Malankara World Journal Theme: Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church
Volume 3 No. 170 September 19, 2013
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TABLE OF CONTENTS
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We are now into the second Sunday following the Sleebo Feast. The time between the Sleebo Feast and Koodosh E'tho is the time the church reflects on the end times and the second coming of Jesus Christ. The church officially starts its new year with its dedication and purification in November.
This week's Malankara World Journal looks at the Church, the Body of Christ.
In the New Testament, which was originally written in Greek, the word "church" is translated from the Greek word "ekklesia." The Greek word is taken from two words, "ek" which means "out" and "kaleo" which means "to call out." This Greek word was used of a group of people who have been called out of some place or relationship into a relationship into another one. Thus, the ekklesia, or church of Christ, refers to people who have been called out of the world into Christ by the gospel.
The New Testament calls the church the bride of Christ, the body of Christ, the household of faith, the family of God, a holy priesthood, and a hundred other terms.
Jesus said, "I will build my church and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it" (Matthew 16:18).
Paul calls it "the church of the living God, the pillar and support of the truth" (I Timothy 3:15).
Scripture teaches that as the Body of Christ, the church is so identified with Him that whatever anyone does to the church - or those who belong to it - Jesus takes personally. Archbishop Dolan's article, 'Jesus and His Church Are One' explains this relationship.
The present state of the church had been described beautifully by Dr. Joe McKeever:
Our church is undergoing tremendous persecution in Middle East. Let us pray that our Lord will protect His Bride through these trials and tribulations. All these are part of His master plan.
In John's vision of Heaven, he saw the Lord's church, and described it as: "A great multitude which no one could number, of all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues, standing before throne and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice saying, 'Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne and to the Lamb!'"
When someone asked who these people were, the response was equally as rapturous: "These are the ones who have come out of the great tribulation, and washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. Therefore, they are before the throne of God, and serve Him night and day in His temple. And He who sits on the throne will dwell among them. They shall neither hunger any more nor thirst any more; the sun shall not strike them, nor any heat; for the Lamb who is in the midst of the throne will shepherd them and lead them to living fountains of waters. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes" (Revelation 7).
Jesus Christ died for the Church. This mystery of the love story between Jesus and His bride is difficult to grasp. We have provided some selected articles that, hopefully, helps us doing it. The Lord has big plans for His people, now and in eternity.
I was told by some of our subscribers that They did not receive the last issue of the Journal. If you had difficulty in receiving the journal, please let us know. Generally, the problem rests with Yahoo Groups that we use to distribute the journal. We can certainly try to do some short term fixes. Thank you for your understanding and support.
Dr. Jacob Mathew
This Sunday in Church
Bible Readings For the 2nd Sunday After Sleebo Feast
Second Sunday after Sleebo/ the Feast of Holy Cross
This Week's Features
The house of God is the Holy Church, the Kingdom of God on earth, which the Lord Jesus established on earth when he began his economy of salvation in the flesh calling people saying, "
The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent and believe in the good news"
(Mark 1:15). On this matter the Apostle Paul says: "
urging and encouraging you and pleading that you lead a life worthy of God, who calls you into his own kingdom and glory"
(I Thessalonians 2:12).
So, all of us are invited to be living members in the sacramental body of Christ
which is the church: obedient to the Lord Jesus who is the head of the body, in
harmony with each other like the members of one whole body to be of one heart
and spirit. Yes, the Lord Jesus had established his church on the basis of faith
in him, that he is the Son of the living God. God announced this subject on the
tongue of the chief of the apostles, Saint Peter, who said to the Lord Jesus,
So that the church would remain steadfast and unshakable in the Lord, the Lord promised to send them the Holy Spirit to be a guide and teacher for them and to remind them of everything the Lord said to them. As a fulfillment of the promise of the Lord the Holy Spirit came down on the followers of the Lord Christ and their number was about 120 persons both men and women. They were gathering in the Upper Room in one heart and one mind in intense and continuous prayer and fasting. The atmosphere flared up to the heat of their faith. The Holy Spirit descended as tongues of flame then settled on each one of them and they started talking in different languages.
After pride had confused the tongues of the people of Babylon in the past,
humility unified the tongues of the Lordís followers in the Upper Room. The
mission of the Holy Spirit, the Counselor, is also to protect the disciples from
idle talk and errors, to speak through them and to remind them of everything the
Lord Jesus said to them. The Holy Spirit also gave them courage, wisdom,
understanding and comprehension to be able to bear witness to the resurrection
of Christ ó above all witnessing with superior courage seen when the Apostle
Peter in one sermon drew to the faith 3,000 persons. This was how the church was
born. The Holy Spirit lead it on the way of life and guided its shepherds to the
truth. He is the one who chooses them as it says in the Acts of the Apostles
where Luke the Evangelist said: "
Those churches preserved intact the faith that they received from the apostles. They maintained excellent conduct and behavior befitting the gospel of Christ and spreading the good news, and chose for themselves servants put in place by the apostles. We read in the epistles of Paul about the command of the apostle Paul to his two disciples Timothy and Titus to establish priests in every place.
The first church was characterized by steadfastness before the challenge of circumstances, presented martyrs on the altar of the love of Christ and waited for the second coming with hope and faith.
Satan, the enemy of good, opposed the Holy Church and tried to storm its
steadfast castle and penetrate the rows of its bold soldiers by planting
enticements and thoughts of pride and contention for power. But, the Lord
protected his church and promised saying: "
Yes, strange opinions had emerged in the church on Christian thought. Schisms
increased dangerously at the dawn of Christianity and were about to afflict the
church at its beginning, but Christ protected it and "
Therefore, by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit and by impartiality and self
denial, the apostles were able to solve the problems by the divine power they
took from the Lord Jesus. They removed evil from among them (I Corinthians 5:13)
cutting off the way of all who would be seduced by the base self that entices to
evil, who would tear the sacred body of Christ and who would distort the true
teachings of Christ. The Apostle Paul wrote on that matter to the believers in
Corinth saying, "
This is enough for us to take a lesson and admonitions from the apostles who protected the faith and preserved correct conduct and directed the believers to be for Christ alone. All the apostles and fathers were servants of Christ and his ambassadors on earth telling people his heavenly message and directing them to look to him to receive salvation.
Alas, the church, the house of God, has been divided against itself and without
the mercy of God what the Lord said would have been fulfilled: that every
kingdom divided against itself would be destroyed. (Luke 11:17) But God
protected his inheritance and inspired its fathers across the age to endeavor
for its recovery. Though most of those attempts met quick failure because the
church was not in one heart and one spirit. But the spirit of the world entered
it ó the spirit of pride and contentions for power ó and the conditions of true
love were not fulfilled. Wasnít it in the name of Christ the savior of the world
who promised his disciples saying, "
We thank God who inspired some of the pious at the beginning of this century who facilitated the holding of meetings between representatives of different Christian groups and several denominations. The World Council of Churches was established in the middle of this century. Then the Second Vatican Council was held. Informal theological discussions that began between theologians from several churches were changed into an official dialogue and there was an announcement on the unity of faith in the doctrine of incarnation and redemption. Common declarations were signed between the heads of the churches. The dialogue is continuing on several subjects to solve the problems that the schisms left behind across the ages and generations. The leaders of the churches are exchanging visits and meetings in a spirit of love and tolerance.
Leaders of unity, the great heros of the faith, are offering their constructive undertakings by placing road signs along the way to unity and persisting in prayer for the sake of reaching it. They encourage the blessed people to share with them the prayers and persistently endeavor to spread love among members of the churches who are members of the one church that the Lord Jesus established and is head of. What we need now is patience and expectation as the nations expected the coming of the savior, the hope of the nations, and He came! As we await his second coming, not knowing when he will come, he has commanded us to wait and to watch because we donít know in what hour our Lord will come. (Matthew 24:42) Also, we donít know when the will of God will be fulfilled as we reach the pursued aim when the unity of the Christian churches is fulfilled.
The schisms have lasted for several centuries, more than fifteen centuries, so
we should not be anxious if the time for Christian unity is delayed. As we are
walking on the straight path that leads to it, God willing, the way of love,
tolerance and meekness and humility and continuous ardent prayer until that day,
let us take as a motto the golden rule in which the Lord Jesus summarized his
law saying: "
Source: The Patriarchal Journal, Vol. 32 Ė March/April 1994 Ė No. 133/134. Page 137-141
by Michael Voris
"The Catholic Church is magnificent.
She stands like a great and noble city, a sparkling jewel - splendorous.
The Bride of Christ, loved from all Eternity in the Bosom of the Holy Trinity.
Presaged by Israel with the Father, purchased with the blood of the Son, brought into visible reality by the Spirit.
Brought into being in time, her destiny is now Eternity.
What existed from all time in the mind of the Father will be alive forever in the heart of the Father, through the Son, by the power of the Holy Spirit.
The Church soars to the heavens in the depth of Her teachings.
She possesses infinity in a finite tabernacle.
She glories with the saints and angels in heaven even now as She lifts up her heart in the Eucharistic Sacrifice.
She lives and moves and has Her Being in the Divine Majesty.
She is raised up from the dust of the earth through the waters of baptism.
She lives in perpetual virginity through everlasting espousal to Christ.
She is the delight of the Lord of Lords and is the Bride of the King of Kings.
When She speaks, her honeyed voice is truth and goodness and beauty.
When She breathes, it is the air of courts of Heaven, the intoxicating fragrance of love.
THIS is the Church.
Our Blessed Lord would prepare nothing less than perfection for his Bride, as He prepared nothing less than perfection for His Mother.
This is the Bride of Christ, and She is worth fighting for. Her sons are summoned to defend Her honour, her daughters to proclaim Her beauty.
There is nothing more noble to which man can aspire, than to sit in Her courts and muse on Her Truth.
Through the deepest reality of love that God could offer man - Himself in the form of bread, His very humanity and divinity - we have noble blood now flowing through our veins.
The very DNA of God Himself joins to our DNA, literally transforming us into Christ. For this reason a man leaves his parents and clings to his wife, and the two become one flesh.
This is the great reality of the Holy Eucharist: that we have the very Blood of Christ flowing through our veins. His flesh becomes our flesh. We are prepared by slowly being transformed for our Heavenly home.
The Church makes possible for us the commandment that Our Blessed Lord gave to each of us: Be perfect, as your Father in heaven is perfect.
When the apostles heard their Master's words, they were awestruck and said: But who then can be saved?
Our Lord answered them: For man it is impossible, but with God all things are possible.
This is why the Church exists, so that Almighty God may LOVE us into Eternity with Him.
So many people simply do not see the Church in this manner. This is a cause of continual sadness for those of us who do. It must continue to be a source of sadness for us, so we can stay motivated and energised to pray and preach and sacrifice.
The greatest gift this side of Eternity has been handed to those baptised into the Catholic Faith. Freely we have received, now freely we must give.
The Catholic Church is the door to eternal life, because it is so closely wedded to Christ Himself, as a husband to his wife, that the two have become one flesh: the same flesh.
So when Our Lord says of Himself that He is the Door, He refers also to His One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church. He identifies with Her so closely and so freely, that He made no distinction between the Church and Himself when He confronted Saul on the road to Damascus and said: Saul, Saul why do you persecute ME?
One Lord. One Faith. One Baptism.
It is all contained in the Catholic Church, fully and completely.
This Truth - it's worth fighting for."
Source: From an episode of "Vortex" titled 'From the Heart'
by J.C. Ryle
Do we belong to the Church which is built upon a rock? Are we members of the only Church in which our souls can be saved? These are serious questions. They deserve serious consideration. I ask the attention of all who read this message, while I try to show the one true, holy, catholic Church, and to guide menís feet into the only safe fold. What is this Church? What is it like? What are its marks? Where is it to be found? On all these points I have something to say. I am going to unfold the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, which stand at the head of this page. He declares, "Upon this rock I will build My Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it."
Let us consider this in more detail:
1. We have, firstly, a Building mentioned in the text. The Lord Jesus Christ speaks of "My Church."
Now what is this Church? Few inquiries can be made of more importance than this. For want of due attention to this subject, the errors that have crept into the world are neither few nor small.
The Church of our text is no material building. It is no temple made with hands of wood or brick or stone or marble. It is a company of men and women. It is no particular visible Church on earth. It is not the Eastern Church or the Western Church. It is not the Church of England or the Church of Scotland. Above all, it certainly is not the Church of Rome. The Church of our text is one that makes far less show than any visible Church in the eyes of man, but is of far more importance in the eyes of God.
The Church of our text is made up of all true believers in the Lord Jesus Christ, of all who are really holy and converted people. It comprehends all who have repented of sin, and fled to Christ by faith, and been made new creatures in Him. It comprises all Godís elect, all who have received Godís grace, all who have been washed in Christís blood, all who have been clothed in Christís righteousness, all who have been born again and sanctified by Christís Spirit. All such, of every name and rank and nation and people and tongue, compose the Church of our text. This is the body of Christ. This is the flock of Christ. This is the bride. This is the Lambís wife. This is "the holy catholic and apostolic Church," of the Apostlesí Creed and the Nicene Creed. This is "the blessed company of all faithful people" spoken of in the communion service of the Church of England. This is "the Church on the Rock."
The members of this Church do not all worship God in the same way, or use the same form of government. Some of them are governed by bishops, and some of them by elders. Some of them use a prayer book when they meet for public worship, and some of them use none. The thirtyĖfourth Article of the Church of England most wisely declares, "It is not necessary that ceremonies should be in all places one and alike." But the members of this Church all come to one throne of grace. They all worship with one heart. They are all led by one Spirit. They are all really and truly holy. They can all say, "Alleluia," and they can all reply, "Amen."
This is that Church, to which all visible Churches on earth are servants and handmaidens. Whether they are Episcopalian, Independent, or Presbyterian, they all serve the interests of the one true Church. They are the scaffolding behind which the great building is carried on. They are the husk, under which the living kernel grows. They have their various degrees of usefulness. The best and worthiest of them is that which trains up most members for Christís true Church. But no visible Church has any right to say, "We are the only true Church. We are the men, and wisdom shall die with us." No visible Church should ever dare to say, "We shall stand for ever. The gates of hell shall not prevail against me."
This is that Church to which belong the Lordís gracious promises of preservation, continuance, protection and final glory. "Whatever," says Hooker, "we read in Scripture, concerning the endless love and saving mercy, which God shows towards His Churches, the only proper subject thereof is this Church, which we properly term the mystical body of Christ." Small and despised as the true Church may be in this world, it is precious and honorable in the sight of God. The temple of Solomon in all its glory was mean and contemptible, in comparison with that Church which is built upon a rock.
I trust the things I have just been saying will sink down into the minds of all who read this message. See that you hold sound doctrine upon the subject of "the Church." A mistake here may lead on to dangerous and soulĖruining errors. The Church which is made up of true believers, is the Church for which we, who are ministers, are specially ordained to preach. The Church which comprises all who repent and believe the gospel, is the Church to which we desire you to belong. Our work is not done, and our hearts are not satisfied, until you are made a new creature, and are a member of the one true Church. Outside of the Church which is "built on the rock" there can be No Salvation.
2. Our text contains not merely a building, but a Builder.
The Lord Jesus Christ declares, "I will build My Church." The true Church of Christ is tenderly cared for by all the three People of the blessed Trinity. In the plan of salvation revealed in the Bible, beyond doubt, God the Father chooses, God the Son redeems and God the Holy Spirit sanctifies every member of Christís mystical body. God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit, three People and one God, cooperate for the salvation of every saved soul. This is truth, which ought never to be forgotten. Nevertheless, there is a peculiar sense in which the help of the Church is laid on the Lord Jesus Christ. He is peculiarly and preĖeminently the Redeemer and Savior of the Church. Therefore it is, that we find Him saying in our text, "I will buildóthe work of building is My special work."
It is Christ who calls the members of the Church in due time. They are "the called of Jesus Christ" (Rom. 1:6). It is Christ who quickens them. "The Son quickens whom He will" (John 5:21). It is Christ who washes away their sins. He "has loved us, and washed us from our sins in His own blood" (Rev. 1:5). It is Christ who gives them peace. "Peace I leave with you, My peace I give unto you" (John 14:27). It is Christ who gives them eternal life. "I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish" (John 10:28). It is Christ who grants them repentance. "Him has God exalted . . . to be a Prince and a Savior, to give repentance" (Acts 5:31). It is Christ who enables them to become Godís children. "To as many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God" (John 1:12). It is Christ who carries on the work within them when it is begun. "Because I live, you shall live also" (John 14:19). In short, it has "pleased the Father that in Christ should all fullness dwell" (Col. 1:19). He is the Author and Finisher of faith. He is the life. He is the head. From Him every joint and member of the mystical body of Christians is supplied. Through Him they are strengthened for duty. By Him they are kept from falling. He shall preserve them to the end, and present them faultless before the Fatherís throne with exceeding great joy. He is all things in all believers.
The mighty agent by whom the Lord Jesus Christ carries out this work in the members of His Church, is, without doubt, the Holy Spirit. He it is who applies Christ and His benefits to the soul. He it is who is ever renewing, awakening, convincing, leading to the cross, transforming, taking out of the world stone after stone and adding it to the mystical building. But the great chief Builder, who has undertaken to execute the work of redemption and bring it to completion, is the Son of God, the "Word who was made flesh." It is Jesus Christ who "builds."
In building the true Church, the Lord Jesus condescends to use many subordinate instruments. The ministry of the gospel, the circulation of the Scriptures, the friendly rebuke, the word spoken in season, the drawing influence of afflictionsóall, all are means and appliances by which His work is carried on, and the Spirit conveys life to souls. But Christ is the great superintending Architect, ordering, guiding, directing all that is done. Paul may plant and Apollos water, but God gives the increase (1 Cor. 3:6). Ministers may preach, and writers may write, but the Lord Jesus Christ alone can build. And except He builds, the work stands still.
Great is the wisdom with which the Lord Jesus Christ builds His Church! All is done at the right time, and in the right way. Each stone in its turn is put in its right place. Sometimes He chooses great stones, and sometimes He chooses small stones. Sometimes the work goes on fast, and sometimes it goes on slowly. Man is frequently impatient, and thinks that nothing is doing. But manís time is not Godís time. A thousand years in His sight are but as a single day. The great Builder makes no mistakes. He knows what He is doing. He sees the end from the beginning. He works by a perfect, unalterable and certain plan. The mightiest conceptions of architects, like Michelangelo and Wren, are mere trifling and childís play, in comparison with Christís wise counsels respecting His Church.
Great is the condescension and mercy which Christ exhibits in building His Church! He often chooses the most unlikely and roughest stones, and fits them into a most excellent work. He despises none, and rejects none, on account of former sins and past transgressions. He often makes Pharisees and publicans become pillars of His house. He delights to show mercy. He often takes the most thoughtless and ungodly, and transforms them into polished corners of His spiritual temple.
Great is the power which Christ displays in building His Church! He carries on His work in spite of opposition from the world, the flesh and the devil. In storm, in tempest, through troublous times, silently, quietly, without noise, without stir, without excitement, the building progresses, like Solomonís temple. "I will work," He declares, "and who shall let it?" (Isa. 43:13).
The children of this world take little or no interest in the building of this Church. They care nothing for the conversion of souls. What are broken spirits and penitent hearts to them? What is conviction of sin, or faith in the Lord Jesus to them? It is all "foolishness" in their eyes. But while the children of this world care nothing, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God. For the preserving of the true Church, the laws of nature have often times been suspended. For the good of that Church, all the providential dealings of God in this world are ordered and arranged. For the electís sake, wars are brought to an end, and peace is given to a nation. Statesmen, rulers, emperors, kings, presidents, heads of governments, have their schemes and plans, and think them of vast importance. But there is another work going on of infinitely greater moment, for which they are only the "axes and saws" in Godís hands (Isa. 10:15). That work is the erection of Christís spiritual temple, the gathering in of living stones into the one true Church.
We ought to feel deeply thankful that the building of the true Church is laid on the shoulders of One that is mighty. If the work depended on man, it would soon stand still. But, blessed be God, the work is in the hands of a Builder who never fails to accomplish His designs! Christ is the almighty Builder. He will carry on His work, though nations and visible Churches may not know their duty. Christ will never fail. That which He has undertaken He will certainly accomplish.
3. The Lord Jesus Christ tells us, "Upon this rock will I build My Church."
This is the Foundation upon which the Church is built. What did the Lord Jesus Christ mean, when He spoke of this foundation? Did He mean the apostle Peter, to whom He was speaking? I think assuredly not. I can see no reason, if He meant Peter, why He did not say, "Upon you will I build My Church." If He had meant Peter, He would surely have said, "I will build My Church on you," as plainly as He said, "To you will I give the keys." No, it was not the person of the apostle Peter, but the good confession which the apostle had just made! It was not Peter, the erring, unstable man, but the mighty truth which the Father had revealed to Peter. It was the truth concerning Jesus Christ Himself which was the rock. It was Christís mediatorship, and Christís Messiahship. It was the blessed truth that Jesus was the promised Savior, the true Surety, the real Intercessor between God and man. This was the rock, and this the foundation, upon which the Church of Christ was to be built.
The foundation of the true Church was laid at a mighty cost. It was necessary that the Son of God should take our nature upon Him, and in that nature live, suffer and die, not for His own sins, but for ours. It was necessary that in that nature Christ should go to the grave, and rise again. It was necessary that in that nature Christ should go up to heaven, to sit at the right hand of God, having obtained eternal redemption for all His people. No other foundation could have met the necessities of lost, guilty, corrupt, weak, helpless sinners.
That foundation, once obtained, is very strong. It can bear the weight of the sins of all the world. It has borne the weight of all the sins of all the believers who have built on it. Sins of thought, sins of the imagination, sins of the heart, sins of the head, sins which everyone has seen, and sins which no man knows, sins against God, and sins against man, sins of all kinds and descriptionsóthat mighty rock can bear the weight of all these sins, and not give way. The mediatorial office of Christ is a remedy sufficient for all the sins of all the world.
To this one foundation every member of Christís true Church is joined. In many things believers are disunited and disagreed. In the matter of their soulís foundation they are all of one mind. Whether Episcopalians or Presbyterians, Baptists or Methodists, believers all meet at one point. They are all built on the rock. Ask where they get their peace and hope and joyful expectation of good things to come. You will find that all flows from that one mighty source, Christ the Mediator between God and man, and the office that Christ holds as the High Priest and Surety of sinners.
Look to your foundation, if you would know whether or not you are a member of the one true Church. It is a point that may be known to yourself. Your public worship we can see; but we cannot see whether you are personally built upon the rock. Your attendance at the Lordís table we can see; but we cannot see whether you are joined to Christ, and one with Christ, and Christ in you. Take heed that you make no mistake about your own personal salvation. See that your own soul is upon the rock. Without this, all else is nothing. Without this, you will never stand in the day of judgment. Better a thousand times in that day to be found in a cottage "upon the rock," than in a palace upon the sand!
4. I proceed in the fourth place to speak of the implied trials of the Church, to which our text refers.
There is mention made of "the gates of hell." By that expression we are meant to understand the power of the prince of hell, even the devil. (Compare Ps. 9:13; 107:18; Isa. 38:10).
The history of Christís true Church has always been one of conflict and war. It has been constantly assailed by a deadly enemy, Satan, the prince of this world. The devil hates the true Church of Christ with an undying hatred. He is ever stirring up opposition against all its members. He is ever urging the children of this world to do his will, and to injure and harass the people of God. If he cannot bruise the head, he will bruise the heel. If he cannot rob believers of heaven, he will vex them by the way.
Warfare with the powers of hell has been the experience of the whole body of Christ for six thousand years. It has always been a bush burning, though not consumed, a woman fleeing into the wilderness, but not swallowed up (Ex. 3:2; Rev. 12:6, 16). The visible Churches have their times of prosperity and seasons of peace, but never has there been a time of peace for the true Church. Its conflict is perpetual. Its battle never ends.
Warfare with the powers of hell is the experience of every individual member of the true Church. Each has to fight. What are the lives of all the saints, but records of battles? What were such men as Paul and James and Peter and John and Polycarp and Chrysostom and Augustine and Luther and Calvin and Latimer and Baxter, but soldiers engaged in a constant warfare? Sometimes the people of the saints have been assailed, and sometimes their property. Sometimes they have been harassed by calumnies and slanders, and sometimes by open persecution. But in one way or another the devil has been continually warring against the Church. The "gates of hell" have been continually assaulting the people of Christ.
We who preach the gospel can hold out to all who come to Christ "exceeding great and precious promises" (2 Peter 1:4). We can offer boldly to you, in our Masterís name, the peace of God which passes all understanding. Mercy, free grace and full salvation are offered to everyone who will come to Christ, and believe on Him. But we promise you no peace with the world, or with the devil. We warn you, on the contrary, that there must be warfare, so long as you are in the body. We would not keep you back, or deter you from Christís service. But we would have you "count the cost," and fully understand what Christís service entails (Luke 14:28).
a. Marvel not at the enmity of the gates of hell. "If you were of the world, the world would love his own" (John 15:19). So long as the world is the world, and the devil the devil, so long there must be warfare, and believers in Christ must be soldiers. The world hated Christ, and the world will hate true Christians, as long as the earth stands. As the great Reformer Luther said, "Cain will go on murdering Abel so long as the Church is on earth."
b. Be prepared for the enmity of the gates of hell. Put on the whole armor of God. The tower of David contains a thousand bucklers, all ready for the use of Godís people. The weapons of our warfare have been tried by millions of poor sinners like ourselves, and have never been found to fail.
c. Be patient under the enmity of the gates of hell. It is all working together for your good. It tends to sanctify. It will keep you awake. It will make you humble. It will drive you nearer to the Lord Jesus Christ. It will wean you from the world. It will help to make you pray more. Above all, it will make you long for heaven. It will teach you to say with heart as well as lips, "Come, Lord Jesus. Your kingdom come."
d. Be not cast down by the enmity of hell. The warfare of the true child of God is as much a mark of grace as the inward peace which he enjoys. No cross, no crown! No conflict, no saving Christianity! "Blessed are you," said our Lord Jesus Christ, "when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and say all manner of evil against you falsely, for My sake." If you are never persecuted for religionís sake, and all men speak well of you, you may well doubt whether you belong to "the Church on the rock" (Matt. 5:11; Luke 6:26).
5. There remains one thing more to be considered: the Security of the true Church of Christ.
There is a glorious promise given by the Builder, "The gates of hell shall not prevail."
He who cannot lie has pledged His word, that all the powers of hell shall never overthrow His Church. It shall continue and stand, in spite of every assault. It shall never be overcome. All other created things perish and pass away, but not the Church which is built on the rock.
Empires have risen and fallen in rapid succession. Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Persia, Tyre, Carthage, Rome, Greece, Veniceówhere are all these now? They were all the creations of manís hand, and have passed away. But the true Church of Christ lives on.
The mightiest cities have become heaps of ruins. The broad walls of Babylon have sunk to the ground. The palaces of Nineveh are covered with mounds of dust. The hundred gates of Thebes are only matters of history. Tyre is a place where fishermen hang their nets. Carthage is a desolation. Yet all this time the true Church stands. The gates of hell do not prevail against it.
The earliest visible Churches have in many cases decayed and perished. Where is the Church of Ephesus and the Church of Antioch? Where is the Church of Alexandria and the Church of Constantinople? Where are the Corinthian, and Philippian, and Thessalonian Churches? Where, indeed, are they all? They departed from the Word of God. They were proud of their bishops and synods and ceremonies and learning and antiquity. They did not glory in the true cross of Christ. They did not hold fast the gospel. They did not give the Lord Jesus His rightful office, or faith its rightful place. They are now among the things that have been. Their candlestick has been taken away. But all this time the true Church has lived on.
Has the true Church been oppressed in one country? It has fled to another. Has it been trampled on and oppressed in one soil? It has taken root and flourished in some other climate. Fire, sword, prisons, fines, penalties, have never been able to destroy its vitality. Its persecutors have died and gone to their own place, but the Word of God has lived and grown and multiplied. Weak as this true Church may appear to the eye of man, it is an anvil which has broken many a hammer in times past, and perhaps will break many more before the end. He that lays hands on it is touching the apple of His eye (Zech. 2:8).
The promise of our text is true of the whole body of the true Church. Christ will never be without a witness in the world. He has had a people in the worst of times. He had seven thousand in Israel even in the days of Ahab. There are some now, I believe, in the dark places of the Roman and Greek Churches who, in spite of much weakness, are serving Christ. The devil may rage horribly. The Church in some countries may be brought exceedingly low. But the gates of hell shall never entirely "prevail."
The promise of our text is true of every individual member of the Church. Some of Godís people have been so much cast down and disturbed, that they have despaired of their safety. Some have fallen sadly, as David and Peter did. Some have departed from the faith for a time, like Cranmer and Jewell. Many have been tried by cruel doubts and fears. But all have got safe home at last, the youngest as well as the oldest, the weakest as well as the strongest. And so it will be to the end. Can you prevent tomorrowís sun from rising? Can you prevent the tide in the Bristol Channel from ebbing and flowing? Can you prevent the planets moving in their respective orbits? Then, and then alone, can you prevent the salvation of any believer, however feeble, the final safety of any living stone in that Church which is built upon the rock, however small or insignificant that stone may appear.
The true Church is Christís body. Not one bone in that mystical body shall ever be broken. The true Church is Christís bride. Those whom God has joined in everlasting covenant shall never be put asunder. The true Church is Christís flock. When the lion came and took a lamb out of Davidís flock, David arose and delivered the lamb from his mouth. Christ will do the same. He is Davidís greater Son. Not a single sick lamb in Christís flock shall perish. He will say to His Father in the last day, "Of those who You gave Me I have lost none" (John 18:9). The true Church is the wheat of the earth. It may be sifted, winnowed, buffeted, tossed to and fro. But not one grain shall be lost. The tares and chaff shall be burned. The wheat shall be gathered into the barn. The true Church is Christís army. The Captain of our salvation loses none of His soldiers. His plans are never defeated. His supplies never fail. His musterĖroll is the same at the end as it was at the beginning. Of the men that marched gallantly out of England a few years ago in the Crimean war, how many never came back! Regiments that went forth, strong and cheerful, with bands playing and banners flying, laid their bones in a foreign land, and never returned to their native country. But it is not so with Christís army. Not one of His soldiers shall be missing at last. He Himself declares, "They shall never perish" (John 10:28).
The devil may cast some of the members of the true Church into prison. He may kill and burn and torture and hang. But after he has killed the body, there is nothing more that he can do. He cannot hurt the soul. When the French troops took Rome a few years ago, they found on the walls of a prison cell, under the Inquisition, the words of a prisoner. Who he was, we know not. But his words are worthy of remembrance. "Though dead, he yet speaks." He had written on the walls, very likely after an unjust trial, and a still more unjust excommunication, the following striking words "Blessed Jesus, they cannot cast me out of Your true Church." That record is true! Not all the power of Satan can cast out of Christís true Church one single believer.
I trust that no reader of this message will ever allow fear to prevent his beginning to serve Christ. He to whom you commit your soul has all power in heaven and earth, and He will keep you. He will never let you be cast away. Relatives may oppose. Neighbors may mock. The world may slander and ridicule and jest and sneer. Fear not! Fear not! The powers of hell shall never prevail against your soul. Greater is He that is for you, than all they that are against you.
Fear not for the Church of Christ, when ministers die, and saints are taken away. Christ can ever maintain His own cause. He will raise up better servants and brighter stars. The stars are all in His right hand. Leave off all anxious thought about the future. Cease to be cast down by the measures of statesmen, or the plots of wolves in sheepís clothing. Christ will ever provide for His own Church. Christ will take care that "the gates of hell shall not prevail against it." All is going on well, though our eyes may not see it. The kingdoms of this world shall yet become the kingdoms of our God, and of His Christ.
I will now conclude this message with a few words of practical application.
1. My first word of application shall be a question. What shall that question be? What shall I ask?
I will return to the point with which I began. I will go back to the first sentence with which I opened my message. I ask you, whether you are a member of the one true Church of Christ? Are you in the highest, the best sense, a "Churchman" in the sight of God? You know now what I mean. I look far beyond the Church of England. I am not speaking of church or chapel. I speak of "the Church built upon the rock." I ask you, with all solemnity, are you a member of that Church? Are you joined to the great Foundation? Are you on the rock? Have you received the Holy Spirit? Does the Spirit witness with your spirit, that you are one with Christ, and Christ with you? I beseech you, in the name of God, to lay to heart these questions, and to ponder them well. If you are not converted, you do not yet belong to the "Church on the rock."
Let every reader of this message take heed to himself, if he cannot give a satisfactory answer to my inquiry. Take heed, take heed, that you do not make shipwreck of your soul to all eternity. Take heed, lest at last the gates of hell prevail against you, the devil claim you as his own, and you be cast away forever. Take heed, lest you go down to the pit from the land of Bibles, and in the full light of Christís gospel. Take heed, lest you are found at the left hand of Christ at last, a lost Episcopalian or a lost Presbyterian, a lost Baptist or a lost Methodist, lost because, with all your zeal for your own party and your own communion table, you never joined the one true Church.
2. My second work of application shall be an invitation. I address it to everyone who is not yet a true believer.
I say to you, come and join the one true Church without delay. Come and join yourself to the Lord Jesus Christ in an everlasting covenant not to be forgotten.
Consider well what I say. I charge you solemnly not to mistake the meaning of my invitation. I do not bid you leave the visible Church to which you belong. I abhor all idolatry of forms and parties. I detest a proselytizing spirit. But I do bid you come to Christ and be saved. The day of decision must come some time. Why not this very hour? Why not today, while it is called today? Why not this very night, before the sun rises tomorrow morning? Come to Him, who died for sinners on the cross, and invites all sinners to come to Him by faith and be saved. Come to my Master, Jesus Christ. Come, I say, for all things are now ready. Mercy is ready for you. Heaven is ready for you. Angels are ready to rejoice over you. Christ is ready to receive you. Christ will receive you gladly, and welcome you among His children. Come into the ark. The flood of Godís wrath will soon break upon the earth. Come into the ark and be safe.
Come into the lifeboat of the one true Church. This old world will soon break into pieces! Hear you not the tremblings of it? The world is but a wreck hard upon a sandbank. The night is far spent, the waves are beginning to rise, the wind is getting up, the storm will soon shatter the old wreck. But the lifeboat is launched, and we, the ministers of the gospel, beseech you to come into the lifeboat and be saved. We beseech you to arise at once and come to Christ.
Do you ask, "How can I come? My sins are too many. I am too wicked yet. I dare not come." Away with the thought! It is a temptation of Satan. Come to Christ as a sinner. Come just as you are. Hear the words of that beautiful hymn:
This is the way to come to Christ. You should come, waiting for nothing, and tarrying for nothing. You should come, as a hungry sinner, to be filled; as a poor sinner, to be enriched ; as a bad, undeserving sinner, to be clothed with righteousness. So coming, Christ would receive you. "Him that comes" to Christ, He "will in no wise cast out." Oh, come, come to Jesus Christ! Come into the true Church by faith and be saved.
3. Last of all, let me give a word of exhortation to all believers into whose hands this message may fall.
Strive to live a holy life. Walk worthy of the Church to which you belong. Live like citizens of heaven. Let your light shine before men, so that the world may profit by your conduct. Let them know whose you are, and whom you serve. Be epistles of Christ, known and read of all men, written in such clear letters, that none can say of you, "I know not whether this man be a member of Christ or not." He that knows nothing of real, practical holiness is no member of the Church on the rock.
Strive to live a courageous life. Confess Christ before men. Whatever station you occupy, in that station confess Christ. Why should you be ashamed of Him? He was not ashamed of you on the cross. He is ready to confess you now before His Father in heaven. Why should you be ashamed of Him? Be bold. Be very bold. The good soldier is not ashamed of his uniform. The true believer ought never to be ashamed of Christ.
Strive to live a joyful life. Live like men who look for that blessed hopeóthe second coming of Jesus Christ. This is the prospect to which we should all look forward. It is not so much the thought of going to heaven, as of heaven coming to us, that should fill our minds. "There is a good time coming" for all the people of God, a good time for all the Church of Christ, a good time for all believersóa bad time for the impenitent and unbelieving, but a good time for true Christians. For that good time, let us wait and watch and pray.
The scaffolding will soon be taken down. The last stone will soon be brought out. The top stone will be placed upon the edifice. Yet a little time, and the full beauty of the Church which Christ is building shall be clearly seen.
The great Master Builder will soon come Himself. A building shall be shown to assembled worlds, in which there shall be no imperfection. The Savior and the saved shall rejoice together. The whole universe shall acknowledge, that in the building of Christís Church all was well done.
"Blessed," it shall be said in that day, if it was never said before, "BLESSED ARE ALL WHO BELONG TO THE CHURCH ON THE ROCK!"
by Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan
It's one of my favorite works of art: The Conversion of Saul by Caravaggio. There it is, meekly on display in the corner of the Church of Santa Maria del Popolo in Rome. Saul, the raging persecutor of the followers of Jesus, literally "knocked off his high horse" by the radiance of Jesus, the "light of the world," transformed into a passionate apostle of Christ and His new Church, whom we now venerate as St. Paul.
And what question does Jesus bellow out to the shocked Saul?
"Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?"
Parse that very carefully. Saul, of course, has been harassing the Church, killing the followers of Jesus.
Yet, note well: Jesus does not inquire, "Why are you persecuting my Church" or "my people" or "my followers."
No! The Lord asks, "Why are you persecuting me?"
Get it? The Lord is saying, "You hurt my Church, you hurt me. The Church and I are one."
Jesus Christ and His Church are one.
Now, that's a revealed truth that needs repeating today.
What we've got now, if the scholarly research is accurate - and I'm afraid it is - is a growing tendency to split Christ from His Church. More and more seem to be claiming such things as:
"Oh, I've got faith. I just don't need the Church."
"Faith is great; religion stinks."
"I believe. I just don't want to belong."
"I got Jesus. Why bother with the Church?"
"I pray how and when I want. What's the big deal about the Mass and Church on Sunday?"
St. Paul would take exception. So would Jesus.
When God chose Israel he selected not a person but a people. Faith in God is communal by its very nature.
Like our Jewish neighbors, we Christians have always believed that God chooses us and gives us the supernatural gift of faith. It's not that we decide our faith. You bet, we freely decide how firmly and generously we will live out our faith, but we are "born into" a Church. Faith is a gift from God given us on the day of our baptism into His Church.
Just like we're "born into" a natural family. We are a member of a human family. That family is often flawed and imperfect. In fact, there are times when we're angry at it and might even drift away from family events. But, family membership is in our blood.
So it is with our spiritual family, the Church. Oh, we may get upset with her to be sure; we may even drift away from her. But, she never leaves us. The Church is in our supernatural DNA.
Jonathan D. Fitzgerald, writing last week in the Wall Street Journal about the viral video "Why I Hate Religion, But Love Jesus," concludes with this cogent thought:
"Stating that religions build churches at the expense of the poorÖturns a blind eye to the single greatest charitable institution on the planet. Blaming religion for wars ignores the fact that the greatest mass murderers in the 20th century - indeed in all of history - killed for nonreligious reasons. And advocating for a kind of Christianity that is free of the Ďbondage' of religion opens the door to dangerous theological anarchy that is all too common among young evangelicals and absolutely antithetical to biblical Christianity."
Speaking of Jesus and His Church, the acclaimed French theologian Henri de Lubac exclaimed, "For what would I ever know of Him without Her."
Never give up on your family.
Never give up on Jesus.
Never quit His Church.
For, as St. Paul learned the hard way, Jesus and His Church are one.
"You cannot have God for your Father if you do not have the Church for your mother." - St. Cyprian
The Church has the courage of a woman who defends her children, in order to bring them to encounter her Spouse. This was one of the main focal points of Pope Francis' remarks at the chapel of the Domus sanctae Marthae in the Vatican. The Pope also reflected on the encounter between Jesus and the widow of Naim, saying that the Church herself is, in history, walking in search of her Lord.
Jesus has, "the capacity to suffer with us, to be close to our sufferings and make them His own," said Pope Francis, who began his reflections with the encounter between Jesus and the widow of Naim as reported in Luke 7:11-17. He pointed out that Jesus, "had great compassion" for this widow who had now lost her son. Jesus, he went on to say, "knew what it meant to be a widow at that time," and noted that the Lord has a special love for widows, He cares for them." Reading this passage of the Gospel, he then said, that the widow is, "an icon of the Church , because the Church is in a sense widow":
"The Bridegroom is gone and she walks in history, hoping to find him, to meet with Him Ė and she will be His true bride. In the meantime she - the Church - is alone! The Lord is nowhere to be seen. She has a certain dimension of widowhood ... and that makes me makes me think of the widowhood of the Church. This courageous Church, which defends her children, like the widow who went to the corrupt judge to [press her rights] and eventually won. Our Mother Church is courageous! She has the courage of a woman who knows that her children are her own, and must defend them and bring them to the meeting with her Spouse."
The Pope reflected on some figures of widows in the Bible, in particular the courageous Maccabean widow with seven sons who are martyred for not renouncing God. The Bible, he stressed, says this woman who spoke to her sons "in the local dialect, in their first language," and, he noted, our Mother Church speaks to us in dialect, in "that language of true orthodoxy, which we all understand, the language of catechism," that, "gives us the strength to go forward in the fight against evil":
"This dimension of widowhood of the Church, who is journeying through history, hoping to meet, to find her HusbandÖ Our Mother the Church is thus! She is a Church that, when she is faithful, knows how to cry. When the Church does not cry, something is not right. She weeps for her children, and prays! A Church that goes forward and does rear her children, gives them strength and accompanies them until the final farewell in order to leave them in the hands of her Spouse, who at the end will come to encounter her. This is our Mother Church! I see her in this weeping widow. And what does the Lord say to the Church? "Do not cry. I am with you, I'll take you, I'll wait for you there, in the wedding, the last nuptials, those of the Lamb. Stop [your tears]: this son of yours was dead, now he lives."
And this , he continued, "is the dialogue of the Lord with the Church." She, "defends the children, but when she sees that the children are dead, she crys, and the Lord says to her: 'I am with you and your son is with me.'" As he told the boy at Naim to get up from his deathbed, the Pope added, many times Jesus also tells us to get up, "when we are dead because of sin and we are going to ask for forgiveness." And then what does Jesus "when He forgives us, when He gives us back our life?" He Returns us to our mother:
"Our reconciliation with the Lord end in the dialogue 'You, me and the priest who gives me pardon'; it ends when He restores us to our mother. There ends reconciliation, because there is no path of life, there is no forgiveness, there is no reconciliation outside of Mother Church. So, seeing this poor widow, all these things come to me somewhat randomly - But I see in this widow the icon of the widowhood of the Church who is on a journey to find her Bridegroom. I get the urge to ask the Lord for the grace to be always confident of this "mommy" who defends us, teaches us, helps us grow and [teaches] us to speak the dialect."
Source: Radio Vaticana
by Dr. Joe McKeever
It's His church and not mine.
It's His church and not yours either.
Settle that or nothing else will matter. Get it wrong and everything else you do will be off kilter.
The moment you think it's your church (you're in charge) or my church (someone else makes the decisions; you have nothing to do with what happens), we're all in trouble.
It is indeed the Lord's Church and He is its sole owner. He takes no one in as a stockholder, franchises no part of His operation out to denominations, and asks advice from no expert of theology. Furthermore, He promised that the gates of hades will not prevail against His church.
And, He has populated His church with frail humans like you and me, and wonder of wonders, assigned some of us to responsibilities within that church. What a risk He was taking!
Because the church is made up of people who are flawed and sometimes malformed and always still in process, the Lord's church is often in trouble, forever struggling, and frequently an embarrassment.
The church is always vulnerable to the whims of its members, the pressures of its surrounding culture, and the variables of its pastors who come and go.
So, it's a two-sided coin. The church is divine, yet human. The church belongs to Jesus who has promised to build it and guarantee its success. Yet, it's fragile and vulnerable.
If, as a disciple of Jesus Christ, you pray for anything in this world, pray for the church.
If you "belong" to anything in this world, belong to the church.
If you give to a single entity on this planet, give to the church.
If you stand up for anything, stand up for the church.
Here are ten basic realities concerning the church of the Lord Jesus Christ. To the faithful, they are wonderful; but we ignore them to our own detriment.
1. The church is the Body of Christ.
I didn't make that up. I'm not smart enough to have figured that out. Scripture makes this assertion and makes it so clear that we dare not take issue with it. (See Ephesians 4:15-16 for starters. Then I Corinthians 12:27 and Colossians 2:19.)
If I'm going to do anything on earth, I'll do it through my body. And to a great extent - we want to be careful here not to overextend the metaphor - when the Lord wants to work on earth, He uses His body, the church.
I'm only a minor member of the Lord's Body and not a major player. But the little finger on my hand or the smallest toe on my right food is still important to me.
How honored I am to be a part of His Body on earth. "Lord, help me to be faithful in the spot where You have assigned me."
2. The church is made up of people like you and me.
Whatever was the Lord thinking? These flawed, imperfect people who make up the membership of His Church often stumble and get matters wrong. They sin, they rebel, they think their opinion should count, and they sometimes believe the Lord reveals His will through them voting.
And yet, the Lord still claims them, stays with them, and works with them. Truly amazing.
"He Himself knows our frame; He is mindful that we are but dust" (Psalm 103:14). Jesus knew He was getting no bargain when He saved us. He knows what humble stuff we are made of. When we sin, we are the only one surprised. And yet, He still claims us as His own.
It stands to reason, therefore, there will be no perfect churches in this life.
That there are no perfect churches has disgusted many a would-be follower of Jesus and given material for skeptics and critics looking for reasons to reject Christ's message.
The Lord was willing to take that chance.
How honored I am to be a member of His church. "Lord, keep me from criticizing your church because it is made up of people like me."
3. Christ is the head of the church.
He is both its owner and operator (Matthew 16:18 again). He holds the deed and He calls the shots. That must be news to some pastors who think the church is theirs and deacons who enjoy throwing their weight around.
The single question church people ought to ask as we gather to do business as a congregation is "Lord, what would you have us to do?"
When parts of my body are in disharmony, working in opposition to one another, the solution is not for them to get together for a summit conference and work things out. It's much easier than that. All they have to do is each one obey the head. After all, Christ is not the author of division (see I Corinthians 1:13). The head does not send contradictory messages to different parts of the body.
It's a great metaphor and we cannot escape its message.
How important it is that I seek His will in everything. "Lord, help me to want to please you in all I do."
4. What we do to the church - good or evil - Jesus takes personally.
He said to Saul of Tarsus, "Why do you persecute me?" When the henchman of Jerusalem stretched out his hand against the followers of Jesus, the Lord in Heaven felt it.
Feed the Lord's hungry children, clothe them, take care of them, and Jesus interprets that as though you had done it to Him. Fail to do it and He registers that as a neglect of Him. (Matthew 25)
"Whoever receives you, receives me," the Lord told His disciples (Matthew 10:40). Minister to the saints and you are showing love to His name (Hebrews 6:10).
And, mess with the Lord's people and you are messing with Jesus. Run the preacher off just because you cannot control him and the Lord pens your name down in red on HIs appointment calendar. Split a church in order to get you way and you are in more trouble than you have ever been in your life, friend.
Honor the church as you would the Lord Jesus Himself.
How honored we are to be able to serve Christ this very day. "Lord, help me to take this literally and do unto others as I would do unto Thee."
5. Church unity is a big deal to the Lord, far more than to any of us.
"I pray that they all may be one," Jesus prayed, "in order that the world may believe" (John 17:21).
The unity of the Lord's church is directly tied to its effectiveness in spreading the gospel.
"Being diligent to present the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace" (Ephesians 4:3).
One of the greatest tasks of church leaders is to keep the congregation unified. Likewise, God's people of every denomination - those who know Jesus, love Him, believe His word, etc. - ought to have a spiritual unity, even if not organizational.
Leaders should always be on the alert for divisive tactics of the enemy and move quickly to deal with them. A divided church grinds to a halt in everything it attempts. Until unity is restored, nothing gets accomplished.
How blessed I have been by the ministries of strong, unified churches in my past. "Lord, help me to do all I can to keep our church - and Thy people everywhere - as one in Thee."
6. The key to unity in the church is submission.
"Submit yourselves to one another in the fear of the Lord" (Ephesians 5:21).
We submit ourselves to the Head of the Church, the Lord Jesus, yes. But, just as tough and perhaps even more irrational, we are required to submit to one another.
Humility is a far bigger deal in the Lord's plan than it is within the Christian movement today. In fact, many of the best-known preachers and denominational leaders literally parade their pride and flaunt their oversized egos. In doing so, they deny the Lord who had no place to lay His head, and was among us as One who served.
To submit simply means to yield to the other person. Suppose you and I disagree. After a full discussion, I say, "Let's do it your way." Instantly, the decision is made and the division is nipped in the bud.
Two motorists meet in the middle of a one-way bridge. The first leans out of his window and yells, "I never back up for fools!" The second throws his car into reverse and calls, "I always do."
Only the strong can submit; the weak will bull forward, insisting on their own way. And, when they do, the church grows steadily weaker and weaker for such shenanigans.
Let the leadership of the Lord's church preach unity and demonstrate submission to the congregation. Pastors submit to their people when they respond to calls for help, for counsel, for ministry, when they put the needs of others before themselves. The congregation submits to its leaders (see Hebrews 13:17) when members do not carp, do not withhold their witness or praise or attendance or offerings, but enthusiastically join in and follow their lead.
How hard it is to submit myself to someone who seems undeserving. "Lord, help me to have the spirit of Christ in all I do."
7. Pastors are called by God - appointed as overseers of the church - while deacons are chosen by the church as servants of the congregation.
The first point - overseers - comes from Acts 20:28 and the second, this business of serving, comes from Acts 6:1-7. The deacons are accountable both to the congregation and the pastors. The pastors are accountable to the congregation. (All are accountable to God, of course.)
Pastors are God's point men, sent not to make the congregation happy but to make them holy and healthy and to make Himself happy.
Deacons are more responsible than anyone else for maintaining and protecting the unity of the church. If there is a troublemaker or a rift in the congregation, they should deal with it promptly, in love, in fairness, and in all wisdom, being careful not to widen the breach or deepen the anguish.
If pastors are the point men, deacons ride drag, bring up the rear, keep the congregation together, and deal with dissent/trouble whenever it erupts.
How blessed I have been by strong, faithful pastors and godly, humble deacons throughout my life. "Lord, help me exhibit the same Christlikeness to those who come behind."
8. There will always be conflicts and challenges to the church, and that's not always bad.
"There must be factions among you, in order that those who are approved may have become evident among you" (I Corinthians 11;19).
Every church needs a little conflict from time to time. Every church will have its share of challenges. And if it handles these wisely, a number of good things will happenÖ.
How enlightening it is to look back down the years and see how the Lord has used the conflicts and stresses He allowed into my life. "Lord, help me never to run from the next problem that arises, but to look for Thy hand."
9. The Bible intentionally blurs the line between the church universal, local, and worldwide.
All the saints across time and eternity make up the Kingdom of God and therefore, His true church. The local church, that congregation with which I am affiliated, is also the church, as are the saints across the world who are serving Jesus Christ at this moment.
Last weekend, as I was leading a deacons retreat for an Alabama church, we were dealing with some of these concepts. A man asked, "So, is the church this building or the people?" I answered, "Strictly speaking, it's the people. However, this building is where the Lord's people meet to serve and teach and minister. So, it is no stretch to say that whoever vacuums the floors is serving Jesus, whoever mows the lawn is cutting the Lord's grass, and whoever cleans the toilets does this as unto the Lord Himself."
If that blurred the line, so be it. A neglected house of worship - it needs paint, the grounds need tending, the acoustics are terrible - reflects poorly on the people, the Lord, and our message.
There is a redundancy in our salvation. The Lord saves us, the Holy Spirit indwells us, and He gives us an entire family to help us live this life. He gives us the Bible to guide us, opportunities to serve Him, challenges to grow us, and faith to sustain us.
How wise we are to treasure every church that honors Christ and preaches the Word. "Lord, help me to bless every believer in Jesus I meet, no matter what denomination they belong to."
10. As a living organism, the church is always growing and changing. Always in a state of flux.
"I will build my church," Jesus said. He is constantly at work in His church.
A church is always changing. Someone joins and the church grows; someone leaves and the church diminishes. Someone begins reading his Bible regularly or giving generously or sharing Christ with his neighbors and the church gets stronger. Someone drops out of church or neglects the Word or finds other things to do with his money, and the church grows weaker.
I'm always amused by people who move to a new city and set out to find a church like the beloved congregation they just left. If given the opportunity, I tell them, "There is no other church like that one. The Lord's churches are like your children, each one unique. And furthermore, the church back home is not like it was, either."
"When you moved away, that church changed. When other people joined it, it changed again. It's always changing. And to ask the Lord to reproduce here in your new neighborhood what He once did in the old one is to require what He has never done and has no intention of doing again."
I tell them, "The Lord is trying to do a new thing in your life. Don't ask Him to repeat the old, former lessons. Be open to the next stage He has for you."
How hard it is to accept change and the new things our leaders introduce. "Lord, help me to keep my eyes on Thee, that I may serve and grow and be found faithful."
Those are my 10 "basics" of the church.
"Father, help us to honor Thy Church as we someday expect to honor Thee around the throne. For Jesus' sake. Amen."
Scripture Reading: 1 Samuel 19-21; Luke 11:29-54
Does it matter to you where you live? Are you satisfied with your house or do you hope for something more, something better? For many of us, our physical dwelling place tends to keep us longing for a something a little nicer. If we live in the same house for a long time, we probably have redecorated most of it more than once. As humans, we get bored and want a fresh look at the things around us, especially our homes. As physical structures, our homes deteriorate in the elements and require repairs and fix-ups over time. Regardless of the reasons, we all must deal with where we dwell. So what about where God dwells?
Where does God dwell? The verse above tells us that God had a place made just so He could dwell with His people. But this place was no ordinary dwelling; it was a holy place, a sanctuary where His people could enter into the presence of the Lord. This sanctuary was built to the finest detail using the best fabrics, stones and precious metals. As the Israelites transported this mobile dwelling place throughout their travels in the desert, they never needed to upgrade, redecorate, or fix-upÖeven after 40 years! The Presence of the Lord kept all things restored, refreshed and renewed.
But were the Israelites completely satisfied with the things given to them by God? How could these people have been anything but eternally grateful and in awe of the Lord's miraculous power in their lives? But the Bible tells us that they were stiff-necked and continually complaining. What about us? Are we satisfied with what God has given us? Even more so, what about His promise we have that His Holy Spirit lives within us? John 1:14 says that the Word became flesh and tabernacled (dwelt) among us. Jesus came to earth to dwell with us. He left us His Holy Spirit who dwells in us today. Paul tells us in First Corinthians 6:19 that our bodies are the "temple" of the Holy Spirit, so we are now God's dwelling place, for those who have accepted Jesus as Savior.
We should be very thankful that the Lord does not get bored with His temples, or His dwelling places today. What if He became dissatisfied to the point of looking for something better? He is God and He has every right to want more, to want the best. And thankfully for us, that something better is just what He has in store for us, not here but in heaven. Jesus promised that He would go to prepare a place for us (John 14:2). The key for us: get our eyes off our earthly houses and fix them upon Jesus, our eternal home with Him.
Source: Daily Disciples Devotional
by Anne Morrow Lindbergh
And in this image of the pendulum swinging in easy rhythm between opposite poles, is there not a clue to the problem of relationships as a whole? Is there not here even a hint of an understanding and an acceptance of the winged life of relationships, of their eternal ebb and flow, of their inevitable intermittency? "The life of the spirit," said Saint-Exupery, "the veritable life, is intermittent and only the life of the mind is constant. . . . The spirit . . . alternates between total vision and absolute blindness. Here is a man, for example, who loves his farm--but there are moments when he sees in it only a collection of unrelated objects. Here is a man who loves his wife--but there are moments when he sees in love nothing but burdens, hindrances, constraints. Here is a man who loves music--but there are moments when it cannot reach him."
The "veritable life" of our emotions and our relationships also is intermittent. When you love someone you do not love them all the time, in exactly the same way, from moment to moment. It is an impossibility. It is even a lie to pretend to. And yet this is exactly what most of us demand. We have so little faith in the ebb and flow of life, of love, of relationships. We leap at the flow of the tide and resist in terror its ebb. We are afraid it will never return. We insist on permanency, on duration, on continuity; when the only continuity possible, in life as in love, is in growth, in fluidity--in freedom, in the sense that the dancers are free, barely touching as they pass, but partners in the same pattern.
The only real security is not in owning or possessing, not in demanding or expecting, not in hoping, even. Security in a relationship lies neither in looking back to what it was in nostalgia, nor forward to what it might be in dread or anticipation, but living in the present relationship and accepting it as it is now. For relationships, too, must be like islands. One must accept them for what they are here and now, within their limits--islands, surrounded and interrupted by the sea, continually visited and abandoned by the tides. One must accept the security of the winged life, of ebb and flow, of intermittency.
Source: The Gift from the Sea. Anne Morrow Lindberg. Random House. 1975. Pgs. 107-109.
by Al Sears, MD
It really gets my goat that they're getting you to eat this stuff.
Like that grilled chicken sandwich that they've been telling you is so good for you...
Eat enough of them and they'll turn you into a plump, moody, weepy female.
And the veggie burgers? Don't get me going. They're even worse.
These fake health foods can take away everything that makes life great for a man.
But there's an easy way to get up every morning and feel charged, optimistic and confident again. Ambitious and full of energy.
My patients who have experienced this are some of my happiest, and are on top of their game again.
Let me show you what I mean...
The average chicken sandwich comes from chickens that are pumped full of the hormones that your body thinks are estrogen.
That veggie burger, too. Soy products are highly estrogenic.
Estrogen is what makes a woman a woman... but too much can "feminize" a man, and start to turn him into a woman.
Commercial beef, poultry and soy products are a HUGE source of this fake estrogen. Add cheese? That's more estrogen. Add some bacon? Even more.
That lettuce, tomato that are supposed to be so "healthy"? Yep, you guessed it, more fake estrogen in the form of chemicals sprayed on your vegetables while they're still in the ground.
These fake estrogens have a structure that makes them a dead ringer for the real thing... and your body can't tell the difference. I call them "estrogen mimics".
Ketchup has ingredients that have the same effect. Even the grain in your sandwich bun is tainted.
And the more estrogen that gets into your blood, the more your manhood shrinks. That means more belly fat, your energy tanks and your sex life goes the way of the woolly mammoth.
Is this a scientific fact? No, not yet, because the medical establishment has refused to invest the money to do the tests necessary to prove this. But do I believe it's true? Absolutely. And I'll tell you why...
I Bet Your Doctor Never Told You This...
There are almost no clinical trials that have studied estrogen dominance and its effects. Truth is, most doctors don't even realize excess estrogen is the "hidden cause"; of the problems a lot of guys face every day.
Clinical trials are helpful, but there are problems with relying only on what you read in a handful of medical journals.
Modern medicine often gets hung up on these placebo trials and completely ignores the evidence right in front of them.
Just like they ignore the oldest systems of medicine in the world even though they have thousands of years of real-world trials behind them.
And today, science lags as many as 15 years behind what doctors in practice know.
In the case of estrogen dominance, it's been more than 20 years, and modern science still hasn't gotten around to studying this effect that only I and a few other doctors have caught on to.
That's how long ago I started seeing a connection between estrogen mimics in the environment and complaints from my male patients about low energy and a softening of their male features.
So I started to research for myself when I realized what was beginning to happen in today's world. As a doctor, I knew I had to do something about this completely new problem. So I came up with a solution to address it.
Since then, I've been helping men use this one simple approach that helps reduce and begin to wipe out the effects of too much estrogen. I've helped thousands of men keep their true strength, vitality and ability to perform.
That's a two-decade, real-world trial right there.
And I believe, from my success with men in my clinic that this solution can quickly restore your estrogen levels to a healthy balance, starting you back on the road to a lean body and a focused mind.
STAND UP and Reclaim Your Power as a Man
It doesn't matter what condition you're in now. I've seen it all. And I've fully restored men you might consider "lost causes."
One patient, who we'll call "P.L.", came to my clinic complaining of 4 out of the 5 classic symptoms of what I call "estrogen dominance." He was chronically tired, emotionally out of sorts, had a beer belly, a double chin and was losing his ability to perform.
When I checked his testosterone, it was down to 384, a level you'd expect to see in an old man. (At the time, P.L. was in his early 40s.) Also not a surprise, his estrogen was close to 200, which is more than most women.
Here's the bottom line: Estrogen makes you fat. That's why they give it to farm animals. It starts with a smooth layer of fat under the skin that robs you of muscle definition. Then it grows into a fat belly, a round face and "man boobs."
In P.L.'s case, he only weighed 175 pounds but was carrying a lot of body fat (35%). That's technically obese, but he didn't really look "overweight," just bloated and out of shape.
But look what happened when I gave him my estrogen "antidote."
Look at the top line. His body fat percentage went from 35% all the way down to a much leaner 15%.
The middle line, "pounds of body fat," shows how the amount of fat he was carrying went from 58 pounds down to a more manageable 28.
And on the last line, his "lean body mass," which measures how much muscle he had, went up from 108 to 157.
After three months, his estrogen dropped and his testosterone started to rise. Plus, he built 49 pounds of muscle and lost 30 pounds of fat.
Kick Excess Estrogen To The Curb And Get Your Manhood Back NOW
As an M.D. who is also an ACE-certified fitness instructor, coach and consultant to professional athletes, I know how to keep men in top condition. In fact, Iíve built my reputation on it.
Like I did for the thousands of men who come to my clinic for help... including guys like "P.L."... Iíll show you EXACTLY how my strategy works and how it can put YOU back in the saddle again.
First, let me show you what we're up against.
Itís Not Just In Your Food... Estrogen Is A Staple Of Our Plastic World
You donít see it, feel it or taste it... but estrogen gets into your blood every day.
Sometimes itís in the food you eat; sometimes itís in the plastic products you use. But whether you know it or not, thereís a steady stream of this feminizing hormone getting into your bloodstream.
As youíve already seen, ranchers in the meat and poultry industries inject their cattle and chickens with estrogen to "fatten them up" and speed up the time it takes them to reach "maturity."
And every time you eat a burger or chicken sandwich made from these animals, youíre likely getting the estrogen that animal had when it was slaughtered.
Even the soy products are to blame, as any soy product that has not been fermented is highly estrogenic. (The fermented products like soy sauce and tofu are the exceptions.)
What may be even worse, modern industry produces thousands of chemicals that get into your everyday environment. And the majority of these chemicals and compounds mimic the female hormone estrogen.
The problem is that many of these chemicals have a molecular structure that closely resembles the female hormone estrogen.
When these estrogen look-a-likes get into your bloodstream, they attach to estrogen receptors and give your cells a new set of feminizing instructions.
You see, your receptors are like "landing pads" on the surface of your cells that receive incoming nutrients and information.
And when these "estrogen mimics" bind with your cellsí receptors, your cells don't realize it's a chemical and not the real thing. And in response to these new "messages," your body gradually rebuilds itself to become more feminine.
One of the first signs of excess estrogen is increased fat deposits in your upper torso. Most men will get a gradual "softening" in this area.
First, you may develop a soft, "dough boy" appearance as your muscle is replaced by fat. Over time, you may start to lose your masculine edge, your confidence and sense of purpose. You may feel tired or moody, and your bedroom performance may not be as strong as it used to be.
Ever Use A Plastic Bag Or Drink From A Plastic Cup?
Plastic is by far the worst offender... and in todays world, plastic is almost impossible to avoid. Chemicals like the widely publicized " bisphenol A" (or BPA) are highly estrogenic and found in almost all plastic products.
Other countries around the world have banned BPA, but itís still a favorite in the U.S. And aside from the obvious dangers of plastic, big industry puts thousands of chemicals into the items you use every day. 1
Here are just a few examples:
These estrogen look-a-likes are waging war on your masculinity. They attack your testosterone. This gradually saps your strength, muscle, ambition, competitive spirit and performance.
But thereís an "estrogen antidote" I use with my male patients that helps support a healthy balance of estrogen and helps you reclaim your natural masculine energy and body type.
These are simple steps I use to help my patients reclaim their manhood, and you can use them, too:
1. Limit processed protein.
Processed meat tends to accumulate a lot of pesticides and other dangerous toxins. Free-range chicken, grass-fed beef and cage-free eggs are your best options. Wild-caught fish are safe, too. Avoid all farm-raised fish because theyíre heavily exposed to pesticides. Deep sea fish like cod, halibut, sardines and mackerel are all good choices. If you donít have access to free-range meat, be sure to cut off any visible fat. Many of the worst chemicals get stored in it.
2. Choose locally grown, organic produce to avoid consuming pesticides.
If you canít find organic, be sure to thoroughly wash and peel your fruits and vegetables to lower your chance of being exposed to chemicals.
3. Donít use plastic.
Most plastic bottles and containers contain toxins like parabens and BPA that can affect your hormone levels and contaminate your system. Choose glass bottles and containers whenever possible.
4. Test your water.
Pesticides tend to find their way into municipal water systems, so youíll want to test your water with a kit or request a water report from your city to see if the water youíre drinking and bathing in is clean. If your water fails the test, a filter is an easy solution.
For your faucets, look for a carbon block filter that removes particles less than or equal to 1 micron in diameter. For your shower, look for a filter that gets rid of chlorine, volatile organic compounds (VOCs), and Trihalomethanes (THMs). VOCs are man-made chemicals, fuel components and byproducts. Formaldehyde is an example of a VOC. THMs are solvents, refrigerants and byproducts.
Itís a simple process to install these filters. Youíll need a wrench and some plumberís tape. Some shower filters completely replace the showerhead. Others you insert above the showerhead.
5. Use my phytonutrient secret to zap estrogen and transform this feminizing fake estrogen into a "neutral" form.
Published research over past 10 years suggests you can neutralize excess estrogen with extracts from "crucifers," a group of vegetables including broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower and cabbage.
Hereís why: The way estrogen is "metabolized," or broken down, in your body is critical to how it acts when it gets into your bloodstream.
Certain compounds found in cruciferous vegetables turn the "feminizing" estrogen into a more beneficial version. One of the best compounds is indole-3-carbinol (I3C), a phytochemical found in cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli.
When you eat a vegetable like broccoli, your body breaks it down into multiple compounds, one of which is I3C.
I3C helps convert the less-desirable "feminizing" estrogens into neutral or even helpful estrogens such as 2-hydroxyestrone. 2
Studies published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute and the Journal of Endocrinology support the ability of I3C to convert the "bad" estrogen into a neutral metabolite. 3, 4
When I3C gets to your digestive tract, part of it converts into diindolylmethane (DIM), another "estrogen neutralizer."
Together, I3C and DIM play an active role in clearing your body of excess estrogen.
Not only does this simple solution help promote a healthy balance of estrogen, it helps promote a healthy testosterone-to-estrogen ratio, which can lead to maintaining the energy, power and performance you felt when you were younger.
Feel Strong And On Top Of The World
As a certified PACE fitness instructor and coach to professional athletes, my first priority is optimizing a manís testosterone-to-estrogen ratio.
Your ratio of testosterone to estrogen should be at least 4:1. Thatís four parts testosterone to one part estrogen. The higher your ratio, the more masculine youíll look and feel.
To really feel strong and on top of the world, itís better to get closer to 8:1.
But these days, a lot of guys have ratios that are below 4:1. Once you fall below 4:1, youíll start to experience the depressing and power-robbing symptoms of "estrogen dominance."
1. Weise E. "Are Our Products Our Enemy?" USA Today. Aug 2, 2005. Accessed May
* These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration.
by Michael Josephson, www.whatwillmatter.com
Two frogs named Will and Fern fell into a deep pit together. At first, they thought it would be easy to jump out. But after lots of failed attempts they cried for help and a crowd of animals gathered around the pit.
Everyone agreed it was hopeless so they urged Will and Fern to accept their fate. The harder the trapped frogs jumped, the more the crowd yelled at them to give up. Finally, Will stopped trying. Fern refused to quit and with one mighty try she leaped out of the pit.
The crowd was amazed. Someone asked her why she kept trying when everyone told her she had no chance.
Fern was baffled. "What are you saying?" she asked. "I'm a bit deaf. I was sure you were all cheering me on. I couldn't have done it without your encouragement."
I learned of this story from a woman who was in a transitional housing program recovering from a long period of drug abuse, homelessness and hopelessness. She wanted everyone to understand how important positivism and encouragement can be to help people who seem down and out to get up and out. She said she got out of her own pit because caring people helped her believe in herself and gave her the confidence she needed to jump a little harder.
There will always be people in your life ready to tell you what you can't do. Real friends root for you, support you and help you discover your inner talents and strengths.
I hope you will find and treasure those kinds of friends and be one yourself.
Remember, character counts.
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