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Posted By Nan

   Today, I am looking at some passages in Galatians and Ephesians.
   There is no better place to start than with Galatians 5:22-23: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.”
This is one of the most important passages in the bible. It reveals how we are expected to behave as Christians. All the fruits mentioned come, not through our endeavours, but through the power of the Holy Spirit residing in us. We must supply the willingness and make the choice to live this way, but the Holy Spirit supplies the rest. It doesn’t matter whether you worship in a church, or at home on your own, if you are a Christian you must show the fruit of the Spirit. If you are not, it is time to get on your knees before God and ask Him to seek you heart and reveal what it is that prevents you living a fulfilled life.
   Galatians 6:10 reminds us to “do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers”. This means we do not judge, persecute, condemn, turn our backs on, ignore, be bad neighbours to fellow Christians. This includes people we go to church with.
   A few years ago I visited Ephesus, in Turkey, with my family. As we walked on the same stones Paul walked on, we discussed his words to the Ephesians. We considered the prayer contained in 1:15-23 particularly moving. Paul prays for the people to have the Spirit of wisdom and revelation and we prayed for that as we moved through Ephesus. We discussed that Paul wanted the people to have this so that they may know Jesus and God better. We prayed as Paul did, that we might be enlightened to know hope and His incomparably great power. We marvelled in the knowledge that Jesus’ church is the fullness of Him who fills everything in every way. We also discussed that Jesus’ church is all believers. Are you a believer? Are you part of Jesus’ church? If you believe then you are. Are you filled by Jesus? If you answered no then my prayer is that of Paul’s, that you may have the Spirit of wisdom and revelation to know Jesus and God and know you are part of Jesus’ church.
   One more thing, Ephesians 2:8-10 tells us we have been saved by grace through faith which is a gift of God. Nothing we do can save us, we are totally dependent on Jesus’ salvation and God’s grace to be saved. “for we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do”.
Are you doing that? Ask yourself “What good works am I doing? Am I instead gratifying the desires of my sinful mind by only seeking out friends at church. Do I pray only occasionally to massage my virtue so that I can pretend I am a good little servant of Jesus?”
  Today I will finish with Ephesians 3:14-21
“…… I kneel before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches He may strengthen you with power through His Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.
“Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.”
May God bless you.

Posted By Nan

Today, I remain with Paul’s letters to the Corinthians.

   The Corinthians have happily accepted Paul’s wonderful message of salvation through Jesus Christ. They congregate together to share knowledge and worship. Sadly, by 1 Corinthians 1:10-17, they have started quarrelling over who they should be following. These are the doctrinal disputes that have divided the church since its inception. Any believer should be following Jesus Christ and Paul is quick to point this out.
   Paul admonishes the believers to resolve their differences. His plea is correct. Sadly, many Christians tell those who disagree with them that they should 'resolve their differences'. They don't accept accountability or conflict resolution. People are just expected to accept terrible injustices in the name of Paul admonition. This is not Paul's intention. He was telling the believers to stop fighting over which teacher they should follow and remember that it is Jesus Christ they are to follow. Many Christians who bully others to agree with them want their man-made ideas to be followed. Paul called the Corinthians and calls us to worship and follow Jesus.
   In 1 Corinthians 3, Paul relates how he laid the foundation of the Corinthian church and others must build on it. Paul cautions the people however, to be careful how they build on it. That caution is as valid for the modern church as it was for the church in Corinth.
This theme is continued in 1 Corinthians 12 with Paul telling the Corinthians that God built a church on Jesus Christ. He tells them the church is all believers. I understand that to mean that everyone who accepts Jesus Christ as their saviour is part of his church, not just those who attend a church service on Sunday.
   It is interesting to note that this passage leads directly into 1 Corinthians 13, the famous ‘love’ passage. This is no coincidence. Being one with our fellow believers and love are intertwined. The major factor in our lives and the way we relate to others, both Christian and non Christian should be love.
   As a final thought I end with 2 Corinthians 9:6 “Remember this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously.”

When you sow, sow love and sow it generously.

Posted By Nan

   Time went on in the early church. The trouble that was talked about in Acts 15 was just the beginning. By 1 Corinthians 1:10-17 we see quarrels among the belivers over who they followed. (In other words, which doctrine to follow – sound familiar?). Of course, as Paul pointed out to the Corinthians, it is Jesus Christ we follow.
   Paul admonished the believers to resolve their differences. These verses are frequently taken out of context in many churches to admonish those who challenge the complacency of their churches. It is used as a bullying tactic to suggest that those who differ are in the wrong and should ‘resolve their differences’. Was Paul, who challenged the complacency of the Corinthians telling himself to toe the line? Or was he telling those who squabbled over doctrine to remember their faith in Jesus Christ and settled their pointless arguments over who to follow?

   I am pausing here to talk a little more about the bullying tactics of churches. Another tactic I have seen is the church stalwart, who, unable to bully their fellow Christian into agreeing with their point of view, puts on a supercilious look and tells the other person “I’ll pray for you” - as if to suggest the other Christian is in the wrong. The other thing church members are good at doing is taking the scriptures out of context, keeping only those portions that prove their point of view and ignoring the rest. I volunteer as a counsellor a few times a month. This month I have counselled many people struggling with churches who have told them they should submit to their abusive husband and obey their abusive father while totally ignoring the accompanying verses that tell the husband to love his wife as he loves himself, and the father to not behave unreasonably to his children. (Ephesians 5:22-6:4).
    In 1 Corinthians 3, Paul relates how he laid the foundation of faith for others to build on. He cautioned the people to be careful how they built on it. We likewise must be careful how we built on that foundation. When God calls your church into account for the way it built on Paul’s foundation, what will He say?
Following on from this, in 1 Corinthians 12 we are told that God built a church on Jesus Christ. The church is all believers. This feeds straight into 1 Corinthians 13 which is all about Love and just what it is. This is an important message. All believers are God’s church, built on Jesus Christ. God’s church is not the denominations with their doctrines and rituals, it is all believers. God’s church, built on Jesus Christ, is founded on Love – the only thing that will stand when this world has passed away.
   While on the subject of love, 2 Corinthians 9:6 tells us “Remember this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously”. Let us all sow God’s love generously and reap love generously. Let us all show God’s abundance of love to those stumbling in darkness.
   I could go on, but I think this is a good place to stop for the day. I hope you read the scriptures I quote and consider what they mean for you. In the next blog I will continue on this theme by looking at Galatians 5:22-23 and 6:10 as well as Ephesians 1:15-23, 2:8-10 and, if there is room, Ephesians 3:14-21.

Posted By Nan

  Weeks ago, when I read through Acts, one of the things that struck me was that people were converted but were not told to seek out others to worship with. Many, however, chose to join the group that converted them because they wanted to learn more. In the first chapters of Romans, Paul’s focus is on individual’s faith and relationship with God. He sought out believers mainly to teach and encourage them. His relationship was with God first and he taught them that theirs should be too. 

  By Acts 15 we see trouble in paradise. Believers are daily being added to the numbers congregating together to learn more about Jesus. An organisation has been born. With the birth of an organisation comes the inevitable power structure. It would be so refreshing if Christians could congregate together and leave their human desire for control outside and concentrate 100% on God. It seems sinful humanness is just too strong for the ideal intended by Jesus. Here we have the fledgling church in Jerusalem and already people are out to impose their agendas on it! You have to be circumcised. You have to obey the food rules. What legalism does your church indulge in?

  In Romans 16:17 Paul says “I urge you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned.” If you read to the end of verse 19 you will see that he talks about their deceit and flattery and says they are not serving Jesus Christ. So who are those people? Who puts obstacles in the way of the teaching that Paul had taught about Jesus? Think about it. How much of what your church tells you can be found through a contextual search of the Bible? Do you take notes of the sermons and go home and check up on what has been taught? You should. You should also respectfully point out where your search of the scriptures differs and discuss this with the sermon giver.

To step back to the beginning of Romans, in Romans 2 Paul addressed the problems that were surfacing in the church between the Jews and the Gentiles. Many of the Jews ‘the circumcision brigade’ wanted Gentiles to be circumcised. This dissent was so strong that even Peter was taken in by it and chastised by Paul for giving in to them (Galatians 2:11-21). I believe in the Bible as God’s word and that Jesus is the Son of God, my Saviour and the only way to God. I most definitely do not agree with so called liberal theology but I just as definitely do not agree with extreme, harsh, judgemental ‘fundamentalist’ theology either. This section speaks to me strongly about the dangers of the extreme fundamentalists who are so caught up in legalism that they have forgotten love. They cast people out into darkness as Jesus weeps for those lost people.

If you find yourself judging others then consider the following words:
Romans 2:21 “…you who preach against stealing, do you steal? You who say that people should not commit adultery, do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples? You who brag about the law, do you dishonour God by breaking the law? As it is written: ‘God’s name is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.’” 
If you keep reading through into Chapter 3 you will find that Paul talks about circumcised Jews who do not obey the law and how the uncircumcised Gentiles who obey the law condemn them. Outward shows of faith mean nothing, it is the inward attitude of the heart “circumcision of the heart by the Spirit” that God sees. God’s righteousness comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. All, churchgoer or non churchgoer,  have sinned and fall short of the glory of God and are justified through the redemption that comes through Christ Jesus.

Posted By Nan

I am aware, as I have progressed through Luke, my opinion seems to be leaning towards non church membership. When I started this series, I was being challenged to consider church membership after seeing so many with bad church experiences. Then my own family started questioning church membership. We had been involved in a church for eighteen months and had failed to form any contacts, let alone friendships, in the church, despite being seasoned expats with experience in making friends. By contrast, I commenced university studies in February and have in that short time formed many friendships. So why is this church so cold? Rather than just walk away from church membership, it was important to seek God’s guidance. I thought the place to start would be Acts. After all, so much of it is about the early fellowship of believers. After prayer however, I was directed to start my search in Luke. Having finished searching Luke, I am now starting on Acts.
Acts 2:42-47 is the first passage of note. I hope you will read this for yourself. To summarise: “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer”. What struck me about this passage was that they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching. The apostles were teaching the new believers about Jesus and everything He had taught them. Of course fellowship is important, as Jesus said in John 13:34-35: “love one another, because this is how people will know you are my disciples”. Of course love carries more responsibility than “meet together every Sunday”. Third on the list is breaking the bread and prayer. It is obvious from this passage that Jesus considered doing things together was important, but I wonder if the way many churches behave is what He meant?
My questions from this passage are. Do we as Christians do this? As individuals or church members do we devote ourselves to the Bible? That is our number one priority. Do we fellowship and love our fellow Christians, with all the responsibility that entails? Do we treat fellowship as a warm fuzzy with our friends, while ignoring everyone else? What about sharing the bread? When you go to take communion, what are you thinking? After communion, do you sit quietly in prayer and contemplation of what Jesus did for you, or do you see it as a great opportunity to catch up on the latest gossip? And what about prayer? How much time do you spend in prayer? How often do you remember to spend time with God in prayer?
Further to those thoughts is Acts 2:46b where we are told the people broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God. This glad and sincere act of worship was conducted in people’s homes not at the synagogue on the Sabbath. How many of us continue such acts of worship into our non-Sunday lives?
Acts 3:32a says “all the believers were one in heart and mind”. So why have I never encountered a church like that? Not all churches I have belonged to have been this cold. Some have been more welcoming. I can’t say that any have been ‘one in heart and mind’. If you belong to a church, do find that all are one in heart and mind?
By Acts 6 the church is suffering from its own success. Suddenly the workload for the Apostles is getting too much for them. Conflicts are starting to appear because the food is not being evenly distributed by groups who favour their friends over others. Sound familiar? The Apostles answer to this was to appoint a group of believers with deep faith to administer the distribution of food. This allowed the Apostles to devote time to prayer and ministry of the word. The point to consider here is to notice what happens when the group starts getting large. Trouble in paradise? You bet.
Next entry I am looking at Paul’s approach to conversion and what followed for the converted, and I will be following a bit more of that trouble in paradise.



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