Thursday, September 22, 2016

Malachi’s Message to the Church

This last book of the old Testament contains six messages from the heart of a pastor/prophet named Malachi. At the time when Malachi preached, the temple had been rebuilt, but it paled in comparison to Solomon’s temple which had previously been destroyed by the Babylonians. The priests  and Levites during Malachi’s time were apathetic and led the people into sin, not out of it. Worshipers offered inferior animals as sacrifices and neglected God’s requirements for tithes and offerings.
Malachi confronted a people given to religious cynicism, political skepticism, and spiritual disillusionment. They expected prosperity, and they expected the new covenant promised through Jeremiah, but the saw none of these things. In the minds of many, God had failed his people.
Malachi’s message was an attempt to motivate the people to conform to God’s plan. They could neither expect nor receive God’s covenant promises through all their disobedience and shameful acts of worship.
The first message to the people is that God has “always loved Israel.” (Malachi 1:2 NLT) He had not rejected them, but they had rejected Him. God had chosen them as His own people but they spurned His covenant love.
The second message to the people was aimed at the Levites and the priests sewing in the second temple. The worship of the Father and Lord of all was dishonoring and disrespectful to Him. They had defiled altars with tainted sacrifices disregarding thoughts of offering to Him the very best. Are the altars of the church today becoming disregarded as a place to connect people with a closer encounter with God?
The third message spoke to the husbands and wives to be true to their vows of marriage. He called them to stop being unfaithful to each other and to stop divorcing. He called for faithfulness to each other. (Malachi 2:14 NLT) “You cry out, ‘why doesn't the Lord accept my worship?’ I’ll tell you why! Because the Lord witnessed the vows you and your wife made when you were young. But you have been unfaithful to her, though she remained your faithful partner, the wife of your marriage vows.” Does the rate of increase of divorce among God’s people today have an effect upon the purity of worship in our lives?
The fourth message related to God’s justice for adultery, dishonesty, in business and social affairs. God will purify the leaders by refining them in order to bring purity to their hearts. (Malachi 3:3-5 NLT)
The fifth message emphasized God’s faithfulness to His word and called His people to faithfulness in worship, especially in the giving of tithes and offerings. (Malachi 3:8-11 NLT)
The final message spoke of God’s desire for Israel to be honest and faithful in worship, in view of the coming day of the Lord. (Malachi 3:16-18 NLT)

Monday, September 12, 2016

Why A Small Group?  It’s Scriptural.

As we study the first New Testament church in Acts we see 2 strategies they used. The first is Large Group gatherings for the purpose of corporate worship and instruction by spiritual leaders. The second is Small Group gatherings for the purpose of fellowship and discipleship. Both are important. We all need to gather for instruction and worship as the larger church family and we also need to be connected,  disciple others, and be discipled. I love how the Message translation states Matt 18 -19.  “God authorized and commanded me to commission you: Go out and train everyone you meet, far and near, in this way of life, marking them by baptism in the threefold name: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Then instruct them in the practice of all I have commanded you. I’ll be with you as you do this, day after day after day, right up to the end of the age.”    

The Benefits.
It connects me to the body of Christ. The way God designed our bodies is a model for understanding our lives together as a church: every part dependent on every other part.

2. I get a better understanding of the Bible. I can ask questions, learn from others, and share what I know.

3. Pray together. “When two of you get together on anything at all on earth and make a prayer of it, my Father in heaven goes into action. And when two or three of you are together because of me, you can be sure that I’ll be there.”    

4. Give and receive care and support. “Live creatively, friends. If someone falls into sin, forgivingly restore him, saving your critical comments for yourself. You might be needing forgiveness before the day’s out. Stoop down and reach out to those who are oppressed. Share their burdens, and so complete Christ’s law. If you think you are too good for that, you are badly deceived.”  

Expect to know you are not alone.
Expect to find other people who are new to the small group experience.
Expect to start some new relationships.
Expect that trust will deepen over time.
Expect to learn something new.
Expect to have an opportunity to use your spiritual gifts.