Thursday, March 24, 2011

Everyday is Church!

The body of Christ is the Church (ekklesia) of God. It is one under one Head, Jesus Christ. The Greek word ‘ekklesia’ is a word that is translated ‘church’ in the New Testament. It refers to a called-out group of people ('ek'-out from or of; 'kaleo'- to call). The church was never to be about the buildings (an idea that really flourished in 350 AD) or about a certain denomination or organization. It is about people, men and women who are committed to the lordship of Jesus Christ and who exercise the power of God in everyday life.

 Jesus Christ pointed this out in John 4:20-24 when the woman at the well related their conversation to  physical places of worship.  
20 Our fathers worshipped in this mountain; and ye say, that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship. 21 Jesus saith unto her, Woman, believe me, the hour cometh, when ye shall neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father. 22 Ye worship ye know not what: we know what we worship: for salvation is of the Jews. 23 But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him. 
Stephen in his answer to his accusers states  in Acts 7:48-49:
 Howbeit the most High dwelleth not in temples made with hands; as saith the prophet, Heaven is my throne, and earth is my footstool: what house will ye build me? saith the Lord: or what is the place of my rest?

Today the English word ‘church’ (link) brings to mind a  ‘house of the Lord’. The word for ‘belonging to the Lord’ is another Greek word 'kuriakos'.  John Ayto's useful "Dictionary of Word Origins" (Arcade:
New York, 1990) speaks of this word and it's development:

--*church* [OE] Etymologically, a *church* is the 'Lord's house.' Its ultimate source is Greek *kyrios*... The adjective derived from this was *kyriakos*, whose use in the phrase 'house of the Lord' led to its use as a noun, *kyriakon*. The medievlal Greek form, *kyrkon* 'house of worship' was borrowed into West Germanic as *kirika, producing eventually German *kirche* and English *church*. The Scots form *kirk* comes from Old Norse *kirkja*, which in turn was borrowed from Old English.-- 

History and evolution of word etymology must be responsible for the King James translators to substitute the word ‘church’ in place of ‘ekklesia’ when translating from the Greek texts. Other translators such as Tyndale translated the word ‘ekklesia’ as 'congregation' instead of 'church'. King James actually uses the word 'assembly' for 'ekklesia' in other places.
The first use of the word 'church' is in Matthew 16:18. 
And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter ( petros- shifting, movable, stone), and upon this rock(petra - referring to himself - immovable) I will build my church (ekklesia, not kuriakos); and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.
Jesus Christ was not building a cathedral or any type of building, he was drawing people to God through his life. He was and is  building  an assembly or a congregation who will be gathered together when he returns. I doubt very much that the Basilica in Rome or Westminster Abbey are going to be lifting off on that day.  On that notable day all the members of the church of God also called the body of Christ will be joined to the head Christ irrespective of denomination, non-denomination or un-denomination!

Friday, March 18, 2011

The Wind in Your Sail

Last week as I wiggled my toes in the sand and looked out over the Sound, I envisioned the sailboats that soon would come out of their storage and take up residence among the hollows and crests of lapping waves of this inlet.  The ocean is amazing to me, its beauty, its color reflecting the sky and its wonderful sounds.  The waves are ruffled at the surface, but deep below there is quiet and it is somewhat motionless.

Last summer for my birthday, one of my kids rented a large sailboat to sail over this area around sunset.  We were there vacationing for a week  and everyday the weather had been beautiful. The night before the sail, however, a big storm had blown in and was threatening the next day. It was supposed to last all day. Miraculously 45 minutes before our voyage, we got a call from a member of the crew of the ship that the storm  had blown by and the sail would be even better in the aftermath of the storm and it was!
Watching big sails unfurl and catch the wind reminded me of what life is like when God is the wind in your sail. It is in reading and quiet times with God that we unfurl the canvas and we are energized. As we then act in whatever situation we are involved in we start to notice fruit in our heart, love (not grouchiness), joy (not misery), peace (not anxiety), longsuffering (not impatience), gentleness (not hardness), goodness (not cruelty), faith (not fear), meekness (not arrogance), temperance (not greed) despite what is going on around us. (Galatians 5:22-23)

With God's strength we are able to tackle even the most difficult tasks and projects. When the waves get rough we also have the courage to make those decisions that are necessary to move in the direction of still waters.

In Acts 12 it is recorded that Herod had killed James (one of the apostles) and Peter had been thrown in jail.  There was great pressure all around and yet Peter was able to sleep (verse 6) in this ordeal and God was able to deliver him.  This had all happened right after his meeting with the Cornelius household in one of the most significant events in God's timetable. Waves of life come with crests and hollows.

I think of things that Peter must have remembered like walking on water, the transfiguration, standing up with the eleven on Pentecost, and healing the man at the temple gate.  Unlike the walking on water incident, he did not hesitate to stand in the wake of the spiritual tsunamis that was pounding on Jerusalem. He did not question himself and his standing with God. He set his sail.

We also have access to God through Jesus Christ. God is faithful to His promises. He listens to our heart and His strength becomes our strength as he directs and guides us to safe harbors.
Romans 15:13 Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Households that Change the World!

Home is where the heart of God lives! In Acts 10 there is a record of a remarkable family. They were gentiles, living and serving in Caesarea. Cornelius, the head of the household was a Roman soldier and chose to worship God instead of the pagan gods of Rome.

In Acts 10:2 it is recorded about his life that he was:
A devout man, and one that feared God with all his house, which gave much alms to the people, and prayed to God alway.
The word 'devout' is used to describe 3 people in the book of Acts, Cornelius (Acts 10:2), one of his soldiers (Acts 10:7) and Ananias who ministered to Paul (Acts 22:12). According to E.W Bullinger in A Critical Lexicon and Concordance To The English and Greek New Testament, the Greek word 'eusebes' from which devout was translated from is defined as "reverence for God which shews itself in actions, practical piety of every kind, the energy of piety in the life, reverence well and rightly directed".

Cornelius was a man of practical action. In other words he lived a life with an integrity that exemplified his beliefs. God wanted Cornelius to have the full measure of the faith of Jesus Christ and he had him send for Peter. At the very same time God was preparing the heart of Peter to minister to the Cornelius household and some of his friends. All activities flowed together with the beautiful synergy of God to give Cornelius the answer to his prayers.

In II Peter 2:9 it says,
The Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly (eusebes) out of temptations,
What does that mean for us? We, too, can have the answers from God that we need and God's timing is always perfect. Just as in Cornelius's life, it will have an affect on those around us. We just have to trust him like Cornelius did!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Jesus Christ and the Gentiles - Equal Opportunity God - Part II

Jesus Christ in his earthly ministry said of himself that he was  sent to the lost sheep of the house of Israel (Matthew 15:24), yet there are records in the gospels of him making exceptions and helping Gentiles.

In Luke 4:24-30, Luke  writes about two interesting accounts Jesus Christ brought up when he returned to Nazareth from one of his trips. The people of Nazareth had heard about all the things he had done in Capernum and they wanted to see him do the same things there. He knew their unbelief (Mark 6:5,6).
Luke 4:24-30  24 And he said, Verily I say unto you, No prophet is accepted in his own country. 25 But I tell you of a truth, many widows were in Israel in the days of Elias, when the heaven was shut up three years and six months, when great famine was throughout all the land; 26 But unto none of them was Elias sent, save unto Sarepta, a city of Sidon, unto a woman that was a widow. 27 And many lepers were in Israel in the time of Eliseus the prophet; and none of them was cleansed, saving Naaman the Syrian. 28And all they in the synagogue, when they heard these things, were filled with wrath, 29 And rose up, and thrust him out of the city, and led him unto the brow of the hill whereon their city was built, that they might cast him down headlong. 30But he passing through the midst of them went his way,
During this time referred to in Elijah’s life, Elijah was sent over 80 miles in rugged terrain to Zarephath , a Gentile city to live with a widow woman according to God’s instructions. Israel was in pretty bad shape at that time under the rule of evil Ahab. God sent Elijah to a Gentile woman.
The second event involved Naaman who was also a Gentile, and who lived during Elisha’s time. Naaman received healing for his leprosy.
These two records would be very familiar to the people of Nazareth and because of their attitude and unbelief, hearing the events of the widow woman and Naaman would anger them. Jesus’ bold statements about himself infuriated them, so it was no wonder that there weren’t more miraculous events there.
A great point is made here that God’s heart regardless of Judean or Gentile is with the individual who believes. This angered the religious elite. In Luke 4 they wanted Jesus Christ out of their city!

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Equal Opportunity God

At the time of Jesus Christ's death the veil separating the people from the holiest of holies in the Jerusalem temple was ripped from top to bottom. It is through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ that all men were given access to God. It was like God was saying "Ok that's it! This religious separation is done! Enough of this temple stuff! Rip!!!!!!"

In the book of Acts, one can read about tremendously meek men like Peter and Paul who listened to God and continued to erase all lines of the elitism and separatism of man-made religion. They were great men, not perfect, and they stood on what God was showing them strengthened by the spirit within. They were real leaders, growing, believing, moving and serving others. Both men had adjustments to make in their lives and they knew it. They were keenly aware of what was going on around them and adapted to God's revelation to them. There was plenty of opposition and differences of opinion as others clung to the old traditional ways of doing things. They were not afraid to change, to throw out those old traditions and reach out to bring the living vitality of God's spiritual strength to anyone who so chose to believe.

Paul's conversion and growth started in Acts 9.  In Acts 10, Peter continued to make adjustments to his thinking. They were working for the same God! Paul ultimately would minister to the uncircumcision and Peter to the circumcision, but with the same spiritual direction. This required change on both men's parts.

In Acts 10, Peter, in one of the most detailed accounts in Acts, ministers the Word to a Roman household in Caesarea. The careful description of how God worked with all the individuals involved by preparing their hearts and detailing instructions with exquisite timing is an event that only God could orchestrate. At the end of it Peter makes a beautiful statement of God's heart towards all walks and cultures:
Acts 10:34Then Peter opened his mouth, and said, Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons: (see link to Digging Deeper))

This meant that there was no longer Jew(Judean) or Gentile. The body of Christ was comprised of the children of God. The chosen people were those who chose Jesus Christ as the way, the truth and the life!

God truly is an equal opportunity God. He has given each of His children the gift of holy spirit to live life to the fullest and help others. Our lives have this same orchestration as we continue to move, growing and changing with the spirit of God. We become equal opportunity ambassadors as we meet others who are looking for God.