Sunday, September 1, 2019


THE HIGHER GROUND.

An Introduction to Spiritual Unity Today. 
by
Dr. Marc S. Blackwell, Sr.

Dedication: to my Irish Brethren. 

EPHESIANS 4:3 “Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”
Ephesians 4:1 
 “I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, 2 with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, 3 endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. 4 There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling; 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism; 6 one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.” (nkjv)

The unity of the Spirit is a relationship with the Spirit and a Biblical truth that can take us to genuinely “higher” or truly edifying “ground" if maintained in the “bond of peace. 

By suggesting "higher ground" as a goal, I am suggesting "going forward" - as David Livingstone was known for saying: 'Anywhere, so long as it is forward.” Livingstone was committed to this idea in both the geographical and the spiritual sense. We join him, in this study, by considering the spiritual applications of “reaching forward to those things that are ahead.”  Looking back may seem useful but it is certainly not the principle focus of those who are endeavouring to maintain the ‘unity of the Spirit.’  

Philippians 3:12 
“Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. 13 Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, 14 I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” (nkjv) 

The blessings available to all those who minister in the Name of the Lord -- as a result of 'spiritual unity' -- will only be clearly observable in our ministries and teamwork efforts when and where we publicly and obviously demonstrate the principle of living peaceably with all men through Christian love, honest communication and reasonable cooperation. 

Romans 12:17 
“Repay no one evil for evil. Have regard for good things in the sight of all men. 18 If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men. 19 Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. 20 Therefore
“If your enemy is hungry, feed him; If he is thirsty, give him a drink;
For in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head.”
21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (nkjv)

We want to observe how (i.) effective communication, (ii.) cooperation, (iii.) planning and (iv.) strategic thinking are vital to any truly Biblical mission. These are Biblical behaviours and as such are organisational expectations that are believed by Christian leaders to be normal. Biblical truth is vital but Biblical attitudes are equally vital and necessary. 
1 Corinthians 16:5 
 (i.) effective communication, “Now I will come to you when I pass through Macedonia (for I am passing through Macedonia). 6 And it may be that I will remain, or even spend the winter with you, that you may send me on my journey, wherever I go. (ii.) cooperation, 7 For I do not wish to see you now on the way; but I hope to stay a while with you, if the Lord permits. 8 But I will tarry in Ephesus until Pentecost. (iii.) planning  9 For a great and effective door has opened to me, and there are many adversaries. (iv.) strategic thinking, 10 And if Timothy comes, see that he may be with you without fear; for he does the work of the Lord, as I also do. 11 Therefore let no one despise him. But send him on his journey in peace, that he may come to me; for I am waiting for him with the brethren. (nkjv) 12 Now concerning our brother Apollos, I strongly urged him to come to you with the brethren, but he was quite unwilling to come at this time; however, he will come when he has a convenient time.
13 Watch, stand fast in the faith, be brave, be strong. 14 Let all that you do be done with love.
15 I urge you, brethren—you know the household of Stephanas, that it is the firstfruits of Achaia, and that they have devoted themselves to the ministry of the saints—16 that you also submit to such, and to everyone who works and labours with us. 17 I am glad about the coming of Stephanas, Fortunatus, and Achaicus, for what was lacking on your part they supplied. 18 For they refreshed my spirit and yours. Therefore acknowledge such men. (nkjv)

Not everyone’s personality will be easy for you to accept or for you to work easily with or especially to work along side of one another!  Christian service and ministry require a desire to understand others and forgive others. The give and take that is born from mutual respect, honesty and love is essential. Living life under the control of the Spirit of God (Ephesians 5:18-21 and Galatians 5:22-26) calls for us to live on a higher level than that which we see in the world (Ephesians 4:-17-32.)

2 Corinthians 13:11
 “…. Become complete. Be of good comfort, be of one mind, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you. 12 Greet one another with a holy kiss. 13 All the saints greet you. 14 The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.” (nkjv)

Spiritual Unity results from, among other things, prayerful and humble reconciliation. Honesty of Christian Character leads us to be tender and kind toward each other and to be forgiving. Time does not heal, time only hides matters. Only God's grace in action in our lives by the Spirit and by working together and through the Word Of God can and will change our hearts. The “bond of peace”

Colossians 3:12
 Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; 13 bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do. 14 But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection. 15 And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body; and be thankful. 16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. 17 And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him. (nkjv)

Biblical truth is not just a matter of doctrine but Biblical Truth also speaks of our living truly, or ethically, according to the revealed Word of God. Of course, we all recognise that all doctrines are not equally important to our Christian service or to our individual Christian teamwork. Our collective direction needs to be found in three dimensions of truth: the revealed Word, the applied Word and the declared Word. Understanding the need to “move forward” in our relationships with others is more than just sheer determination to ignore or or somehow to work around others with whom we by God's grace have been drawn to include. 

Philemon, 4
 “I thank my God, making mention of you always in my prayers, 5 hearing of your love and faith which you have toward the Lord Jesus and toward all the saints, 6 that the sharing of your faith may become effective by the acknowledgment of every good thing which is in you in Christ Jesus. 7 For we have great joy and consolation in your love, because the hearts of the saints have been refreshed by you, brother.
8 Therefore, though I might be very bold in Christ to command you what is fitting, 9 yet for love’s sake I rather appeal to you—being such a one as Paul, the aged, and now also a prisoner of Jesus Christ—10 I appeal to you for my son Onesimus, whom I have begotten while in my chains, 11 who once was unprofitable to you, but now is profitable to you and to me.
12 I am sending him back. You therefore receive him, that is, my own heart, 13 whom I wished to keep with me, that on your behalf he might minister to me in my chains for the gospel. 14 But without your consent I wanted to do nothing, that your good deed might not be by compulsion, as it were, but voluntary.
15 For perhaps he departed for a while for this purpose, that you might receive him forever, 16 no longer as a slave but more than a slave—a beloved brother, especially to me but how much more to you, both in the flesh and in the Lord.”(nkjv)

To be a consistent and conservative, Bible-believing Christian is to be committed to demonstrating our love and our true compatibility toward all other believers within a normal circle of sound Biblical fellowship.

1 Peter 4:7
”But the end of all things is at hand; therefore be serious and watchful in your prayers. 
And above all things have fervent love for one another, for “love will cover a multitude of sins.” 
Be hospitable to one another without grumbling.”  (nkjv)

 If we place others outside of our circle of communication, cooperation or fellowship due to: (i.) our frustrations with their inconsistencies, (ii.) our disrespect for their choices, or (iii.) even our concerns about their weaker theological views, we will only weaken overall all that we are attempting to do by the grace of God. If, for what ever reasons we might recognise or if due to whatever errors we ultimately can not resolve between each other, we become isolated - Satan wins that round. 

2 Thessalonians 3:1
 “Finally, brethren, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may run swiftly and be glorified, just as it is with you, 2 and that we may be delivered from unreasonable and wicked men; for not all have faith. 3 But the Lord is faithful, who will establish you and guard you from the evil one. 4 And we have confidence in the Lord concerning you, both that you do and will do the things we command you.
5 Now may the Lord direct your hearts into the love of God and into the patience of Christ.

To think honestly, orderly and efficiently we must deal with the real surface challenges in our live and ministries. Only by growing in the grace and knowledge of Christ can we improve our spiritual walk and our spiritual models. Only once we are willing to grow - [at what ever stage or age in life we might find ourselves] -  can we foster further Christian dialogue and be a party to the nurturing of the personal vision of others with which we have to do. Only by the personal edification and the building of shared visions in concert with others - with family members, co-workers, others concerned and committed to Christ can we expect to know the blessings of the Lord on our ministries. 

2 Peter 3:14 
“Therefore, beloved, looking forward to these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace, without spot and blameless; 15 and consider that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation—as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given to him, has written to you, 16 as also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which untaught and unstable people twist to their own destruction, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures.
17 You therefore, beloved, since you know this beforehand, beware lest you also fall from your own steadfastness, being led away with the error of the wicked; 18 but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
To Him be the glory both now and forever. Amen.” (nkjv)


The collective or shared objective of any one of us who call ourselves missionaries should not be that 'unique' from all the others. The Gospel message needs be heard in simplicity! Christianity was never meant to be accomplished through our human complexities, academic influence or even our personal uniqueness. If the Gospel message is to advance it must do so by the Word and the Spirit and our submissiveness to the Lord and to our brethren. 

The theory and method underlying our missionary work must demonstrate what is possible when Christians leaders, churches and organisations 
… are willing to work together! 

2 Corinthians 11:1
 “Oh, that you would bear with me in a little folly—and indeed you do bear with me. 2 For I am jealous for you with godly jealousy. For I have betrothed you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ. 3 But I fear, lest somehow, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, so your minds may be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ. 4 For if he who comes preaches another Jesus whom we have not preached, or if you receive a different spirit which you have not received, or a different gospel which you have not accepted—you may well put up with it!” (nkjv)

2 Thessalonians 3:6 
“But we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you withdraw from every brother who walks disorderly and not according to the tradition which he received from us. 7 For you yourselves know how you ought to follow us, for we were not disorderly among you; 8 nor did we eat anyone’s bread free of charge, but worked with labor and toil night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you, 9 not because we do not have authority, but to make ourselves an example of how you should follow us. 10 For even when we were with you, we commanded you this: If anyone will not work, neither shall he eat. 11 For we hear that there are some who walk among you in a disorderly manner, not working at all, but are busybodies. 12 Now those who are such we command and exhort through our Lord Jesus Christ that they work in quietness and eat their own bread.
13 But as for you, brethren, do not grow weary in doing good. 14 And if anyone does not obey our word in this epistle, note that person and do not keep company with him, that he may be ashamed. 15 Yet do not count him as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother.” (nkjv)

Separation from personal and ecclesiastical compromise along with exposing heresy has its place, but a Christian's weaknesses, or judgment errors and personal inexperience are not matters of doctrinal heresy - not by any definition! Unless genuine Christian believers are also able to recognise the commonness of their basic beliefs - spiritual unity is a meaningless ideal.  

2 Peter 2: 1 
“But there were also false prophets among the people, even as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Lord who bought them, and bring on themselves swift destruction. 2 And many will follow their destructive ways, because of whom the way of truth will be blasphemed. 3 By covetousness they will exploit you with deceptive words; for a long time their judgment has not been idle, and their destruction does not slumber.” (nkjv)

If we are not able to integrate our basic ministries and find a reasonableness in handling our organisational needs our isolation will 'speak' against us! The spirit of evangelism, outreach and unity in the Book of the Acts of the Apostles calls us to share with one another and care for one another! By serving together we can strengthen our ability to learn together and then we can lead our ministries and our brethren to a more responsible and even greater capability - one that brings eternal glory to our Lord.

1 Corinthians 3:1 
“And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual people but as to carnal, as to babes in Christ. 2 I fed you with milk and not with solid food; for until now you were not able to receive it, and even now you are still not able; 3 for you are still carnal. For where there are envy, strife, and divisions among you, are you not carnal and behaving like mere men? 4 For when one says, “I am of Paul,” and another, “I am of Apollos,” are you not carnal?  5 Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers through whom you believed, as the Lord gave to each one? 6 I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase. 7 So then neither he who plants is anything, nor he who waters, but God who gives the increase. 8 Now he who plants and he who waters are one, and each one will receive his own reward according to his own labor.  9 For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, you are God’s building. 10 According to the grace of God which was given to me, as a wise master builder I have laid the foundation, and another builds on it. 
But let each one take heed how he builds on it.” (nkjv) 

We need to consider one-another’s heart attitudes and also consider the need for resolution of any personal and ministry misunderstandings if we are to be responsible and prayerfully humble in accomplishing our ministry’s Vision for the Future. Christ is coming... soon! Will he find us faithful to our mission our calling and to the message of salvation, sanctification and hope? 

1 Corinthians 4:1
 “Let a man so consider us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. 2 Moreover it is required in stewards that one be found faithful.” (nkjv) 

Is it possible, rather that our Lord will find us inefficient, ineffective and frustrated by our circumstances? How can the Christians (and unbelievers) to whom we minister be able to ignore what they know is unresolved between their region’s leadership? Christians, young and old alike, can recognise ...in their hearts, when the state of our relationships is excluding the ‘Higher Ground ‘ that is taught in Eph. 4 or Phil. 2? How can they serve, commit and share the Gospel freely and with power while remaining under the cloud of a leadership seemingly incapable or unwilling to reconcile one with the other? 

1 Corinthians 4:16 
“Therefore I urge you, imitate me. 17 For this reason I have sent Timothy to you, who is my beloved and faithful son in the Lord, who will remind you of my ways in Christ, as I teach everywhere in every church. 18 Now some are puffed up, as though I were not coming to you. 19 But I will come to you shortly, if the Lord wills, and I will know, not the word of those who are puffed up, but the power. 20 For the kingdom of God is not in word but in power. 21 What do you want? Shall I come to you with a rod, or in love and a spirit of gentleness?” (nkjv)

Summary thoughts: Time does not heal, time hides but only God's grace in action in lives by the Spirit and the Word changes hearts. We must all agree that the Word of God by the Spirit of God can guide us all into what I am calling the ‘Higher Ground’ of love and service in Christ Jesus. The best term that describes this matter is the Biblical terminology: "the unity of the Spirit." 

  • Spiritual Unity results from, among other things, prayerful and humble reconciliation. 
  • living peaceably with all men through Christian love, honest communication and reasonable cooperation.
  • Not everyone’s personality will be easy for you to work easily with or even more so to work along side of one another! 
  • (i.) Effective communication, (ii.) Cooperation, (iii.) Planning along with (iv.) Strategic thinking are vital.
  • Biblical truth is not just a matter of doctrine but Biblical Truth also speaks of our living truly, or ethically.
  • The collective objective of any one of us who call ourselves missionaries should not be 'unique' from all the others. 
  • If we place others outside of our circle of communication, cooperation or fellowship due to: (i.) our frustrations with their inconsistencies, (ii.) our disrespect for their choices, or (iii.) even our concerns about their weaker theological views, we will only weaken overall all that we are attempting to do by the grace of God.
  • A Christian's weaknesses, or judgment errors and personal inexperience are not matters of doctrinal heresy.
  • By serving together we can strengthen our ability to learn together and then we can lead our ministries and our brethren to more responsible and greater capabilities that can bring eternal glory to our Lord.
  • Christ is coming... soon! 
  • How can the Christians to whom we minister be able to ignore what they know is unresolved between their leaders?
  • ‘Higher Ground’ of love and service in Christ Jesus.
  • The best term that describes this matter is the Biblical terminology: 
"the unity of the Spirit." 
—————————————————————————————-


Thursday, March 7, 2019

DISCOVERING THE FAITHFUL IN HISTORY
by Dr. Marc S. Blackwell Sr.
Where once ... Christ was our Mediator & Highpriest and we His priesthood ...
When once ... Pastors became Bishops who became ‘Priests mediating’ ...
Then once ... in time, ‘the church’ claimed to mediate on behalf of all ...
For once ... voices were raised in Reformation furor against error ...
For now ... Worship is believed by many to be our ‘mediator’ ...
To HIM ... His salvation, His Heavenly Session and Mediation ...
Let us return! 
THE AGE OF GRACE...
The New Testament churches looked by faith alone to Christ alone for the grace and hope of salvation! This beginning to the Age of Grace was one of personal faith based on the liberty or competency and responsibility of the soul. Individual salvation was accomplished by God’s grace alone, accomplished through the Holy Spirit’s regeneration and resulting in His indwelling and sanctifying ministry. The believer was viewed as being a priest (1 Peter 2:5; Revelation 1:6: 5:10) with the ministry of prayerful intercession and direct worship accomplished and available through Christ as the believer’s mediator and Highpriest. 
THE CHURCH AGE...
The New Testament period’s churches’ Worship was focused around the Priesthood of Believers and their open access in prayer to God and receiving the New Covenant’s message for this Age of Grace: being humble prayer and reverent, orderly and simple worship. Such fellowship or ‘communion’ or worship with God was focused on the preaching and teaching and singing of the true Truths of the Word of God. Worship included corporate and reverent prayers of thanksgiving, intercession, confession and contrition. “Public” worship was in reality semi-private and the focus was not one of primarily inviting an unsaved “public” to attend the churches. The Gospel was primarily addressed for the edification of the believer as a rehearsal for their equipping as evangelists. Evangelism primarily took place in the homes and “market places” of the world. 
THE AGE OF A BELIEVER'S PRIESTHOOD ...
This early church, following the Scriptures, knew only of Pastors and Deacons. These servants of the church were mandated to care for the flock and to serve the needs of the saints. No authority was granted them or any others that would diminish the finished work of Christ or dilute the ministry of the Holy Spirit or remove the believer’s role as a priest before God. The “means of receiving grace” was limited to Christ’s atoning propitiating death and His resurrection power. Christ Jesus was viewed as the only Mediator between God and man. The ability, responsibility and opportunity for believing Christians to approach God in prayer was accepted as a universal right of all believers founded in the invitation of Christ Himself. 
Then, the ‘Priesthood of the Believer’ was an accepted Biblical teaching that opened simple and direct access to God, through the Name or authority of the Lord Jesus Christ alone. Through the individual Christian’s prayers and through the public prayers of the saints the simplicity of faith was maintained. No spiritual power was recognised in either baptism or communion and there were no officers viewed as being able to provide spiritual life or strength. Nothing other than faith was viewed as necessary to allow the believer to receive the benefits of God’s Grace. The Bible was at the centre of early Christian Worship.
These were a few 'Introductory thoughts' - to 'Step One' in a series of "steps" of a study-course we've entitled: Discovering the Faithful in History. Future segments will appear here & on ... facebook: Church Planting in the Western Cape Province, Suid-Afrika 
Your comments are appreciated.
drMSBsr

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Understanding the local New Testament Church and your family.


Understanding the local New Testament Church 

and 

your family. 


The New Testament church is a gathering focused on worshipping the only true and living God:

A Christian form of personal and family management takes special care to consider the Scriptures teaching regarding our moral, ethical and spiritual responsibilities and limitations. Thinking Biblically, and thus responsibly, includes one having a basic commitment to regular long-term and medium-term planning and it includes managing the short-term use of our time as well. Thinking Biblically out of love leads to thinking responsibly, but this type of thought includes the elements of faith, and hope that is clearly tentative in the sense that it is conditioned on the providential will of God.

If one is given tomorrow, given life and blessed by God to do this or that then one plans, prepares and even trains to do this and that – God willing by using our time wisely.

To be able to pro-actively think, serve or care for other’s needs, we must have available useable time.

Time needs to be understood in terms of our personal choices. These time choices are compartmentalised into “bytes,” minutes, moments, ‘blocks’ of time.

Time is more “than money” it is life lived and through Christ, and as such time has real and true eternal value. 2 Cor. 5.

1st. Worship includes prayers, singing and considering the truth of God’s Word;

2nd. Worship includes assembling or fellowshipping with those of like faith and practice who are given to the care and edification of one another.

3rd. Worship includes teaching, discipleship and building-up our one-another in lives consistent to God‘s Word;

Finally, Worship includes living as mission-driven believers - committed to witnessing to a lost, wicked and confused world.

Living as mission-driven believers calls on each of us to be truly thankful for our salvation and for God's help or life- changing Grace of God

Ephesians 3 and4 underscores these basic elements. The practical outworking of the church’s ministry requires a teamwork focus and spirit.

Living as a mission-driven believers calls us to be active as Christian couples, households teams, and by using special cooperative teams.

First Thessalonians 2:7,11, with Paul’s references to his methodology of care as like that of a family, opens our thoughts to the potentiality of our families

Learning to be a "Christian Family" means learning to operating as spiritual units or teams within the greater ministry of the local church, 1 Cor. 16:15.

“Family teams” are teams committed to:
[a.] real personal change,

[b.] real spiritual growth, and

[c.] shared service to the believers and the Gospel
(Romans 16:1-15), were an essential part of the early church.

Individual and family team vision building, i.e. that is a “vision shared” or partnered with each other as Christians (1 Cor. 16:10, 16-17,19)

Family Teams must be “modeled”  within the local church and include definite or specific Christian action.

Maintaining a sense of urgency – (Colossians 4:2-17)

Encouraging genuine commitment to the Gospel, Biblical integrity and living by sharing the truth is essential to these "family teams."

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

QUESTIONS EVERY CHURCH SHOULD ASK.


Responses that seem to be alluding so many believers in otherwise good churches.
by 

Dr. Marc S. Blackwell, Sr. 

(Cape Town)


1: How can my Local church best serve Christ?  Discussing the Place (or Role) of Togetherness.



  • How were the First Century Teams formed and focused on the work before them?    
                        We might want to consider if our Bible-believing congregation shouldn't take the time to enter into an open discussion of the importance of their own togetherness. Possibly the pastor could lead a series of 'Small Group Home Bible Studies" to better engage his congregation in considering these truths and their importance for the health and well-being of the body of Christ in his care as their under-shepherd (1 Peter 5:1-4) 

The sense of togetherness among the early Christians and among the Apostles, Evangelists, Deacons and other congregational individuals and families can be easily recognised by observing a few key words or phrases (see the bold sections below.)

We might want to discuss how we as 21st Century churches could best apply or put this spirit of strategic cooperation and 'non-formal' organisation into action. Considering or recognising the role of the women, especially the more mature spiritual women and "whatever business" these godly ladies could be doing to aid and encourage the congregation or might could do to evangelise other women, youth or children. Often our churches can be so focused on the "personality" or leadership style of a pastor or of his unique preaching style that we fail to understand the importance of the many "fellow workers" - couples, individuals and teams - that literally bring a congregation to life (See later Ephesians 4:10-16). 

To show or communicate our genuine public thankfulness for every Christian's service is so very important to the consistent health of any church. The unique role of the early converts (the first fruits) is often overlooked and the vital place of evangelism [do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry2 Tim 4:1-5]  ... can be overlooked or left for periodic rather than on-going attention. 
(Romans 16:1–6) "I commend to you Phoebe our sister, who is a servant of the church in Cenchrea, 2 that you may receive her in the Lord in a manner worthy of the saints, and assist her in whatever business she has need of you; for indeed she has been a helper of many and of myself also. 3 Greet Priscilla and Aquila, my fellow workers in Christ Jesus, 4 who risked their own necks for my life, to whom not only I give thanks, but also all the churches of the Gentiles. 5 Likewise greet the church that is in their house. Greet my beloved Epaenetus, who is the firstfruits of Achaia to Christ. 6 Greet Mary, who labored much for us. 
  • How do we guide individuals & our congregation toward Biblical paradigms of self-less service?           
We might want to discuss how we can best guide our congregation to see the importance of service to their own spiritual growth. The selflessness of Christ is not an academic matter to be believed but rather a practical commitment to others in Christ. (See: 1 John 1:6-7 and 2 Corinthians 8:1-9) The selflessness of Christ (Philippians 2:1-8) is an imperative for the sincere Christian and the Christ-like congregation. 1 John 2: 3 "Now by this we know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments. 4 He who says, “I know Him,” and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. 5 But whoever keeps His word, truly the love of God is perfected in him. By this we know that we are in Him. 6 He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as He walked." nkjv
(Romans 16:7-16) Greet Andronicus and Junia, my countrymen and my fellow prisoners, who are of note among the apostles, who also were in Christ before me. 8 Greet Amplias, my beloved in the Lord. 9 Greet Urbanus, our fellow worker in Christ, and Stachys, my beloved. 10 Greet Apelles, approved in Christ. Greet those who are of the household of Aristobulus. 11 Greet Herodion, my countryman. Greet those who are of the household of Narcissus who are in the Lord. 12 Greet Tryphena and Tryphosa, who have labored in the Lord. Greet the beloved Persis, who labored much in the Lord. 13 Greet Rufus, chosen in the Lord, and his mother and mine. 14 Greet Asyncritus, Phlegon, Hermas, Patrobas, Hermes, and the brethren who are with them. 15 Greet Philologus and Julia, Nereus and his sister, and Olympas, and all the saints who are with them. 16 Greet one another with a holy kiss. The churches of Christ greet you. 
 We might want to discuss some negative realities that can also guide us away from selfish dangers. It is hard, genuinely hard, for sincere and younger believers to understand the dangers related to gossip, those with "other agendas" and some with sins - not obvious or known or understood by the "novice" believer or rather should we say the new or less expereinced believer. 

Then to, the matter of "obedience" or submission ( Ephesians 5:15-21) the discussion should also turn to the meaning of Hebrews 13:5-7 & 17. We all recognize that our post-modern world struggles to get past its philosophic sense of personal rights and freedoms and this struggle has an effect on one's individual spiritual growth and in this way also directly impacts the marriage, family, congregation and society. The advice of Paul in 1 Corinthians 11:1-5 "Imitate me, just as (or to the degree that) I also imitate Christ. 2 Now I praise you, brethren, that you remember me in all things and keep the (i.e. true Truth of God's Inspired Word) traditions just as I delivered them to you. 3 But I want you to know that the head of every man is Christ, the head of woman is man, and the head of Christ is God." We, of course, live in societies that are filled with mistrust, mistrust toward the church in certain specific areas, the Bible, pastors, other authorities in our society and even in the marriage and the family. (Compare: 1 Timothy 5:1-22; Ephesians 5:22 to 6:4). The thought needs to be considered as to what lifestyles and choices 'open the doors' or lead us all to depend upon and look to the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Romans 16:17-20 "Now I urge you, brethren, note those who cause divisions and offenses, contrary to the doctrine which you learned, and avoid them. 18 For those who are such do not serve our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly, and by smooth words and flattering speech deceive the hearts of the simple. 19 For your obedience has become known to all. [Also see  Hebrews 13:17) Therefore I am glad on your behalf; but I want you to be wise in what is good, and simple concerning evil. 20 And the God of peace will crush Satan under your feet shortly. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. Amen." (nkjv)

    2: What can my Local Church do to better communicate to Christ’s glory: The importance of Honesty.

    • How can we best resolve the cross-cultural barriers between “expat” Missionaries and their congregations? 


    We might want to discuss the realities of working across cultural borders, traditions and communication "barriers" "...as I have given orders to the churches of Galatia, so you must do also:" (1 Corinthians 16:1–2).nkjv  
    "I will send to bear your gift to Jerusalem: (1 Corinthians 16:3) nkjv. 
    1 Corinthians 16:10 "And if Timothy comes, see that he may be with you without fear; for he does the work of the Lord, as I also do. 11 Therefore let no one despise him. But send him on his journey in peace, that he may come to me; for I am waiting for him with the brethren. 12 Now concerning our brother Apollos, I strongly urged him to come to you with the brethren, but he was quite unwilling to come at this time; however, he will come when he has a convenient time." (1 Corinthians 16:10–12).nkjv

    ADDICTED TO ....?

    13 Watch, stand fast in the faith, be brave, be strong. 14 Let all that you do be done with love.
    15 I urge you, brethren—you know the household of Stephanas, that it is the firstfruits of Achaia, and that they have devoted (or addicted - kjv) themselves to the ministry of the saints—16 that you also submit to such, and to everyone who works and labors with us. 17 I am glad about the coming of Stephanas, Fortunatus, and Achaicus, for what was lacking on your part they supplied. 18 For they refreshed my spirit and yours. Therefore acknowledge such men. (1 Corinthians 16:13–18). nkjv

    Any discussion around the acceptance of one another in ministry in the sense of being citizens of heaven rather than citizens of this or that culture, language or tradition depends on good will and commitment to "earn the respect" of one another through faithful and loving service to Christ, His Word and one another. At the same time the need to overcome our pride in regional interpretations, local politics and cultural lifestyles does not mean we have to give up all our cultural differences, but rather calls us to a respect for the good and wise and lovely in any and all cultures.

      Let all that you do be done with love.
    • How can our local churches reach-out to immigrants without losing our Irish or South-Irish church members? 


    We might want to discuss just how we can create a more mosaic, rainbow or multi-cultural church in keeping with the teaching of the New Testament regarding the church of Jesus Christ being "supra-cultural."  Since we believe that God created the whole world and that he "so loves the world that" - we must ask ourselves about our responsibilities and vision and care or concern for all those around us. Showing love to all no matter who they might be.



    EPHESIANS 3

    For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for you Gentiles—2 if indeed you have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which was given to me for you, 3 how that by revelation He made known to me the mystery (as I have briefly written already, 4 by which, when you read, you may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ), 5 which in other ages was not made known to the sons of men, as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to His holy apostles and prophets: 6 that the Gentiles should be fellow heirs, of the same body, and partakers of His promise in Christ through the gospel, 7 of which I became a minister according to the gift of the grace of God given to me by the effective working of His power.

    8 To me, who am less than the least of all the saints, this grace was given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, 9 and to make all see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the ages has been hidden in God who created all things through Jesus Christ; 10 to the intent that now the manifold wisdom of God might be made known by the church to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places, 11 according to the eternal purpose which He accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord, 12 in whom we have boldness and access with confidence through faith in Him. 13 Therefore I ask that you do not lose heart at my tribulations for you, which is your glory.

    14 For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, 15 from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, 16 that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, 17 that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height—19 to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. 20 Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, 21 to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

    3: Why should my Local Church equip Christians to serve? Seeing Service as Personal Acts of Worship. 


    • How can Biblical concepts of discipleship and spiritual growth be best communicated to younger believers? 
    We might want to discuss the common belief in 21st Century Christianity that we are to draw men to our churches and to the hearing of the Gospel by using the styles and means of the world around us rather than by means and methods that are focused on the Word of God and that reject the flesh and fashion of the world. I realize that I am in Ireland and I realize the blended music of the Getty Family, Townend and so many others is so very popular. To blend the world, the flesh and the devil might seem acceptable to immature or naive believers but those who are grounded in the Word of God should be able to discern these serious dangers to spiritual growth. 

    We might want to refocus our younger believers around the true Truth of God's Word rather than on the superficial emotional ideas so popular in much of the worship around us. We might want to take the time and find the opportunities to discuss the danger of "blended" music as a tool for promoting 'truth-starved" Ecumenicism, as a road to various compromises with the world's sensous ways and as something other than genuine commitment to the distinctiveness of a disciple of Christ... not of this world. (John 17:14-18)

    We face a super strong trend in society - a trend that treats music and culture as a-moral or above morality. If the words of a new Christian song seem acceptable or even good - this excuses the beat, the sensuous sounds and identification and obvious harmony of the music with the flesh and within the world system of things. Worship has been reduced to "praise" and "worship" then is identified with the public gathering, the collective experience and the emotional re-charge that results from the existential moment of inner peace, elation or happiness. But this subject deserves our attention - our further discussion and the fact that worship was and is "service" - doing not just singing, not just praying and even not just reading our Bibles but also a commitment to each other, one another and the action words (the verbs) of Christian living is essential. Consider 


    Galatians 6:10

     "Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith."nkjv

    Ephesians 2:10

     "For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them." nkjv

    Hebrews 13:20-21

    "Now may the God of peace who brought up our Lord Jesus from the dead, that great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, 21 make you complete in every good work to do His will, working in you what is well pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen." nkjv

    • How can we develop leadership amidst a backdrop of personality, character and culturally “dysfunctional”? 
    We might want to discuss our congregation's responsibility to offer sound Biblical leadership training to our teenagers, our Sunday School teachers, our Deacons and those interested in serving as evangelists, pastors or missionaries. The need to cooperate and prepare lessons and courses that are appropriate for the smaller and newer church planting situation is an important need. Working together  (within churches and between churches) to advance the Gospel among children and youth and through other opportunities is vital. ( 1 Thessalonians 2: 1-2; 14-16. ) Sharing in prayer and fellowship among those of "like mind, faith and practice" is something that is required if we are to guard the 'unity of the Spirit' in keeping with the truths of Ephesians 4:1-16.


    Modified from the Killorglin Leadership Conference, of Saturday, the 13th of February 2016

    Tuesday, November 17, 2015

    SPIRITUAL NAVIGATION 
    as a sort of "strategic thinking" is under review. 

    Many are questioning if there is really any possibility of a practical Bible-based Missiological theory. Can we really navigate with any certainty? Does ' navigation" offer any real value for a more effective Church Planting and Evangelistic team-effort? It seems that a Biblical outlook could have or might be succumbing to a type of subjective spiritual naivety rather than holding to any real objective principles of "navigation." 

      
      THE SUN MAY WELL BE SETTING ON NAVIGATION BY OBJECTIVE TRUTH.


    TOLERANCE IS PARAMOUNT. The fact is that the broadening of general social and cultural tolerance in ethics and theology is something that is often confused with Christian humility. Then, too humility is being commonly mistaken as a sort of socially necessary cultural "non-belligerence." Any genuine effort to approach an effective Christian ministry especially among "Millennials" now comes with strong (almost adamant demands) to be "non-belligerent." Almost any "out-spokenness" in ministry or any clear statement of one's convictions is commonly mistaken as "belligerence." Many genuinely fear their position on any matter being mistaken for a "Donald Trump" attitude.


     MUSN'T  "KICK BACK!"It is clear that "holding any specific line of demarcation" or "contending for the faith" can quickly be assessed by others: (i. the more idealogical radical types or ii. those that are more timid or who fear others opinion more than anything else,) as though such "kicking back" is best judged as unacceptable or as "not making a useful contribution." That this fearfulness is leading to more confused judgments there is little doubt and that a loss of clarity is creeping into or more recently sweeping through historic Conservatism and once "old guard" Christian Fundamentalism is a fact many accept as "just inevitable."


    THE STRANGE REACTIONS OF THOSE MORE PRACTICAL TYPES. I do find John MacArthur's attitude in his "Strange Fire" publication and ministry to be an unique exception to this now dominant and fear-ridden "spirit of our age." But, even here - in the case of Evangelicalism - it may be regrettably true that, MacArthur's 2013 attack upon "Continuism" in regards to the Charismatic gifts seems to be falling on "deaf ears." Could MacArthur just be "preaching to the choir" rather than leading any "call to arms?" Is it possible that the general climate of fearfulness makes any specific new form of militancy or any new awakening of any sort simply a practical unlikelihood?


    WHO ME? "NAKED AND NOT AWARE OF IT?" - PLEASE!? It is clear (at least to me) that many conservative Christians are living in denial (at best) or quietly remaining divided (at worst). Though, now and then, there is some public disagreement the majority seem to be committed to or at least accepting of the fact that they must be "silent" even if they are personally "embroiled" in some or another division. Revelation 3:18


    HOW BIG CAN SUCH A SMALL MATTER BE? The issue of accepting organizational compromises with all of the various issue-charged changes in culture and religion is a "sore point" for many. For example, one significant and more-than-symbolic shift taking place is the issue of Contemporary or Charismatic styled worship styles. This more-than-symbolic issue is the matter of acceptable or unacceptable music standards. This issue of the degree of worldliness or of achieving a world acceptance in the musical styles: the melodies - rhythms and harmonies of worship music remains a background noise or quiet-contentious and a quite unresolved issue for many conservative Christians. These "uncomfortable feeling" or put of character changes have swept into most of the once "more conservative" churches.

     CAN PUBLIC STYLE, TRENDS OR FASHION BE SUCH AN ISSUE? There are, of course, some "other than" or "lesser than" conservative viewpoints or out-looks also making inroads and some impact or direct influence on this troubled branch of Christianity. The ministry style of of Charismatic types, Reformed and Conservatives is merging and there message is incrementally blending just as they "blend" (or compromise) their music styles. At first, at least these "variables" in viewpoint generally seem to relate more to the question of the degree of allowable or acceptable compromise in areas of Ecclesiology, Worship and Missiologybut it seems logical than theology will also soon experience this variableness, as well.


    CAN THE MAJORITY BE WRONG? Another potential danger is one's acceptance of the contemporary social consensus. It seems that so many live rather happily by accepting the latest "polester's report." One example that most would wish I would forget or drop - is the "worldly," or rather fleshly styles of so much of Contemporary Christian Music. Can any music really be so harmful? Many leaders simply doubt that music can be such a big issue. Usually, this sort of attitude is found in leaders who are musically uneducated or just "naive" due to their own pre-occupation with other "more weighty" issues.

    Then there is the sense of need many somehow just feel - a sort of inner drive or personality quirk that "calls them" to accommodate others. Those who feel this "urge to accommodate" or to just follow the most popular trends or the more unique "Emergent" styles are increasingly revealing their many new and dubious Worship and Missiological strategies. All of this "shift" and the accompaning changes in attitude toward the authority and sufficiency of the Word of God places many Christian ministry 'under a cloud' of instability. When society accepts anything over the honest literal interpretation of the Word of God --- a shift away from a truly Biblical context and goal is inevitable. All of this also brings with it the waterless clouds (Jude) of confusion now encircling so many otherwise good and godly living people.


    WHO ME? Of course none of us (certainly not me) is above having had any number of times when certain specific compromises or mis-steps were taken. We all try to learn from these mis-steps or outright sins. Quite often, or certainly as much as not, we will attempt to 'turn back around" or attempt to improve our position or perspectives or rather just move away away from these mistakes. Even for the most sincere, these genuine efforts at reformation or renewal can fail to be effective reversals and in such cases we must be honest - we do experience genuine spiritual, moral or cultural shift - even if it seems (Romans 7) to be against our will. The danger, of such an incident is not the "once off" mistake or the one or the other time slip-up" but the danger is the far more the insidious creeping erosion of our once highly prized personal principles of even our character or worse - our core beliefs.


    CONFIDENCE IS SO IMPORTANT TO MOST PEOPLE. Then there is another result - a rising confidence in or acceptance of a "new sort of Christian conservatism." (See also: 1 Corinthians 10:1-12) One clear example of this new outlook is the new acceptance by Independent Baptists of the denominationalism of the Southern Baptist Convention. That there are shifts taking place by both groups - the Baptist independents and the Southern Baptist "denominationalists" there can be little doubt. The question is - are these shifts bringing about a genuine re-allignment or just a mistaken sense of brotherhood and unity as a misrepresentation of the reasonableness of uniqueness in any family? This shift toward a re-allignment is, in my opinion, just one more indicator or example of a much "broader acceptance" of today's changing form of "Evangelicalism." The shift from Conservative Biblical principles to an Evangelicalism focused on the acceptance of culture and society is, in reality, no minor shift.


     THE NATURE OF A 'SHIFT.' There are, one must recognize, so many calls for modernization, or for a "shift in perspective" or even for outright fundamental change that the noise factor or the distraction factor needs to be noted. If "everyone" seems to be saying the same thing - what they are really saying may be lost in the noise itself. So many of these calls for change or a shift in viewpoint are related to serious and long-standing and even historic on-going compromises that are radically (and incrementally) changing the nature of the church in our day!


     CAN WE EVER HAVE TOO MUCH OPTIMISM? I want to remain optimistic and hold out a belief that some are possibly reconsidering these issues of compromise. It is possible that many (or at least some) have learned from their recent failures of judgment or with their mistaken optimism or their more recent realignments with the denominationalism of the Southern Baptist Convention, for instance. On the other hand, I am sure many more would consider all or most of my concerns as just the "unnecessary worries" of an unrealistic "sore loser. - or some such?


     THE DANGER OF LISTENING TO THOSE 'ENAMORED.' The reader might want to re-consider the possibility that these shifts in judgment are a genuine (more than just-possible) reflection of the indirect cultural influence of our Post-Modern society. These, all too dominant, shifts toward our society's enamor with Post-Modernism's rising philosophical influences - is really all a complicated matter that is so difficult (for many) to honestly assess.


     UNIVERSAL SHIFTS - NO BIG DEAL. Of course, differences in our basic Soteriology, even though handled in a truly kind and loving sort of way, still remains a core difference and will effect and influence all other outcomes. Over the years I have watched at so many conservatives have shifted between a three to four or even to a five point form of Calvinism. The Reformed position as an Ecclesiological theology quickly complicates the already complicated degrees or versions of Calvinism. With no desire to be aggressive in any way, I am aware of - on the other hand, a shift in this realm also leads to shifts in other regions, as well. Universal shifts - as small as they may seem - still effect all of the particulars that relate or are in the immediate surrounds. The belief that we can have our cake and eat it too - seems to be quite popular in these times.


     VOICES IN A DARK AND DEEP FOREST? Hearing the voices of outspoken non-Calvinists or possibly hearing from the increasingly "anti-Calvinist (and/or anti-Reformed) camp and even noticing the warnings from Dispensationalist or the more vocal Literal Biblicists seems to be having no real effect on anyone. The memory of such "arguments' seems far too distant to be real. Having a respectful disagreement with others on the issues of Calvinism might place brethren at direct odds or on a distinctly different path but most concerning of all (at least for me) is the sense one had that all argument is useless since logic has somehow lost its way in the deep and dark forest of emotionalism. Leaders can't lead when there is no clear acceptance of any single authority. The Word of God has been for most practically marginalized. The drift or confusion in direction seems endemic. drMSBsr