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Author Archives: TJ's Man

About TJ's Man

Began working with the Sunset Avenue church of Christ in Madera, California on September 8, 2013.

Faithful Feelings: Doing Emotions God’s Way – Dealing With Emotions


how_do_you_feel_chart-final“So what is your gut reaction? Tell me how you really feel.”

“They are a perfect match—they’re madly in love, and she has nothing but good feelings about him.”

“Let’s go for it! My sense is that we’re doing the right thing.”

These familiar sound bytes indicate that our modern world is deeply sensitive to human emotions. In fact, more often than not, our feelings are our compass, guiding our decision-making process. We call it “following our hearts instead of our heads.”

Of course, we know that emotions are a God-given part of our lives, allowing us to vividly experience the world. But as Christians, we have to ask ourselves if emotional satisfaction should be our primary goal in life.

The answer is clearly no.

The evidence around us suggests that modern emotions are creating subjective standards that aren’t the least bit trustworthy. Broken marriages, abused children, and teenage suicides proclaim out-of-control emotions.

Wants that are falsely identified as needs keep family credit cards maxed out and finances in shambles. And “if it feels good, do it” was a deadly motto for thousands of people now suf­fering from sexually transmitted diseases.

God’s Word provides an objective set of stan­dards for daily living. Naturally, these standards don’t always “feel good” when we first confront them. For example, when God calls upon us to treat others the way we’d like to be treated ourselves, personal sacrifice is nec­essary.

When He requires us to obey His commandments, doing so may conflict with our deepest cravings. Most dis­turbing of all, He firmly challenges us to set all else aside when we submit ourselves to His sovereign will.

Why is dealing with our emotions—facing our feelings—so important?

While positive emotions add luster to life, negative emotions can be very damaging.

If we ignore them, become obsessed with them, or refuse to confront them, they will stunt our spiritual growth. The truth is, we cannot be spiritually mature unless we are emotionally mature.

  1. 1. God made us with emotions and has given us many instructions about them.
  2. 2. We have often neglected emotion in Bible study, thinking, discussion, and practice.
  3. 3. Many of us fall short of pleasing God because we have not properly addressed our emotions. We do not respond fully to God because we are deficient in positive emotions, and we also wreak havoc on ourselves and others because we are unduly influenced by negative emotions.

Nurturing Our Spiritual and Emotional Growth

When God created us in His image, that image included our emotions. God gives us all things to enjoy, and healthy emotions bring color and zest to our lives.

1 Timothy 6:17 (ESV) As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy.  

We’re also told in Scripture to enjoy our work, our mates, our children, our good health, our material blessings, and our God. Without emotions, that would be impossible.

We enjoy God. We enjoy our families and our friends. We enjoy the opportunities God gives us to use our abilities to serve others. Life has purpose and fulfillment. Our spiri­tual life matures and deepens as we appreciate God’s blessings.

When everything is working out—when we move into a new home, when our children finish college and find a good job, when they marry the right woman or man, when we have a good report from the doctor, when we actually have money left over at the end of the month—these occur­rences make us happy. Our emotions respond and react to our physical circumstances.

Our emotions also react to our spiritual circumstances. When a person, overwhelmed with guilt, finds forgiveness by trusting in Jesus Christ, he or she feels cleansed and free.

We often see this happen in women who have carried the guilt and pain of abortion for years; they have found emotional and spiritual healing through Christ’s forgiveness, particularly within the context of a support group for abortion recovery.  (news of Emmanuel’s baptism and 10 baptisms in Kigali, Rwanda at Centre Marembo).

After immorality has destroyed their self-worth, women renounce their unhealthy lifestyles and find joy in obedience to the Lord.

But what if our emotions become a runaway train we can’t control? Perhaps you often feel overwhelmed by your emotions and you see yourself in the following descriptions:

  • Have you experienced rejection or been treated unfairly, or are you struggling with emotional devas­tation from the past—were you molested or neglected?
  • Are you in a marriage that has soured and you feel hopeless?
  • Do others say you seem to “have it all together,” but underneath the surface you are seething with anger and bitterness, unable to forgive things that were done to you?
  • Are you overwhelmed with guilt and regret for things you have done and you just can’t forgive yourself?
  • It is clear to me that people with self-love issues have a hard time with confidence issues.

When we face uncertain, painful, or tragic circumstances in life, we feel sorrow, confusion, anger, and pain. These emotions are also God-given; our Father uses these feelings to push us closer to Him.

Just as physical pain tells us some­thing is wrong with our bodies, so emotional pain may be God’s way of telling us all is not well with our spiritual rela­tionship with Him.[1]

When emotions become destructive, they can make us miserable, ruin our relationships with others, and stunt our spiritual growth. They build a solid wall between us and God, and between us and other people.

In our misery, we can’t help but feel that God is somehow to blame for the tragic events of our past or the unhappiness of our present, and it’s hard for us to trust a God who allows such tragedy to happen to His children.

So we keep our distance from Him. We do just enough to keep our membership in His “club,” but there’s no sense of con­nection, no real enjoyment of God’s presence, and not a lot of honest fellowship with other believers.

These untampered, destructive emotions—selfishness, guilt, fear, worry, inability to forgive, anger, envy, rejection, greed, pride, feelings of inferiority, disappointment, discontentment, grief, and lone­liness—can hinder our spiritual growth and keep us from having a close, trusting relationship with our Creator.

Maybe you’re thinking no one could ever understand the misery your emotions have led you to feel right now. Maybe you secretly think your situation is past healing. If so, please remember what the prophet Jeremiah prayed as he watched his world crumble before his eyes: “Ah, Sovereign LORD, you have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and outstretched arm. Nothing is too hard for you” (Jer. 32:17 emphasis mine).

God’s clearly stated purpose for all of His children is that we grow into spiritual maturity. He can take us around, over, or through any obstacle that has retarded our spiritual growth.

Nothing from our past or in our present is too hard for Him to handle. God created our emotions, and He is able to stop their destructive effect on our lives. He can make our emotions work for us, giving us peace and joy as we learn to respond to our relationship with our Lord rather than react to our circumstances.

The task may seem great, but with God’s help it’s really not all that hard.

Myth#1: Christian love is not a feeling but a duty and action.

Truth: Christian love is a feeling that leads to right actions.

Our heavy emphasis on the actions of love has demoted love. Do we really believe God loves us dutifully but not from his heart?

Deuteronomy 7:7 (ESV) It was not because you were more in number than any other people that the LORD set his love on you and chose you, for you were the fewest of all peoples,

Jeremiah 31:3 (ESV) …the LORD appeared to him from far away. I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you.

Philippians 1:8 (ESV) For God is my witness, how I yearn for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus.

Philippians 2:1-2 (ESV) So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, 2  complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind.

Then why would he want us to love that way? Because genuine Christian love will lead to obedience and service.

1 John 3:18 (ESV)  Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.

1 John 5:3 (ESV) For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome.

2 John 1:6 (ESV) And this is love, that we walk according to his commandments; this is the commandment, just as you have heard from the beginning, so that you should walk in it.

Apparently, some people in their day were not expressing love in actions and so needed to hear that emphasis.

Still, God wants us to have his love in our hearts.

John 5:42 (ESV) But I know that you do not have the love of God within you.

Many Scriptures show that there is a difference between love (the emotion) and the actions it leads to

1 Corinthians 13:3 (ESV) If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.

1 Corinthians 16:14 (ESV) Let all that you do be done in love.

Ephesians 4:2 (ESV) … with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love…

1 Thessalonians 2:8 (ESV) So, being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us.

Hebrews 10:24 (ESV) And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works…

1 John 5:2 (ESV) By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments.

This genuine emotion of love will lead us to the right actions

John 14:15 (ESV) 15  “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.

The greatest commandment is to love God with everything

Mark 12:28-34 (ESV) 28  And one of the scribes came up and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, asked him, “Which commandment is the most important of all?” 29  Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 30  And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ 31  The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” 32  And the scribe said to him, “You are right, Teacher. You have truly said that he is one, and there is no other besides him. 33  And to love him with all the heart and with all the understanding and with all the strength, and to love one’s neighbor as oneself, is much more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.” 34  And when Jesus saw that he answered wisely, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” And after that no one dared to ask him any more questions.

We have rightly emphasized soul, mind, and strength, but we must not neglect the heart.

In the Bible, the heart includes our thoughts, desires, will, and emotions. God wants us to feel love for him.

If you have strong feelings of love for someone, you are much more likely to treat them well. Our commitment to them should lead us to do right by them regardless of what we are feeling at the moment, but a healthy emotion of love is a very powerful motivation for treating them right.

So with God. Heartfelt love for God will lead us not only to obey him but also to extol (praise enthusiastically) him, celebrate with all our might before him, kiss his feet and wash them with our tears, and seek him earnestly

Psalm 34:1-3 (ESV) I will bless the LORD at all times; his praise shall continually be in my mouth. 2  My soul makes its boast in the LORD; let the humble hear and be glad. 3  Oh, magnify the LORD with me, and let us exalt his name together!

Psalm 63:1 (ESV) O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.
How different would your relationship with God be if you had a deep, heartfelt, emotional love for him? What difference would heartfelt, passionate love for God make to our vision of Loving Like Jesus? … to our purpose of being Joined Together in Love?

Myth#2: Follow your heart.

Truth: Our hearts can easily lead us astray Jeremiah 17:9-10 (ESV) The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it? 10  “I the LORD search the heart and test the mind, to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his deeds.”

If our hearts are pure, they have a valid place in making decisions. Healthy emotion can keep us from making cold, unfeeling, Pharisaical decisions. But the notion of following one’s heart, while paraded as integrity, often means following one’s sinful desires.

If you “have feelings” for someone that you should not be in a love relationship with, do not follow your heart. Instead, put a stop to the thoughts and actions that are generating those feelings.

Will Harley (His Needs/Her Needs) says marital affairs result from creating emotional bonds with someone other than our spouse. Likewise, emotional bonds (love) with money, pleasure, praise, etc. will lead to spiritual affairs against God.

Pathway #1: One pathway to healthier emotions in general and loving God in particular is grasping God’s love more fully. This will help create love in us (1 John 4:19 (ESV) We love because he first loved us…) which will make us healthier emotionally. Having more love will also choke out some of our unhealthy emotions.

Ephesians 3 teaches us that prayer (v. 14), God’s Spirit (v. 16), and other Christians (v. 18) can all help us grasp God’s love more fully. If we can continue to do it mindfully, we should add this to our ongoing prayers

[1] Erwin Lutzer, Managing Your Emotions (Chappaqua, N.Y.: Christian Herald Books, 1981), 17.

 
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Posted by on June 11, 2018 in counsel, Encouragement

 

Faithful Feelings: Doing Emotions God’s Way – In Search of a Standard


Every morning the man would pause in front of the watchmaker’s shop, gaze at the large clock in the window, set his watch by it and walk on. Every day at noon, the watchmaker would go to the big clock in his window, and set it precisely by the blowing of the noon whistle at the local factory.

After many years had passed, the watchmaker stopped the man one day and complimented him on his faithful commitment to the correct time. “Oh, I have to be correct,” said the man. “You see, I’m the one responsible for blowing the noon whistle at the local factory. Without knowing it, they had both been using the other as the standard.

Do we use the speech of the people around us as the standard for our communication? That can be risky business!

Malcolm Muggeridge asks us to imagine a collection of 21th century videos discovered in a cave somewhere in the centuries ahead…tapes of our TV shows, tapes of our music, our videos, our radio advertisements….what would they make of us? (Does that question depress you as much as it does me?)

Alvin Toffler has written that we are a society with “value vertigo,” morally out of balance. It’s been said that we have lost the noble quality of moral courage. Where do we look for absolutes – values that enable us to distinguish right from wrong?  If we look to one another as the standard, we’re in big trouble! We will almost always compound one another’s errors. Of course…the answer: God’s Word!

Ephesians 5:1-5: “Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children {2} and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. {3} But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people. {4} Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving. {5} For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person–such a man is an idolater–has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God.

Hebrews 12:1-2: “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. {2} Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”

The Challenge of Disappointment

How do Christians deal with disappointment created by other Christians? We live in a society filled with cynicism, ready to criticize anything or anyone. Our society tells us to think the worst and expect it to happen in every situation. A common response: “That is what I expected!” In our democracy, we do not fear finding fault with anyone.

A man or woman assembles with the congregation “every time the door is open.” However, he or she lives a double life–one being quite evil, and one being quite good. The details of the double life become common knowledge. A consequence: we interpret all difficult circumstances in all troubled members’ lives as evidence of double lives.

A Bible teacher yields to temptation. A consequence: we decide all Bible teachers are especially prone to temptation.

A deacon has an affair. A consequence: we think all deacons are looking for opportunities for affairs.

A treasurer financially defrauds a congregation. A consequence: we think a quality of all treasurers is a love for money that is greater than a love for people.

An elder abuses his position for personal benefit. A consequence: we assume all elders are elders for “the wrong reason.”

Thus, many Christians ask, “What is wrong with us? We seem to be like an army who aims its guns on itself. When we have no pressing enemy, we shoot ourselves. We seem well trained to destroy, but have far too little motive to encourage.

Is Christianity by nature destructive? Is it a part of Christianity’s character to find its joy in destroying instead of encouraging?”

There are many reasons for congregations to be internally destructive, not merely one. One of those reasons that cries out for understanding is this: humans are spiritually weak.

Trusting humans commonly will lead to disappointment. Our faith always must be in Jesus Christ (the Savior), not in congregations (the saved).

The New Testament constantly urges people to place their faith in Jesus Christ.

The examples are literally too numerous to list.

When Peter spoke to the council after his and John’s arrest, he said in Acts 4:8-12 (NIV)
8  Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them: “Rulers and elders of the people! 9  If we are being called to account today for an act of kindness shown to a cripple and are asked how he was healed, 10  then know this, you and all the people of Israel: It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed. 11  He is “‘the stone you builders rejected, which has become the capstone’. 12  Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.”

This same man wrote this in Romans 7:24-8:1 (NIV)
24  What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? 25  Thanks be to God–through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in the sinful nature a slave to the law of sin. 1  Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus,

Peter wrote in 1 Peter 1:3-5 (NIV)
3  Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4  and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade–kept in heaven for you, 5  who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.

The message of Revelation closes with these words in Revelation 22:16-17 (NIV)
16  “I, Jesus, have sent my angel to give you this testimony for the churches. I am the Root and the Offspring of David, and the bright Morning Star.” 17  The Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let him who hears say, “Come!” Whoever is thirsty, let him come; and whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life.

Only Jesus is:

  • The promised fulfillment of God’s determination to bring salvation to the world.
  • The only one through whom salvation is available.
  • The Son of God.
  • The only one in whom there is no condemnation.
  • The only sacrifice from God for the sins of all.
  • The only one in whom there is no favoritism.
  • The only one who can protect us through the living hope.
  • The only one who can grant us entrance into the eternal kingdom.
  • The real one sent from God to be Savior.
  • The only one who can give us the mercy we must have.
  • The only one who can take us to God.

We can be examples and encouragers who influence people to develop and cling to faith in Jesus Christ, but we can never be the Savior. 

Humans in Christ never stop being humans in this life.

As humans:

  • We always are able to be tempted.
  • We always have choices we must make.
  • We always are limited in our knowledge.
  • We always are capable of being emotional reactors instead of purposeful decision makers.
  • Humans make mistakes, and being in Christ does not eliminate our ability to make mistakes.

So we must set boundaries on humans, even humans in Christ.

  • We let humans in Christ encourage us, but we follow Jesus.
  • We let humans in Christ provide us examples, but we follow Jesus.
  • We let humans in Christ lift us up, but we follow Jesus.
  • We let humans in Christ warn us, but we follow Jesus.

Never give a Christian what belongs to Jesus Christ alone.

  • Never give a human the kind of loyalty that belongs only to Jesus.
  • Never give a human the kind of devotion that belongs only to Jesus.
  • Never give a human the kind of appreciation that belongs only to Jesus.

We exist as individuals and as congregations to serve Jesus, not to rival Jesus.

Thousands of years ago, God promised to send His Son. (See Genesis 12:3 with Galatians 3:16 and 29.)

  • Abraham’s fear in regard to Sarah did not turn God away.
  • Isaac’s impetuousness as an old man did not turn God away.
  • Jacob’s deceptiveness did not turn God away.
  • The slavery of Israel in Egypt did not prevent God from keeping His promise.
  • The utter faithlessness of the adults who left Egypt did not prevent God from keeping His promise.
  • Israel’s sins in the period of the Judges did not prevent God from keeping His promise.
  • The evil of the Israelite kings did not prevent God from keeping His promise.
  • Israel and Judah’s deaf ears in the period of the prophets did not prevent God from keeping His promise.
  • The rejection of Jesus and the death of Jesus did not prevent God from keeping His promise.

What about us?

  • Will we allow any person to be bigger than Jesus and make God’s efforts of no benefit in your life?
  • Will we let the mistakes of any human be bigger than God?
  • Will we let any human blind you to God’s persistence?
  • Will we let the failures of any human be bigger than the mercy and forgiveness of God?

Don’t let anyone outside of God’s will discourage you from doing God’s will.

No matter how hard we try, we will never be more than the saved. No matter what we know, only Jesus will be the Savior.

We must always let Jesus be our Savior as we seek to encourage the saved. Never let the saved appear to us as the one who saves.

 
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Posted by on June 4, 2018 in counsel, Encouragement

 

Our Life Together Series: The Meaning of Loyalty (1 Corinthians 12:26) 


“If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.”

Most of the communities to which we belong are voluntary organizations. Because we share a common interest with others, we join them in forming a community based on that common interest. If we have children in school, we may join with others in forming a chapter of the P.T.A. If we are in business, we may join with others who share this particular interest. Our association with the group lasts as long as we share a common interest with it. When our situation changes, causing us no longer to share common goals with the group, our loyalty to it is likely to disappear. We enter voluntarily and leave voluntarily, because our loyalty and support depend on our shared common interests with the group.

We need only to take a cursory look at some texts of the New Testament to see that the church is quite unlike the voluntary association. When the New Testament speaks of the community, it has a rich and suggestive word in Greek for developing this idea. It is the word koinonia, which we translate as “fellowship” or “participation” or “partnership.” The church is not a voluntary association of like-minded people alone! It is a community of people who have first been called into fellowship with Jesus Christ. We belong to each other because we first belong to Jesus Christ.

Fellowship did not originate at our own initiative: We were called into fellowship: (1 Corinthians 1:9)  “God, who has called you into fellowship with his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, is faithful.” Our fellowship with him is not the result of our own goodness. It is his gracious summons that has made us his partners.

See how these verses express this idea: The Lord’s Supper is a participation in the body and blood of Christ: (1 Corinthians 10:16)  “Is not the cup of thanksgiving for which we give thanks a participation in the blood of Christ? And is not the bread that we break a participation in the body of Christ?”

A disciple shares in his sufferings: (2 Corinthians 1:5-7)  “For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows. {6} If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer. {7} And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort.”

Paul described himself this way: (Philippians 3:10)  “I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death,” We have been called as his people into a life of sharing his way, the way of the cross. To be in fellowship with Christ is to adopt his kind of life.

We are brought together as one body: (1 Corinthians 12:12)  “The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ.”

Paul’s words should help us realize that there is no relationship to Jesus without our being members of his body, the church! And fellowship is real only when every one of us, like parts of a body, contributes to the ongoing ministry. Even those members who seem not very gifted are vital to the fellowship, for the body cannot exist without the cooperation of its tiniest part.

Fellowship is never a reality unless the work is shared by all members. There is no justification for any church and its ministries to be carried out by staff members only. Christians within the body should not become spectators to the work of the church. Nor is their work to become simply that of financial benefactors.

Jesus established and loved the church. He commanded his people to be loyal to it and to always give it priority affection and faithful support. Loyalty has a martial ring to it. We think of our country and the nation’s flag. Loyalty stirs within us something high and holy. We like to think of ourselves as loyal, stalwart, and true.

The Place of Loyalty. Loyalty is the willing, practical devotion of self and substance to a person or a cause that is believed to be supremely worthwhile. It carries with it faithfulness, trust and confidence. I would suggest that church loyalty runs much deeper: it calls for devoted allegiance to a Person and a cause. It involves decision, devotion, faithfulness, trustworthiness, and sacrifice.

An individual without loyalty is like a ship without a compass. There may be much activity and much “going about” but it will often have little purpose and be unprofitable. Loyalty gives purpose, direction and drive to life. In any list of Christian virtues, loyalty ranks high…we recognize it in scripture as faithfulness:                            (over)

 (Mat 23:23) “”Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices–mint, dill and cummin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law–justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former.”

(Rom 3:3) “What if some did not have faith? Will their lack of faith nullify God’s faithfulness?”

(Gal 5:22) “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,”

(3 John 1:3) “It gave me great joy to have some brothers come and tell about your faithfulness to the truth and how you continue to walk in the truth.”

(Rev 13:10) “If anyone is to go into captivity, into captivity he will go. If anyone is to be killed with the sword, with the sword he will be killed. This calls for patient endurance and faithfulness on the part of the saints.”

In our daily lives, there are numerous ‘loyalties’ clamoring for devotion and interest. We must stand firm in our efforts to be loyal to God, to the faith, to the church, to friends and family, and to self!

 
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Posted by on April 26, 2018 in Our Life Together

 

Our Life Together Series: The Medium, Measure and Means of Loyalty — Ephesians 5:24-27.


These verses raise a very high standard for relationship between husbands and wives and the church toward Christ.  If the husband makes Christ’s love for the church the pattern for loving his wife, then he will love her sacrificially. Christ gave Himself for the church; so the husband, in love, gives himself for his wife.

The husband’s love will also be a sanctifying love. The word sanctify means “to set apart.” In the marriage ceremony, the husband is set apart to belong to the wife, and the wife is set apart to belong to the husband. Any interference with this God-given arrangement is sin.

Our Christian homes are to be pictures of Christ’s relationship to His church. Each believer is a member of Christ’s body, and each believer is to help nourish the body in love  We are one with Christ. The church is His body and His bride, and the Christian home is a divinely ordained illustration of this relationship. This certainly makes marriage a serious matter. The root of most marital problems is sin, and the root of all sin is selfishness.

Submission to Christ and to one another is the only way to overcome selfishness, for when we submit, the Holy Spirit can fill us and enable us to love one another in a sacrificial, sanctifying, satisfying way—the way Christ loves the church.

A Glorious Church — The church has a history with God in it: it is the church of the living God; it is the church for which the ages waited and God prepared; it is the church of God’s redeemed and of martyrs. Jesus built a church to withstand the ravages of time, the persecutions of men, and the destructive power of the devil.

It is the most sacred thing in the world: it is the body of Christ, the light of the world; it is commissioned to proclaim the truth; it is dependent for its success upon Christ as its head, the Holy Spirit as its guide, and the willing ministry of redeemed men and women.

An All-Inclusive Message — The message of the church is inclusive:  it is a message of salvation for all souls, of enlightenment for all minds, of comfort for all hearts, of relief for all needs, and of challenge for every life. It has a message from God and stands for a Redeemer with a message of liberty and a dispensation of grace. It is the guardian of human rights, the hope of humanity and of peace. It has not come without a high price. The cost of the church has been faithfulness and loyalty under persecution. The price has been paid in blood, from that of Christ and the first century Christians to hundreds martyred since.

We have a sacred obligation. The church is God’s tool for proclaiming Christ’s ideals and principles for life. It is founded on sacrifice and maintained by sacrifice. It appeals to the highest instincts of the human heart.

THE MEASURE OF LOYALTY — If our supreme loyalty is to Christ, then self and others will find their rightful place. Christ demands and deserves first place in our life. Read Matthew 10:32-42.

A tragedy of Christianity today is that, unlike the people in Jesus’ day, the shepherd-less masses look elsewhere for a savior.  The real peril is from within: “The compelling need of our churches is neither larger numbers, more money, nor different programs, but a fuller consecration of the lives of individual church members to Jesus Christ.  Carelessness, prayerlessness, indifference, lowering of ideals, and open inconsistency of professed Christians within the church constitutes a greater menace to the cause of our Lord than indifference, opposition, infidelity, atheism, or other issues without the church. “The neglect of the devotional life brings flabbiness, indifference and unhappiness. Church discipline seems to have been largely discarded. The standard of Christ is the demand of the times.”

THE MEANS OF EXPRESSING LOYALTY — If a husband and wife belong to each, or as children belong to parents, the church will have a real claim upon my personality, my powers, and my possessions.  We ought to be ashamed of ourselves when we put our children’s sports, homework, or recreation activities ahead of our worship and Bible classes!  We ought to be ashamed of ourselves when we work all week no matter how we feel and use a headache or the “fear of getting sick” as an excuse to miss worship!

Loyalty to the church would cause us to pray for each other; would lead us to want to meet together and make the necessary plans ahead of time to be ready to worship when we get here; would cause us to take positive stands against those things which would interfere with our worship and work. Jesus demands from each of us a high standard of moral and ethical conduct.

He demands personal purity…” Eph 5:3 But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people.”  We might not see ourselves as flattering pictures of Christ, but in the things we say and do, we remind people that Christ dwells upon earth.  “Christianity is more than a vision…it is a life, a power, a mission for God. It is going somewhere; it is accomplishing something; it is increasing the forces of righteousness; it is translating routine into duty; it is making drudgery divine; it is finding out God and cooperating with Him in everyday life.”

 
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Posted by on April 23, 2018 in Our Life Together

 

Our Life Together Series: Fellowship is God’s Way of Accomplishing His Plan of Glorifying Christ


The importance of fellowship to the church can be seen first in the fact that fellowship occurred naturally as a result of the establishment of the church.

Nobody had to come to the disciples and other new believers on the day of Pentecost and say, “You need to practice fellowship.” The Holy Spirit had come upon these people and formed an inner unity and their natural inclination was to exercise it outwardly. Acts 2:44-47 says this: And all those who had believed were together, and had all things in common; and they began selling their property and possessions, and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need. And day by day continuing with one mind in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart,  praising God, and having favor with all the people. And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved.

This working together to accomplish God’s will continued in the church with the practice of a multiplicity of leadership, diversification of activities, giving to the needy, exercise of different spiritual gifts, support of missionaries, calls to different mission fields, corporate prayer, group worship, and in other ways.

But the importance of fellowship to the church does not rest solely upon the fact that it was the natural result of the coming of the Holy Spirit. Rather, its primary importance stems from the fact that:

Fellowship is the indispensable means of accomplishing the God-given purpose of the church. Let’s read together Ephesians 3:8-11.

We see in this passage that God has an eternal plan. The church has a part in accomplishing that plan. The phrase “through the church” in vs. 10 shows that the church is to be God’s instrument in accomplishing His plan. The purpose of the church as stated in vs. 10 is to show to the world the manifold or the many-faceted wisdom of God. So then, the purpose of the church is to hold God up to the world and display every glorious aspect of His being for all to see.

What is important to see here is that no individual working alone could ever fulfill this plan of showing every perfection of God for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. So you see, the very nature of God’s plan necessitates the Godly capacities of many individuals added together to show His perfections to the world. You might say that God’s plan must be compared not to a solo but to a symphony.

Its beauty is impossible to capture in one note no matter how loud. Only by a full orchestra playing together can the beautiful harmony be fully captured. And this is what the Church is, God’s orchestra! In order to fully manifest God, each person must not only play his part but must play it together. So in God’s symphony—His plan, the score is the Bible which reveals His Son, Jesus Christ.

fellowshipThe instruments are our spiritual gifts and natural abilities. And the indispensable means we use to perform is fellowship, our co-participation in accomplishing His purpose. It is only as we work together in this way that it is possible to accomplish God’s plan. This is why fellowship is indispensable to the church. Some people are too quick to become church-hoppers and non-participants. They think the church can make it without them. However, 1 Corinthians 12 makes it clear that every single member of the body is necessary for its proper functioning. Because of the importance of fellowship, no one has the right to amputate themselves from the functioning body of Christ.

Practicing Fellowship  — You can practice fellowship by recognizing our goal and taking an active part where you can best help. People must recognize our goal. People often do not take part in a church because they see no clear purpose. As previously discussed, our purpose is to show God’s glory to the world in all the many ways He has instructed us in the Bible. We participate together seven days a week to glorify God, to do it His way, and to do it together.

You can practice fellowship by taking an active part where you can best help with this goal. You can discover where you can best help by recognizing your spiritual gifts and natural abilities and by knowing the needs of our church. Then help where you can make not just yourself, but the church as a whole, to be the most fruitful. If you do not know your spiritual gift, pitch in where you have a natural ability. As you work with others, your gifts will surface and you’ll find places you might function in our church according to your gifts and abilities.

Conclusion – Story of a man who had spent a summer on a pipeline crew. The first day, he was given a shovel and a piece of ground and told to dig six feet deep and three feet wide. By noon, he had dug down over his head and felt all alone at his work. By the middle of the afternoon he was pretty discouraged as he thought of the miles of line still to be dug. Finally, however, about five o’clock, he broke through into the trench the man in front of him was digging. As he cleared away the loose dirt, this man broke through into the next hole, and as they stood and watched, man after man broke through until several hundred feet of ditch was visible and my pastor felt quite a sense of accomplishment.

 
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Posted by on April 19, 2018 in Our Life Together

 

Our Life Together Series: An Intimate Household (Mark 3:35)


“Whoever does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother.”

Jesus not only called men into a personal relationship with himself, he called them into a fellowship with each other. There is a tendency today to employ terms from secular experiences to describe the fellowship of Christians.

Sometimes the athletic metaphor is used, and the church becomes a “team” intent on victory. From the business world comes the idea of the church as a business or a corporation, and its leaders take on the function of corporate board members. These terms have a limited usefulness but do not convey the depth and quality of the fellowship which Jesus intended.

Our Lord’s friends were sure that Jesus was confused, and possibly deranged! The great crowds they saw following Him, and the amazing reports they heard about Him, convinced them that He desperately needed help. He simply was not living a normal life, so His friends came to Capernaum to “take charge of Him.”

Then his mother and “brethren” (Mark 6:3) traveled thirty miles from Nazareth to plead with Him to come home and get some rest, but even they were unable to get near Him. This is the only place in the Gospel of Mark where Mary is seen, and her venture was a failure.

History reveals that God’s servants are usually misjudged by their contemporaries, and often misunderstood by their families. The great Apostle Paul was called mad (Acts 26:24-25).

Our Lord was not being rude to His family when He remained in the house and did not try to see them. He knew that their motives were right but their purpose was definitely wrong. If Jesus had yielded to His family, He would have played right into the hands of the opposition. The religious leaders would have said, “See, He agreed with His family—He needs help! Don’t take Jesus of Nazareth too seriously.”

Instead of giving in, He used this crisis as an opportunity to teach a spiritual lesson: His “family” is made up of all those who do the will of God. Our Lord’s half brothers were not believers  (John 7:1-5)  “After this, Jesus went around in Galilee, purposely staying away from Judea because the Jews there were waiting to take his life. {2} But when the Jewish Feast of Tabernacles was near, {3} Jesus’ brothers said to him, “You ought to leave here and go to Judea, so that your disciples may see the miracles you do. {4} No one who wants to become a public figure acts in secret. Since you are doing these things, show yourself to the world.” {5} For even his own brothers did not believe in him.”

Jesus felt closer to the believing publicans and sinners than He did to James, Joses, Judah, and Simon, His half-brothers. Our Lord was not suggesting that believers ignore or abandon their families in order to serve God, but only that they put God’s will above everything else in life. Our love for God should be so great that our love for family would seem like hatred (“love less”) in comparison (Luke 14:26)  “”If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters–yes, even his own life–he cannot be my disciple.”).

Certainly it is God’s will that we care for our families and provide for them (1 Timothy 5:8)  “If anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for his immediate family, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.”), but we must not permit even our dearest loved ones to influence us away from the will of God. When you consider the importance of the family in the Jewish society, you can imagine how radical Christ’s words must have sounded to those who heard them.

The church is God’s household : (1 Timothy 3:15)  “if I am delayed, you will know how people ought to conduct themselves in God’s household, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of the truth.”

Christ was their older brother, spiritually: (Hebrews 2:11)  “Both the one who makes men holy and those who are made holy are of the same family. So Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers.”

They formed a brotherhood: (1 Peter 2:17)  “Show proper respect to everyone: Love the brotherhood of believers, fear God, honor the king.” If the church loses this intimate sense of family life, it becomes an anonymous crowd of worshippers. It also loses an essential element of power which originally gave many people their security in an uncertain world.

In keeping with Jesus’ imagery of the family, the term which Jesus uses for individual believers is “brother.” At times the word can be used in a general sense to refer to the needy and the helpless, as in the story of the last judgment of Matthew 25.

Because the church is a family composed of brothers and sisters, there should be the unity that can overcome any kind of tension. However, even in the best of families there are times of tension. Discord is always the possibility where brothers and sisters live in close proximity to each other. Family unity does not just happen!  The point is that each of us stands in the identical place of this unmerciful servant: halfway between God and our brother. We’re between the forgiveness that is granted us and the forgiveness that is asked of us. There should be in the Christian community a capacity for forgiveness that is not found in other institutions, for the Christian is motivated by the forgiveness he has received.

 
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Posted by on April 12, 2018 in Our Life Together

 

Our Life Together Series: Foundations and Motivations (Acts 2:42) 


“They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.”

2.42Fellowship is second on God’s spiritual ‘hall of fame” items! Only doctrine comes before it, and that makes sense because “fellowship is based upon proper truth.” Fellowship rightfully follows obedience.

Life is not all vertical, any more than it is only horizontal. One writer suggested that “the cross points toward heaven-from earth; it also points to man while on earth.”

What if an observer came to this congregation to make a careful analysis of the church’s life in fellowship. He is a specialist in studying how groups work together, and he intends to compare us as a “community” to other secular groups in our city. When he comes, he will notice how we interact with each other in the worship assembly and in our Bible classes. He will also want to study to see if we really share in a common life outside of this building during the week.

What kind of things will he want to investigate? Group loyalty, our willingness to support each other in time of need, and the amount of time we spend enjoying the company of others. He will also pay attention to how well those who sit by each other during the assembly Sunday after Sunday really know each other.

Those who have put themselves in such a circumstance, and allowed others to come study them, find that the great majority of church members finally admit that they know only a small percentage of the people with whom they have been worshipping week after week. They were essentially an anonymous group of worshipers.

And what could be worse? Many questioned expressed little interest in becoming more involved in the lives of other members. They admitted that they needed to be able to bear the burdens of others and help when difficulties came into their lives…but they also admitted they had done very little of either of the two!

The New Testament exhorts us to care for one another as fellow members of the body of Christ. In fact, the Lord Jesus desires all believers to be functioning effectively as a partner/ members of His body, the church.

Paul has an important word for us on this very important matter in Ephesians 4:15-16: “Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ. {16} From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.”

If the local church becomes a near-anonymous group of worshippers, we miss an indispensable part of what the Christian faith can do to enrich our lives. (Romans 1:11-12)  “I long to see you so that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to make you strong– {12} that is, that you and I may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith.”

People still need human contact. The church is the glue that keeps us together when we disagree. It is the gasoline that keeps us going during the tough times. It is the guts that enables us to take risks when we need to.  Community … means people who have to learn how to care for each other. One of the greatest expressions of love is simply to notice people and to pay attention to them.

There are some issues within our society that works against fellowship: We are far more mobile and far busier than other generations; It’s tempting to avoid getting involved in the lives of others because they will likely move away and “it hurts too much” to say goodbye; We become so involved with ourselves that we cease to care for others; Some just fail to understand the Biblical teaching regarding this subject. Fellowship involves: relationship, partnership, companionship, and stewardship. The meaning of these two word groups can be boiled down to two main ideas: (1) “To share together, take part together” in the sense of participation and partnership, and (2) “To share with” in the sense of giving to or receiving from others, sharing what we have with one another.

Fellowship Means Relationship.  In the New Testament what is shared in common is shared first of all because of a common relationship that all Christians share together in Christ. The idea of an earthly fellowship founded upon just common interests, or human nature, or physical ties like in a family, or purely physical church affiliation, or merely self-centered interests that sport enthusiasts might share together was completely foreign to the Apostles. In the New Testament, believers can have fellowship on a horizontal plane and share together because they first of all have a vertical relationship with God through His Son, the Lord Jesus, and because they can share together in Christ’s life and hold His purposes in common.  No man should be alone when he opposes Satan. The church and the ministry of the Word were instituted for this purpose, that hands may be joined together and one may help another. If the prayer of one doesn’t help, the prayer of another will.

 
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Posted by on April 7, 2018 in Our Life Together

 
 
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