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Posted By Nan

One of the important things to realise is that going to church is not SAFE. Church should not involve belonging to a nice, comfortable social club. Earlier in this series I quoted the beaver from The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by CS Lewis. He stated that Aslan (Jesus) is not safe. If you think that Christianity and living a Christian life is safe then you are seriously deluded. Step out of your comfort zone and read the gospels. What about Jesus was safe? He challenged people, exposed their deepest sin and shame, demanded great faith of them and loved them. We are always on duty in Jesus’ name. If we attend church we are even more on duty than at other times. If you want a social club, join one that meets on another day of the week. Going to church on Sunday is about serving God. It is about a sacrifice of praise. It is about worshipping Him. Worship is not there to give us a great feeling (if it does that is a nice side effect).
Please read Hebrews 13:15.

We go to church to give a sacrifice of praise to God and to do His work. We do not go to church to serve ourselves orcatch up with our friends and serve our social lives. Serving God means getting uncomfortable and talking to that person that you think smells, or doesn’t dress appropriately, or wears dirty clothes. It means that when your church calls for the peace you actually go and share the peace with as many people as you can and resist the temptation to talk only to your friends. Save your socialising for after church and morning tea. If you only attend to your friends and those you feel comfortable with, then the God you worship is friendship and social connections, not God. 
It is impossible to have a good relationship with God if the only time you think about Him is at church on Sunday. You need to have a daily, personal relationship with Him. If you don’t and you treat Church on Sunday as a social club, then what relationship do you have with God? Is your relationship actually just a social habit you have formed with members of your social club? Do all your hallelujah’s and pious words come from social conventions rather than from a deep seated conviction in God?
I am borrowing some thoughts from Charles Spurgeon. He speaks of tearing of clothing and other outward signs of religious emotion as things that are easy to do and frequently hypocritical. People get caught up in the minutiae of religious conventions because there they can exert power. Of course true religion is humbling and soul searching. Those who are frightened of being that vulnerable, who fear what God will say to them if they do open themselves up to Him, will avoid such truth with great determination. For them, the outward displays are far more pleasing. Like the Pharisees of Jesus day, you know, the ones he criticised. We need more than ceremonies and rituals. We need the love of 1 Corinthians 13. We need to remember that everything but love will pass. Those empty rituals are not love and they will not sustain you in your desire to enter heaven.
I can’t put it in better words than Charles Spurgeon, so here is one thing he said:
“Heart-rending is divinely wrought and solemnly felt. It is a secret grief which is personally experienced, not in mere form, but as a deep, soul-moving work of the Holy Spirit upon the inmost heart of each believer. It is not a matter to be merely talked of and believed in, but keenly and sensitively felt in every living child of the living God. It is powerfully humiliating, and completely sin-purging”.
Please read and contemplate Psalm 51. Pray these words to God, be penitent and humble. Accept that, no matter how well you behave, you will never be clean enough for God.
I will be spending the next few blogs discussing the messages to the churches in Revelation and briefly examining the remainder of the gospels.
If you want to prepare, then read what the Spirit said to the churches of Reveelation

 

 
Posted By Nan

The business of the season meant I have not had a chance to put a blog up this week.
In honour of the day, I will pause in the series and look at Christmas. Whether we worship in a church or on our own, it is important that our celebration of Christmas is personal as well as corporate. So many people who never enter a church will do so on Christmas Day. Why? If you can’t worship God yourself, how is standing in a building with other worshippers going to help you? As I have been stressing, our personal relationship with God is the all important relationship. No amount of church visits will replace a personal relationship with God.
There are many who challenge the observance of Christmas. I don’t care which actual year Jesus was born in or the actual day and month. I believe it is important to acknowledge His birth and celebrate it. Why? Because from the start of Genesis, God had a plan to save mankind from the consequences of their sin. (See Genesis 3.) The entire Old Testament contains the unfolding of God’s plan to save us from our sin. The culmination of all that is written in the Old Testament in contained in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. If we don’t believe Jesus came to earth as a baby and lived as a human being, we can’t believe He died on the cross.

This Christmas my family will be considering the following passages from the Bible:
Genesis 3, Isaiah 9:2-7, Psalm 121, John 1:1-18 and Matthew 1:18-2:23.

I leave you with Revised English Bible version of Isaiah 9:2-7.
“The people that walked in darkness
have seen a great light;
on those who live in a land as dark as death
A light has dawned.
You have increased their joy and given them great gladness;
They rejoice in your presence
As those who rejoice at harvest,
As warriors exult when dividing spoil.
For you have broken the yoke that burdened them,
The rod laid on their shoulders,
The driver’s goad, as on the day of Midian’s defeat.
The boots of earth-shaking armies on the march,
The soldiers’ cloaks rolled in blood,
All are destined to be burnt, food for the fire.
For a child has been born to us, a son is given to us;
He will bear the symbol of dominion on his shoulder,
And his title will be:
Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty Hero,
Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.
Wide will be the dominion
and boundless the peace
bestowed on
David’s throne and on his kingdom.
To establish and support it
With justice and righteousness
From now on, for evermore.
The zeal of the Lord of Hosts will do this.”

 

May God bless you richly this Christmas as you celebrate the birth of the promised saviour, the Messiah, Jesus Christ our Lord. Great is His love that He humbled Himself and became human so that we may be redeemed.

 

 
Posted By Nan

  Continuing on with the question of church membership, Hebrews 12:15 says “See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.”
  What is the bitter root caused by? There are many reasons for a ‘bitter root’ but in the context of this series, I believe it is caused in many churches by the hurt inflicted by those who ‘miss out’ on the grace dispensed by the pastor and leaders within the church. How many churches run a Parish News where the single few are chosen for a prayer mention, or a word of congratulation while people in dire need, who are not part of the inner set, miss out? How many are not helped, either emotionally or physically? I believe that we have a responsibility, not only to prevent a bitter root developing in ourselves, but to make every effort not to cause a bitter root to develop in others. I have given two examples of causes of a bitter root. I sure you can think of many more.
  Hebrews 13:2 takes a different approach. It says “Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it.”
  This brings to mind Matthew 25:31-46. This is the parable of the sheep and the goats. It talks about Jesus dividing his followers into two groups: the sheep and the goats. To the sheep he says, Welcome! These are the righteous who have reached out to others in love. Jesus likens every act of love (or hospitality, which is after all love in action) to others as an act of love to Him. He then tells the goats to be gone from his sight. He likens their lack of love acts to lack of love to Jesus and casts them from his presence.

    Watch how you behave, for your acts of love and unlove will be judged.
  In John 13:34-35, Jesus tells his followers: “A new commandment I give unto you that you love one another as I have loved you … by this shall all men know you are my disciples.” If non believers see those in church not being helped, what does that tell them? There are many churches that help each other and those in the community around them, but there are also many churches that do not help even each other. Sadly, I have heard more stories about those churches than about the good faithful churches. Many in the community use their observations of the ‘unlove’ of churches to justify not believing in God. In Luke: 6:32-36, Jesus admonishes his disciples to do good to all people, even those who hate them, because even sinners do good to those who are good to them. I see this as the way He instructs us to be different, set apart. By showing our difference, and the way we lead better lives, we demonstrate to others how great our God is and how much better their lives can be in Jesus. Non believers use our behaviour to excuse their non belief. This applies to individual behaviour as well as the corporate behaviour of a church. We will be judged for the things we do that lead others to turn their backs on God.
So, as I Peter 2:15-16 says “Silence ignorant talk by doing good.”
 A final word. Heed James 2:1 “My brothers, as believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ, don’t show favouritism.” If you go to church tomorrow, greet those you don’t know or like and be alert for needs in your own congregation. Remember, going to church is an act of worship TO GOD, we go to church for God, not for us. So serve Him.

 
Posted By Nan

Today I start with 1 Thessalonians 5:19-22. We are told not to put out the Spirit’s fire or treat prophesies with contempt. Paul also tells us to test everything. As I have said on many occasions in this blog. It is vital we test what others say by confirming it through reading the passages quoted (a Christian who makes pronouncements that they do not back up with the relevant passages from Scripture should not automatically be believed). We have to own our beliefs. The passage also tells us to hold on to what is good and avoid evil. That is part of owning our own beliefs.
  So what does he mean by not putting out the Spirit’s fire or treating prophesies with contempt? There are many ways we put out the Spirit’s fire. Every time a church forces a person to accept a doctrine that has no biblical base they are putting out the Spirit’s fire in that person. Every time a prophets messages are ignored, those ignoring them as putting out the Spirit’s fire. These verses are connected to the reference about holding on to what is good and avoiding evil. I believe that when we allow evil into our lives and turn our backs on what is good we are guilty of putting out the Spirit’s fire. Are there any more instances of putting out the Spirit’s fire that you can think of? What are the implications of this passage for your life?
  Continuing on into Hebrews, I want to draw your attention to 11:22-25a. This beautiful passage talks about drawing near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith. It continues to ask us to consider how we ‘may’ spur one another on towards love and good needs. It tells us to not give up meetings together and to encourage one another. These beautiful verses are well worth a read. They represent the ideal of our relationship with God and one another. Here, people are asked to develop a strong personal relationship with God. Paul’s words always have a flip side that is so often ignored (compare Collossians 3:18 to 19; 3:20 to 21 and 3:22 to 4:1). He always gives all parties responsibilities to fulfil. In this case it is the individual and the church. So the church is told to encourage one another. What if the churches fail to keep their end of the bargain? What happens when the churches become so caught up in their legalism (doctrine) and their social interactions that they block the outpouring (fruit) of the Holy Spirit? If a church can’t keep the faithful outsider from leaving (and they are currently leaving established churches in increasing numbers) how will it attract those who don’t believe? I have mentioned before the church caught up in its ‘fat complacency’. Those churches need each person in the church to get their individual relationship with God right and then work together to get the church in the right place to fulfil the obligations of Hebrews 11:22-25a.

 

If any pastors are reading this blog, I challenge you to challenge your congregation to get their relationship with God right. Instead of allowing your congregations to come to church every Sunday for a ‘warm fuzzy’ challenge them in the lives they lead. Stop pleasing satan by allowing people to neglect their relationship with God.

 
Posted By Nan

Continuing our examination of the question of church membership, I have arrived at Phillipians 2:4 – “Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.”
 What does this mean to you?
   To me it means caring for others, walking beside them when they need a travelling companion, helping them when they need help, or finding helpers. A young family I knew needed help. He was very ill, unable to get out of bed and his wife was heavily pregnant. Their church didn’t offer any help, but other Christians who knew them mobilised helpers from their church to help them with basic household tasks. They mowed the lawn, cleaned the gutters, helped with shopping and child care. They even provided some meals. It is no surprise that this young family changed churches. It is unbelievable that their own church did not see and seek to meet, their needs. So many churches are like that. There are needy people in many churches, and none of the ‘wonderful Christians’ in the church lift a finger to help them.

   Please read and meditate on Matthew 25:31-46. This is the parable of the Sheep and the Goats. The verses 35-36 are of great importance: “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.” Verse 40 continues: “… I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.”
   Colossians 3:12 continues this theme: “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourself with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.” Verse 13 instructs us to forgive each other. Verse 14 continues “And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.”
   So what does this mean? We are to care, to look to the needs of others and reach out to them. This includes people we don’t know. If you cannot reach out to the newcomers in your own church, how can you ever hope to reach out to the community around you?
 Revival comes after humble repentance.
   We have to get our relationship with God right before we can bring others into relationship with Him. So the steps are: get your own relationship with God right; get your relationship with your fellow believers right, which means that church members should be members of a community not a Sunday social club. Once the first two steps are completed you can move on to step three: reach out to those around you. Think about it. If your church is not a community marked by love and a spirit of hospitality, how can you hope to receive and retain those who come because of you reaching out to them? I belonged to a church many years ago that had instituted a campaign of revival concerts. Many people were drawn to the church because of this. Sadly, when they came to the church to worship God, the people did not welcome them and there was little worship and teaching happening in the church services. All those people led to seek God were lost.

 


 
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Nan
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