Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Stolden Car

Stolen Car

I have never had a car stolen before. It was really a shock when we came out of the restaurant in Sofia, Bulgaria and our car was not there. First you try to think of where else you would have parked it. But slowly it sinks in, it is gone. At least our host pastor had not left yet so we begin the process of contacting the police. 

Filip contacted the police and they had us come to their station rather than them coming to us. At the police station we filled out all the paperwork. The police were not very encouraging. They said what usually happens is the car is hidden away, they will make contact with you and then offer a ransom for you to get it back. If you do not pay the ransom, then it will be disassembled and sold as parts.

Sure enough, they, through some odd circumstances , contacted our host pastor. The thieves wanted 2,500 Euros (about $2,700) to return the car. Also, the plan was to meet a man who would take the money, give us the keys and an address of where the car would be parked. This seemed really risky.
So Zuzanna and I begin to think through what this all meant. Of course, we just wanted the car back and we felt really violated and defrauded that there was a price to pay. People were telling us to just pay the ransom and some were saying not to. So many emotions were swirling around us. We decided we really needed advice from our NGO board and our spiritual leaders. So, we sent messages to them to contact us. As we waited for them to call, we begin to process the spiritual implications.

What would be the right thing to do? Three aspects in play here. 1) We really want this car back because we like it and need it. 2) Having to pay a ransom is money down the drain. 3) By paying the ransom, we are participating in a criminal coverup. The more we thought through it, number 3 is the one with deeper spiritual implications. How can we be praying against corruption in the Balkans if we participate in it? We felt this is a test allowed by our Father to see if we would stand worthy of advancement. 

A few weeks earlier we had been talking about needing to trade in the 2011 Peugeot for something younger. So, by time our leaders contacted us, we had decided we would never pay for the car’s return. They confirmed our decision.

In the “no” reply, I stated that we would pray God give them mercy and I quoted “Fear God and live”. And, by the way, they have now lowered the ransom to 1,000 Euros. 

We must remember 1 Cor, 10:13, No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.

1 Peter 1: 6. In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, 7. that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ, 8. whom having not seen you love.

1 Peter 1:6-8 seems to be the scripture reference that fits our situation and the growth we need to walk in; faith being tested by fire. We do believe in God’s economy: some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty [return].

I love the way God talks to me and leads me through the adventures of life. Such wisdom our Father has.

Friday, January 3, 2020

Three Types of Churches

Three Types of Churches

In most English versions of the Bible the word “church” is used 110 times. I have gone through the Bible and read these verses and have found four categories for the word translated church.

Biblical definition of church: From Greek “ekklesia”, where the word is a compound of two segments: "ek", a preposition meaning "out of", and a verb, "kaleo", signifying "to call" - together, literally, "to call out". Although that usage soon passed away and was replaced with "assembly, congregation, council", or "convocation". (Wikipedia dictionary) 

NOTE: In Matthew 16:18 Jesus did not state, “I will build My Temple” or “I will build My synagogue,” the two most prominent Jewish religious institutions at the time. Instead, He chose a secular entity first developed by the Greeks when He said, “I will build My Ekklesia.”
Mentioned in four categories but three types.

One is Universal Church: This would be all the saved, believers; those that believe Jesus is their Savior. Many times, the Universal Church is described as the Body of Christ (Jesus being the head and all believers making up His Body). This definition transcends denominations and covers all believers across the Earth and in heaven. Universal church, this definition covers 48 mentions in the Bible.

Test: How do you know a person, church or denomination is a believer. I like to use the Apostle John’s definition in 1 John 4: 2-3 “By this you know the Spirit of God; Every spirit that confesses that Jesus has come in the flesh is of God and every spirit that does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not of God.” Now this is tricky because you have to judge the spirit of a man. This means looking deep into a person’s words and deeds and discerning the motive. So, to pronounce a person, church or denomination as unbelievers is risky.

Second is City churches: This is where all the believers in a given city are the church of that city. Now we know that these city churches mentioned in the Bible were in the first century and there were many factors that accounted for this. First of all, there was misunderstanding and persecution from the cultures they were in. In this case the people of God tended to stick together for safety. Maybe the spirit of division was less active back then. In Jesus’ letters to the churches in Revelations, it is clear these messages were for city churches. City church is mentioned 37 times.

Third is House Churches: Paul and Luke clearly speak to churches in people’s homes or houses. This is where believers (families) would open their homes for other believers to meet. I would think this would mean, “local” community meetings where a portion of the believers from the city church. This definition is mentioned 5 times.

Forth, is were church could mean one of the above or all three. I’m sure a deeper study of the context would reveal which type was being referenced. This definition covers 20 mentions.

So, we have three definitions or types of churches. Only in the mention of the house churches is a building indicated. In the early part of Acts it does say they came together in the Temple; they also taught there. (Acts 2:46, Acts 3:1-10, Acts 5:20-21,24-25) Acts 5:42 goes on to mention how they did not cease teaching and preaching about Jesus in the Temple and from house to house.

I am not saying we are not to build church buildings for us to meet in. But there are two concepts here we can learn from scripture. The Early Church did meet in homes, but citywide unity was a distinguishing factor. Since separate institutional churches in the same city are not mentioned, I take this to be an indictment against division within the Church universal or at least within a city.

Remember the test the Apostle John gave us. Therefore, if a church across town does not believe like us doctrinally, then we should still accept them if they pass the 1 John 4: 2-3 test. Accepting churches that are doctrinally different is not heresy but rather showing unity as part of the Body. Unity does not have to be uniformity. I believe no one church has all or the complete Gospel (truth). The knowledge of God is so big that God only enlightens to a group what they need for their healing and the task He has for them. Just because they do not proclaim the Gospel the way we do, does not mean they are in error. Jesus’ commandment that we love one another should be our guiding principle.

Quoting Phillip Schaff, a highly respected 19th century Church historian, concerning early Church buildings:
That the Christians in the apostolic age [Early Church] erected special houses of worship is out of the question, even on account of their persecution by Jews and Gentiles, to say nothing of their general poverty; and the transition of a whole synagogue to the new faith was no doubt very rare. As the Saviour of the world was born in a stable, and ascended to heaven from a mountain, so his apostles and their successors down to the third century, preached in the streets, the markets, on mountains, in ships, sepulchres, eaves, and deserts, and in the homes of their converts. But how many thousands of costly churches and chapels have since been built and are constantly being built in all parts of the world …
(Schaff, Philip. History of the Christian Church & Ecclesiastical History: Kindle Edition)

I believe we should focus more on the house church and the city church concepts. We could apply more resources toward house to house teaching, healing, training and developing relationships. As far as the function of the city church, we could show unity by organizing events that engage the culture.
Ok, lets not have a knee-jerk reaction and close all the church buildings. But we can start transitioning toward developing the city churches that are made up of house gatherings.

I do see a need for church buildings to evolve into multi-use facilities. More of a public gathering place that provides services for the general public: coffee shop, hair salon, book store, restaurant, car repair, exercise rooms, etc. Places where Christian staff serve the public with honor and concern.Where we touch the culture with Jesus' love.