Monthly Archives: December 2014

25 Early Christian Characteristics/Norms

  1. Early Christians loved, studied, kept, and copied Scripture. This love for Scripture usually was stained in their blood, as most died defending the faith.
  2. Early Christians were called “atheist” because they worship unseen god.
  3. The spread of the Gospel was mostly carried out by normal everyday people as they travelled throughout the land. Yes, the apostles did great work, but most of the missionary work was carried out by countless and nameless Christians who for different reasons-persecution, business, or missionary calling-traveled from place to place taking the news of the Gospel with them.
  4. Interpretation of Scripture was done allegorically.
  5. Early Christians did not consider themselves followers of a new religion. All their lives they had been Jews, and they still were. This was true of Peter and the twelve, of the seven, and of Paul. Their faith was not a denial of Judaism, but rather the conviction that the messianic age had finally arrived. Early Christians did not reject Judaism, but were convinced that their faith was the fulfillment of the age-long expectation of a Messiah.
  6. Communion did not focus on the death of Jesus, it focused on the resurrection of Jesus and His victory by which a new age had dawned.
  7. Two days were set aside for weekly fasting. (Wednesday and Friday)
  8. Early Christians were not only persecuted by the Romans, but mostly by Jews. Jews looked at Christianity as a simply another heretical sect. Read Acts 18. This helped the Gospel message to spread as Christians had to scatter throughout the land.
  9. When Christians were blamed for the fire that Nero started, Tacticus, a pagan historian of the time, did not believe that Christians set the fire and disapproves of Nero’s “refined cruelty.” Tacticus even says, Christians “were not being destroyed for the common good, but rather to satisfy the cruelty of one person.”
  10. Early Christians were considered “haters of humankind” because they did not take part in social activities that were entwined with pagan worship. In Roman eyes, you are supposed to love the culture and society.
  11. The distinction between Jews and Christians was not clear in the minds of Roman authorities, thus both Jew and Christian were persecuted for following any “Jewish practices.”
  12. Early Christians viewed martyrdom as being chosen by God and as a gift from God.
  13. Early Christians were not specifically killed for being a “Christian,” but for not praying to other gods, burning incense before the image of the emperor, and cursing Christ. Christians, by the mere fact of being such, were not committing any crime against society or against the state. Therefore, the resources of the state should not be wasted in seeking them out. But, once accused and brought before the authorities, Christians had to be forced to worship the gods of the empire, or face punishment.
  14. Early Christians in the second century were not constantly persecuted. Sometimes they were persecuted in some areas of the Empire, and not in others.
  15. Because of 13, above, to have a good relationship with your neighbor was very important. If any believed the evil rumors (as there were many) about Christians, they would be accused, and persecution would break out. For this reason it was very important to show that those rumors were untrue, and to give pagans a better and more favorable understanding of Christianity. This was the task of the apologists.
  16. Some rumors created by insufficient knowledge of pagans:

Christians had a meal together called the “love feast.” Also, Christians called each other “brother” and “sister” and there were many who spoke of their spouses as their “sister” or “brother.” Pagans then took these two facts and came up with the idea that Christian worship was an orgiastic celebration in which Christians ate and drank to excess, put the lights out, and vented their lusts in the indiscriminate and even incestuous unions.

Communion is referred to as the body and blood of Christ (also He came as a baby). Thus, pagans came up with the idea that Christians concealed a newborn in a loaf of bread, and then ordered a new “Christian” to cut the loaf. When this was done, they all joined in eating the warm flesh of the infant. The new “Christian” was then forced to remain silent about what took place.

  1. Pagans thought Christianity was a religion of barbarians who derived their teaching, not from Greeks or Romans, but from Jews, a primitive people whose best teachers never rose to the level of Greek philosophers.
  2. Some questions that early apologist had to answers:

Why can you not see your god?

If pagan gods are false, why fear them?

Why not worship them, even if one does not believe in them?

If Jesus was truly the Son of God, why did He allow himself to be crucified?

Why did Jesus not destroy all His enemies?

What could the purpose of such a visit to earth by God?

What would happen to Christians whose bodies were destroyed by fire, eaten by beasts, or by fish?

What will God do with those parts of matter that belonged to more than one body?

  1. All Christians agreed that the worship of the gods, and everything related to that worship, must be rejected. This included civil ceremonies, military service, and the study of classical literature, which were all entwined with immorality, pagan and emperor worship.
  2. Some Christians believe that nothing good could come from pagan philosophy and stayed away from anything that had to do with the pagan culture. Others, like Justin Martyr, claimed that there were several points of contact between Christianity and pagan philosophy. Such as:

Supreme being which every other being derives its existence

Eternal life beyond physical death

  1. Early Christians talked about in the address To Diognetus:

Christians are not different form the rest in their nationality, language or customs… They live in their own countries, but as sojourners. They fulfill all their duties as citizens, but they suffer as foreigners. They find their homeland wherever they are, but their homeland is not in any once place… they are in the flesh, but do not live according to the flesh. They live on earth, but are citizens of heave. They obey all laws, but they live higher than that required by law. They love all, but all persecute them

  1. Even though Christians refused to worship the emperor, and even while persecuted by the authorities, they continued praying for the emperor and admiring the greatness of the Roman Empire.
  2. Early Christians were pro-life. Non-Christians, if a woman has a female baby, it was not considered a daughter, unless the father declared the baby his daughter. If the father did not declare the baby his daughter, the baby was set outside in the elements to die.
  3. Early Christianity was able to grow more and more, thanks in part to evangelism by the common folk, and different plagues that came during the first couple centuries. While people with money, doctors and pagan temple workers, were able to flee the plague stricken areas, a high percentage of people were left behind. For the Christian, they had no fear of death and were more than willing to help treat those who were sick. The results of this aid by early Christian saw a high conversion rate of pagan worshippers to Christianity.
  4. In pagan worship and culture, it was completely normal to share your spouse and children with other people. Adulterous, homosexual, and pedophilia acts were totally acceptable during this time especially in pagan temple worship. Christians were known for sharing everything they had, except their spouses (heterosexual) and children.

 

Some Reading:

Getting to Know the Church Fathers by Bryan Litfin 

http://www.amazon.com/Getting-Know-Church-Fathers-Introduction-ebook/dp/B00B85428M/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1420057300&sr=1-2&keywords=bryan+liftin

The Story of Christianity: Volume 1 by Justo L. Gonzalez

http://www.amazon.com/Story-Christianity-Justo-L-Gonzalez-ebook/dp/B00JOGB2DU/ref=sr_1_sc_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1420057367&sr=1-2-spell&keywords=early+christianity+gonzals

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Books, Church Life

Book Review: Note-Taker’s Bible, NKJV

This Bible is designed for those of you who like to take notes in your Bible, but do not have enough room in the margin. It does not have anything extra in it like commentary, devotionals, or maps but it is a perfect Bible for everyday reading and writing. It’s made so that it lies mostly flat, and you do not have to worry about losing your spot as there is no need for creasing or pressing the pages down. I usually use the ESV version and I couldn’t remember the last time I read the NKJV. I compared the book of Philippians between both of them. I am not sure of all the changes made from the KJV to the NKJV, but I found it easy to read and written in a understanding way.

What I enjoyed about this Bible is that it is just a simple Bible. Nothing extra in it and wide margins for writing. You can take the front sleeve off the Bible, so that it is just a hardcover. It was designed to look very clean and easy to read. At the bottom of the pages it gives cross-references and literal words in both the Hebrew and the Greek. Sometimes with Bibles that have commentary, I find myself reading the commentary more than reading the actual Scripture.

I would say the two things that I would change, to the design/layout that is, are:

  1. Adding lines to the margins so it is easier to writer neatly.
  2. Making the font size bigger, as it seems very small.

*My review is mostly in reference to the design and usability of this Bible, not to the Scripture.

BookLook Bloggers provided me with a complimentary copy of this book or advanced reading copy.

Leave a comment

Filed under Books, Church Life

A Taste of Ignatius of Antioch

Letter to the Romans 2-6

Ignatius wrote ahead to the church at Rome asking them not to attempt to prevent his death. In his passionate desire for martyrdom, we sense the bishop’s wish to make his final act count for eternity. If we are sensitive here, we can also read between the lines to find a man struggling with fear: fear of the pain that awaits him, and fear that he will not measure up to what is expected in his moment of trial. Ignatius describes to the Romans the man he hopes to be. It’s as if he is steeling himself for what lies ahead. The letter reminds us that this was no superhuman saint, but a humble Christian trying to set his eyes on Jesus rather than the things of the world.

I’ll never again have an opportunity like this to reach God. Nor will you Romans ever again have such a chance to be credited with a finer accomplishment-provided you remain silent. For if you quietly refrain from interfering with me, I will become a crystal-clear message from God. But if you love my earthly body too much, I’ll only be an incomprehensible noise. I ask you to grant me nothing but this: that my blood should be poured out as an offering to God while I still have an altar available to me. In your love, you can become the accompanying choir for my sacrifice. You will sing praises to the Father in Jesus Christ because God has deemed me, the bishop of Syria, worthy to be summoned from the East to the West. Oh how good it is to be like the sun now setting on this world-for that means I will soon rise up into the presence of God! … I do have one prayer request. Pray that I’ll have strength in my soul and in my physical body, so that I won’t just give lip service to martyrdom but will actually desire to go through with it. I don’t want to merely call myself a Christian-I want to back it up when it counts. For if I can back up my words, then I will be worthy of the name of Christian. I will be known as a man of faith even when the world can’t see me anymore. It’s not the things you can see that have true value. For example, our God Jesus Christ revealed his glory even more clearly when he ascended back to the Father and disappeared. Nothing is really achieved by trying to persuade people. Christianity’s true power is discovered only when it is hated by the world. I’m writing letters to all the churches so I can proclaim clearly to everyone that I’m totally willing to die for God. But I can only do that if you won’t interfere. I beg you, don’t try to show me a “kindness” that I don’t really want. Allow me to serve as food for those savage animals-for through them I can reach God! I like to think of myself as God’s own wheat. I must be ground up into flour by the teeth of those beasts so I can be baked into a pure loaf of bread for Him. Instead of interfering, it would be far better for you to urge those animals on! Let them become my tomb and completely devour me. I don’t want to burden you with having to collect my remains after I have died. Only then will I be a disciple of Jesus Christ in the fullest sense: when the world can no longer see my physical body. So pray to the Lord for me! Ask that by means of these animals I might become a sacrifice to God. Please understand, I’m not giving you orders as if I were Peter or Paul. They were apostles, but I’m just a condemned criminal. They were free, but even at this very moment I’m chained up like a slave. But I know if I suffer, I’ll be freed by Jesus Christ. United with Him, I will be raised to eternal freedom! Right now, though, I’m a prisoner learning what it means to put aside my desires. From Syria to Rome, I’m already battling with wild beasts. By land and sea, night and day, I’m chained to ten leopards: the soldiers who have me in custody. When they are treated kindly, they only become more cruel to me. However, through their mistreatment I am becoming a better disciple-not that this earns me any credit with God. Oh may I rejoice in those wild beasts awaiting me! I do pray they will be done with me very quickly. In fact, I will coax them to come eat me up right away. I hope they won’t behave timidly like they sometimes do, lacking the fierceness even to touch the people thrown in the arena. And ifwhen I’m ready for the great moment the animals are holding back, I’ll force them to take me! Please bear with me here, friends. I really do know what is best for me. I am only now beginning to understand what it means to be a disciple. I pray that the events in that arena, and the unseen forces ofwick- edness behind them, will not conspire against me out of envy and prevent me from reaching Jesus Christ. Bring on the fire, bring on the cross, bring on the hordes ofwild animals! Let them wrench my bones out of socket and mangle my limbs and grind up my whole body! Bring on all the hideous tortures from the Devil! Just let me get to Jesus Christ. Nothing on this wide earth matters to me anymore. The kingdoms of this world are entirely meaningless. I am at the point where I would rather die for Jesus Christ than rule over the whole earth. He alone is the one I seek-the one who died for us! It is Jesus that I long for-the one who for our sake rose again from the dead!

Source: Bryan M. Litfin. Getting to Know the Church Fathers: An Evangelical Introduction 

http://www.amazon.com/Getting-Know-Church-Fathers-Introduction/dp/1587431963/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1418580555&sr=8-1&keywords=Source%3A+Bryan+M.+Litfin.+Getting+to+Know+the+Church+Fathers%3A+An+Evangelical+Introduction

Leave a comment

Filed under Books, Church Life

Book Review: Compassion without Compromise: How the Gospel Frees Us to Love Our Gay Friends Without Losing the Truth by Adam T. Barr and Ron Citlau

As I started reading this book I could not stop reading it. I finished it in about four hours and was motivated to keep reading throughout the entire book. It was also the first book I have read in a while that I used a highlighter throughout the entire book. This 147 page book is pure gold, especially in the world we live in and the cultural ideology when it comes to homosexuality. There is a lot of different “stuff” and so called “truth” going around today telling us how we should think and handle homosexuality. This book is a breath of fresh air as it Biblically explains homosexuality and how to interact with people that struggle with it.

I never felt there was an aggressive tone to the book. Compassion without Compromise communicated the truth of God’s Word in a loving and compassionate way. The introduction is important as it introduces the authors and their struggle with homosexuality in their own lives.

They deal with a wide variety of issues when it comes to homosexuality. God created sex and God created marriage. Some people like to believe that marriage is a man-made institution, but that is clearly not true, as we see that God is the one that initiated the joining together of man and women. Man is made in God’s image, and we can see that the joining together of man and women is a picture of the trinity. The reason why this issue of homosexuality needs to be addressed, is because unlike other sexual sins plaguing our churches and cultures, we are being told that homosexuality is not sin. The authors graciously and compassionately lead us through scripture to show us how homosexuality is sin and that homosexual marriage is also sin. But at the same time they lead us through scripture to show us that homosexuality does not have to define who we are, and that the power of the gospel can renew, redeem, sustain, and give us an abundant life.

Each chapter gives a “takeaway” section to quickly review and help the reader grasp what the main points of each chapter were. There are chapters entitled “Two Faced,” which answers the question, “How can a bunch of hypocrites cast the first stone?” or “Jesus is My Homeboy,” which answers that question, “If He didn’t care, why should we?” I specifically enjoyed this chapter as it destroys the idea that because Jesus didn’t directly talk about homosexuality, it is not a big deal or sin.  Jesus also did not talk about other gross sexual acts such has incest, polygamy, bestiality, and pedophilia. There is an entire chapter dedicated to what the church should do, as the authors gave practical ways to deal with homosexuality legally and biblically. I enjoyed the chapter that answered real life questions when it comes to homosexuality, such as, “How can I talk to others about this issue without getting into an argument?” or, “What should I do about my workplace celebrating gay pride?” or, “My son is dating another male, and the holidays are coming up, what should I do?” or, “I just got invited to a same sex marriage, what should I do?”

This was a great book, as it not only dealt with homosexuality Biblically and practically, but it also made me think about my own life when it comes to sin before a holy God. Fear is something that has been misplaced or given a new definition that sounds nicer, but really, as Christians, do we have a fear that we are living before and serving a holy God? We shouldn’t be cowering in the corner, but sometimes that would be better to do, instead of thinking that we can get away with sin and that sin is no big deal to God.

Four things that stood out to me:

  1. Sexual sin is a serious matter, as it can very easily lead to our destruction and death.
  2. What you believe about the Bible itself, will determine where you stand on many different issues. Is it the actual Word of God or is it not?
  3. You will have to the conversation as some point, and this conversation will be awkward and could be very explosive.
  4. We underestimate the power of the Gospel to renew, redeem, and sustain.

Leave a comment

Filed under Books, Church Life

Book Review: The Legend of St. Nicholas: A Story of Christmas Giving by Dandi Daley Mackall and Richard Cowdrey

Immediately I enjoyed the title of this book as they used the word “legend” and subtitle “A Story of Christmas Giving.” LEGEND DEFINITION: a traditional story sometimes popularly regarded as historical but unauthenticated. Christmas is about giving, as Christ would eventually give His life to save mankind, but at the same the same time, this season of giving has been turned into a season of equal exchanges. Maybe I am going a little too deep into the title, but it’s true! We have turned something that should be about Christ and giving sacrificially, into a time where if we give something we expect to get something back.

“Most of us would rather think about getting gifts than giving them.”-The Legend of St. Nicholas

            The Legend of St. Nicholas is about a boy named “Nick, who is not too thrilled about being dragged along for last-minute Christmas shopping with his dad. Bu while his father’s off shopping, a mall Santa tells Nick the story of St. Nicholas … a man who delighted in giving unexpected presents to the less fortunate to honor God, who gave the word the greatest gift ever given,” eternal life through Jesus Christ.

The Legend of St. Nicholas gives a kid friendly version of the real St. Nicholas, with a small paragraph about the facts of St. Nicholas at the end of the book. I thought each page was drawn beautifully and important things stood out, which helped understand what the book was about. The only thing that I felt could be changed was the age it was written to. Four to eight years old is a good age group but this book would be good to the age of 12. It would be a great book to lead right into the gospel message, especially around Christmas season. It took me about 10 minutes to read to myself.

Leave a comment

Filed under Books

Book Review: The Christmas Story for Children by Max Lucado, Randy Frazee, Karen Davis Hill, and Fausto Bianchi

The title of the book is self-explanatory, as it tells the true story of the birth of Jesus Christ.

“Jesus was no ordinary baby. He was the Son of God, the Messiah whom

God had promised long, long ago.”

 

The pages were drawn beautifully, with many different colors and easy on the eyes, as they seem to fit perfectly with what was happening with the reading. It pretty well follows the Biblical account of the birth of Jesus Christ, not taking many liberties with the event of His birth. It starts out before his birth with Mary and Joseph, and ends with Jesus about to enter his earthly ministry. It took me about 10 minutes to read to myself. The age group is four to eight, but I say up to 12 years old would be fine too. I would like to see a second book written about Jesus’ ministry on earth, and then a third for His death, burial, and resurrection.

 

I believe this book is written in part with “The Story” material that is used through all ages and quite a few different churches around the world.

Leave a comment

Filed under Books

8 Clear Signs of a Compromising Church

1. In the confessing church, Christ is over culture. The compromising churchaccommodates Christ to culture. The confessing church believes Jesus is Lord over all creation. Hence, they attempt to reflect Christ in every area of culture. The compromising church has a posture of accommodation. Hence, the Christ they believe in and preach is shaped by the culture they live in.

2. The confessing church holds fast to the Word of God in spite of opposition. The compromising church alters the Word of God because of opposition. Soon in America it is quite possible that it will be illegal to preach from certain passages of the Bible dealing with human sexuality. Because of this, many will alter their theology to fit the culture while the confessing church will preach the Word of God in spite of governmental fines, penalties, lawsuits and even serving time in jail.

3. The confessing church puts the kingdom of God above their culture and ethnicity. The compromising church puts their ethnicity before the kingdom of God. The German Church during the Nazi era put nationalism and their Aryan heritage above the Word of God. Many pastors and believers today view the Scriptures more through the lens of their ethnicity and national heritage than through a proper exegesis of Scripture.

When, and if, our nation officially makes biblical Christianity illegal, we will soon see who will be the confessors and who will be the compromisers. In many ways, practicing biblical Christianity is already illegal when it comes to believers attempting to walk out their faith in the marketplace because private Christian-owned businesses do not have the same level of protection today as do local churches.

4. The confessing church alters their methods of preaching. The compromisingchurch alters the message they preach. While it is wise and biblical for the body of Christ to be relevant to culture regarding the preaching of the gospel, it should never put being relevant above being faithful. The compromising church puts being relevant before biblical faithfulness. Hence, they not only change the method of preaching but also the message they preach.

5. The confessing church is a remnant in the minority of church and state. The compromising church wants to be in the mainstream of both church and state.  The confessing church endures long seasons of feeling like aliens and strangers in their own communities. The compromising church wants to be in the mainstream of culture more than living in the divine flow of God’s favor and presence.

6. The confessing church is penalized by the state government. The compromisingchurch is applauded by the state government. While the confessing church is hunted down and ostracized by the humanistic state, the compromising church is celebrated by the far-left radicals and used as a model of how church and state should function together.

7. The confessing church prophetically speaks truth to power. The compromisingchurch conforms to those in power. The confessing church knows that at various seasons in their existence they will not gain a lot of converts and/or experience societal transformation. The best they can do is to maintain a prophetic witness to the cultural elites and surrounding communities. Since the compromising church enjoys the power and prestige the elites grant them, they always conform rather than confront.

8. The confessing church desires the praise of God. The compromising churchdesires the praise of men. Ultimately at the end of the day it boils down to this: Are we living for the praise of men or the praise of God? If things don’t change in the coming days, we will be shocked at how many megachurches, mid-size churches and smaller churches compromise the word of God so they could continue to keep their doors open.

At some point we will all have to stand the ultimate test, which is whether we desire God more than we love our lives, or whether we love our pleasures, conveniences and material goods more than God. Truly, if we confess Christ before men He will confess us before His Father in heaven, but if we deny Him before men He will deny us before His Father in heaven (Matt. 10:32-33).

http://www.charismanews.com/opinion/the-pulse/46229-8-clear-signs-of-a-compromising-church?showall=&start=2

Leave a comment

Filed under Church Life