Monday, February 23, 2015

Building Loving Relationships in Your Church Family


Our lives as Christians in this fallen world are a battle (Ephesians 6:10-20).  The devil doesn't want to see our churches thrive with loving relationships that are filled with godliness, grace, encouragement and forgiveness.  He desires to see us torn apart, battling, and waging war against each other because if we're so caught up in our own sinful issues our focus will not be on Christ.  

Sometimes it seems easier to sit at home and listen to our favorite online pastor or watch Sunday morning worship on our televisions.  Church can be messy and difficult.  Building relationships takes effort and sacrifice.  We live in a self centered culture and sadly this has crept into our churches.  God didn't design us to be loners in our Christian walk (Hebrews 10:24-25) but desires us to be in a local body where "love and good deeds" can be lived out among family.

I have been blessed to be part of church body where love and good deeds has been lived out among the members.  The Lord has and continues to teach me much about the importance of the fellowship of the saints and I wanted to share some of the areas I have been learning and continuing to grow in with you.

The Beauty of the Church

Do you look at those in your church and see them as your family?  If you are in Christ then your brothers and sisters in the faith are your family. Sometimes because they are family we can treat them like our own immediate family members.  We can hold a grudge because they said something we didn't appreciate.  We can judge them by their words or actions.  We can speak poorly of them to others.  We so often forget they - just like us - our sinners saved by grace who don't always look or act like their heavenly Father but look and act more like their old selves before new life in Christ.  

Caring for each other in the body of Christ is each of our responsibility.  It isn't just to be put on the church leadership.  We are all responsible to see and the meet the needs of the body of Christ.

So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.
Galatians 6:10

We are not only to meet their physical needs when we can but also to address when we see them falling into a sinful situations.  We are to look out for each other's spiritual needs.  Do you see your fellow brother or sister being drawn into a false teaching?  Warn them.  Can you provide help for them when they are in financial need?  Meet the need.  Can you encourage them when they are going through a valley?  Encourage and pray with them.

Fellowship of Believers 

How many times have you read those verses in Acts 2:42-46 and pondered what that would look like if this is how the body of Christ interacted today with one another in our local congregations?


42 And they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. 43 And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. 44 And all who believed were together and had all things in common. 45 And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. 46 And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, 47 praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.
Acts 2:42-47

There is so much in this text but I want to pull out what it looks like to have true Christian fellowship within our local churches.  One of the first criteria I want to address is that Christian fellowship can only happen between people who are saved.  This means those that have been born again, those that have repented and put their faith and trust in Jesus Christ.  True Christian fellowship begins among believers who have been saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ (see The Gospel).

Devotion to the Lord's People
The believers in the early church were devoted to one another, in verse 42 above the text reads literally, "They were continually devoting themselves to the fellowship."  We can't devote ourselves to Christ (the Head of the body) without being devoted to the church (His body).  It is too easy to become offended and cut ourselves off from fellowship.  Hebrew 10:25 commands us not to forsake the assembly of the saints and verses like Colossians 3:13 encourage us to forgive each other and bear with one another.

Being Together

Fellowship cannot happen if you are not part of a local church.  Even within our local bodies some of our congregations can be large and it may be hard to have close fellowships with other believers so we need to be intentional.  We can only have deep fellowship if we are spending time with each other and getting involved in each others lives.

This may mean taking the time to attend small group bible studies or prayer meetings.  It means being intentional in planning times to get together with those in your church body.  Take the time to open your home to others and invite them for dinner or coffee. (see What is Biblical Hospitality?)

"Some Christians try to go to heaven alone, in solitude. But believers are not compared to bears or lions or other animals that wander alone. Those who belong to Christ are sheep in this respect, that they love to get together. Sheep go in flocks, and so do God’s people."~ Charles Spurgeon

Doing Life Together Brings Compassion

One of the biggest benefits of being together is it brings about knowing people on a more deeper intimate level.  You begin to truly love one another as you see each other's weaknesses and strengths.  You begin to understand the difficulties of their lives and can have true compassion for them.

Most of the time we find ourselves judging others because we know nothing about them personally.  We are judging as the world does on the outside and we never take the time to understand what is going on on the inside.

You love your immediate family unconditionally because you are so familiar with their strengths and weaknesses. You love them because you spend time with them truly getting to know all about them and can see beyond their weaknesses and come to love them just as they are - a work in progress.

Your fellow brothers and sisters in the faith are works in progress and if you would spend some time just getting beyond the superficial and learn more about them your love for them would grow and you would find yourself offering much grace and forgiveness during times of misunderstanding or difficulties.

"We are all called to initiate involvement in each other’s lives… We covenant together to work and pray for unity, to walk together in love, to exercise care and watchfulness over each other, to faithfully admonish and entreat one another as occasion may require, to assemble together, to pray for each other, to rejoice and to bear with each other, and to pray for God’s help in all this."~ Mark Dever

True Christian Conversation

Many times we get stuck in the rut of just conversing with each other about the weather or food or current events.  These are not bad things in and of themselves but as Christians we should desire to speak of things of the Lord with each other.  If the Lord has a proper place in our lives we will desire to speak of Him often.  (see Cultivating True Christian Fellowship and Two Good Questions to Ask Your Church Family).

"Don’t just share your struggles, and above all, don’t just commiserate with one another. Remember, we are to be ministers of grace to each other. We are to seek to be avenues of the Holy Spirit to help the other person appropriate the grace of God. Praying with and for one another, sharing applicable portions of Scripture, and helping each other submit to God’s providential dealings with us, must characterize our times together."~ Jerry Bridges

Generosity

We can all meet various needs within the body whether it is material or spiritual. Acts 2:45 is addressing material needs and 1 Timothy 6:18 encourages us to be generous and ready to share with those in need.  We are not to enable a person who is lazy (2 Thessalonains 3:6-12) but we are called to help those without food and clothing if we can take care of those needs.  Your pastor can't meet all the needs of the congregation nor is he called to.  It is a responsibility of the whole family to take care of the whole family.

Evangelism

The Lord adds to the church but we are the vessels He uses to spread His saving Gospel to a lost world.  Encourage each other in the role of evangelism.  Plan times to go out and witness with a friend and have good tracts on hand to hand out as you are going about your errands.  Make sure you can clearly proclaim the gospel.  (see Can You Share the Gospel and The Gospel in a Minute).

Conclusion

We are not going to find a perfect church here on this earth.  Our immediate families aren't perfect. We're not perfect and come with our own issues. The most important point I want you to take from this post is to, to devote yourself to the Lord and continue to learn to love and serve the body of Christ.  As we are obedient to this work set before us by the Lord (Ephesians 2:10), He will continue to add daily to the number those being saved (Acts 2:47).

May they know we are Christians by our love for our Lord Jesus Christ and by our love we have for the family of God.






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Thursday, February 19, 2015

Weekend Nuggets - When Bible Reading Feels Like a Chore, Age With Zeal, An Extraordinary Skill for Ordinary Christians, Are you the Life of Your Pity Party and Much More!



Are You the Life of Your Pity Party? - "Relationships in this fallen world will be filled with misunderstandings, broken promises, hurt feelings, pain, and suffering—but, the truth is: I deserve more rebukes than I receive."

3 Reasons Why Bible Reading Feels Like A Chore - "Christian, if studying the Bible isn’t really your thing, can we chat for a minute? While Christianity isn’t dependent upon our academic inclinations, nor our interest in reading in general—to suggest those who are illiterate, have a learning disability or simply aren’t big readers are excluded from the kingdom of God is ridiculous—all Christians should strive to be students of the Bible."

How to Think About Persecution When You're Not Very PersecutedIn light of the brutal murder of 21 Christians in Egypt this weekend, I received a good question yesterday about suffering: “How do we apply the passages on persecution when we in the West don’t have much of it?”

Age With Zeal - "There is all sorts of advice for women about how to age well. Much of it has to do with our health and appearance. Aging is a part of God's created order, and as Christian women, we don't want to be sucked into the pursuit of eternal youth."

An Extraordinary Skill for Ordinary Christians - "We attach great significance to great deeds, don’t we? And we attach little significance to little deeds. And yet so few of us ever have the chance to do those exceptional things."

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Easy Recipe for Those Dry Winter Lips:


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It's A Bit Cold Here - How's the Weather By You?


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Top Post at the Blog This Week:


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"The most important gift you can give your child is to help them begin a walk of faith with the God of the universe. From the moment your children arrive in your home, you are teaching them how to see the world, what to consider important, what to seek, what to love. As a mother, you have the opportunity to form your home and family life in such a way that God’s reality comes alive to your children each day.” ~ Sally Clarkson




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One Reason Why We Lose Our Joy



Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need.
Philippians 4:11-12

Joy is a gift to everyone of us in Christ from the Lord (Galatians 5:22-23).  Our joy is lost the moment we take our eyes off of Christ and put them on lesser things.  One of the main reasons we lose our joy is we become discontent and in doing that we forget our God is sovereign and in control of all the circumstances of our lives.

Contentment in the Greek term means to be self-sufficient, to be satisfied or to have enough. In the verse above Paul had learned how to be spiritually content.  Paul trusted in God's provision for his life.  

Did you catch that above? Paul had learned to be spiritually content.  Where did he learn it?  Through the working of the Holy Spirit within him and in God's wonderful classroom of life. Everything he needed was sufficient in Christ and Paul applied that to the circumstances of his life.  

Can you say, I don't care if I have little or I don't care if I have much all I care is that I have God?  We are in a world that is overtaken by material possessions.  I have been given much and my needs are more than met by the Lord but I am learning that can be a dangerous place too because we easily forget our need for the Lord.  

So how can we learn to be content as Paul did so we will not lose our joy amidst all the various trials and circumstances that will come about in our lives?

First, we will never be content if we buy into the lie of what the world's system tells us we need.  We can never attain all things and there will always be something else where we can find ourselves saying, "if only I had".  The "if only" syndrome  can go on all the days of our lives here on this temporal earth and they will never all be met.  We have forgotten God's providence at work in our lives working out all things in our lives for His glory.  It's not about us. 

Second, you will never be content if you expect others to meet all your needs.  It just isn't happening and they can't because they weren't meant to meet all your needs.  God is the only one who can meet all your needs.  All your needs have been met if you are in Christ.  

Third, Paul tells us above he has learned to be content in whatever circumstance.  In little or in abundance.  Paul has learned to be independent from his circumstances.  You would not find him complaining of being a victim of his circumstances as so many do in our world today.  

How did the apostle Paul do this?  He kept his eye on the prize.  He looked to the eternal over the temporal.  He set his mind on things above.  He counted it all joy to suffer for the sake of Christ.  Paul said this light affliction is nothing compared to the glory that is to come.  

How can we be content and not lose our joy in this life in the midst of all circumstances?  Trust in the providence of God and His sovereign work in and through your life through all things.  

And lastly:
give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
1 Thessalonians 5:18

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A friend in Pennsylvania wrote, "One of my father's old cows gives good milk, but she sure can be dumb! She has a whole field in which to feed, yet no grass seems quite as tasty as those patches outside her own pasture. I often see her stretching her head through the fence, while right behind her is everything she needs—excellent grazing land, beautiful shade trees, a cool, refreshing stream of water, and even a big chunk of salt. What more could she want?"

Many people are like that old cow. They think the "grass is always greener on the other side of the fence." They are constantly grasping, coveting, and seeking to obtain what doesn't belong to them.

If you are a Christian, the greatest blessings in life are already yours. Heaven is your home, and God is your Father. He has promised never to leave you (Heb. 13:5), and He will supply your every need (Phil. 4:19). How green the grass is on your side of the fence! 

 ~ R. W. De Haan



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Friday, February 13, 2015

Weekend Nuggets - 23 Things That Love Is, Conversation Peace, Parenting for Eternity, Destroyed for Lack of Knowledge, What About the Crusades? and Much More!



23 Things That Love Is - "With Valentine's Day fast approaching, here's a gospel-centered reminder about how to love. But, you don't have to be romantically in love to find this list practical. Every healthy relationship requires love and sacrifice, so if you're a parent, child, sibling, neighbor, pastor, or co-worker, this list is for you."

Conversation Peace - A good series at Revive Our Hearts from Mary Kassian on the power of our words.  You can read the transcripts or listen to the series free online.

Parenting for Eternity, Not Just 5pm - A video interview with Jen Wilkin.  Good encouragement Mama's and worth your ten minutes to watch.  

Yeah, Well, But What About the Crusades? - Good brief history of the crusades from Kevin DeYoung

Destroyed for Lack of Knowledge - "The person who is unbalanced and lacks Biblical knowledge can become a “Christian fanatic” and harm both the church and the unbelieving world. To the church they lay rules on the Christian that Jesus Christ never made and they burden God’s people like the Pharisees did. To the unbeliever the fanatic makes him stumble at Christianity before he ever gets to stumble at the Gospel. Yet the only thing the unbeliever should stumble at is the Gospel we proclaim. So we must know our Bible’s so that it won’t be said of us “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge;” – Hosea 4:6."

Would Everybody Please Leave Me Alone? - You need this reminder today Mama's

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What I'm Reading:
(We're reading this together as a couple)


Cookbook I'm Loving - Everyday Grain-Free Baking it has Simple & Tasty Gluten and Grain Free Recipes:


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1. We fear people because they can expose and humiliate us. 2. We fear people because they can reject, ridicule, or despise us. 3. We fear people because they can attack, oppress, or threaten us. These three reasons have one thing in common: they see people as “bigger” (that is, more powerful and significant) than God, and, out of the fear that creates in us, we give other people the power and right to tell us what to feel, think, and do.
~ Edward Welch



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Thursday, February 12, 2015

What Does it Mean to Deny Ourselves?


"After Jesus had announced the cross to his disciples, had been rebuked by Peter, and had rebuked him in turn, Mark tells us:

And he called to him the multitude with his disciples, and said to them, "If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me." (Mark 8:34 RSV)

This is our Lord's outline of the process of discipleship. Here, in his own words, we look at what it means to be a disciple. The very fact that our Lord called the multitudes together with the disciples has raised questions in people's minds Many have wondered if this indicates that he was seeking to make disciples, i.e., evangelizing; or was he simply telling his own disciples what it will mean to live as disciples? In other words it raises the question that many ask: Can you be a Christian and not be a disciple? -- Is discipleship a second stage of Christianity? -- Are there many Christians, but only a relatively few disciples? -- Can you be a Christian and not be a disciple? This is a very important question, and one our Lord himself will answer for us as we go on in our study.

Let us focus our attention now on these simple but very crucial words of Jesus, whereby he gives us the process of discipleship. There are three steps, he says: First, "If any man [anyone] would come after me, let him deny himself..." Notice that he does not say, "Let him hate himself." He is not asking us to deny our basic humanity, our personhood. If you take it that way, you have missed the point. And he is not telling us that we are to abandon ourselves We cannot get outside of ourselves in any way. So we must understand what he does mean by this phrase, "deny himself," which is the first step of discipleship.

The word "deny" means to "disavow any connection with something, to state that you are not connected in any way with whatever is in view." Interestingly enough, it is the very word used to refer to Peter's denial of Jesus a little later on. As he was standing in the courtyard of the high priest, warming himself at a fire, a little maiden asked him, "Do you know this man?" (Mark 14:66-72). Peter denied that he had any connection with Jesus, said he did not know him, and affirmed his disavowal with oaths and curses. Thus he denied his Lord. This is exactly the word Jesus chooses when he tells us that, if we are going to come after him, we must first deny ourselves.

It is important also to understand that he does not mean what we usually mean by "self-denial." By this we usually mean that we are giving up something. Many people feel it is only right to deny themselves something during Lent, to give up various bad habits, like wearing overshoes in bed. But Jesus is not talking about this kind of "self-denial." He is never concerned about what we do so much as with what we are. Therefore he is not talking about giving up luxuries, or even necessities, but about denying self, which is entirely different.


Denying self means that we repudiate our natural feelings about ourselves, i.e., our right to ourselves, our right to run our own lives. We are to deny that we own ourselves. We do not have the final right to decide what we are going to do, or where we are going to go. When it is stated in those terms, people sense immediately that Jesus is saying something very fundamental. It strikes right at the heart of our very existence, because the one thing that we, as human beings, value and covet and protect above anything else is the right to make ultimate decisions for ourselves. We refuse to be under anything or anybody, but reserve the right to make the final decisions of our lives. This is what Jesus is talking about. He is not talking about giving up this or that, but about giving up our selves. Carved on the wall of the PBC auditorium is a verse taken from Paul's writings in First Corinthians, which says the same thing Jesus is saying: "You are not your own; you are bought with a price," (1 Corinthians 6:19b-20a). If you are going to follow Jesus, you no longer own yourself. He has ultimate rights; he has Lordship of your life. So you no longer belong to yourself; he must make those final decisions when the great issues of your life hang in the balance. This is what Jesus means by, "If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself" -- deny our self-trust, deny our self-sufficiency, deny our feeling that we are able to handle life by ourselves and run everything to suit ourselves."

~ Excerpt taken from The Way of The Cross by Ray Stedman
(All emphasis mine above)


Thousands are deceived into supposing that they have “accepted Christ” as their “personal Saviour,” who have not first received Him as their Lord. The Son of God did not come here to save His people in their sin, but “from their sins” (Matt. 1:21). To he saved from sins, is to be saved from ignoring and despising the authority of God, it is to abandon the course of self-will and self-pleasing, it is to “forsake our way” (Isa. 55:7). It is to surrender to God’s authority, to yield to His dominion, to give ourselves over to be ruled by Him.~ A. W. Pink

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