great rescue and a greater seed

statue of jesus

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Psalm 18:47-50

Psalm 18:47 The God who is the giver of vengeance to me and speaks against peoples under me —

Psalm 18:48 He frees me from my enemies. You exalt me above my adversaries; you rescue me from violent men.

Psalm 18:49 Therefore I will give thanks to you among the nations, Yahveh; I will sing praises about your name.

Psalm 18:50 He gives great rescue to his king; he shows loyalty to his anointed, to David and his descendants permanently.

great rescue and a greater seed

This song of Israel celebrated the great rescue God gave David, by freeing him from his enemies and showing covenant loyalty to him. And this loyalty is claimed for David’s descendants as well. Consider the most famous of David’s descendants. Jesus of Nazareth was apparently defeated by his enemies when he died on a Roman cross. But God exalted him above his adversaries, rescuing him from violent men. God raised him from the dead, and he is now enthroned in heaven.

There are at least two clues in this passage which indicate that it is messianic. First, the word Messiah (Hebrew מָשִׁיחַ) is used by David of himself in verse 50. Also, David refers to his descendants using the singular noun seed (זֶרַע). Notice this prophecy about David’s coming seed:

  • “When your days are fulfilled that you must go to be with your fathers, that I will set up one of your descendants (זֶרַע) after you, who will be of your sons; and I will establish his kingdom. “He shall build for Me a house, and I will establish his throne forever. “I will be his father and he shall be My son; and I will not take My lovingkindness away from him, as I took it from him who was before you. “But I will settle him in My house and in My kingdom forever, and his throne shall be established forever.”‘” (1 Chronicles 17:11-14 NASB).

Of course, this referred to Solomon, as David’s son who inherited the kingdom. But the New Testament authors recognized that it ultimately pointed to David’s greater seed: Jesus (Luke 1:31; Romans 1:3; Galatians 3:16).

Lord, thank you for your rescue/resurrection and coming reign of David’s greater seed.

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“Jointing the Dots”

Conversation With an Unlikely Convert

Lita Cosner chats with Dr Rosaria Butterfield

Creation.com INFObytes
Rosaria-Butterfield
Dr Rosaria Butterfield

Rosaria Butterfield is the author of Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert and Openness Unhindered. She is a public speaker, pastor’s wife and mother. She earned her Ph.D. in English Literature from Ohio State University, is a former tenured professor of English at Syracuse University, and served in the English Department and Women’s Studies Program there.

In the title of her first book, Rosaria Butterfield describes herself as an ‘unlikely convert’. Her testimony is widely available both in Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert and on many YouTube videos.1 While her conversion included rejecting the lesbian lifestyle she previously saw as a “cleaner and more moral path”, Rosaria is adamant that she was converted not out of homosexuality, but out of unbelief.
A key part of her journey was her friendship with Pastor Ken Smith and his wife Floy. Rosaria says they proved to her they were interested in real friendship. They did not immediately invite her to church or share the Gospel. While that’s a Christian’s first instinct in many situations, she thinks it can make the non-Christian feel like they are nothing more than a new evangelism project to us. While we should certainly share the Gospel, she advises that Christians who want to reach unbelievers can start by just listening. “Ken and Floy spent a lot of time just listening to me—and it wasn’t spare time, it was costly time.”

Reading the Bible

I asked Rosaria how her training as an English professor affected her reading of Scripture. “I was not raised in an evangelical church, so I didn’t know about this particular pattern of reading that the evangelical church often seems to encourage, the ‘verse a day’ type of reading. And I’m glad I didn’t know about it, because it would not have made any sense to me; it would have just driven me mad! As an English professor, I specialized in how a book fits together as a whole. So I would say the Lord used all of that training when I came to Scripture.”
Yet Scripture was also challenging her assumptions. “I was writing a book from a lesbian feminist perspective trying to tear down the Bible. I was opposed to all gender/race oppression, and the Bible, I had heard, was filled with both. I had been raised Catholic, and Protestants have a different canon, and I needed to know why. I had heard about authorship problems in John, and authorship is a key question for English professors. Now, I don’t really think everyone has to confront that; I love the thought of a simple faith that receives the Word of God as a balm to your soul, and not feeling the burden of needing to work through these issues.
“But it was really interesting to discover that the Bible was actually answering my questions. Many times in studying a subject, you have to go outside the text to get answers. But that wasn’t the case with the Bible. So the Lord used every bit of my training, and I would even go so far as to say that the reason I have the training I have was for this moment.”

Biblical marriage is a creation ordinance

Rosaria emphasizes the need to approach this issue from the standpoint of a biblical view of creation. “Evangelical Christians only want to talk about the New Testament, and you cannot argue for sanctity of marriage from the New Testament alone. You must understand biblical marriage as a creation ordinance.
“But when you talk about creation, then you step on people’s toes! ‘Oh no! That’s going to offend people. We have scientists in our church!’ But do you not think that any of us who came to Christ out of a life of sin that we loved and enjoyed weren’t offended by the Gospel? The ‘offence’ of the Gospel is one of its signature forms of love.”
Rosaria emphasizes how the idea of male/female marriage is founded in the Genesis account. “You can’t defend the binarism of male and female and the integrity of the male/female binarism in marriage—which is at the centre of the Gospel, not its margins—without understanding it as a creation ordinance, which you can’t do in the New Testament. So if you’re just a ‘New Testament Christian’, you’re part of the problem.”

The ‘yuck’ factor

Rosaria has spoken out against the ‘yuck’ factor used by many evangelicals. “When the LGBT community started to campaign for gay marriage, they attempted to white-wash what counts as gay and lesbian sexuality. ‘We’re just like you, we just want companionship, we want to be able to visit each other in the hospital.’
“However, there were many Christians who said, ‘I smell a rat, because for whatever reason, I know what you’re not telling me, and I want other Christians to understand that this is serious sexual sin that can be damaging and dangerous.’ And so they wrote articles that encouraged Christians to respond with what they would call ‘the yuck factor’. ‘This is disgusting; you have the right to be grossed out about it. If it smells like there’s rotten fish here, there really is.’ And they weren’t wrong. The Bible does say that we are to have a kind of internal ‘resistance to sin’ (1 John 2:3).
“But when Christian pastors portray same-sex attraction as yucky and disgusting and horrible, this encourages gay jokes and it encourages people to speak carelessly. And people in the room who have never told anyone what they’re struggling with will have just perceived that they had better find the exit, because this is a completely unsafe place.
“And then to make matters even worse, you may think the same-sex acts you’re describing are ‘yucky’, but some people don’t. And so faithful Christians may not be tempted until they listen to your sermon or read your blog post. So as Christians talk about sin, and especially sexual sin, we need to do so with decency and modesty (Philippians 4:8). We need to give people the room to confess their sins to their pastors and elders and not unwittingly cause our brothers and sisters to stumble.”

Engaging in hospitality

Hospitality is a passion for Rosaria, and it is also the topic of her upcoming book. “Hospitality is not some quaint art where your teacups match. Hospitality is where you open the doors wide open, because you recognize you have neighbours who are dying of chronic loneliness, and such people will gravitate to anything that fills that void. Our homes can be sanctuaries for people.” In fact, she says, “The LGBT community values hospitality, and the skills I learned there I now use as a pastor’s wife.”

Standing on a biblical foundation in a hostile culture

Many Christians feel intimidated by the opposition they face in our culture when they take a biblical stand on gender issues. Rosaria said, “In some ways ObergefellObergefell v. Hodges is the US Supreme Court decision (2015) that legalized same-sex marriage in the US; creation.com/scotus, 2015.’ data-offset=”-10″ data-variation=”small wide” href=”https://www.blogger.com/null” style=”background-color: transparent; border-bottom: none; box-sizing: inherit; color: #228bf6; cursor: pointer; margin-bottom: 4px;”>2 was decided in the worst possible way for Christians, because sexual orientation became a protected category of personhood under the Supreme Court decision. So as Christians, on what grounds can we deny that someone’s sexual orientation gives them particular civil protections? The biblical ground is that there is no such category of personhood as sexual orientation because we believe Genesis 1:27 is true.
“And here the evangelical church is its own worst enemy, because I think many people in the church are embarrassed about Genesis 1–11. They’re embarrassed about literal 6-day creation; they just think intelligent people shouldn’t go there. Nevertheless, Christians are going to have to be articulate in explaining and living out what it means to be an image bearer of a holy God, one that rejects sexual orientation as a category of personhood for something better.”
Rosarias-books
Two books authored by Dr Rosaria Butterfield; The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert and Openness Unhindered.

How to engage your homosexual neighbour: first steps

Many want to engage people in this area, and share the Gospel with friends and family who identify as homosexual, but they don’t know where to start. Rosaria suggests approaching this subject in a gentle and caring manner. “We can all engage in Gospel issues from the posture of good neighbours. A good neighbour can’t support gay marriage, because that actually puts a stumbling block between a fellow image-bearer and the God who made him or her. Part of being a good neighbour is also listening well. Many times people will ask me, ‘How do I talk to my neighbours who identify as LGBT?’ But a better question might be, ‘How can I listen so I know where they’re coming from?’
“When we stop seeing homosexuality as a ‘special sin’ and start viewing the issue through the lens of the Gospel, we can start to engage in a more helpful way with our neighbours who struggle with this issue. And when we see this as a creation issue, we have a firm foundation for defending the biblical view of gender and marriage.”

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rescued from normality

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Psalm 18:43-46

Psalm 18:43 You have freed me from the disputes1 among the people; you have appointed me the head of nations; a people I had not known serve me.

Psalm 18:44 Foreigners submit to me cringing; as soon as they hear they obey me.

Psalm 18:45 Foreigners lose heart and come trembling from their fortifications.

Psalm 18:46 Yahveh is alive– blessed be my boulder! The God of my deliverance is exalted.

rescued from normality

Under David’s rule, the Israelite nation became a dominating superpower. Here David attributes that national success to God. The deliverance he celebrated was more than just peace. It was peace through strength. It was more than just respect and admiration. It was submission. David saw himself as not part of the petty disputes of the nations, but above them.

God can save your soul from future destruction. He wants to do that. And he also wants to rescue you from the pettiness and normality that can make life today unpleasant.

Lord, we reach out to you and ask for your help. You are the God of our deliverance.

1רִיב

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Prayer based on Psalm 34:5 after a dark day In New Zealand


It is hard after a tragedy like the unprecedented Mosque attack in Christchurch to lead God’s people in Sunday Worship. We are blessed and helped to have the great tradition of the psalmists who have gone before us… Psalm 34 and 35 which details the pain and sorrow of the exiles possibly with the destruction of Jerusalem and the horrors it would have entailed etched in their memories… But still with hope in God’s goodness and faithfulness… 

God

It is hard to praise you today, it feels so dark around us

 It is hard to pray today, our words fail us and only tears well up

We are shocked, and unable to comprehend, Our hearts full of sorrow,

Evil has touched our land, hatred has raised its murderous head,

Fifty kiwi, Muslims at prayer, senselessly slaughtered in Christchurch

Like the psalmist dragged from Jerusalem’s ruins we are downcast,

Our souls are disturbed and heavy within us,

Like the psalmist we turn to you, and we cry our in our pain  

We know you hear our prayers and listen to our cry,

In these dark places, through all of life we know you are faithful

It is hard to praise you, but we do, you are our hope.

You have made all things Good,

But we turned our back, we went our own way,

We disobeyed and became broken and sinful

But You did not give up on us

You sent your son into this broken and hurting world

Not to condemn but to bring new life

Jesus spoke and showed the grace, love and justice of your kingdom

Dying on the cross he paid the price for all we had done wrong

Being raised to life again, new creation happens as we trust in you

 you dwell with your people by your spirit

You are with us, able to being comfort and care,

You are for us, wanting to bring your light in our nation

By your spirit empowering us to share your love

Holy God,

We confess, our sin

We do not love as we should

We do not seek your justice and righteousness with all our being

We don’t like it but those seeds of hate are in us all

We pray you would forgive us and our nation, New Zealand

That you would restore a right spirit within us

Righteous God,

Thank you that you are faithful and just

Thank you that when we confess our sin you forgive and restore

Fill us afresh this morning with your Holy Spirit

Enable us to welcome and to love all people in Jesus Christ

To seek reconciliation and justice in this land

To witness to the hope we have in you

Compassionate God,

We bring our hurting land before you,

We pray for the families and loved ones of the victims, that may know comfort

We pray for the injured and those fighting for their life,

 we ask your hand to be on them and with the medical staff treating them

We pray for the Muslim community in this land, that they will know peace

We thank you for our police and emergency workers

They have selflessly served, to protect and to care

 reacting with training and adrenaline, and as they know come to terms with the horror they have witnessed we pray for their care and consolation

We pray for our nation, that while we all have been attacked by this

That from it might develop a greater sense of togetherness and compassion

Do not let racial hate and extremism win, we pray that evil will be overcome by good 
to the name of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, 
Amen

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Growing Rationality in Global Oil

International Energy Agency: U.S. Shale Revolution Transforming Global Oil Markets

Penny Starr
Breitbart News
US Shale Production Karen Bleier AFP Getty Images
Karen Bleier/AFP/Getty Images

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The Paris-based International Energy Agency’s (IEA) “Oil 2019 — Analysis and Forecasts to 2024” report  is out, revealing that the United States’s shale revolution is “triggering a rapid transformation of global oil markets.”

“The story of how the United States transformed itself into a major exporter within less than a decade is unprecedented,” the announcement about the report states. “It is due to the ability of the U.S. shale industry to respond quickly to price signals by ramping up production.”
“The United States accounts for 70 percent of the total increase in global capacity to 2024, adding a total of 4 mb/d (million barrels per day),” the announcement states. “This follows spectacular growth of 2.2 mb/d in 2018.”  The summary of the report states, in part:
As a result of its strong oil production growth, the United States will become a net oil exporter in 2021, as its crude and products exports exceed its imports. Towards the end of forecast, U.S. gross exports will reach nine mb/d, overtaking Russia and catching up on Saudi Arabia. The transformation of the United States into a major exporter is another consequence of its shale revolution.
Greater U.S. exports to global markets strengthen oil security around the world.
“Demand for Oil Increasing for the Foreseeable Future” is the headline for the analysis of upstream investment in the forecast.  “It is, therefore, reassuring that 2019 upstream investment is set to rise for the third straight year, according to preliminary plans announced by key oil and gas companies,” the report summary says.  
The report also notes that while gasoline “slows, petrochemicals and jet fuel are stalwarts of demand growth.”“The second wave of the U.S. shale revolution is coming,” Fatih Birol, IEA’s executive director says of the report.

“It will see the United States account for 70 percent of the rise in global oil production and some 75 percent of the expansion in LNG (liquid natural gas) trade over the next five years.“This will shake up international oil and gas trade flows, with profound implications for the geopolitics of energy,” Birol said.  

Some of the other key findings of the report include:
  • The U.S. is joined by Brazil, Iraq, Norway, the UAE and Guyana as the biggest sources of supply growth. Iran and Venezuela are forecast to post the deepest losses, though the outlook could change dramatically depending on political factors.
  • The U.S. shale revolution is also altering the picture for refiners. These barrels are generally lighter than the average crude barrel, which means they require less complex refining processes to turn them into final products.
  • Sulphur is another key issue. An average product barrel is allowed to contain only 0.34 percent of sulphur, and this percentage will fall even more with the IMO regulations, to 0.24 percent. However, an average crude barrel contains 1.2 percent sulphur, requiring refiners to use a lot of natural gas to produce hydrogen to use in desulphurization operations — a costly and CO2 intensive process. Shale crudes, on the other hand, have a significantly lower sulfur content, requiring less costly operations.

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Can we have enemies?

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Psalm 18:39-42

Psalm 18:39 You have decked me out with strength for battle; you forced my adversaries to their knees beneath me.

Psalm 18:40 You have made my enemies retreat before me; I annihilate those who hate me.

Psalm 18:41 They cry for help, but there is no one to save them– they cry to Yahveh, but he does not answer them.

Psalm 18:42 I pulverize them like dust before the wind; I empty them out like street mud.

Can we have enemies?

David has already proclaimed his need for God and his confidence in God, so these words can be understood in that context. He is not boasting in his own wisdom or strength, but praising God for his faithfulness.

Have we evolved beyond this kind of talk? Some of the comments I read on the psalms suggest something like that. They imply that the New Testament says we should love our enemies, so this kind of talk is no longer applicable.

I think they are wrong. It is not unscriptural to admit that certain people are against you, and to ask God to help you defend against their attacks.

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Minutes of Silence

15th of March, 2019

In New Zealand we are not used to acts of mass murder.  But it has come to pass. 

May God have mercy upon us all. 

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Dying Civilization

Fertility Falls in EU

Not ONE Country Hits Population Replacement Level

Victoria Friedman
Breitbart News

Total births in the European Union’s 28 member states in 2017 have fallen from the year before, while first-time mothers are now almost 30.

Figures released by Eurostat on Tuesday revealed that there were 5.075 million babies born in the union in 2017, compared with 5.148 million in 2016 with the total fertility rate standing at 1.59 births per woman — down from 1.60 on the year before and well below the 2.1 births per woman needed to maintain a population.

In terms of individual countries, France had the highest fertility rate at 1.90 births per woman, followed by Sweden (1.78), Ireland (1.77), Denmark (1.75), and the United Kingdom (1.74). 

The lowest fertility rates were in Malta (1.26), Spain (1.31), Italy and Cyprus (both 1.32), Greece (1.35), Portugal (1.38), and Luxembourg (1.39).

These figures reveal that not one of the 28 European Union countries came close to replacement level in 2017.
  Of the five million plus births that year, 45 per cent where for a first child, while just over one third (36 per cent) were a second child, while fewer than one-in-five (19 per cent) were of a third or subsequent child.  The average age of first-time mothers is also getting slightly older, at 29.1 compared to 29 years old in 2016.

Countries where the mean age for a first-time mother is less than 27 tend to be concentrated in eastern Europe, including Latvia, Bulgaria, Romania, while the oldest first-time mothers tend to be concentrated in the south (Italy, Spain, and Greece), and Luxembourg, and the Republic of Ireland.

Proponents of mass migration have argued that the so-called ‘demographic timebomb’ of Europe can only be solved with importing peoples from the Global South, with that solution being grasped with both hands by Western and Northern European countries like Sweden and Germany, where mass migration alone now accounts for population growth. 

The belief that opening the borders to mostly unskilled migrants will answer the question of where a new workforce will come from to pay the social security of the older generation has been condemned as a Ponzi Scheme, as migrants themselves will grow old and need social care, and evidence showing that the vast majority of migrants arriving in some countries are still unemployed.

There is also the initial financial costs for care and integration of new arrivals to consider, as well as the social costs of rising terrorism and crime.  Migrant unemployment continues to be a problem in Germany, with research revealing the majority who arrived in 2016 are still unemployed.

Eastern and Southern Europe have moved towards a different approach in recent years, however, approving government policies that support Europeans to grow their own families.

Last month, conservative prime minister of Hungary Viktor Orbán introduced several family-friendly government initiatives to boost natural population growth in his country, including a loan of ten million Forints (£27,385/$35,230) to every woman under 40 who marries for the first time, with the loan completely written off after the birth of her third child, and women who have raised four or more children being exempt from paying income tax for life.

Similar measures were introduced in Poland in January, when the parliament approved a special pension for mothers and grandmothers who have raised four or more children as a means of showing, what Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki called, “gratitude and respect” to women who have “devoted their lives to bringing up children.”

When announcing the proposals in February, Prime Minister Orbán stated that his country would choose family over mass migration, saying, “In our minds, immigration means surrender… If we resign ourselves to the fact that we are unable to sustain ourselves even biologically, by doing so we admit that we are not important even for ourselves.”

Italy’s populist Deputy Prime Minister and Interior Minister Matteo Salvini, who launched a Ministry of Family and whose League party floated the idea of giving land to families expecting their third child, shared a similar sentiment last year when he said, “A country which does not create children is destined to die.”

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a spacious place beneath me

person wearing blue denim jacket while walking on foggy road

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Psalm 18:35-38

Psalm 18:35 You have given me the shield of your deliverance; your right hand reinforces me, and your humility exalts me.

Psalm 18:36 You make a spacious place beneath me for my steps, and my ankles do not give way.

Psalm 18:37 I pursue my enemies and overtake them; I do not turn back until they are finished.1

Psalm 18:38 I crush them, and they cannot get up; they fall beneath my feet.

a spacious place beneath me

As a long distance hiker, I so much appreciate that phrase “You make a spacious place beneath me” in verse 36. When the path is narrow and ragged with sharp rocks, every step takes more time, and one false step and your ankles are toast. Even the most experienced hikers are liable to fall or otherwise injure themselves on such a path. Apparently David knew about long distance walks. He also knew the luxury of spacious paths. When he was looking for a way to describe how God took care of him, he used this metaphor about God putting him in places that protected his feet. Because his feet remained strong, he was able to overtake his enemies, and they fell beneath his feet.

Lord, thank you for the protection which makes us strong.

1 כִּלָּה (pi)

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Assembly, Body & Bride: The Gathered

After Israel was scattered throughout the nations as part of their punishment for rejecting the Lord, the prophets began to predict that God would restore them to himself. The scattered people would become the gathered people. God would redeem them and would call on the nations to restore them to himself:

“I will say to the north, ‘Hand them over!’ and to the south, ‘Don’t hold any back!’ Bring my sons from distant lands, and my daughters from the remote regions of the earth, everyone who belongs to me, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed — yes, whom I made!”[1]

From that time on, the people of God began to see themselves not as a people planted (in Israel) but as a people harvested from the nations. When the New Testament era dawned, the word chosen to identify Jesus’ disciples as a group was ἐκκλησία,[2] which had been a general term for assembly. The church is God’s gathered community, harvested from among the nations.

Harvest

Jesus used the analogy of harvest to explain the work of building his church. He told his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”[3] The analogy is an excellent one, because it shows both the value that Christ puts on the souls harvested and the hard work and cooperation it will take to bring them in.

After a short discussion with Jesus, a Samaritan woman went into her village and proceeded to bring them to him. Commenting on the event, Jesus said to his disciples:

“Do you not say, ‘There are yet four months, then comes the harvest’? Look, I tell you, lift up your eyes, and see that the fields are white for harvest. Already the one who reaps is receiving wages and gathering fruit for eternal life, so that sower and reaper may rejoice together. For here the saying holds true, ‘One sows and another reaps.’ I sent you to reap that for which you did not labor. Others have labored, and you have entered into their labor.”[4]

The “others” who had sown probably implies John the Baptist, those who had brought the Scriptures to the Samaritans and the Samaritan woman herself. They had done the preliminary work so that, when Jesus appeared, the crowds could recognize him and accept him as the Messiah.

Often that passage is used to encourage people to do missions, but there is a potential problem with using it for that purpose. There are still “fields” all around the world where the hard work of planting the seeds has not yet been done. Those fields are not ripe for harvest. For some of them, it might take many more years and much more spilled blood before they move from resistant to receptive. Of course, this is not to discourage missions but to prepare those who are called to resistant areas for the difficulties that calling may entail.

Pentecost can properly be called the first Christian gathering. From that time on, it became typical for believers to gather together at various places, some public, others private.[5] Each gathering is a kind of foretaste of the greater gathering, when all believers will be “gathered together to” Christ at his second coming.[6] Living believers are, according to James, “a kind of firstfruits,”[7] a preliminary harvest with a promise of that greater harvest to come. As such, we are expected to begin showing some of the awesomeness of that future harvest. That is why James transitions from the idea of firstfruits to that of demonstrating godly character.[8] If we are part of God’s harvest, we will radiate his glory.

Worship

The church is God’s gathered community, designed to radiate his glory through (among other things) worship. When his people honor his person and praise him for his works, they help the creation to reboot. Somewhere along the line, this planet has lost its purpose. Worship is our way of revisiting that purpose.

When Jesus was clip-clopping into Jerusalem at his triumphal entry, some Pharisees (who did not have a clue what was going on) demanded that Jesus stop his disciples from worshiping him. Not only did Jesus refuse to stop them, he told the Pharisees that if they were silenced, “the very stones would cry out.”[9] Now that our Savior has come, his worship is imperative. We all do it poorly compared to how we will do it, but we try anyway. It is as natural as breathing for us.

Worship is supposed to be “in spirit and truth,”[10] which is simply a hendiadys for “authentically.” Its opposite would be worshiping in the flesh without a true feeling of awe or gratitude. Perhaps you remember the last time you attended a service that just seemed to be going through the motions? That is not worship. Authentic worship is a reaction to God’s felt presence and God’s manifested works. It is not an expression of our “worth-ship” but his. The worshiper does not get carried away with herself, but caught up in him. That is why the fruit of the Spirit – self control – must manifest in worship as well. Much damage has been done by confusing self-honoring frenzy with God-honoring worship.

Yet, there is something to the process of worship that at times may seem like loss of control. Paul told the formerly pagan Ephesians not to get drunk on wine, but to be filled with the Spirit.[11] They were to replace one kind of intoxication for another. Instead of wine causing them to abuse one another, they were to drink deeply of the Holy Spirit, which would influence them. It would result in “addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.”[12]

When the Holy Spirit is manifested in our gatherings, he causes us to do things that outsiders may not understand and may attribute to the wrong cause. At Pentecost, Peter had to remind the crowd that those who were receiving manifestations were not drunk; it was (after all) only nine o’clock in the morning.[13] From that time on, “praising God” was a description of what believers constantly did.[14]

Worship is always to be directed God-ward, but there is a side effect benefit that we who are gathered can gain from it. The author of Hebrews insisted that his readers keep gathering together for the purpose of “encouraging one another.”[15] It is an encouragement to see what God is doing in the lives of other Christians, and we can see the Holy Spirit at work within them as they worship. While worship is not a show that we put together for one another’s benefit, there are aspects of the Christian life that are only seen in the community context. That is why the New Testament contains so many reciprocal commands: love one another, care for one another, submit to one another, etc.

Instruction

The church is God’s gathered community, designed to proclaim and explain God’s Word through instruction. Jesus commanded us to make disciples by teaching each other to obey his commands. There is actual content to the commands of Christ. It is impossible to be a mere worshiping church. A true church is a discipling church, and a discipling church is a teaching church. One of the earliest criticisms that unbelieving authorities hurled at the early church was that they were teaching in Christ’s name.[16] The apostles arose at daybreak, and started teaching.[17]

As previously mentioned the content of Christ’s commands can be summarized thus:

  1. Make your choices based on God’s permanent realities, rather than the world’s temporary ones. Invest your life in eternity.
  2. Put Christ and his kingdom first in your life. Be devoted to him.
  3. Be genuine. Don’t pretend to be something you are not, and don’t forget who you are in Christ. Be what you claim to be.
  4. Trust your heavenly Father to take care of your needs and to win your battles. Rely on God to do what you cannot do.
  5. Keep in contact and communication with God through prayer.
  6. Concentrate on learning, living and proclaiming the truth.
  7. Expect the power of the Holy Spirit to make up for your weaknesses and insufficiencies. Be used by God to fulfill his will.
  8. Live in expectancy because the king is coming! Be alert, and ready for his arrival.

Discipling consists of bringing people to the point of commitment to Christ (baptizing) and then nurturing that commitment through a lifelong process of teaching. The gathered church is a teaching church.

The means of the church’s teaching ministry is not a creed or a set of church traditions — it is the Holy Spirit, who is continuing the discipling ministry of Jesus Christ among us. The medium he uses is the Bible, the Word of God.

… they proclaimed the word of God in the synagogues of the Jews.[18]

He was with the proconsul, Sergius Paulus, a man of intelligence, who summoned Barnabas and Saul and sought to hear the word of God.[19]

[T]he Jews from Thessalonica learned that the word of God was proclaimed by Paul at Berea also …[20]

[Paul] stayed a year and six months, teaching the word of God among them.[21]

I became a minister according to the stewardship from God that was given to me for you, to make the word of God fully known …[22]

[W]hen you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men but as what it really is, the word of God, which is at work in you believers.[23]

I write to you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God abides in you …[24]

Believers with the Holy Spirit inside them and the Word of God coming out of them are a strong force for change in the world. Jesus intends for his gathered church to not simply sit by and wait until his return. He has commanded us to “engage in business” until he comes.[25] As Paul wrote, “Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching.”[26] The gathered church is a teaching church.

Fellowship

The church is God’s gathered community designed to radiate his glory by growing closer together and demonstrating our unity. This is done through fellowship. The act of gathering us together was intentional — God did not mean for us to be spiritual lone rangers. He does not have one church of doers and another church of viewers. He has one body, with many members.[27] Fellowship is the way we show our unity among ourselves and to the watching world.

And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.[28]

Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness?[29]

[T]hat which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ.[30]

But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another …[31]

The gathered church is not a saved soul here and a saved soul there. We are a collected crop. We are gathered sheaves, prepared to be harvested for our Master on the last day. The gathered church is a fellowshipping church.

Evangelism

The church is God’s gathered community designed to radiate his glory by snatching people from among the doomed and bringing them to eternal life in Christ. We do this through dynamic witness. Jesus told us that we would be his witnesses “in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”[32] We are witnesses to the fact that there is now hope because Jesus Christ has been raised from the dead. Peter told the first gathered community that they were all witnesses of this fact: God raised Jesus from the dead![33]

We are to witness to two facts: 1) that the risen Christ is coming again to judge the world and 2) that forgiveness of sins is available to all who believe in Christ.[34] These two facts must not be separated. A gospel that only emphasizes God’s love and forgiveness misses the first fact. It ignores the bad news, without which people cannot understand the good news. Attempting to evangelize without pointing out why we need forgiveness is only half a witness.

The world is used to Christians telling them that God wants them to join them in heaven. He wants no such thing. The gospel is about a risen Christ who is coming back to conquer the earth. The early Christians did mention heaven. They spoke of Christ, “whom heaven must receive until the time for restoring all the things about which God spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets long ago.”[35] Heaven was only mentioned because that is where Christ is now, and were he is coming from when he returns. True evangelism is not an offer of a new location — it is an offer of life.

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”[36]

Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life …[37]

“Already the one who reaps is receiving wages and gathering fruit for eternal life …”[38]

“[W]hoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life.”[39]

“Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.”[40]

[T]o those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life …”[41]

… so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.[42]

Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called …[43]

… in hope of eternal life, which God, who never lies, promised before the ages began …[44]

And this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son.[45]

The church needs to be done with this “good people go to heaven when they die” gospel because it is not the biblical gospel. A church that wants to truly be the church will testify to what the Bible says. It will hold out the hope that the Bible calls “the blessed hope,” which is “the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ.”[46] Any hope that replaces this hope is a false hope.

Any “evangelism” that sidesteps the centrality of Jesus Christ raised from the dead is too sanitized by human philosophy. If all we have to say to people is that Jesus died for them, we are telling the truth, but it is not the whole truth. The whole truth includes the fact that this same Jesus who died for them was raised to rule them. He is coming back, and any gospel that does not take that fact into account is too truncated. Much of modern evangelicalism has missed this point. For that reason, what has passed for evangelism has failed to capture people’s loyalty to Christ. Its recipients are interested only in what Jesus can do for them because that is the only gospel they know. The church who truly evangelizes leads people from accepting Christ’s gift of forgiveness to embracing Christ’s authority and his coming kingdom. The church is God’s gathered community designed to radiate his glory by bringing others into his kingdom through dynamic witness.

Rev. Jefferson Vann

(Rev. Jefferson Vann is a graduate of Berkshire Christian College, Columbia International University and Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. He and his wife Penny have been involved in Advent Christian ministry since 1984, serving as missionaries in the Philippines and New Zealand. Jeff is the author of “An Advent Christian Systematic Theology” and “Another Bible Commentary” and is a contributing editor to “Henceforth …”)

References

[1] Isaiah 43:6-7, NET.

[2] Often those who analyze the Greek word ἐκκλησία draw the wrong conclusion from the analysis. While it is composed of the words for “out” (ἐκ) and “call” (καλέω), the idea is not that it is a group separated from others, but an assembly of those gathered from among others.

[3] Matthew 9:37-38.

[4] John 4:35-38.

[5] Acts 12:12; 13:44; 14:27; 15:30; 20:7-8.

[6] 2 Thessalonians 2:1.

[7] James 1:18.

[8] James 1:19-27.

[9] Luke 19:40.

[10] John 4:23-24.

[11] Ephesians 5:18.

[12] Ephesians 5:19-21.

[13] Acts 2:15.

[14] Acts 2:47; 4:21.

[15] Hebrews 10:25.

[16] Acts 4:18; 5:28.

[17] Acts 5:21.

[18] Acts 13:5.

[19] Acts 13:7.

[20] Acts 17:13.

[21] Acts 18:11.

[22] Colossians 1:25.

[23] 1 Thessalonians 2:13.

[24] 1 John 2:14.

[25] Luke 19:13.

[26] 1 Timothy 4:13.

[27] 1 Corinthians 12:12.

[28] Acts 2:42.

[29] 2 Corinthians 6:14.

[30] 1 John 1:3.

[31] 1 John 1:7.

[32] Acts 1:8.

[33] Acts 2:32; 3:15.

[34] Acts 10:40-43.

[35] Acts 3:21.

[36] John 3:16.

[37] John 3:36.

[38] John 4:36.

[39] John 5:24.

[40] John 12:25.

[41] Romans 2:7.

[42] Romans 5:21.

[43] 1 Timothy 6:12.

[44] Titus 1:2.

[45] 1 John 5:11.

[46] Titus 2:13.

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