3/4/14

From Jim McGuiggan... IS THE CHURCH THE PROBLEM?


IS THE CHURCH THE PROBLEM?

I admit I don't know what "balance" would look or feel like if I saw or experienced it. I suppose part of the reason for that would be that life is a stream rather than a static reality; the person is always changing so life is always in some kind of flux. What does "balance" mean under such circumstances?

But I confess to feeling myself becoming emotionally tired when I hear the constant talk about "personal" experience. Most of the time I feel sure that there's way too much talk about how I can fine-tune my relationship with God. There's an endless stream of books and blogs and seminars and retreats that constantly harp on about our need to experience God more intimately and find life with him more psychologically and emotionally fulfilling.

The Reformation brought us riches beyond description and led us to places from which we'll never go back and from places we never want to go back to, but parasites (helped by the worst aspects of the Enlightenment) came with it. Individualism and "what's in it for me" has become a plague that has swept through religious communities of every stripe. The "church," as the community of those redeemed by God in and through Jesus Christ, the witness to and bearer of the gospel for the world, has to become the warehouse of spiritual/emotional/social satisfaction or it's judged to be useless. People go church-shopping and their question isn't, "What's your gospel here?" It has become, "What do you have to offer me and mine?"

This kind of attitude is defended in various ways and some of the defenses have the appearance of good common sense and consequently the question is asked without apology. Others, who think that that cavalier way of putting it is a bit too crass, attack the shortcomings of the church and suggest that we should back away from it because it really is an enemy of true spiritual perception. The church (not just some particular congregation that's filled with bitterness and nonsense), they say, stifles their growth and vision of Jesus Christ. It reduces and partially blinds them, maybe even completely blinds them.

But then again, there's something sinister-sounding in that so the case has to be made more carefully. It isn't exactly the church that drugs them into a stupor; it's a "church mindset", a "church culture". And the cure, so we're told, is to walk away from the church in order to...wait for it...to truly come back to the church. Leave the straight jacket, find freedom and depth apart from church community and then you can come back to it.

It's all very wise, don't you know. And I take it that what this church culture is said to be doing to some poor souls it's doing to all of us. I suppose that the only way for us all to be cured is to forsake that community for maybe a year or two (three or four might be better and ten or twelve or a near lifetime might be better still). That way we'll feel personally fulfilled and richly blessed and after all, our individual relationship with God is the thing that matters most. Well, okay, maybe the community matters more but unless we're all individually liberated by an extended "church-less" detox experience, the church will continue to be a toxic reality.

[Should it surprise us then that there are churches that major in structuring corporate worship so that it'll attract people, make them "feel" blessed; assemblies that offer many programs and classes to cater for everyone's interests? "Felt needs" become the driver in such assemblies. You see it in the "Bible Versions" that roll off the press. Bibles particularly geared for young people, old people, military personnel and their families, single parents, sports enthusiasts, nature lovers, husbands and wives, romantic couples. Advisors to publishers go through with highlighters and underline verses from anywhere, meaning anything in context, just as long as they can be made to "fit" somebody or other.That's tragic but more tragic is this: there's a market for this kind of stuff. Then there are Bible classes for young marrieds, older marrieds, single people, single again, divorced or widowed, young adults, professionals and on and on and on. Sigh.]

I wonder if this dolorous kind of talk about the Church is the result of a jaundiced eye and/or a weary soul that's searching for a very personal uplift. Sometimes it's presented as something that would truly redeem the church but as Jeremiah insisted there's just no limit to the degree to which we can con ourselves.

I can understand poor souls thinking that some particular assemblies need a reawakening, do you think that surprising? I think I've read about a few of those in the book of Revelation. Yes, I can see how some people would feel the need of personal renewal because they are experiencing the burden of a dead congregation that thinks it's alive. Maybe (I'm not sure of anything on this point)—maybe they need to move to another assembly. But I'm convinced that the "wise ones" who are capable of assessing "the entire church thing" and judging it to be the instrument of spiritual suffocation are saying more about themselves than about the church.

So is there to be no personal satisfaction? Is life in and as "the body of Christ" to be as dull and plodding and impersonal as some leaders and assemblies seem to suggest? God forbid! A psalmist had it right when he jumped up and shouted, "O taste and see that the Lord is good!" And Psalm 23 is about a man who jumps up in the middle of an assembly and says, "I just want to say…I just want to say…that in my life, even when times have been hard, I've found God to be a faithful protector and provider and that even if serious trouble lies ahead for me I'm persuaded beyond debate that He'll be there and get me safely through them while he gains his glorious purpose through my being in this world!"

We don't need to leave the church to find life. We need our leaders to major in what fills our hearts with faith so that the satisfaction we look for—the joy-filled satisfaction that reaches right down into the foundations of our lives—is the healthy, enduring, faithful, God-imaging and world-defying kind.


From Mark Copeland.... Coming Boldly To The Throne Of Grace (Hebrews 4:14-16)






                      "THE EPISTLE TO THE HEBREWS"

             Coming Boldly To The Throne Of Grace (4:14-16)

INTRODUCTION

1. In our study thus far we seen the concern of the author of "The Book
   Of Hebrews"...
   a. That Jewish Christians remain steadfast and firm in their faith
   b. That they not make the same mistake of departing from the living
      God, as did many of their ancestors

2. His "modus operandi" (method of operation) has been two-fold...
   a. Illustrate the superiority of Jesus (e.g., to prophets, to
      angels, to Moses)
   b. Exhort them to faithfulness in light of these comparisons

3. In two exhortations we have seen thus far, to remain faithful we 
   must...
   a. "...give the more earnest heed to the things we have heard" 
      - cf. He 2:1-4
   b. "...exhort one another daily..." - cf. He 3:12-14

4. To put it another way, to remain faithful we must be diligent...
   a. In our study of the Word of God
   b. In exhorting one another daily
   -- Other things are also necessary, and in our text we read of 
      another - cf. He 4:14-16

5. The main thought in this passage is that we should "come boldly to
   the throne of grace"
   a. But what does that mean?
   b. And why should we be diligent to do this?

[These are the questions we shall address in this lesson, and so we 
begin by considering...]

I. WHAT IT MEANS TO "COME BOLDLY TO THE THRONE OF GRACE"

   A. THE "THRONE OF GRACE"...
      1. This is simply another way to say the "throne of God"
         a. Other passages emphasize that "God's throne" is one of 
            righteousness, justice, mercy and truth - cf. Ps 89:14
         b. I.e., God is known for, and is the source of, these things
      2. He 4:16 emphasizes that "God's throne" is one of MERCY
         a. "the throne of GRACE"
         b. I.e., where kindness, mercy, and benevolence may be found

   B. THE EXPRESSION "LET US COME" ("DRAW NEAR" ASV)...
      1. This is a priestly expression, used in the OT of priests in 
         their approach to God 
         a. E.g., Lev 21:17-21
         b. It denotes approaching God for worship and prayer
      2. It's use here suggests that the priestly privilege of access 
         to God is now extended to all Christians!
         a. As we saw in Leviticus, only certain individuals had this 
            privilege
         b. But now, in Christ  we can ALL "draw near" to God in 
            worship and prayer!

   C. THIS WE CAN DO "BOLDLY"...
      1. This word means "with confidence" (Gr., parresia, meaning 
         "full story")
      2. In ancient Greece...
         a. It was used to describe the right of a citizen to speak his
            mind on any subject in the town assembly (Lightfoot)
         b. Only "full citizens" had this right, slaves did not
      3. As used here in Hebrews, it stands for our freedom to approach
         God...
         a. Without hesitation or inhibition
         b. Made possible by the blood of Jesus - cf. He 10:19-22

[And so this passage speaks of the wonderful privilege Christians have
through prayer to approach our gracious God, with full confidence that
He hears our prayers!

It is important to utilize this privilege, and in our text we find 
several REASONS for doing so...]

II. WHY WE OUGHT TO "COME BOLDLY TO THE THRONE OF GRACE"

   A. BECAUSE WE HAVE YET TO ENTER "THE REST THAT REMAINS"...
      1. As seen earlier in this chapter, there is still a promised 
         "rest" for the people of God
         a. We need to "fear" lest we come short of it - He 4:1
         b. We need to be "diligent" - He 4:11
      2. This being true, we need all the "mercy" and "grace" we can 
         find!

   B. BECAUSE OF THE "HIGH PRIEST" THAT WE HAVE...
      1. In Jesus we have a "great" High Priest - He 4:14
         a. One who has "passed through the heavens" - cf. He 9:24;
            7:26-27
         b. Having ascended to the right hand of God, He has become
            "higher than the heavens"!
      2. In Jesus we have a "sympathetic" High Priest - He 4:15
         a. The word "sympathy" literally means "to suffer with"
            1) The Greek word suggests an intensity that is lost in the
               English word "sympathy" (Lightfoot)
            2) Westcott describes it as "the feeling of one who enters
               into the suffering and makes it his own."
         b. Jesus' sympathy is due to being "tempted as we are, yet 
            without sin."
            1) This qualifies Him to be a "merciful and faithful" High
               Priest - He 2:17
            2) One who is "able to aid those who are tempted" - He 2:18
      3. With such a High Priest interceding for us, shall we not take
         advantage of Him while we can? - cf. He 7:24-25
         a. Especially since He is able "save to the uttermost those
            who come to God through Him"
         b. And since He "always lives to make to make intercession for
            them"
      -- Does this not encourage us to "come boldly to the throne of 
         grace"?

   C. BECAUSE OF THE "MERCY" AND "GRACE" THAT AWAITS...
      1. Christians continue to need two things throughout their lives:
         a. "mercy"
            1) I.e., forgiveness for our sins
            2) For we do sin; to deny that is to call God a liar 
               - cf. 1Jn 1:8,10
         b. "grace to help in time of need"
            1) I.e., God's favor to help us in time of need
            2) E.g., His providential protection (cf. 1Co 10:13) and
               divine strength (cf. Ro 8:13; Php 4:13)
      2. The Christian finds these things in answer to PRAYER!
         a. By confessing our sins to God in prayer, there is mercy 
            - cf. 1Jn 1:9
         b. By praying for strength from God's indwelling Spirit, there
            is grace to help in time of need - cf. Ep 3:16,20; 6:10-13

CONCLUSION

1. Brethren, when we are diligent to "come boldly to the throne of 
   grace", what do we find?
   a. A "graceful God" and a "sympathetic High Priest"!
   b. Mercy, and grace to help us in time of need!

2. The means by which we "draw near" is prayer, and so, to...
   a. Diligent study of the Word of God - cf. He 2:1-4
   b. Diligent exhortation of our brethren on a daily basis - cf. He 3:
      12-14
   -- We must add diligent prayer if we are to going to find the mercy
      and grace necessary to "hold the beginning of our confidence 
      steadfast to the end"

3. Brethren...
   a. Do we appreciate the "great" and "sympathetic" High Priest that
      we have in Jesus?
   b. Are we utilizing the opportunities we have to "come boldly to the
      throne of grace"?
   -- May this passage remind us never to take the privilege of prayer
      lightly!

As for the "privilege" of prayer itself, by which we can now "draw 
near" to God, bear in mind that it is made possible by "a new and 
living way" (He 10:19-20). Only by the blood of Jesus shed in His death
can we now come to God.

Have you been washed in the blood of Jesus for the remission of your 
sins?  For those seeking this wonderful blessing, give careful 
attention to these words by the disciple sent by Jesus to Saul of 
Tarsus:

   "'And now why are you waiting? Arise and be baptized, and wash 
   away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord.'" - Acts 22:16

Executable Outlines, Copyright © Mark A. Copeland, 2011

From Gary... Bible Reading March 4


Bible Reading  

March 4

The World English Bible


Mar. 4
Exodus 14

Exo 14:1 Yahweh spoke to Moses, saying,
Exo 14:2 "Speak to the children of Israel, that they turn back and encamp before Pihahiroth, between Migdol and the sea, before Baal Zephon. You shall encamp opposite it by the sea.
Exo 14:3 Pharaoh will say of the children of Israel, 'They are entangled in the land. The wilderness has shut them in.'
Exo 14:4 I will harden Pharaoh's heart, and he will follow after them; and I will get honor over Pharaoh, and over all his armies; and the Egyptians shall know that I am Yahweh." They did so.
Exo 14:5 It was told the king of Egypt that the people had fled; and the heart of Pharaoh and of his servants was changed towards the people, and they said, "What is this we have done, that we have let Israel go from serving us?"
Exo 14:6 He made ready his chariot, and took his army with him;
Exo 14:7 and he took six hundred chosen chariots, and all the chariots of Egypt, and captains over all of them.
Exo 14:8 Yahweh hardened the heart of Pharaoh king of Egypt, and he pursued after the children of Israel; for the children of Israel went out with a high hand.
Exo 14:9 The Egyptians pursued after them: all the horses and chariots of Pharaoh, his horsemen, and his army; and overtook them encamping by the sea, beside Pihahiroth, before Baal Zephon.
Exo 14:10 When Pharaoh drew near, the children of Israel lifted up their eyes, and behold, the Egyptians were marching after them; and they were very afraid. The children of Israel cried out to Yahweh.
Exo 14:11 They said to Moses, "Because there were no graves in Egypt, have you taken us away to die in the wilderness? Why have you treated us this way, to bring us forth out of Egypt?
Exo 14:12 Isn't this the word that we spoke to you in Egypt, saying, 'Leave us alone, that we may serve the Egyptians?' For it were better for us to serve the Egyptians, than that we should die in the wilderness."
Exo 14:13 Moses said to the people, "Don't be afraid. Stand still, and see the salvation of Yahweh, which he will work for you today: for the Egyptians whom you have seen today, you shall never see them again.
Exo 14:14 Yahweh will fight for you, and you shall be still."
Exo 14:15 Yahweh said to Moses, "Why do you cry to me? Speak to the children of Israel, that they go forward.
Exo 14:16 Lift up your rod, and stretch out your hand over the sea, and divide it: and the children of Israel shall go into the midst of the sea on dry ground.
Exo 14:17 I, behold, I will harden the hearts of the Egyptians, and they shall go in after them: and I will get myself honor over Pharaoh, and over all his armies, over his chariots, and over his horsemen.
Exo 14:18 The Egyptians shall know that I am Yahweh, when I have gotten myself honor over Pharaoh, over his chariots, and over his horsemen."
Exo 14:19 The angel of God, who went before the camp of Israel, moved and went behind them; and the pillar of cloud moved from before them, and stood behind them.
Exo 14:20 It came between the camp of Egypt and the camp of Israel; and there was the cloud and the darkness, yet gave it light by night: and the one didn't come near the other all the night.
Exo 14:21 Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and Yahweh caused the sea to go back by a strong east wind all the night, and made the sea dry land, and the waters were divided.
Exo 14:22 The children of Israel went into the midst of the sea on the dry ground, and the waters were a wall to them on their right hand, and on their left.
Exo 14:23 The Egyptians pursued, and went in after them into the midst of the sea: all of Pharaoh's horses, his chariots, and his horsemen.
Exo 14:24 It happened in the morning watch, that Yahweh looked out on the Egyptian army through the pillar of fire and of cloud, and confused the Egyptian army.
Exo 14:25 He took off their chariot wheels, and they drove them heavily; so that the Egyptians said, "Let's flee from the face of Israel, for Yahweh fights for them against the Egyptians!"
Exo 14:26 Yahweh said to Moses, "Stretch out your hand over the sea, that the waters may come again on the Egyptians, on their chariots, and on their horsemen."
Exo 14:27 Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and the sea returned to its strength when the morning appeared; and the Egyptians fled against it. Yahweh overthrew the Egyptians in the midst of the sea.
Exo 14:28 The waters returned, and covered the chariots and the horsemen, even all Pharaoh's army that went in after them into the sea. There remained not so much as one of them.
Exo 14:29 But the children of Israel walked on dry land in the midst of the sea, and the waters were a wall to them on their right hand, and on their left.
Exo 14:30 Thus Yahweh saved Israel that day out of the hand of the Egyptians; and Israel saw the Egyptians dead on the seashore.
Exo 14:31 Israel saw the great work which Yahweh did to the Egyptians, and the people feared Yahweh; and they believed in Yahweh, and in his servant Moses.



From Gary... A thought for a Tuesday
































Recently, I switched back to the New American Standard Bible (for my personal study) and when I saw this picture today, I was reminded of Isaiah because 40:8, because it is a dedication verse that Lockman foundation uses when publishing their Bibles. Nice picture; the flower is fading, however and this was a good thing to see because of the association it brought to mind.  Now, obviously, I was going to list only that verse, but then I looked at the entire series of verses and thought it would contribute substantially to the idea behind it....


Isaiah, Chapter 40
 6 The voice of one saying, “Cry!” 
One said, “What shall I cry?”
“All flesh is like grass,
and all its glory is like the flower of the field.
  7 The grass withers,
the flower fades,
because Yahweh’s breath blows on it.
Surely the people are like grass.
  8 The grass withers,
the flower fades;
but the word of our God stands forever.”

The day one realizes the briefness of their life- that is a very good day!!!  I know this sounds strange, but it IS TRUE!!!  When you realize how short your stay here on Earth really is, then each day becomes more important, more worthwhile.  For me, it is codified in something I say in response to things like "How are you doing"? or "How are you feeling"?...


Every day above ground is a good day

and

Every day way above ground is a better day


But the wise person will look beyond this mere statement of positiveness and consider that which lies beyond our humanity.  Naturally, this will lead to God, and God is eternal. If you have submitted to the eternal One who rules the world and all that is in it, then you share in his eternal being through the sacrifice of Jesus.  This means that no matter WHAT HAPPENS HERE, you are all good- permanently!!!  Not a bad idea to hold onto for a Tuesday afternoon!!!

PS... In case you are wondering, I usually use The World English Bible for this blog because of copyright restrictions...