Saturday, May 18, 2019

When in Rome--Week 4

Our Road to Romans has been a twisty turn of hills and valleys. And like any road trip there are highs and lows to the journey. I remember road trips to my grandparents home. The lows of car sickness, bickering parents and a bit of homesickness for a forgotten toy. But, there were the highs of the trip. The excitement of the journey, the anticipation of hugs, Dixie cups, cheerios, sweets from the pie shop my grandparents frequented. The best part? Grandma’s rice crispy treats made especially for us, to make us feel wanted, like we belonged.

This month we have taken what I call a crash course into the book of Romans. First, the Bad News was delivered in such a way that made me catch my breath like a bug on a collision course with the windshield of life. “God abandoned them to their sinful desires.” Talk about some bad news! We were stuck on the side of the road with a blown out tire saturated in a sinful and broken world. But, we do not have to stay stagnant in the wreckage that is the bad news. A New Way to be Right explained that we have roadside assistance! We are made right with God by placing our faith in Jesus. When we looked at The Struggle and the Victory we came to understand we are no longer bound to the law but we are free by the grace of Jesus. God sets out before us a roadmap to navigate the perils of human life. But, who exactly did God invite along on the journey through the twisty turn of those hills and valleys? Who exactly belongs?

Romans 3:2 tells us the Jews were entrusted with the very word of God. And yet, both the Jews and Gentiles are all under the power of sin- no one is righteous, not even one (Romans 3:12) We are all subject to the penalty of sin, sin touches us all. We all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God but the good news for us is that while we were still sinners Christ died for us. We don’t have to do any work for ourselves, it has already been done on the cross by Jesus. Our salvation rests simply in Jesus not by any works that we have accomplished. The journey heavenbound will accept our passports regardless of our bloodline. 

Therefore, when we consider our own wondrous opportunity to be called children of God regardless of our Gentile status we can accept our inclusion with grateful hearts. The price of belonging to God costs nothing. We are saved by faith in Jesus and that really truly is the good news. We as Gentiles inherit the rich blessings of the Father when we were grafted into the family of God. The invitation to belong is irrevocable. Out of Two- the Jews and Gentiles we become united through our faith in Jesus and become one people, people invited to belong.

Saturday, May 11, 2019

A Challenge to Assemble.

Heb 10:25: …not staying away from our meetings, as some habitually do, but encouraging each other, and all the more as you see the day drawing near.

So today I’m putting the finishing touches on a Romans 6-8 talk, and this passage just blows me away every time.  It’s like the climax of the whole Bible!  Truly life changing, if we understand it and embrace it.  Whether I can deliver the goods this weekend or not, we’ll see, but I’m excited to teach this stuff to the church I love.

Then the thought hits me and guts all my excitement, “no matter how good this talk is, only about 1/3 or less of my church is going to hear this, take this in, to be encouraged by it in the company of their sisters and brothers.” That’s based on trends in the church in America overall, and trends at AC3 currently.

Now, I ask you the question, what constitutes a “habit of staying away from church meetings”?  How would you know if that’s YOUR habit or not.  You’d want to know that, wouldn’t you?  You’d want to know if you were in standing violation of a clear Apostolic order, right?  The church meets (and has since Day One) every 7 days – so out of roughly 50 chances a year, how many do you have to miss before you call it a habit of “staying away”?  ½ of them?  Two thirds of them?  Is it only a habit of “staying away” if you stay away from all but two – Christmas and Easter?

Now, I’ve gone and made you uncomfortable probably.  You’re already charting your attendance in your head – don’t bother, we already know, for the average AC3er, it’s about once a month or less.  And now, maybe you’re getting a little defensive and muttering something about “legalism” and “church isn’t a meeting” or some other nonsense we say when we know something is amiss and we don’t want to look at it.

As to legalism, would you say the same thing if we talked about the habit of neglecting your diet and exercise?  The habit of neglecting sleep?  Would we call that being legalistic?  No, we’d put that in the category of “stuff we warn ourselves and each other about because we love and we want to see ourselves flourish and grow and get what we need and live within our design”.

Ok, so maybe that gets at something underneath the “habit of staying away from our meetings”.  You say, “that’s just the thing, frankly, I don’t NEED them every 7 days.”  Some beater cars need tune ups every few miles, BMW’s every 100,000 miles – I guess I’m just a spiritual BMW!  I don’t get a lot from the inputs, the worship or the messages, I mostly get what I need for my Christian life away from our public gatherings.

Really?  I debate whether that is so, but let’s say it is.  Go back and read the verse enjoining you and me to not neglect our weekly gatherings.  For whose sake is this important?  Is it primarily so you get a spiritual shot in the arm?  Is it primarily so that you can say you served in KK and did your duty?  Is it primarily so that you got fed? 

I’m reading something different, let’s say it together:  The primary reason I should not neglect coming to the public gatherings of the church is so that I can ENCOURAGE OTHERS. 

Hmmm… maybe you’ve never thought about that before.  Maybe, you need to be here – weekly – because someone else needs to see you here.  Maybe – except for obvious breaks on vacation, illness, etc. – you need to be here, for others, not for you.  How individualistic are we that we think the church gathering is only about meeting my need?  And if I deem it meets no need, the gathering itself is expendable, superfluous, not a priority.

I challenge you to rethink this whole thing, with one final thought: 

The apostle notes a reason to meet “all the more” – because you see the Day approaching.  I know many of you are deeply disturbed by the waves of secularity sweeping not just this nation, but the world.  It does seem, does it not, that a climax of confrontation is coming that only the “Day” will fix.  And yet often it’s the very people who wring their hands at the coming storm, and who curse the darkness the most, who do not bother to double down on the only thing Jesus ever gave us to feel hope in this broken world:  his Body, the Church, holding out the Word of Life.

Finally, the Church is by definition an “assembly”.  Those that are called out – out of world, out of chaos, out of the mess and out of darkness and into his wonderful light.  And how will we stand as light, unless we see each other – regularly – doing so?

-Written by Rick Thiessen

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

When in Rome-Week 3

Not to Be Undone

Inseparable: Unable to be separated, parted, or cleaved from another.  Growing up there was that one best friend whom people would say we were “inseparable”; but we are now far from one another and haven’t even talked in years.  It as “inseparable” as it seemed, I guess. 

When we think of things that are inseparable, we think of solid rock formations, bonded steel, or Superman’s grip.  Even these examples, however, fail due to their inherent weaknesses.  Rock can be broken up with the right set of tools or explosives, steel can be cut up or melted down, and even Superman has kryptonite to break his grip.  So, this begs the question of what is truly inseparable?

When we accept Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior in our hearts, we are made inseparable from Him.  And Paul defines this relationship as such: “…in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans‬ ‭8:37-39‬).‬‬

Now we have a complete picture of what inseparable means.  Not even “angels or demons” could pull us apart.  This is a permanent togetherness that withstands time, life or death, or “anything else in all of creation”. 

Once we have fully accepted our Lord, we are his children forevermore.  He is with us in our joy, our sadness or times of trouble, and also in our successes.   He sees our tears and hears our hopes.  Jesus has us and holds onto us through every storm and every battle.  He knows we are weak and broken, He knows that we are still fallible and capable of sin despite His presence in our lives. Yet, He sticks with us, comforts us, strengthens us, and yes, He forgives us.

Our God; Father, Son, and Spirit has always been there and always will be there for us.  With this knowledge I echo Paul’s question: “What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?” (Romans‬ ‭8:31-32‬)‬‬

-Written by Christian Love 

AC3 VB202 Applications Done

Check out our latest video blog as Rick and Dan discuss our Applications course that is now up and available for you to take! Watch a how to video at the end of the VB. Enjoy :)

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

When in Rome-Week 1-Introduction

We can hardly do Romans justice in the 5 weeks we have planned to cover it because this is simply the most comprehensive and rich description of Christian belief in the whole Bible.  It’s the clearest A-Z compendium of the Fundamentals of our Faith.  And there’s a good reason for that.

Of all the 13 letters of Paul that we have preserved in the New Testament, this is the only one where Paul is writing to a church he never planted or even visited.  So Romans is missing the impassioned, paternal sternness of Galatians; it’s missing the warm familial tone of Philippians; it’s missing the specific addressing of specific problems of Corinthians.  In fact, most scholars note a more regal, magisterial tone in Romans style, and Paul’s introduction of himself is remarkably more formal than other letters.

But we are the beneficiaries of all the ways Romans stands out!  You see, because Paul doesn't know this church personally, and because he doesn’t know anything other than there’s a mixed Church of Jews and Gentiles in the heart of the Empire, he decides to write them a comprehensive treatise on the good news of Jesus.

There are probably two reasons for this.  One is to prepare for a visit he plans to make to Rome in the near future.  Paul was always planning, always on the move.  He had a strategic mind which he reveals in the intro, when he says he’s always, “…asking in my prayers that if it is somehow in God’s will, I may now at last succeed in coming to you.” 

Two is that he wants them to see that he has the Jesus-message straight, and conversely, the letter is his help to them, to make sure they get it straight too.  So without a bunch of inner church problems to deal with, Romans could address Christianity at the level of pure 101 and answer the question, what is the basic message of Jesus we hold out to the world?  So this letter became Paul’s affirmative Case for Christ, and laid the intellectual foundations of a revolutionary new worldview built on His Gospel.

Because of that, Romans became so much more than a mere, A-Z of Christian belief.  This letter has become monumental in the history of the church.  F.F. Bruce (a prominent New Testament Scholar) said this about Romans:
“Time and Again, in Christian history, it has liberated the minds of [people], brought them back to an understanding of the essential Gospel of Christ, and started spiritual revolutions.”

This isn’t an exaggeration.  The early period of Christianity was marked by the monumental writings of Augustine, whose conversion began by reading this book.  The entire Protestant Reformation, which transformed Europe and realigned the Church with the freedom, the beauty and the wonder of its original message of Grace, began after a Roman Catholic monk named Luther read this book.

I can say I myself have had my Christian journey, and all subsequent ministry utterly formed by this book.  The end of the 8th chapter has always seemed to me, a sort of climax of the entire Bible – the conclusive, eloquent stamp on everything Jesus came to bring us!

If you have never done so before, this series is a great time to dive into the meat of this Spirit-inspired treatise.  Because this treatise will (re)introduce you to an idea that cannot help but change the life of everyone who grapples with it in faith.  That idea?  Grace.

-Written by Rick Thiessen

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Who is AC3? Love the World

How To Hate The World
(Disclaimer: I think I've made it painfully obvious, but just in case... The following is satire - an extreme opposite of what I would like to actually say)

Welcome to my blog! The New Scrooge!
Many of you have reached out to me at The New Scrooge (#DaGeezerEbenezer) asking for a basic tutorial on this subject because you have noticed how well-practiced I am at hating the world. When I say "world" I don't really mean the "Earth" like you see on the nature documentaries - that stuff is alright I suppose - no what I really mean are the people in the world. And when I say hate, I don't really mean the kind of hate you might get out of some club-wielding skinhead at a some supremacy rally... no... I just mean a low-level disregard and indifference (bordering on latent hostility perhaps) for everyone who has not given me some really good reason for treating them with respect. So let's get to it.

Number One: (Pragmatism)
Well I sort of already teased this one... but if another so-called "human" person has not lately done something for me personally (and by lately I mean very quite recently) then there is no pragmatic reason for giving them any respect or consideration. That lady with 3 kids in her shopping cart at the Costmeco - what has she done for me lately besides get in my way and slow me down? I need not even ask to let me by - I just push past. Who cares that she thinks me rude. General courtesy towards other humans might have worked when there were very few of us around - but with nearly 8 billion fighting for my space and my air, who's got the energy to be nice?

Number Two: (Dehumanization)
I really helps to perceive other people as accidental combinations of molecular matter. After all... what is really all that bad about objectifying people? Why not dehumanize someone you don't like or even know? The antiquated notion of personhood can just go rot in my opinion...
Defining personhood is a controversial topic in philosophy and law and is closely tied with legal and political concepts of citizenship, equality, and liberty. According to law, a natural person has "rights, protections and privileges". Blah blah blah... like I said - antiquated stuff. People are essentially no different from cattle and chickens when you look at the science of it, so let's just get over the moldy-oldie notions,

Number Three: (Divisionism)
Speaking of law and politics... you can really express your hate for the world in the voting booths and in the memes you post on social media. Chances are you will be in disagreement with a lot of others in today's political climate. The time for rational and reasonable discourse with a willingness to see things from the others side is over - way over. The only truly effective method of argument these days is the ad-hominem attack - so learn it, practice it on facebook or whatever - get really really good at delivering vicious chat-attacks against any disagreeing person - rather than trying to argue only the position they are maintaining.

Number Four: (Indifference)
All these religious types keep talking about being compassionate towards the suffering. Well I got enough suffering of my own to worry about... why should I invest in the care of fools I know nothing about? If you follow my advice above - only help those who are in a position to help to you back - for the rest - just disavow their humanity and you're golden. If anyone thinks differently find some flaw in them to point at and thereby negate everything else they might say.

Rather than taking my queues from the book that has led humanity for thousands of years - I choose to follow after my fore-bearer Scrooge

I Hate People
(as expressed by Scrooge in Scrooge the Musical - 1970

Scavengers and sycophants and flatterers and fools
Pharisees and parasites and hypocrites and ghouls
Calculating swindlers, prevaricating frauds
Perpetrating evil as they roam the earth in hordes
Feeding on their fellow men
Reaping rich rewards
Contaminating everything they see
Corrupting honest men like me
    Humbug! Poppycock! Balderdash! Bah!
    I hate people! I hate people!
People are despicable creatures
Loathesome inexplicable creatures
Good-for-nothing kickable creatures
    I hate people! I abhor them!
When I see the indolent classes
Sitting on their indolent asses
Gulping ale from indolent glasses
    I hate people! I detest them! I deplore them!
Fools who have no money spend it
Get in debt then try to end it
Beg me on their knees befriend them
Knowing I have cash to lend them...
    Soft-hearted me! Hard-working me!
    Clean-living, thrifty and kind as can be!
    Situations like this are of interest to me
I hate people! I loathe people! I despise and abominate people!
Life is full of cretinous wretches
Earning what their sweatiness fetches
Empty minds whose pettiness stretches
Further than I can see
Little wonder I hate people
And I don't care if they hate me!

~Written by Shea Caperoon