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Archive for the 'The Church' Category

© 2011 Jaco van Zyl

To read part 1 of this article, you may click here.

Since I was a Jehovah’s Witness for 13 years and served in various leadership capacities, I couldn’t honestly deny the striking, yet devastating similarities between what is written here and what I came to learn from the Watchtower organisation.  What took the Catholic Church centuries and generations to achieve, the Watchtower achieved in a matter of decades.  Here is why:

© 2011 Jaco van Zyl

Very early in his ministry, Jesus the Messiah made the purpose and ultimate goal of his appearance known in the synagogue in Nazareth when he read from Isaiah 61, saying, “The LORD’s spirit is upon me, because he anointed me to declare good news to the poor, he sent me forth to preach a release to the captives and a recovery of sight to the blind, to send the crushed ones away with a release, to preach the LORD’s acceptable year” (Luke 4:18, 19).  Freedom, release, liberation were the purpose and ultimate goal of Jesus’ saving ministry on earth.  Through the perfection he brought about in fulfilling everything of the Old Testament and sending the “helper” to guide his followers into all the truth, Christian freedom in Christ this side of the coming Age was established in the First Century.  So noble and central was this freedom to the true Christian that Paul wrote:

Unfortunetly I have noticed a sad trend in our churches.  We have some on one side who are serious about seeking truth and understanding doctrinal matters.  We have some on another side who are serious about living the simple truths of Jesus’ teaching.  The sad and unfortunate trend that I have observed is that thes two sides often are in opposition to one another.  The doctrinal side demeans the practical side because they don’t know the truth or seem to have a hunger to search the Scriptures.  The practical side demeans the practical side because they are only concerned about knowing things and not doing things.

Music is very powerful.  It stirs our hearts.  It’s leads us to cry.  It’s a call to shout.  It reminds us of past loves and different seasons.  It is a tool that teaches us.  It influences our minds and our culture.  Words to songs I never wanted to hear in the first place are still stuck in my head today.  Music is very powerful.

When music is used to worship God it is in it’s most powerful form.  It is a sacred bridge between things here on the earth and the throne room of the Almighty.  With that in mind, it’s good for us to be reminded of the importance of this portion of our own personal devotional life and our corporate gatherings as well.

In many people’s minds, the idea that Christmas evolved from Pagan feasts is given more credence by the fact that many Christmas customs were observed as part of Pagan religion and culture. Yule logs, holly, mistletoe, and evergreen decorations all play a part in many different Pagan festivals. But does that mean that they all stem from the same source? Lights and trees, revelry and gift-giving are common to many different celebrations in many different cultures. But this doesn’t prove that they are derived from the same source. If Christians use them at Christmas, why assume they were all taken from Paganism?

Some have downplayed the significance of the Kingdom because it isn’t mentioned by name as much in the rest of the New Testament, outside of the Synoptic Gospels. But it is mentioned in certain significant passages and tied in with other concepts, using other terminology. The epistles are addressed to people who have already accepted the Gospel of the Kingdom, and now see it from the point of view of “heirs” – a word mentioned quite frequently in the epistles. The promise that Abraham and his seed should be “the heir of the world” (not of “heaven”) is referred to in Romans 4:13-14. And Christians are called heirs in Romans 8:17; Galatians 3:29; 4:1,7; Titus 3:7; Hebrews 1:14; James 2:5; I Peter 3:7.

Since the Reformation, it has been taught more and more among Protestants that Jesus declared the Kingdom to have arrived, but that he taught his disciples the “true” understanding of the Kingdom, namely that of God’s reign in one’s heart.  In addition, another common misunderstanding that leads to the belief that the Kingdom must have been redefined is the question of when Jesus expected it to take place. If Jesus had indeed meant a political kingdom that would overthrow Israel’s oppressors, he would seem to have been wrong about it being “at hand.” Much is made of Jesus’ supposed belief that his return would be in the lifetime of his disciples, but he told them he did not know when he was going to return (Matthew 24:36; Mark 13:32).

Jesus proclaimed that the Kingdom of God was near, but that there would be an interim period before it was fully inaugurated. The Kingdom, to him, was primarily the eschatological (end-times) reign and judgment of Messiah on earth. It is in this sense that it would fulfill the promises to Abraham and David, and the many prophecies of the Day of the Lord and the coming of the Son of Man.

CBS News: Evangelists Target Unreligious New England

In New England, we battle the hard hearts of skeptics while enjoy the open-mindedness of those searching. Engaging our neighbors and communities is important – and there is a way to do it right. Forget the marketing strategies or membership drives, get into conversations with the people you’re around. I think that the challenge facing New England in regards to evangelism and outreach is not in the people who need the gospel, its found in the people who supposedly don’t.

SteepleSean and I attended a church service this past Sunday night which got me thinking about the role and function of the church. Certainly we know that biblically, “the church” is not the building, but the people who gather together, be it in a building, a home or on the street who are joining together to worship God, encourage each other and take time to read Scripture, share a message, sing, pray, etc. Different people have different experiences and what they consider the church and I’m not writing this to talk about which version is best, what should be included, removed etc.

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