Philippians 2v1-18. 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. How has and is my worldview being developed and transformed into a worldview similar to that of Jesus Christ?

Q2. How has my life been transformed in the last year and in what way can I continue to be transformed into the very image of Jesus Christ?

Q3. In what way do the Apostles Creed and Nicene Creed help and reinforce my understanding of a Christian worldview?

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All About Partake

Why the name Partake?

What the logo is all about?

What why and how of Partake Ministries?

Ways to support Partake Ministries?

Audio interview with Hope FM in the UK

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ADD - Evangelism 3

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Christian Disciple and Evangelism (Part 3)

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For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many." Mark 10v45

Jesus Christ was the man born to die – this is what we celebrate at Christmas – when God who is outside of both time and space, entered history in the form of a human baby. His purpose as explained in Mark 10v45 was “to give his life as a ransom for many.” The Apostle Paul also preached this, but what was his methods and his message in full?

Paul’s Method

Reasoned from the Scriptures

  • Paul knew that Scripture had been revealed, inspired and illuminated by God
  • Paul knew that Scripture equipped for service
  • Paul knew that Scripture helped get to know God more
  • Paul knew that Scripture revealed God’s programme
  • Paul knew that getting to know Scripture was vital in order to be used in Evangelism.

Meet where people are

  • Synagogue (Acts 18v4, 6)
  • Market place / work (Acts 18v3)
  • Invited people to home (Acts 18v7)
  • Forged relationships (Acts 18v2, 8, 17)
  • Prepared to change strategy (Acts 18v6)
  • Paul overcame his own fears and limitations of his own weaknesses and relied totally on God’s power when witnessing

Why is the cross so central to the Gospel?

Paul’s Gospel was “Jesus and Him crucified” (1 Corinthians 2v2). The Gospel is the cross! As important as the incarnation, resurrection and ascension are, without Jesus’ death on the cross there would be no Christianity, and subsequently no hope for the world! Therefore, the interpretation that we place on Jesus’ death is paramount! That He died is without doubt, but why did He have to die and what gain do we have as His Disciples?

The Gospel Message!

By His very nature, God is loving and compassionate, forgiving, faithful and slow to anger (Exodus 34v6-7). This is the part, if we are being honest all of us are most comfortable with!! Yet God is holy, righteous and just and must punish sin because of this very same nature. That is the part we as 21st century people are uncomfortable with! We love to think of God as being all love and gentleness, but don’t like to think of Him as a Judge who must punish disobedience

But remember that God loves righteousness and hates wickedness (Psalm 45v7). Therefore sin & disobedience must be dealt with and it cannot simply be ignored. Sin is humanity’s problem.

The Problem - Humanity's sin

Sin is what separates humans from God and as a consequence leads to both a spiritual and physical death (Romans 6v23, Isaiah 59v2). Nobody escapes as all have sinned and fallen short of God’s glory (Romans 3v23). In the Old Testament, sins were dealt with by blood sacrifices of atonement as coverings for sin (Leviticus 17v11), for without the shedding of blood there can be no remission of sin (Hebrews 9v22).

The Solution – God to the rescue!

The solution lies not in continual animal sacrifice of the Old Testament because Hebrews 10v4 reminds us that the blood of animals cannot take away sin but was only a veneer or covering. That was why it was necessary to repeat time and time again! It is only through the death of Jesus, that sin is taken away (Hebrews 9:v11-15, 26-28), and that was only needed once! Therefore Jesus is our permanent sacrificial substitute! That is why the elements of bread and wine in Communion or Breaking of Bread are symbolic, and not somehow changed into actual flesh and blood, as some would have us believe.

Substitution

Jesus died for our sin, the just for the unjust (1 Peter 3v18). That is how God is both just and the Justifier of sinners and that is why Jesus needed to be both fully God and fully human! If he lacked either, it would not be the full substitutionary sacrifice that was necessary to bear the permanent consequences of sin! This substitution was the sacrifice, required in order that Jesus as the Lamb of God could take away the sins of the world (John 1v29). He was the propitiation for all sin!

Propitiation

Propitiation is the turning aside of God's anger by the offering of the sacrifice of Christ. Towards sin and sinful behaviour God necessarily has great fury, anger and wrath (Jeremiah 21v5). Hebrews 10v30-31 reminds us, “It is dreadful to fall into the hands of the living God.” Yet as Micah 7v18 “He is slow to anger and quick to forgive”. God's anger and judgment of sin falls on Christ, instead of us. We need to approach God to appease His anger, in order to accept it (Romans 3:25; Isaiah 53:5; John 2:2, 5:6).

1 John 4v10: This is real love—not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice (or propitiation) to take away our sins.

To some people, even some in the church, this is abhorrent! The very thought that God could willing send His son to be a blood sacrifice for sin is tantamount to child abuse! Richard Dawkins calls Jesus’ crucifixion an act of sado-masochism! Neither of these opinions is valid or true. God’s requirements are very clear as John 3v16 says it all in response to this “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life”. If there were any other way, would not God have done it that way?

Redemption (Ransom) Mark 10:45

Not only was it propitiation, but also an act of redemption! In the time of the New Testament, this word was used to refer to the buying back of a slave - the price paid to buy the slave’s freedom. God paid redemption so that humans can be freed from the slavery to sin (John 8:35 Romans 7:14). The price was paid (1 Peter 1:18-19) and so we are redeemed with the precious blood of Christ (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). As Christian Disciples, we are bought at a price, and we have a new position before God! We are bought out of slavery to sin, into glorious freedom where we are now slaves to righteousness (Romans 6:19); slaves to Christ (Romans 6:22). We are also Jesus Christ’s personal possession (1 Corinthians 16:19). But it is our responsibility to choose that way! God does not coerce forcefully – He leaves it as a choice for humans to make as individuals.

What is our response to this to be? Sacrifice, substitution, propitiation and redemption can be summed up in one word: love. For 1 John 3v16 states: “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers.” Jesus told us to take up our cross if we are to follow Him as His Disciple (Luke 9v23). Are you as a Christian Disciple willing to take up your cross and do all you can do to love others?

For more to think about please do read Acts 17 & 18, 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. When I evangelise, what is the message I proclaim?

Q2. What can I adapt from Paul’s methods in order to help my evangelise?

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ADD - Evangelism 2

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Christian Disciple and Evangelism (Part 2)

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But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry. 2 Timothy 4v5

Dealing with Evangelism

All Christian Disciples are called to do the work of evangelism. Not everyone will be an evangelist, yet we are called to tell and show others about Jesus – that is evangelism.

a. Overcoming barriers. There are at least six main reasons why Christian Disciples do not evangelise:

  • · Do not know the bible well enough to answer questions
  • · Entire friends are already Christian Disciples
  • · Testimony is perceived to be dull and tedious
  • · Others will wonder what took you so long, if you evangelise them now
  • · Don't know if my friends are true Christian Disciples or not
  • · There is no easy way to tell the Gospel

Christian Disciples overcoming these hindrances, are then liberated to evangelise their local community.

b. Early starters! New believers were actively encouraged to evangelise from the time of their conversion. There seems as if there was not a two step process of conversion and then later undergoing evangelism training. More likely, that they gained perceptions about evangelism, whilst they were being evangelised. Evangelism is to be what a Christian Disciple is, rather than an activity that a Christian Disciple engages in.

c. Changing perceptions! The approach to evangelism has changed over the last few years. As Christian Disciples, it is the job of all Christian Disciples to evangelise and witness about Jesus, using the skills and perceptions they inherently hold. We are not to leave it up the Billy Graham’s and Luis Palau’s of this world. There is not just one style of evangelism. Interpersonal, invitational, serving, testimonial intellectual or confrontational styles are available for churches and Christian Disciples to use. An Christian Disciple's use of any or all of these styles would be dependent on their own personality, talents and skills.

d. Lead by example! New Testament church leaders led by example, and actively persuaded others to do as they did. Paul commanded that the Corinthian church follow him as he imitated Jesus (1 Corinthians 11v1) This is a model imbued with dynamism, by which others can go on doing the work in their own way, without relying upon the church leaders!

e. Lead by teaching! As evangelism is prayed about, activated upon, discussed and enacted, Christian Disciples undergo evangelism training, even if they aren't aware of it at the time. A good method is for training to be given, not just as a one off exercise but throughout the year. The reason for this, is so that every member has an opportunity to undergo some formal training when it is convenient for them as they see the leadership committed to evangelistic training! This training needs to be promoted from the front, so that every member can see the seriousness that the leadership think about evangelism. Bill Hybels recommends that every member of his church undergo evangelism training every two years!.

f. Neither powerless or alone! The main lesson for Christian Disciples to learn, is that evangelism can only truly be effective when undertaken under an umbrella of prayer and the work of the Holy Spirit. It is the Holy Spirit's power and authority, which allows the skills and talents of all people to be used as effective Gospel messengers. As Christian Disciples we need to continue reminding ourselves that it is Jesus Christ who is building the church, and that with the Holy Spirit's power, we are neither alone nor powerless! After all, He is a Holy Spirit of evangelism. That is why as Christian Disciples, we need not fear the supposed rise of fundamental atheism or any other religion or –“ism”. We have the power of the Living God within us, to equip and use us for His glory and mission. People may be able to remove the supposed ‘spirit of Christmas’ from schools and other government buildings, but they can never take away the Spirit of Christ that indwells all Christian disciples.

g. Innovative evangelism! Not only would this make it new for the congregation, but possibly add an element of excitement, particularly if old evangelistic methods are being employed, and seemingly ineffective. Some ideas such as, having a prayer stall at the local market, or taking over a vacant shop on the high street for the explicit purpose of praying for people. The church could offer the use of its website as a local community forum, or 'virtual local community hall, for community notices. Another way would be to hold internet-based events and/or forums, so that those who are housebound or are part of what some call the Internet Generation, have a platform to converse and discover about Christianity, particular for their youth and student work. Rightly or wrongly, the truth is that people are gathering like that, and discussing Christian issues. New methods also can be seen as making use of every opportunity, or as Michael Green puts it “godly opportunism”.

When in Corinth, despite his nervousness and worries, Paul knew God was in control (Acts18v10) and that’s why he stayed a further 18 months following his vision where God promised protection, security and companionship (Acts18v11). Paul endured in the face of opposition (Acts18v12-16). The Jews went to the Roman proconsul Gallio, complaining that Paul had started a new religion, for starting new religions was forbidden under Roman law. Anything that was a religion before the Romans assimilated was seen as a legitimate religion ie Judaism. Gallio however dismissed the Jewish case as mere internal bickering about minor details, and kicked the case out of court as it were. In doing so, Gallio had now made Christianity a legitimate religion within the Roman Empire, and this is why Paul stayed in Corinth a good deal longer (Acts18v18). Paul did not succumb to the temptations around him, because he only sought one thing – to declare “Jesus and Him crucified” (1 Corinthians 2v2). Perhaps that is how Paul won Sosthenes for Jesus Christ, as we read in 1 Corinthians 1v1, how he was travelling with Paul at the time of writing.

The world around likes to play clever tricks with us, just as the Jews did with Paul in Corinth. But we are to be, as Jesus commanded in Matthew 10v16, “shrewd as snakes and harmless as doves.” We are to stay faithful to Jesus and sometimes it is difficult! It means staying faithful to Jesus and His will, regardless of opposition and alternatives. By doing this we endure and remain faithful to Him.

For more to think about please do read 1 Thessalonians 1v3-10, 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 are the barriers that you need to overcome in order for you to evangelise?

Q2. Are you enduring and being persistent in your Christian lifestyle and evangelism?

Q3. How am I as a Christian Disciple, living a life that is shrewd like a snake and harmless as a dove?

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ADD - Evangelism 1

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Christian Disciple and Evangelism (Part 1)

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Paul writing in 1 Corinthians 2v1-5 regarding his first contact with the city of Corinth: “When I came to you, brothers, I did not come with eloquence or superior wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. I came to you in weakness and fear, and with much trembling. My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit's power, so that your faith might not rest on men's wisdom, but on God's power.”

When he was going the 50 miles or so from Athens to Corinth, Paul was alone. He had left the intellectual centre of the ancient world, Athens, and entered Corinth, the cultural capital of the ancient world. Do you sometimes think that Paul was like a superman, always brash and utterly confident when engaged in evangelism? According to that passage, he entered with great nervousness, weakness and fear. He was not confident in his own ability or the way that he spoke and reasoned. But why should Paul have been this way with the city of Corinth?

Corinth

The city of Corinth is located on the narrow isthmus linking northern and southern Greece. It had two ports on either side, where small ships and boats could be dragged on greased planks the 3-mile journey across the isthmus, thus saving themselves a 200-mile journey through dangerous waters. It was therefore a natural place for fantastic links for commerce and culture across the known world. The world famous Isthmian games were held there. Paul’s reasoning for deciding to go there was probably along the lines of “If its good enough for commerce and culture to be spread from Corinth, even better for the Gospel to travel far and wide from that hub.” So he enters Corinth. But alas, with culture and commerce came its evil triplet – immorality. The temple, which overlooked Corinth, was dedicated to the goddess Aphrodite and had 1,000 prostitutes. Aphrodite was the goddess of love and sex. In those days to go “corinthianizing”, meant to go actively seeking immorality. These reasons are why Paul entered Corinth nervously – the proud and cultural intelligentsia, endemic immorality and the many temples to many gods including Aphrodite and Poseidon. The Corinthians were post-modern people, even before post-modernity! Their motto – “If it feels good, do it!”

Paul

Paul was nervous and weak in his own strength, but he was supremely confident in the Lord and the power of the Spirit to use him. What can we learn from Paul’s visit to Corinth and how do we apply them to our lives today in the 21st century? After all our modern cities and towns are no different from ancient Corinth!

Evangelism

Paul’s Message – The Gospel

The Gospel is Trinitarian – The Gospel is The Father’s mysterious revelation through the Son’s work on the cross in the power of the Spirit

  • The Gospel is Three Dimensional
  • Breadth of the Bible – all of Scripture is about God’s plan of Salvation.
  • Depth of the cross
  • Length of God’s mission

The Gospel is anathema and unpopular. The Gospel is never popular, and if it is, then it is not a truly Biblically Gospel. We have a false Gospel being preached where financial prosperity is the central claim. We have a false Gospel where Jesus is a cure all being the central claim. For Paul, and for all true Christian Disciples, “Jesus and Him crucified” (1 Corinthians 2v2) is the true Gospel.

Paul faced Jewish opposition

· To the Jewish mindset, it was unthinkable that the Messiah would be crucified on a pagan Gentile cross (Acts18v6, 12-17).

Paul faced Gentile opposition

  • · Jesus’ exclusive claim to be the only way, the only truth and only life challenged Corinthian pluralism & universalism! The Corinthians lived a life filled with many gods, why would they want to settle for just the One – particularly one who had died?
  • · A life of holiness challenged Corinthian immorality! Exercise self-control? You are having a laugh, Paul. Ha ha.
  • · God’s power challenged Corinthian cultured intellect! Some of the Athenians told Paul he was a babbler, and so would have the cultured and refined Corinthian intelligentsia.
  • · Humility challenged Corinthian pride. To kneel at the cross, takes great humility. The Corinthians were a proud and cultured people, to whom the thought of humbly kneeling before a God was anathema. Much better to be devoting yourself to a goddess of sex. What more could a young Corinthian want than the mixture of religion and sex?

The same applies today. We are shouted down if we dare exclaim that Jesus is the only acceptable path to God. We are told there are no such thing as moral absolutes any more, and what’s right for you may not be right for me and providing I am not hurting anyone, stay out of my private business. Sex and sexuality are worshipped and adored as if they were gods in themselves. In an age of Scientific materialism and hyper-rationalism, people cynically laugh at us and say that we worship a dead man. We are often called fools for believing in Original Sin and deluded for believing in a God. Have you been called those things? I know I have. Humility is not looked upon as a strength today, its frowned upon as a weakness. The world says that if you want to get ahead in life, you need to be strong, show some backbone and don’t ever back down to anybody or anything. Certainly never admit you were wrong and had made mistakes! The way of the Gospel is to kneel before the Cross, admit your mistakes and sins and be prepared to serve and take up your own cross.

The world is quite willing to accept a harmless baby at Christmas, but not the violence of the cross that followed. That is why even atheists like Richard Dawkins like to sing Christmas Carols! The danger of Christmas is when the glorious incarnation of Jesus Christ, being both fully God and fully human, is diluted into fantasy along with Santa and his elves.

For more to think about please do read Acts 18v1-17, 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. Am I using all opportunities to build relationships and tell others a truly biblical cross-centred Gospel?

Q2. Am I growing and changing into the very likeness of Jesus?

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Poem - Armour

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Armour of the Family

by Milly

I will put on my armour every day

So the enemies of Christ will flee away!

The armour of God is what I need,

The blood of Jesus is my plead!

To overcome the evil one

And bask in glory with God the Son.

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Poem - Tomorrow

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Tomorrow by Milly

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Should I have tomorrow

Should I have another day

Time that I will borrow

Time that I will pray

Hopefully, I'll touch you, Jesus

In some special way

And I will get a touch from you

To take my fears away

Jesus, you're the answer

You are my guiding light

You're the hope of my tomorrow

And so my future's bright

The time that I've been given

Is only yours to give

So I don't want to die, my Lord

For you I want to live

And so I'm reaching for you

With all my strength and might

And wait for you to reach me too

And hold me oh, so tight!

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ADD - Community

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Christian Disciple and Community

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Jesus said in Matthew 10v16: “Look, I am sending you out as sheep among wolves. So be as shrewd as snakes and harmless as doves.”

How should individual Christian disciples react in regards to a life of Discipleship in an age where church attendance is rapidly declining? It is by being a radical community of radical individuals, which will help stop this decline. The Church needs Christian disciples to be living a radical Discipleship, engaging with the culture, counting the cost of Discipleship and reflecting true humanity while not compromising core beliefs.

Radical 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.

Today’s church will grow by building a strong community. A community which involves joining together isolated and solitary individuals where people are imbued with love, showing care to each other, particularly the frail, elderly and young, with what Moltmann calls a “creative passion for the impossible.” An inherent human need is the need to belong, and by fulfilling relational needs, the radical 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.

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 became Christian disciples, they were added to the church. Discipline helped ensure that the community was being seen as a holy community. 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 discipline is foundational to Discipleship making, because it concerns the community’s spiritual health, and strengthens the community bonds.

The church must be a community of Disciples, willing to be holy. It is by being holy, that the church will grow. The role of the community engaged in radical Christian Discipleship is to help people to be holy and not merely happy. Happiness will flow from holiness, but holiness will not necessarily flow from an induced ‘feel good factor’. The radical community needs to be making Christian Disciples who are trained, equipped and developed in order for them to make Disciples themselves. Whereas in the past, Discipleship processes and programmes have emerged after people have joined the church, it should be foundational. The best way is for the leadership to set the example, and show a way forward. Good leadership has good accountability to each other and to the whole community.

Radical Discipleship & Radical Leadership

A radical community requires radical discipleship. Radical discipleship commences with compassion, similar to that of Jesus when he looked over the crowds, and commented that they were like sheep without a shepherd (Matthew 9v36). It should be a compassion driven like that of Jesus towards the woman at the well (John 4vv1-26). With compassion as motivation, and a contrite heart, the radical church community can reach out to those emerging who primarily see Jesus and the church as irrelevance.

A radical Christian Disciple needs also to involve the voices of others by engaging in dialogue with trusted others. This will involve having a diverse team in the Church who are both willing and empowered to give advice. This team will require an individual leader to have relaxed grip on control, with power delegated to others, which is radical in that it goes against current strains of leadership.

This radical leadership style requires a pursuit of relationship in order to work, rather than a pursuit of aims and outcomes. This will enable trust to form and helps establish the community on a firm relational foundation. Once relationship has been formed, then the spiritual gifts of the Christian disciple can be used in order to serve the community. By exercising gifts and being functional enables the Christian Disciple to grow, be used by God and to flourish with confidence and support. Radical leadership and radical Christian Discipleship encourage the fringe members.

Finally, Jesus recommends that Christian disciples be wise like serpent and innocent as doves (Matthew 10v16b). The means Christian Disciples are to be skilful and shrewd in making decisions that are characterised by intelligence, patience and cunning. Additionally, Christian Disciples are to be gentle and harmless, like doves. This would make Christian Disciples and leaders who are 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, dependence on the Holy Spirit for strength and care is a vital necessity. By relying on the Holy Spirit, the Christian Disciple is perpetually connected to Jesus Christ, who is after all, the Head of the church community.

The Christian Disciple is to be a shepherd leader rather than a manager, so that guidance and nurture are central, rather than merely feeding the community. A Christian Disciple who cares and loves is one who goes out to find the lost rather than waiting for the lost to come. This shepherd is also involved in the training of other Christian Disciples so that care is disseminated. This does not mean however that a radical Christian Disciple leader becomes a subordinate to the community, catering to every whim and fad suggested by others. The Christian Disciple leader needs be a servant but also requires discernment.

Discipleship at most churches these days is organized around their programmes of small groups, Sunday services, prayer groups, leadership group and opportunities to serve. Discipleship in these churches usually involves some form of leadership accountability in four key areas: Mission, Maturity, Outreach and Leadership. Mission involves helping people become Christian and nurturing their faith diligently. If Western churches and Christian disciples started to take radical steps, both in being and making Christian Disciples, then growth would systematically increase. The Church would no longer be seen as irrelevant but as a thriving community where Jesus is glorified and transformation sought.

For more to think about please do read Acts 2v42-47. 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. How, and in what ways, were the early church community creative?

Q2. What creative ways can I serve the community I live and work in?

Q3. How can I help my church be more relevant in the community, without compromising?

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ADD - Contentment

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Christian Disciple and Contentment...

So Close to My Heart . . .

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Paul writing in the Book of 1 Timothy 6:6-10; 17-19 "A devout life does bring wealth, but it's the rich simplicity of being yourself before God. Since we entered the world penniless and will leave it penniless, if we have bread on the table and shoes on our feet, that's enough.  But if it's only money these leaders are after, they'll self-destruct in no time. Lust for money brings trouble and nothing but trouble. Going down that path, some lose their footing in the faith completely and live to regret it bitterly ever after. Tell those rich in this world's wealth to quit being so full of themselves and so obsessed, with money, which is here today and gone tomorrow. Tell them to go after God, who piles on all the riches we could ever manage-to do good, to be rich in helping others, to be extravagantly generous. If they do that, they'll build a treasury that will last, gaining life that is truly life."

A major opponent of contentment is what is labelled the prosperity doctrine.  This stipulates that since as Christians we are children of the King, then we should be living like kings in the physical sense.  If you are God's child, then God will bless you so abundantly you will have that earthly mansion, a million pounds in the bank, a good wife or husband and children, if only you follow him.  And if you don't receive these things, then maybe you should be asking for forgiveness, because apparently you are not a child of the King.  What a load of rubbish! It is just materialism in another disguise where possessions and material things are their gods and not the living God. Its very source is pride, and not humility, because they proudly proclaim "I am first, and everyone else is last". I defy anyone who believes this prosperity doctrine to take a trip to the poorer areas of the world and tell that false doctrine to the leaders of the churches who are working faithfully in those areas.  I guarantee you would cause more harm than good.  That is not to say that God never blesses His children with material possessions, because He does - the Old Testament King Solomon is a prime example of this.

So if the prosperity doctrine is a false teaching, what does a truly biblically balanced view of contentment consist of?

Contentment.

In the Bible passage I read earlier, Paul commands Christian Disciples to be content with godliness.  We came into this world with nothing, and we will leave this world with nothing (v6).  The bare necessities for contentment of life are food, clothing & shelter (v7).  However, we could, with justification say that some other things are also necessary.  Cars, books, and computers may with some justification to ourselves as individuals, be a necessity.  That is up to our own individual consciences. But what we need to do, when considering purchasing items is, not to ask "Can I afford it?" but rather "Can I justify it, and could the money be better used elsewhere?"

There are many Christian organisations that need money to continue operating.  Perhaps, the money I was going to use for the trip overseas, could be of better use elsewhere in the kingdom of God?  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 the faith of God (vv9-10), not to love money because it is a source of evil (v10). Everyday Christians pray that God would not lead them into temptation; and he does not, they do that quite easily by themselves.  And those that are rich, are not to flaunt it arrogantly and are not to place their hopes in them (v17).  Those who are rich, are commanded to be 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, and donating the money saved to a worthy concerned organisation helping out the poor of the world.  Remember we are blessed by God, in order to bless others!

The humble, say "God is first, others are second, and I come last" and puts people before possessions.  The Christian Disciple is to place their 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; or camera; or car; or an easier job with more money?"  It is so easy to say these things, and forgetting 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.  I would hazard to say, that probably the only time we say thank-you to God, is before the food that we eat.  We hardly ever thank him, for friends and all the other material blessings He does provide and the pleasure we gain from He gives us.  And that is the key to biblical contentment.  "Could I really thank my Lord for this particular item I want?"

For more to think about, please do read for yourself 1 Timothy 6.  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 are you not content?

Q2 - What blessings has God bestowed upon me, that I should give Him thanks for?

Q3 - How can I use the money and possessions God has blessed me with, in order that He is glorified and worthy of honour, this week?

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