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Archive for the 'Issues' Category

PulpTheology Book

God, Internet Church & You

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Due to lockdown or quarantine due to the CoronaVirus / COVID-19 Pandemic, Church has moved to using the Internet for its services to the world.  In this little book we seek to answer why the Church is using the Internet, as well as exploring together ways in which we can respond.

Here are some of the questions we will explore together:

  • What is Digital Space & the Internet?
  • Why should the Church be on the Internet and how?
  • Isn't Church on the Internet just a modern form of the ancient heresy of gnosticism?
  • Is God able to interact there?
  • For the Christian, what are some of the liabilities and virtues of the Internet?
  • Could an internet based church be part of the historical church?
  • What can a Church service on the Internet look like?
  • How can this technology be used, so that you as a Christian, can use your talents and serve God on the Internet in the 21st century?

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Issues - Troubles

 Partake - Issues

Times of Trouble

 

Paul writing in 2 Corinthians 4v16- 18 "Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal."

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

Persevere!

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

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

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

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

You are to keep your eyes focussed on Jesus Christ, carry your cross daily and be willing to obey Him. You are to run the race with eyes fixed ahead, forgetting what is past and not looking back at what in the past had entangled us.  And yes it is hard to forget, but with the help of the Holy Spirit, it is possible! 

As a Christian, persevere in your relationship with God. Obey Him and follow Him. Ask questions humbly of Him and expect Him to answer, particularly if you don't understand something. Persevere in your prayers, your relationships with God and with other people. God will persevere with you, turning you gradually into the image of His Son, Jesus Christ. God will not abandon you, but you are free to abandon Him. If you did abandon Him, He would still continue to call you back to Himself. So if He perseveres, so must we! But why do we persevere?

 

Character

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For more to think about please do ask your self the following questions, writing them down if you can, and see how you respond or react to them. Then why not share your answers with your spouse or a close friend, so that you can pray over any issues together.

Q1. After reading 2 Timothy 2v11-13, what motivates me to endure and persevere?

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

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

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Issues - Self Interest

Partake - Issues

Self Interest

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

Those verses written by Paul almost two thousand years ago still resonate loudly today. In our culture, particularly in the west, selfish individualism is endemic and rife.   "I can do what I want, when I want, because I am right and always right."  "Me, me, me", people cry through their actions and attitudes! Where material possessions take precedence and the desire for more is ever evident throughout all aspects of life.  The interest of others is placed at the bottom of the pile - people are placed below possessions.  These are twenty-first century gods and idols.  Including, alas, even within the church itself!

The god of the twenty-first century is "self-interest" and humanity bows to this god quite willingly, because it offers no threat. At its very source is pride! Their actions and attitude proudly proclaims "I am first, and everyone else is last".  As Christians, what should our reaction be to this aspect of our culture? as Christians living within this societal culture, how are we and the Church to respond?

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How not to be a Chocolate Christian

or

How to change Ch-rch to Church!

Have you ever noticed that chocolate melts under pressure & heat? If you haven't, take a piece of chocolate and hold it between your fingers! It will soon melt!  If you are a Christian, you need to be active in your local church so that you don't melt under pressure and you will remain firm in your faith!  Otherwise you will be a chocolate Christian who easily gives up under the stress and pressure of every day life!At a church local to where you live, you are needed regardless of who you are!Perhaps this is you?

  • Interested observer but not a committed Christian
  • Not bothered
  • Not good enough
  • Just want to be left alone
  • Don't know how to be involved
  • Don't know why being involved is important
  • Too busy

But why should you be involved?

Why? You have talents to be used!!

When Jesus said to His apostles "I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father." (John 14:12), it was through the promised Holy Spirit (John 14:17), and the impartation of Spiritual Gifts that His words were fulfilled.

The reason that the Holy Spirit imparts spiritual gifts to Christians is so that the body of Christ is built up (Ephesians 4:12), for the common good of the church (1Corinthians 12:7, 14:12) and "so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ." (1 Peter 4:12). 

These three reasons signify that God wants Christians to be active in service and not still like stagnant water.  That is why we have been given gifts and if these gifts are not used for God's purposes, then they are utterly useless and meaningless.  And the gifts are not just the supposedly spectacular gifts but also the supposedly mundane!  Cleaning is as much a spiritual gift as preaching is!

As we are not to neglect our gifts, or let other Christians neglect their gifts, we are to fan the gifts into flame (2 Timothy1:6).  Much like blowing on embers and stirring them up will restart the flames of a fire!  To do this, as Christians, we are to employ the gifts faithfully and by asking God to continue their development, strengthening and for opportunities to use them! Seek gifts that build up others, commands Paul (1 Corinthians 14:1-12). Ask God faithfully for gifts that give opportunity for service to God and others!

Why?  We are dependent on each other

As Christians, we are dependent upon each other, just as one part of the human body has dependence on another part.  That is why we serve each other and use the gifts generously given by God.  As all Christians have gifts, we have a responsibility to discover and develop them (1 Timothy 4:14)!  God has called Christians and equipped them with spiritual gifts, and they are not to be neglected! You are a member of the body of Jesus Christ the church! If you are not being active that means the Church body is affected aversely! Its like a part of your body failing to do as it should!

Why? Improve your serve!

They are opportunities for Christians to serve other people.  Some gifts like teaching, helping or leadership quite possibly are enhancements of natural abilities whilst others like faith, healing and miracles are from the Spirit's empowerment alone.In the Parable of the Talents (Matthew 25:14-30), Jesus intimates that those who follow Him, will be judged according to all that they have been given stewardship of!  This includes things such as Spiritual Gifts (1 Corinthians 12:1-10), acts of service (Galatians 5:13) and material possessions (2 Corinthians 9:6-8)! These are used to accomplish three other items of Stewardship: mission, message and people.

Why? To follow Jesus

The Christian life is not to be static or inactive - it was never meant to be!  The Christian life is to be dynamic! It is to be active.  The word servant is key in Scripture.  It is used at least 500 times in its various derivatives. When a Christian serves, God's honour is released.  This is done because service shows the beauty and glory of Jesus Christ to those being served and to those watching.  That is to be our motive for service. 

Serving is never to be about what you and I can get out of it.  When that is the motive, God is not glorified. God's glory, honour and supremacy are to be the goal of a Christian's life.  Spiritual growth comes from serving rather than being served.  This is because what ever is given in service of God and others, your faith grows and Jesus Christ gives back even more.

Jesus speaking in Matthew 25:15-30 tells of the rewards for faithful service and the penalties for being faithless.  Serving others is a sign that you are trusting in and having faith in God.  It's a visible aspect of your invisible faith.  Service is the outward expression of your inner beliefs. Serving is an outward expression of your inner faith - an external working out of your inner salvation. Serving God and others is the mark of a spiritually mature (or spiritually maturing) Christian and through service, the greatest servant of all, Jesus Christ, is reflected in our lives. 

"For Jesus Christ, came to serve and give his very life for others" (Mark 10:45).  As Christians we are to be as Jesus Christ (Romans 8:28; Philippians 2:5) and to serve.  Yet if we are honest, we sometimes feel incapable, just as Moses did (Exodus 3).  When the church is built up, unity will inevitably prevail and be built up.

GO!

So if you find you are currently inactive in your local church, then please go and make yourself available to serve there!  Ask your pastor or church leader how you can help out! By doing so, and submitting yourself to the Holy Spirit who indwells you, the lives of other people could be changed for God's greater glory because of your acts of service and worship.

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Issues - Government

 Partake - Issues

Government

 

In the UK, when we have a General Election, that is where people vote for their political representatives. After al the votes are counted there will be a government elected! This of course, is not unique to the UK! All people all over the world live under some from of leadership or government.  That government may be democratically elected, a monarchy or even an oppressive dictatorship. 

Whatever kind of government we find ourselves with, we have one!  If there was not a government in place, as hard as it is to imagine, total chaos would reign and people would just do whatever pleases them, regardless of consequences and regardless of other people.  Therefore, regardless of whatever government we live under, what does the Bible say should be our reaction and attitude to the government. 

By government, I mean all levels of government and authority - from local authority to federal government. 

But first of all, lets look at what the Bible has to say about the function of human government, before going on to look at our responsibility to Government and our community.

The Function of Human Government

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

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

  • Protection: From the moment Adam sinned, it was plainly obvious that human civilizations would need some form of restraint and law, in order to protect their citizens - form themselves and others.  We see this clearly in Acts 21, where the Roman soldiers step in to save Paul from being killed by other people in Jerusalem. 
  • Punishment: Paul stipulates that duly appointed government officials and servants are to be considered as servants of God (even if they don't believe in God!) 
  • Promotion: Human government, as thought by Paul, was to promote the broad-spectrum welfare of all the community and not just select groups, where its laws are in effect.

 

Christian Response to Human Government

 

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

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

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

  • Firstly we have a responsibility to recognize and acknowledge that God ordains the Government. We see that from Paul's writing in Romans 13 and Paul was writing when the Emperor Nero was in power and systematically persecuting and torturing Christians!  We also see this thinking in the passage from 1 Peter. There is no authority except as given by God.  Even to the most sadistic, dictatorial or atheist governments - they have power only because God has allowed them.  So we are to obey our government!  But it is not to be slavish obedience regardless of what laws are decreed! No!   The exception to this is where obedience to the Government would require the Christian to actively or passively disobey God.  For we read in Acts 4v18-20 that the believer is to live in obedience to God rather than man.
  • Secondly, as much as we probably hate to, we are commanded to pay taxes to the government!  For by doing so, the government can set about ensuring, for example, that the weaker and more vulnerable sections of the community are cared for and protected!
  • Thirdly, and quite possibly, most importantly, Christians are to pray for their leaders, governments and those in authority!  Both Peter and Paul command and recommend it!  To pray for them is to love them and it is also a way for God to shine into the lives of people.  One of the things we are to pray for, is that the government governs righteously, honourably, honestly and with integrity. The Christian, as a citizen, is free to be law-abiding, conscious that they are under submission to Almighty God. It also means giving respect to all members of society from the lowest to the highest!  As Christians, we are to submit ourselves to our Government and be living lives worthy of the Gospel of Christ. This may indeed win some for God, win the recognition of their government as well as influencing Government policy and law.  Whatever government you find yourself under, pray for your leaders even if you thoroughly disagree with some or all of their actions.  They are in power, only because our God has allowed them.  They will answer to Him one day for what they have done with the power given to them by God alone.  God is in control, and He is on the ultimate throne and is the definitive power!

 

Community Responsibility

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

Look at some of the great reformers or social activists of the past: Wilberforce helping to abolish slavery; or Martin Luther King Jr. at the forefront of ending segregation and racism.  May each one of us, on both a local and international scale, play some small part in ending prejudice, suffering, racism, poverty, bigotry, abuse, oppression and other injustices. 

As John Stott once said: "The reason for our acceptance of social responsibility... is simple uncomplicated compassion.  Love has no need to justify itself. It merely expresses itself in service wherever it sees need."

As Jesus of Nazareth once said: "Love God and love other people."

Some questions to help your thinking!

  1. In what way can I influence and encourage my government to promote justice, free the oppressed and take care of the poor?
  2. How can I help my government authorities to protect, punish and promote?
  3. When was the last time I actively prayed for those in authority over me, whether Christian or secular? Thank you.

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Sermon - God, the Church and the Internet

(John 17:13-19 & Romans 12:3-13)

13 ‘I am coming to you now, but I say these things while I am still in the world, so that they may have the full measure of my joy within them. 14 I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world. 15 My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. 16 They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. 17 Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. 18 As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world. 19 For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified. (John 17v13-19)

3 For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you. 4 For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, 5 so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. 6 We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; 7 if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; 8 if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.
9 Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. 10 Be devoted to one another in love. Honour one another above yourselves. 11 Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervour, serving the Lord. 12 Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. 13 Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practise hospitality. (Romans 12v3-13)


Introduction

We are, as I am sure you are aware, in the midst of the COVID19 global pandemic. All gatherings of Christians to gather in Churches has had to cease. How has the Church responded to this. They have gone online and using the internet! But why are they using it when before they largely eschewed it? Let's look together at the what, why and how Church can also fit in with a biblical world view.Not just accepting it but embracing it fully, taking advantages of all the opportunities it affords as well as being wary of any liabilities or warnings. Let's go!

Symptomatic of human history has been the development of different technologies. Each generation seems to have had a great leap forward in some way! Think of the wheel, the printing press, the wireless, the combustion engine and the silicon chip!

One of the developments that I am sure that you have noticed is the internet. Everything is on the internet now it seems – increasingly so at a government & banking level! Everybody here has used it – either directly or indirectly. The internet is here. It isn’t going to go away and it will continue to develop and expand.

Likewise, the church is here too. It also isn’t going to go away (at least at a universal level) and it also will develop and expand. So let’s tonight look at what this internet is, why the Church should be using it and lastly how the church can use it for the glory of God. By using it, I do mean more than just a website with the latest information, events and sermons on it!

1. What is the internet?
2 - Can God interact on the Internet?
3. Why should the Church be on the Internet?
3a. Go into the world but don’t be part of it (John 17:13-19)
3b. Go serve, you gifted people! (Romans 12:3-8)
3c. Love in action (Romans 12:9-13)
4. What are some of the benefits?
4a. Reach out to the world!
4b. Assisting Housebound & disabled people
4c. Assisting the Geographically Isolated


Conclusion

Tonight we have looked together very briefly at God, the Church and the Internet. I hope that you have been blessed by our time together. We saw how God can interact on the internet. We saw why we should be using the internet for God’s Glory as well as some suggested ways as to how to do this. We are on a mission. A mission to tell people the Good News of Jesus Christ and to disciple them.

Part of this mission is the use of our Spiritual Gifts, which each of us have. We are to use every opportunity to develop them, use them and enable others in the use of them. For this is God’s will for you and it reflects His love of you to a world that is dying to know Him. We are to use our Spiritual gifts with the aid of our God-given imagination and creativity. Just because you can’t think of a way to do something, doesn’t mean somebody else can’t think of a way! Just because we don’t understand something, does not mean it is wrong! Don’t limit yourself because of others’ limited imagination! What is more, don’t limit others because of your own limited imagination.

Let’s use the internet communities of Facebook etc to uplift, encourage and support each other. I personally get more encouragement from those outside the church, non-Christians, than I do Christians. They are usually always the first to notice if I am absent without telling them or to tell me some good news.

Let’s go! Let’s go and fulfil our mission – on the Internet as well as in our streets and roads. It will mean more than just having an internet website with the latest events and sermons on it, but we can do it! Are you willing? Let’s go!

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