Monday, July 24, 2017

Dangerous Waters

The Church in Acts (and the Church today) operated in dangerous waters.  This has been the norm for a very long time.  Charles Wesley, writing in 1749, penned And Are We Yet Alive, a very traditional Methodist hymn.  It is one of the hymns we sing every year at Annual Conference.  One line of the hymn says, What troubles have we seen, what mighty conflicts past, fightings without, and fears within, since we assembled last!  I think these words are repeated every year to remind us of the dangerous waters in which we serve and the sustaining God who leads us through those waters.  It is a great old hymn!

The Church of Acts and the Church of Timothy served God in very dangerous times.  Acts 9 finds the Jews plotting to kill Paul because he was proclaiming Jesus in the synagogues.  He had to leave town under the veil of night.  Later Peter and Paul are criticized because they are evangelizing and fraternizing with gentile believers ... fightings within and fears without.  Paul even warned Timothy that the day would come when people would not seek the truth of God's Word but would covet preachers and teachers that "tickled the ears" of the hearers.  The Jews didn't want to hear about this Jesus.  Marginal church-goers today want to be comfortable and leave church with that warm fuzzy feeling.  Both truths remind me of the dangerous waters that have faced the Church throughout history.

What are the dangers today?  Some would say political authorities, and there is truth to that fear.  As government edges more and more into the lives of the people who are governed, we must wonder where it all will stop?  Will our speech that flows from Scripture become restricted speech when our interpretations condemn popular lifestyles of our society?  Will governmental needs for funding impact taxation of church-related finances?

Some would say the greatest danger is militant Islamic sects.  ISIS and Al Qaeda (and many others) have terrorized our world and continue to be threats to freedom wherever they operate.  In intellectual honesty we must lump these with all militant sects, some of them claiming Christianity as their basis for belief.  We must also remember that terrorists have been around a long time, including the Iscari ("people of the knife") sect that terrorized the Romans in Jesus' time.

But I wonder if the greatest danger to the Church might be from within.  Many congregations are known for their conflicts.  Many church-goers believe there is a separation between secular and sacred (a distinction God doesn't make).  Throngs of believers flock to "name-it-and-claim-it" preachers because this teaching tickles their ears.

Paul told Timothy there was a solution to dealing with these dangers.  Acts lives out that solution.  Paul tells Timothy and us ... 1. Preach the Word of God ... 2. Be prepared to witness in all times ... 3. Patiently correct, rebuke and encourage your people with good teaching (2 Timothy 4).  Paul is saying that God's truth wins out over all the conflicts both within and without.  Isaiah said (40:8) ... "The grass withers and the flowers fade, but the Word of out God stands forever."

Charles Wesley writes ... Let us take up the cross till we the crown obtain,
and gladly reckon all things loss so we may Jesus gain.
Amen!  Randy

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