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Archive for February 6th, 2012

The Re-dividing of the Reunited Brethren

http://philipnunn.com/2006/10/the-re-dividing-of-the-reunited-brethren/#more-400

philipnunn.com

27 October 2006 / Historical, Other Material

The polarization process among these assemblies continued. Good and long standing friendships soured. Useful and effective regional and international partnerships came to an end. Is this the apostolic way of dealing with doctrinal differences? Since the 1840’s, the Brethren movement has suffered a number of debilitating divisions. Interestingly, and I think this is a common social phenomena, the motor behind a division soon shifts away from doctrines and focuses on personalities and procedures. This creates a dust cloud which makes it difficult to see the way forward. This eBook, made public in March 2003, was written to encourage clear Biblical thinking during those difficult times. Some doctrines may look good in theory, but when implemented they generate very eccentric behaviour. Rather than gritting teeth and pressing on, we should take note of the “flashing red warning light.” Like Peter, after cutting off an ear to defend the Lord, we should humble ourselves, re-examine our understanding of Scripture, acknowledge our well-intentioned departure, and allow the Lord to heal and restore. This eBook seeks to re-examine four “odd doctrines” which lie at the heart of most divisions among the Brethren. [61 pages]

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Go Ye Into All The World


February 5th, 2012

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Lyrics and Music: James McGranahan

Far, far away, in heathen darkness dwelling,
Millions of souls forever may be lost;
Who, who will go, salvation’s story telling,

Looking to Jesus, heeding not the cost?

Refrain:
“All power is given unto Me,
All power is given unto Me,
Go ye into all the world and preach the Gospel,
And lo, I am with you always.”

See o’er the world wide open doors inviting,
, arise and enter in!
Christians, awake! your forces all uniting,
Send forth the Gospel, break the chains of sin.

“Why will you die?” the voice of God is calling.
“Why will you die?” re-echo in His Name;
Jesus has died to save from death appalling,
Life and salvation, therefore go proclaim.

God speed the day, when those of every nation
“Glory to God!” triumphantly shall sing.
Ransomed, redeemed, rejoicing in salvation,
Shout “Hallelujah, for the Lord is King.”

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Php 4:4, KJV

Hymn Listings | Revival Hymns and Choruses

Reformed Christian Books

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                                                                                                     Well Kept Secret

By Ron Graham
 “Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” John 3:3. According to the Barna Research Online a whopping 85% of the American population claim to be Christian, but out of that grand total only a group of 35 to 42 percent actually claim to be born again. Barna’s study gave way to some very interesting boasts. When the first group was asked why they were staking claim to being Christian the answers were: 1) Because I live in a Christian nation. 2) Because my family is Christian. 3) Because I go to church at least twice a year. But even more interesting was the last figure that the Barna research group posted, that only about 8% of American adults believe that salvation comes by faith in Christ alone, and without any human works. Wow! Throw the Bible out, no one’s reading it anyway.

 There are massive, very dark clouds hovering over the landscape of many Christian Churches these days. We should all be painfully aware of the move in many “Christian Organizations” to modify the Bible so it will better fit into their own worldview. It’s amazingly sad today as we watch so many “Christians” ignore or eliminate the Chief Cornerstone, the Originator of their faith, while embracing other religions in an attempt to unify all religious people groups. By eliminating Jesus and His claim of exclusivity (John 14:6), the promoters of universalism are paving the “way” for all religions of earth to reinforce their own claims that the god they worship is precisely the same God we all worship, thus magnifying the erroneous concept that all religions lead to Heaven.

 The Barna Research Group, in their attempt to come up with somewhat of a complete figure as to how many people might actually be born again believers in Christ, concluded that as of 2006 about 25 million Americans fell into this category. The population of the United States has, in recent years, surpassed the 300 million mark. I’m not sure what that does to Barna’s 85% Christian population figure, but it seems to me there are a lot of closet Christians in the US. When we read figures such as 85% of all Americans are claiming to be Christians shouldn’t we be seeing a much different America than what we currently have? I don’t know about the rest of you but as I imagine this huge majority of Americans praying 2 Chronicles 7:14 I see God moving His protective hand over American, healing this land once again as America glorifies God as her sovereign Lord. Excuse me, I seem to have traveled to Neverland for an instant.

 Satan’s deception and depravity know no bounds, he’s even convinced a huge segment of Americans that they are Christians, yet when questioned about their faith just a small minority profess that they are born again. The larger portion of those interviewed haven’t a clue as to what it means to truly be a Christian. Thus the reason for the massive amount of depravity which is currently sweeping our nation should be of no surprise to the truly faithful.

 People believe that simply by admitting they are Christian there will be some automatic reward set up for them to reap. As true Christians know that just isn’t the case. If indeed these folks are actually Christians then their true identity has been a “well kept secret.” The vast majority of these professing Christians treat Christianity as though it were a plague. There seems to be a huge dark locked box somewhere perfectly camouflaged containing the beliefs of these professing Christians which they only bring out and expose to light at Christmas or Easter. How quaint, it’s just their little secret.

 Sadly, this attitude of secrecy is far more pervasive even in the born again community than most fully grasp. How many of us who stake claim to Christ keep Him to ourselves only to trot Him out on Sunday mornings during church services? That born again designation is a well kept secret among many of the brethren when it comes to co-workers, some family members, and even many of our friends. I remember a letter I received a couple of years back about a woman who had recently become a Christian only to be told by her “best friend” that she had been a Christian for 30 years. Just another well kept secret.

 Here’s the rub, when we take on the name of Christ we become His worldwide ambassadors. I personally can’t conceive of anything that would be more insulting to the King of kings (Jesus the Christ) than for His ambassadors to keep Him hidden, as though they were ashamed of Him. “For whosoever shall be ashamed of me and of my words, of him shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he shall come in his own glory, and in his Father’s, and of the holy angels.” Luke 9:26. I know what you’re thinking; those I’m talking about aren’t even born again so they haven’t really taken on the name of Christ. True, the majority of those mentioned in the survey above aren’t really born again, but what about the other 8% who indeed stated that they are born again? Are we openly professing our faith in Christ, or are we being discrete so as not to offend anyone? Do we have the boldness of Paul or is our Christianity a well kept secret?

 Our youngest daughter has placed Christian symbols all over the back of her truck, and anyone who pulls up behind her at a stop light will know immediately she’s a follower of Jesus Christ. She doesn’t keep her faith in Christ a secret, she never has. Our daughter sees following Jesus Christ as a natural lifestyle. While today proclaiming Jesus as Lord is looked upon as a mental imbalance, our daughter sees being born again as the only way to live. We were condemned by family and friends because we kept her out of public school and instead of sending her into the lion’s den we determined that God would be more pleased if we homeschooled her. We turned off our TV when she was 10 years old. Now that she’s 21 she has a faith embedded Christian worldview that other parents only dream about as they watch their children fall into one depravity after another.

 Sometimes our Christian lives get so entangled with the world that we begin to lose our perspective on the future. Those of us who take the word of God literally and seriously know that Jesus is due to make an appearance to the faithful very soon. The Bible is so jam packed with prophecy (advance history lessons for the faithful) that there is no possible way apart from shear ignorance to dismiss God’s history lessons as merely colorful exaggerations. Those who have no use for the prophetic nature of the word of God have no real concept of who God is.

 When we become forcefully pressured by the world to get all we can while we can, materialistically speaking, that pursuit can overwhelm us to the point that Jesus becomes no more than just a hindrance. When Jesus Christ becomes a mere hindrance to His follower’s, secrecy inevitably ensues and it’s time to place our God in the closet. What’s the old adage? Out of sight out of mind? When Jesus is out of your mind, you too are out of your mind.

 I know people who wear Jesus on their cuff when they are around other Christians. That’s when they talk the talk and walk the walk. But when they are confronted by the lost people of the world, their faith in Christ becomes one of the best kept secrets of all time. Are they ashamed, or scared, or are they simply able to turn their Christianity on and off like a water spigot? Jesus said “If ye love me, keep my commandments.” John 14:15. How can any born again believer in Christ claim to love Jesus yet ignore Him as made evident by their lifestyle. Since the Holy Spirit has been sealed within all born again believers in Christ, denying Christ will become an impossibility. Our Christianity should never be kept secret from anyone, especially the lost folks of this world.

 Keeping Jesus secret is akin to denying Him. Our Creator God has a very specific remedy for anyone who accepts Him as Lord, then denies Him before men. “But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven.” Matthew 10:33. Denying Christ is to grieve the Holy Spirit. “And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption.” Ephesians 4:30. Power is given to every Holy Spirit sealed person alive, the power to admit before the evil of this world that Jesus Christ is Lord. Denying Christ is a simple test as to whether or not a person is actually Holy Spirit sealed.

 “But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour; that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man… Wherefore in all things it behoved him to be made like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people. For in that he himself hath suffered being tempted, he is able to succour them that are tempted.” Hebrews 2:9, 17-18.When a man, woman, or child for that matter, becomes born again they are no longer their own. They have been bought and paid for with blood, the blood of the Messiah. Since this be the case, should we not also be just as open and positive as we possibly can with all peoples, knowing full well the sacrifice that was made on our behalf?

 As we live and walk the Christian walk there is a sacrifice that needs to be considered daily. “Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it.” Matthew 16:24-25. How many born again believers in Christ are prepared to deny themselves for Christ? Now give this a thought, how many “Christians” that belong to that 85% figure above would be willing to deny themselves for Jesus’ sake? The current and future real number of believers in the United States of America is known only to God. And that exact number will be Raptured very soon. Then those who claimed to be Christians but hadn’t a clue as to what that designation actually means, will stare at the huge void which was just created in front of them. Then they will shake their heads in unbelief of what has just transpired, ultimately they may realize they really never had a clue.

 Approximately 25 million people will disappear in the twinkling of an eye from the American scene. What a void that will create. All those still alive who placed their lives in Jesus’ hands, and His alone for salvation, will disappear one day soon. Not just from America but from every corner of the globe. All those who claim the name of Christ without the rebirth from above will soon realize their claim was in vain as their only claim to fame will be pain. Be careful about keeping secrets, especially when it comes to your faith in Christ.

God bless you all,

Ron Graham

All scripture is from the KJV and God breathed

twotug@embarqmail.com

96 County Road 5480 Salem, MO 65560

My past commentaries are archived at the following link

http://www.raptureready.com/featured/graham/graham.html

http://www.raptureready.com/featured/graham/g193.html
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Why Corporate Church Won’t Work – Mike Breen

Guest Post by Mike Breen

The past few weeks I’ve been working with the 3DM Content Team on material for our new book on how to multiply missional leaders (coming out in April, 2012). I wanted to share a little preview of some of the things we’ve been discussing.

You see, I am absolutely convinced that 100 years from now, many books will be written on the phenomenon that is the late 20th Century/early 21st Century American church. And I am fairly certain that it will be with large degree of amazement/laughter that people, in reading about it, will say to each other: “You must be joking! Seriously???! People actually thought it was a good idea to structure the Church as if it were a business? Honestly?!”

Perhaps we don’t have the perspective necessary to see how funny or strange this really is, but I promise you, if you run your church like a business, it’ll never be a family and families are what have changed the world. Bill Hybels was right about the local church (as the Body of Jesus) being the hope of the world…just not as we are currently seeing it.

Efficiency has replaced effectiveness. Many churches are organizationally efficient, but we aren’t affecting the lives of people the way in which Jesus imagined a family would do.

We’ve created a corporate America-like church, somehow buying into a false dichotomy between a Leadership Culture which produces leaders and a Discipleship Culture that produces disciples. Here’s what I mean: In American businesses, it’s about moving people from A to B, but has nothing to do with making people. We have one guy with the vision and a culture of volunteerism to help that one guy get his vision accomplished. It’s the genius with a 1000 helpers. So while churches may claim to have “leadership development programs,” what they really have are “volunteer pipelines” that are run by managers, not leaders.

In doing so, we run the campus, but don’t expand the Kingdom. We’re keeping the machine of the church running (which, much to some people’s chagrine, I think is needed if done in a lightweight/low maintenance kind of way), but doing practically nothing to expand the Kingdom.

This is what we’ve created:

Clearly there isn’t quite the black and white dichotomy as this matrix illustrates, but I still think it serves the point. Often we have churches that are great at making disciples, but not terribly effective at mobilizing these people into God’s mission in the world (yes, I’m overgeneralizing). Or, on the other side, we have churches that are great at moving people to do things, but are pretty poor at making disciples, creating a culture of volunteerism, implemented and run by managers of the leader.

What we need is a way of making and moving people so that as we make disciples, we release them into their destiny of pushing into new Kingdom-frontier.

Corporate church doesn’t do this. Strictly organic church doesn’t do this. I would argue that in the whole of church history, there is one thing that does this, but is largely lost to us in Western culture.

EXTENDED FAMILY.

The Oikos.

A group of people, blood-and-non-blood, about the size of an extended family, on mission together, often times networked with other extended families.

Why the extended family?

* Because it’s small enough to care, but large enough to dare.

* Everyone gets to play.

* Sociologically, people locate their identity within the extended family size (known as the Social Space). We’re hardwired for it.

* To function well, it’s a beautiful combination of both the organic and the organized

* It’s the perfect training ground for future leaders

I believe, with everything in me, that until we embrace this reality, we will continue to struggle to be the fully functioning Body of Jesus.

Why might this be so difficult for overachieving Americans?

Because as J.S. Bryan has said, Many men can build a fortune, but few men can build a family.

***************************

Mike Breen and the 3DM crew will be exploring more of these ideas and training on Missional Communities, discipleship and leadership development at Verge 2012. Be sure and register for the Verge: Missional Community Labs pre-conference to take advantage of the most in-depth training on missional leadership in a smaller environment. Space is limited in the pre-conference, so register quickly before it fills up!

 http://www.vergenetwork.org/2012/01/02/why-corporate-church-wont-work-mike-breen/

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Guest Post by Mike Breen

From time to time I will have the people I’m discipling write out their own pastoral obituary. I ask them to write out how our enemy would take them out, rendering them unable to serve their family and communities. As you can imagine, the answers vary, but always serves as a really helpful exercise as they are forced to confront issues of character, etc.

Now last week I did a post looking at some of the things the American church is doing well. Today, let’s do something different. You see, taking the same exercise I’ve used with pastors, for the past year I’ve been thinking how the enemy would/might be trying to take down the American church. Now what I’ve noticed is that the original temptations Jesus faced (which can best be boiled down to Appetite, Affirmation and Ambition) are somehow warped and insinuated into the culture. As each culture is distinct and different, a smart enemy would come at each culture in subtle ways, tempting them in ways they don’t see or expect, and with things that would look different from culture to culture.

For instance, the issues the European church deal with are actually quite different than the ones the American church is dealing with…even though often times they are put under the same broad umbrella of “Western Church.” Sure, there are some similarities, but the attack is different. More nuanced.

But those original temptations of Appetite, Affirmation and Ambition are slowly insinuating themselves into everything we call CHURCH. We just often don’t recognize it or see it.

And so this is how, if our enemy gets his way, the American church could be taken out:

A culture of CELEBRITY (affirmation)

A culture of CONSUMERISM (appetite)

A culture of COMPETITION (ambition)

CELEBRITY

The idea of celebrity is deeply woven into American culture and values. All you have to do is look at the ridiculous nature of Reality TV and you see how Americans are constantly craving celebrity (either to be a celebrity or to find the next celebrity and stalk there every move). Now there is nothing dark or sinister about “celebrity” in and of itself. You can’t find an argument that says Jesus wasn’t a huge celebrity in his day.

However, there is a difference between being famous and being significant. If Jesus was famous, it’s because he was doing something significant. The problem with many pastors is they make decisions, develop personas and define success from the lens of what will make them a celebrity/famous (even if they don’t know it or see that they are doing this). So in American church culture, it’s pretty easy to become a celebrity: Grow a HUGE church. Now all in all, it’s not terribly difficult to grow to be a giant church if you have the right tools at your disposal…but that doesn’t mean the ends justify the means of getting there.

For instance, though Jesus was a celebrity in his day, he was willing to say things that ran people off in droves. In fact, the book of Mark chronicles the way (from about the mid-point of the book on) how people left Jesus to where, at the end, virtually no one was left. NO ONE wants to be associated with him for fear of the consequences. That’s a Charlie Sheen-esque flameout (obviously without the character issues!). That’s not something you see too often in American churches.

I suspect it’s because riven deeply into the American psyche is the desire to be a celebrity. And American pastors are very susceptible to this. Many subtle things happen in people who desire to this kind of celebrity status:

* They can disengage community and isolate themselves, setting themselves up for moral failure.

* They can make decisions that are numbers driven and not always Kingdom driven.

* They can skew to a shallow understanding of the Gospel as opposed to a holistic one that leads people to discipleship.

* They can put the good of their church (their personal Kingdom) over the good of God’s Kingdom.

Question: In what ways are your decisions made by a subtle undercurrent of ambition and a hope for celebrity?

CONSUMERISM

We live in a culture that revolves around consuming. Every TV commercial, every store, every credit card company, every bank, every TV show or movie, every piece of clothing, car or product, every website, every restaurant…every everything is tailored to fit your desires, needs or personal preference. We are easily infuriated when things don’t happen exactly as we want them. We exist in a place that implicitly says this: “We are here to serve you and meet your every whim and desire. Let us take care of you.” What’s more, it’s never enough.

Eventually the house or the car get older and we want new ones. The clothes aren’t as fashionable and we want something more in style. That restaurant is getting boring, we must find another. Our favorite TV show is wearing thin, so the search begins for the next favorite. And on and on and on. This is how we are wired to think in the United States. And it is all backed up by this rationale: You’re worth it. You deserve to have what you want, how you want it, when you want it. And for the most part, the church plays the exact same game.

We do as best we can to provide as comfortable an experience as humanly possible, using every means at our disposal to attract them in (and then keep them in). So we tailor what we do around their wants and desires. That’s Marketing 101, right? The problem is at the end of the day, the only thing that Jesus is counting is disciples. That’s it. He doesn’t seem to care too much about converts, attendance, budgets or buildings. It’s about disciples. And, by nature, disciples are producers, not consumers.

Yet most of our churches are built around feeding consumers. I’d argue 90% of the church’s time, energy and resources are linked to this. But the issue is this: The means you use to attract people to you are usually the means you must use to keep them. In other words, if you use consumerism to attract them to your church, it often means you must continue using it to keep them…or else they will find another church who will meet their “needs.” And yet…that consumer mentality is antithetical to the Gospel and to the call of Discipleship.

Disciples aren’t consumers, they are producers. Jesus cared about disciples more than anything else.

Question: In what ways is your church community using consumerism as the means to draw people to a Gospel that is, in and of itself, anti-consumerism?

COMPETITION

You will never find a more hyper-competitive culture than you do in the United States. As a foreigner living in this land, I can attest to that with the utmost respect. Americans love to win, they love the struggle of the journey and love holding up the gold medal of victory. Now don’t hear me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with being competitive, it’s just how competition has become warped and twisted within our culture. And it’s that, at least in the church, we are competitive about the wrong things.

Much of the American church finds itself competing with the church down the road. “Are we bigger than them? Do we have more influence than them? Do we have the best/biggest youth group in town? Do people like to get married in our church building? Do people like our church better than theirs?” The fact of the matter is that there is a battle, we do have an enemy and we should be competitive…but against our enemy! What we haven’t seen is how crafty he is. This seems to be the alliance he has struck with the American church: “I’ll let a good chunk of your churches grow…just not at the expense of my territory.“

And so what happens? 96% of church growth is due to transfer growth and not churches striking into the heart of our enemy’s territory. We’ll consider it a win because we have the new service or program that is growing…but that growth is mainly from people coming from other churches. That’s not a win! That’s a staggering loss. Furthermore, for many pastors, we don’t think we’ve won until we’ve won AND someone else has lost. Seriously?! For sure, we have an enemy and we should be competitive, but we should be competing against our enemy, knowing that the final battle has already been won, and not competing against our own team members.

So gifted and skilled is our enemy, so conniving is he, that he has convinced us that beating the people on our own team is victory while he stands back and laughs, rarely having to ever engage in conflict, protecting his territory. He is beating us with a slight of hand, with a clever distraction, turning us against ourselves. Question: In what ways are you competing (both in actuality or simply in your mind) against people who are on your own team?

In all honesty, it isn’t that the American church will ever truly die or cease to exist. It will always be there. But it is entirely possible that if these three critical issues aren’t addressed and dealt with, it will be a hallow shell that is spiritually listless.

If we think through Celebrity, Consumerism and Competition, the anti-body against all of these is sacrifice. Learning to lay down what builds us up and giving to others instead. “Learning to serve, rather than to be served.” Looking for anonymity rather than celebrity. To build a culture of producers rather than a consumers. To live in a vibrant, sacrificial community fighting a real enemy rather than competing against the same community God has given us to fight WITH rather than AGAINST. It’s about sacrificing what we want for the glory of God and the advancement of his Kingdom, regardless of our advancement or desires.

Clearly this is what Paul was getting after in Philippians 2:6-11 when describing the attitude of Jesus as taking on the attitude of a servant, willing to sacrifice all acclaim and equality with God. It was a willingness to set aside and sacrifice celebrity, consumerism and competition at the altar of the incarnation.

Fifty years ago, as these three subtle threads were being woven into the American church, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., serving as a prophetic voice, said this:

If today’s church does not recapture the sacrificial spirit of the early church, it will lose its authenticity, forfeit the loyalty of millions, and be dismissed as an irrelevant social club with no meaning for the twentieth century.

We are now into the second decade of the 21st century and we find ourselves still, for the most part, refusing to sacrifice what we want for what God is asking of us and his Church. Will we have the courage to sacrifice as Christ sacrificed? Will we do the things that cost us so that his Kingdom may advance?

 http://www.vergenetwork.org/2012/02/02/obituary-for-the-american-church-mike-breen/

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