Monday, September 15, 2008

Romans, a rich start

So, this year I have taken over leading the prayer group that meets in my apartment early Wednesday mornings. It has been a phenomenal time over the last few years, and I am blessed that we are continuing it. I am so constantly encouraged by the rich fellowship and the spiritual growth that comes through praying together.

This year we have changed from our past format of picking a verse from no particular location in the Bible and looking at it together, to working through the book of Romans. I loved the previous method of looking all over scripture, but this is looking to be excellent as well. Our hope is to let people have the option to look ahead and chew through the passage on their own before digging in as a group. Also in doing this we will likely go through many verses that I would not have otherwise chosen. The plan is to take as long as we need to in order to get through the book, I would be incredibly surprised if we make it very far, being that we only made it through the first 5 verses last week. This way we can dig as deep as we can :)

I have also thoroughly enjoyed preparing for leading the discussion as a group. The text is so deep and I love to catch glimpses of what God rich gift of His word that He has given to us. The more that I study the more that I realize I don't know... which makes me just want to learn more.

Sooo My plan in writing up this post was to put my notes up to share with the world (as if people actualy read this haha) but... apparently I don't know how to upload the file, and the format is really weird if I just copy it in. whatever somebody will tell me how to do it hopefully and I then edit the post to contain the notes.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

A few thoughts on the sacraments...

Where I stand right now concerning the sacraments of baptism and communion. I wrote this up because I needed to process some thoughts and then decided to post it in hopes that it might be helpful for others.

- - - - - -

Oh that God would continue to work in my heart and teach me! For by no means have I completely understood the depths of these matters.

I believe that the efficacy of a sacrament is not based upon the piety of the administrator, the understanding of they that partake, nor even upon the method performed, but upon the power an almighty God and the work of His Holy Spirit upon the hearts of those who are present, whether they have received the redeeming grace of God or not. Therefore I believe we ought to do our best to facilitate this work of the spirit by including the words of institution and performing the sacraments not merely in private individualism, but as members of the body of Christ in the midst of vigorous, yet reverent worship. So that in doing this we can proclaim the insatiable grace of God to His people and to those that we hope to join us in His grace.

Baptism and communion ought to bind us together as the body of Christ in the visible church. They are signs that show who are members of God’s church and recognize His work in their lives and should only be performed by those who, to the best of our human understanding, are members of the church. Remember that the church is not made up of merely those who are members of the group you call “your church” nor is it those who have the same theological outlook as you. Instead it is made up of those whom God has made His own and redeemed through the death and resurrection of his Son and the moving of the Holy Spirit. So in this I believe that we should do our best to correctly perform the sacraments ourselves and to work with those who we have built relationships with to do likewise. Yet, when worshiping with fellow believers out of a desire for unity we need to remember that it is God who has ordained one baptism and one communion. Their effectiveness comes from God himself and it is He that should be concerned with its validity.

Am I saying that we should carelessly accept everything, No! We should constantly call out to God for further understanding and in everything proclaim His grace. If this means that in order to not be a stumbling block, and to share in the worship of God with a fellow believer we need to participate in a differing expression of a sacrament, I think that we should do so. Providing that we are indeed still focusing on the worship of God and displaying His grace to those around. Every situation is different so we should be in constant prayer concerning how we should behave, while all the while taking deep comfort in God’s great sovereignty.

Oh that God will continue to bless us with His grace, teach us, bind us together in his love, and give us boldness to express His gift to those who he has put in our lives. I am confident that He is working in our lives and will continue His good work until we are complete in Him!