The Union of Intimacy and Good Theology
One of the hallmarks in every age of spiritual revival is the outflowing of new and vibrant Christian music. With the passing of time the really rich songs tend to survive into future generations, while many flare in popularity for a moment but soon are forgotten.
One can learn a lot about the prevailing ideas/doctrinal beliefs of any generation of the church by examining the words of the hymns and other worship songs which were commonly sung.
There can be no doubt, whether reading Psalms from the Bible or looking at the hymns produced during times of great renewal, that one of the outstanding features is the obvious intimacy of the worshiper with God. The songs that really last for more than a few years, however, appear to be those which are rich in Biblical theology. When a song successfully unites intimacy with God and rich theology, it has the potential to have a long life in the ongoing worship of the saints.
Perhaps this is one of the reasons that some of Wesley's hymns have remained in hymnals and on the lips of worshipers for several generations. Take Wesley's profound hymn, "Jesus, Lover of My Soul", as one obvious example. The first verse begins:
"Jesus, Lover of my soul, let me to Thy bosom fly!"
Another verse begins:
"Thou, O Christ, art all I want; More than all in Thee I find."
One can hardly imagine lines more tenderly intimate than these. Even in their day they were frowned upon by some in the high church as being too much like words which might be spoken between human lovers. Yet, worshipers in Wesley's day, who recently had come into a deep and personal relationship with Christ, loved this song, often requesting it, for it expressed the desperate human need to relate to God as "lover" of my soul.
But this hymn, along with many more like it, was far more than a mushy love song to Jesus. It gained its lasting value from the rich theology of most of its lyrics.
After singing in one verse: "Other refuge have I none, hangs my helpless soul on Thee", and after praying in another for the miracles so often seen in times of great revival, "Raise the fallen, cheer the faint, heal the sick, and lead the blind", Wesley plunges into the great theology of grace and redemption.
"Just and holy is Thy name, I am all unrighteousness; false and full of sin I am, Thou art full of truth and grace." And once recognizing his helpless and sinful condition apart from Christ, Wesley bursts into this victorious stanza: "Plenteous grace with thee is found, grace to cover all my sin; Let the healing streams abound, make and keep me pure within." And, finally concludes with, "Thou of life the fountain art; freely let me take of Thee; Spring Thou up within my heart, Rise to all eternity."
This great hymn fully recognizes the human frailty, the human weakness, the human sin, but it then rises far above that as a glorious, yet intimate, praise to the One, who in His infinite love poured out His grace to give us a victorious, virtuous, and flourishing life that only Christ can truly give.
Lord, give us more of these songs. Intimacy united with rich theology. Teaching and loving together.
Christians ADVOCATING for Co-habitation????
In a recent internet article, https://www.theodysseyonline.com/christian-living-together-before-marriage entitled, "You Gave Me House Before a Ring and That's OK", a young 20 year old woman, claiming to be a Christian, advocates the "rightness" of couples living together before marriage. She then defends her position by asserting such things as, "I don't think we're too young", "we have good intentions" (to get married), and "I have learned so much more about my boyfriend from living with him than I ever did before." These, and a few other thoughts, are her justification for living together prior to marriage.
She acknowledges that not everyone will agree with her, but based on the reader comments, many do.
The key lines, however, in my opinion are these
"As far as not doing things the Christian way, I understand that we probably should have gotten married first. I'm aware that we didn't follow the bible, and that does bother me. I can promise you this though: I do pray about it, and we are very serious. We talk about marriage quite often…"
Note what she has admitted:
1. We probably SHOULD have gotten married first. That sounds very much like a moral statement. We SHOULD have, but we didn't. In other words, she is admitting that she has gone against what she knows to be the right thing, in order to do what SHE thought was better.
2. I'm aware that we didn't follow the Bible, and that does bother me. Well, at least she KNOWS what the Bible, God's Word to us, says. So she has decided to do things HER way instead of God's way, and argues then that HER way is better "for her" than what God has prescribed. Further, she states that this "bothers her". And well, it should. This is the admission that her conscience has been formed by the teaching of the Bible, yet she has chosen to ignore her conscience, which apparently has been telling her "don't do this, it is against God's plan", and instead has chosen to do things her way. This is ALWAYS a dangerous course of action.
3. I can promise you this though: I do pray about it. Well, that's nice. God has already told you in the Bible you SHOULDN"T do this. Your conscience seems to agree with God since "it bothers you", but now you are going to "pray about it"? Exactly then what are you praying? That God will change HIS plan for couples to suit you? Or perhaps that God will stop letting your conscience bother you?
4. We are very serious,,,as if that justifies disobedience to God.
5. We talk about marriage quite often. How good of you to do that. Maybe you will get married. Maybe you won't. But just talking about it cannot justify running over your God-given conscience. My question is, "How much longer do you need? What do you still need to learn about this man before you marry him? Or is it he who is convincing you to wait? Or perhaps I should ask, "Why get married at all?" If your current situation is working out well, why bother with even thinking about marriage. Exactly what do you think marriage would add to your relationship that you don't already have? Why not just "quit talking about it" and just continue on without it? If it is not important now, why would marriage be important in the future? What could such a formal covenant add to your relationship that you don't already have?
But here is what disturbs me most. It's not that you have decided to disregard the Bible and your own conscience. While such a decision is likely to cause you great hardship, perhaps even devastating sadness, in the future, you have decided to encourage others to do the same…to disregard God's plan in favor or their own flawed ideas about relationships. You have encouraged others to justify opposing their own consciences. You have decided to lead others into the same wide path of disobedience which you have opted for. Now you will be held accountable not only for your own decisions before the Almighty and Perfect Judge of all people, you will be accountable for those, who having read your rebellious article, decide to offend God also by following your self-serving course of action. No doubt, there are those who have wrestled with this…who, except for your encouragement, might have decided to stay true to God and His word…but because YOU decided to flaunt your rebellion against God's word, and YOU decided to provide justification for it, they will follow their own weakness, will cast off the restraints of their own conscience and will follow you into the endless maze of unholy living and all the dire consequences which eventually follow. So, sleep well, my dear. You have much to answer for before the God who designed human relationships. And as you are "praying about this" I hope you will pray the prayer of confession and repentance, and then retract what you have written and bow before the God of heaven and say to the world, "His way is right; my way was wrong."
KEEP "MAS" IN CHRISTMAS
For decades now, Christians have been pleading with the culture to keep Christ in Christ-mas. But now some Christians may be in danger of losing, not only Christ in Christmas, but also the "mas" in Christ-mas. And to do so would be to lose Christmas altogether. December 25th would then become simply another family get-together for food, gifts, and watching some football on TV.
So what do I mean by keeping "mas" in Christmas? Simply this: the word "Christmas" is the shortened form for "Christ's Mass". Mass is the English word which was derived from a Latin term which referred to the worship service in which Holy Communion was celebrated. For earlier Christians every worship service was a "mass". So, the word "Christmas" literally refers to the worship service in honor of Christ's birth. Thus, in order to celebrate ChristMAS, one must actually be part of the "MAS" , that is, the worship service that celebrates the birth of Christ.
Obviously then, if a person argues for keeping Christ in Christmas, that same person should attend the worship service (the mas[s]). Otherwise, Christmas has not been observed at all...the "mas" has been lost and all you are left with is Christ. But, if we cannot keep the communal worship of Christ, the "mas", have we not also left Christ behind?
It would be similar to saying, "There's going to be a birthday party for Christopher... and I'm going to remember you, Christopher, on your birthday, but, I won't be coming to the party, because, well, I've got other things I want to do that day, like share some presents with my family and have a big meal, and watch some TV...but don't worry, Christopher, even though we won't attend your party, I'll be sure to mention to my kids that it's your birthday."
So, be sure to keep Christ in Christmas...but don't forget to keep "mas" in Christmas, too.
IGNATIUS ON ATTENDING WORSHIP
Even in his day, some were becoming slack in their regular church attendance. As you may recall, just a few years earlier John the apostle, writing to the Ephesian church in the book of Revelation, challenged them because they had left their first love, that is, their love for Christ had grown cool. Ignatius saw that one thing which contributed to this was their laxity in attending the services. So he writes to the Ephesians, "Let no one be misled: if anyone is not within the sanctuary, he lacks the bread of God....Therefore whoever does not meet with the congregation thereby demonstrates his arrogance and has separated himself, for it is written, 'God opposes the arrogant.'" (Letter to Ephesus 5:2a, 3) Later in the same letter he states, "For when you meet together frequently, the powers of Satan are overthrown and his destructiveness is nullified by the unanimity of your faith." (Letter to Ephesus 13:1) In these few sentences Ignatius sees a great benefit of taking the "bread" of God, a reference to the Holy Eucharist meal, which, if a person were absent, he would miss the great power and benefit of that meal. The arrogance or pride of which Ignatius speaks is that of a person who thinks he doesn't really need to attend. He can do just fine without going to worship. Quoting from Scripture, Ignatius notes that God opposes such a person. Ignatius also notes that great victories are won over the Satanic enemy of our souls when we gather together to worship and express our faith in God.
St. Ignatius was an early bishop of the Christian Church in the city of Antioch of Syria. His life overlapped that of some of the apostles, and he was martyred, according to the 4th century church historian, Eusebius, sometime in the middle of the rule of the Roman emperor Trajan. Trajan ruled from 98 A.D. to 117 A.D. We probably would know little of this great bishop if it were not for the fact that he wrote 7 letters during the last few weeks of his life, while he was awaiting his execution at the hands of Rome. These letters were to the following: A letter to the Church at Ephesus, a letter to the Church at Magnesia, a letter to the Church at Tralles in Asia, a letter to the Roman churches, a letter to the Church of Philadelphia, a letter to the Church at Smyrna, and a separate letter to Polycarp who was the bishop of the Church at Smyrna. Of course, this is the same Polycarp who was a disciple of the Apostle John and who himself was later martyred.
These letters by Ignatius give us some distinct insight into the life of Christian churches in that generation which immediately succeeded the apostolic age. They were written within 20 or 30 years of the death of John.
Knowing that his death was imminent, Ignatius wished to give final instructions to these churches, along with encouragement and a taste of his own testimony of faith.
I will close this episode of Ignatius with this tidbit from his admonition to Polycarp, "Do not let those who appear to be trustworthy yet who teach strange doctrines baffle you. Stand firm, like an anvil being struck with a hammer. It is the mark of a great athlete to be bruised, yet still conquer. But especially we must, for God's sake, patiently bear all things, so that He may also bear with us. Be more diligent than you are. Understand the times. Wait expectantly for the One who is above time: the Eternal, the Invisible, who for our sake became visible; the Intangible, the Unsuffering, who for our sake suffered, who for our saked endured in every way." (Letter to Polycarp 3:1-2)
For the next few days I intend to post some interesting quotes from Ignatius' letters. Stay tuned.
Early in my childhood my grandparents moved from New Jersey to Tampa, Florida. We lived in Ohio at the time, and my grandparents' move initiated a great excitement for me and for the rest of our family, because once a year we always took a vacation to visit them...and now, they were in Florida, the mecca of tourist attractions in the south. The beach, the parks, the museums...all of these were anticipated excitements, especially the yearly visits to the Clearwater and St. Petersburg Gulf beaches. We LOVED these vacations, and each year started getting excited adrenaline flowing as the days drew near for our yearly trek south.
Then my dad got one of the greatest ideas a dad could ever get for a kid. He applied for and got a job in Tampa. Yeah!!! We were going to actually live there. So we sold our home, packed our belongings and made the life-altering move to the always-sunny state of Florida with its constant invitation to exciting life.
There was just one little problem. After a couple of months, the whole thing began to feel mundane. The excitement wore off in a hurry. Oh, for a while we tried to keep it going by visiting a lot of the attractions, but after awhile I began to really miss my old school mates and neighborhood friends. Everything began to look darker than I had imagined it would be. Soon I didn't even enjoy trips to the beach.
It didn't take long for me to wish we were back "home". We stayed in Florida. Never moved back (although we did move to Jacksonville). But I learned a very important lesson in that early stage of life. Well, I almost learned it. I still find myself enticed by excitement, but I have come to realize how fleeting and empty it can actually be. Staying in the Father's house, in the long run, always produces more lasting joy than moving to a far country.
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THREE IMPORTANT LENTEN DISCIPLINES
In Matthew 6:1-18 Jesus emphasizes three important Christian disciplines, each of which is a means of grace: giving to the poor, prayer, and fasting. While these practices should be a part of every Christian's life throughout the year, Lent is a season when a re-focus on these important disciplines leads us back to the important aspects of our faith. If giving, prayer, and fasting are to be means of grace, they must be praticed, not to be noticed or praised, but in a private and unseen way. There is a promise attached to each practice. God, who sees in secret, will reward us openly. The nature of the reward is not always known ahead of time, but whatever reward God gives, it is a reward of grace. All of these disciplines are practices in self-denial. In giving to the poor I deny myself material goods that I might have had; in prayer I deny myself of time I might have used on self-centered interests; in fasting I deny myself the satisfying of appetites that might otherwise have led me into self-indulgence.
"While earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease." (Genesis 8:22) From the beginning of time God built natural rythms into the creation. These rythms of time are like opposite poles on a magnet, positives and negatives. It didn't take long for early believers to see the value of seasonal rythms in the life of the Church, and so both Feasts and Fasts were built into the calendar. It was easy to know that the Incarnation (Christmas) and the Resurrection (Easter) were times of celebration and deserved feasting and rejoicing.
And as the life of Jesus was studied, it was noticed that Jesus had both feasting and fasting built into the rythms of His life. The 40 day struggle in the wilderness was not a time of celebration and feasting, but a time of spiritual battle and fasting. The Church year reflects these alternating emotions of life.
Lent helps us identify with Jesus' temptations in the wilderness: 40 days of serious self-denial and spiritual warfare. During this time, while we do look ahead to the glories of Easter, we focus on "doing battle" with the temptations in our own lives. We pray. We fast. We engage ourselves in the Christian disciplines. During these times our faith, though tested, is deepened, so that when the time of feasting comes, we will be well-prepared to celebrate. But for the moment, we cast aside the wine and the fatted-calf, so that we might dig deeply into the wells of salvation. The digging can be laborious and challenging, but it is always rewarding.
Rehoboth United Methodist Church
225 Rehoboth Church Rd
Newbern, TN 38059
Phone: 731 285-3492
Or use our contact form.
Consistency in our worship and service to God, and the constancy of God's love for us, creates for us a stability in life that nothing else offers.
Regular Service Times
Sunday Worship 9:30 a.m.
Sunday disciple classes 10:30 a.m.
Sunday women's Bible Study, 10:30 a.m.
St. Peter's Fishing Club, Wed. 6:00 p.m.
Women's Bible Study, Thurs. 6:00 p.m.
Men's Bible Study, Fri. 7:00 a.m. Java Cafe, Dyersburg
Men's Bible Study, Sat. 6:30 a.m. Food Rite, Newbern