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Posts Tagged ‘love’

This is the last in the series of ‘Facing the Challenges’ and it concerns Church Discipline.

People in general work best with boundaries and knowing where the boundaries are. I’m sure we remember parents getting us to eat regularly, go to bed at a certain time and speech and behaviour boundaries. We were told as teenagers ‘be in by x o’clock’ or ‘homework before TV’ etc. And there were consequences of breaking the rules.

It’s the same in church life. In community, we need ‘house rules’ so everyone knows what is what and feels secure. All churches will either have rules or a constitution which state boundaries. The Bible too states boundaries as God wants the best for us and within them, we all live in harmony. There are 59 ‘one another’s in the Bible teaching us how to live together in love.

How does this work in your church? Are the boundaries taught? If someone falls disastrously, what do the leaders do? Why do they do what they do?

Jesus knows that people are people and we will offend each other at some time. He teaches in Matthew the right way to deal with it

Matthew 18:15-17 “If a fellow believer hurts you, go and tell him — work it out between the two of you. If he listens, you’ve made a friend. If he won’t listen, take one or two others along so that the presence of witnesses will keep things honest, and try again. If he still won’t listen, tell the church. If he won’t listen to the church, you’ll have to start over from scratch, confront him with the need for repentance, and offer again God’s forgiving love. (The Message)

Having stated this as a pattern, he leads straight into a parable on forgiveness (v21-35) illustrating how we should behave.

We see examples in the Bible of minor infringement – Peter in Matthew 16 v21-13 refuses to believe Jesus predictions of his death (v22) ’Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. “Never, Lord!” he said. “This shall never happen to you!” But Jesus didn’t swerve. (v23) “Peter, get out of my way. Satan, get lost. You have no idea how God works.” Peter essentially got a wrap on the knuckles, that was all.

A major infringement resulted in extreme action in Acts 5 v1-11 with Ananias & Sapphira dying for their sinful deception…

Paul teaches the church about this:

Galatians 6 v1-2 “Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted. Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfil the law of Christ”.

1 Cor 5:1-2 “It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that even pagans do not tolerate: A man has his father’s wife. And you are proud! Shouldn’t you rather have gone into mourning and have put out of your fellowship the man who has been doing this?”

Titus 3 v1-11 says to warn divisive people once, then twice then take action.

Leaders should have a plan for reconciliation and dealing with conflict BEFORE it happens.

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John 8 v 2-11

Jesus was teaching the crowd in the Temple when a group of religious leaders arrived with a woman who had been caught in adultery.  They demanded that she be stoned, according the Law of Moses. Jesus knew that the Law required BOTH parties to be stoned…where was the guilty man?? He knew that this was a set up to trap him.

If he said no to stoning her, he would be violating the Law of Moses. If he said yes to stoning her, they would report him to the Romans who did not permit the Jews to carry out their own executions.

WHAT WOULD JESUS DO?

Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger in the sand. I think he was praying. Then he looked at them and said “If anyone of YOU is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.”

Wow! He got straight to the heart of the matter – it was the matter with their hearts, their motives at issue here. They were all standing in judgement over her, no one considered compassion or forgiveness. Yet, one by one, they drifted away, realising that they were not pure and without sin…

The woman, who must have been scared witless facing the angry men, suddenly realised that she was being given a second chance by Jesus. Because of His words, no one threw a stone. But Jesus said ‘Neither do I condemn you (BUT) go now and leave your life of sin.”

Jesus loves us and wants to see our lives changed for the better, turning away from sin.

IT’S ALL ABOUT THE ‘LINE’ 

When exploring issues, we all have an idea of where our line is. Explore why your line is where it is.

Is the line in the same place for the church? Is it discussed? Is it explored?

Who are we to decide where the line is anyway? Does Jesus love people more than the rules?

Are we quick to pass judgement when others are caught in sin? Remember, how much God has forgiven YOU…WE are called to forgive and have compassion.

Are issues considered before someone arrives? Good topic for leaders meetings, awayday or study groups.

Do feedback your experiences….

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In the last blog, we asked ‘Who should be offered salvation?’ and ‘Is anyone so ‘bad’ that they cannot be offered salvation? We said NO. Everyone is welcome to the cross.

We then asked ‘Should people be made aware before they commit, that God will probably expect them to make life changes?’ Interesting…

The Church has (mostly) learned to love substance abusers and divorcees and is able to welcome them as new converts. Society is now giving names to other lifestyles and practices and calling them good.  How many of us know what the current definition of each word is implied by LGBTQIA, let alone the other categories that are now available?

If we don’t have that knowledge, how can we minister to them when they cross our threshold?

If we bring them to Christ and they come to faith, how do we counsel them afterwards?

And if they make the confession of faith, but do not change their lifestyle, how then should we react?

These are real challenges that the church faces – this is unknown territory for many.

What would Jesus do?

 

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We all probably know the verse from Hebrews 13 v 8 “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and for ever”. God does not change and the gospel message does not change. God is still in the business of changing lives.

However, society has changed over our lifetimes and is still changing at an ever-increasing rate. The way we communicate the gospel has to change so it is relevant in our time.

Another well-known verse John 3 v16 “For God so loved the world, that He gave His one and only Son that whoever believes in Him, will not perish but have eternal life”.

Notice who the invitation is to …’the world’. That’s you and me and everyone else on this planet. So who should be offered salvation? Everyone.

We find interesting examples of unlikely people welcomed by God in both the Old and New Testament. Here are a few:

Ruth – a Moabite woman (Moab were longstanding enemies of Israel) Ruth 1 v1-4

Rahab – a prostitute living in Jericho – Joshua 2, 6 v22-25

A Roman centurion whose servant was healed by Jesus – Matthew 8 v5-13

A Samaritan woman – John 4 v1-42

Is anyone so bad, lost, lonely, addicted, abused, confused with identity…..that they are outside the love of God and His desire to rescue them from darkness to light? From death to life? NO!

When God saves us, He takes us as we are. However, He sees our potential to be more than we are and He loves us too much to leave us as we are.

Here’s the challenge – As we welcome new Christians into the kingdom, do we make them aware that life changes are expected by God? How much of this do we tell them before they commit? What happens when God expects them to change at a slower pace than we think is appropriate?  What happens when someone who has a substance abuse issue is unable to maintain abstinence?  What happens when a serial philanderer is unable to stop flirting? (We will explore this further in the next blog.)

The changes come with God’s help (and ours) and with LOVE as the motive. We the church, are all on a journey together, not one is perfect. Let’s support one and prayer for one another on the way

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Bible in 50 words

I came across this recently and thought it was pretty good at summing up the Bible. I wonder which words you would choose? Try it out!

God made, Adam bit, Noah arked, Abraham split

Joseph ruled, Jacob fooled, Bush talked, Moses balked

Pharaoh plagued, People walked, Sea divided, Tablets guided

Promise landed, Saul freaked, David peaked, Prophets warned

Jesus born, God walked, Love talked, Anger crucified, Hope died

Love rose, Spirit flamed, Word spread, God remained.

Anon.

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Many people look at how many people come to church and judge the ‘success’ on that. But church is not about numbers – it’s about health. Healthy things grow, unhealthy things wither and die.

How do we measure health? Here is one idea.

A TRIANGLE that has 3 equal sides – UP, IN and OUT.

Matt 28:18-20 Jesus came and told his disciples, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. (UP) Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. (OUT) Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. (IN) And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (UP)

UP – relate to God – worship, prayer, reading the Bible, listening, obeying, relying on God John 3 v16 “For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.

IN – relate to God’s people in the church – meet, share life, love, support, use gifts & talents, serve, study, eat, laugh together, meet with other churches, joint projects

OUT – relate to the world – reach out, love, talk, serve, be friends, share the good news of Jesus

How many people do you come into contact within a week? Quite a number probably. Who is God calling you to speak to, serve, be a friend to?

HEALTH equals the 3 in balance – The triangle is one with 3 sides – all affect each other

Micah 6:8 The Lord has showed you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you: To act justly (OUT), and to love mercy (IN), and to walk humbly with God (UP)

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I am currently reading ’Explore’ daily bible notes from ‘The Good Book Company’. I’d like to share the opening days describing one way to check on your spiritual health as the new year begins.

They ask the following questions:

  1. Are you in love with Jesus? (Revelation 2 v1-7, 1 Corinthians 13 v4-7)
  2. Are you grateful for the cross? (1 Timothy 1 v15, Mark 15 v1-39)
  3. Are you excited about your eternal life? (Romans 8 v18-25)
  4. Are you committed to God’s people? (John 15 v9-15, Romans 12 v9-16)
  5. Are you pursuing godliness? (2 Peter 1 v1-8)

Another good question is to ask ‘How healthy is my church spiritually?’ Colossians 3 v5-17 has some pointers on how this may work in practice.

Make a point of encouraging each other regularly, sending notes of thanks to build one another up. Stand shoulder to shoulder as you journey together through this new year.

May you thrive in the new adventure God has for you in 2017.

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