Thursday, July 21, 2011

Navigating Family Seas: Knowing Before Going!

Navigating one's family through the 'rather daunting' Seas-of-Life calls for a well-considered strategy.

Spiritually, there is one key navigational principle or strategy that should not be overlooked. This strategy should really be quite logical. I'll title it: "Knowing before Going." Now, I know this seems rather obvious! But things that may seem self-evident are often missed or overlooked in our stress filled lives. We really need reminding, now and then! Many families fail to "set their course" and just live life by being drawn into life's seas by the simplest emotional influences. Sometimes the seeming 'beauty' of some smooth seas and sunny days ahead are enough to draw us along. Be careful how you use your lives: your time, your talents and your temporal or financial means.

Know before you go! In our world, we can easily be swept off course by the tides, currents and storms of life. Everything looks fine and the pressures of living often convince us not to stop and take the time and effort to evaluate. We become quite 'professional' at thinking and doing things "on the run" but without sound navigational disciplines and strategies our good intentions often become reasons for making excuses. We are often found stating that it really "doesn't matter" or "doesn't do any harm" or it's just "no bid deal." The Australians like to reply with the idiomatic phrase: "No worries! Mate."

Jesus, on the other hand, reminds us in Luke 14 that we need to count or calculate the costs ... or just consider our steps: “For which one of you, when he wants to build a tower, does not first sit down and calculate the cost to see if he has enough to complete it? 29 “Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who observe it begin to ridicule him, 30 saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’ (also note Psalm 119:133; 1 Peter 2:21)

WE NEED TO GIVE THOUGHT TO OUR CHOICES! Paul, the Apostle, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit wrote Timothy 3:1 warning: "But realize this, that ​in the last days difficult times will come. 2 For men will be ​lovers of self, ​lovers of money, ​boastful, ​​arrogant, ​​revilers, ​​disobedient to parents, ​​ungrateful, ​unholy, 3 ​​unloving, irreconcilable, ​​malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, ​​haters of good, 4 ​​treacherous, ​​reckless, ​​conceited, ​​lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, 5 holding to a form of ​​godliness, although they have ​denied its power..."

John warned the churches (and those of us in them) that we were blind to our need for His Saving Righteousness, His Moral and Ethical Holiness and His guiding Spirit: Revelation3:16 "So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth. 17 Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked: 18 I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see. 19 As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent (turn around / change).

WE NEED TO CAREFULLY ESTABLISH SPIRITUAL PRIORITIES. We dare not "play church" or play at being Christians! The seriousness of setting-out into the deep seas of live will be evident as you inspect your life and that of your family. If such an inspection shows that their are weaknesses, leaks and un-repaired damages ... then the matter of taking on water or worse of your family sinking is not 'laughing matter!' How important is your children's own understanding of the Scriptures? How vital is it that they understand God's will regarding their personal salvation? In Reformed tradition there is a common belief that if the parents have faith then the children are protected under the parent's covenant relationship. In Evangelical Biblical theology there is no such teaching. Babies are considered safe or secure in the grace and love of God since they are not yet at an age of accountability. But children do come to an age of accountability (those who are at this 'age' depend upon their intellectual and spiritual knowledge) where they, too, must place their faith in Jesus Christ.

Parent's are responsible to see that their children understand [i.] the message of salvation (the New Birth) through the saving work of Christ, [ii.] the truths regarding the Christian life through the indwelling work of the Holy Spirit and the lifestyle through the Word of God. Then, too, parents should see that their children understand [iii.] the blessed Hope in the message of Christ's return for the Saints and [v.] His future plan to return to earth to establish His Kingdom of Peace. Children need to understand the [vi.] Great White throne judgment, the [vii.] eternal Lake of Fire and all that follows, such as [viii.] the New Heaven and the New Earth and [ix] Eternity itself. In this teaching the local congregation's Sunday School and Youth Hour serves as support for the parent's who are doing their best to teach their children about the faith, hope and love of the Christian message.

WHAT OPTIONS DO WE HAVE? Some have looked at the faithful attendance of church worship and Sunday School as options and almost matters of convenience. "Well, if I can find the time?" or " If we don't have other things "on" or "if there is not family birthdays or anniversaries, or ______ " Well, then, "of course, we want to include the Lord and worship and all that..." Be careful, Christian! The church is Christ's own plan of action for you and your family. It is through the collective worship of brethren that we humble ourselves before others. It is through the teaching and admonishing of Sunday Bible Messages and lessons that we are called back to the Truth.

We believe that we ..."know where we are going" - or (at least) we hope so! Yet, this matter of the 'demands of life' and our 'extended family responsibilities' cannot become a collection of excuses! Excuses only lead us toward failure in this area of our family's spiritual growth. Our understanding of and obedience to God's Word work together to provide each member of our family with a good relationship with Christ. Excuses must not be allowed to drag our spiritual walk with the Lord to some lower level or lower priority. The Lord expects to be placed first! It is for our own good that He is respected and responded to as our Lord.

HOW ARE WE TO 'SWIM' AGAINST SUCH A STRONG UNDERTOW? Like most 'Westernised nations' we are under serious pressures at work. The demands upon our time and physical and emotional strength are real! Many genuinely believe that the only source for emotional stability and/or physical strength comes from more sleep, more "down time" and more "time away." In South Africa, Our nation's over-commitment to multiple sets of long weekends and school holidays, together with our special 'holy days' or 'holidays' simply places this belief in "rest" before each of us as a forced or self-fulfilling philosophy of life. "What choice do we have," many ask? Though so many matters are interrupted, or just stop, these "rest breaks" are opportunities that just seem to demand our attention! The drain on our finances from non-productive work and from non-budgeted expenditures seems to be overlooked by most. The break-up of our personal self discipline leads to a clear weakening of our friendships, our responsibilities, our productivity and our efficiency. Our children's education and commitment to learning is effected negatively. Because these opportunities are there it seems we have no choice but to take them or fill them.

IS SOMEONE TRYING TO BE A 'SPOIL SPORT' HERE? The New Testament teaches us that the church or rather the congregation, is meant to be a group of people committed to 'building-up", encouraging and admonishing (lovingly confronting) one another in the true Truth of God's Word and in their relationship with the Lord. Ephesians 4:1​ "As a result, we are ​a​no longer to be children, ​tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by ​craftiness ​​in ​​deceitful scheming; 15 but ​speaking the truth ​in love, ​we are to ​​grow up in all aspects into Him who is the ​​head, even Christ, 16 from whom ​a​the whole body, being fitted and held together ​by what every joint supplies, according to the ​​proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself ​​in love."

WELL, SOME MIGHT SAY THIS IS JUST IMPOSSIBLE! Many would call these thoughts legalistic, or un-loving, or old-fashiopned ... or whatever. I would suggest that you take a moment to listen to the heart of a pastor and to his sharing the truth of the Word of God and ask yourself - am I being drawn into the world and its ways or am I leading my family to handle life by making wise Biblical choices, by maintaining good spiritual relationships and by knowing where we are going ... before we go.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Navigating the church amidst "overpowering" storms.

Matthew 16:18b “I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it.”

The story of the development of the church has been much confused by the squalls and storms that have diabolically sought to resist its progress!

The attempts by Catholicism to resist the true church of Jesus Christ has been ferocious! The true churches have had their history re-told in disparaging and dishonest accounts of so-called "church history" - history re-written by their own detractors! Such storms of resistance have been thrown at these "crews" ... these congregations - God's ships at sea representing Him down through the centuries! The so-called 'heroes of the faith' presented by the 'classic church historians' were more often the very bolts of lighting that had been thrown against the remnant of believers to be found in scattered congregations dotting almost every 'parallel.'

A false "history" of the church has been accepted and Christ's own process of 'building His church' has been retold - rewritten and mythologized by giving credit to so-called Apologists, Synods, Councils and Empire powers. Catholicism's efforts to resist the true Gospel message have desperately thrown their 'powers" - their strength, like a storm, against the true body of Christ.

The more true and accurate history of the church is a story of individual separate congregations who's survival and advance through the storms have been rejected or ignored. Genuine Christianity's congregations have grown as they have discovered vital axioms amidst the storms present during their century or during their period or "age" (Matthew 13, Revelation 2, and 3). The actual or rather factual history of the church is a story of spiritual warfare between the Truth defended by non-conforming congregations and individual Christians and the State Church - their enemy - possibly the very 'gates of Hades' itself!

In naivety many have assumed that "the doctrines of the church of Jesus Christ" must be assumed to have been clear from the beginning. Yet, any study of the letters of Paul, Peter, James or John make it clear that the Truth of God’s Word would unfold progressively through the times of the Apostles. Regretfully many have come to believe that the 'New Testament churches' could be a “pattern” for all future Christian thought. The goal, for those with this belief in a “pattern,” is (of course) to return to the ‘Early Churches’ as a divine "model." As convenient as this might be, a number of genuine difficulties arise when evaluating this perspective.

First, there is a problem with the belief in a pattern or model which implies the early church reached an ‘apex’ and then following centuries would record a devolution and battle to maintain historic identity and/or “apostolic” authority.

Second, there is a type of denial inherent in the belief in a pattern. Denial of some very obvious immaturity, denial of some clearly sinful habits – left (after much Apostolic effort) still unbroken. There is a denial, as well, in the failure to see the growth in the early churches and especially in the many congregations that refused false doctrine and stood outside the Catholic realm of "Christianity." So many of these non-conforming congregations matured independently amidst the attacks or storms of heresy and doctrinal error that surrounded them! Further, under the strain of being falsely accused of being "heretical" themselves - they "stood tall" in opposition to these religious and political compromised "churches" being drug along into falsehood by a tidal wave as strong as one can imagine!

These much maligned brethren – leaving the Catholic Churches or having remained outside - from the very beginning - were rarely ever guilty of the harsh accusations and “mud slinging” cruel language used against them. The many different regions such as North Africa, Asia Minor, Southern Europe and beyond often had landscapes ‘spotted’ with good Christians and faithful congregations. The errors that may well have been adopted by some of the non-conformist congregations were so many times not nearly so grievous as their detractors would have us believe. Then too, where there were errors to be found in one quarter or period of history - (over the generations and in regard to the various regional interpretations and teachings of these non-conforming congregations,) many of the earlier errors simply did not carry-over or continue to apply in later periods or in other regions.

When the Catholic church attacked these non-conformist congregation in later periods of their development, these particular non-conformists congregations were rarely ever still related to some of the earlier forms from their own "historic roots" – these congregations were vitally alive and in their independence stood in their own right on the truth of God's Word - at least as they best understood it at that time or place. Often the "errors" (real or as matters of accusation) from "their historic past" were just that – long past ... matters of the past.

Their "names" given as terms of abuse and used in derision, were rarely little more than terms of dishonest mockery! The Catholic church's language of derision was rarely supported in fact. So few were guilty of the accusations thrown at them by their Latin and Greek Catholic detractors and enemies. (This factor or possibility should be consider as a common method of Catholicism in every generation to come)

Storms are interesting matters to navigate through and every storm seems to have strengthened the non-conformists along their way! So it should be! Being verbally abused and called a "sect" or worse is a squall that Scripture, Prayer and the Hope of the Gospel can guide us through! Let us be faithful in our efforts to witness of the Lord's Saving Grace - no matter what storm or squall attempts to come against us!