The Word became flesh

The Word became flesh.

This is the introduction of Jesus in the gospel of John. And that is the apt description of the greatest event this world has ever seen. As the gospel says, this Word is the one who was God who in the beginning created everything which had a beginning. At the perfect timing of God, the Word was born into this world in human flesh. The world celebrates the birth of Jesus Christ as Christmas.

The eternal God born into this world is not a fable or myth. His birth was according to the foretold prophecies revealed by Him through the Scriptures. Myths often develop once something happens and the story is told and expanded through centuries in exaggerated forms. But the story of Christmas is foretold in the Scriptures before it even occurred and that is worthy of the attention of any human being. Because this is the God “make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come. I say, ‘My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please.” (Isaiah 46:10)

Warm greetings from the Renew In Knowledge Team

God became flesh to know the limitations and weaknesses of living as a human. Jesus, as the name means, was born to save us from our sins. If He wanted, he could have manifested as a full-grown adult and immediately could have completed his mission by dying. In fact, we see several manifestations of Jesus in the Old Testament. It was not by any means impossible for Him to avoid the many sufferings, humiliations and temptations He went through if desired.  But rather as the angel says to Mary “this Jesus will be called Immanuel meaning God with us”. Jesus lived with us and learned first-hand what it means to live as a human being. That shows how much thought and care was put into this. The psalmist sums all of it beautifully as:

“Many, O LORD my God, are the wonders which you have done, And Your thoughts toward us.” (Psalm 40: 5)

Happy Christmas!

Just why do people leave a church?

People ask me why one leaves a church or, more specifically, our church. This would be the answer which would win one the Christian Nobel Peace Prize, if there were such a thing. Yet, the question is all the while quite valid and reflective. I would like to make some contemplative suggestions in defining an answer.

Number one: Our sub-culture. Now it is quite fashionable to find fault with our culture as it feels stylish to level an indictment against something so ill-defined. However, in this one case, the culture has had a persuasive effect. What I am referring to is the culture that sets the consumer up as the ultimate determinate of quality, success, and viability. It is the patron who writes the review as to the superiority of service or whether wants were anticipated or how well needs were met. Businesses have instructional classes for their employees on how to bolster consumer scorecards. The buyer has the power and is thus the “god” of all transactions. Unfortunately, business dogma becomes church dogma: “Just remember, the customer is always right.”

To our decline, this mentality has become the adopted criteria for ranking churches. “What programs do they have for my family or my children? What policies are in place for the destitute? What are the protocols for child safety? What are you doing for me?” Contrary to the tenor of Scripture, the threesome of “me, myself and I” become an earthly and unholy trinity that demands all others bow to my whims and whistles. The God of heaven thinks and believes in the opposite direction for He actually emptied Himself of all claims for homage and took the human station which ranks at the lowest rung of society (Phil 2:6-7). Yet, a church is held to the same philosophical standards as is a restaurant or a hospital or a hotel. The Christian today either wittingly or unwittingly demands “church to impress them or I will vote with my feet and leave.” As the dominos fall, church leadership acquiesce to compete for each other’s audiences by ever-expanding, super impressive venues of lights and sounds or mesmerizing sermon exhibitions or hipster lobby coffee bars.  When the church business plan has run its course, all that is left is an empty shell of a burned-out business model, but no Bride filled with His Spirit. This is hardly the church as depicted in the New Testament. The Christian consumer sets one’s self up as a moving target that cannot be satisfied. Churches simply cannot keep up with the hype.

The Bible uses familial terms, such as father or mother or brother or sister, more than any other to describe its people. Families, real families, come with problems and differing levels of development. Kids do spill milk and babies have diapers that need to be changed.

 

The second suggestion aimed at answering, “why do people leave” is rooted in the first suggestion: One’s expectations.

The church-goer is searching for an organization that provides the latest and the greatest of Christian gadgetry and gala events. They are looking for the best cut of steak each time and every time. Failure here means that you really are not a five-star church. You are only a three-star establishment and one will not spend one’s money on what is not the best. However, I submit to you the wisdom of only eating highly-rated cuisine is not only unsustainable, but it also is simply not reality. These expectations utilize the wrong barometer. What church life really is, is a family. The Bible uses familial terms, such as father or mother or brother or sister, more than any other to describe its people. Families, real families, come with problems and differing levels of development. Kids do spill milk and babies have diapers that need to be changed. This is true for a family on Elm Street and equally true for the church family on “Saint Street.” Parents gladly listen to the struggling dissonant sounds of their child at the school recital. In contrast, we in the pew have no patience for the Christian kindergartner making discordant tones while playing their gifted instrument of service. We have lost the worth and attraction of what it means to be a family and cheering each other on and watching each other learn to crawl, then walk, then run, then ride a bike, and then run the race like an athlete of God. This is a process that takes longer and has more twists and turns and is full of tear laden failures. Yet its advantage is that it links believers together with inseparable bonds of love. It is by this family unit that our souls become welded as one. Is this not the end goal of Christ’s prayer: “That they may be one as we are one?” (Jn 17:22). Is this not the intimacy that the current day Christian is craving? We are blinded to the family unit designed to cultivate such loving harmony.

The third contributor to church going departures is a fatal assumption. The Christian today makes conjecture that newer is better.

Church_RIK

“Tradition,” thus by definition is obsolete and unable to keep pace with the ever-improving lifestyle that the present-day Christian sports. As a result, “what we have always done” becomes a stench to the nostrils of the young and the restless. Such a presumption has all the wrappings of progressive theory but has the stress fractures of short sidedness and immaturity. I have rarely heard this philosophy ask the next logical question: “Why did this tradition come about anyway?” The truth is that most long-term practices began as wise reactions to ancient problems which share the same roots as problems of today. If a causal church-goer would force oneself to look beyond the superficial and ask this same question, then I believe such a person might find the greener grass is not so green. The chances are that a tradition identified as archaic may actually be the kernel that breeds an alternative tradition for the upcoming generation. After all, there is a high probability that what you see as tradition started for very good reasons. Just because one challenges the older, does not make it wiser.

I believe this type of scrutiny will yield far richer results than simply looking for other church grasses that have a prettier shade of green.

The consequences of the above leads the average church-goer to hold it better to be served than to serve. This philosophy is the precise opposite of Christ’s: “I did not come to be served, but to serve” (Mk 10:45). We end up with more spectators than we do participants. The spectators sincerely believe they are doing their part by spectating and the participants are overwhelmed at the scope of family care. We falsely believe that the way to growth is increasing the percentage of spectators. The Word of God brings a lightening jolt on this one: It is only as each person does his or her active share, that true growth will come from God (Eph 4:16). Bonafide God-driven growth is not via a stealth program to increase people nor contributions. Who will be the adults and roll up their sleeves, get their elbows dirty, and become spiritual caregivers as opposed to fleshly care-observers? If the “missing link” is discovered by your eye, then why are you not looking to resolve the deficiency rather than telling the leadership to fix it?

So, have I qualified for the Christian Noble Peace Prize? Most likely not, but rather raised the ire of the reader. This is not my intention. May I ask you at least, to begin a careful analysis of yourself in the mirror of God’s word. Does the sub-culture of making consumer reviews dominate one’s estimate of a church? Do undone expectations trample the motif of a growing and evolving family? Has the assumption that a tradition is archaic blinded you to its intrinsic worth? Finally, have you slipped from participating to spectating while waiting to be served?

I believe this type of scrutiny will yield far richer results than simply looking for other church grasses that have a prettier shade of green. In any case, we have some grass to chew on. This is not a blogger’s moment to sound alarms and vent apprehensions. Rather, this is time for conscientious questioning by each one about their heart condition in the presence of the Great Physician’s private exam room. Have you lately asked Him His opinion about your version of “doing church?” Possibly, you are afraid to ask the question and hear His diagnosis.

By Steve Price

 

Celebrate small moments

5th or 50th – What will you celebrate more?

Big numbers get more attention – that’s the way we think.

However, 50 years can’t be reached without crossing 5 months or 5 years…Yes, there are bigger moments in life that may get more attention and appreciation. That doesn’t, however, put anyone in a position to not find joy in the smaller moments which life brings. Don’t miss the opportunity to celebrate small victories as well.

 The tendency is to move to the next big thing immediately when some goals are reached. This human ability is used by sales managers to push their team to higher targets each upcoming cycle. But if we don’t take time to enjoy the things we are accomplishing perhaps we are unknowingly sowing seeds of discontentment and bigger troubles which will spout from it. So let’s be intentional in choosing to be joyful regardless of the size of the achievements in our lives.  

This month the department where I work conducted a large public event on the topic of Drug addiction and recovery. One of the things shared by a speaker at the event seemed to be connected to the overall theme of this article. His thought was to celebrate the sobriety even when accomplishing smaller victories in the recovery process. Regardless of the type of addiction one is trying to conquer, whether it is alcohol, drugs, sex, or gambling, I think this is a very practical piece of advice to follow. 

Successful recovery emerges more from a joyful heart than from a hopelessly sad attitude. 

When people come out of very serious long-lasting addictions they may be captivated by the thought that they need a longer period of recovery to compensate for the loss. This thought, however, increases the stress on the process and person. Each day of the addiction-free life is a day to celebrate and that attitude will be very helpful in crossing major milestones of freedom. There is another thing that can hinder success. That is the human way of thinking – the more damage there is the more good is needed to correct it. If you adhere to this idea of behavioral economics your journey forward will be unsatisfying. Let me take your attention to one of the stories told by the Lord Jesus Himself. 

The parable of the Prodigal Son, undoubtedly one of the greatest stories ever told, has touched millions of lives. Jesus tells this story in the context of how much God looks for the return of a lost person. In this parable the younger of two sons squanders his father’s money in a far away land. Soon, he reaches a stage of life where he loses everything and almost becomes like an animal. Finally, at one good moment, he decides to go back to his father’s house. Seeing his son returning the good old man runs toward him to receive him. Not only that, but he puts together one of the biggest celebrations the household has seen because of the return of his once lost son. Through this parable, Jesus was conveying a point that is contrary to most human understanding. That is – God celebrates the moment a person repents. Wow…that’s very different than the way I would have responded.

The lesson from this story is that God waits for everyone to come to His presence. Don’t hesitate to immediately return to the Heavenly Father at any stage of your life, however deep you are lost. 

At any season, find a reason to celebrate life, even if it is something small. That joy which you find even in smaller things will give you the strength to achieve more victories. 

By the way, this week is my fifth wedding anniversary!!!! 

Dijo John –     Renew In Knowledge

Marriage of the Lamb_Renew In Knowledge

The Marriage of the Lamb

I don’t know about you but I have noted one thing at each wedding I have attended. Every couple wants to make their wedding day remarkable. They spend considerable time and effort to make their special day great for all invitees.

The last book of the Bible ends with what is called the marriage of the Lamb. This is the culminating scene in the Scripture where the Lord is with His bride, the church. When the Lord arranges to have a grand-scale celebration could you imagine how that would be? It describes in the last chapters about the glory of those functions in the best humanly possible way. The scale of the magnificence of that stage is something that we can’t even grasp at this time.

The marriage of the Lamb beautifully captures what is going to happen in the new Jerusalem. It brings into the picture two major institutions that God himself has started-marriage and church. We see marriage begins on the perfect stage of Eden. What happened there was not an idea of man but God himself brought Adam and Eve together. 

Marriage of the Lamb_renewinknowledge.org

Millenniums later God came in human form to die like a lamb. And with his blood, He acquired the lost to form the second institution called the church. People from any tribe, language, color, or identity who believe in the redeeming power of the blood of the Lamb are saved and sanctified by the Lord. The church, constituting those people who are called by Him and engaged to the Lord, is the bride of the Lord. Interestingly, ekklesia, the Greek word for church means “called out ones” thus denoting a resemblance to marriage which characteristically includes a proposal and invitation. 

Humans are meant to be in loving relationships. We see that in marriage and in the church-both of which God himself instituted. Bringing together those two beautiful themes, the marriage of the Lamb as described in Revelation is the next stage meant for the sanctified. One thing we know about it is that we are going to be with the Lord forever.

God is love and He loves the church. He is preparing for those waiting for Him the best of things which  “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, Nor have entered into the heart of man The things which God has prepared for those who love Him”. Though sin took away the glory of man and separated him from God, the marriage of the Lamb is the day in which man is reinstituted back to his full glory. 

In Revelation 21:10, the church, after the rapture,  is shown coming down having the glory of God shining like a very costly stone, as a stone of crystal-clear jasper. This is not some sort of fantasy writing to make people excited. If there is any hope for humanity it is only through Christ and His works imparting life to anyone who would like to be with Him.

There is no hope for the dead.

Christ Jesus is preparing for the marriage of the Lamb which is the greatest of any gathering anyone could participate in. Who would want to miss this? God loves you and He invites you to be there with Him for eternity. Not only does God want you to be there but He will let you be in the perfectly glorified state of living.

It is not good for man to be alone.

Dijo JohnRenew In Knowledge 

How to deal with discouragement while doing good work

“For God is not unrighteous to forget your work and labor of love, which ye have shewed toward his name, in that ye have ministered to the saints, and do minister.” Hebrews 6:10

This Bible verse is a message of encouragement. It not only comforts us but gives us a hope of steadfastness, and enables us to press on forward faithfully. Here, better things could be said of them to be optimistic because God will not forget the works of genuinely saved believers and the love shown when they minister to the saints. Remember, faith, hope and love are the hallmarks of true Christianity.

Do not be discouraged

Often, we are so discouraged thinking that God has forgotten us. But we should never encourage such thoughts. God never forgets or overlooks our hard work for Him. We may not receive our rewards right away, but God knows our every effort of love and ministry we do for Him.

There is an old tale about Satan walking on the street of life, sulking in the shadows with his hunting dogs, the assistant demons. A man, Albert, came walking down the street; Satan said to the little demon, scowling with bitter face: “Go, get him for me!”. Quickly he crossed the street, silently and lightly hopped on to the man’s shoulder. In his ear he whispered, “You are discouraged.”

‘”No,” said the man, “I am not discouraged.”

“You are discouraged!” insisted the demon. This time the man replied, “I don’t think I am.” Louder and more decidedly, the demon repeated, “I tell you, you are discouraged.” Albert dropped his head and murmured: “Well, I suppose I am”. The little demon darted back to Satan and said proudly, “I have got him; he is discouraged.”

Another man, Carlson, passed. Again, old Satan said: “Get him for me!” The proud little demon of discouragement repeated his tactics. The first time, he said. “You are discouraged,” the man replied emphatically, “No”. The second time Carlson replied, “I tell you I am not discouraged!” The third time he said, “You lie! I am not discouraged” and he walked down the street, his head erect, going straight towards the light. The imp of discouragement returned to his master, crestfallen, “I couldn’t get him,” he reported. “Three times I told him he was discouraged. The third time, he called me a liar, and that discouraged me!”

Satan is ready to step in with his cunning devices and stratagems to discourage and disappoint believers. At such moments we have the right prescription from the Scripture and that is “Resist the devil; he will flee away from you.”

Disappointment is Fatal

Let God’s love for us and His intimate knowledge of our service for Him bolster us as we face multiple rejections and disappointments here on earth. No matter what life takes us through, let the hope and faith we have anchored in the Lord, keep us pressing forward to do more for Him. Periods of lingering frustrations are common in each one of our lives. Some days are like diamonds – bright and shining while some other days may seem like a stone – unimpressive and unattractive. Yet we must always remember to clothe ourselves in confidence and focus on the almighty God.

Ministering to the Lord

There are few things that accompany salvation. Evidence of salvation will manifest in the lives of saints namely their work of the faith, labor of love and patience of hope. The Lord’s ministry should be done heartily, not grudgingly and as to the Lord and not to men. ‘Ye serve the Lord Christ,’ (Col.3:24). Those who persevere in a diligent discharge of their duty shall obtain the full assurance of hope in the end.

Reward in heaven will not be for prominence or apparent successes; they will not be for talents or opportunities, but rather for faithfulness as to the Lord. The Lord’s ministry is a responsibility and we must take it seriously – continue doing it and finish the task faithfully.

In the name of the Lord

Apostles and early Christians continued to serve the Lord’s people in the name of the Lord. Likewise, we have to steadfastly minister to the Lord as long as we have the health, ability, and opportunity. But, only do the ministry which you have been called to do and that which is received from Jesus Christ according to the will of God. The Bible teaches us a very important lesson that the humblest ministry (Mt.10:42) can be glorified and dignified by doing it for the Lord. While serving the saints in the name of the Lord, always remember to fret not, faint not, fear not or forget not.

Certainty of God’s promises

Remembering the reward that lies ahead should encourage us as believers to carry on the work, entrusted into our hands, till we can declare that we have finished it faithfully. Since faith must wait long to be rewarded, we may be tempted to grow weary. But if we have anchored our hope in God our savior, we will never be disappointed. The example of Abraham is given as a stimulus and through this the certainty of hope is affirmed. God is righteous therefore the fulfillment of the promise is assured.

Conclusion

Lest we become discouraged and disappointed, the Bible reminds us to have faith and hope in the Lord for rewards are certain even if not immediate. Over the medical school of the old St.Bartholomew’s hospital are carved these words: Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with all thy might.

The story is told of a king who placed a heavy stone in the road and then hid and watched to see who would remove it. Men of various classes came and worked their way round it, some loudly blamed the king for not keeping the highways clear, but all dodging the duty of getting it out of the way. At last a poor peasant on his way to town with his burden of vegetables for sale came, and contemplating the stone, laid down his load, and rolled the stone into the gutter. Then, turning round, he spied a purse that had lain right under the stone. He opened it and found it full of gold pieces with a note from the king saying it was for the one who should remove the stone.

Those who expect a gracious reward should not be slothful. They must not love their ease and lose their opportunities. Therefore, ‘Beloved brethren, be steadfast and immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord’.

C.M.John