If They Came to Our Church (Part 2)

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“The next day as Cornelius’s messengers were nearing the town, Peter went up on the flat roof to pray. It was about noon, and he was hungry. But while a meal was being prepared, he fell into a trance. He saw the sky open, and something like a large sheet was let down by its four corners. In the sheet were all sorts of animals, reptiles, and birds. Then a voice said to him, “Get up, Peter; kill and eat them.” – Acts 10:9-13 (NLT)

I’m not too sure how many of us out there really have said, “reading the Book of Leviticus made me a better Christian.” After all, there are way too many directions for way too many sacrifices found in its pages and once you get to chapter 20, you have lots of punishment for those things that get violated. And when you get to chapter 23, the appointed festivals are listed and are to be observed. The “Feast of First-fruits” and “Feast of Weeks” had their place in Jewish living, but as I have said in the past, when Jesus Christ shows up on the scene, He will flip the script on everything Jewish. So much so that his own people were ready to give him a good old-fashioned stoning.

We can’t assume that a lot of this tradition had disappeared as the 1st century church was being established. In the Book of Acts, we can see that Jewish believers still went to the Temple for worship and maintained observing the annual holy days. The Samaritans got drawn back into things and it won’t be too much after that when Paul will do the Lords will into grafting the Gentiles into “The Way.” And once Peter gets over his issue with eating with uncircumcised men, he tells the other Jewish men about how, by the Glory of God bestowed unto those Gentiles, the church is on its way to growth. HOWEVER….Let’s get back to the 21st century and re-ask the question…What if the Apostles came to our church today?

I think one of the most unfortunate things they would see is the lack of reverence for the gathering of God’s people. They would see the last-minute people walking the aisles looking for seats just as service was beginning. They would see folks carrying frozen coffee drinks and a breakfast sandwich instead of a Bible (yes, I am gonna have to dismiss your Bible app) as they slid across the pew bench. They would see folks still in the foyer catching up with each other while the worship music is being played. James, Peter, and John would most likely be caught in the cross talk of moms making lunch plans for right after service. They would see men just sitting there looking as if being in God’s presence is a chore instead of a joy. Oooops, there went someone’s cell phone (wonder if it was Jesus calling?)

Way back in the 1st century, it seems as if the hunger to be in His presence was all that mattered. Now it seems as if we pencil it in as part of our “to-do” list. There is a huge call for people to get to the things of God, and I am not too sure the state of the American church is ready for it. In some of the churches that I’ve been in the past few months, I have seen some of what I wrote about in this Freedom Fighter actually happen…but not in every church. It seems just as YHVH saved a remnant of Israel to maintain the lineage of His Son is how He is maintaining a remnant of the Church that Jesus built some 2,000 years ago.

I don’t mean to be a “Debbie Downer” about this either, far from it. Rather, I wish to encourage you to get into the remnant. Be in that Church of (insert your hometown here), be united with El Elyon, The Most-High God and learn from The Master Himself, Jesus Christ. We can spend decades studying where the true church is at and yet still miss it because we spent too much time adding to it. We need to be radical about our church life so that it becomes contagious. We need to stop ourselves for a moment and take a look and see if what we are doing has an effect on the surroundings we live in; see if there is an impact and if it isn’t, we need to make adjustments. Because quite frankly, we can’t complain about the state of the world we live in if we can’t maintain the state of true worship we need to have in our churches. Amen?

Written by Chris Hughes: Chris, a graduate of The Colony of Mercy (11-2003) is married (Kathy) with two adult children (Kevin and Karen) and has been a Freedom Fighter contributor since 2008.

The Daily Bible Reading: Ezekiel 19-24| You can download our 2017 Daily Bible Reading Plan by clicking here

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Daily Quote: “In the majority of our meetings there is scarcely a trace of reverent thought, no recognition of the unity of the body, little sense of the divine Presence, no moment of stillness, no solemnity, no wonder, no holy fear.” — A.W. Tozer

This Week’s Verse to Memorize:

“Hear a just cause, O Lord, Attend to my cry; Give ear to my prayer which is not from deceitful lips.” Psalm 17:1

 

 

 

 

If They Came to Our Church (Part One)

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“Together, we are His house, built on the foundation of the apostles and the prophets. And the cornerstone is Christ Jesus Himself. We are carefully joined together in Him, becoming a holy temple for the Lord.”- Ephesians 2:20-21 (NLT)

It’s a bright, sunny Sunday morning and you have been blessed with greeting the people that enter the doors of the church building you are a member of. As “Good Morning, so glad to see you” is being repeated among everyone in the lobby, you notice a few men dressed in tunics and sandals walking up the sidewalk. You quickly go to the door and with your best smile and bulletin in hand you introduce yourself. “Good Morning friends. My name is (fill in the blank), welcome to our church. Here’s a bulletin to inform you on what our church is about and a guide to today’s service. What’s your name?” And with a weary smile from each you hear the names, John, James and Peter. They walk by you and take a seat….hmmm.

If the apostles were to show up in our church what would they think about how we all have been handling the church that Jesus Christ envisioned? Would they give credibility to the Vatican for their part in preserving Christianity or would they side with the Protestant Reformers for restoring the Gospel message back to its pristine purity? How would they feel about the Christmas plays we put our youth through by having them perform the events leading to the birth of Christ or, here’s one, what would their take be on the “Easter Bunny?” How about music? Would they prefer Fanny Crosby, the Gaither Vocal band, Hillsong or maybe take a chance with one of my personal favorites P.O.D?

In any case, I believe they would only be able to run all this through the basic foundation that they were given by Christ Himself. What they were essentially taught, trained and commissioned to do was to, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you” (Matthew 28:19-20a). I don’t believe there was discussion of denominational doctrine, although I believe that a doctrine was made pretty clear to them during the time they spent with Jesus.

The root for this doctrine is “that repentance for forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in His name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem.” (Luke 24:47) and that it did really begin in Jerusalem. AND if we were to take a look at what that early church looked like, you need not to go very much further than the Book of Acts 2:42-47. This is, in my opinion, the mainframe of the church. I don’t see anything in there that a band named “All The Lost Souls” performed in Herod’s Temple while Pastor Smiley Guy (you can figure out who that is on your own) gave a powerful message on the positivity of salvation in something or another and three thousand people gave their life to the idea that good stuff was just around the corner. Nope…don’t see it. What I do see is unity of community. What I do see is church.

Now don’t me wrong, there were traditions that the early church had to be worked through in order for it to be refined to what Jesus Christ designed it to be. I have been to many Bible Studies that went over what the Tabernacle was really meant to be. All those Jewish feast days had their place as tools for teaching the attributes of corporate worship, and let’s not forget that the early church saw themselves as a “remnant of Israel” as they were slowly finding out that they were no longer under The Law but were now under grace. The First Century church didn’t take that for granted, not like the Twenty First century church does today (yeah, I went there).

The next time I am with you, I will take a glance at what the Jewish folks had to work through and the conversion of the Gentiles from their paganism to relationship with a Triune God, but until then do the church a favor and pray for it. Pray for the leadership that guides it along its journey. Pray that they model themselves to be that church in Philadelphia that we read about in the 3rd chapter of Revelation. Pray that its foundation remains in Christ Jesus so that “the gates of Hades shall not overpower it” (Matthew 16:18b) and pray that the church will gain the discernment needed in these very troubling times. Amen?

Written by Chris Hughes: Chris, a graduate of The Colony of Mercy (11-2003) is married (Kathy) with two adult children (Kevin and Karen) and has been a Freedom Fighter contributor since 2008.

The Daily Bible Reading: Proverbs 7| You can download our 2017 Daily Bible Reading Plan by clicking here

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Daily Quote: “Bad theology dishonors God and hurts people. Churches that sever the root of truth may flourish for a season, but they will wither eventually or turn into something besides a Christian church.” — John Piper

This Week’s Verse to Memorize:

“Hear me when I call, O God of my righteousness! You have relieved me in my distress; Have mercy on me, and hear my prayer.” Psalm 4:1

 

 

Our Own Personal Pearl Harbors

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Pride blinds us not only to itself, but to every other sin tucked away in the recesses of our hearts and lives. It causes us to hate correction and reproof. It hides our sin from us, it justifies our sin, it excuses our sin, and it keeps us from repenting of our sin. It deceives us into thinking that we are spiritually well when, in fact, we have a deadly cancer and are in desperate need of the Great Physician’s Balm. ~ Lou Priolo

Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy? Listen diligently to Me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food. Incline your ear, and come to Me; hear, that your soul may live; and I will make with you an everlasting covenant, My steadfast, sure love for David. Behold, I made him a witness to the peoples, a leader and commander for the peoples. Behold, you shall call a nation that you do not know, and a nation that did not know you shall run to you, because of the Lord your God, and of the Holy One of Israel, for he has glorified you. “Seek the Lord while he may be found; call upon him while he is near; let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the Lord, that he may have compassion on him, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon. For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. … “For you shall go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and the hills before you shall break forth into singing, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands. Instead of the thorn shall come up the cypress; instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle; and it shall make a name for the Lord, an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off. ~ Him Speaking, in Isaiah 55

Oh beloved, it is true.

Each of us never saw it coming. At least at first. We were out, engorging our flesh as we gorged on anything, anything at all to try and make our lives work. Nothing seemed to be working, though we kept on trying.

We had something totally backwards. We were letting our flesh drive our life. The impulses on the dashboard were taking control, like some form of artificial intelligence. We were on autopilot. And, after a while, we just kind of settled in and let it drive.

God and the devil are found at opposite poles. No one can turn his face to God who has not first turned his back on sin. When a man turns his face to God, all of his paths lead to God. When a man turns his face away from God, all of his paths lead to perdition. ~ St. Nicholas of Serbia

What we had forgotten, though, was that we were not just flesh and bones. Rather, the incredible biochemical and biomechanical machines that are part of us, are not really all of us. They are, in fact, more of a suit or toolset to help us take in data in the four dimensions in which we exist. Our bodies, and flesh help us understand the world around us – but they are prone to failure and to passing on very bad information to our souls and spirits.

And so, we were there, getting things totally backwards, and hardly even noticing it. It was like the quiet Sunday morning in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii so many years ago. Everyone knew there was some sort of battle to be brewing, but no one really thought it was going to come to Oahu.

But the battle came. And the results were catastrophic.

We, sitting there in our flesh, and with our course set on autopilot, were in really real danger. We were heading for destruction along one of two paths. One, we were going to keep on following our own fleshly instrumentation, and we were going to run out of options. We knew it (oh, we were ignoring it), but we were beginning to run on vapors. Even though, we had some sort of quiet during the moments of engorging our lusts, even our bodies were screaming at us to stop.

Or two, some outside force was going to come in and intervene in our affairs. At one level, we didn’t want this. We had been buying all the things that did not satisfy, but we still really did not want SomeOne to come in and take over. We still were looking at a few of our dashboard lights that seemed like they might have a tinge of green within the bright red they were flashing. At another level, something within us knew that this was our only Hope.

For Ragamuffins, God’s name is Mercy. We see our darkness as a prized possession because it drives us into the heart of God. Without mercy our darkness would plunge us into despair – for some, self-destruction. Time alone with God reveals the unfathomable depths of the poverty of the spirit. We are so poor that even our poverty is not our own: It belongs to the mysterium tremendum of a loving God.

~ Brennan Manning

Then, out of the blue, over the horizon, He came. He came in fast and low. He came in with weaponry that was unstoppable. Even as we pulled out of our beds, and tried to man the weapons we had around us, they were of no avail. G_d came in, and torpedoed our lives. We never had a chance. We had been lulled to complacency by our supposed preparation, and we were so wrong – that it saved our lives.

Can we see it? There was no other way. Our instrumentation was just too messed up. Our intelligence was just too lacking. And the only way to wake the sleeping, eternally living, giant of a man in each of us, was for G_d to deal a death stroke to our flesh and its faulty instrumentation.

Beloved, there is a deeper truth here too. His mission to destroy us – that we might survive – destroyed Him too. Jesus was the ultimate kamikaze Warrior. He was not giving up his life for some despot in Japan. No, He was volunteering for a mission that only He could handle, and this was for the very Father of The Universe, and Maker of eternity.

And He did it. He died in killing you (and this fool of a writer). But, He died so forcefully, that He went all the way down through death, and came back on the other side, Alive in a way that death can no longer touch. And – He brought you through these dark paths with Himself. So, our seeming destruction, was really the only way for us to survive and thrive.

So, are you just hanging out on a Sunday morning on some tropical island of your imagination, thinking that everything is going to be just fine? You are gravely mistaken. However, this may be some of the best news you have heard in your supposed-life up to this point. Keep listening for the attack. It is coming. It is the only way you can survive.

Tonight is your night, beloved. Time to let Him give you everything He has got.

Written by Makala Doulos: Makala Doulos is a child of G_d, a husband to his wife, a father to his children, and a teacher to his students. But mostly, he is a prisoner set free by Jesus. Love has invaded his life, crushed it, and made it new. Now, G_d’s Love is what constrains him to live in full surrender to the freedom The Father and Son and Holy Spirit have bought for us all. Grace and Peace to you all.

The Daily Bible Reading: Psalm 39; Proverbs 9

Daily Quote: “Then Christ cries to justice, ‘Find a fault in this man; I have put my robe upon him; I have washed him in my blood; I have cleansed him from his sin. All the past is gone; … As for the penalty, I have borne it myself; at one tremendous draught of love I have drunk that man’s destruction dry; I have borne what he should have suffered; I have endured the agonies he ought to have endured. Justice have I not satisfied thee?'” ~ Charles Spurgeon 

This Week’s Verse to Memorize:

But let all those rejoice who put their trust in You; Let them ever shout for joy, because You defend them; Let those also who love Your name be joyful in You. ~Psalm 5:11