They will put you out of the synagogues. Indeed, the hour is coming when whoever kills you will think he is offering service to God. John 16:2

Jesus is discussing how we we recognize the end times.  Ever have that feeling that you aren't in the circle?  Realize that you're not part of the mix?  Ever had the Elders decide you were unfit?  Or been asked not to attend services?  

A recent example: A couple who were formally (as in with a letter) instructed to never return to Church.  The reason?  They were filled with the Spirit, spoke in tongues (in private prayer) ... "Too charismatic."  And too assertive where active Christianity encountered a stale congregation. This happened in a small rural "Community Bible Church".  It can happen within established Evangelistic brands too.

For clarity, Wikipedia.org defines it for us

Ostracism (Greek: ὀστρακισμός, ostrakismos) ... "It was used as a way of neutralizing someone thought to be a threat to the state or potential tyrant.  (or church!) 

A modern use developed from the term is to describe informal exclusion from a group through social rejection. Although the psychology of ostracism takes this further, where it has been defined as “...any behavior in which a group or individual excludes and ignores another group or individual”.  This could therefore be an intentional act or an unintentional one."

If our Christian walk results in finding ourselves "outside" ... maybe we're doing something right.  But it better be an authentic walk!

"May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer." Ps. 19:14

Lord, this is the prayer! 

Woe to Absent Shepherds

posted Feb 7, 2013, 1:29 PM by David Gerhart   [ updated Feb 7, 2013, 2:04 PM ]

Suffering Christians should be concerned when over a period of months or years there is a continued absence of meaningful contact with the Pastors and Elders in their church.  This meaningful contact would happen outside of church services, and not in "passing by" -- A Shepherds' love is expressed in the form of visitation.  The absence of participation in the lives of struggling sheep is an indicator of a sterile ministry.

"You have not strengthened the weak or healed the sick or bound up the injured. You have not brought back the strays or searched for the lost. You have ruled them harshly and brutally." Ezekiel 34:4

An offer of an “accountability partner” does not count.  We are accountable to God, then our Spouse ... and to make amends when we sin against another (like stealing his truck.)  As if repeatedly confessing errors to another person wouldn't eventually result in scorn and judgement.

When we sin against ourselves (our bodies which are temples of the spirit) ... our issues are with the Lord and our amends are to Him.

An accountability partner attempts to elevate people pleasing behavior to the point that it “interferes” with doing wrong.  If we’re more apt to stop drinking because we’ll disappoint "Joe" and less concerned about disappointing Jesus?  We have deeper issues with our faith.

Psychology and Counseling tools devised in the secular world have crept into our Christian relationships.  We need to be careful.

On absent Shepherds of Ezekiel 34 Dainiel Isaac Block comments:

"... but in this mtaphorical context, such slaughter represents the most blatant violation of the sheperd's role, presumably judicial murder.  The triad of accusations concludes with a reiteration of the general charge in V.2. The rulers have taken excellent care of themselves, but they have not cared for the flock.

The crimes of omission reflect a stratum of _ "pastors" representing the antithesis of responsible shepherds.  First they have shown no concern for the physical health of the flock.  They have not strengthened the weak, healed the sick or bound up the injured.  Second they have shown no concern for the sheep that have left the flock.  They have neither gone after the strays nor sought the lost. Instead of caring for the flock, the shepherds have ruled over them with harshness and brutality." Daniel Isaac Block The Book of Ezekiel pp 282-283

If you've been "excused" from fellowship, and the Pastor doesn't follow up?  Be comforted.  Go on to read further in this area of scripture:

“‘For this is what the Sovereign Lord says: I myself will search for my sheep and look after them. As a shepherd looks after his scattered flock when he is with them, so will I look after my sheep. I will rescue them from all the places where they were scattered on a day of clouds and darkness."  Ezekiel 34:11-12

Believer vs believer

posted Feb 7, 2013, 1:00 PM by David Gerhart

"Faith that fails testing cannot be trusted" spoke the bible teacher two days before an inquisition was planned into the faith of a member suffering a genuine "thorn in the flesh."

1 Cor. 5:5-8

When the Elder called, it was to schedule a meeting to assess the fitness of the person to continue fellowship.  No pressure. 

There is an evil that the church has perpetrated perhaps since its very beginnings ... that men naturally create perimeters for themselves. Something that doesn't meet the criteria is examined, inquired of...  Where disruption is encountered, it's ejected in favor of retaining the comforts of the predictable.  Some of this is biblical -- should a member be found to be teaching against the acknowledged truth of scripture.

But what disruption?  An inconsistent attendance?  The seldom-sought prayer for a spouse in trouble?  That it goes on, that deliverance hasn't happened yet?  By who's assertion is another unfit for fellowship? Is it because the truth is expressed, confessed openly -- rather than covered up?

Well, certainly the "Elders" are empowered.  But does owning a capacity infer that it must be exerted?  The permissible context is narrow.

In the Corinthians 5 instance, the man sleeping with his brother's wife was evidently aggrandizing and devoting himself to "freedoms" that didn't exist, that Paul goes on in the letter to confine.  This person was an enemy of God and cast out because, apparently, he solicited others into the same interpretation.  He was proudly and overtly undermining the truth of Christ's teaching.  This is a "Presumptuous Sin." (Which is unpardonable and discussed in another post on this site -- follow that link.)  Korah's rebellion (Numbers 15:30)is an excellent example of the "Presumptuous" sin -- where sinful action is taken in direct defiance and subterfuge of the Lords word and his appointed processes.

The pattern for ANY believer is faith in the forgiveness of Jesus Christ.  We are born in sin, and over the course of a life pursuing Christian Faith --  "... running the good race" we face different obstacles.  Some are more difficult to overcome.  We fail, we confess, are restored.

So, on who's timeline for results do we operate?  From whom do we seek approval?

We cannot hope to gain the kingdom of God serving the interests of men, even if we act forcefully and willfully within ourselves to correct something our Pastor contends with us on -- we will not reach God by pleasing the Pastor.   We are encouraged in scripture to emulate the Apostles ... what we emulate is their single-minded devotion and accountability before God. 

We are accountable to the Lord.  If a brother authentically confesses his error and restarts his walk, Jesus is pleased.

Cast out! Killed off.

posted Feb 6, 2013, 5:38 PM by David Gerhart   [ updated Feb 6, 2013, 5:38 PM ]

A way of discerning an authentic walk is to watch the path unfold.  

An encounter with difficulty in the life of a brother or sister initially brings out a kind of support that is loving, time passes there are offers of accountability partners, suggestions that other actions be taken ... impatience emerges, if well disguised.  Exasperation!  There has been enough, we are done -- cast them back out into the world for the death of their flesh (see 1 Corinthians 5.)

Or the opposite.  Patience, kindness, forgiveness, long suffering.  The character and relationships between members is built up because the lost sheep is returned to the fold.  In a similar situation Peter asked:

"“Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?”  Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times"  Mathew18:21-22

The key and critical factor is us: how can we forgive?  If we can't then it's time to trim some Tares.  Seriously?

"Let both grow together until the harvest. At that time I will tell the harvesters: First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned; then gather the wheat and bring it into my barn." Matthew 13:30.

An expressed aspect of Pastors' work is to go out among the sheep.  What we find is that instead the sheep are gathered together to see the shepherd each Sunday and the really good ones come again on Wednesday.  This aspect of absentee Pastors is prevalent when, as earlier discussed, exasperation has begun to mount.  The sheep that wander are too much trouble!

The simple fact is that the work of shepherding is returning the sheep to the fold.  And this is what Christ explained to his disciples.

"Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Does he not leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? Luke 15:4

"It takes what it takes." is an AA / Alanon truth that many have realized to be actual.

"If anyone loves me he will keep my word." John 14:23

Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. Joshua 1:8

Since we are discussing the authentic truth, interpreting Christs words for those who suffer from chronic sinful issues means that we learn with each failing episode to regain our sense of what God has spoken into our lives: That drinking or drugging (for instance) isn't good, it's not right in His eyes.  But since we love Him, His promise is that as we "keep" His word (on our lips and in our hearts) it will begin to change us.

For some the change is immediate. For others, the suffering will linger on and on. Our inability to control our urges prevents us from grasping the lesson and moving on in our walk. But if we keep on keeping with that Word, the Lord is faithful and we will be changed.

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