Five Minute God Thoughts: Longing For Authentic/Heroic Christianity

We certainly live in troubled times.  All that has once been secure in our culture is being shaken.  Generations have been raised in a climate where little is solid or secure.  Broken families, broken lives, and broken promises have marked the past few decades.   There has been a progressive erosion of family and guiding principles that bring security.  In this vacuum there is a longing for something authentic to live for and people who genuinely live for it.  I have heard it said that authenticity is the greatest apologetic (defense of faith) for Christians in the 21st century.   Nominal Christianity will not offer it!  It will take heroic Christians living authentic Biblical lives.

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Five Minute God Thoughts: Missing God’s Reward Through Multitasking

Our online multitasking and social media distractions can cause us to miss an important secret reward from God.  It is not an optional reward but one that is essential to our life.

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Carrying God’s Dream together: A Miraculous Design

"The deepest part of your heart longs to be bound together in some heroic purpose with others of like mind and spirit"

“The deepest part of your heart longs to be bound together in some heroic purpose with others of like mind and spirit”

Eph 3:8-11 9 and to bring to light what is the administration of the mystery…10)  so that the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known through the church (MSG Through Christians like yourselves built into churches, this extraordinary plan of God is becoming known) (11)  This was in accordance with the eternal purpose which He carried out in Christ Jesus our Lord,

Ephesians 3:20-21  Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us,  (21)  to Him be the glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen. Isa 60:7

Col 1:24-25 rejoices in sufferings…I fill up the things lacking of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh, on behalf of His body, which is the church;  (25)  of which I became a minister

When Christians view the church through the lens of God’s purpose seen in Scripture it changes their whole posture.   If they don’t church becomes an unfortunate drudgery or religious obligation easily avoided or only given a token effort.  Even worse it can lead to it’s own members almost becoming partners in persecution of the very bride Jesus died to perfect, spend eternity with (Rev 19:7, 21:2,9), and through which He fulfills His purpose.     Joy of the whole earth

In spite of all her faults and imperfections the church is the most glorious organization ever produced on earth.  Looking at past 2000 years you have to admit that it’s creation, endurance, and influence is miraculous.  It has survived and continues to survive terrible persecution as well as consistent neglect and criticism by many of it’s own members.  It has also survived many disappointing imperfections from it’s leaders and members causing shame and dishonor in the eyes of the world around her.

In spite of all of the challenges and faults throughout the centuries the church has demonstrated what God’s has designed her to be, His chosen instrument of blessing to the whole earth (Gen 1:26-28, 12:3, 18:18, 22:17-18, 26:4, Gal 3:8-29, Eph 3:1-21).  When you look down through the annals of history the church has been the greatest force for good on the face of the earth.  Almost everywhere you go in the word there are churches seeking to bring benefit and blessing to the world around them.  They are battling and overcoming poverty, ignorance, disease, and the consequences of sin in families and communities. I have been to remote villages in India and Africa that have little else, but they do have a churches demonstrating God’s goodness.

Statistics consistently show that churches outdo other groups during natural disasters like floods, tornadoes, and earthquakes in quick response times as well as longevity of care.  Over and over again in these types of disasters the vast majority of meals, relief, and volunteer workers came from churches.

History has also demonstrated that the lion’s share of motivation and effort to correct societal ills originated with churches.  Problems such as sickness, disease, education, woman’s rights, the abolition of slavery, and the Civil Rights movement all had their origins in the church.  It is really true what the great commentator Matthew Henry declared about the calling on the church from Psalms 48 (the joy of the whole earth) “This is the privilege of the church of Christ  that it is a holy mountain, a peculiar people…This earth is, by sin, covered with deformity, & therefore justly might that spot of ground which was thus beautified with holiness be called the  joy of the whole earth, that is, what the whole earth has reason to rejoice in.”

It takes more than simply “going to church”

These types of impacts didn’t come by God’s people simply “going to church together.”  The early church had no idea of our societies brand of “church going.”  When you look at the early church in the Bible they had a much deeper experience in their relationship together in Christ.  They were “added and devoted” to a way of life together Acts 2:41-47.

It carried with it the idea of being of “one heart and soul.”  Act 4:32  And the congregation of those who believed were of one heart and soul… Barnes commentary on this verse speaks of the early church having “one heart which denotes a tender union.  They felt alike, or were attached to the same things.”  Like the quote above they were “joined by God in a heroic purpose.”

They knew that Jesus building His church to fulfill His purpose was at the heart of what He was doing.  They heard it from His own lips in Matthew 16:18 then He called them to lay their lives down for His cause Mat 16:24-25… “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me.  25  “For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.

As the early apostles preached, they were not simply looking for crowds of new converts but for followers of Jesus who would be built together by Christ to become His active body on earth (1 Cor 12:27, Eph 1:22-23 etc.), and His bride for eternity (Eph 5:25-27, Rev 19:7, 21:2,9) .  They wanted lost people found Luke 15, and built together into Christ body through which He speaks and acts and fills everything with His presence Ephesians 1:23 MSG. They wanted His people to become “members one of another (Ephesians 4:25, Romans 12:4).  

Paul referred those He was joined with in His cause as sons, children, brothers sisters, co worker, fellow worker, and fellow soldier etc.  All these terms carry the idea of being joined in a cause (His dream) that they carried together.  Rom 16:9, 21, 2Co 8:23, Php 2:25, 1Th 3:2, 1Co 3:6-9, Rom 16:3, Php 4:3, Col 1:7, 4:9-11, Phm 1:24, 3Jn 1:8, Php 2:25, Phm 1:2, 23,  2Co 2:12-13, 8:23, Php 4:1-3, 1Ti 1:18, 2Ti 1:2, 2:1, 1Pe 5:13, 2Pe 3:15 

His design entails being together in a purpose.  When Christians understand and embrace this calling it affects everything from the way they treat each other, the way they seek God together, how they carry their responsibilities together, to the way they move together in His mission to the earth around them.

Biblical Example of Carrying God’s Dream Together On Mission

Samson and foxesWhen God joins people together to carry His dream Jesus will continue to destroy the works of the enemy through them 1Jn 3:8…The Son of God appeared for this purpose, to destroy the works of the devil. An OT analogy of this is what Samson did when he joined the foxes around a torch (dream) of fire (His Spirit).  He released the foxes together and they moved through and destroyed the enemies crops Jdg 15:4-5.  

When Jesus joins His people together to carry His dream with the fire of the Holy Spirit between them they also move among the enemies works and destroy them. This is what Jesus did when He sent out the 12 and 70 in pairs in Matthew 9-11 and Luke 10.  They brought peace into receptive homes, healed people, cast out devils, and preached the Kingdom.

This is what Peter and John did when they went to the temple and healed the blind man Acts 3:1-11.  It is what Paul, Barnabbas, Silas, Timothy and others did when they preached the gospel and saw churches raised up.  It is what countless Christian’s have done throughout the centuries as Jesus joined them together to carry God’s dream.  When you see this you will no longer be content to simply “go to church together.” You will hunger to carry God’s dream together.

 

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Carrying God’s Dream Together: Marriage Like Church/Church Like Marriage

God's dream 1Eph 5:29-33  for no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ also does the church,  30  because we are members of His body.  31  FOR THIS REASON A MAN SHALL LEAVE HIS FATHER AND MOTHER AND SHALL BE JOINED TO HIS WIFE, AND THE TWO SHALL BECOME ONE FLESH (Gen 2:24).  32  This mystery is great; but I am speaking with reference to Christ and the church.  33  Nevertheless, each individual among you also is to love his own wife even as himself, and the wife must see to it that she respects her husband.

My wife and I were once speaking with a couple who where were having severe marital problems that had brought about a separation.  We listened to them pour out their issues with what the other spouse was doing or not doing that they believed was the cause of the problem.   Each attributed their lack of happiness and fulfillment to their spouse.  When you get into these types of impasses where there are mountains of disappointing actions and inactions it is like the Biblical state of condemnation.  No matter what changes are made in any of the numerous imperfections it wouldn’t be enough to make things right.  Each one’s personal happiness and fulfillment had become a black hole of pain and disappointment that it seemed could never be filled.

As we were speaking I found myself reflecting on Denise and my experience over the past 35 years of marriage.  While we have had our challenges (most of them were products of my own immaturity) we have also had the best marriage I could have ever imagined (of course I am biased).  The fulfillment and satisfaction we have in our marriage is nothing short of miraculous.  It is obviously because of God and His grace guiding us through our imperfections and sin.  He has enabled us to see quickly the real issues when problems arise, given sorrow that lead to repentance, and continually healed us.  He has also opened our eyes to some very important foundations that couples often overlook when they become inflamed by selfishness.

One of the most important foundational truths we kept bringing the couple back to is important for every marriage, but also for every church.  Why is it a foundation of both?  Paul said in the above  passage (Eph 5:22-33) that God’s love and design for couples in marriage is similar to what He has designed for His church (Isa 61:10, 62:1-5, Jer 3:14, 7:34, 33:11, 2 Cor 11:2, Jn 3:29, Rev 19:7-9, 21:2 etc.)

This truth is something Jesus said over and over in His calling to follow Him.  “If we try to find life outside of laying down our life for His sake we will never find it, but if we “deny our self and lose our life for His sake will find it” (Matthew 10:39, Mark 8:34-35, Luke 9:24,  Luke 17:32-33, Jn 12:24-26).  The word “sake” in these passages means “cause or purpose.”  There has to be a higher cause than personal happiness and fulfillment that holds people together, works through challenges, and pushes aside self centeredness!  The good news is that when we lay our life down for His cause the very happiness and fulfillment we all desire actually ends up coming without our self interest sabotaging it.

For Denise and I God’s cause is to have a marriage that glorifies Him and is aGod's dream marriage healthy environment to raise children and influence grandchildren.  This cause also carries over into our leadership in the church (1 Tim 3:4-5) and our testimony of Christ to the world (Mt 5:14-15).

His cause/sake ends up being the dream we carry together.  We are not just married but we carry His dream together.  As we do the life and blessings of God far outweigh any sacrifices.

God’s dream for His church is to be a people through whom He reveals and fills the earth with His glory (Gen 1:26-28, Eph 1:22-23).  His dream is that His bride/church would come into a state of readiness for His return (Eph 5:25-27, Rev 19:7, 21:2).  A commitment to His dream causes fellow church members to not just go to church, but carry God’s dream together.

Going to Church together or Carrying God’s Dream together

Have you ever been introduced this way to someone by a fellow church member, “this is ___, we go to church together?”  There can be a range of meanings to the phrase “we go to church together.” It can mean simply attending the same meetings or serving together in some church capacity.  Carrying His dream together is much deeper than that.

Denise and I don’t just live in the same house or go to family meals together, we carry God’s dream.  The same should be true for church members.  I have a quote written in several places that shows God’s DNA for this approach to both marriage and church, “The deepest part of our heart longs to be bound together in some heroic purpose with others of like mind and spirit”  This was true at creation as Adam and Eve were to carry His dream together.   The only thing that God said wasn’t good in the garden of Eden was “for man to be alone.”  Aloneness is never His will.  God said He would make someone who would help him carry out His dream (Gen 2:18).

The early church had this experience.  They didn’t just attend meetings together.  They were “added and devoted in a way of life together” (Acts 2:41-47). By the time Acts 4 rolled around it says   And the congregation of those who believed were of one heart and soul Act 4:32 .   Barne’s commentary on this verse speaks of the early church having “one heart which denotes a tender union.  They felt alike, or were attached to the same things.”  One commentator said “they felt the same way about things.”  What things, serving God and carrying His dream together.

This is what it is like in both my marriage and people I have served with in local churches.  We are “of one heart and soul.”  We feel the same way about the cause of God we are carrying together.  We are willing to be patient, repent, obey the word, and put up with imperfections in each other because “we feel the same way” about His cause.   Glorifying God and carrying His dream together is an very important foundation.

 

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