Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Church: God's style

Did you know that a lot of what many call "church" today is far removed from what God designed it to be?
Here are some of my thoughts on this, from looking at the early church:

Suggestion I've heard: "We need to get back to the early church"



Principles
1.    Idealistic living vs. reality- It was a blessed time, that is for sure!  Yet, if you read Paul's letters you will see that there was one problem, people.  For all have sinned and have fallen short of God's glorious standard.  Where there are people there are issues.  So remember, the early church had plenty of issues too.  We focus on Acts 2:42-47 yet forget the Judaizers, Paul's long and often boring messages (one killed Euticus), the Lord's Supper issues in Corinth, the immorality in the church, the lukewarmness, the ...  I can hear you saying, yes, but if we just focus on the good, then we won't have that.  True, after God restores all things.  However, on earth you have to take the good and help out the bad if you can.  In this world, we will have troubles.

Slight digression- I see a lot of this with kids and marriage today.  People fall in love with the idealistic and sometimes reject reality & dump their spouse when reality falls short of idealistic.  This is not good.  Some people need to get real and realize that they married Ken but really got Archie Bunker.  Love Archie, pray for Archie, care for Archie, and find your first love and identity in Christ.  Or if you are a guy, you expected Kelly Kapowski, and ended up with Madea.  Ok, back on track again...

2.   These people weren't just hippies.  They had jobs back in the day.  Love for God & people        
      was a HUGE priority.

Scripture Acts 2:42-47

Their Core Values
"They devoted themselves to:
the apostles’ teaching
to fellowship,
to the breaking of bread
to prayer.

Expanded
*Note: The core values were not just organizational, they were personal.

The Apostle's Teaching- Scriptures (2 Timothy 3:16)-
Sadly, this is rare (ie-CEF-most churches in Montgomery County cannot agree to the Statement of Faith that says God's word is inspired and inerrant.)
Are you devoted to the READING of God's word on a personal level?
At Harvest we are committed to God's word.  And we will be committed to God's word.  It is a personal and organizational core value.  We are committed to it personally, in our small groups and Bible studies, in our leadership, in our Children's ministry, in our partnership with community, and in our worship services.


2.    To fellowship- Community
More on this later on in the passage.
3.    To the breaking of bread-
"For Jews then and now, fellowship was mediated by meals.  To say that early Messianic Jews broke bread is to say neither more nor less than that they ate together." JNT Commentary
When possible, religious Jews begin a meal with bread and say over it a b'rakhah.  For the early church Christian, they continued this 'breaking of bread' to recall Jesus' death for them as they began their meal (he is the blessing).
Rabbi El'zazar be-'Azayah (1st-2nd century CE) said, "If there is no meal there is no Torah, and if there is no Toran there is no meal." Not to be legalistic here, but to show the significance and blessing that comes with the meal.
The meal was so significant that it was called a "love feast". This breaking of bread reminded us to align ourselves with Jesus, to give a thankful heart to him, and to remind us to enjoy the umbrella of His blessing to us.

4.    to prayer- Both formal Jewish prayers (seeing that they were still Jewish) and pouring out the hear to the Lord spontaneously (Acts 4:24-30).


Their Attitude-Awe (Phobos-fear, trembling, respect, reverence.  A holy hush in the clear presence of God)
Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles.
Who did the signs and wonders? The apostles.  Is this normative for us today? No.
Can God do miracles in our midst today? Yes.  I have seen it. Amazing things still happen today. We see it but are afraid to sound weird so we don't talk about it.  Or, we have a weird idea that any move of God has to be a big production, so we miss where He is doing amazing things! (1 Kings 19:11-13-God often works in the whisper.  A whisper only heard with by skilled ears)  People are healed of cancer, large tumors disappear, physical disease on the skin shrivels and falls off, spiritual blindness, spiritual lameness, spiritual deafness, psychological distress all healed, demons removed, sin is uncovered so they can deal with it, marriages are restored, relationships are reconciled, drug addicts are immediately healed, perspectives changed, people feel loved for the first time, children are choosing Jesus, adults are choosing Jesus, people are laying down important idols to pick up Christ, people are fed, clothed, burdens are shared, needs are met, etc...
Once again, idealism vs. reality.  When the apostles healed people, do you think there were fireworks?  Was it a Benny Hinn event?  (James 5:13-20)
Signs and wonders were done exclusively by the 11.  The purpose of signs and wonders are to establish a message.  They serve as an exclaim action point.  When some people say they want to get back to the early church, what they are saying is that they want fireworks, the signs.  God wants us to go deeper and walk in faith and believe that God is among them.  He wants them not to depend on fireworks, but in Him. God is still at work today, just as He was back then.  When you learn to see how he works, and get in relationship with Him and His people, you will see what I mean.

Fellowship- Their Practice-Community (cf. Acts 4:32-37)(koinonia- intimate relationship)
All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need.

This is the fun part.  In a sense we see socialism, but not forced socialism (see Acts 5:1-11-Ananias and Sapphira could do what they wanted with the money)
They practiced "socialism" by caring for the needs of others.  They even sold property & possessions so that they could help those in need.
The widows, the unemployed (due to persecution because of conversion to Jesus), the homeless, the hungry, the unclothed, the orphans.  They had eyes to see the needs of others.
Shane Claiborne, book "Irresistible Revolution"-he cared for people in Philly, Keith Green-people in need were a welcome inconvenience, etc...
Are there needs in our congregation?  Do you have eyes to see?  Not just physical needs but also spiritual needs.  Does a young person need discipleship or encouragement, does an older person need someone to listen to their stories-and you learn from them, can you help a marriage, a teen come to know Jesus and navigate Satan's playground, etc...
-The ethic needs to be personal-you do this.  Then, as you are contagious, it may flow into our congregation.

To summarize this- they really loved people!  Just as Jesus told them to do.
I can see it now, brining coffee to a widows house, sitting with them and studying the Bible, confessing sins, and praying for one another.  A group of believers coming over to my house, eating a meal, drinking coffee or whatever, people sharing struggles, praying for them, encouraging them, and learning from God's teaching together.  Planning ways to help one another, and to invite our neighbors to join us.  People's spiritual blindness healed, deafness healed, spiritual legs strengthened, hands steadied into doing eternal things, husbands becoming more like Jesus, wives more like Jesus, children laying down idols of self and approval, financial freedom, spiritual growth, and occasionally a physical healing.
The broken- hugged, the sad- encouraged, the hurting-heard and then helped, the insecure- strengthened in Christ.  Awesome!  This is the church I want to be a part of.

Their Location
The Temple Courts-Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts.
How did they do this with jobs and family?  I think they were glad to go when they could.  It was assumed that they would meet weekly, and history shows that they met on both Saturday and Sunday (eventually Sunday)

In Homes- They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, [47] praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people.
(Cf. 1 Cor. 11:17-34-by contrast, the Corinthian Church struggled with this eating TOGETHER) (Contrast the early church in Hebrews 10:24-25- a falling away from this)

Home was the place where the deep fellowship happened.  It is where they really enjoyed koinonia. This was "church".  This is why we have Small Groups.  It is the model of church where we all use our gifts.  In a SG there is the gifts of teaching, encouragement, hospitality, intercession, evangelism, helps, shepherding, etc... Being used.  Then we come together on Sunday to celebrate Jesus together.

And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved."
Is the mark of a healthy church numerical growth?  No, many cults grow.
Rather, it was the result of God.  Having a Masers focused on church health, I can say that not having a structure to care for people makes growth pointless.  Often, God will bring people to places where they can be cared for.  Is our church a place that can handle new believers?  Do we have a way to care for them and disciple them, so they can become more like Jesus, and bring in their friends and family?

Once again, this is personal.  Do you desire to disciple people?  To help people grow in their faith?  First, can you take them toward Jesus? If you are not growing in your faith, you can't, and God is too smart to send people to you.  Second, Do you know what to do with people if God was to give you people? What would you say, how would you teach?  Most churches in the USA are nothing more than a group of people collecting offering to pay some guy to speak & say nice things to them, and pay off the mortgage of the building that they use to need.   They aren't growing personally, and therefore they aren't growing spiritually as a congregation either.  May we never allow this to happen.

When we enjoy Jesus and do what he says to do, the church benefits and our fellowship will be a blessing to us and to those who will come.

However, although this sounds great, and let's totally do this, their is the problem of us living in a fallen world with brokenness.  Because of that, the ideal will always be hindered by reality and if we are not careful, the ideal can become an idol.  Proverbs 14:4, "Where there are no oxen, the stable is clean." The early church had plenty of problems. One of the beautiful things of fellowship is to see people come alongside one another to biblically help them with their problems.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Handling People who add to the Gospel

I had someone send me a text this morning, and I wanted to write about it, because it was a very interesting question.


Question: "Isn't there a Scripture that says, "Avoid men who would teach you the law?"

Answer:  Depends what they are teaching about the Law.
Two mathematical equations:
1. Trusting Jesus + X= Justification, being declared righteous, reconciles you to God
If X is necessary to add to faith in order to be saved, then that person is wrong.
Here is what Scripture says about that person-
A. 2 Corinthians 11:1- Paul preached one husband to us, Jesus.
B. Galatians 1, in fact the whole book of Galatians deals with this problem.
C. Galatians 3:10
Paul had a constant battle with this with, what he called, the Judaisers.  They taught Jesus + X. Here is what Paul says, when Peter started to get sucked into the pull of their teaching, like the tracking beam of the Death Star, Paul harshly confronted Peter- Galatians 2:11-13.
D. We are justified, made right, reconciled to God through FAITH and not through LAW (Torah)- Romans 3-5. Not through circumcision or even what has through tradition replaced circumcision- namely water baptism. We are saved through faith, from first to last.  From first to last, the equation for salvation is Faith in Jesus. He is the door, he is the gate, he is the way, he is the truth, he is the life, he is the living water, he is God's Messiah.


2. Trusting Jesus = Justification, being delcared righteous, reconciles you to God+
we obey the Law in order to worship God.
I see no problem with this.
A. Paul did this, He followed the Law after conversion to Christ.
-Acts 18:18- Paul took a Nazarite vow
-Acts 21:24-26 Paul and some men responded to Jews who complained that Paul taught to turn away from the Law of Moses- Paul did something to show them that he was living in obedience to the Law.  He even showed them by fulfilling his Nazarite vow and taking part in the purification rites.
-Acts 25:8 Paul kept the Law, as a believer.
-2 Timothy 3:16 Paul teaches us that the Law is very useful.

B. Gentiles were told to uphold some of the Law in practice. Acts 15:1-35- The Jerusalem Council taught that Goyim (Gentiles) were to keep elements of the Law. In fact, there are parts of the Law, that if we do not obey them, show a stubborn or ignorant heart against the Lord. We are taught not to eat food sacrificed to idols, from blood, from meat of strangled animals, and from sexual immorality. Doing these will not untie our salvation, but will grieve the Lord, and hurt the faith of Jewish people whom the Lord loves, plus other things.

C. Hayesod (A Messianic Jewish community) invites people to follow the Law out of worship, not as a means of salvation.

D. If someone teaches the Law, this is noble, as long as it is not taught as a means of salvation.  Who wouldn't want someone to teach us not to murder, steal, worship idols, etc...?

E. Ray VanderLaan is a Christian Rabbi.  Ray loves God's Law (Torah). But he is grieved when he hears that people teach the law as a means of salvation.  He practices much of the Law, but does not depend on the Law to make him right with God.

Who should we not eat with?
1. 1 Corinthians 5:9-11 (cf. Psalm 1)- If someone claims to be a believer but is immoral, greedy, swindler, idolaterer, sexually immoral, a drunk or slanderer. Do not even eat with such a person.
The first question that comes to my mind is, "How is that loving?" However, the purpose of this is to judge them.  To show them that this is wrong, in the hopes that they repent.  Often today, people will not respond to this, rather they will "feel judged" and find a more liberal group that does not uphold the umbrella of the word.  However, this will not excuse them from being judged by Jesus and the Father.  Better to be judged by men than to be judged by God!
2. 2 John 7-10 the person in context here is the gnostic.  But certainly, there is a cultural thing here, namely that to eat with someone or to invite them into your house was to show approval, and was to provide for them, strengthening them.
The gnostic taught that Jesus Christ did not come in the flesh.

Why shouldn't we eat with them? To show them that they are wrong.  In the hopes that God will show them mercy leading to repentance.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

The Lord's Prayer #2: non-religious thoughts on it

"Your kingdom come.  Your will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven."



What a stress buster!  This is a prayer of submission, and letting go of our wills, and rolling with God's will. I was praying through the Lord's Prayer this morning, and continued with this part.

As a Christian, I feel responsible to work hard with and for the Lord.  Often, I feel the weight of responsibility, and pressure to "make things happen". I am a "get 'er done" type of guy. I am a field Marshall, who likes to sit and plan, but will soon get sick of planning and want to "charge" ahead and take the next hill.  So, I feel the weight of action often.  In fact, almost daily, upon waking, I am in a hurry to get out of bed to conquer what the Lord has for me that day. In fact, I never need to set an alarm.
I have also been taught to work hard & let people know that I work hard.  I also work hard, I think I really do.  So, being a person of action, and praying this, has been interesting for years.  Usually I just brush through this part of the prayer, kind of skip over it, because it seems nebulous & I was kind of like, "thy will be done, bla, bla, bla". I am a get it done person, so I wanted to do my check list of having done the Lord's Prayer, and now I was ready to go with God's blessing.

BUT, today this part stopped me dead in my tracks and brought rest to my lungs.  "Your kingdom come.  Your will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven."  This verse screams, "Cease striving and know that I am God."  "Man may make his plans, but the Lord's purposes prevail." "God is at work within you both to work and to will according to His good pleasure.". This verse screams, it is not your will Jeff Korhorn, it is God's will that you want done.  And it is NOT dependent on you, though you are certainly welcome to ask to be involved in the process.  Anyhow, this brought me a lot of peace and made me smile, and relax today.  I will still work hard, but will do it with peace.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Discipleship 101: How to Disciple others

Jesus commands us to, "Therefore go..." (Matthew 28:18-20)
Therefore, what is it there for? The Father has given Jesus all authority in heaven AND also on earth.

"And make disciples of all nations..."
Disciples are followers, students, Talmidim.  We are to do as Jesus did with his 12 guys.

"Baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit"
Baptism is the old practice of the Mikveh, the ceremonial washing, that was done in living water (moving), so that people could be pure before God to approach and worship him.  Jesus' BLOOD washes away our sin, and purifies us (Titus 3:5, Hebrews 10:22, Revelation 7:14).  Baptism is done to symbolize the Mikveh that Christ has done through his blood.  It is a deep ritual. It is also a bold stance, acknowledging that you are Jesus and that Jesus is yours.  That you have been crucified with Christ, died to sin, buried (Romans 6:4, Colossians 2:12) and like Christ, you are spiritually alive to walk in newness of life.  Some take this literally, that baptism spiritually does this.  I do not.  I believe that it is at the moment of submission to Christ-a punctiliar time, and that baptism SYMBOLIZES what has been done already.  I like the former both agree that it should be done as soon as possible.  The bottom line is that believers are commanded to be baptized.

"Teaching them to obey all that I have commanded you." Commanded (entellomai-group of teaching that Jesus did, not nomes, which would refer to the commands given to Moses).  We are teaching them to obey what Jesus taught us.  We are taking the Bible and teaching them, accurately, and skillfully.  As a workman approved by God who can righty study and divide the word of truth (2 Timothy 2:15).  This passage will drive the disciple maker to grow in their hermeneutical strength and skill.

So...how did the Master do it?  How did HE disciple people, so we can imitate his approach?  I will be using the book "The Master Plan of Evangelism" by Robert E. Coleman for this study.

1. Selection: How did he select the twelve?

First, there were more than twelve disciples; Jesus had many.

Luke 6:12-13 - One of those days Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray, and spent the night praying to God.[13] When morning came, he called his disciples to him and chose twelve of them, whom he also designated apostles:

A.  The Master sought the Father. Selection of disciples is a BIG DEAL.  Jesus got away, probably to Mount Arbel, to pray.  He spent hours in prayer over this major decision. After all, it was these 12 men who would eventually be responsible for carrying on the faith.  He was about to decide on twelve men (*12 tribes in Israel, these 12 men will rule over each of the tribes-See Revelation). He spent much time consulting with his Father over this.
Notice that he had called some to follow him before this.  Simon Peter, James, John, Andrew Matthew. Interesting to me is that these men, albeit they all went to synagogue school, were all outcasts of the religious community.  He chose ordinary men, none of which were accepted into Rabbi school, one was a traitor (Matthew/Levi) by being a tax collector.  Also notice that one of the 12 betrayed him, so eventually one was chose by the apostles to be that 12th person (Acts 1:12-26).

Consider this- the person/people God wants you to disciple will be a part of your life.  They will eat with you, do work with you, serve with you, pray with you, share their struggles with you, study you, imitate you, share struggles that you will burden for and with them.  You will also be following up with some of them throughout most if not the rest of your life.  Basically, you will be riding the roller coaster with them.  It is a big deal, in which seeking the Lord and asking Him to let us know, through laying someone on our heart, is important.

B.  The Master made a decision. He eventually made his decision and chose 12 men. (Matthew 22:14) The men that he believed the Father had given him.  What's more, he also chose 3 core men (Luke 9:28) to very specifically pour into.

There is a point when we need to go for it.  God will lay people on our heart, from what I have experienced.  Typically, for me, God only ever gives me a max of 5 at a time, although I generally disciple many others.  Many have moved far away, and I am thankful for Facebook because of it.

How to apply what we have said so far to life...
1. You seek the Lord, and remain in love with Jesus.  Be loved, be holy, be a student of Jesus yourself.
2. Read Master Plan of Evangelism BEFORE choosing disciples. Today's USA church is too far removed from discipleship that we need training BEFORE we jump out.
3. Select Disciples.  Praying first until the Lord lays specific people on your heart (they don't have to be Christians).
4. Figure out WHAT you will teach them (Jesus' teachings, life skills, how to follow Jesus, how to live out God's word, how to handle life, how to pray, etc). Figure out HOW you will teach them (concrete, object lesson, on the job, abstract, one on one, in a group, etc).
5. Ask. Ask these people (same gender) if they would like to be discipled by you.