‘Everything has destiny’

I think Selwyn has summarised this issue of Every Day with Jesus, in a very concise and clear manner: “Show me a church where people are prepared to suffer for their faith, propagate the good news about Jesus Christ, demonstrate care for those who are needy, engage deeply with God in worship, remain always open to the guidance of the Holy Spirit, rid themselves of all class distinctions and racial prejudice, utilise the gifts of all God’s people, hold together strong people who differ, and I will show you a church that will revolutionise the community in which it is placed.”

We have had almost two thousand years of practice to develop churches with the above characteristics – many books have been written by excellent minds on the best ways to grow churches to be effective in ‘teaching and preaching the word of the Lord’. Yet, many churches, I feel, still have a long way to go to become anything like the early church in Antioch – hopefully, your church is different.

The prayer for today is worth repeating here: “O God, once more I cry, may it be so to the glory of Your name. My heart is being prepared. May Your Holy Spirit prepare the hearts of millions more. Make us ready for re-formation. In Jesus’ name. Amen.”

[The next issue, has the title ‘Let us Pray’ – for the next two months Selwyn “explores some of the difficulties we can experience in communicating with God, and how to overcome them.” In regard, to what I’ve quoted above, from today’s study – perhaps, the main answer in addressing the lukewarm attitude of some churches –  is persistent prayer; do you agree?]

 

A waiting world

I think we are living in one of the most challenging times in history. Scientific developments are being announced almost every day – technological gadgets are now available, which were dreams only a few decades ago.

Yet, we are the same people, as we were two thousand years ago – a people, who seek identity and freedom – a people, who seek opportunity and security – a people, who seek to love and to be loved.

Selwyn writes in today’s study: “We are at a critical point in history, perhaps one of the most critical of all time. In the 2000 years since the fire of the Holy Spirit fell at Pentecost and ignited the hearts of the early believers, have we as a Church grown lukewarm? Reacting to the pressures of the world around us, have we assimilated its views, compromised on truth and sometimes shied away from sharing the message of the gospel with those who need it most.”

Selwyn refers to the perfumed garden in Songs of Solomon – a garden locked up, so that the people could not share in the sweet fragrances to be found in this garden. Yet, perhaps, we are a garden unlocked – where weeds and thorns grow without restraint – a garden without fragrance?

There are many secular humanitarian organisations like Rotary, Lions, and the Red Cross who are very visible in the provision of different forms of aid, in these times of global trouble; plus, there are other groups like ‘Doctors without Borders’, who provide medical assistance in war-torn areas. Does the Church stand out – as being ‘special’, or are Christian groups just seen as one of many such groups – that provide aid to those who need help?

These groups provide fantastic help to the most hurt and vulnerable in our global village – they help ease the pain of those living on this ravaged planet. Yet, what about the pain of living forever – separated from the love of God?  If, it’s worthwhile and good to help those suffering terrible hardship in this life; how much – a greater good is it – to help a person to have peace and joy – forever?

Jesus loves us all and He feels no joy in seeing the destruction of anyone – we are told this in Scripture.

Selwyn concludes, by saying: “By going back to our roots (as seen in the church at Antioch), and asking for the Holy Spirit’s help, we can once more fan into flame a Church passionate about sharing its message of hope with a needy world.”

The world, in a general sense, is dying –  its vital signs tell us that it’s not healthy – there is no hope to be found in science for it to continue, forever. It’s a waiting world – the only hope is for the people to be taken off this planet and to be saved – to be taken to a place that is permanent – a place, full of peace and love – a place, where Jesus is worshipped and glorified. What are you doing for the people of this world – just ‘waiting’; or, are you telling your family, friends and neighbours the good news about being saved – by Jesus?

 

No scars left

Today’s study has an excellent introduction: “As we have discovered over the last few days, it is important that we go over every issue that might cause division amongst us and decide in advance how we will deal with it. We cannot, as we have seen, commit ourselves to never disagreeing, but we can commit ourselves to making sure that we will not allow irritation to develop into bitterness and resentment.”

Our unity is found in Jesus – He is the rock upon which we stand – whenever, a divisive issue arises, the first step is to always seek the answer to the question: What would Jesus do?’ We seek the answer through prayer with faith, and the assurance that Jesus loves us & will always guide His flock – at the right time, and in the right way. We are His sheep – He is our shepherd – He will guide us through all our spiritual difficulties.

To use Selwyn’s words in reverse – there are no scars left when our relationships are restored with love because the scars on the head, back, hands, feet and body of Jesus have restored us – back to life.

The verses selected for reading and meditation, 1 Corinthians 15:1-11, are worth some more, of our time: “Now, brothers and sisters, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain.

For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born.

For I am the least of the apostles and do not even deserve to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them – yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me. Whether, then, it is I or they, this is what we preach, and this is what you believed.”

Where we get found out

Selwyn makes this interesting statement in today’s study: ” … one of the greatest tests of our commitment to Christ comes when we are called upon to deal with difficulties in our relationships. … Relationships do not so much cause problems as reveal problems.  If you want to test your commitment to Christ don’t look at the projects or service you have undertaken for Him; look at how you handle your relationships. This is where I get found out, and so, I am sure, do you.”

I entirely agree with his statement – I’m very comfortable with the various projects that I do – as long as the people involved are ‘agreeable’. 🙂

The related point which Selwyn makes, is also worthwhile repeating: “Does it follow, then, that if we love others (as commanded by Jesus) we will never disagree? Of course not. It is unrealistic to think we will never disagree, but, as I have said before, we can disagree without being disagreeable (nasty).”

It’s sad, because it’s true that when two people disagree they often bring out the past history of errors and mistakes, each other has made. It brings to the surface the unhealed wounds – the almost forgiven, but not quite.

A mistake, a disagreement can help us to grow – when we honestly recognise that they are OUR mistakes – that it’s our responsibility to address the wrongs in our life.  and take them to God in prayer. In prayer we seek His mercy and ask for His power to shows us the way we can follow such that we don’t repeat the same mistake. Seeking His mercy – asking for His power to show us the way we can follow, such that we don’t repeat the same mistake.

It’s our honesty that we apply, when our failings are found out – that helps us grow and gives us a renewed determination to improve – as we take another step on the road – towards our transformation into Christ.

What’s your view?

Learning from mistakes

I think one of the main challenges of this modern world is our capacity to manage mistakes. Many people, tend to think of mistakes as a ‘fail’; yet, in reality they are  an opportunity to learn. There’s nothing wrong with making mistakes, it’s part of being an imperfect human in a changing world. The true error ocurs when we don’t apply what we have learnt from our mistake, such that we repeat the same failure – over and over again!

Selwyn continues to discuss the severe difference of opinion between Paul and Barnabas over the question of John Mark being part of their team on their next missionary journey.

He writes: “What should these two great men have done at the point when they felt themselves becoming irritated over their differing opinions? They should have said what Abraham said to Lot: “Let’s not have any quarrelling between you and me … for we are brothers.’ … “

It was probably the best outcome for the two men to go their separate ways at that point in time –  John Mark could demonstrate with Barnabas that he was now a more mature follower of Jesus and had the stamina not to be overcome with the weight of the work.

We are sisters and brothers in Christ – so, we should demonstrate this reality in our lives …

A ‘John Mark issue’

A fairly straight forward study.

I liked this part of what Selwyn wrote: ” … I was asked to talk on the subject of maintaining unity in the face of strong differing opinions. I took as my text the verse we looked at two days ago: ‘He who does not gather with me, scatters’ (Matthew 12:30).  ‘This verse,’ I said, ‘teaches unequivocally that when we make Jesus our Master and gather around Him – when we find unity in the Lord and not in some person, idea or philosophy, we will be able to transcend all differences.” [I slightly modified some of Selwyn’s words.]

Did you notice, that the verse Selwyn used from Matthew, talks about ‘gathering’ with the Lord – it implies an activity – something we are doing with our Lord. It does not include the bystanders – those on the side-lines watching the gatherers in the harvest field? Perhaps, there are too many people who go to a church – just to watch the proceedings – and don’t get involved with any of the work in the harvest field. What do you think?

Oil on troubled waters

Selwyn starts today’s study by saying: “We now look at the disagreement between Barnabas and Paul –  a disagreement that could have led to the formation of two different denominations were it not for the spiritual maturity and climate of the church at Antioch.” It appears, as Selwyn writes, that ‘the church at Antioch did not take sides. That in itself was an oil on troubled waters.’

However, it must be said that their dispute was over the question of ‘John Mark’ being one of their team for a trip, to re-visit towns where they had previously preached. The dispute was not over a theological issue –  their sharp disagreement was not over a Christian belief. To a certain extent, both men probably did not handle their differences all that well. The mature Christians in the church at Antioch most likely saw the situation in the cool, light of day; and, came to the conclusion (after prayer) that God would handle the situation – they did not need to be involved in resolving the differences.

Likewise, we don’t need to get too worried when church leaders hold strong, and different views on some aspects of church administration.  Yet, we do need to voice an opinion when the issue being discussed centres on a core Christian belief which is clearly articulated in Scripture.

The area where most of us become involved is the current struggle between what Scripture teaches and what our (Western Culture) culture reflect as the socially accepted standard. At these times, we must not be silent – we must take a side – we must stand alongside Jesus – there is no other way.

In other words – we have to adjust to the fact that we hold the minority view – we are living in a post-Christian world; it means that we will stand out – by being different; are you ready for this outcome (what it means for your social standing)?