The Church in Flux Part 1

At the time of this writing the World finds itself amid the Covid-19 Pandemic and we are very unsure of how to solve the illness without destroying the everyday facets of life. Church is on my mind and has been since we first started the “Shelter in Place” orders, how does this affect the Church? For us to tackle this question we need to understand Church (gatherings) from the Bible.

It is my passion that this Blog stay within the framework of Basic Bible Thoughts. My goal will always be to give my thoughts as I see them and attempt to keep them basic enough for all who read them.

Genesis 2: 15-18                               ESV

15 The LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it. 16 And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, 17 but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” 18 Then the LORD God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.” 

In the Garden, God’s presence walked with Adam. God placed within us a desire for fellowship, nourishment, and learning, all of which brings us to a sense of community. Adam was able to fellowship with God, “As he was walking in the Garden in the cool of the day”. God created Eve, “It is not good for man to be alone. Food was abundant everywhere they looked, “Adam, you and Eve can eat from every tree in the Garden but one.” Adam was trained in the ways of caring for this new Earth, “Adam, as you name the beast so it shall be called”.

Exodus 33: 7-10                 ESV

7 Now Moses used to take the tent and pitch it outside the camp, far off from the camp, and he called it the tent of meeting. And everyone who sought the LORD would go out to the tent of meeting, which was outside the camp. 8 Whenever Moses went out to the tent, all the people would rise up, and each would stand at his tent door, and watch Moses until he had gone into the tent. 9 When Moses entered the tent, the pillar of cloud would descend and stand at the entrance of the tent, and the LORD would speak with Moses. 10 And when all the people saw the pillar of cloud standing at the entrance of the tent, all the people would rise up and worship, each at his tent door. 

After the fall in the Garden things changed. We had separated ourselves from His presence. God spoke with Moses from time to time and through that relationship God was able to set His people free from Pharaoh, Egypt, and their life of slavery. He demonstrated His spirit and direction with a cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. 

When you needed to talk with God, you would walk out to the tent of meeting. When Moses went to talk with God the people watched from their own homes and saw God enter the tent by way of a cloud. The people would hold a worship service while Moses talked with God. So, now we see a different style of connection with God and yet we find: a desire for fellowship, nourishment, and learning.

1 Kings 8: various verses                               ESV

1 Then Solomon assembled the elders of Israel and all the heads of the tribes … to bring up the ark of the covenant of the LORD out of the city of David, which is Zion. 9 There was nothing in the ark except the two tablets of stone that Moses put there at Horeb, where the LORD made a covenant with the people of Israel, when they came out of the land of Egypt. 10 And when the priests came out of the Holy Place, a cloud filled the house of the LORD, 22 Then Solomon stood before the altar of the LORD in the presence of all the assembly of Israel and spread out his hands toward heaven, 23 and said, “O LORD, God of Israel, there is no God like you, in heaven above or on earth beneath, keeping covenant and showing steadfast love to your servants who walk before you with all their heart, 31 “If a man sins against his neighbor and is made to take an oath and comes and swears his oath before your altar in this house, 32 then hear in heaven and act and judge your servants, condemning the guilty by bringing his conduct on his own head, and vindicating the righteous by rewarding him according to his righteousness. 54 Now as Solomon finished offering all this prayer and plea to the LORD, he arose from before the altar of the LORD, where he had knelt with hands outstretched toward heaven.  65 So Solomon held the feast at that time, and all Israel with him, a great assembly.

God moves out of His temporary dwelling and into a building. When Moses placed the Ark in the tent, it carried three items; manna, a staff that bloomed, and the 10 commandments. At this time it appears that the provisions (manna) and new life (blooming staff), were no longer a part of the Ark. Time had once again changed how the people viewed God, he now was a God only of Laws. Solomon was changing the perspective of God, in verse 23, “there is no God like you, keeping covenants and showing steadfast love”. With all the changes, a new building, only the law in the Ark, and Solomon’s proclamation of forgiveness, we notice again a desire for fellowship, nourishment, and learning.

Matthew 16: 15-18                          ESV

15 He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” 16 Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” 17 And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. 18 And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. 

God’s physical presence is back on Earth in the form of Jesus. We are moving away from a Temple location for God, “In three days I will destroy this Temple and rebuild it”. The Church will be built on the understanding of Peter’s answer, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

Acts 2: 1-4                           ESV

1 When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. 2 And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. 3 And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. 4 And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance. 

Jesus left this World with a promise that he would send a Comforter, one who would direct us toward Himself. The Holy Spirit draws us closer into relationship with Him. God no longer lives outside the camp or inside a building, but he lives within us.

Acts 2: 42-46                      ESV

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, 

What did these people have in common? Let us look back at Jesus’ statement to Peter, “Upon this Rock I will build my church”, “You are the Christ the Son of God”. The Holy Spirit living inside these Temples (our very Soul) leading us to the fact that He died, which allows each individual to fellowship with Him. He became the Bread of Life so we could be nourished, and He left us the Holy Spirit to teach us how to follow Jesus.

We move into Church life next week.

Am I here to Glorify God?

Do we understand what it means, do we honestly understand what is involved in Glorifying God? I want to borrow an example I heard from John Piper.  

Let us imagine Adam and Eve before they ate of the fruit as having mirrors on their chest. These mirrors are aimed in a 45-degree angle. As God’s light shines down on Adam’s heart it hits the mirror and is reflected outwardly to Eve. And now imagine Eve with this same mirror pointed at the same angle, it also reflects God’s light into Adam. The beauty they find in each other comes not from themselves and their actions but from the creator who shines his light down upon them.

Turn your thoughts toward the time Adam and Eve partake of the fruit from the ‘Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil’, imagine them slowly turning their back with each bite of the fruit. Satan has convinced them that they can show forth their own glory. As they turn, the light no longer reflects off the mirror but hits their back which places a dark shadow on the ground. God’s light no longer reflecting off them but instead darkness fills a spot on the Earth in their own image. They now glory in the work of that image on the Earth. They plant and grow food to survive, clothing to wear and build shelters to protect themselves.

At times, our shadow grows and displays long legs and long arms. The belief is that we are reaching farther and moving faster to create amazing works. Here is an example of someone who’s shadow grows larger.

Daniel 4: 28-30                  ESV

28 All this came upon King Nebuchadnezzar. 29 At the end of twelve months he was walking on the roof of the royal palace of Babylon, 30 and the king answered and said, “Is not this great Babylon, which I have built by my mighty power as a royal residence and for the glory of my majesty?” 

At other times, our shadow may seem so small it barely reaches past our feet. We are no longer affecting anyone or anything around us. We are not sure we can even care for ourselves. What is the purpose of living if we are so broken, if we no longer have any influence or value in this World?

Luke 8: 43                            ESV

43 And there was a woman who had had a discharge of blood for twelve years, and though she had spent all her living on physicians, she could not be healed by anyone. 

This woman had tried everything within her own influence to remove this illness. Looking even beyond herself; a Friend, a Pastor, or a Doctor. She used up all the money she had earned in an attempt to resolve it. Her physical Illness did not allow her to be social. She could not visit church or become a part of any gathering without shame. She was valueless, unwanted, and ashamed.

2 Corinthians 4: 3-7                         ESV

3 And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled only to those who are perishing. 4 In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. 5 For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. 6 For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness, “has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. 7 But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.

The light of the Gospel is the Glory of our Lord Jesus Christ, for we do not shine forth from our own selves, but we allow the light of serving Jesus to shine through us.

Daniel 4: 34-35                  ESV

34 At the end of the days I, Nebuchadnezzar, lifted my eyes to heaven, and my reason returned to me, and I blessed the Most High, and praised and honored him who lives forever, for his dominion is an everlasting dominion, and his kingdom endures from generation to generation; 35 all the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, and he does according to his will among the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay his hand or say to him, “What have you done?” 

God took Nebuchadnezzar through some exceedingly difficult times after he proclaims, “Look at what I have built”. Through the struggle he realized who the true creator of life is. He lifted his eyes, or we could say he turned his heart toward God, allowing his mirror to reflect God’s Glory as it was intended from the beginning.

Luke 8: 47-48      ESV

47 And when the woman saw that she was not hidden, she came trembling, and falling down before him declared in the presence of all the people why she had touched him, and how she had been immediately healed. 48 And he said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace.”

Read through that passage one more time and focus in on the first phrase, “When the woman saw that she was not hidden”. Value was return to her, she had to push her way to Jesus on hands and knees for the opportunity to touch but the hem of His garment. God’s only requirement of us is that we daily acknowledge Him as our only source. Her life was changed forever, not due to anything she had accomplished. Her life was changed forever because she turned her mirror (her heart) toward God again and the light of His Glory reflected off of her.

1 Corinthians 13: 12-13

12 For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known. 13 So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

Sadly, our mirror is not exceptionally clean, focused, or clear of smudges. Due to the original sin in our lives it is hard for us to show God’s full Glory. Read over all of 1 Corinthians 13 and learn about the light that is Jesus and let us turn our mirrors toward Him. The closer our relationship with God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, the more reflective we can become of His Glory. The day is coming when we will return to the garden, walking with God. I am so looking forward to that day.

Hope, the Light in the Dark

“I hope many of you will read and grow in your walk with God”. Not sure how you feel but that really sounded more like a wish than a hope. Wishing has more to do with a desire that possibly things will be better: making a wish before blowing out candles, throwing pennies in a fountain, breaking a chicken wish bone. Finding hope, unlike wishes, does not involve luck but may involve some pain and suffering to our own abilities.

Psalms 33: 16-22               ESV

16 The king is not saved by his great army; a warrior is not delivered by his great strength. 17 The war horse is a false hope for salvation, and by its great might it cannot rescue. 18 Behold, the eye of the LORD is on those who fear him, on those who hope in his steadfast love, 19 that he may deliver their soul from death and keep them alive in famine. 20 Our soul waits for the LORD; he is our help and our shield. 21 For our heart is glad in him, because we trust in his holy name. 22 Let your steadfast love, O LORD, be upon us, even as we hope in you.

I hear this phrase often, “I hope I win the lottery.” The hope is that this large amount of money will allow me to buy all the happiness, safety, and fulfillment life has to offer. I could even give to the poor and rescue those without means, becoming their savior. In our passage above; a great army, great strength, and the war horse were considered prized procession, they were the difference in winning or losing the battle. Even if all their great might, they could not guarantee a safe rescue. Instead of resting our hope in our own human strength, place that hope in His unwavering love. God will deliver us out of the worst that this World can throw at us. Hopelessness brings a loss of desire, a loss of justice, and a loss of passion, without hope our next step becomes dark, unknowing and lifeless.

Jeremiah 29: 11                 ESV

11 For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. 

Jeremiah, is a well know prophet and you have heard this passage before Did you know that the prophet is asked by God to give news regarding 70 years of slavery and imprisonment for the children of Israel. The leaders refused to accept Jeremiah’s “Word from the Lord”. Instead they found other men who would give them prophecies more in common with birthday wishes. They spoke of overcoming the enemy, becoming a strong nation and how their great army and war horses are enough, we can do this in our own strength. Jeremiah is telling them that Babylon will rule over them and they will be salves for 70 years. God will deliver them but not until 70 years have passed. He tells them to have hope, marry, have children and have grandchildren. You will be restored; you can move forward and God’s unwavering love will be with each step you take.

Romans 5: 3-6                    ESV

3 More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5 and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. 6 For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. 

We make wishes at each birthday with the desire that the next year will be better than the previous year. The truth is that it is suffering that makes us stronger not happiness. “In this World, you will struggle”, we find that truth in the book of James, the step-brother of Jesus. It does not read, “In this World you will be happy.” And, who would know that better than the step-brother of Jesus.

These struggles produce in us character. I love to see plays, movies and at one time I did a little acting. You want the audience to understand the character you are playing. What is their personality, their temperament, their psyche, and you want that character to have a certain stamp that identifies them each time they are seen. Living through struggles will build our stamp. Our stamp will be one of self-reliance or total reliance on God. When our reliance is on God, we are not looking for a way out, but a hope that He will lead us through. That God-reliant stamp will produce in us real and lasting Hope that gives glory to God.

Romans 8: 24, 25, 28                       ESV

24 For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience. 28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. 

The Gospel (the Good News) is where we find our hope. That the Son of God would leave heaven and become a man. That He would live and He would die. Think about that for a moment we find hope in death. This Son of God, Jesus Christ was murdered, buried, resurrected and has made a way for us to walk in fellowship with Jesus once again. Jesus is our only hope, are only light in the darkness! Real Hope is found in dying to self each day and living for Jesus. What Stamp is seen on your life? Where do you place your hope?

I am Profoundly Unimpressed with Myself!

I was raised in a Christian home, loved on by Christian parents, and accepted Christ at an early age. You might think this means I have some advantages, maybe even an inside track to the Holiness of God. You would be totally incorrect. I am profoundly unimpressed with myself! I don’t pray, read, or connect with Jesus often enough, taking my relationship for granted. I say things too quickly, they hurt and sting. I often rely on my own strength and power instead of going to God first. Even Solomon with all his wisdom was profoundly unimpressed with his life. Are their others?

Psalms 51: various sections                                          ESV

1 Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions. 2 Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin! 

3 For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me. 5 Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me. 7 Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. 9 Hide your face from my sins and blot out all my iniquities. 10 Create in me a clean heart, O God, 12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit. 17 The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise. 

David, after several years as King of Israel and years of defeating the enemy takes a walk on his rooftop overlooking his kingdom. He steals the wife of Uriah and then had her husband murdered. Living life for his own pleasure instead of searching out the pleasure of God for his life. He was profoundly unimpressed with himself.

Isaiah 6: 5-7                        ESV

5 And I said: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!” 6 Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a burning coal that he had taken with tongs from the altar. 7 And he touched my mouth and said: “Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for.”

Isaiah, one of the most well-known prophets and writers of the Old Testament who wrote so many prophecy’s concerning Jesus, speaks of being a man with unclean lips. You see, Isaiah pinned this so well and yet he is unimpressed with his own words. When we compare ourselves to this World, we can look pretty good, but when we compare ourselves to the wonders of God, we are not worthy. The worst gift you can receive at Christmas is coal, this means you were unworthy of anything with value. Coal was so common you found it inside every home. God uses the unworthy to demonstrate His value and worth.

Luke 5: 7-8; 22: 60-62                     ESV

7 They signaled to their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both the boats, so that they began to sink. 8 But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.” 

60 But Peter said, “Man, I do not know what you are talking about.” And immediately, while he was still speaking, the rooster crowed. 61 And the Lord turned and looked at Peter. And Peter remembered the saying of the Lord, how he had said to him, “Before the rooster crows today, you will deny me three times.” 62 And he went out and wept bitterly.

The passage in chapter 5 is early in the ministry, Peter looking into Jesus’ eyes, falls to his knees and is no longer impressed with himself. Something happens to Peter over the next few years of walking daily with Jesus, Peter blinds himself to who he truly is. He saw himself as the greatest of the disciples holding a seat at the right hand of Jesus. We hear Peter say the words, “Jesus I am willing to die for you!” You can see in chapter 22 that Peter after denying any knowledge of Jesus several times, takes a glance toward Jesus and their eyes meet again. Peter is no longer profoundly impressed with himself; he is a broken man.

Philippians 3: 7-9                              ESV

7 But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. 8 Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith– 

Paul, circumcised on the eighth day, the tribe of Benjamin, Hebrew of Hebrews, with an understanding of the law, and full of zeal. He counted every advantage in his religious walk and decided that next to Jesus it is profoundly unimpressive! Not only laid beside Jesus but just laid beside the knowledge of knowing Jesus. He did not find his worth in his own abilities, but he found surpassing worth in the knowledge of Jesus Christ. Understanding that this knowledge depends on faith, trust, and a desire to have a relationship with Him.

1 Corinthians 2: 1-5                         ESV

1 And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. 2 For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. 

3 And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, 4 and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, 

5 that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.