Have You Noticed?

“OK, as we continue our discussion, someone says, “Maybe we should agree what Sunday worship looks like. For example, do we need music? How about Communion? Will there be a sermon or homily? Do we need prayer books? Will our worship be formal and traditional; that might be tough to pull off in that environment since we can’t have anything with an open flame (candles).”

OK colonists, this time you get to go first… What does corporate worship need to look like? Maybe we should take something with us after all…?”

Church Set Free, or Church As We Know It …

If you haven’t joined the conversation yet – why not head over to Don’s place and add your own thoughts?

Thanks –

Paul

(comments closed here)
.

TLP

We’ve made it though our first question in organizing our new church in our Martian colony. I’d like to thank each and every one of you who responded and offered your thoughts about what we need to take with us so that we can have worship services on Sundays. Reading through your responses, I see a definite pattern: We don’t need anything special to worship together each week.

I must admit that I was a little surprised at that; has anyone noticed that if we don’t take anything with us for worship, we’ve chosen a ‘worship style’ by default?

One of you, my former neighbor Rob, asked if we need a clergyman or approval from a church body to establish a new church. A couple of you replied to Rob by saying essentially that we really don’t need any of that and even suggested that this would be an opportunity…

View original post 194 more words

The Hypothetical Revealed

“Last call for … a fresh look at what worship might or could be … “

And all you have to do is to click on the link to Don’s post.

What have you got to lose?

Paul

🙂

TLP

Thank you to everyone who “liked” or commented on yesterday’s introduction of our little experiment and grand adventure. Of the comments from yesterday that I have received so far, 2 liked the idea, two sort of liked the idea, and two didn’t like the idea. Assuming that all 25 “likes” were done after reading, “likes” fell off by about a third of what I normally have for a second post as of this writing, but more comments and likes will probably follow for the rest of today. Anyway, a special “thank you” to everyone who commented: I asked because I wanted to know, so to the ones who didn’t like the idea, an even bigger thank you!

I think there is enough interest to give this a try and the next step is to reveal the hypothetical…

Congratulations!

Out of more than a half-million applicants, you have been selected to…

View original post 349 more words

Something Different- Your Thoughts Please…

“Let’s set up a hypothetical: I’ll set the stage and then throw out some general thoughts and general questions, and you share your ideas with everyone else, and we’ll have a grand old ‘class discussion’ about worship− how does that sound? …

I think this could not only be a hoot, but very, very interesting because the readership here is quite diverse. We have Seminary professors, pastors/ministers/clergymen, seekers, housewives, professionals, retired, college students, many Christian backgrounds, and many nationalities and cultures represented, and my hope is that we all might pick up a thing or two we hadn’t thought about before.”

Don Merritt is doing discussion on a corporate worship scale.  Sounds like just the thing for “Church Set Free” readers!  🙂

An invitation –

“So… are you in, would you like to give this a try and chime in to the conversation??? If so, click the “like” or drop me a comment.”

If you are interested then head over to Don’s place and let him know.

Thank you –

Paul

.

(as always – comments closed here, thank you)

TLP

Having completed our study of spiritual practices for now, it’s time for another topic to look at. I have been thinking of doing one on worship, more precisely, corporate worship; the worship assembly, Sunday worship… that sort of thing. Normally, I would put the verses of Scripture together, discuss them and the context in which they fall, and then tell you what I think about it.

But that’s what I always do. This time, I’d like you to tell me what you think.

Doesn’t that sound like a lot more fun?

Let’s set up a hypothetical: I’ll set the stage and then throw out some general thoughts and general questions, and you share your ideas with everyone else, and we’ll have a grand old ‘class discussion’ about worship− how does that sound?

Most people who read this are themselves bloggers, so you’ll see right away that this is a…

View original post 267 more words

Saying Goodbye to a Dear Friend

It’s never easy to say goodbye to a dear friend, to a loving sister in Christ, and yet there are times when we must do just that. Like so many of you, I was shocked by the news that our sister and friend Susan Irene Fox passed away earlier this week; what does one say at such a time?

Susan’s writings here on WordPress were a blessing to all of us, both on her blog and on Church Set Free, and when you read those posts of hers it’s almost impossible to miss the love that fills each and every line. I recall when a group of us came together via Skype to discuss the establishment of the site, back in 2015. Susan was part of that group and more than anything else, she wanted it to be a place where anyone could go and experience the love of Christ without judgment or condemnation from any of us who participated. She wanted it to be a place where anyone could ask a question or post a comment without feeling out of place or inadequate; she wanted it to become a place where any Christian as well as any seeker could feel safe and secure.

In the months that followed, a bunch of us got together regularly on Skype to discuss not only the site, but life in general, and while I never met Susan face-to-face, I felt as though I got to know her. I’ll never forget her smile and her sense of humor, and her ability to treat everyone as an equal as a loved brother or sister.

It seems to me that Susan in so many ways personified what it means to be a follower of Jesus Christ.

Many who read this may have known her longer than I did; many may have known her better than I. Yet I will be eternally grateful for the time I had for her to touch my life. In the final analysis, I know only one thing: Heaven is a much richer place today because Susan Irene Fox has come to stay for all eternity, and one day we will all be reunited there in the loving arms of Lord.

Some homework … really???

“Here’s some homework: Reflect and pray on these verses, asking Him to reveal them in their fullness to you.”
Teach us to pray – The Life Project: Don Merritt

.

“‘Father,
I remember with my Mum and Dad – they always were.  They always had been, they always were just “Mum and Dad”.  I was always loved – maybe not always in the way I wanted – but I was always loved.  They had created me.  They had grown me from a couple of cells.  They had fed me, watered, cared, clothed, taught – but always love.  Was my Dad better than my Mum?  No. They were different but the same.  They just “were”.

.

hallowed be your name,
This name is not just any old name.  This name is the name of all that is – who I am, who I was, where I came from, where I was birthed – who I am.

.

your kingdom come.
That promise. That sacred promise. A promise fulfilled then and now. And – even better – in my lifetime fulfilled in every second – every breath – every heartbeat – every moment of my living!

.

Give us each day our daily bread.
What are my needs?  My needs are simple.  My “need” is life itself.  And that requires my body to function – to house my living – my soul.  In even this detail He cares for me.

.

Forgive us our sins,
Am I a “sinner”?  NO!  I am His creation.  I am perfect.  Yet imperfect.  Always free to come thither and thither.  To speak this or that.  To think this or that.  To be this or that.  I will hurt myself, I will hurt others – can I hurt Him?  No.  I think not.  So maybe this forgiveness is only for me – so that I know I am loved (even when I think I should not be loved).  Am I “sinner” – no I am not.

.

for we also forgive everyone who sins against us.
A beautiful reminder: what is good for the goose is good for the gander!  This “being loved” even when I think I am not – THAT is for all – for each – for you (as well as me).  Am I to only “take” – am I to be more loved than you?  No I am not.  So how can I not love you as I am loved – even when we think we are not?  I cannot.  I must not.

.

And lead us not into temptation.’”
Emphatically we have the choice to love and be loved, as well as the choice to be loved and NOT to love.  This is not “what about me” – this is “what about you” – this is “love your neighbour as yourself”.  This is Love always is – not just when it suits – nor just when it is easy – not about when there is return on my loving “investment”.  It is about the choice I make that will be imperfect.  It is about companionship.  It is about indwelling.  It is about “your kingdom come” right now, right here, right inside every cell of my body and soul.  It is about this second and the next.  It is about “real”.  And it is not about theory.  Not about “religion”.  This is about living right now.

.

WOW!

Now I never knew all that dwelt within!  BIG thanks, Don!

Now …

How about you?

Paul

“This church isn’t loving enough!”

Why do you suppose it is that some churches are considered to be “loving” while others aren’t? Maybe a better question would be, “Why is my local church more loving sometimes than it is other times?”

I remember one time several years ago when I received a phone call one Saturday evening from a very ticked off woman from church who spent at least 20 minutes yelling at me because someone else in our church had been rude to her: “What happened to the love in this church?” she demanded to know.

To tell you the truth, I wasn’t exactly feeling the love in that moment either. She abruptly ended the call by telling me that unless I did something pretty darn quick that she was leaving for good.

So often I hear things like this…

Why are some churches “loving” and others aren’t  why is my local church more loving sometimes than it is other times?

I don’t know about anybody else, but I think the answer to these questions lies in the very nature of love itself. Perhaps we can find a clue in the great “Love Chapter” of 1 Corinthians 13…

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. (13:4-7 emphasis added)

These are some of the most beautiful and familiar verses in all of Scripture, and I’m sure that if anyone reads these verses and then goes back to the little incident I just recounted, you’ll come up with a working theory on the questions I posed… I hope that before going further, everyone will read the entirety of the chapter for context… Of course, speaking of context, this chapter is in a larger section on spiritual gifts that runs from chapter 12-15 and thus love is a side note. Theologically speaking the real “Love Chapter” in the New Testament is 1 John 4, a very interesting bit of writing to say the least.

In verses 1-6 John is speaking about the spirit of antichrist which is afoot in this world and that may seem odd in a chapter about love, yet God’s love in us is the perfect antidote for the spirit of antichrist. John tells us that we have overcome that dark spirit already (4:4).

At first glance vv. 7 ff. appear to be redundant in the extreme. Yet upon closer examination this isn’t the case, for John in these verses is making the case for love itself, and he is doing so in a manner that is simplicity itself: God loved us and sent his Son to die for us, therefore we love Him. God loves our brothers and sisters, therefore so do we. Since all of this is true, anyone who does not love their brother and sister does not love God.

Notice how John links God’s love to us in 4:10 to Christ as “atoning sacrifice”, and recall that it is by his atoning sacrifice that our sins can be forgiven tying God’s love together with His forgiveness. Look carefully and you will see the same approach again in verse 14 where John tells us that by God’s love we have received the Holy spirit and give testimony that Jesus is Savior (by forgiveness of sins). Notice the same linkage in both verse 17 and verse 18 by making reference to the connection between love and forgiveness on the day of judgment. And then go back to the end of verse 17:

In this world we are like Jesus.

What was Jesus like? Jesus was the very embodiment of love in action who brought forgiveness into the world.

The chapter ends with this:

Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister. (4:21b)

We are commanded to love one another, and what is plain in 1 John 4 is that love is inexorably linked to forgiveness, and how many times should we forgive our brother, seven times?

Well, I think you already know the answer to that one.

Combine this with 1 Corinthians 13:5… love does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love forgives first and foremost.

“Church” is not an institution. Rather it is a community of people who love Jesus Christ and wish to follow Him. Yet it is the human condition that as long as each of us is imperfect, we will all sooner or later say or do something that we shouldn’t have said or done. If anyone who reads this believes him or herself immune from error, please let us know in a comment so that we might recognize you for your achievement of perfection!

If on the other hand, you like I myself have not quite achieved such an exalted status just yet, them please understand that you will need forgiveness right along with everyone else at some point in time, and that all of us need to forgive if indeed we love one another, for there is no love without forgiveness. Since church is not an institution, but instead is a collection of believers in community, when someone stumbles, it is our place to love them, not to complain about them to others. If they have upset us, then it is our place to forgive them, not to condemn them, and if we feel that our local congregation is not loving enough, then it is for us to love more and forgive more, not for us to complain more and to become angry, for anger and complaining are not the actions of love.

Does that sound crazy to you?

If so, please remember this: You ARE the church; if you don’t love, then who will?