Wednesday, 28 April 2010

'How is it and when is it the Church'? by Romanos Gorny

Today's posting was written by my American, Eastern Orthodox friend and brother Romanos Gorny who hosts the excellent blog:The Cost of Discipleship (copy and paste ) or click the title above to go to his site.
I like this article because it asks questions that we don't often think about, and if we do, we quickly move on to something else because in order to find the answer we have to think too hard, preferring to be content with the status quo!Romanos however is prepared to articulate these questions, reflect on them, even if in the end he must confess that only God knows.This article was originally a response he made to yesterday's post.AK

It's always on my mind to contemplate what the Church is, how it is, and when it is. Where it is doesn't bother me at all. I meet saints of God every day and I feel myself surrounded always by the great cloud of witnesses.

Some things I know: The Church is the Bride of Christ, the little flock, the pilgrim people who follow the Lamb wherever He goes. It is people always, never a building or an institution, though the Church can be found dwelling amidst these visible structures, yet it is never limited to them or by them.

How the Church is, that is more difficult to put my finger on: I have many questions, but few answers. Is what we see and experience as church, even when it is languishing in self-indulgence and smug accomplishment, still the church? How can it be? Yet there are souls in that condition and estate who confess the name of Jesus and can even give their testimony, yet the remainder of their life appears to be a false witness. Yet according to the letter of scripture, they are saved, because they can claim one or two verses as proof texts, and they have a license to do whatever they want. They call it "abundant life."

When the Church is, that also is difficult for me sometimes, mostly for the same reasons I wrote in the previous paragraph. When is the church the Church? Is it the Church when it is simply a sheep pen with the gates closed and latched shut? Is it the Church when it's free-roving rams outside the stockade rustling more sheep? Or is it only the Church when it is an open field full of sheep and rams that follow only the good Shepherd?

My Christian life is always lived in tension between all these ideas, but luckily, the Lord doesn't let me indulge in too much philosophizing or mooning about imponderables. He calls me every day and says, "Do this" and "Do that," and "Follow Me!" My only responsibility is to "just say Yes to Jesus." And everything, I mean everything, takes care of itself.

"Seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these other things shall be added as well."

Monday, 26 April 2010

Blessed is he that watches."—Revelation 16:15.

WE die daily," said the apostle. This was the life of the early Christians; they went everywhere with their lives in their hands. We are not in this day called to pass through the same fearful persecutions: if we were, the Lord would give us grace to bear the test; but the tests of Christian life, at the present moment, though outwardly not so terrible, are yet more likely to overcome us than even those of the fiery age.

We have to bear the sneer of the world—that is little; its blandishments, its soft words, its oily speeches, its fawning, its hypocrisy, are far worse. Our danger is lest we grow rich and become proud, lest we give ourselves up to the fashions of this present evil world, and lose our faith. Or if wealth be not the trial, worldly care is quite as mischievous. If we cannot be torn in pieces by the roaring lion, if we may be hugged to death by the bear, the devil little cares which it is, so long as he destroys our love to Christ, and our confidence in Him.

I fear that the Christian church is far more likely to lose her integrity in these soft and silken days than in those rougher times. We must be awake now, for we traverse the enchanted ground, and are most likely to fall asleep to our own undoing, unless our faith in Jesus be a reality, and our love to Jesus a burning flame. Many in these days of easy profession are likely to prove tares, and not wheat; hypocrites with fair masks on their faces, but not the true-born children of the living God.

Christian, do not think that these are times in which you can dispense with watchfulness or with holy ardour; you need these things more than ever, and may God the eternal Spirit display His omnipotence in you, that you may be able to say, in all these softer things, as well as in the rougher, "We are more than conquerors through Him that loved us."

Saturday, 17 April 2010

Hebrews 12 (The Message)

Discipline in a Long-Distance Race
Do you see what this means—all these pioneers who blazed the way, all these veterans cheering us on? It means we'd better get on with it. Strip down, start running—and never quit! No extra spiritual fat, no parasitic sins. Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we're in. Study how he did it. Because he never lost sight of where he was headed—that exhilarating finish in and with God—he could put up with anything along the way: Cross, shame, whatever. And now he's there, in the place of honor, right alongside God. When you find yourselves flagging in your faith, go over that story again, item by item, that long litany of hostility he plowed through. That will shoot adrenaline into your souls!
In this all-out match against sin, others have suffered far worse than you, to say nothing of what Jesus went through—all that bloodshed! So don't feel sorry for yourselves. Or have you forgotten how good parents treat children, and that God regards you as his children?

My dear child, don't shrug off God's discipline,
but don't be crushed by it either.
It's the child he loves that he disciplines;
the child he embraces, he also corrects.

God is educating you; that's why you must never drop out. He's treating you as dear children. This trouble you're in isn't punishment; it's training, the normal experience of children. Only irresponsible parents leave children to fend for themselves. Would you prefer an irresponsible God? We respect our own parents for training and not spoiling us, so why not embrace God's training so we can truly live? While we were children, our parents did what seemed best to them. But God is doing what is best for us, training us to live God's holy best. At the time, discipline isn't much fun. It always feels like it's going against the grain. Later, of course, it pays off handsomely, for it's the well-trained who find themselves mature in their relationship with God.

So don't sit around on your hands! No more dragging your feet! Clear the path for long-distance runners so no one will trip and fall, so no one will step in a hole and sprain an ankle. Help each other out. And run for it!

Work at getting along with each other and with God. Otherwise you'll never get so much as a glimpse of God. Make sure no one gets left out of God's generosity. Keep a sharp eye out for weeds of bitter discontent. A thistle or two gone to seed can ruin a whole garden in no time. Watch out for the Esau syndrome: trading away God's lifelong gift in order to satisfy a short-term appetite. You well know how Esau later regretted that impulsive act and wanted God's blessing—but by then it was too late, tears or no tears.

Friday, 9 April 2010

Silver Anniversary

Today I celebrate the 25th anniversary of my marriage to my beautiful wife Wilma.The time has certainly flown with my son Andrew now 23 and my daughter Rachel coming 20 in June.Both are at Uni, Andrew doing a Masters degree in Landscape Architecture and Rachel studying Social Work.It just seems such a short time ago when they were toddlers! I've also changed a lot -less hair, but Wilma is as lovely as ever!

We got married in a little church in Newcastle,Co.Down called St John's on the Mount.It was a great day where I had many friends around me, many of whom I am still in contact with. Since then I've gained many more.But today I'm full of thanks to God for all his blessings- a wife, children, relations and many good friends.May He continue to bless us and may His grace and peace be yours also!

Thursday, 8 April 2010

Dylan's reponse to the cross of Christ

This is one of the very fine devotional songs to Christ from Dylan's 'Saved' album. The harmonica playing on it is outstanding and the words simple but sublime. When I got the L.P over twenty years ago I played it constantly. May you be blessed by it also. AK

Sunday, 4 April 2010

The Resurrection of Christ-True or False?

Christianity stands or falls on whether Christ rose from the dead. The world my declare that Che lives or Elvis lives, or in Ulster that even George Best lives, but we know full well they have died and are no more walking the earth.I have always found one of the most convincing truths that Christ rose from the dead was that his friends and disciples could have easily saved their own skins had they had denied it.Rather, they were put to death with the message on their lips that Christ died for their sins and rose again on the third day.He appeared to them (500 on one occasion) and then before some of them had ascended back into heaven. He also promised that he will again come back as the Judge of the whole world, both living and dead. As the old song challenges us so I would challenge you:
'People get ready
For the train to Jordan
Picking up passengers
From coast to coast
Faith is the key
Open the doors and board them
There's room for all
Among the loved and lost'

We must get ready before he comes and should not put it off until later- or we may never do it at all.Isaiah tells us to seek the Lord today,to call upon him while he is near.If you hear his voice today please do not harden your heart, but rather go to him, confess your sins and give him over your heart and your life, and though your sins would be as scarlet they will become white as snow.I would encourage you to contact me if have done this or would like to talk to someone about this important matter.AK

Friday, 2 April 2010

The Passion of the Christ

The words below from Isaiah 53 were written about 700 years before Christ came to earth, yet how accurately they describe that coming! The Jews expected him to come as a lion but he came as a lamb to be slaughtered.How true are the words of John the Baptist regarding Christ when he said:'Behold the lamb of God that takes away the sins of the earth'!

Who has believed our message
and to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed?

He grew up before him like a tender shoot,
and like a root out of dry ground.
He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him,
nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.

He was despised and rejected by men,
a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering.
Like one from whom men hide their faces
he was despised, and we esteemed him not.

Surely he took up our infirmities
and carried our sorrows,
yet we considered him stricken by God,
smitten by him, and afflicted.

But he was pierced for our transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was upon him,
and by his wounds we are healed.

We all, like sheep, have gone astray,
each of us has turned to his own way;
and the LORD has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.

He was oppressed and afflicted,
yet he did not open his mouth;
he was led like a lamb to the slaughter,
and as a sheep before her shearers is silent,
so he did not open his mouth.


When I survey the wondrous cross
on which the Prince of Glory died;
my richest gain I count but loss,
and pour contempt on all my pride.

Forbid it, Lord, that I should boast,
save in the death of Christ, my God;
all the vain things that charm me most,
I sacrifice them to his blood.

See, from his head, his hands, his feet,
sorrow and love flow mingled down.
Did e'er such love and sorrow meet,
or thorns compose so rich a crown.

Were the whole realm of nature mine,
that were an offering far too small;
love so amazing, so divine,
demands my soul, my life, my all.

Isaac Watts