Monthly Archives: August 2016

The Church: a Life Together

The life of the church is the witness of our life together. God is to be made known by the love there is between us. In locating the meaning of Church in a tradition, we are in danger of separating it from its very mission, to bless the world and bring peace through Christ. Together, we are called to proclaim Christ, disciple and baptise. We need to find what that means today where these religious words themselves can be a barrier. Starting from love, where do we go from here? How is this called out life to be lived so that discipleship and baptism are given a contemporary meaning.

 

We understand that where Christ is found, that is the Church. History recognises the Church as a gathering where believers share bread and wine, preach Christ through teaching, prayer, art and song, and initiate membership through a form of washing called baptism. They see leaders, those gathered and buildings which proclaim an order: a tradition. All this may be necessary, but can hide the truth and loyalty to the tradition leave us worse off than if we had never known it? The Truth is, the Church is in the life of the people: the love, not the structure. God’s gifts to the church are people not structures.

God’s gifts are given in the unity of the Holy Spirit, who is above all and in all. We are to explore how to preach the Cross of Jesus Christ, how to remember him in a common meal and how to make the gifts of God available to all. The pattern we are called to is orderliness and a culture of honour in which all we do points away from us to God.

People need to see there is integrity in our life together. They need to see that all we do is for God’s glory not to gather support to our club, our taste or our vision. Our agenda should be plain to those who come across us: we are here to show you God’s love through our life together so that you too may know peace and become givers of this love.

Discipleship is a call to walk in the shadow of the one we follow, living their life, breathing their air and becoming covered in their dust. It is intimate fellowship. As we draw others into a knowledge of God, the life we live together is the place where we encounter God. In being accepted by one another we know that we were first accepted by God. We come to know the ever present God we cannot see through the gift of the Church we can see. The meaning of making disciples is bringing people into a life together for the glory of God.

Do we need to humble ourselves and look for people to become the body of Christ with? Do we need to invest in a life together with some people in a real way? A life together will grow into a rule, a commitment, a body. The Church is made up of groups who disciple, baptise and gather round a meal together in diverse forms, in my understanding. Out of this life comes a rule which allows God’s gifts to be ministered freely for the blessing of the world. In our practice of being together, we come to know God who has always been there. Indeed, our knowing God may be breathed through our life together. We are born again.

Life together is worship when there are times of arresting adoration and quiet realisation. Our rule may include regular prayer, study of the Bible, works of service and hospitality. In this, worship is in spirit and truth and reveals God, like the breath of the wind. It stops us in our tracks and we recognised the Holy in a breeze and sometimes a mighty gust. You can’t formalise it. It is essentially a work in the heart, often experienced together in unity of heart, a breathing of the same air.

The rule is not the worship, but worship is found in the rule as God chooses. We damage one another and dishonour God when we seek to control and confine God’s breath.

The desire to capture the breath of God in our traditions leads to death. We may experience worship in gathering to hear the preaching of the Cross of Christ, in gathering to celebrate reconciliation and share bread and wine. It may include public ministry in the Holy Spirit with prayers of intercession, prophecy and healing. But it’s the substance not the form that counts and the truth is without the substance, without Christ, the form brings death.

So let’s build our life together carefully through faith for faith.

John 3:5-8
New Living Translation (NLT)

Just as you can hear the wind but can’t tell where it comes from or where it is going, so you can’t explain how people are born of the Spirit.”

John 4:23-24
New Living Translation (NLT)

 24 For God is Spirit, so those who worship him must worship in spirit and in truth.”

John 13:31-35
New Living Translation (NLT)

 35 Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.”

 

http://www.benandhannahdunnett.com/shop/notecards/the-lord-is-my-strength-and-give-thanks-to-the-lord/

 

1 Corinthians 13

13 Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love.

New Living Translation (NLT)

Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

 

The Church: Obedience

0114e7e9f3d2e10e4b0116d19ed122351f02947aa7Sunday 7th August 2016

Leviticus 19:1-18

Matthew 13:24-43

1 Corinthians 12:12-31

 

When we say that faith is a hope in something not yet seen, it is a hook, I believe, into something that makes the scriptures come alive. It helps us see the true nature of the Bible’s progressive revelation and the trajectory of this revelation: where it’s going, and invites us to obey.

I am beginning to be able to articulate this, but still struggling. Faith, I am coming to see, as hugely important in our walk together with God. And why? It starts with our creation in his image. God created us to be in relationship with him. Our purpose is to know him and glorify him and worship him in spirit and truth, flowing for ever and ever.

When we read that God told… God said… God showed… then we are hearing the stories of men and women like us who heard God and acted in faith on what they heard. What is God saying? He is saying here I am! He is speaking of his nature. He is the Word that is in all and upholds all and at the centre of his creation is us, you and me, made in God’s image, able to relate to him in our spirits. God brings life to our spirits and we hear him. We hear him in our spirits, in our hearts, in the seat of our being. He shepherds us and we know his voice- this is the promise given to us followers of Christ. Our faith leads us to act on what we hear so that we come to know the One who speaks. As we act we learn to recognise and relate to God speaking. Faith hears and acts in obedience.

I believe God’s desire is that he is glorified in our obedience. What I am beginning to understand is that God speaks and we in hearing make real choices that transform us. These choices come from who we are: God wants us to be transformed by our choices into an ever closer knowing of him.

When the biblical heroes of the faith hear and obey it looks messy. The unchanging voice of God is made flesh in who they are. God becomes present in their choices and transforms them. Into their obedience he speaks visions, dreams, angels and appearances of Glory- he transforms their step of faith through an encounter with his presence. The event of his appearing brings something more precious out of their obedience. But these events leave each free to choose. Faith brings the will of man to a place where God is able to reveal his perfect, sovereign will and this faith is counted as righteousness.

We need to look carefully when we read the stories in the Bible. We know that all righteousness is found in Christ. Christ is the express Image of God – in him we see God. God speaks redemption and we hear repent. God strengthens the broken hearted and the contrite. In our spirits, our faith is that in Christ God is able to forgive and in the Cross we are made righteous. In Jesus we know our faith is perfected: our step of faith is made perfect in the revelation of our salvation through the life giving blood of Christ. In this knowledge we read the scriptures.

The heroes of the faith show us that whenever people approach God with broken and contrite hearts in faith, they are made righteous. In Christ the mystery of how is revealed. God is unchanging; he is faithful to forgive in all time. Our highest calling is to faith and the revelation of saving grace in our actions transforms us. Our sure foundation is revealed.

Our faith deepens so that we are not deflected from the good works God has called us to. As a body who believe in the appearing of Christ, our faith makes us co-workers with him and heirs of the promise in Abraham. All people are to be blessed through our faith in Christ. The promise to Abraham is for a nation; the promise in Christ is transformed to be for the whole world.

So when the faith of the heroes of the Bible looks messy, we can be encouraged not confused. We can take encouragement that faith looks messy. The reason for this is because we and they are messed up by sin. God deals with us where we are at and where faith hears God, it is heard in spirit and truth so that our way and life are transformed. The transformation comes in obeying.

It is so precious when we step out in faith and have a conviction and a purpose. It is so precious we must cultivate faith for each other that God is fully able to make himself present through his gifts to the church so that each of us is transformed and built up in our faith to become more like Christ. This is so precious, we need to be attentive in the church and know God’s voice in our being together.

Our life together needs to be alive with God’s voice so that faith is perfected. We must not rush in, but allow God to work- we must trust that we are messed up- all have sinned- but we are all moving to a deeper revelation. In admonishing one another, in our encouraging, in our setting out rules of conduct and agreeing boundaries for the lawless, our faith is that we are all free in Christ. He is the Lord. We are called to freedom in Christ.

We can expect and trust that God will speak to bring order and peace. God will speak and we must weigh up through scripture and wider teaching how we are to obey. We have the Holy Spirit and the tyranny of the crowd or the oppression of sinful leadership is disarmed by the Cross. We are commanded to judge a tree by its fruits and to abide in Christ. Don’t let anyone kid you that the lack of evidence in their hot air is because of your unbelief.

Honouring our leaders, we follow the way of peace and humility so that we are brought to that place of faith so that in our brokenness we can claim, I have no need of a teacher: the Lord is my teacher. Our purpose in the church is to deepen the faith of our brothers and sisters so that all peoples are blessed and see Jesus in our life together. In the assurance of the saving Cross of Jesus, we bring life to those around us. We are in the world but not of the world, because we know a higher calling to faith in God the author of our salvation. In our knowing of Christ, our being together, our service and our reading of scripture, there is the revelation of the Holy Spirit- faith. Faith brings us to the place of walking with God- communion; to know God and become his presence in creation. This is a high calling, a deep principal, a mystery revealed in Christ.

Christ within is the hope of glory. There is no higher principle. Faith comes by hearing and we together must speak out the word of salvation. This is our purpose. This is our calling.

So, in our messed up lives, in our circumstances, in our suffering and disappointments; when we have come to the point of despair and mental fragility, we must share the glimmer of hope- the place of faith. We must speak out of our circumstances words of healing for ourselves and for others. People need to hear God’s word speaking out of our weakness and struggle. We may wrestle our whole lives and be hobbled by our struggle but in it we need to allow our faith to find life in God – even such a tiny seed of faith- safe in the knowledge that the world to be blessed. This faith will grow into a tree to shelter others who need sheltering and those around will find a perch to settle on.

We are perfected in Christ and made righteous by faith; let us not convince ourselves this is the work of our own hands. Grasp grace and treasure faith: it is God who waters the seed of faith and nurtures the growth- rest and know peace- be still and know God. Taste and see that the Lord is good. Let the teaching of Christ- his voice speaking to us, deepen our foundations so that we may stand firm in the days of trial. Be the ones who take and receive more, who through faithfulness in obedience are ready. You have a purpose- the church has a purpose- God can take our meagre fragments of faith and feed the thousands.

Leave the weeding to the Angles. Do not be deceived, our purpose is not to gather enough people to ourselves so that we can say, Here we are, and exclude those who are not us. They might carry the very breath of God.