Friday, May 29, 2009

Bible Study without a Permit

The phenomena of churches promoting home Bible studies has continued to increase all across the country. There are many practical benefits. For example, it promotes building relationships in a less formal setting. It gives opportunities for laymen to use their spiritual gifts. In addition, home Bible studies provide another avenue for outreach within the community. The days of informal fellowships may be numbered.   


The pendulum of attitudes in America is slowly swaying towards secularism. I did not think I would live to see the day in which rule makers would create, interpret, and enforce an action against hosting a home Bible study. But it happened. Fox News reports that “Pastor David Jones and his wife Mary have been told that they cannot invite friends to their San Diego, California home for a Bible study—unless they are willing to pay tens of thousands of dollars to San Diego County.


It is impossible to tell if the motivation for this action is for the purpose of collecting money or for creating an unfavorable environment for faith to flourish. In any case events like this are likely to continue and be repeated across the country, especially if San Diego County is successful. I do not want to sound like an alarmist, but ten years ago, who would have thought the proponents of homosexual marriage would have so much success today.


What can we do?


1.      Pray.


" Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence." (1 Timothy 2:1-2, NKJV)


Pray that God would grant us a country in which we can freely communicate the Gospel free from political harassment. Pray that we take every opportunity now to continue to share the Gospel.


2.      Vote.


In many cases we are not left with much of a choice. Through the years for me voting has been a choice of lesser evils. But how do you make a choice when there are pro’s and con’s for each candidate. For the Christian the priority should be Biblical morality.


3.      Trust.


It is easy to allow events like these to cause us to think that God is not ultimately in control of all things. He is.


"Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God;" (Philippians 4:6, NKJV)


4.      Obey.


There may come a point in time in which our obedience to Christ cause us to be at odds with our community.


"So one came and told them, saying, “Look, the men whom you put in prison are standing in the temple and teaching the people!” Then the captain went with the officers and brought them without violence, for they feared the people, lest they should be stoned. And when they had brought them, they set them before the council. And the high priest asked them, saying, “Did we not strictly command you not to teach in this name? And look, you have filled Jerusalem with your doctrine, and intend to bring this Man’s blood on us!” But Peter and the other apostles answered and said: “We ought to obey God rather than men. The God of our fathers raised up Jesus whom you murdered by hanging on a tree. Him God has exalted to His right hand to be Prince and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. And we are His witnesses to these things, and so also is the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey Him.”" (Acts 5:25-32, NKJV) 

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Accountability: Cord Groups

Ecclesiastes 4:12 Though one may be overpowered by another, two can withstand him. And a threefold cord is not quickly broken.

Tonight at our Wednesday Evening Bible Fellowship we will be discussing the topic of Accountability. By accountability I mean the intentional relationship between a few Christians for the purpose of mutual encouragement in sanctification. We are individually accountable to God and should mutually be answerable to each other for the purposes of spiritual growth.

Accountability is perhaps the most overlooked spiritual disciplines in the church today. In our culture it is easy to live in the spiritual realm of anonymity. Many Christians live in a superficial way because they have no fellow believer who we have granted the right to confront spiritual hypocrisy. In addition, it is hard to see your own short comings. It is much easier to notice the minor flaws in others than the major failings in our own lives.

Matthew 7:5 Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.

A friend of mine in college always referenced this text illustrating it as a toothpick compared to a telephone pole. You get the imagery. This would be really funny if it were not so true.
The apostle Paul challenged the Church at Galatia to be proactive in our mutual accountability.

Galatians 6:1-2 Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted. 2 Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.

In most churches today the act of real restoration is practically nonexistent. Perhaps one of the reasons why this is true is because Christians are not encouraged to practice mutual accountability for the purpose of reciprocal sanctification.

One of the best ways I have found to foster personal accountability is to encourage likeminded Christians to meet in small groups of three on a regular basis (1-2 times per month) and submit to mutual accountability. I call them cord groups based on Ecclesiastes 4:12.

Ecclesiastes 4:12 Though one may be overpowered by another, two can withstand him. And a threefold cord is not quickly broken.

Three is better than two because from time to time one may not be available. In addition, having a third point of view can help arbitrate between two different views. Once you get beyond three or four then the group loses its personal intimacy. It is wise not to expect confidentiality with a wider group of people.

The format of the meetings should include fellowship, prayer, and Bible reading. But the main purpose is to address issues that lead to accountability. I have found that having a set of questions like the example below provides an objective way to get to the heart of the matter.

Sample Questions

Accountability Questions

1. Have you been with someone this week in such a way that was inappropriate or could have looked to others that you were using poor judgment?

2 Corinthians 7:1 Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.

2. What was your biggest joy this week?

John 15:11 “These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full.

3. Have you been completely above board in your financial dealings this week?

Luke 16:10 He who is faithful in what is least is faithful also in much; and he who is unjust in what is least is unjust also in much.

4. In what ways have you encouraged someone or has someone encouraged you to love and good works?

Hebrews 10:24 And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works,

5. Have you purposely exposed yourself to any explicit material (pornographic and/or sexually suggestive material) this week?

Philippians 4:8 Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.

6. What principles impacted your life from your daily time in prayer and in God’s Word this week?

Psalm 1:2-3 But his delight is in the law of the Lord, And in His law he meditates day and night. He shall be like a tree Planted by the rivers of water, That brings forth its fruit in its season, Whose leaf also shall not wither; And whatever he does shall prosper.

7. What opportunities have you had to share Christ with others and or disciple them in the faith?

Matthew 28:19-20 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen.

8. In what ways did you express encouragement and praise to your spouse, kids, or another family member this week?

Ephesians 5:22 Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord.
Ephesians 5:25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her,
Ephesians 6:4 And you, fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord.

9. Is there anyone you need to ask for forgiveness from or anyone to forgive?

Matthew 6:13-14 And do not lead us into temptation, But deliver us from the evil one. For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen. “For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.

10. Have you just lied to us?

1 John 1:6 If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth.