Help My Doubt

Faith seeking reason- Mark 9:24

Communion With Jesus

“Communion with Jesus”, that is, communication and community with God through His only Son, will grow as we understand how He feels about lost “sheep”. Backing up a bit, to the time before God became the man, Jesus, we need to understand that “other sheep” were in a tough spot. God expected His people, Israel, to live under the Laws of Moses. Under that law they were only allowed to marry Jews, only Jews could own land, and only Jews could lead worship in the Temple. God really did give special treatment to the Jews and any non-Jew who wanted to find out about God had to go to Israel and live as a 2nd class citizen. However, God said that such laws were only temporary!

God said through Jesus, “I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd (John 10:16)”. It has NEVER been God’s plan to exclude anyone from His family IF only they would “listen” and “follow”.

 

Let’s consider how that is true in our lives and church. We belong to a denomination whose leaders believe that most of the churches in northern PA are failing to “bring in” the “other sheep” that Jesus is calling. For example, last May in Pleasantville our Bishop, David Roller, preached from the book of Acts. He compared the life of the early church to the life of the Free Methodist Church. He saw an early explosion of faith in Jesus and many new believers getting baptized and brought into membership. Then he saw a calming comfort settle in as the church got older and started to fight with each other about things that are not important. He believes we are still stuck there and need to change.

Remember, how similar that sounds to the way the Jewish church responded to Jesus. 19At these words the Jews were again divided. 20Many of them said, “He is demon-possessed and raving mad. Why listen to him (John 10:19-20)?” On the other hand, remember how those outside of Jerusalem responded to Jesus. 40Then Jesus went back across the Jordan to the place where John had been baptizing in the early days. Here he stayed. 41and many people came to him. They said, “Though John never performed a miraculous sign, all that John said about this man was true.” 42And in that place many believed in Jesus (John 10:40-42). I think our Bishop is right- we need to stop arguing over debatable things and get better at bringing in “other sheep”.

Many of you know that I was elected to serve on the Keystone Conference Board of Administration in May too. They have had 2 special meetings this year to work on this problem and I attended the 2nd one last Monday in State College. While I was in State College I got to personally tour their “new” church and talk with Dave Michael. Their church has gone through some hard times and just relaunched this year. The Conference worked with him on some changes that upset a lot of his members and I wanted to know how he felt about it now that more time has passed. Dave said that, sadly, his former members have not returned but many visitors have come and more people are getting saved now. He believes they are being spiritually successful.

Remember, again, how church responded to Jesus. 19At these words the Jews were again divided (John 10:19).” Remember also how those outside the church responded to Jesus. 42And in that place many believed in Jesus (John 10:42). I think our leaders have some good advice. We need to let them help us get better at bringing in “other sheep”.

“Communion with Jesus” today means knowing how much he loves “other sheep” and loving them too.

  • Have you believed in Jesus yet? “Listen to his voice” and “follow” him today.
  • Are you willing “follow the voice of Jesus” even as he leads us out to find “other sheep”?

Jesus said, “I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd (John 10:16)”.

November 30, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | 2 Comments

National Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church

When in England, at a fairly large conference, Colin Powell was asked by the Archbishop of Canterbury if our plans for Iraq were just an example of empire building by George Bush.

He answered by saying, ‘Over the years, the United States has sent many of its fine young men and women into great peril to fight for freedom beyond our borders.  The only amount of land we have ever asked for in return is enough to bury those that did not return.’

You could have heard a pin drop!

www.snopes.com

True(!):

SECRETARY POWELL: The United States believes strongly in what you call soft power, the value of democracy, the value of the free economic system, the value of making sure that each citizen is free and free to pursue their own God-given ambitions and to use the talents that they were given by God. And that is what we say to the rest of the world. That is why we participated in establishing a community of democracy within the Western Hemisphere. It’s why we participate in all of these great international organizations.

There is nothing in American experience or in American political life or in our culture that suggests we want to use hard power. But what we have found over the decades is that unless you do have hard power — and here I think you’re referring to military power — then sometimes you are faced with situations that you can’t deal with.

I mean, it was not soft power that freed Europe. It was hard power. And what followed immediately after hard power? Did the United States ask for dominion over a single nation in Europe? No. Soft power came in the Marshall Plan. Soft power came with American GIs who put their weapons down once the war was over and helped all those nations rebuild. We did the same thing in Japan.

So our record of living our values and letting our values be an inspiration to others I think is clear. And I don’t think I have anything to be ashamed of or apologize for with respect to what America has done for the world

It may come as a surprise to some, but, I see some similarities between God’s work in Iraq today and God’s work in Israel in previously.

10 He replied, “I have been very zealous for the LORD God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected (a) your covenant, broken (b) down your altars, and put (c) your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now (d) they are trying to kill me too (1Ki.19:10).”

The timing of this conversation with God is right after Elijah’s famous competition with the prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel (8:40). Elijah had great victory over them and then Queen Jezebel issued a death threat which scared him enough to run down to Judah (9:3). Elijah walked into the desert and prayed to die (v.4). However, an angel strengthened Elijah and he walked 40 days to a cave on “Horeb, the mountain of God (v.8)”. There the Lord spoke to Elijah.

Elijah had enjoyed a brief victory but later he saw how little it accomplished in the hearts of his neighbors. They (a) stopped honoring the Sabbath day, (b) tore out the Temple furnishings and (c) killed faithful men who boldly called Israel to return to God. Elijah was depressed about the reality that there were very few God-fearing and godly people in his country.

I imagine that Christians ministering in Iraq feel like that some times. One of our pastors wrote on September 11, 2009 (!): “I first visited Iraq the summer of 2003. At that time, only 5 evangelical churches (none Free Methodist) existed in the whole country of more than 25 million people.”

Like Elijah, America achieved a brief victory in Iraq by removing an evil King and opening the door for freedom of religion. Later on, however, he saw how much more work there was to do in the hearts of the people. In Iraq there were very few people who know (a) Jesus, have (b) churches to worship in or can find a safe (c) place to learn about God. Pastor Blake must sometimes get discouraged too.

What does God do when we are discouraged?

11 The LORD said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the LORD, for the LORD is about to pass by.” Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the LORD, but the LORD was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake. 12 After the earthquake came a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper (1Ki.9).

Bible teachers disagree on what God was trying to communicate to Elijah by doing this. Today I think it would be good to remember how God often prefers to display his power in the weak things of earth.

God encourages us by saying, “when you are weak, I am strong.” For example, Paul said this when he ministered to the church in Corinth.

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

When he was discouraged by being abused in Corinth, God encouraged Paul by appearing to him in a dream and “whispering”,

9One night the Lord spoke to Paul in a vision: “Do not be afraid; keep on speaking, do not be silent. 10For I am with you, and no one is going to attack and harm you, because I have many people in this city.” 11So Paul stayed for a year and a half, teaching them the word of God (Acts 18:9-11).

God has been encouraging the persecuted church in Iraq too. Our pastor’s letter continues,

“Today Iraq has nearly 25 such churches, and the FMC is ministering in 7 areas. The brothers and sisters in these ministries face persecution on a regular basis. Yet they have chosen to stand firm and serve the Lord. I am committed to serve them as they serve on the front lines…I will  be in Iraq when you read this letter, and I will be assuring our church there that thousands of their FM brothers and sisters in the US will be standing with them in a special way on November 8th. Will you be a part of this new “army”- an army of prayer, love and service to our Iraqi brothers and sisters?

We thank God for the Veterans who fought victories to protect religious freedom in America and Iraq but we also know that there is a lot of work yet to be done in the hearts of the people. Only the Holy Spirit of Jesus can transform our nations for peace.

Therefore, we pray in weakness, on this National Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church, for the power of God to raise up a faithful remnant in Israel, Iraq and America by the whisper of His word. Specifically, we pray for:

    1. Protection for FM pastors/leaders
    2. Courage for FM believers to boldly share the gospel
    3. Deeper spiritual maturity for many young believers
    4. Wise government committed to peace and human rights

I might add, pray for the Spirit of Jesus to be welcome and effective in our own hearts. Let’s pray.

November 9, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment