When to hold ’em and when to fold ’em!

 “It’s Wrong to Compromise!” I’ve heard and understand this fish or cut bait sentiment among believers, but I tend to go along with Kenny Rogers —“You gotta know when to hold ‘em and when to fold ‘em.” Sometimes it takes more grit to fold em than sticking to our guns. It was was through the genius of folding ’em, i.e. compromise, that Lincoln preserved the union and emancipated the slaves. When faced with three intolerable options, he had the wit to find a fourth, knowing the murky, treacherous  waters of slavery were to be navigated the way bomb squads diffuse bombs–slowly, gently and carefully.

The framers of the constitution walked the same slippery slope.  The purists were horrified when the constitution didn’t abolish slavery. They preferred being right about the issue than bringing to birth this great nation. Can there be any doubt this great  document would have never been ratified if founding fathers hadn’t compromised?

Compromise and the law of Christ. In Luke’s account of the First Jerusalem Counsel in Acts 15, we find the church was faced with intolerable options as well. The choices were to either obey God’s law to circumcise or disobey it. After listening to arguments on both sides, James decided the Jewish branch  of the church had no right to put intolerable burdens on non-Jewish believers. It would violate the law of Christ. Leaving aside the heavier doctrines of old covenant rituals of circumcision and sabbaths, he believed Christ’s law trumped Moses. “Only abstain from the pollution of idols, from fornication and from eating what is strangled and from blood.” Gentile believers were told. It was a compromise guided by Jesus great new covenant law, “Love one another as I have loved you.”. 

While this decision angered some, it advanced Christ’s gospel by leaving the door open to the great majority of people not of the Jewish covenant. This agape, new covenant decision saved the young movement which went on to shake the world.

Strong Leaders Understand When to “Fold em.” Paul did when faced with the tricky issue of eating meat sacrificed to idols. Some were convicted that this was a sin. Others did not.  While agreeing with those who had no scruples about it, it was to them he wrote,  “While knowledge (i.e. being right) can produce arrogance, love builds up.” (I Cor 8:1) Paul concludes, “When you sin against brothers by wounding their weak conscience, you sin against Christ….so, I will not eat this meat, lest I cause my brother to stumble.” (8: 12,13). Thus we see, Christ’s law of love transcends what may be considered right and wrong. To hurt and divide Christ’s body is a far greater sin. Paul followed Jesus’ agape principle when he instructed the apostles that if they loved him and wished to abide in him, they must lay down their lives, souls, egos for each other (John 15. 12-17. In the synoptic gospels he laid down the same principle. “If anyone will come after me, he must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.” Denying ourselves sometimes means denying our need to be right and fear of being wrong for the sake of the unity of Christ’s body.

When to Hold em” While Paul told believers to fold ‘em on that occassion, there are times when  compromise was dead wrong. He tells how once he had to correct Peter, the Rock–not  for incorrect beliefs, as we tend to do in the church, but for his actions.  “Before certain men came [to Antioch]…, Peter used to eat with the Gentiles. But when they arrived, he began to draw back and separate himself from them.” (Gal 2:12). Why did the Rock violate the Jerusalem Counsel and Christ’s own command.? Paul explains, “Because he feared those of the circumcision” i.e. the purists who clung to the past and their precious doctrines even if it meant blocking God’s plan to build a new future.

Culprits causing conflicts and divisions in the church Why do Christians fight over issues of predestination vs. free will but fail to fight for Christ’s law of love? Often it’s Peter’s issue–both the one in Antioch and earlier when he warmed his hands while denying his master—his fears! What’s so wonderful and amazing about Jesus’ unfailing love is, how he handled Peter’s failure by the Galilean Sea. He folded em, i.e. he never brought up Peter’s moral failure. Instead he challenged him Do you love me?  Are you my friend?  Then love, tend and feed those I give you to lead. (See John 21: 15-17). \

Other times the cause is not our strong convictions, it’s loving them more than one another which means loving Jesus less. When I put my need to be right and fear of being wrong ahead of my love for fellow believers, I must ask myself, am I denying him as well?

 

 

 

 

 

 

DAY 5: MYSTERIES OF THE KOINE

Gnosis:  What You Know or Who You Know?

Does Paul Contradict Himself? It seems so at times, doesn’t it. For example, he writes “knowledge (gnosis) puffs up, [makes one arrogant] but love builds up.” (1 Corinthians 1:8).  Yet another time he prays for believers that we may increase in our knowledge (Eph 1:17; 4:13; Phil 3:8].  But then he adds, knowledge “of Him…”of the Son of Man…“of Christ.”  We need to adjust our cultural mirror once more.

To the Eastern mind, there are two very distinct kinds of knowledge: [1] to know a thing and [2] to know a person.  To the Chinese the distinction is so important they have a separate word for relational knowing [renshr] which means “be acquainted with”.  We have no such word in English.

When We Appear Before Christ. Believers I have known, and maybe you have also, place great emphasis on doctrinal knowledge and statements of faith. Sometimes it feels they are requiring us to be ready to pass a doctrinal quiz when we appear before Christ.  Yet the truth is, it isn’t “what we know” that qualifies us as Christians, it’s “who we know.” When the King divides the sheep and the goats in Matthew 25, he never asks what they know or believe. Immediately he recognizes his own sheep from others, false believers, as goats.

“The greatest of these is love” For St. Paul, all of his great attainments and knowledge meant nothing. “I consider all these things as useless, in order that I may have an abiding  knowledge of Jesus Christ my Lord. [Phil. 3:8]. When I became a believer, a key phrase was, “a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.”  We don’t hear that phrase so much anymore. But we do have a legion of books, classes and seminars to increase our biblical knowledge. One of the finest believers I ever met was a Taiwanese woman. Mrs. Chen could not read and had limited knowledge of the Bible. But she had a shining relationship with Christ and her witness helped launch a brand new church in her neighborhood.

How Shall the World Know Us—by our knowledge or by our love? Before his death Jesus gave the answer with his new covenant mandate:  “Love one another as I have loved you.” Only then will “everyone recognize you as my disciples(John 13: 34, 35).  Yet the culture of our modern church leaves average Christians feeling they aren’t qualified to witness because, “I don’t know enough.”  I repeat, is our witness our Bible knowledge or our love? The Apostle warned,  ”Even if I have …all knowledge…and faith so as to move mountains, and have not love, I am nothing at all.”(I Cor 13:2) Love not only trumps spiritual gifts but also trumps knowledge and even faith, “Faith, hope, love, these three abide, but the greatest of these is love.”(I Cor 13:13)

Knowledge Puffs Up…Love Builds Up.  I recently tried to find study materials on love.  Most of the current books have to do with marital love.  There was little available on how to cultivate our love for Christ and its corollary, our love for fellow believers.

Our next post will cover what the Greek New Testament has to say about how to cultivate loving relationships with Jesus and one another.

Please join the conversation. Your feedback is invaluable to this blog.

What Delights The Father’s Heart?

In the film, Into the Forest, two young women live with their single father in a remote wooded area during a cataclysmic failure of the world’s electric and cellular power. One awful day the sisters hear their father’s scream in the woods. They rush to his aid and helplessly watch him bleed to death from a chain saw accident. As his life ebbs away, he implores his girls, “Take care of each other.” With his last breath he whispers, “Love one another.”  Continue reading

Profile of a Supernatural Church

While studying Acts in the Koine, I stumbled onto a significant pattern featuring a very special word found only in the book of Acts. [See Greek below]. The apostles used similar Greek words having the same sense.

ὁμοθυμαδόν  {homo–thoo-mad-on’}
1) with one mind 2) with one accord, 3) with one passion

Whenever Luke used this word, without fail, supernatural things happened. This is significant since it’s exactly what Jesus promised would happen if his disciples obeyed his command to love one another, i.e. the world would believe their testimony (John 13: 34, 35). Moreover, in his high priestly prayer, our Lord indicated the same outcome if they fulfilled his prayer to be one as he and the Father were one. (John 17: 21, 23). We find a third connection when homothumadon  is translated “in agreement.” This echoes Jesus’ promise of his special presence  in Matthew 18 when his church prays “in agreement” [Greek: symphonos  i.e. in harmony].

Scriptures: (KJV)

  1. Acts 1:14: They continued with one accord [ὁμοθυμαδόν homothumadon] in prayer and supplication,
  2. Acts 2: 1 And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord [ὁμοθυμαδόν]
  3. Acts 2: 46 And they, continuing daily with one accord [ὁμοθυμαδόν] in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart,
  4. Acts 4: 24: When they heard that, they lifted up their voice to God with one accord, [ὁμοθυμαδόν] ,
  5. Acts 5: 12 And by the hands of the apostles were many signs and wonders wrought among the people; (and they were all with one accord [ὁμοθυμαδόν] in Solomon’s porch.
  6. Acts 8:6; And the people with one accord [ὁμοθυμαδόν] gave heed unto those things which Philip spoke, hearing and seeing the miracles which he did.
  7. Acts 15:25 It seemed good unto us, being assembled with one accord [ὁμοθυμαδόν], to send chosen men unto you with our beloved Barnabas and Paul,

Outcomes:

Acts 1: 14 The 120 received the baptism in the Holy Spirit

Acts 2:41  Apostles gave powerful testimony, church grew from 120 to 3120;

Acts 2: 46 Church earned the respect of unbelievers and God added greatly to their number.

Acts 4: 24 The whole place was shaken Holy Spirit gave them boldness to give testimonies;

Acts 5:12 Many signs and wonders, unsaved heard and received their testimony; church growth;

Acts 8:6 Samaritans witnessed miracles and gave heed to Philip’s testimony;

Acts 15: 25 Outpouring of financial blessing to needy Jerusalem church by church in Antioch.

Let’s Put Harmony into God’s House How is your church doing? Are we experiencing the supernatural? If not, it may be because we don’t take Jesus’ command “to love one another” to heart. Or maybe we are in disagreement and disunity, rather than agreement. When we put harmony into God’s house, the Holy Spirit smiles and blesses. When we don’t he grieves.

Please comment below. It encourages us in this mission to promote Christ’s command and see his prayer “May they be One” answered. Thanks.

It Takes A Team

“People can accomplish anything when they realize they are a part of something bigger. A team of people who share that conviction can change the world.”  Nick Fury, Marvel Comics.

I learned a lot from comic books. The artwork was fantastic, but comics were also a plus in my education.  If I wanted to know what Batman was saying in that funny cloud over his head, I had to read, Comics put me on the fast track to become literate.

My favorite superhero was Captain Marvel. In real life he was a mild-mannered newsboy. When a hero was needed, he could say “SHAZAM” and be transformed into a super hero in red and yellow tights. Sure he was a rip-off of Superman, but I didn’t mind. After all Clark Kent was an adult, his only disguise, being a pair of glasses. Come on! And Billy was a just a kid, like me.

The magic of teams. When superheroes followed Nick Fury’s advice, and formed teams, they took on an exciting new look. D.C. Comics came up with Super Friends. Marvel got in line with S.H.I.E.L.D. and X Men. I related to one comic book team who didn’t have super powers.  Blackhawk was a group of fighter pilots, each with different abilities, joining forces to wage war on many evils including Nazism.

Who dreamed up teams?  Give credit to the Apostle Paul who taught Christians functioning alone, accomplish little, but achieve great things when they unite and work together God’s team is called the church—not a building or an organization, but the living body of Christ, made up of many different members, each contributing their own unique talents and gifts to the whole. “… together you are the body of Christ and individually members of him and one another. (1 Cor. 12: 28).

The team that changed the world. Paul got the idea from Jesus. Now, even though he was God’s son and a true super hero, he was still just a single person. So, to launch his mission to change the world, he had to recruit committed men and women through whom he could work. Using an on-the-job training program, he prepared them, filled them with the power of his Spirit and molded them into a team. His strategy was to for them to multiply and fill the earth, reproducing like any healthy organism.

Jesus maximized his effectiveness through them. They were faced with a world much more difficult than ours. It was a world where many worshiped pagan gods, enslaved their fellows, entertained themselves with deadly games and public orgies.  In a few centuries the church had grown so strong, even emperors turned away from paganism, slavery was abolished and so were bloody games of violence and public displays of immorality.

Even Jesus didn’t fly solo and he doesn’t want us to either.  Do we really think we can bring in God’s kingdom by going off on our lonesome, shining our little lights in a very dark world? The challenge for us is to find ways to join our lone lights with others and shine with greater brightness and effectiveness. It takes teams of believers to be this world’s light to begin to extinguish the evils around us.

Are You a Fan or a Spectator?

Enthusiastic Participation: Back in the day, on a Friday night in October, football was a big deal. But if you weren’t a player, a coach, a cheerleader or in the band, you were just a spectator. Today sporting events are quite different. As an old comedian used to say, “Everybody wants to get into the act.” Often we see: fans wearing team colors or crazy  get-ups; macho guys with no shirts in December; painted faces;  “No. 1” fingers and  John 3:16 waving, while everyone does “the wave.” While some of the antics are odd, we can’t help but feel this trend of enthusiastic participation is a good thing. Continue reading

The Man Who Amazed Jesus

Many amazed Jesus by their lack of faith, but only one amazed him by his extraordinary faith. He was a Gentile and an officer in the Roman army.

This centurion asked Jesus to heal his servant who was suffering greatly with paralysis. When Jesus asked him if he should come and heal him, the soldier replied.  “Lord, I do not deserve for you come under my roof. But just say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I  am also a man under authority, with soldiers under me. I tell this one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and that one‘ Come,’ and he comes.” [Matthew 8:7-9]

 Jesus’ response: “…he was amazed and said to those following him, “Truly I tell you, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith. .” [Matthew 8:10]

Here is how this man showed extraordinary faith

  1. He had no doubts:“my servant will be healed.” .He was convinced Jesus had the power and authority to do what he asked of him.
  2. No barrier of distance to his faith. ”I do not deserve for you come under my roof. What did he mean? Jesus, you have such great power and authority, you can do it from here or anywhere you choose.
  3. He knew the power of the Word: “just say the word.”  He recognized Jesus’ power was not in what he did, but simply in the word of his command.
  4. He grasped the chain of command: — ”I am also a man under authority”, As the centurion was a link in the Roman chain of command, he saw Jesus’ link in Heaven’s chain of command.
  5. He saw the source of Jesus’s power was like his own It rested on his connection to the head of the Roman empire. He recognized Jesus’ power and authority came from his connection to God, the head of the universe.
  6. He showed humility by admitting he had no power within himself.

What does this mean for us?

  1. We are included in Heaven’s chain of command. Jesus called his disciples to him and gave them authority. [Luke 9:1) For the Son of man is like a man who takes a far journey… and gave authority to his servants [Mark 13:34]
  2. We can pray with confidence and authority, trusting not in our selves, but in our connection to Christ. “Without me you can do nothing…If ye remain in me and my words remain in you can ask for anything and it will be given. [John 15: 5, 7]
  3. By declaring and repeating God’s Word when we pray, “thus says the Lord.”
  4. By our humility in serving and obedience to him, we may lay claim to and exercise our authority in Christ.
  •  Let this mind be in you which is also in Christ Jesus… He humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—Therefore God exalted him [Philippians 2: 5,6]
  • Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time. [1 Peter 5:6}
  • “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. 26 Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant[Matthew 20:25,26]