Wednesday, 27 February 2008

Anglican Diocese Faced With Legal Battle

The “Anglican diocese faced with legal battle.” So ran the headline of a Feb 25, 2008 article of a Canadian newspaper. What is the issue? Apparently a local Anglican congregation near Toronto voted unanimously to split with the Anglican Church of Canada because of issues that they believed were fundamental to their faith. It seems that the Anglican Church of Canada is, among other things, supporting same-sex marriages, which the local congregation opposes.

There are a number of issues here that bear noting. First, there is the issue of a so-called Christian organization supporting same-sex marriage. Second, there is the legal action being taken by one party in the dispute against the other before the secular courts. Third, there is the further factions in the Body of Christ. Fourth, none of this comes as any surprise given that a denominational association is entirely man-made and not God ordained. Here’s a couple quick thoughts on each of these four points.

Same Sex Marriage
At the risk of coming across as "homophobic," which I certainly am not, the Bible makes it pretty clear that the “homosexual offenders” will not inherit the Kingdom of God (1 Corinthians 6: 9-10). If that is true, then the local Anglican congregation being referred to in the article is perhaps right in taking a stand on these grounds. As for the Anglican diocese that supports same sex marriages, apparently they're either reading from a different Bible, or simply interpreting certain verses differently.

Having said that, God does love the "homosexual offenders" just as much as He loves the heterosexual "offenders." If God loves them, then so must we. I do not believe, however, that homosexuality was ever a part of God's plan for humanity; the human anatomy by itself should prove that. The bottom line: Love all people, regardless who they are and regardless of their lifestyle. IF there is to be any judgment on the subject, leave it to God. Do I agree with homosexuality? No. Am I striving to love the individuals who identify themselves as homosexuals? Absolutely, "Yes." As believers that is all that we are called to do; Love. At the end of the day, I won't judge anyone but myself.

Legal Action
The Christian has no business taking another Christian to a secular court. The Apostle Paul said, “If any of you has a dispute with another, dare he take it before the ungodly for judgment instead of before the saints?” (1 Corinthians 6: 1). Believers are to judge disputes between believers themselves. Secular courts have no business in the church. What could a secular judge or jury possible know about things pertaining to the church? Nothing. Paul says further, “The very fact that you have lawsuits among you means you have been completely defeated already. Why not rather be wronged? Why not rather be cheated?” (1 Corinthians 6: 7).

Yes, the local congregation has paid all the bills pertaining to their building without help, apparently, from the diocese. Now the diocese wants them out and they want to take over the building. Those responsible will one day answer to God for that. The New Testament example is to turn the other cheek. Jesus said, “If someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well.” (Matthew 5: 40). Sure, it is easier said than done, but that is the Biblical example that we ought to strive for.

Factions in the Body of Christ
Unfortunately church history is full of factions among its members. This group takes exception to that group’s doctrines, and the other group can’t agree with the first group’s doctrines. Next thing you know there is a church split. We all think that we are right and they are wrong. The truth of the matter is that, “now we see but a poor reflection” (1 Corinthians 13: 12). If any one of us dares to think that we have this walk of faith fully figured out, we are sadly mistaken.

The real issue is a lack of love one for another. The Bible calls us “carnal” or “worldly.” We are self-centered creatures that want, above all else, to have our own way. Do we even still know what the word “reconciliation” means? If we really learned to love one another as brothers and sisters in the Lord, regardless of doctrinal views, there would be far fewer church splits. Church factions are listed among the “acts of the sinful nature” in Galatians 5: 19-20. Every time there is another church split, it is a sure sign that her members are not living by the fruit of the Spirit, but rather are walking according to their sinful nature. “If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ yet hates his brother, he is a liar.” (1 John 4: 20). There is the sobering truth of the matter. We claim to love God. That is only true if we also love one another. Otherwise, the Bible says we are liars.

Denominational Associations
Nowhere in the Bible can we find any support for denominations or denominational associations or boards. Such groupings are strictly man-made and not God ordained. Whenever a local church joins a denomination they cease to be a scriptural church and they become a sect. Any kind of denominational affiliation is sectarian because it further divides the Body of Christ.

Paul makes this pretty clear in 1 Corinthians 1: 10-17. He urges believers to agree with one another so that there may be “no divisions” among us. He asks, “Is Christ divided?” Of course not! Then why do we faction His Body along denominational lines?

Finally ...
So, does the aforementioned newspaper article surprise me? No, not at all. I’m saddened by it, but not surprised. It is a man-made organization and as such will naturally behave carnally. I would encourage the local congregation to really seek God in this and to continue to gather together, focussing on love and relationships, regardless of the legal outcome. God may still have a purpose for them in this.

Photo Credit: Flickr Creative Commons

Tuesday, 12 February 2008

Are the Jews Still God's Chosen People?


In some Christian circles today, there seems to be this strange fascination with the physical and literal nation of Israel. Many believers today still have this idea that the Jews are still God’s chosen people and as such, we need to give the nation of Israel some sort of special recognition. But is that true? Where did we come up with that sort of thinking? Are the Jews still God’s chosen people?

Before I go any further, a caveat needs to be clarified. As this is a very sensitive subject, please try to understand what I am saying, and not that which I am not saying.

First of all, I want to be absolutely clear that I am in no way “anti-Semitic” (or anti-Jew) any more than I am anti-Arab, or anti-German, or anti-French, or anti-American, or anti-any-other-race. I do not esteem one race of people any higher or lower than any other race. God created all people and loves all people equally. Ultimately, we all come from the same forefathers and, as such, we are all related somewhere back down the line. While it may not always be easy to do, my quest in life is to strive to love (or learn to love) all people equally as God also loves all people equally.

The Problem with Messianic Jews
Many Christians today have supported the concept of Messianic Jews. They see no problem with mixing religious aspects of Judaism with Christianity. The way I see it, the only significant difference between the Messianic Jew and the Orthodox Jew is that Jesus is brought into the mix of the Jewish religious rituals.

I’m reminded of friends who have served as missionaries in Haiti and who reported that there is a strange mix in parts of Haiti between Roman Catholic Christianity and Voodoo. Other cults like Mormonism and some Native groups do essentially the same thing. This is no worse than blending Jewish religious rituals with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The purity of the Gospel message is taken away and a host of other stuff is added to it.

There is a strong warning in Revelation 22: 18-19 about just those sorts of practices. There we read, “I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds anything to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book. And if anyone takes words away from this book of prophecy, God will take away from him his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book.” We can debate all we want whether or not this refers only to the book of Revelation itself, or to the whole of the New Testament. However, such a debate is far beyond the scope of this paper. Suffice it to say, staying well off the fence and away from testing God by pushing the letter of the law (so to speak), is probably wisest.

Paul had the same concern with the church in Galatia. They too, like the Messianic Jews, started mixing Jewish religious rituals with their new faith in Christ. Here’s what Paul had to say to them: “How is it that you are turning back to those weak and miserable principles? Do you wish to be enslaved by them all over again? You are observing special days and months and seasons and years! I fear for you, that somehow I have wasted my efforts on you” (Galatians 4: 9-11). Is that what is happening in Messianic Jewish congregations? Are they observing all kinds of special days and rituals characteristic of Judaism? These are not cultural events, but religious events, and I struggle offering them a place in Christianity. Colossians 2:8 cautions us to, “See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather on Christ.” Then in Colossians 2:20 Paul says further, “Since you died with Christ to the basic principles of this world, why, as though you still belonged to it, do you submit to its rules…?

If Judaism is full of rules and laws and man-made traditions, my question would be, why would any believer want to incorporate these things into their (grace) walk with Christ? True Christianity is about walking in love and relationship with other believers (the Body of Christ), and in so doing, we walk in love and relationship with our Heavenly Father. Is that not enough? Do we still need to complicate things and confuse people by adding a bunch of other stuff to the Gospel? In adding all that other stuff, is it even still rightly called “The Gospel?” How does all this fit with Paul’s suggestion in Galatians 1: 6-10 that those who pervert the Gospel of Christ be “eternally condemned?" I wonder.

Dispensationalism
There is in Christian theology this word called “dispensationalism.” While theologians may understand what it means, most people probably do not. According to the “Concise Dictionary of Christian Theology," dispensationalism is defined as, “A system of biblical interpretation and of theology which divides God’s working into different periods which He administers on different bases. It involves a literal interpretation of Scripture, a distinction between Israel and the church, and a premillennial, pretribulational eschatology.”

According to this dispensationalist way of thinking, God has viewed the nation Israel and the church in two different ways. As such, he will deal with the Jews and with the church in two different ways. In this camp, Romans 11:26 is often cited which says, “And so all Israel will be saved.” I will come back to that verse a little later.

Non-Dispensationalist
The non-dispensationalist is usually more closely identified with having a “Reformed” theology. In this line of thinking, the physical and literal Israel is essentially swallowed up and displaced by the church. The church is often viewed as a “spiritual Israel” and Christians are viewed as being “spiritual Jews.” Those who follow this view will say that there is nothing left for God to fulfill regarding the physical and literal Israel and there is no special place left for them in God’s future plans.

Some Scriptures
Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6)

A man is not a Jew if he is only one outwardly, nor is circumcision merely outward and physical. No, a man is a Jew if he is one inwardly; and circumcision is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the written code. Such a man’s praise is not from men, but from God.” (Romans 2: 28-29)

There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.” (Galatians 3: 28-29)

The Literal vs. Spiritual Church
Do we believe in a literal and physical church? Do we believe that the church is made of concrete and steel? If so, then we will likely also believe that the Lord Jesus will return to a literal and physical Jerusalem in the modern nation of Israel. If we believe that, then it is logical that we will also believe that God still has a special place for the literal and physical nation of Israel. Perhaps we might even dare go so far as to say that Jesus’ words in John 14:6 about Him being the “only way” applies only to our non-Jewish friends and that our Jewish friends will still have another option open to them for salvation by virtue of their DNA. However, Jesus is either the “only way” or He is one of “multiple ways” to God. If He is one of “multiple ways,” then that also begs the question, how many multiple ways are there? Perhaps then the Universalists might be on to something when they say that ultimately everyone will be saved.

On the other hand, do we believe in the spiritual church instead of the literal and physical church? Do we believe Jesus when He said in John 4:24, “God is spirit and His worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth”? Do we believe that the Lord Jesus is going to be returning to a spiritual Jerusalem instead of a physical Jerusalem? Is God interested in the physical or the spiritual? I wonder.

What About the Covenant God Made?
Many will say that God has a covenant relationship with the Jews. While that was once true, is it still so? If a covenant is observed by both parties, then it remains in effect. But what happens if one party breaks the covenant? Does it still hold, or is it still valid? Obviously God does not break His covenant (Isaiah 54:10), so if the covenant is broken, then it is the other party that broke it.

Isaiah 24:5 says, “The earth is defiled by its people; they have disobeyed the laws, violated the statues and broken the everlasting covenant.” Jeremiah 11:10 says, “They have returned to the sins of their forefathers, who refused to listen to my words. They have followed other gods to serve them. Both the house of Israel and the house of Judah have broken the covenant I made with their forefathers.” In speaking about the coming destruction of Jerusalem, Jeremiah 22:8-9 says, “People from many nations will pass by this city and will ask one another, ‘Why has the Lord done such a thing to this great city?’ And the answer will be: ‘Because they have forsaken the covenant of the Lord their God and have worshiped and served other gods.’” Through Ezekiel 44:7 God said, "you broke my covenant.” Even Paul said of them in Romans 1:32, “Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.” And, if that were not all enough on its own, when God sent His Son, did the Jews accept Him? No, but instead, according to John 19:15, “They shouted, ‘Take him away! Take him away! Crucify him!’

How many times have the Jews broken the covenant with God? How many times has He still loved them in spite of their unfaithfulness? How many times has God sent His prophets to address the seriousness of this problem to “His people” and how many times have they responded by killing the prophets, and even killing their own Messiah?

In a marriage covenant, the covenant is in effect until the death of one spouse. On the other hand, if one spouse is unfaithful to the marriage covenant, then and only then, is there is biblical justification for breaking the covenant (Matthew 5:32). Has the covenant been broken between God and “His people?” Yes it has.

Enter the Gentiles
As any Bible student will no doubt have noticed, some of God’s promises to the literal and physical Israel (the Jews), have seen their fulfillment in the spiritual Israel (the church). For example, Hosea 1: 6-11, God says that He will no longer show His love to the house of Israel, and, you are not my people and I am not your God. Then He says that in that place they will be called “Sons of the living God.” In Hosea 2:23 we read, “I will show my love to the one I called ‘Not my loved one.’ I will say to those called ‘Not my people,’ ‘You are my people’; and they will say, ‘You are my God.’” Note now that, while this was addressed to the Jews, Paul in Romans 9: 24-25 applies it to the Gentiles as well. Clearly then, the two peoples (Jews and Gentiles) are now viewed by God as one. As we quoted earlier from Galatians 3:28-29, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.” Finally, Paul also says in Romans 10:12, “For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile – the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, for, ‘Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’” There is now no longer any distinctions between Jews or any other race of people; the same Lord is Lord of all.

So why do the Jews still not believe in Jesus Christ as their Messiah? Part of the answer may lie in Romans 11: 25-32. There Paul says that “Israel has experienced a ‘hardening’ in part until the full number of the Gentiles has come in.” This is a partial and temporary hardening of the Jews. It is partial because some Jews, like Paul, had already believed; and it is temporary because in due course, all the Jewish remnant will be saved. If there is one thing we see throughout the Scriptures, it is that God always has a faithful remnant. Here too, there is a Jewish remnant that will be saved.

The way I understand all this is that, since the Jews rejected Christ, God’s offer went to the Gentiles (Luke 14: 15-24). According to God’s “Sovereign” will (Romans 9), that “hardness” of the Jews is what is keeping them from accepting Jesus Christ as Saviour and Messiah and will be removed when the “fullness” of the Gentiles (Some Greek versions: nations) comes in. How many Gentiles make up that “fullness?” That number only God knows, but whatever it is, it has to do with His “purpose in election” (Romans 9:11). Paul further says in Romans 9: 14-15, “What then shall we say? Is God unjust? Not at all! For he says to Moses, ‘I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.’” Then in Romans 9:18 he says further, “Therefore God has mercy on whom He wants to have mercy, and He hardens whom He wants to harden.” It all has nothing to do with man’s desires or efforts but everything to do with God’s sovereign choice.

Does this mean that, once that number of “elected” Gentiles that God has “predestined” for salvation has come in, that the “hardness” of the Jewish remnant will be removed and the way will then be opened for them to also come into the Kingdom? Romans 11:26 says that, “all Israel will be saved.” The truly amazing thing here is, if we take that literally, there is going to be a mass Jewish conversion to Jesus Christ as their Messiah. Before “all Israel will be saved,” they still MUST accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour, just like you and I did and must do. As we read in Acts 4:12, “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.” There is a remnant of physical and literal Israel (the Jews) that will be saved. They will join the spiritual Israel (the church) that already exists and become part of “the church.”

A Final Caution
Romans 11: 20-22 says, “Do not be arrogant, but be afraid. For if God did not spare the natural branches, he will not spare you either. Consider the kindness and sternness of God: sternness to those who fell, but kindness to you, provided that you continue in his kindness. Otherwise you also will be cut off.

The lesson here is, I believe, be careful with your attitude. We best not think that we are all that! “If you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall!” (1 Corinthians 10:12). A cocky, self-righteous and better-than-thou attitude towards our Jewish brothers and sisters (or towards anyone else for that matter) does not fit well with our call to love one another. I am convinced that the call to love transcends religions. The truth of the matter is that we are even called to love enemies. Remember, “Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love” (1 John 4:8).

If God in His sovereignty could choose to cut off the Jews, His historically chosen people, what makes us think that He cannot do the same thing to us? Fear the Lord and walk according to His kindness, lest “you also be cut off.”

I don't pretend to understand all this, and it could be that I too am still missing something here. Logically speaking, there is either only one path to God for all mankind (Jesus; John 14:6), or there are multiple paths, in which case none of this makes any difference. I prefer to believe the former.

Peace & Blessings to all.

Photo Credit: Flickr Creative Commons

Monday, 4 February 2008

Global Warming: God's Perspective?

Photo Credit: Flickr Creative Commons
There is so much talk today about the problem of “Global Warming.” Personally, I don’t buy it in as much as they are trying to sell the problem to us. Yes, there may be a problem, but I think the whole thing is, for the most part, little more than fear mongering.

Scientists, or those who promoted this fear mongering, are really talking out of both sides of their mouths. While it is true that the earth’s temperature may be marginally rising, it is also true that the earth goes through cycles; it gets warmer, and then it get cooler again, only to be followed by another warming period. Yes, the ozone layer is being depleted, but I suspect that its depletion has much more to do with natural phenomena’s such as forest fires and volcanic activity than it does with driving an SUV as opposed to a VW. Still, I will not argue that; it’s just my opinion.

I also remember reading of how 10,000 years ago the earth’s oceans were (supposedly) 130 meters higher than they are today. Is that true? I suppose no one really knows. However, the point is that even if the worst doomsday case of the global warming camp were realized, the melting ice still would not raise the sea levels to where they’ve already been before. It is true, however, that even a 10 meter raise in sea levels would create incredible flooding and wipe out entire populated cities and villages around the world. Certain islands would be virtually completely submerged and the global loss of life would be catastrophic. There is no doubt about that, and that is unfortunate. No one wants to see such massive losses of life. But all this potential loss of life presupposes that such raising of sea levels would be instant, which I’m reasonably sure would not be the case at all. Any difference in sea levels would rather be gradual, which in turn would afford people lots of time to move to higher ground, and which ultimately would mean that the loss of life would be far less than some people would suggest.

On the other hand, would sea levels even rise as much as they would have us to believe? If I were to take a drinking glass, fill it with ice cubes, and top the glass up with water, would the glass of water run over the rim as the ice melts? No it wouldn’t. And if that is true, then can we really believe that a melting iceberg would behave any differently? In such a case, I don’t think there would be any noticeable rise in sea levels any more than there would be an overflowing water glass when its ice cubes melted. Again, I'm not a scientist; that's just my humble opinion.

The truth is that people much more learned than I have argued both sides of the “Global Warming” issue to death, and likely will continue to argue it for a long time to come. One thing I know for sure is that the Bible also speaks about a form of “Global Warming” and it is much worse than the worse case scenario that we have heard from scientists thus far. To that topic I want to turn now.

Photo Credit: Flickr Creative Commons
What is this biblical “Global Warming” that I’m talking about? It is the complete destruction of the heavens and earth by fire. Let me first digress for a moment. Those of us who have ever attended a Sunday School on any kind of regular basis, will recall that, due to sinful state of the world at the time, God wiped everything out with a flood in the days of Noah. Talk about a rising sea level! God promised that He would never again destroy the world with a global flood like that. Having said that, He does say in many parts of the Bible that, at the end of the age, He will destroy the earth with fire. We are not just talking here about the mercury rising a few degrees, but rather about things getting hot enough to, as 2 Peter 3:10 says, “the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare” (NIV). I’m not sure how hot things have to get in order to cause that kind of destruction, but I am sure it is going to have to get a lot hotter than scientists are telling us in the “Global Warming scenarios. Let us look at some other Bible passages before we go any further.
Malachi 4:1 “Surely the day is coming; it will burn like a furnace. All the arrogant and every evil doer will be stubble, and that day that is coming will set them on fire,” says the Lord Almighty. “Not a root or a branch will be left to them.”
Matthew 3:12 “His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor, gathering his wheat into his barn and burning up the chaff with unquenchable fire.”
1 Corinthians 3:11-13 “For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay, or straw, his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and fire will test the quality of each man’s work.”
2 Thessalonians 1:7 “This will happen when the Lord Jesus Christ is revealed from heaven in blazing fire.”
Hebrews 12:29 “Our God is a consuming fire.”
2 Peter 3:7 “the present heavens and earth are reserved for fire, being kept for the day for judgment and destruction of ungodly men”
2 Peter 3:12 “That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat.”
Do you see a pattern developing here? When I read these verses I see that the whole world is about to get a whole lot warmer. Scientists are right in saying that we are facing a problem with “Global Warming.” They don’t know how right they are! What they don’t know, however, is just how serious things really are going to get. They also are not giving us the right solution to the problem because, again, they don’t know how serious things are going to get, and, they have not considered God’s thoughts on the matter. God is not going to bring His version of “Global Warming” into being because I drive a big SUV instead of a VW. He is going to bring His version of “Global Warming” into being as part of judgment and His plans for the end of the age.

Ah, some may object, I thought sin was paid for by Jesus on the cross? Yes it was, but with only one condition: acceptance by you and me of that gift. If we blatantly disregard the cross of Christ, we should not suppose that we will receive any benefit from it.
Suppose, just maybe, that you are wrong. Then what?
Dear friend, you may be saying to yourself that you don’t believe a thing I’ve just said. You may even think that these are simply the musings of some religious nut. That’s OK, because I’ve been called worse, and like me, you are entitled to your own opinion. But what if you are wrong in your assessment? Think about that for a moment. Suppose, just maybe, that you're wrong. Then what?

Let us look at some more Scripture from the prophecies of the Book of Revelation. While there are many ways that Christians have historically interpreted this book, my point is not to discuss those various interpretations, but rather to simply quote them and let the Holy Spirit guide you, the reader, into their interpretation. I think you will find that they speak for themselves.
Revelation 8: 7-8 “The first angel sounded his trumpet, and there came hail and fire mixed with blood, and it was hurled down upon the earth. A third of the earth was burned up, a third of the trees were burned up, and all the green grass was burned up. The second angel sounded his trumpet, and something like a huge mountain, all ablaze, was thrown into the sea. A third of the sea turned to blood, a third of the living creatures in the sea died, and a third of the ships were destroyed.”
Revelation 9: 18 “A third of mankind was killed by the three plagues of fire, smoke and sulphur…”
Revelation 16: 8-9 “The fourth angel poured out his bowl on the sun, and the sun was given the power to scorch people with fire. They were seared by the intense heat and they cursed the name of God who had control over these plagues, but they refused to repent and glorify him.”
When we talk about “Global Warming,” maybe we should consider God’s perspective about a much more serious “warming” that is going to be coming. Let’s not sweat the little stuff of depleting ozone layers, melting polar ice caps and rising sea levels. By my way of thinking, that’s like putting a band-aid on a terminally ill cancer patient. Let’s forget the band-aids and focus on the cancer of our sin. Is it the sin of mankind that is leading to the inevitable “Global Warming” that God is soon to bring about? I wonder.
2 Peter 3: 8-9 “But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.”
Have you come to repentance through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ? That is the bottom line. That is the only hope for mankind if we want a chance at correcting the doomsday course of God’s “Global Warming” that is rapidly encroaching upon us.
2 Chronicles 7:14 “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”
Do we want our land healed? It’s possible, but it means that we follow and obey what God prescribes as the antidote in the verse we just read.

Anyways, just a couple of my humble musings. Peace.

Friday, 1 February 2008

Is A House Church the Answer?

"the church that meets at their house
Romans 16:5; 1 Corinthians 16:19


I love the “church,” at least in so far as we’re talking about the people who make up the church, I do. I love my Christian brothers and sisters, or at the very least, I’m striving to love them. I am human and as such sometimes it’s harder to love some people as much as others. However, where I fall short in the “love” area, I’m asking God to help me with it so that I might learn to love with the love of Jesus. Where I don’t love the church is when by “church” we are referring to the institutional system that it’s become. This institutional system I don't have much use for; but the people in the system I love.

In previous articles I’ve made reference to the fact that I still get together very regularly with other believers in homes, restaurants, or wherever else the Lord would lead at the time. In these smaller groups we walk in love and relationships. As there are no leaders in these groups, the gifts of the Spirit are much more evident as each believer ministers as the Lord leads and as He has gifted them. Certainly this style of meeting together does seem a little more consistent with what we see in the New Testament, and especially in the Book of Acts. Having said that, “Is A House Church the Answer?”

There are many people today who have given up on the larger institutional church systems in favour of meeting together in private homes. They believe that the “house church” is they way to go. But is it really? The answer is both yes and no.

The answer is “Yes” ... 
... in that meeting together in homes is more conducive to building relationships than a larger institutional church building would be. In a private home people are more at ease to pray together, share meals (the “real” Lord’s Supper), and to study the Bible together. Denominational factions are less of an issue in the house church than they are in the larger institutional systems. The whole house-church model allows for full participation by all. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 14:26, “When you come together, everyone has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. All of these must be done for the strengthening of the church.” The point is, “everyone has” something to contribute and all “must” be done for the “strengthening” of the church. In a large institutional system, this is virtually impossible. In a small house church setting, it is very possible. Our worship of God is relational with His people. Whatever we do with and for others, we do with and for Him. 1 John 4:20 says, “If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ yet hates his brother, he is a liar.” The word “Love” is an action word. The proof of our “loving” is not in the cheap words, but in the doing. In a house church setting, this is very achievable. In a larger institutional system it is less achievable and any “love” is more likely to be in cheap words only as opposed to action. The answer is “yes,”the house church is the answer if we truly want to give of ourselves to others in practical and meaningful ways.

The answer is “No” ...
... if that meeting together in homes is simply a substitute for the larger institutional church system. If all we’re interested in doing is having a smaller version of the larger institution, then we’ve missed the boat completely. If all we’re doing is duplicating the institutional church on a smaller scale, then no, the house church is not the answer. If all we are interested in is sitting in a neat row, or circle, with someone standing over us as teacher/pastor and taking control, then no, the house church is not the answer. If all we are interested in doing is becoming passive spectators in someone else’s home, like we were in the larger institutional system, then the house church is not the answer. If all we are going to do is, like the larger institutional church, faction ourselves around denominational and doctrinal views (part of the sinful nature; Galatians 5:20), then no, the house church is not the answer.

The "One Another's" ...
My friends, it is most important that we remember the “one another” passages of Scripture. When we meet together, do our meeting places lend themselves to praying for each other (James 5:14)? Do our meeting places lend themselves to honouring each other and being devoted to each other (Romans 12:10)? Do our meeting places lend themselves to being submitted to each other (Ephesians 5:21)? Do our meeting places lend themselves to us being able to genuinely share each other’s burdens (Galatians 6:2)? These are the key questions.

How well are we doing with the “one another” Scriptures? Sitting week after week in an institutional church pew just doesn’t cut it. Staring at the “back of the head in front of you” is no way to get to know anyone, much less minister to them. Sitting back as a spectator expecting one person (pastor) to minister to the needs of 200, 400, or 1000 people is totally illogical and contrary to the example of the New Testament where everyone participates in ministering to the body according to the gifts that God has given to them.

Just a couple things I've been thinking about. Peace.

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