3/23/14

From Gary... Got brains?


Personally, I don't think I would eat this!!!  Just look at that cholesterol!!!  But Amour is a big company and they probably wouldn't sell it if there wasn't a market for it.  As far as food is concerned, it is one of my favorite (and necessary) things.  But, there are more important things, as the Apostle Paul states very plainly in the following passage...

Romans, Chapter 14
 12  So then each one of us will give account of himself to God.  13 Therefore let’s not judge one another any more, but judge this rather, that no man put a stumbling block in his brother’s way, or an occasion for falling.  14 I know, and am persuaded in the Lord Jesus, that nothing is unclean of itself; except that to him who considers anything to be unclean, to him it is unclean.  15 Yet if because of food your brother is grieved, you walk no longer in love. Don’t destroy with your food him for whom Christ died.  16 Then don’t let your good be slandered,  17 for the Kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit.  18 For he who serves Christ in these things is acceptable to God and approved by men.

If your brother has a problem with some particular food and won't eat it for religious reasons, don't offend him by eating it. Caring for others is at times more important that concern for yourself. Who knows, pork brains might just taste wonderful.  Feeling shy? Get Mikey to eat it; he'll eat anything!!!

From Gary... Bible Reading March 23


Bible Reading 

March 23

The World English Bible

Mar. 23
Leviticus 1, 2

Lev 1:1 Yahweh called to Moses, and spoke to him out of the Tent of Meeting, saying,
Lev 1:2 "Speak to the children of Israel, and tell them, 'When anyone of you offers an offering to Yahweh, you shall offer your offering of the livestock, from the herd and from the flock.
Lev 1:3 " 'If his offering is a burnt offering from the herd, he shall offer a male without blemish. He shall offer it at the door of the Tent of Meeting, that he may be accepted before Yahweh.
Lev 1:4 He shall lay his hand on the head of the burnt offering, and it shall be accepted for him to make atonement for him.
Lev 1:5 He shall kill the bull before Yahweh. Aaron's sons, the priests, shall present the blood and sprinkle the blood around on the altar that is at the door of the Tent of Meeting.
Lev 1:6 He shall flay the burnt offering, and cut it into pieces.
Lev 1:7 The sons of Aaron the priest shall put fire on the altar, and lay wood in order on the fire;
Lev 1:8 and Aaron's sons, the priests, shall lay the pieces, the head, and the fat in order on the wood that is on the fire which is on the altar;
Lev 1:9 but its innards and its legs he shall wash with water. The priest shall burn the whole on the altar, for a burnt offering, an offering made by fire, of a pleasant aroma to Yahweh.
Lev 1:10 " 'If his offering is from the flock, from the sheep, or from the goats, for a burnt offering, he shall offer a male without blemish.
Lev 1:11 He shall kill it on the north side of the altar before Yahweh. Aaron's sons, the priests, shall sprinkle its blood around on the altar.
Lev 1:12 He shall cut it into its pieces, with its head and its fat. The priest shall lay them in order on the wood that is on the fire which is on the altar,
Lev 1:13 but the innards and the legs he shall wash with water. The priest shall offer the whole, and burn it on the altar. It is a burnt offering, an offering made by fire, of a pleasant aroma to Yahweh.
Lev 1:14 " 'If his offering to Yahweh is a burnt offering of birds, then he shall offer his offering of turtledoves, or of young pigeons.
Lev 1:15 The priest shall bring it to the altar, and wring off its head, and burn it on the altar; and its blood shall be drained out on the side of the altar;
Lev 1:16 and he shall take away its crop with its filth, and cast it beside the altar on the east part, in the place of the ashes.
Lev 1:17 He shall tear it by its wings, but shall not divide it apart. The priest shall burn it on the altar, on the wood that is on the fire. It is a burnt offering, an offering made by fire, of a pleasant aroma to Yahweh.

Lev 2:1 " 'When anyone offers an offering of a meal offering to Yahweh, his offering shall be of fine flour; and he shall pour oil on it, and put frankincense on it.
Lev 2:2 He shall bring it to Aaron's sons, the priests; and he shall take his handful of its fine flour, and of its oil, with all its frankincense; and the priest shall burn its memorial on the altar, an offering made by fire, of a pleasant aroma to Yahweh.
Lev 2:3 That which is left of the meal offering shall be Aaron's and his sons'. It is a most holy thing of the offerings of Yahweh made by fire.
Lev 2:4 " 'When you offer an offering of a meal offering baked in the oven, it shall be unleavened cakes of fine flour mixed with oil, or unleavened wafers anointed with oil.
Lev 2:5 If your offering is a meal offering of the griddle, it shall be of unleavened fine flour, mixed with oil.
Lev 2:6 You shall cut it in pieces, and pour oil on it. It is a meal offering.
Lev 2:7 If your offering is a meal offering of the pan, it shall be made of fine flour with oil.
Lev 2:8 You shall bring the meal offering that is made of these things to Yahweh: and it shall be presented to the priest, and he shall bring it to the altar.
Lev 2:9 The priest shall take from the meal offering its memorial, and shall burn it on the altar, an offering made by fire, of a pleasant aroma to Yahweh.
Lev 2:10 That which is left of the meal offering shall be Aaron's and his sons'. It is a thing most holy of the offerings of Yahweh made by fire.
Lev 2:11 " 'No meal offering, which you shall offer to Yahweh, shall be made with yeast; for you shall burn no yeast, nor any honey, as an offering made by fire to Yahweh.
Lev 2:12 As an offering of firstfruits you shall offer them to Yahweh: but they shall not ascend for a pleasant aroma on the altar.
Lev 2:13 Every offering of your meal offering you shall season with salt; neither shall you allow the salt of the covenant of your God to be lacking from your meal offering. With all your offerings you shall offer salt.
Lev 2:14 " 'If you offer a meal offering of first fruits to Yahweh, you shall offer for the meal offering of your first fruits grain in the ear parched with fire, bruised grain of the fresh ear.
Lev 2:15 You shall put oil on it, and lay frankincense on it: it is a meal offering.
Lev 2:16 The priest shall burn as its memorial, part of its bruised grain, and part of its oil, along with all its frankincense: it is an offering made by fire to Yahweh.
 
Mar. 23, 24
Mark 14

Mar 14:1 It was now two days before the feast of the Passover and the unleavened bread, and the chief priests and the scribes sought how they might seize him by deception, and kill him.
Mar 14:2 For they said, "Not during the feast, because there might be a riot of the people."
Mar 14:3 While he was at Bethany, in the house of Simon the leper, as he sat at the table, a woman came having an alabaster jar of ointment of pure nard-very costly. She broke the jar, and poured it over his head.
Mar 14:4 But there were some who were indignant among themselves, saying, "Why has this ointment been wasted?
Mar 14:5 For this might have been sold for more than three hundred denarii, and given to the poor." They grumbled against her.
Mar 14:6 But Jesus said, "Leave her alone. Why do you trouble her? She has done a good work for me.
Mar 14:7 For you always have the poor with you, and whenever you want to, you can do them good; but you will not always have me.
Mar 14:8 She has done what she could. She has anointed my body beforehand for the burying.
Mar 14:9 Most certainly I tell you, wherever this Good News may be preached throughout the whole world, that which this woman has done will also be spoken of for a memorial of her."
Mar 14:10 Judas Iscariot, who was one of the twelve, went away to the chief priests, that he might deliver him to them.
Mar 14:11 They, when they heard it, were glad, and promised to give him money. He sought how he might conveniently deliver him.
Mar 14:12 On the first day of unleavened bread, when they sacrificed the Passover, his disciples asked him, "Where do you want us to go and make ready that you may eat the Passover?"
Mar 14:13 He sent two of his disciples, and said to them, "Go into the city, and there you will meet a man carrying a pitcher of water. Follow him,
Mar 14:14 and wherever he enters in, tell the master of the house, 'The Teacher says, "Where is the guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?" '
Mar 14:15 He will himself show you a large upper room furnished and ready. Make ready for us there."
Mar 14:16 His disciples went out, and came into the city, and found things as he had said to them, and they prepared the Passover.
Mar 14:17 When it was evening he came with the twelve.
Mar 14:18 As they sat and were eating, Jesus said, "Most certainly I tell you, one of you will betray me-he who eats with me."
Mar 14:19 They began to be sorrowful, and to ask him one by one, "Surely not I?" And another said, "Surely not I?"
Mar 14:20 He answered them, "It is one of the twelve, he who dips with me in the dish.
Mar 14:21 For the Son of Man goes, even as it is written about him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would be better for that man if he had not been born."
Mar 14:22 As they were eating, Jesus took bread, and when he had blessed, he broke it, and gave to them, and said, "Take, eat. This is my body."
Mar 14:23 He took the cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave to them. They all drank of it.
Mar 14:24 He said to them, "This is my blood of the new covenant, which is poured out for many.
Mar 14:25 Most certainly I tell you, I will no more drink of the fruit of the vine, until that day when I drink it anew in the Kingdom of God."
Mar 14:26 When they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.
Mar 14:27 Jesus said to them, "All of you will be made to stumble because of me tonight, for it is written, 'I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered.'
Mar 14:28 However, after I am raised up, I will go before you into Galilee."
Mar 14:29 But Peter said to him, "Although all will be offended, yet I will not."
Mar 14:30 Jesus said to him, "Most certainly I tell you, that you today, even this night, before the rooster crows twice, you will deny me three times."
Mar 14:31 But he spoke all the more, "If I must die with you, I will not deny you." They all said the same thing.
Mar 14:32 They came to a place which was named Gethsemane. He said to his disciples, "Sit here, while I pray."
Mar 14:33 He took with him Peter, James, and John, and began to be greatly troubled and distressed.
Mar 14:34 He said to them, "My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even to death. Stay here, and watch."
Mar 14:35 He went forward a little, and fell on the ground, and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass away from him.
Mar 14:36 He said, "Abba, Father, all things are possible to you. Please remove this cup from me. However, not what I desire, but what you desire."
Mar 14:37 He came and found them sleeping, and said to Peter, "Simon, are you sleeping? Couldn't you watch one hour?
Mar 14:38 Watch and pray, that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak."
Mar 14:39 Again he went away, and prayed, saying the same words.
Mar 14:40 Again he returned, and found them sleeping, for their eyes were very heavy, and they didn't know what to answer him.
Mar 14:41 He came the third time, and said to them, "Sleep on now, and take your rest. It is enough. The hour has come. Behold, the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners.
Mar 14:42 Arise, let us be going. Behold, he who betrays me is at hand."
Mar 14:43 Immediately, while he was still speaking, Judas, one of the twelve, came-and with him a multitude with swords and clubs, from the chief priests, the scribes, and the elders.
Mar 14:44 Now he who betrayed him had given them a sign, saying, "Whoever I will kiss, that is he. Seize him, and lead him away safely."
Mar 14:45 When he had come, immediately he came to him, and said, "Rabbi! Rabbi!" and kissed him.
Mar 14:46 They laid their hands on him, and seized him.
Mar 14:47 But a certain one of those who stood by drew his sword, and struck the servant of the high priest, and cut off his ear.
Mar 14:48 Jesus answered them, "Have you come out, as against a robber, with swords and clubs to seize me?
Mar 14:49 I was daily with you in the temple teaching, and you didn't arrest me. But this is so that the Scriptures might be fulfilled."
Mar 14:50 They all left him, and fled.
Mar 14:51 A certain young man followed him, having a linen cloth thrown around himself, over his naked body. The young men grabbed him,
Mar 14:52 but he left the linen cloth, and fled from them naked.
Mar 14:53 They led Jesus away to the high priest. All the chief priests, the elders, and the scribes came together with him.
Mar 14:54 Peter had followed him from a distance, until he came into the court of the high priest. He was sitting with the officers, and warming himself in the light of the fire.
Mar 14:55 Now the chief priests and the whole council sought witnesses against Jesus to put him to death, and found none.
Mar 14:56 For many gave false testimony against him, and their testimony didn't agree with each other.
Mar 14:57 Some stood up, and gave false testimony against him, saying,
Mar 14:58 "We heard him say, 'I will destroy this temple that is made with hands, and in three days I will build another made without hands.' "
Mar 14:59 Even so, their testimony did not agree.
Mar 14:60 The high priest stood up in the midst, and asked Jesus, "Have you no answer? What is it which these testify against you?"
Mar 14:61 But he stayed quiet, and answered nothing. Again the high priest asked him, "Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?"
Mar 14:62 Jesus said, "I am. You will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of Power, and coming with the clouds of the sky."
Mar 14:63 The high priest tore his clothes, and said, "What further need have we of witnesses?
Mar 14:64 You have heard the blasphemy! What do you think?" They all condemned him to be worthy of death.
Mar 14:65 Some began to spit on him, and to cover his face, and to beat him with fists, and to tell him, "Prophesy!" The officers struck him with the palms of their hands.
Mar 14:66 As Peter was in the courtyard below, one of the maids of the high priest came,
Mar 14:67 and seeing Peter warming himself, she looked at him, and said, "You were also with the Nazarene, Jesus!"
Mar 14:68 But he denied it, saying, "I neither know, nor understand what you are saying." He went out on the porch, and the rooster crowed.
Mar 14:69 The maid saw him, and began again to tell those who stood by, "This is one of them."
Mar 14:70 But he again denied it. After a little while again those who stood by said to Peter, "You truly are one of them, for you are a Galilean, and your speech shows it."
Mar 14:71 But he began to curse, and to swear, "I don't know this man of whom you speak!"
Mar 14:72 The rooster crowed the second time. Peter remembered the word, how that Jesus said to him, "Before the rooster crows twice, you will deny me three times." When he thought about that, he wept.


From Mark Copeland... The Chastening Of The Lord (Hebrews 12:4-11)

                      "THE EPISTLE TO THE HEBREWS"

                  The Chastening Of The Lord (12:4-11)

INTRODUCTION

1. In encouraging his readers to "run the race that is set before us",
   the author of "The Epistle To The Hebrews" mentions the need for 
   endurance...
   a. Suggesting that the "race" will not always be an easy one - He 12:1
   b. Indeed, our "forerunner" Himself had to endure hostility from 
      sinners and eventually the cross - He 12:2-3

2. They were reminded that they had yet to endure as much as the 
   Lord...
   a. They had "not yet resisted to bloodshed, striving against sin" 
      - He 12:4
   b. Though they had earlier endured "a great struggle with 
      sufferings" - He 10:32-34
   -- Because persecutions were likely to intensify, they needed 
      "endurance" - He 10:35-36

3. To help them in this regard, he reminds them of "The Chastening Of 
   The Lord" by...
   a. Quoting a well-known passage in Proverbs - He 12:5-6
   b. Expounding upon the purpose of the Lord's chastening - He 12:7-11
   -- Understanding how the Lord might use hardships, even 
      persecutions, to "chasten" them for their good, would serve to 
      encourage them to endure

4. What does the word "chasten" mean?
   a. The Greek word is paideia {pahee-di'-ah}
   b. In the KJV, it is variously translated as "chastening, nurture,
      instruction, chastisement"
   c. Thayer defines the word in this way:
      1) "the whole training and education of children (which relates
         to the cultivation of mind and morals, and employs for this 
         purpose now commands and admonitions, now reproof and 
         punishment)"
      2) "whatever in adults also cultivates the soul, esp. by 
         correcting mistakes and curbing passions"
         a) "instruction which aims at increasing virtue"
         b) "acc. to biblical usage chastisement, chastening, (of the 
            evils with which God visits men for their amendment)"

[In this lesson, I wish to focus on "The Chastening Of The Lord", 
using this text in Hebrews as the basis for our study.  To begin, let 
me stress...]

I. THE "FACT" OF THE LORD'S CHASTENING

   A. SOME DENY THE CHASTENING OF THE LORD...
      1. Believing that a loving God would never bring suffering to His
         children
      2. Believing that any suffering is due solely to the influence of
         Satan
         a. As some have so interpreted the Book of Job
         b. Yet because Satan himself could not do anything unless God
            allowed it, Job's adversity came ultimately from the Lord 
            - cf. Job 42:11

   B. THE BIBLE CLEARLY TEACHES THE CHASTENING OF THE LORD...
      1. In the Old Testament:
         a. "You should know in your heart that as a man chastens his
            son, so the LORD your God chastens you." - Deut 8:5
         b. "My son, do not despise the chastening of the LORD, Nor 
            detest His correction; For whom the LORD loves He corrects,
            Just as a father the son in whom he delights." - Pr 3:
            11-12
      2. In the New Testament:
         a. "For if we would judge ourselves, we would not be judged.
            But when we are judged, we are chastened by the Lord, that
            we may not be condemned with the world." - 1Co 11:31-32
         b. "As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Therefore be 
            zealous and repent." - Re 3:19
         c. And of course, our entire text under consideration - He 12:
            4-11
            1) Especially verses 7-8
            2) Which state that all of God's children must experience 
               chastening!

[The "fact" of the Lord's chastening cannot be questioned by anyone who
accepts the Bible.  At this point, let's consider "how" God might 
chasten His children...]

II. THE "HOW" OF THE LORD'S CHASTENING

   A. CHASTENING IN THE FORM OF "INSTRUCTIVE DISCIPLINE"...
      1. There is both "instructive" and "corrective" chastening 
         (discipline)
      2. "Instructive" chastening is designed to prevent the need for
         "corrective" chastening
      3. Instructive discipline is seen most often in the form of 
         "teaching"
         a. In the form of warnings, admonitions
         b. Thus Jesus could "clean" (purify) His disciples through His
            teaching - Jn 15:2-3
         c. Through His words Jesus sought to chasten the Laodiceans 
            - Re 3:15-19
         -- One way, then, that God chastens us is through His Word!
      4. But instructive discipline can also be in the form of 
         "tribulation"
         a. In the case of Job...
            1) His suffering was not because he needed correction - cf.
               Job 1:1,8
            2) Yet God allowed it, knowing it would make him better
         b. In the case of the early Christians...
            1) Persecution was looked upon as a form of chastisement 
               - cf. He 12:4-6
            2) Their persecution for the cause of Christ was not 
               because they were wicked
            3) But God allowed it, knowing that it would make them 
               stronger - cf. Ro 5:3-4; Jm 1:2-4; 1Pe 5:8-10
         -- Another way, then, that God chastens us is by allowing
            persecution for Christ's sake!

   B. CHASTENING IN THE FORM OF "CORRECTIVE DISCIPLINE"...
      1. When "instructive" discipline is not heeded, "corrective" 
         discipline follows
      2. Note the example of Judah and Israel:
         a. Failure to heed God's word would bring judgment upon Judah 
            - Am 2:4-5
         b. God made repeated efforts to bring Israel back to Him - Am 4:6-12
         c. Such efforts included famine, drought, pestilence, plague,
            war, earthquakes
            1) These were not miraculous or supernatural events
            2) But acts of nature brought on by the providential 
               working of God!
         d. Some understood the value of such affliction - cf. Ps 119:
            67,71
      3. What about "corrective" discipline today?
         a. If God would use Providence to encourage Israel to repent 
            before it was too late...
            1) Would not the same God use Providence to chastise His 
               erring children today?
            2) Does He love us any less?
         b. I know of no scriptural reason why God would not use His
            Providence to bring about events in our lives which serve
            to:
            1) Wake us up
            2) Cause us to reflect on our lives and our relationship to
               God
            3) Encourage us to repent and turn back to Him if we are 
               straying
         c. There are several passages which suggest that God might 
            bring some form of "corrective" discipline if we do not 
            heed His "instructive" discipline...
            1) Some of the Corinthians had already begun to experience
               God's chastisement, which they could have avoided if 
               they had "judged" themselves (by heeding His word) 
               - 1Co 11:30-32
            2) Jesus spoke of some way in which He would punish some at
               Thyatira that would be evident to all - cf. Re 2:20-23
         -- I therefore have no problem with the idea that God may 
            choose to employ corrective discipline in the form of 
            national and even personal affliction

[My understanding of a loving God chastening His children is tempered 
by my understanding of "why" He does this...]

III. THE "WHY" OF THE LORD'S CHASTENING

   A. CERTAINLY NOT BECAUSE HE DELIGHTS IN DOING SO...
      1. God found it necessary to bring judgment upon Israel - Lam 1:
         3-5
      2. It was not something He wanted to do - Lam 3:31-33

   B. WHEN NECESSARY, IT IS FOR OUR GOOD...
      1. To correct us - He 12:9
         a. Our human fathers do so, and we respect them for it
         b. Should we not expect the same from the "Father of spirits",
            and submit to it?
      2. That we may be partakers of His Holiness - He 12:10
         a. Our human fathers do it for what seems best to them
         b. Our heavenly Father does it for a reason that far excels 
            any earthly purpose!
      3.  That we may yield the peaceable fruit of righteousness - He 12:11
         a. In the short term, the experience is unpleasant
         b. But in the long term, we benefit by such "training"!

CONCLUSION

1. Whether "corrective" or "instructive" chastisement, it is always for
   our good!
   a. It may be grievous - He 12:11a
   b. But it will produce "the peaceable fruit of righteousness to 
      those who have been trained by it" - He 12:11b

2. "Corrective" chastisement can mostly be avoided...
   a. By correcting ourselves - cf. 1Co 11:31-32
   b. Which we can do by taking heed to God's Word - cf. Jn 15:2-3

3. But even when we heed the "instructive" chastisement through the 
   Word of God, we may still experience some form of tribulation...
   a. Such as persecution for the cause of Christ
   b. Brought on by Satan, working in and through the world - 1Pe 5:
      8-9
   c. Not because we are wicked, but because we are righteous (like 
      Job)
   -- Yet God can use even that to provide a form of "instructive" 
      discipline, in which the good are made even better!

May the prayer expressed by Peter help us to endure should we 
experience such tribulation...

   "But may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal 
   glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a little while,
   perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you.  To Him be the
   glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen." (1Pe 5:10-11)

xecutable Outlines, Copyright © Mark A. Copeland, 2011

From Jim McGuiggan... A COLONY OF HEAVEN


A COLONY OF HEAVEN

He reminded the Thessalonians how he and his fellow-servants had lived among them and taught them (1 Thessalonians 2:12), “To live lives worthy of God who calls you into his kingdom and glory.”

Of course he was talking to individuals!

But note that he was writing to the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ (1:1)—not a number of isolated individuals who just happen to have some things in common.

He urged the Ephesians in 5:1-2, “Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children, and live a life of love just as Christ loved us…”

Of course he was talking to individuals!

But note he was writing to the saints in Ephesus who reflected the reconciling work of God in Jesus when he brought enemies together in one Body and so gave them access to God by one Spirit (Ephesians 2:14-16; 4:4-6).

He urged Christians in Rome to resist the world’s shaping power and have themselves transformed by the renewing of their minds (12:1-2).

Of course he was talking to individuals!

But note he wrote to people who together constituted one body in Jesus (Romans 12:4-5; 15:6-10).
The NT ceaselessly calls believers to recognize their oneness in the Lord Jesus—a purposed oneness, an eternally ordained oneness! All the metaphors and images (building, temple, body, family, colony and such) proclaim this and when Paul moves to settle a silly party-spirit he insisted that Jesus wasn’t dismembered and “parceled out” (see Moffat on 1 Corinthians 1:13).

As long as sinners are sinners there is no guaranteed cure for their getting everything right. Jesus preached what he practiced and did it flawlessly and yet he was misunderstood and it wasn’t all an intellectual problem—the problem included a sinful heart (compare John 7:17). But that doesn’t exempt those who teach us from the task of declaring the entire counsel of God, part of which is that God eternally purposed a single human family, a single covenanted community recreated in the image of the Lord Jesus.

The biblical Story is not about “individual” salvation, which thoughtless people have mistaken for “personal” salvation. The biblical Story is about God calling people in to his “kingdom”, about making them part of his holy ”nation” and his chosen “people”.

It simply isn’t true that those who are “in Christ” are saved independent one of another; it just isn’t true that those who are “in Christ” each have the Spirit independent one of another; it is simply untrue that those who have hope have it apart from their brothers and sisters in the Lord. We have these blessings and all others as one and “in Christ” or we don’t have them at all.
The God of saving love saves by bringing individuals into renewed fellowship with himself in the Lord Jesus; by bringing them into the number of those embraced in his redeeming work that climaxes in none other than the Lord Jesus. If we do not want reconciliation with God in one body we don’t get it at all!

(Those who speak of nothing but individual salvation and nod occasionally at the NT truth about the Church, the Body of Christ, are doing us no favor. In time they look around and wonder why there is no commitment to local congregational expressions of the universal Body of Christ. To announce God’s love of each individual cannot be wrong but it can be wrong to so speak that truth if it undermines our self-understanding as the Body of Christ and leaves us thinking of ourselves as a loosely connected collection of saved individuals.)

It doesn’t matter that the Church of our Lord has disappointed God and those that looked to it for guidance and help, it doesn’t matter that people have been hurt by members of the covenanted community, it doesn’t matter that numerous bored and weary preachers have joined the chorus of criticism coming from non-believers—she is still the nation chosen by God to be the Bearer of the Story. God’s Story and not her own except insofar as he has made her the living bearer of it. God will judge her for her wrongs!

When he called Israel from service to Pharaoh and made her a nation to serve him she didn’t magically turn into a sinless band. He knew better and he said so! He foretold that she would prove unfaithful but he insisted that he would not prove faithless to her. There were miracles all over the place when God brought Israel out of Egypt but there was no magic! Israel was sinful when she was in Egypt and God said she would be sinful after he brought her out.

Tragic though it is many foreigners and resident aliens must have told true stories of mistreatment at the hands of members of that chosen people and more than one prophet begged God not to forgive Israel her sins (Jeremiah 18:23 illustrates). But God reserved the right to render judgment on her and he did when and as it suited his purposes. So it is with the NT People of God. Note 1 Peter 1:17.

Let the peevish or those who easily take offense denigrate her, though they never ever lifted a hand to help her! And with more justification, let those who have been profoundly mistreated by her cry unto her God—that we can understand! But when those she nourished with a sense of Jesus-imaging righteousness and care, when they join the crowd of critics and whine about the poverty of “organized religion” we have something else. When preachers can barely ever mount the pulpit without parading her failures, beating her without mercy though they know right well that she too is sinful and weak, that she too needs a cup of cold water, that she too is naked and in need of clothing and warmth and forgiveness—when we see and hear that, we don’t wonder that “outsiders” humiliate and shame her.

And the young, the inexperienced, the vulnerable, hear all this criticism from teachers/preachers who are themselves sinful and they are unsettled. They feel the pressure of a world bearing down on them, calling them to shameful ways; they note how the Bible is no longer taken seriously and how it is used less and less in public speech, they note how a secular humanism and a religious-flavored message is promoted and commended and in their inexperience they join the crowd led by popular voices and "compassionate" people away from the Lord Jesus who lived, died, rose from the death, is now exalted and coming to right all wrongs and bring unbroken peace through redemption.

And when popular religious voices urge the Church to give heed to the self-confessed opponents of the faith and offer the words of a sinister humanist movement or the self-indulgent “wisdom” of those who’ve known tough times, when they offer that as a substitute for the unpacking of the rich God-centered Story of the Bible it only creates more “hard line fundamentalists” and no one is honored or blessed—least of all God and the world he so loves that he sent his Son to rescue it.

Make no mistake about it, the NT Church must (as ancient Israel was called to do) live lives worthy of God who called them into his kingdom. On them rests the burden of helping other humans to believe and to hope. If she is arrogant and insolent, if she is heartless and unjust, if she is cowardly and self-serving no glorious Bible or wondrous prayers or praise will save the situation or hide her shame.
 
An ugly, self-centered, self-serving or self-satisfied Church will demonstrate beyond even the power of articulate and sneering critics, beyond even the power of carping preachers that the Truth it proclaims is worth little or nothing to herself and if worth nothing to her who can she convince it is worth anything? Such a Church will lead frustrated people to write poignant but silly songs like Imagine.

The question the Church must ask itself is: What kind of People must she be to be the bearer of God’s Story?

Paul to the Philippians (3:20, Moffatt): “We are a colony of heaven, and we wait for the Savior who comes from heaven, the Lord Jesus Christ.”

Like a colony of Roman legionnaires and citizens who put down roots in a place far from Rome and who lived to please the Emperor across the sea so there is a handful of servants of God in Jesus Christ, a colony of heaven that lives to please the Emperor across the worlds. Stumbling, pathetic and disappointing in so many ways yet she is like no other reality on the planet!