Friday, March 14, 2014

Time Has Become Our Enemy

I wanted to share some thoughts that I have had off and on in recent years; thoughts concerning the Body of Christ, and how we are currently functioning.  I've actually addressed it before, here. My experience as a Believer in Christ has been as follows:

Saved at a young age (approximately 10 years old)
Attended church off and on (taken by my aunt)
"Church" consisted of:
    Sunday School, which consisted of:
    a prepackaged curriculum lesson, that lasted 30 minutes IF everyone showed up on time
followed by a main service, or "big church" as some kids call it.
This service consisted of:
  •     Singing a few traditional hymns
  •     Listening to a choir special while an "offering" was taken
  •     Listening to a sermon (which lasted for about 30-45 minutes)
  •     Waiting through an "invitation" (or a call to respond to the sermon)
  •      Going home 
  Repeat the following week

This is the pattern I have followed for the vast majority of my Christian walk.  The only thing that has changed is the style of music, and that, since my teen years, I have for the most part attended services on Wednesday nights that follow the same basic pattern, only on a more casual (for lack of a better word) level.  There were periods of Wednesday nights consisting of "prayer meetings", which is for another blog post! 

Before I continue, I want to address the quotation marks that I have used.  Please do not think that this post is an attack on the Bride of Christ, because as I have stated before, that is never my intent.  I love Jesus too much to ever want to attack His Bride!  What I hope comes through these typed-out words is a challenge to examine ourselves and the Scripture, to see whether or not the what and how we are doing things line up with one another. 

I do not pretend to have reached complete understanding of the Scriptures.  I don't think that any person will ever be able to reach that this side of Heaven.  What I am saying is that I would like to see all followers of Christ come together and examine the Scriptures to see if what we have been taught is true, just as the Bereans did (see Acts 17). 

"Isn't that what we are doing already?", one might ask.  I would simply reply, "No."  If you go back and re-read the format I shared above, you will see that there isn't any time for an in-depth examining of the Scriptures. Most of what we did and are still doing today is observing and listening. Time has become our enemy!

Again, I'm not attacking, condemning or even criticizing what takes place in most church services today.  I am simply asking, "Is it working?  Is it even Scriptural?"

These are questions that I have had for several years now.  I have seen these questions addressed by several friends.  In fact, it was because of some very close friends raising these questions first that I began asking them as well. 

A.D.D. MOMENT: I fear that this post will be too lengthy to keep the average reader's attention.  I place myself in the "average" cateogry, so don't be offended! But please bear with me.  

The thing about asking questions is that sometimes it come across more like poking a hornet's nest.  We don't want to upset things, so we don't ask the questions.  And for those who do ask questions, well, unfortunately they often get stung. 

So, back to what I mentioned earlier about time.  Why do I say that "time has become our enemy"?  Well, because how many of us can honestly say that we have more time than we know what to do with?  I know I don't.  Truthfully, it's not that we don't have time, we're just not making time to follow the New Testament model.  Take Acts 2:42-47, for example:

"They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved." (emphasis mine)

I would imagine that after meeting together every day, the New Testament Church grew to know one another very well.  In fact, the above passage states that "they had everything in common".  WOW!  Can you imagine having "everything" in common with a group of people?  I'm sitting here shaking my head "no" because I can't!  However, with God all things are possible!  (Matthew 19:26)

I long for that.  I crave to be like Acts 2:42-47 describes.  I yearn for the Body to function as Christ intended.  Not only with meeting together, examining the Scriptures, praising God, but also in the exercising of spiritual gifts, where everyone has one and knows how to use it!  (see Romans 12, 1 Corinthians 12-14 Ephesians 4, 1 Peter 4) And what would be the result?  According to the passage in Acts: "And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved." 

With all of that being said, this is what I think God is trying to say (at least to me), "If you aren't going to make the time, I will remove for you those things that are consuming it."  Christian, I believe that a shaking is about to hit!  Hebrews 12:26-28 tells us:

"At that time his voice shook the earth, but now he has promised, 'Once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens.' The words 'once more' indicate the removing of what can be shaken—that is, created things—so that what cannot be shaken may remain. Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe." 

Jesus made it clear that we are to seek first God's kingdom and His righteousness (see Matthew 6).  Seeking His kingdom, from my understanding of Scripture, is: 

  • frequently meeting with other believers 
  • devoting ourselves to prayer 
  • examining the Scriptures 
  • and then doing as the Scriptures say (see the Book of James)  
The struggle that I come away with is the how.  Practically speaking, how do we do these things?  A big part of me believes that we won't really have to worry about that because, if the shaking that I referred to happens, we won't have any other choice! Therefore our current traditions and formats will be null and void.  We could very likely be forced to stop gathering in such large numbers in fine, comfortable buildings, and once again start meeting secretly in homes.  We very well may be stripped of the conveniences and luxuries that so many of us (including myself) consider necessities, and once this happens we will realize all too well just how much time we have wasted.  
God's ways, even His very thoughts, are so far above ours (see Isaiah 55:9)!  We truly have no idea how huge God is! We say we do, but our actions don't show it.  That is why I believe God is going to shake things up!  He must be glorified!  Jesus died so that everyone can be reconciled to the Father!  If we, His children, are not going to live in such a way that demonstrates this truth, then He will do whatever it takes to get our attention.  

So, Church, let's not be caught unaware!  Let's start now, acting like God's chosen people.  Let's devote ourselves to prayer and examine the Scriptures to see if what we are being taught is true.  And if we aren't being taught the truth, let's get the truth out there and do it!  

Thank you for giving of your time in reading this post.  I know how valuable it is!  

Friday, March 7, 2014

Christ's Example - a word study on Hebrews 5:7

Hebrews is a challenging book for me.  I confessed to God before I began reading it this time that I found Hebrews somewhat intimidating, but I trust that with the Holy Spirit being my Teacher, I will learn what I need to learn.  I want to share a word study I did on Hebrews 5:7.  Let me begin by sharing the verse in its entirety:

During the days of Jesus' life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions [KJV uses "supplications"] with fervent cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission. (NIV)

Since I am currently on a prayer journey, I take special notice of any reference to it, so this verse in particular stood out to me, especially because it refers to Jesus being the One praying.  In my studies, I have already learned that there are many different nuances when it comes to the words used in reference to prayer, so I wanted to see the specific definition that is used here in Hebrews 5:7 (I use the website I have found that often knowing the Greek word (or Hebrew in the Old Testament) and definition brings much more meaning and understanding to a passage.  This case is no exception. 

The Greek word used for "prayers" in this passage is deésis (deh'-ay-sis), which means: "supplication, prayer, entreaty." Now that doesn't necessarily bring much clarity in and of itself, but there is a more in-depth explanation given below, which is what really helped me to better understand the significance of the word:

Cognate: 1162 déēsis (deō, "to be in want, lack"; see the cognate 1189 /déomai, "praying for a specific, felt need") – heart-felt petition, arising out of deep personal need (sense of lack, want).
[1162 (déēsis) ultimately roots back to 1211 /dḗ ("really") which likewise implies a felt need that is personal and urgent (R, 1149).]  (bold emphasis mine)

Going on to the word "petitions", or rather "supplications" (which is in the KJV, and thus the word used when doing word searches), we see that the Greek word used here is hiketéria (hik-et-ay-ree'-ah).  The short definition is supplication, entreaty, which again does not necessarily give a person an "Aha!" moment.  However, the WORDS Help-studies portion below again gives more clarity: 

2428 hiketēría – properly, an olive branch; (figuratively) earnest supplication for peace (relief, reconciliation), used only in Heb 5:7. (bold emphasis mine)
 [An olive branch, held in the hand of a suppliant, showed heartfelt "supplication, entreaty" (Souter). 2428 (hiketēría) in ancient times was frequently used of a suppliant carrying an olive branch as a token for "seeking peace."]

1. an olive-branch; for suppliants approached the one whose aid they would implore holding an olive-branch entwined with white wool and fillets, to signify that they came as suppliants. (bold emphasis mine)

To think that my Savior, Jesus Christ, prayed such a heart-felt petition, arising out of a deep personal need, and essentially held out an olive branch to the One Whose aid He implored, well, that picture stirred my spirit to so much gratitude and admiration!  But verse seven does not stop there.

The Greek word used for "cry" is kraugé (krow-gay'), which means: a shout, clamor, outcry. 

 Cognate: 2906 kraugḗ (from 2896 /krázō, "cry out") – loud crying, done with pathos (great emotion); clamorous screaming (shrieking) that is extremely boisterous, like a wounded person emitting "unearthly" (non-human) types of sounds. (bold emphasis mine)

WOW! Can you picture the Son of God crying out like that?  

And finally we read at the end of verse seven that Jesus was heard "because of His reverent submission".

The Greek word here is eulabeia (yoo-lab'-i-ah): reverence, fear of God, piety.
Cognate: 2124 eulábeia (from 2126 /eulabḗs, "reverent, godly fear") – properly, "a taking hold of what God calls good"; "holy caution," inducing circumspect behavior. See 2126 (eulabēs). (bold emphasis mine)

It's amazing to me to think of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, crying out to the Father with reverent submission - taking hold of what  the Father calls good, using "holy caution" in His approach and response to the Father! 

How often do we toss up our prayers to God expecting, and at times inwardly demanding that He answer them according to our expectations?  

In this passage of Scripture we are reminded of Christ's humility and love for the Father.  Jesus desired what His Father desired, regardless of the pain that He knew He would experience: the pain of personal rejection, the pain of public humiliation, and the pain of physical torture that led to death!  If Jesus humbled Himself to follow God's will, who are we to do anything less?  

There are many times when God's will brings us pleasure and prosperity.  However, there are times when His will allots trials and discomfort.  Why?  In my opinion it is to make us stronger, more appreciative, and quite frankly to weed out those who are not sincere in their faith. 

So to wrap up this word study on Hebrews 5:7, I want to encourage you to follow Christ's example in regards to prayer.  Let's agree to cry out to God with a heart-felt need, recognizing that He is the One who can help us.  Let us not be too proud to even at times cry out with great emotion, even to the point of clamorous screaming when the occasion arises.  And above all, let us approach the Father with holy caution and take hold of what God calls "good" instead of what we call good.