Church History

Colossians 2 8

“History is a set of lies agreed upon.”   -Napoleon Bonaparte

Well, there is some truth there for sure. . . and he’s been gone a long time. . .imagine how many more lies have been decided upon?!

One place where we can for sure see this idea coming into play is within church history. Church history isn’t taught much in schools for a variety of reasons. And, it isn’t taught much in churches for of a variety of reasons. History can be dry and not everyone needs to be a “history buff”, but it is also exciting in many ways. There is some super interesting and incredibly important information there. In it lies the foundations of our spiritual belief systems, Christian practices, and some fascinating facts demonstrating that human-driven beliefs overpowering God-driven instruction is not a “contemporary challenge”. There is nothing new under the sun.

Recently, we purchased a book called, The God of Jesus by Keagan Chandler. This book is clearly written by an individual who has sought to find the needle of truth in the haystack of history, and though we’re not done, it is a helpful resource so far. He challenges the reader that, “. . .the only thing more regrettable than a religious academia which doesn’t care that its most characteristic philosophies are found nowhere in the mouth of Jesus and routinely in the teachings of pagan mystics, is a devoted majority which does not know it at all” (p. 270).

That is so true. The majority of us don’t know the history of our religious philosophies, and for some who know. . .they choose not to care. One interesting piece of church/world history is seen when Chandler reminds us that “Incarnation. . .the assumption of human form by a god is an idea common in religion. . .India and Egypt were especially rich in forms of incarnation. . .Incarnation is found in various phases of Greek religion” (p. 359). Hence. . .a few years later, “Christians” fight amongst themselves, hold a few councils to decide that Jesus, God’s son, must actually be the incarnate God who came to earth as a baby in human form, and later deciding that everyone had better believe that or be willing to die as a blasphemer for saying Jesus is our Messiah but not God himself. It is very interesting to see the gradual assimilation of pagan cultural beliefs infiltrate in just this one area (and there are so many others), and we continue to see this cultural penetration every day in our own lives. If we as the church continue to absorb the traditions and beliefs of everyone around us and not root them solely in God’s word and obedience to Him, then we are certainly not learning much from the lessons of history. You see, history matters. We don’t want to keep doing the same thing and expect a different result or just be hamsters running in a wheel going nowhere.

We can’t cover church history in one day, but we can challenge ourselves to study it. Read. Investigate. Ask others. Grow. Seek to learn. In school and at museums, we learn about things like slavery and the Holocaust so we can understand how wrong that was and to “prevent it from happening again”.  But, do we ever look at the history of our own religion or our own spiritual beliefs with the same intentions. We are flawed. We can’t be in control of creating belief systems or everything will fall apart. We are subjects of His created system. And while He has allowed confusion and problems for a time now. . .a day of perfection is coming for those who He knows and calls where we will understand all things and will no longer be exposed to lies.

“See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world rather than on Christ.” (Colossians, 2:8, NIV)

“For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in God’s sight. As it is written: ‘He catches the wise in their craftiness’” (1 Cor.3:19, NIV)

“Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD and shun evil.” (Proverbs 3:7, NIV)

My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power.                   (1 Corinthians 2:4-5, NIV)

 

-Brian and Jennifer Hall

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This Little Light of Mine

John 8 12

It is now officially summer. I love summer. I love the warmth of sun on my skin, the colorful growth and plant life around me, and the sound of voices as people are outside living life. I appreciate the simplicity of walking out my door without dragging a coat, scarf, and layers that never seem to be comfortable no matter what I do, and being able to simply open the door of my car versus brushing it off, warming it up, or on really bad days. . . digging it out. In general, I prefer sweat to shivers or snot (my nose pours this out in anger toward the cold within a few seconds of me being out there usually). I would rather have mosquito bites itch for a few days than itchy, dry skin for months just longing for warm sunshine days to come. Summer has its cons, but it has its pros, and I appreciate them.  As a child I remember dreaming of carefree summer days to come while sitting at uncomfortable desks in sterile classrooms with not even a window or glimpse of the “outside world” in sight. As an adult working 11 hour shifts, during winter months I would drive to work in the dark and get off in the dark, restricting my only sunlight exposure to the occasional view through a hospital hallway. I do not prefer to live this way.

The sunlight has so many benefits. Of course, lying out in the sun for hours in vanity or laziness are bad ideas. Blistering skin is a bad idea. And since anything can be misused, I do not want to condone anyone making unwise choices for skin or physical health this summer on account of this reading. But, just a little research will tell you how our western “indoor” culture is significantly deprived of sunlight in general. Sunlight helps us synthesize Vitamin D which is essential for so many bodily functions I won’t even begin to name them. Sunlight increases oxygen in our blood, lowers blood pressure, and builds the immune system. Sunlight improves our mood. In fact, areas of the world where there is more sunlight compared to cloudy northern climates further from the equator have significantly less diagnoses such as multiple sclerosis, ADHD, mood disorders, sleep disturbances, etc.  There are many known benefits to sunlight, and I find that concept to be quite spiritually relevant.

When I was in college, I remember being paired up with a girl from my college dorm Bible study, and we were asked to come up with the lesson for the following week.  She said her idea was “Let’s talk about light. It comes up a lot in the Bible it seems”. So, we had a week to casually research light references in the Bible we thought and come up with a little lesson of some sort…..and we realized by the middle of the week that we were not going to even touch the tip of the iceberg of what is there in the Bible in one study. Light is contrasted with dark throughout scripture, and darkness or a lack of light is correlated to evil numerous times. The light is good stuff. God’s son is the light. We are to walk in the light. We are to turn from darkness.  So, I can only provide a drop in the bucket of the idea of light here today. . .but here are some things to think about:

“You are going to have the light just a little while longer. Walk while you have the light, before darkness overtakes you. Whoever walks in the dark does not know where they are going.  (John 12:35, NIV)

 “Then Jesus again spoke to them, saying, “I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life.” (John 8:12, NIV)

We can be overtaken by darkness and lost. We need to intentionally seek and follow the light. The light has been lovingly and freely given to us by our Creator and sovereign God. We don’t know where we are going if we aren’t following the light of his son, Jesus. And, we aren’t following Jesus if we aren’t living like Jesus lived. If we are followers of Jesus, we are also a source of light to others.

“You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”  (Matthew 5:14, NIV)

Ultimately, we need to identify the contrast between light and dark by believing the light is good and turning away from evil.  We are called to accept the light God has provided through the forgiveness and salvation made possible by the gift of His son, our Messiah. As part of that belief, we are instructed to follow Jesus and in turn bring glory to our Father. Also, by doing this, we shine a light for others who are lost, just waiting for a glimpse of that summer sun on a cloudy, wintry day.

I appreciate so much those who have been a light to me on this earth, and those who have taught me of a day to come. One without tears and mistakes and disappointments. A day so bright we won’t even need the sun at all according to Revelation!  Followers of Jesus long for that day where we can reign together with him in his kingdom, but as we wait for it with open arms, let’s not forget to continually seek the light, love the light, and shine the light.

 

–Jennifer Hall

ON PURPOSE – Evangelism

Luke 15 6b

The past five days we have been looking at how to live our lives on purpose.  We don’t want to drift through life not accomplishing what God has prepared for us to do.  We don’t want worldly goals that pull us away from what really matters.

First, we looked at the Greatest Commandment and said that to love God is to worship God.  Next, we discussed the importance of following Christ by being a devoted disciple: the on-going process of becoming mature in Christ (discipleship) which begins with time in God’s Word – and will include other godly habits as well.  And, a disciple remembers they are not alone but are connected to other disciples as the body of Christ so they are eager to fellowship with and encourage one another.  Life in the encouraging body leads to seeing other’s needs and being willing to use our God-given gifts in ministry to others.

So far, we have created an individual who deeply loves God, is growing in their walk with God’s Son, has healthy connections to the church family and seeks to serve others.  That is a GREAT and beautiful start!  But, too often, we are content to stop right there and remain committed to just these 4 purposes – and stay inside our safe little church bubble (myself included).

When church members were surveyed, 89% said, “The church’s purpose is to take care of my family’s and my needs… Only 11% said the purpose of the church is to win the world for Jesus Christ.” (Purpose Driven Church – Rick Warren – p 82).  And we wonder why the church isn’t growing.  This selfish, inward focus is not healthy, and is not what God intended for us as individuals, or as the church.

The Great Commission did not tell us to just go and BE a good disciple – it commands us, “Go and MAKE disciples of all nations.”  It is not enough to only be concerned for my own salvation.  To truly love God and others includes a desire to share a great and glorious God with those who are lost and hurting and oblivious without Him.  God wants His lost sheep found and most often he chooses to use people to do that.  Only God can save the lost, but He relies on us to share the good news.  Read Luke 15 to see God’s heart for the lost – and pray that becomes your heart, too.

When Jesus said, “Come, follow me” he wasn’t just inviting you to his church pew on Sunday morning.  He said, “Come, follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” (Matthew 4:19.).  He is asking you to invite others to your church pew.

Who do you know who needs to know God’s saving power and plan?  Who do you know who is not ready for Christ’s return and the Kingdom of God?  Start by naming them and then praying for them and watching for God-given opportunities to speak and act with God’s love and truth.  Then, jump in there and do it.

For Him,

Marcia Railton

 

Fulfilling Purpose…Or…Refusing Salvation

Acts 26

acts 26 22

There are two reasons why it’s interesting that Paul makes his case to King Agrippa. First, it really wasn’t going to do him any good because he had already appealed to Caesar and knew that meant he would have to go to Rome. Of course, he had been told that Rome was where he needed to go anyway. (Remember Acts 23:11) It seems that Paul’s defense before Agrippa was all for show. Agrippa wanted to hear Paul and Paul wasn’t going to miss the opportunity to share God’s message. We can’t forget Paul’s purpose given to him from Jesus. In Acts 9:15 we see that Paul is to bear the name of Jesus “before the Gentiles and kings and the sons of Israel.” Paul knows what he is about! He is to share the message with not only Gentiles and Jews, but kings! So we can see why Paul is considering himself fortunate to get to speak directly to Agrippa.  He is fulfilling his purpose.

Secondly, it’s also interesting to think about who this King Agrippa really was. Agrippa’s great-grandfather had tried to kill Jesus as a baby, Agrippa’s grandfather had John the Baptist beheaded, and his father martyred James, a disciple of Jesus and one of the sons of Zebedee. Why would Paul care to make his case to a man of this lineage? Could he really expect Agrippa to care about Paul? Paul understands that God still wants Agrippa no matter what he or his family has done. He knows that Jesus died for Agrippa, too. Paul could have thought, “It’s a waste of time to speak to him.” But Paul shows us that NO ONE is a waste of time.

Agrippa is almost persuaded to become a Christian. Paul makes sense and his intense concern for all to hear and accept the truths he shares is compelling. But there are so many watching. And there is Bernice and Festus there too. Festus has already declared Paul to be out of his mind. Agrippa would be putting his standing and esteem in a predicament if he agrees with Paul. He cannot do that. However, he can’t say that Paul has done anything worthy of death or imprisonment either and he seems regretful that he can’t let Paul go. It’s such a shame to see someone have understanding and yet be so comfortable with the way they are living that they refuse to accept salvation.

-Melissa New

Are you Ready for Truth?

Acts 22

acts 22 1

Oh Paul! You are a Jew! And you know the Jews so well. In the past you worked hard to be not simply a Jew, but a Jew worthy of being called a Jew. You know how the Jews can be. You know that going to Jerusalem is a terrible idea. You know that taking Greeks into the temple will not be accepted by the Jews. You know this isn’t going to end well. And yet you went…

Chapter 22 shows us the best of Paul. We have seen the worst and in this speech he admits his worst. I love the emotional appeal that Paul puts into his speech. “Listen to me, brothers. I understand you. I was just like you and I was shown a better way. Please, let me show you a better way.” It’s an effective strategy especially because it bears truth. Unfortunately, the Jews were not ready for truth. Look what they did to Jesus. It really wasn’t that long ago that Jesus, too, went to Jerusalem and the Jews didn’t accept him either.

Ultimately Paul’s message was the same as Jesus’. The Jews could NOT consider a message that tore up their religious traditions. How heartbreaking for Paul. We must ask ourselves if we stand behind our traditions for tradition’s sake or if we are continually seeking God.

-Melissa New

Don’t Look Back

Acts 13 38

Acts 13 

Isn’t that what this is all about? The best gift – freedom and forgiveness through Jesus Christ. People had been waiting for him for years and now they were finally preaching about it, sharing the good news. Could you imagine being alive back then and reading the stories from the prophets and then finally hearing about Jesus? People had been talking, speculating, doubting, waiting, and anticipating him for YEARS. It is such a confirmation to our faith, it would be impossible not to talk about it!

In Acts 13, Saul, who is now called Paul, is on a mission to proclaim the gospel and he is not looking back. It’s crazy to think about the person he was just a few chapters ago. He is a great example of how we should approach our own missions. We die to ourselves, find our identity in Christ, and don’t look back. We have a lot to proclaim and not a lot of time, so worrying about who we once were will only hinder us!

-Grace Rodgers

Death was Defeated

matt 28_6

Matthew 28

With greater plans in store, three days, that’s all it took and our savior was given life once more. As Mary and Mary Magdalene went to visit the tomb where Jesus was buried, they were greeted by an angel of the Lord who came down from heaven and rolled back the stone from the entrance of the tomb. When the women approached the entrance, the angel called out to them saying:

Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples: “He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him.” Now I have told You (Matthew 28:5-7).

Once the women left, they crossed paths with Jesus and collapsed at his feet, praising him in awe. Furthermore, the eleven disciples hurried along to meet Jesus in Galilee upon receiving word of his resurrection. There on a mountain, Jesus told his disciples of the great commission.

Jesus said “therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 19-20).

The death & the resurrection. What pinnacle events in the Christian faith as death was defeated once and for all. As you continue reading and growing this year (through the FUEL Bible devotions as well as other Bible study and training), ask yourself in what way/s you can spread the news of Jesus Christ and The Coming Kingdom of God. Are you willing to be a part of The Great Commission? This week we read through the Easter message, this weekend we will specifically celebrate this message, and day by day we give thanks for this message. What a beautiful message it is to share.

-Kayla Tullis