Forgetfulness – Part 1

‘Hiya Josh! Haven’t seen you in a while. How’re you doing?’ said a friendly voice, near at hand.

‘Hello!’ I returned enthusiastically, before turning to give the speaker my full attention to see who it was addressing me. Oh dear… It rang no bells; no names. Yikes, not again! I had not even a faintest idea of who it was. Of course, in the interest of politeness, I had to wing it; duly continuing a friendly conversation whilst trying to work out who on earth this person actually was. But by the end I was still none the wiser.

I’m sure we’ve all had something of this experience. Whilst amusing, it’s happened to me a scary amount of times… Forgetfulness seems to be intrinsic to human nature.

Are we forgetting something very important?

How about a spiritual spin on this though?

I was challenged recently by a passage I read…
I’m getting married this Summer and went through 1 Corinthians 7 (which is an excellent chapter on marriage, relationships and singleness), when something Paul wrote struck me pretty hard. The passage goes on for the first twenty-eight verses with Paul essentially replying to some key questions on these matters posed by the church at Corinth. In the twenty-ninth verse however, there is a sudden change — I’ll quote it with the preceding verse so you can get a flavour of the context:

“But if you do marry, you have not sinned; and if a virgin marries, she has not sinned. But those who marry will face many troubles in this life, and I want to spare you this.

“What I mean, brothers and sisters, is that the time is short. From now on those who have wives should live as if they do not; those who mourn, as if they did not; those who are happy, as if they were not; those who buy something, as if it were not theirs to keep; those who use the things of the world, as if not engrossed in them. For this world in its present form is passing away.” (1 Corinthians 7:28-31).

There’s a real sense of urgency in Paul’s writing here — as if Jesus’ return is imminent. This is the real issue here, not marriage or singleness, as important topics as they are. If Paul, writing over 1900 years ago had that sense of urgency, how much more should we! Our attitude should be one of constantly looking to the skies awaiting the glorious return of our risen Lord, who is ‘coming back to take you to be with me’ (John 14:3b). I love how many of the older hymns invariably include this longing for His coming; which we so easily seem to pass over because we do not walk so closely with Him. I believe that we are in danger of forgetting the return of our Lord Jesus. When He comes calling for us, will we know who it is talking to us? or will we be clueless and forgetful like I was…? How well do we know Him? Will we know His call, like sheep their shepherd? Will we be ready to leave all and go with Him? ‘When the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth?’ (Luke 18:8).

In our modern Evangelical/Reformed circles we seem to have largely forgotten the Return of the King. Despite almost twice as many chapters of the Bible describing the Second Coming as the first — it’s hardly preached on, it’s not really studied; it barely gets a mention — yet the Second Coming is surely one of the most important things we need to know about Jesus Christ!

Looking to Home

Where should our focus be?

In John 14:1-4, Jesus says:

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.”

Isn’t this the most glorious thing! ‘My Father’s house’. HOME. The home of Christ and His flock. Sweet rest, at last.

Paul writes:

“For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands. […] Now the one who has fashioned us for this very purpose is God, who has given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.

[…] For we live by faith, not by sight. We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord. So we make it our goal to please him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it. For we must all appear before the judgement seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due to us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.” (2 Corinthians 5:1-8).

Are we ready to leave at a moment’s notice, as the Israelites on the night of the Passover, staff in hand? Are we prepared to leave all and go with Him to our new home?

Or are our minds set on planning for earthly things? My fiancée and I are planning for a wedding and preparing for marriage; ultimately however, we are all planning and preparing to leave this world. This earnest eager urgent expectation is something I believe we are seriously missing today — where is the desire to go out and warn the dying world? I fear we are seriously lacking here. I love meeting new Christians, they have so much buzz and joy of the Lord about them, so much hunger for Him and a burning desire to see their friends saved. By contrast, us ‘old guard’, as it were, can be so dull and senseless at times. Lord Jesus, please help us! Heavenly Father, we are weak, hear us! Holy Spirit, work through us, revive us!

“The day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up. Therefore, since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be dissolved, being on fire, and the elements will melt with fervent heat? Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.” (2 Peter 3:10-13).

Denominations and Divisions: A Rethink

This post has been an interesting one to write. I started it months ago, raging and being angry at the divisions that have appeared in the church. There are hundreds of different denominations, and this annoyed me. Yet I believe God has shown me something else recently.

Jesus had to deal with sectarianism with his disciples:

“‘Teacher,’ said John, ‘we saw someone driving out demons in your name and we told him to stop, because he was not one of us.’ ‘Do not stop him,’ Jesus said. ‘For no one who does a miracle in my name can in the next moment say anything bad about me, for whoever is not against us is for us…’” (Mark 9:38-40).

“A house divided against itself cannot stand.” (Mark 3:25). 

Now, division in the church has been a problem. There are too many times that the church has divided over something ridiculous. We can be too busy, debating the finer points of Calvinism, what colour the church-door should be, whether we should have pews or not; lost in ‘meaningless talk’ (2 Timothy 2:16). To be honest, Brothers and sisters, we should focus on what we have in common: Christ is everything. The Gospel is everything. Hymnbooks or projectors, Baptist or Presbyterian, AV or NIV are all irrelevant.

Nonetheless, we will disagree; we are, after all, human, but there is a blessing in these denominations. We have found comfort in those who believe the same we do — in how we sing a song, or how the service should be structured. It does help us to focus our lives on Christ more when these divisions are removed. Denominations aren’t necessarily bad! We just shouldn’t take pride in the one we belong to, and should always be willing to talk to other churches, and to share and pool resources together too for evangelism, children’s work, financial needs, etc.

We will always think differently on secondary issues, but they should never get in the way of communion with one another and NEVER should one church think it is better than the rest. That is just pride. As believers, let us build bridges; let us be that spark that cuts through these divisions. If we disagree on a secondary issue then let us deal with it in love and humility. But let us focus on Jesus and the cross more than ever!

Richard Motte once declared that, ‘There is not a single Quaker, Presbyterian, Methodist or Baptist in heaven.’ Pausing before his no-doubt stunned listeners to add, ‘For in heaven God knows no such distinctions.’ We will be one singing glory to God always. Let that start now, on earth, not later, not tomorrow, but now. Let us be bold in prayer and ask God for strength that this may be achieved.

So, I don’t care about your church background, if you know Jesus died for your sins and that He rose again on the third day, if you believe that grace covers all your sins, then I will call you brother or sister and let us celebrate together what He has done for us all!

Unity, brothers and sisters, unity. Dear God, I pray that for those who read this have a flame set in their hearts for unity. May Your will be done and may we see the church following You, may we see a church actually living for You and not for itself. May You lead all Your people, regardless of background to Your kingdom, and may You use us to bring men and women into Your kingdom. Amen.

Bible Study: Looking at Titus 1

Note from Michael and Josh: Whilst we still intend to cover some of the big contemporary issues of the day; we are looking to populate the blog with a series of more regular shorter updates of Bible passages that speak to us, snapshots of our day-to-day lives, quotes and other juicy titbits that might be of benefit to our readers.

At my Church, a few men are meeting with two aims: (1) to study the word; and (2) to socialise, to get to know each other better. In our Bible readings we are learning about Titus and about doing good. Today, I want to briefly talk about the qualities of being an ‘elder’.

Titus 1:5-9: just for elders?

The reason I left you in Crete was that you might put in order what was left unfinished and appoint elders in every town, as I directed you. An elder must be blameless, faithful to his wife, a man whose children believe and are not open to the charge of being wild and disobedient. Since an overseer manages God’s household, he must be blameless—not overbearing, not quick-tempered, not given to drunkenness, not violent, not pursuing dishonest gain. Rather, he must be hospitable, one who loves what is good, who is self-controlled, upright, holy and disciplined. He must hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught, so that he can encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it. (Titus 1:5-9).

Great passage is it not? But do we read this and think this is only for elders in the church? Do we by pass it because we think it is not relevant for us? Whether you’re male, female, elder, deacon, new believer, old believer, this passage should be speaking to us.

First we must consider the context, Paul is writing these qualities, because the church there is struggling with what is going on around it, the church needed elders who would direct the church to be Holy and upright in the sight of the world and God. The church was in such a state, that Paul starts the rebuilding process from the top.
But does this mean that these qualities are only for the elders? No, these are qualities every believer needs be striving for. We all need to be self-controlled, upright, holy and disciplined, and Paul speaks to us directly. If we expect these qualities of other men, why shouldn’t we expect it of ourselves? Elders need to be wise, they do need to know their doctrine and they need to lead, and it is a calling, but we are all called to take a role in our local church, in ministry, and we all should reflect Christ, which these qualities do.

A word, that we perhaps overlook in this passage is ‘hospitable’ and it is a word that crops up quite a few times in the New testament. As Christians, we should be hospitable, kind, caring, helping others, putting others first, loving and generous; we should indeed love what is good. I don’t know about you, but it can sometimes be hard to do such things. Hard to love those who hate you, kind to others even on a bad day, hospitable to those around you, the list goes on, and I think, if we believe that God works in us, then we must strive to do good, to LOVE to do what is good, and not do it because it is a ‘command’.

Sometimes we may think some passages are not relevant to us, but they are, and they are so important to look at and read and study. The church where Titus was located reflected the world, in its attitude (not in its equipment or technology), Paul writes the letter to tell the church to wake up, to reflect Christ, not what is around it, to have different attitudes and values, to love what is good.

May we all have self-control, to be upright and holy, and be disciplined in all matters of our life, in our private times and when we doing things in public. Paul knows that the world would watch the elders of the church, the world watches you, so listen to his words and learn from them.

Be Blessed

Michael