Monthly Archives: October 2015

The Masses Do Not Get the Gospel

John 6-10; a significant change in the sharing of the Gospel occurs in John. Jesus has had great impact on teaching/changing individuals; yet seems to have little effect with the masses. The Masses, true wanted to make Him King and crown Him, but Jesus would have no part of it. In John 6 there is the great controversy with the people [crowds], sure they followed Jesus, but for the food of the bellies, not for the long haul. These same crowds that will praise and adore Christ as He enters Jerusalem on Passion week, will turn against Him at the first hint of trouble. The crowds are more than the common people, they are also the religious right – legalists of the Jewish faith.  When Jesus explains the cost to follow Him, the people balk. His presentation of what discipleship really is, even causes struggles today – what does He mean by eating His flesh and drinking His blood? Surely, discipleship means taking on the suffering of Jesus and identifying with the Cross. Jesus asked James and John – “can you drink of the cup that I will drink?” As a result thousands left Jesus [John 6:66]; left with only the 12, Jesus doesn’t change His Gospel; He didn’t run after the masses. Instead He turns to the disciples, and ask them what they will do. Jesus did more with 12 than He ever could with the masses. In today’s “church Growth” and “Mega Churches” I wonder what Jesus would think? I do not minimize the effect of the Gospel in crusades and such, but it seems that the Gospel has its greatest effect in one on one relationships. The problem of the masses continues in John 7 – everyone trying to figure out who Jesus is by the things that He does. The Feast, Passover [Jesus attends 3 Passovers in John] is the forum of controversy over Jesus. Some say He is good man, others say He leads people astray – either way the crowds are held at bay by the influence of the Religious Leaders.  I believe the masses want “a Jesus” – savior and will take whoever will give them what they want. The end result is the people – religious and common people are divided over Jesus – some things never change. The common people want a Jesus that takes care of them, heals and feeds them – the religious elite want a powerful political figure [hummm, sounds like American politics].

After having dealt with the rejection of the masses; Jesus returns to individuals in John 8. Jesus touches an adulteress and a blind man. Even in His forgiveness and compassion for hurting people, the Jews want to discredit and use people for their own religious/political agendas. Rather than see the hurting and crippled state of mankind because of a fallen society, the Jews look to test and challenge Jesus and His divinity. Jesus is the Son of God – they knew that [John 3:1-2]; but they just can’t get over the sympathetic and compassionate way He forgives and heals the dregs of society.  Even in John 9, the controversy over the blind man cause so much turmoil, even for the man’s parents. His parents wanted nothing to do with the religious leaders, even though they know the truth. I cannot help but wonder – has American Christianity become so much like the Jewish religion, in that we want people to follow our version of Christianity rather than the Christ of the Gospel? The simple testimony of the man – I once was blind but now I see.” I love the response he gives to the Jewish leaders – do you too want to follow Him!

In John 10 – there is such a wealth of commentary, this blog would be filled to overflowing – simply the Jesus from Nazareth is truly God. The focus of Jesus being the “Good Shepherd” is what the religion of the day missed. A king, especially, God’s anointed King does not have to be a tyrant. He can and is the lover of man’s soul. The desire of Christ was to fulfill Isiah 61:1-4. He did His mission; yet John has already told us – He came unto His own and His own received Him not. [John 1:10] So which Jesus are you willing to follow? The one the masses embrace or the individual Savior sent from God to save all who would believe that Jesus is the Christ? The people’s choice obviously has flaws as does the Religious Right!

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2015 Renovate

Strategic Planning Process and Church Revitalization

Revitalization when a church says no

Identification of Intercessors and Their Key to Revitalization

1st Things 1st – Dying Churches

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The Beloved Apostle’s Gospel

Book of John; is a different Gospel than those called the synoptics’. John has his own unique audience that he is writing to. Remember that John was the youngest of the Apostles, and most likely Peter was the oldest. In John 21:20, after Peter has been given his “death prophecy” he asks about the “other disciple” – Jesus lets him know that is not to be his concern. John was allowed to live until a very old age. He is known as the “Elder”. John writes his Gospel, not with a different message, but from an entirely different vantage point. He has witnessed or was well acquainted with he lives, [deaths of the other fellow apostles] of those who had been preaching the Good News. Most of the 1st generation evangelist/apostles have been dead for nearly 15-20 years by the time he writes. He has knowledge of the saints, but also of the Fall of Jerusalem and the Temple in AD 70. H e is well acquainted with the “imperial worship” and persecution; having experienced it first hand, yet remained alive from the ordeal.

John, one of the “son of Thunder” is now a mellow, aged man that has witnessed so much of first century Christianity. He has been taking care of Mary [mother of Jesus] and both resided at Ephesus. It’s like John has outlived everyone, and only he remains. John is yet to write the final treatise of God – the Book of Revelation; he is a loving Elder statesman for the faith. In his Gospel, John is combating heresy of Gnosticism. The Gnostics have been around for sometime, some even think they found strength in the Essene’s and John the Baptist followers. The Gnostics are proud of their belief system and knowledge. They promote a “dualism” of man; where the physical and spiritual are separated and have no effect on each other.

John opens his Gospel with a solid apologetic statement to the “eternal existence” of Jesus. The Words “In the Beginning” find substance in light of Genesis 1:1. While Jesus the flesh was born during the reign of Herod the Great, Jesus the Son of God was pre-incarnate.  1 John brings a wonderful witness to the bodily presence of Jesus – in that He [Jesus] was heard, touched, seen – all sensory input that Jesus was real, not a figment of someones imagination.

The history of John as the forerunner is prophecy fulfillment. John’s work of repentance and baptism, pave the way for Jesus’ own ministry. Now since the people affirmed John as a real prophet, they were is great dilemma when it came to who Jesus really was; for if he is the Christ, then they must worship him and acknowledge that John the Baptist got the identification of the “Lamb of God” correct.

John has a unique way of bringing to the reader the lives of the Apostles before they were apostles. I find it quite interesting that many of the Apostles are related to each other very closely.  We see early on the work of Andrew bringing others to Jesus, specifically, his own brother.

John is different n how many Passovers Jesus and the disciples attend. Some have Jesus only at 2 Passovers, whereas John has him early. John is really difficult to follow at times, for His message is not to follow Jesus’ ministry in a chronological way as Matthew, Mark and Luke do; but to bring significant case where the reader has to declare that Jesus is the Son of God. John 20:21; gives us the reason for John writing, that you might believe in Jesus Christ and that believing you may have life in His name.

The famous chapter 3, shows us how that religious leaders, having spent their lives in pursuit of God, actually miss God. In Chapter 4, the woman at the well reflects that Jesus in fact came to sinners, not to the Jewish religion. In Nicodemus and the Woman we have the stark contrast of lives – good and holy Vs. immoral and dirty. The Gospel is for all people, for all are broken and need the Savior’s healing touch. In many of the periscope John includes,  are unique to his gospel. John is not trying to prove that Jesus is a real historical person, but that He was truly the Son of the Living God..

 

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Peter, Persecution and Perseverance

1 Peter 1-5; Peter the beloved Apostle who consistently put his foot in his mouth and spoke the wrong thing at the wrong time. He is married, so he has a family, we know of his occupation as a fishermen businessman, he has a mother-in-law who was healed by Jesus and He was among the inner circle of Jesus’ disciples, always included with James and John the sons of Zebedee. There is a the famous statement in Matthew 16 that Peter declares the “Thou Art the Christ” which wins him an A for the day, yet within a chapter, Jesus has to rebuke him for trying to prevent the cross from happening.  Peter is the Apostle to the Jews, whereas Paul is the Apostle to the Gentiles. This came to a sticking point in Galatians, where Paul had to confront Peter because of his hypocritical behavior of entertaining the Gentiles in fellowship, but when the Jewish brethren came from Jerusalem, he removed away from them. [Gal 2:11-14]. Peter is the one Apostle that I can readily identify with. I have a lot of his traits, specifically one – inconsistency! Yet we know that Jesus entrusted the Gospel and care of the brethren to Peter. We know that the Roman Catholic church describes Peter as the first Pope, and that there is a mystical line of succession supposedly from him. The Phrase of “upon this rock, I will build my church and the gates of hell will not prevail against it;” [Matt 16:18] is the basis for the Peter Pope thought. However, it is the statement of Peter, not Peter himself, for the new name that Peter is given is that of [a small pebble], not a rock and the foundation of which the Church is built.

Enough on Peter, in our reading Peter is quick to address his Jewish audience and the persecution they are experiencing. There was a growing persecution in Jerusalem along with a famine that would relate to Peter’s message to the Jewish Christians. In fact Paul takes up a collection from the Gentile churches in support of the churches/brethren in Jerusalem [1 Cor. 16; 2 Cor 8 & 9]

Peter use many Old Testament cross-references to identify the scarlet thread of the Gospel as it moves through the Old Testament to the New. He speaks of character and righteous living before the world, and specifically before the Gentiles. While the Gospel has moved off-center from the Jews to the Gentile nations, the Jewish believers still have a bold witness that they must maintain and share. Peter mentions no less than three different times of how the Jewish believers are to act and conduct themselves in the world; I think the point Peter is trying to get all of us to understand in light of persecution against the Gospel [which we are seeing clearly today] is that we cannot be seen as offensive in cultural issues that we cannot be a witness for the Kingdom. Repeatedly Peter tells us that it is better to suffer for doing good that it is to suffer for doing evil. This is a difficult balance, while we still live in the world and are subjected to all the ills of a fallen society, we cannot lower ourselves in combative behavior, where we bring dishonor to our Lord Jesus.

Peter speaks of everyone [slaves, wives, and men] to be submissive to every human institution. This had to be hard for the brash behavior-ed Peter, that or Peter has mellowed a lot in his older years. In America we do not really understand the subjection to all authorities, for our government is based upon federalism not monarchy rule. Plus the added problem of “imperial worship” of the Caesar’s. We see a different Peter, one that is concerned for the well-doing of the Gospel; gone are the days of looking “to be the greatest.”  Peter three times mentions his prayer life. [1 Petr 3:8, 12 and 4:7] He has learned it seems to take things to God in Prayer, rather than volatile behavior.

Peter closes his first epistle with challenges for all to keep the faith in the hard times; and hard times are to be expected. The believer will be out of step with the rest of the world, but let the world revile us but be put to shame for their treatment of us. We are not alone in persecution, it is experienced by all that will desire to live godly. Just as Jesus was persecuted, even we should expect, almost welcome it.  Be humble; Be alert; Be sober in spirit, resist the devil in the power of the name – Jesus. “After you have suffered for a little while, you will be established by Him who has called you.” Don’t quit!

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By This We Know

The Book of 1 John; The similarities of John’s Gospel and this Epistle are easily noted. John the Beloved Apostle, that rested on the bosom of Jesus, is no longer the brash young boy who was one of the “Sons of Thunder.” He is the last of the Apostles, all others including Paul have died [killed] for the faith. John has not been exempted from persecution, just survived it. John is not yet in exile on the Isle of Patmos; he is the Elder statesman at the church in Ephesus. While many of the Apostles, especially Paul had to combat the Judaizers and Imperial henchmen, John is confronting a philosophical sect called the Gnostics. The sect believes in a duality of man; one where the flesh and the spirit do not necessarily affect each other. The Gnostics, also found in the book of Colossians, boasted of a superior knowledge about spiritual matters. The Gnostic’s were using cunning and crafty speech to dissuade many from following the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

There are several phrases that John uses to combat the Gnosticism philosophy: “By this we Know; If we Say; We Know.”

John uses his own John 13:34-35 as a basis for this epistle. By this all men will know that you are My disciples if you have love one for another. Two phrases again show up – By this and will know. John writes with the specific purpose – 1 John 5:13 “These things I have written to you that YOU MAY BELIEVE in the Son of God, so that YOU MAY KNOW that you have eternal life. In combating the Gnostics, John writes to the church about those things that have already been established. There is great emphasis on obeying the commands of God and believing that Jesus has come in the flesh. Part of the Gnostic thought was that Jesus was not flesh, but only appeared as flesh. This heresy will not go away until the 1st Lateran council of Nicaea in 325 AD.  It is at this council that Jesus will be affirmed as God, in the Spirit and flesh. The Incarnation is at stake if we hold that Jesus is only spirit. We then would have a High Priest that really has no idea about the things that we go through. [Hebrews 2:17-18; 4:15]

John gives a number of easy tests to determine if someone is in the faith or only pretending. The “If we say. . . . ” and do not walk gives clear evidence that the truth is not in us. John has been an eye-witness to Jesus; his senses have affirmed that Jesus was/is real. He touched him, saw him, and heard him. If John were not around to contend against the Gnostic’s they might have gotten away with their heresy. But when there is a living witness to the things that have been reported, all else would be a lie that denies the events of the witness. For example no one living today can deny that 911 occurred, too many people saw with their own eyes what happened. However, did the Holocaust happen? Enough time has passed where many have died and some are trying to re-write history to eliminate the Nazi war crimes. We live in a forgetful culture who given the opportunity would like to write Christ out of History if they could.

Three things John brings to the minds of his readers:

1st – This is the message [1:5]; that Jesus has been born, sent by the Father, manifested as the Son of God and Savior of the world. His life, death, burial and resurrection are truths. Jesus came as Light into the world, because the deeds of men were evil [darkness]. We can have fellowship with God, but not if we Harbor sin in our lives. We cannot walk in the Light and have fellowship and retain a sinful habit of living. We know that we have come to know Jesus if we keep his commandments. Pretty easy test – John does not say that we keep all the church rules. Obedience is to God and His word. If someone says they know God and doesn’t keep His commands [Matt 22:37-38] then He is the liar, not God.

2nd – This is the Promise [2:25]; The Promise is eternal life. The quality and quantity  – it is a duration and a kind of life that we are promised. Actually all mankind will have an eternity – one of separation, the other is fellowship and presence of God in Heaven. The objective of salvation is not heaven, but freedom and deliverance from a sinful nature, which enables anyone to be reconciled back to God, as it was in the beginning before the Fall.  Eternal Life has been promised to all who believe, it is something we have now because Someone is living in someone and we have Eternal Life, Because Jesus is the Christian life – He who has the Son has Life! We have it now, for we who believe will not die [John 11:25-26].

3rd – This is the Commandment [3;23]; John is infatuated with the word love. 1 John 4;15-21 is filled verse after verse with the word love. John has really mellowed since his youth. I have already referenced John 13:34-35 and Matthew 22:37-38, in these verses we find that the sum of the Law and the Prophets – not a bunch of commands, not even the 10 Commandments, just two. Love God and Love your neighbor.  Gone are the days of fulfilling the ritualistic laws of Judaism, not by works of practice, but out of a heart of love and compassion for each other, that includes the brethren and the lost world. John uses three stages of maturity for the believer to show how the love of the Father is manifested. [1 John 2:12-14] He identifies the little children they have been forgiven and KNOW the Father; the young men  have overcome the enemy and the word strongly abides in them; then the fathers, who KNOW Him who was from the beginning. Progress in the faith must occur for every believer.

John makes a great distinction between Profession and Possession. Even to the point of “they went out from us, because they were not part of us.” Not everyone who calls on “Lord, Lord” will see the kingdom of God, but only those who do the will of My Father in Heaven.

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And Before I Go

2 Timothy, Paul already knows that his time is short, he has ran his race, and knows that he is going home soon. But before he goes he has more to say to his “son in the Spirit” – Timothy. At this point I would like to include Titus as well, for much of the instruction given to Timothy is given in Titus also.

This blog will take all the “R’s” into consideration. the first is found in chapter 1, Retain  [1:13] Paul has suffered much because of his unwavering stance on the Gospel. Timothy is instructed to pass on the things he has heard from his mentor to faithful men – so that they can then pass on to other faithful men. Paul begs Timothy not to be ashamed of him or the spectacle that has developed around the persecutions for His faith.

Secondly, is the word Remember [2:8]; The essence of the Gospel, Paul admonishes Timothy not to forget the most important thing of all, which is Jesus Christ – who He is and what He has done. Those things Christ has accomplished cannot be changed, but can be forgotten. It would make sense that we remember even in our day the truths which cannot be changed – for as Paul declares the sufferings and hardships he has faced, we to one day may be called upon to face such things. If we have forgotten our faith and eh “author and finisher of our faith,” we may become bankrupt. Jesus came according to the ordinate plan of God. His life, death, burial, and resurrection were no mere accident or coincidence.

Third, word is Remind [2:14], Timothy has word to do, his testimony and actions reflect his character; but the pressing task is reminding the church of not being pulled into meaningless conversations and battles of words. I have often in my younger days displayed a zeal of argument thinking that I was “witnessing”, when in fact I was pulled into an argument that could not be won. Paul is one who will name names when it is necessary; throughout 2 Timothy, he identifies those who lives have been distracted by the adversary – in this case Hymenaeus and Philetus are mentioned. Paul carries this instruction further in verses 23-26; much is said about not engaging in such talk, I can only think that there were many zealous but maligned believers being pulled into such waste of time.

Fourth is the word Realize [3:1]; the believer must be on alert and have the discernment of the times and seasons. Too many times people are caught unaware of the reality of an event or worse, duped into believing some strange group who promotes “the coming of the Lord” without credence. The coming of the Lord will happen sooner than later; but has been a topic of many these days. The “last days” have been the last days since the resurrection and ascension of Jesus. Many are trying to predict when He is coming back – yet forget the admonition that “no one knows.” Last week we had the “Super-moon, and the eclipse, many still proclaiming the accuracy of the 4-Blood Moons scam. People are looking for the end to occur, yet are not looking for the Savior of the End! I am sure that with the condition of our society and the mass killings and political chaos, the predictions and preaching of the “end is near” will continue. My bible tells me, that “as it was in the days of Noah, so will my coming be” – to me I think when everyone is at peace and happy and least expecting His return, that’s when Jesus will come – catching so many unaware and unprepared!

The fifth and last word is Ready [4:2]; with all that Paul had to tell Timothy before he departed earth, the last thing he wanted to make sure Timothy heard was – Be Ready! Not just ready for the “Day of the Lord” but to be ready always to preach the Good News. Timothy was to be like Jeremiah in the Old Testament – preached when no one would listen; no were converted during the 50 years of Jeremiah’s preaching. Even so, we all must be ready to preach the Gospel, even when they try to squelch us. The clarity and concise gospel must be preached without compromise. We in America are subjected to all kinds of preachers, on TV and the radio. Frankly, I am shocked that anyone comes to church anymore when they can sit at home and listen to four or five preachers! But even though the preachers may say the are the messenger of God, they often put forth a Gospel of “Good Works” or “Name it and Claim it.” [Olsteen comes to mind] Yet people want to hear that all is good, and God wants you to have all the things that make up this world. My Best Life is NOT now, it will be when I am in the presence of my Lord Jesus! Paul closes with some more names of people , some to glory others to shame.

May we all heed the words of Paul as we live and have our being here in America – Difficult days are coming, but they do not have to be disastrous for us.

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