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Christian Community, prt II

a few weeks ago i started a new post series on christian community.  the first post centered around Christ’s prayer in John 17, the call to Christian unity.  The unity of the church is of eternal importance, as, according to Christ, it is the unity of the church that affirms the validity of the gospel message, the coming of Christ and of God’s abounding love, to a lost and hopeless world.

i want to begin to think through what Christian Community is, starting with the all too trendy word, ‘FELLOWSHIP.’

shelves of books have been written about Christian fellowship.  many have made known to us that fellowship is more than just hamburgers and volleyball, starbucks and an eldredge book, or christmas parties and caroling.  the church has thrown this word around for years, ‘join us for food, fun and fellowship.’  unfortunately, too few understand what it means and too  many think it is simply a part of an activity.

most often preachers turn to Acts 2 in discussing fellowship.

in Acts 2:42-46, the early believers were described as being DEVOTED: they were first and foremost zealously committed to the teachings of Christ, that which the apostles labored to share with them. It is important to note that this devotion (and all that follows in v. 42-46) was a corporate devotion. The truth we need to see is that the NT clearly teaches that the Christian Life is lived out in community with the Church.
the second thing we need to see, which is the focal point of this post, is that they were zealously committed to the FELLOWSHIP. there is often a distinct difference between our use of the term ‘fellowship’ and the biblical use of the term as we see it in Acts 2.

the greek word is koinonia.   it has not one but TWO common translations in scripture. both will help us undestand the meaning of ‘the fellowship’ that these beleivers were so sold out to.

FIRST:  koinonia means ‘communion.’

the basic definition of this word is to ‘have in common.’  it is a sharing, and intimate sharing,
usually referring to the sharing of beliefs, possessions, emotions, thoughts, etc.

This is the way koinonia is understood in other areas of scripture,
such as 1 John 1:3.
1 John tells us that the gospel brings us into COMMUNION with God and with one another.
it is an intimate sharing of a common life.

Communion then, is not a word designating an ACTIVITY, it is a beautiful word that symbolizes an intimate RELATIONSHIP.

It is a relationship of unity, of oneness, perhaps, in many ways, more intimate than we can understand. When we become believers, the Bible says we have COMMUNION with God, we are ONE with God. And, at the same time, we are brought into COMMUNION with Others, the church. This intimate relationship is a result in our POSITION in Christ. All who believe in Christ, are ‘in him’, united with Him in COMMUNION.

Therefore, as a Believer, we are ONE with GOD and ONE with Christ’s Church. This, is Fellowship.
Definition Part ONE: Fellowship is COMMUNION: a SHARED LIFE.

In or next post we will begin to shed light on how ‘a shared life’ redefines the church.  we will also begin to look at the second most common translation of the word koinonia to give us a fuller understanding of Christian Fellowship.

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idolatry, prt III, the Idol Worshiper

okay so this is the third post concerning idolatry.  recap: an idol, simply put, is anything that takes God’s rightful place.  it is anything that we place our hope in.  anything that we look to, apart from God, to receive what our heart desires.

question for today, who is an idol worshiper?
Romans 1:25 paints us a frightening picture.  the scritpures characterize ALL of MANKIND as worshippers, constantly worshiping creation rather than the creator.  by definition, we are all idol worshippers.

John Calvin once put it this way, “The human heart is a factory of idols…Everyone of us is, from his mother’s womb, an expert in inventing idols.”

God Created us to worship.  We are all made to worship, and made to worship God.  However, in our fallen state, seduced by sin and in bodage to it, we constantly seek to worship anything besides Him.  we put our hope in things of broken promise and place great value on things that are worthless.

Lets take a brief look back at isaiah 44 to get some footing on what an idol worshiper is like.

1. Idol Worshipers are blind to their idolatryall who make idols. . who speak up for them are blind; they are ignorant of their shame. v. 9  they know nothing. . . they cannot see. . . they cannot understand.  no one stops to think. . . ‘is not this thing in my right hand a lie?’ v.18-20

2.  Idol Worshipers form idols from CREATION while ignoring the hand of the CREATOR. the blacksmith take tools. . he shapes an idol with hammers. . . the carpenter measures. . . he roughs it out with chisels. . . he shapes it in the form of man. . . he cut down ceders. . a cypress or an oak. v.12-14.  Remember. . . i have made you, you are my servant; O Israel. v. 21

3. Idol Worship flows from a Sinful Heart. a deluded heart misleads him. v.20

4. Idol Worshippers are slaves to what they worship and are incapable of saving themselves.  he feeds on ashes, a deluded heart misleads him.  he cannot save himself, or say, is not this thing in my right hand a lie. v. 20

5. There is hope for those in Idolatry against the Lord. We may return to the Lord, our Maker, Creator and Faithful God.  Remember these things, O Jacob. . . I have made you. . . i will not forget you. . . i have swept away your offenses like a cloud, your sins like the morning mist.  Return to me. v. 21-22.

Romans 7:24-25, Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God—through Jesus Christ our Lord!

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idolatry, prt II

okay, so, 2 weeks ago, i started a post about idolatry.  first we sought to address what an idol is and what it is not.  recap: an idol is not simply some prehistoric statue.  it does not matter what shape it takes or what it is made out of.  in fact, an idol can be a formless object- like a relationship or a reputation.

an idol, simply put, is anything that takes God’s rightful place.  it is anything that we place our hope in.  anything that we look to, apart from God, to receive what our heart desires.  Or, quite bluntly, it is what our heart desires.

i’d like to look at the scriptures to help us understand more about the nature of Idols.

An IDOL is ANYTHING that we seek to put in GOD’S PLACE. In isaiah 44:6, before speaking on Idolatry, the firsts thing the Lord does is to establish His Rightful place, this is what the Lord says, Israel’s King and Redeemer, the Lord Almighty:  I am the first and I am the last; apart from me there is no God. the passage opens this way to lay in stark contrast the only God of the universe and the many idols that are made by His creation.

God’s Rightful Place is as our First Priority
and the Goal of all our Aims.
1 Cor. 10:31

An IDOL is INTERNAL.    Idols RESIDE in the HEART of the IDOL WORSHIPER:
Look at how God describes the ‘external idols’ that filled the land of the Israelites. “Then the word of the LORD came to me:  “Son of man, these men have set up idols in their hearts and put wicked stumbling blocks before their faces. . . When any Israelite sets up idols in his heart and puts a wicked stumbling block before his face and then goes to a prophet, I the LORD will answer him myself in keeping with his great idolatry.  I will do this to recapture the hearts of the people of Israel, who have all deserted me for their idols.’  “Therefore say to the house of Israel, ‘This is what the Sovereign LORD says: Repent! Turn from your idols and renounce all your detestable practices!”  Ezekiel 14:1-6

Idols are Internal, because our desires and our worship
comes from our hearts.

Jere. 13:10- These wicked people, who refuse to listen to my words, who follow the stubbornness of their hearts and go after other gods to serve and worship them, will be like this belt—completely useless!

Isaiah 44: [concerning the idol worship] He feeds on ashes, a deluded heart misleads him; he cannot save himself, or say, “Is not this thing in my right hand a lie?”

IDOL PROMISES-the Allure of the Objects of our Worship: All objects of our Worship Promise us Something.
“All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.”  Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is
written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.” Matt. 4:9-10

The allure of false idols is that they promise to give you ‘all this’ – the primary lie
that Satan uses to deceive us and draw us away from worshiping the true God. . .
who and who alone gives us all we need and in whom is our greatest Joy.

An IDOL is typically made from the things that MEET (or promise to meet) OUR NEEDS:
Let us look again at Isaiah 44.  In verse 12-19, God’s Word describes a man who makes an idol.  He uses creation, which God has created for His glory and our good.  He first uses the various items to warm himself and feed himself.  After he is warm and full, he uses the rest to make an idol.  And although he has been fed and warmed by the gifts of God, he then bows down to what is left and says ‘you, you are my god.’

No one stops to think, no one has the knowledge or understanding to say, “Half of it I used for fuel;
I even baked bread over its coals, I roasted meat and I ate.
Shall I make a detestable thing from what is left?
Shall I bow down to a block of wood?”
Isaiah 44:19


In our SIN, our heart desires to Create our OWN gods rather than to worship and acknowledge the true, only GOD. As John Calvin once said, ‘our hearts are idol making factories.’   It is our desire to find something to worship. . . something to give ourselves to, live for, die for, and find our value in.  We will try anthing we can find, besides the Living God.  We will turn from Him, the Living Water, and seek to slirp the dirty waters of broken cisterns made by man.

“My people have committed two sins: They have forsaken me, the spring of living water,
and have dug their owncisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water.’
Jeremiah 2:13


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following your heart

The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure.
Jeremiah 17:9

Ok, so i know it is rare for me to reference people magazine.  and i do not, at all, desire to expound on or give my opinion about the celebrities from whom this magazine makes its income.

however, i read an article that i believe has great relevance to so many issues going on in my life and maybe yours.

last year i heard a lot about a popular ‘reality tv show’ involving a single guy, a lot of girls, and his pursuit to find a wife. this nice young man was cute, funny, and, i believe, grabbed the hearts of a lot of viewers.  i can remember the last episode of this tv program as this sweet young man professed his love for a certain young lady and, in what i am sure was near unison, thousands of woman all across the country cried out in an emphatic “NO!”

From this point on, bets were wagered and hours of time were given for viewers to express their thoughts and opinion on this decision, its consequences and ultimate outcome.

regardless of whether viewers were for or against the relationship, or whether or not anyone’s opinion even matters, it, at the end, didn’t work out.

at the beginning of the article, this newly single guy wants to set the record straight and proclaims, “for the skeptics out there, i followed my heart, and if i had to do it all over again, i would make the same decision over and over.”

although this statement is not unusual, in fact, it could be argued that this statement sums up the wisdom of many today, it is, at its core, a lamentable statement.

the truth of the matter is that following your heart, as popular as a phrase that is, most often than not leads to heart break. don’t get me wrong, our emotions play a big role in our decision making.  but, as scripture reveals, our emotions change day to day. . . like the tossing back and forth of the waves.  The heart, as Jeremiah reveals, is deceitful.  God  has given us sure methods and a true guide to help us make decisions.  Not only do we have rational minds to evaluate possibilities and friends and family to help give us a different (and usually more wise and level headed) perspective but God has given us His word. . a lamp unto our feet and light unto our path: a proven way by which our lives may be preserved, by which the young may remain pure, the weak made strong, and the ignorant made wise. (Ps. 119:9, 25, 28, 81, 105)

to simply follow your heart is, i fear, as this experienced bachelor said, to make the same decision (what some may call a mistake) “over and over again.”

such a travesty can be avoided.  we do not have to wander in the dark.  we do not have  to make the same choices over and over and realize only after that we went the wrong way.

The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure.
Jeremiah 17:9

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idolatry, prt. I

just a few months ago, i spent 2 weeks in India, Himachal Pradesh to be precise.  it is said that himachal pradesh translates to ‘the land of the gods.’ whether it’s name is derived from the beautiful, mountainess landscape, a stark contrast with the rest of the country, or whether it has to do with the hundreds of temples and thousands of gods that are worshipped in villages and homes across the region, the names seems appropriate.

i am from a country that looks at northern india as a foreign and strange land. a place where idols, big and small, are worshiped daily. families cling to small statues, praying, hoping for this ‘god’ to provide food, money and happiness.

reflecting on my trip, i have decided to write few blogs about the nature of idolatry. because, truth be told, idolatry hits a lot closer to home than many of us would like.  i was born to an idol worshipping family, grew up in a country of idol worshippers and walked in a land of many gods.

true, i can honestly say that in north GA i have never seen communities or families bow before a statue and pray desperately for its providence. but, an idol is not a statue.

What is an Idol?
let’s say i place before you 3 statues. they could be big or small, fat or thin. they could be made out of stone, wood, plastic, bronze or gold. they could be rough, smooth, shiny, or sharp. for the sake of this blog, lets say all 3 were the exact same in every way.  only 1, however, out of the 3, was an idol.   how could this be?

it is not the size of the statue, nor the material in which it is made out of that makes a statue an idol.  no, it is it’s function.  let’s suppose that 1  statue is a flower pot holder, quite ornate for any garden and the other is a fountain, a fine center peice to be sure.  surely you would say, ‘well trent, flower pot holders and fountains aren’t idols, of course the third statue would be the idol.’  that is a fair argument.  but i ask, where does it’s function originate?  is it in the mind of the artist?  the determination of the statue salesman?  the artist of the 1st statue, now being used as a potsoil dumping ground, may have designed and fashioned his statue to be an idol, sitting prominently in a temple square.  yet, here it sits, dirty, and covered with potsoil. 

at the end of the day, regardless of how an object is intended to be used, it is the user who determines it’s function.  the 3rd statue is not an idol simply because it is devoid of flowers.  it is an idol because it is the object of someone’s worship. 

it is the worshiper that makes an idol and idol. it is the worshipper who gives the idol it’s function. a statue is just a statue until a person bows before it, until a person places their hope in it.  as such, an idol can take any form or shape, come from any material or any place.  it can be a statue, a person, a toy, a car, a job title, bank account, relationship, or ideal.  an idol can be anything.

an idol is anything that we place our hope in apart from God.  anything that takes God’s rightful place as soveriegn, king, provider, and lord.  anything that we look to, apart from God, for comfort, happiness, fame and fortune (or whatever it is our heart desires) is an idol.

An Idol is not limited to Primitive Statues.  Idolatry does not exist only in asia.  I live in a land filled with idolatry. 
“An idol is not simply a statue of wood, stone, or metal; it is anything we love and pursue in place of God. In biblical terms, an idol is something other than God that we set our hearts on ( Luke 12:29;1 Cor. 10:6), that motivates us (1 Cor. 4:5), that masters orrules us (Ps. 119:133), or that we serve (Matt. 6:24).”                  -Ken Sande

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on the Attributes of God

Since i am on vacation, sitting in the relaxing setting of the beach, i have decided to start reading.  In the past, i have had a difficult time reading past chapter 3 of a book, regardless of its content.  in order to help finish what i start i have decided first of all to read a book that, by God’s grace, shall have lasting impact and second, to blog about what i read.

the book is ‘the attributes of God,’ by A.W. Pink.  So far, i have read the preface and chapter 1.  before continuing on to chapter 2, i have decided to write down the things that stood out to me.

“the spiritual and saving knowledge of God is the greatest need of every human creature” (7).  we are made to behold the glory of God.  to behold it and to respond in kind, in awe-inspired praise of the one who is and will always be.

we need, as Pink says, ‘more than a theoretical knowledge of God.’  on our own, we cannot know him.  we have not the cognitive ability to understand His greatness, comprehend His vastness, nor see clearly His holiness.  God is too big for us- not only in His fullness, but also in part.   we cannot imagine him so great, nor pursue knowledge of Him so as to consider ourselves acquainted with him.

God “cannot be found out by searching.  He can be known only as he is revealed to the heart by the Holy Spirit through the Word” (13).  If we are to know God, even in part, we must be dependent on Him to reveal Himself to us.  to break through our thickened minds and our wayward hearts- both to make known His truth and to apply it in our souls that we may be forever, completely changed by it.

Pink’s book is about knowing the perfect, personal qualities of God.  before we can understand God, we must first Known Him. (1 Cor. 2:14) We cannot know him personally until we are acquainted with God.  we cannot be acquainted with God until we can stand in His presence.  We cannot stand in His presence until we are sinless.  (Mal. 3:2)  We are not sinless.  (Rom. 3:23)  However, God sent Christ, while we were in the midst of our sinful state, to die in our place, upon the cross, and to receive God’s wrath for our sin. (Rom. 5:8)  Those who trust in Christ are made Alive again. (Eph. 2:4-5, John 3:3, 1 Peter 1:23) Born by the Spirit, with a new Heart (Ez. 36:26) and Mind to know God personally, and one day fully. (John 17:23,

Our Greatest need is to Know God
We cannot Know Him unless He reveals Himself to Us
God has revealed Himself through the Holy Spirit and His Word
The spiritually dead cannot understand the workings of the Spirit and the Word
You and I are spiritually dead, because of our sinful condition

We must be ‘made alive’ before we can know God
Because of Christ’s Redemptive Working, we can be Born Again
We are made alive through Faith in Christ
The Spirit enlivens by giving us a new Heart
The Spirit indwells the hearts of believers


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Trusting God

perhaps there is no greater feat than that of trusting God.  it seems like such a small thing.  common sense even.  but not trusting God is at the heart of the human condition.  trusting, in many ways, is an admittance of our own need, dependancy, or limitedness.  it makes us vulnerable- or at least that is how our heart can feel.

the truth is that trusting God is counter to our nature.  our hearts seek most often to be independent.  self reliant.  self sufficient.  in control.  in need of no one or nothing.  i guess you could say that our nature is to attempt to be like God in this manner.

make no mistake, trusting God is a big deal.  our culture is wrought with fears of many kinds.  anxieties abound.

trust.  i fear that we are often all too anxious to attempt such a feat.

but perhaps it is because we see too greatly the circumstances and stresses around us.  perhaps we are too closed off to the viewing of the divine who is supreme.  the scripture proclaims: Those who know your name will trust in you, for you, LORD, have never forsaken those who seek you. Ps. 9:10.

those who know God’s name.  who know God personally: His character, reputation, works and ways.  those who Know God will trust in Him. there is a sure result to knowing God.  it is Trust.

when we lack trust, when we grow anxious, we must re-fix our eyes on the author of our lives.  we must fix our aim on high.  recommit ourselves to the study of God’s grand attributes.  the psalmist proclaims, The LORD is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge. He is my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.

God is the only real refuge.

He is unchanging, Everlasting to Everlasting.
I am the Lord, I do not Change.  Mal. 3:6

those who run to him will never need to find a new shelter.  he outlasts all storms.  time does not weaken him or bring on
him any decay.  he remains the same.

He is Supreme.
No one can hold back his hand.  Dan. 4:35

All the peoples of the earth are regarded as nothing.  He does as he pleases with the powers of heaven and the peoples of the earth.

God is sovereign.
Nothing is above Him.  His power has no limit.  He can not be thwarted, pushed back or laid low.  He is our safest refuge, all waves break upon Him.

He Knows All things.
Great is our Lord, and of great power: His understanding is infinite. Ps 147:5

this, of course, includes whatever circumstance we are going through, have gone through or will go through.  Nothing surprises God, stumps Him, or throws Him off course.  He knows every thought Ez.11:5, every step
we take and where we will go Job 23:10.  His understanding
is infinitive, limitless.  He knows all that is,
will be or could be.

He is in Charge, what God has decreed, He will do.
He stands alone, and who can oppose Him?  He does whatever He pleases.  Job 23:13.

God has established His plan before the creation of the World.  His governing has no end.  As A.W. Pink wrote, “the care of Providence reaches to the most insignificant creatures, and the most minute events- the death of a sparrow, and the fall of a hair.” p. 17.

We can run to God because He is in control.
He has set out His own Purpose.
In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will.  Eph. 11:1

The scripture proclaims that we have been called according to His own purpose.  (Rom. 8:28, Eph 11:1)  our lives are not chance.
we are not left to our own demise, our own aims, planning,
or wayward dreams.  God has a purpose for us.

He is working for our Best.
‘we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are called according to His purpose.‘  Rom. 8:28.

In all things, God is working for our good, according to His purpose.  and that purpose is our greatest good, to be conformed into the perfect image of Christ. (8:29)

Our God can be trusted.  The more we learn of Him, the more we will run desperately to cling to Him.

_______________________________________________________________

Psalm 86:1-12:
Hear, O LORD, and answer me,

for I am poor and needy.

2 Guard my life, for I am devoted to you.
You are my God; save your servant
who trusts in you.

3 Have mercy on me, O Lord,
for I call to you all day long.

4 Bring joy to your servant,
for to you, O Lord,
I lift up my soul.

5 You are forgiving and good, O Lord,
abounding in love to all who call to you.

6 Hear my prayer, O LORD;
listen to my cry for mercy.

7 In the day of my trouble I will call to you,
for you will answer me.

8 Among the gods there is none like you, O Lord;
no deeds can compare with yours.

9 All the nations you have made
will come and worship before you, O Lord;
they will bring glory to your name.

10 For you are great and do marvelous deeds;
you alone are God.

11 Teach me your way, O LORD,
and I will walk in your truth;
give me an undivided heart,
that I may fear your name.

12 I will praise you, O Lord my God, with all my heart;
I will glorify your name forever.

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