Sojourners Not Soloists

Church History

Martin Luther was forced to respond to the charge that Scripture in the hands of the people, in the language of the people, was a dangerous thing. On the contrary, responded Luther, the Roman Church had built up a wall around Scripture which denied reform of the Church’s teachings and practices. Scripture in the hands of the believers under the guidance of the Holy Spirit is the way things are supposed to be. Indeed, it was the motivating factor behind him translating Scripture into German—the language of his people.

Today we have the opposite problem.

If people are reading Scripture at all (and mind you, Biblical Illiteracy is exceedingly high) they are reading it in a vacuum from other believers—which is an inherent problem of modern technology. We have so many tools available that, those of us who are reading, tend to insulate our thinking from other minds. After all (quoting Scripture and following Luther’s argumentation) “we have no need for anyone to teach us.”

In so doing we might fall into error that has long been addressed in church history.

Recall that Christ ascended and gave gifts and some of those gifts were teachers. It is with those gifts that we are corporately built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God. Even those who have the giftedness of being a teacher can’t get away from the fact that they themselves are strengthened, and even built-up, by other members of the church.

We might have an abundance of tools available at our finger tips but we also have (and this is much better) over two thousand years of The Holy Spirit Himself teaching the church. Two Thousand years of a gifted church (with teachers, exhorters, evangelists, etc) corporately responding to error that has crept in.

As we sojourn in this life, and we individually study scripture on our way, we must make sure to also study in community (your assembly) and in light of history. We’re not soloists who play a one man tune, but are corporatelly a body that is being put together. We should learn from our past as well as our present so that we personally do not get derailed by errors that have long been dealt with. As Michael Patton warns, spring-boarding off a famous saying: “Those who don’t learn heresy are doomed to repeat it.”

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Jottings – Jesus is Jehovah

To me it is as clear as the sun at noonday that Christ was the Jehovah of the Old Testament.

John Nelson Darby, Collected Writings of J. N. Darby, Vol. 9.

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Jottings – No Weakness

There is no weakness in the tenderness of our Lord Jesus Christ.

John Heller – at the 2011 Workers & Elders Conference, Raleigh, NC

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God’s Good News: Lesson 2 Part 2

Moral people live better lives, but are they right with God? (Romans 2:1-16)

Do you agree with me about the immoral person? Maybe you agree that they deserve to be judged by God. Well, you are in danger of judgment from God also! You might think you are OK because you do not do such evil things. Compared to an immoral person, you are a good, moral person. So does that make you righteous?

Does God judge by comparing who is better? No! He would not be a righteous judge if He did that! You know His judgment is based on the truth. He looks at you and sees everything about you. Other people do not see what you think, but God does. Other people do not know what you do in secret, but God does!

Have you ever had an evil thought? Have you ever wanted to do something mean to someone? Have you ever done something wrong when no one was around? Have you ever felt bad for what you said or did?

God sees past what you seem to be. He judges what you really are! Are you perfect? If your life was only, always doing good, then God could give you eternal life. But inside you have a conscience – it makes you feel bad for doing wrong things. Do you really always do what is perfect? God knows you do not.

So, you may be a “moral” person. You know that God expects you to live right and do good. You have the truth, and you think about right and wrong with your conscience. But God looks at all of your life. He even sees in secret. Only a perfect life can avoid righteous punishment.

You know you do not have a perfect life. So you are in great danger of judgment from God too! God must give wrath to those who are unrighteous, and you do not have an excuse!

Continued in Lesson 3 Part 1

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Jottings – Where Love Reigns

The church is not a stage where perfect people perform, but a family and flock where loves reigns.”

Jack Spender speaking at the 2011 Workers & Elders Conference, Raleigh, NC.

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God’s Good News: Lesson 1 Part 2

The Gospel is God’s power to save those who believe in Christ (Romans 1:16-18)

Paul was ready to preach the gospel, because he knew everyone needed it. He also knew how great a message it was! It is good news that tells people how God is able to save them. If you were in great danger, you sure would want to know that someone could rescue you! How awesome that God is the Person that wants to rescue you!

Who can be saved? Everyone who believes. How can I be saved? By faith. I need to believe God’s message and believe in God’s Son. We will talk about that more.

How does God save people? By giving them righteousness. This means that by the gospel, a person can be perfect in God’s eyes. By His gospel, God can look at you and say there is nothing wrong with you! But why do I need God to give me righteousness? Do I need to be rescued? What is the danger? The danger we all face is God’s wrath! How horrible!

But why should God have deep anger towards people? Why such fury? It is because of how they live. People do not honor God. God created them, but men live like God is nothing. They are “ungodly.” Also, men do not do right things. Their thoughts, words and actions are evil. People do wrong things. Men are “unrighteous.”

Do men realize they are doing wrong things? Yes! They have the truth about God. They know God will judge them for doing evil things. But they do wrong anyway!

But maybe someone thinks they have an excuse for the things they do. Maybe you do not think God should judge you. Maybe you are not afraid of being punished by God. You may not think you are a bad person. But how does God see you?

Continued in Lesson 2 Part 1

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God’s Good News: Lesson 2 Part 1

1. READ THESE VERSES IN YOUR BIBLE: Romans 1:18-2:16

2. READ TEACHING ABOUT THE VERSES

Immoral people know God and will be judged for their evil lives (Romans 1:18-32)

Some people might want to say they do not know there is a God. But God has showed everyone that He is the powerful One who is greater than them. Everyone can look at the order and greatness of what God made. There is no possible way the universe just happened. They know there must be a mighty Creator!

The real problem is that people know there is a God, but they do not want to give God glory. They want to be their own boss. They do not want to have to listen to their Creator. They ignore God.

So, men have made “god” into something they make with their own hands. God is awesome, but men changed Him into someone little! They imagine a “god” that is not true.

They have the truth about God being above them, but they do not honor Him as God. They do not thank Him. They do not want God or His rules. They do not want God to tell them what to do or not to do! So, God lets them live evil lives. And the things they do become more and more evil.

Do they know God sees what they are doing? Do they know God will judge them? Do they know God will punish their unrighteous deeds? Yes! But they do wrong anyway!

So, “immoral” people know God, and they know that God expects men to do right. They have the truth that there is a God through seeing His creation, but they do not obey what they know. This person is in great danger of God’s judgment! His evil actions will be punished! When God judges him, he will not have any excuse!

Continued in Lesson 2 Part 2

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The Birds Are Angry

Hand Held GameThe 70s and 80s was a great time to grow up. Video games were being introduced for the first time. It was the golden age of gaming and I had a front row seat.

One Christmas morning in the 1970s I received a simple, handheld electronic basketball game. The game featured a little blinking red dot – more of a dash really – that you had to maneuver through other red dashes until you had an open shot to the goal. The dashes could only move around a fixed grid, and the “screen” was painted with the lines of a basketball court.

Ancient by today’s standards, but back in the day it was cutting edge technology – and I loved every minute of it. I played that game for hours on end.

Several years later, on another Christmas morning, I received an Atari 2600 game console. It was at this precise moment that I became an addict. For years to come I would play endless hours of Atari games, and when I wasn’t playing Atari, I was either talking or dreaming about Atari.

Eventually I grew up, went to college and left my games behind. No longer did I have the time or even the desire to play with such childish things.

Fast forward to the summer of 2010 when I became the proud owner of a brand new Android phone… the Droid X. Once again I became enchanted with the cutting edge technology that I held in my hand.

A couple of months later Angry Birds was released for Android… I installed it the day it was released. Why not? It was free!

They say an addict is never really cured. I thought my addiction to gaming was long gone… but at that very moment the addiction returned. In the months ahead I would spend waste ever more time playing.

It became clear that I had a problem. Angry Birds and the other games on my phone were not an innocent distraction… the games were robbing me of precious time. Time with my family, time with my friends, and worst of all… time with my Lord and Savior.

Eventually I worked up the courage to confess my addiction to the guys in my accountability group. Their advice was radical…. delete the games. What? Delete the Birds? Yes… go cold turkey (sorry, bad pun) and delete the Birds.

It wasn’t easy, but right there in front of my accountability group I deleted all of the games from my phone. Yes, the Birds are still angry… but now I have that wasted time back to use in ways that are infinitely more important.

Are there any birds in your life that need to be deleted?

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Jottings – Answered Prayer

He does not answer prayers if He has already given us the answer, and we are not willing to use it.

William MacDonald in True Discipleship published by Gospel Folio Press. How this jumped off the page when I first read it. How many times has God answered my prayers… and yet I never realized it because I wanted a different answer?

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The Information Super-Highway & The Renewed Mind

“This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.” Joshua 1:8

Unquestionably, this is the information age. Never before in history has so much data been accessible to so many people from every conceivable world region and demographic. If a question occurs to one, the answer is a few key strokes away. Want to know the GDP of Namibia, the population of Moneyreagh, Northern Ireland, or Adolf Hitler’s favorite composer? The answers are easily discoverable by means of the powerful search engines that comb the internet for facts and figures.

This abundance of accumulated knowledge works both positively and negatively in contemporary life. On the one hand, Bible translations and tools for studying them have proliferated on the web. Many out of print, public domain Christian books are now freely accessible thanks on websites like books.google.com and archive.org (these sites are searchable by author and title, so one needs to know which volumes one seeks.) A library that once was available only at much time and expense is now open to anyone with a computer and an internet connection.

The downside of this vast trove of information is that it can easily interfere with getting to know God through His Word.

Time that is better spent reading the Bible may be frittered away by endless and unrestrained surfing of the web. What is more, the essential discipline of meditation* on the Scriptures – mentally masticating them while prayerfully seeking the Lord’s mind and will – often is abandoned in favor of quick reading, skimming, and the short attention spans that are the negative byproduct of the information age. Joshua was told to meditate on the Word continually; this is something that characterized all of the great saints (e.g. the Psalms, which were the fruit of the meditations of the Shepherd-King David, as well as others – all by inspiration of the Holy Spirit, 2 Tim. 3:16.)

Pointing and clicking must not supplant pondering. The Word of God demands careful attention and reflection. It is to be hidden in believers’ hearts, and consulted in reference to every aspect of life. By all means, Christians must use modern technology to read, study, and proclaim the Word. But growth in grace and in the knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ will only come about through the time-consuming and somewhat painstaking discipline of meditatively considering the Scriptures.

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*Biblical meditation has nothing to do with the Eastern Mystical variety of meditation, which is actually its exact opposite. The Eastern variety – popular in Hinduism, Sufism, Buddhism, Transcendental Meditation, and New Age philosophy – tells one to empty his mind (sometimes by chanting a word like “Om.”) In contrast, the Bible’s use of “meditation” means to fill one’s mind with the words of Scripture and carefully consider them by prayerful and repeated thought.

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