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Sunday, July 27, 2014

My Condition

"...if you take my words to heart and treasure my commandments deep within you, giving your attention to wisdom and your mind to understanding, if you cry out for discernment and invoke understanding, if you seek for her as for silver and dig for her as for buried treasure, then you will understand the fear of the Lord and attain to knowledge of God.  "

- Proverbs 2:1-5



What "condition" should I be in?


This passage starts with a conditional clause: "If...".   It goes on to describe a condition.  If I "take...to heart", "treasure", give myself, "cry out for", "invoke", and "seek" and "dig", then something happens.  As I thought and prayed about it, this condition must be manufactured and it must be made by the one who wishes to be in this condition and its consequences.  In order to realize the consequence of this condition (or benefit if you will),  I need to...


1.        Make it personal.  Taking something to heart is a process of internalizing, making it a part of me.  It is exploring myself and my condition before and after whatever it is I am taking to heart.

2.       Make it important.  See the value, treasure it.  This guides my behavior.  The things I value I take care of.  I spend time with.  I enjoy.

3.       Make a commitment.  Giving myself not only involves a commitment but it also puts me at risk, it exposes me or I expose myself to whatever I am committing to.  It is a vulnerability that ties me to whatever I am committing to.  It is asking or "crying out" for help.  It is giving myself over to whatever it is I am pursuing.

4.       Make an effort.  A friend is fond of saying that eventually "everything degenerates to work".  Seeking and digging for something is that work.  The effort is also impassioned.  Like looking for a lost child ("crying out" and "invoking").


This manufactured condition is of my choosing.  Whatever I make personal, important, commit myself to, and invest my efforts in will make a condition, a state, a consequence within which I will exist.  This is a truth.  It works when focused on the best things and it works when focused on the worst things.  Whatever the object, because of the nature of truth, it will work. 


When I make it personal and important.  When I make a commitment and invest myself through effort, then something happens to me in relation to my objective.  My condition changes...


1.        I will know.

2.       I will understand.

3.       I will be able.

4.       I will be where and what I need to be when I need to be it.


This is the consequence.  It is knowledge, understanding (the application of knowledge), and wisdom (sound judgment).  It also tells me I must be thoughtful and perhaps obedient in the application or with what I "make" precisely because it works.


I have been reading about World War II looking at the period from several different perspectives.  From the perspective of Churchill, Hitler, and Bonhoeffer.  Each applied this process with different focuses or objectives.  Churchill's focus was England and the defeat of an adversary.  Hitler's was control and an ideal.  Bonhoeffer was obedience to God and his understanding of God's Word.  Each made their "it" personal and important.  Each made a commitment.  Each invested themselves through effort.  In return, each came to know and understand.  Each was enabled through the process.  Each showed an insight in the situations and the nature of their "it".  As a result of looking at each of these people and their application, each reinforced the importance of choosing the correct "it".  Anyone of us could become a Churchill or a Bonhoeffer... or a Hitler.  The potential exists because the principals are true.


Solomon, the wisest man to have ever lived, suggested the following "it" to his son:

1.        Make the instruction of love ("my words") personal.

Read 1 John 4, love seeks to do for another what they cannot do for themselves regardless of the cost.  The Bible tells us that God is love and that love lasts forever (1 Corinthians 13).  The Bible also tells us that Jesus, God's Son, is God's Word and that God's Holy Spirit is our teacher.  God is the "instruction of love".  Make Him personal to you.


2.        Make the "rules of life" important.

Rules and laws are meant to protect us and define behavior that promotes our wellbeing and healthy relationship.  "Commandments" are not meant to limit but to release.  The parameters of law create the "pasture" of freedom.  God, as THE Sovereign, is the final authority.  The "commands" he gives us are for our good, our relationships (with him, ourselves, and each other), and they are intended for our freedom.  Don't believe the lie that tells you "the man" is trying to bring you down with his rules.  God used the "the man" (Jesus), to set you free and sets up "the man" authority to serve His purposes.  If we submit to that, it will be well with us in our relationship to God and we will avoid making ourselves god. (Romans 13)


3.        Make discernment, understanding, and wisdom your commitment.

Gain insight (discernment), ability and skill (understanding), and develop sound judgment (wisdom).  Give yourself to the pursuit of these qualities.  Be committed to becoming an "expert" (insight, ability, skill, and sound judgment).  This is worthwhile all by itself but when God is your focus the value and benefit are exceedingly profound.


4.       Make the effort to find God and all he has for you.

Wisdom is the first of God's creations.  In finding wisdom, you find a root of God's very nature.  The better we know God, the better we understand ourselves and our purpose; the better we understand the nature of life.  There is no greater knowledge than the knowledge of God - both knowing who he is and knowing what he knows.


It is important to know what condition I am (we are) in.  It is more important to know and pursue the condition we were purposed for... a personal and important commitment to intentional pursuit of the knowledge, understanding, ability, and wisdom pertaining to God's love, God's rules, our expertise in matters of God, and our knowledge of Him.

6:38 am edt 

Sunday, July 13, 2014

A Look at Groups of Believer in Jesus - A Look at Our Church

I have been reading and studying Revelation and working on writing a doctrinal statement about the church.  Both of these projects intersected in the first 3 chapters of Revelation... the letters to the Seven Churches.  I wanted to share and needed to organize my thoughts about what I am understanding on these churches.


In summary, there are seven types or seven states that a group of believers (Assembly of Believers in Jesus Christ or the local church) will find themselves in:

1.       Distant from Jesus and Academic (Ephesus)

2.       Jesus is all (Smyrna)

3.       Lost a hold on the truth (Pergamum)

4.       Know Jesus but aren't faithful to him (Thyatira)

5.       Asleep (Sardis)

6.       Paying attention and doing what you know to do (Philadelphia)

7.       Intellectual and Arrogant (Leodicea)


As I thought, reviewed, and prayed over this, I see three distinct categories:

A.     Acceptable

B.     Struggling

C.     Dead


Under the heading of "Acceptable" are the churches at Smyrna and Philadelphia.  They are different.  They are characterized differently.  God approaches them differently.  Yet neither church needed correction.  They were only encouraged and counseled.  "Acceptable" churches are sold out to Jesus.  He is their beginning and ending... not in their minds only but in Jesus' relation to them, in the way he presents himself to them (Smyrna, Revelation 2:8).  "Acceptable" churches believe Jesus and what he says.  They know truth and they act out based upon truth.  If Jesus opens a "door" for them, they believe they can walk through it and that it cannot be shut.  If Jesus closes a "door" for them, then that door is closed and cannot nor should it be opened.  In all things for them Jesus is their reason (Philadelphia, Revelation 3:7-8).  An "Acceptable" church will face challenges:  they will be slandered, persecuted, some will be killed, imprisoned, pressured, and confronted with false leaders.  The "Acceptable" church is counseled to hang on ("...be faithful..." - Revelation 2:10; "...hold fast..." - Revelation 3:11), to be fearless (Revelation 2:10).  In spite of being "Acceptable" I perceive there to be a risk of losing themselves.  Revelation 2:10 says that "If you are faithful..." and Revelation 3:12 speaks about "Those who are victorious...".  It isn't over until it is over.  The "Acceptable" church needs to stand firm, be alert, be humble, and completely dependent upon Jesus.  (See Ephesians 6:10-18)


Under the heading of "Struggling" are the churches at Ephesus, Pergamum, Thyatira.  They too are different within this category.  Each is uniquely approached by God.  A "Struggling" church needs to remember that Jesus is their right to exist (Revelation 2:1).  He gives them permission to be and can revoke their permission to be called by God as a fellowship of believers (Romans 13).  He can scatter believers just as he scattered Israel.   The "struggling" church needs to remember that Jesus is the truth, God's Word (Revelation 2:12).  The "struggling" church needs to be in awe of Jesus with fear and trembling (Revelation2:18).  The "Struggling" church may be doing the right things and have a love for Jesus (Revelation 2:2-3; 2:12; 2:19) but their chief issue is that God is not their only god (Revelation 2:4; 2:14-15; 2:20).  They have lost a grip on the "truth and only the truth" (Revelation 2:14-15; 2:20).  They teach the traditions of man as if they were the laws of God (Revelation 2:14-15 xref. Matthew 15:6-9).  Idolatry (Defined:  "putting anything ahead of God") is an issue for them.  The answer for a struggling church is to repent (Revelation 2:5, 16, 21).  Stop what you are doing, turn away, and head back toward Jesus... conclude that He is your reason, the Truth and do it out of respect and awe for who you are dealing with... The Son of God!  To do otherwise is disaster.   It could cost you your light (Jesus - John 1:4-9; Revelation 2:5).  It could cost you profound conflict (James 4:4; Revelation 2:16).  It could cost you pain and suffering (1 Corinthians 11:27-32; Revelation 2:22-23).  Persevere!  (Revelation 2:26-28)  Taste and see that the Lord is good (Psalm 34:8; Revelation 2:7, 17).


Lastly, there are "Dead" churches.  Sardis and Leodicea fit this category.  Sardis is declared dead (Revelation 3:1).  There is no work in her coming to completion (Revelation 3:1-2).  Leodicea has no "life" in her, no passion.  She is categorized as neither hot nor cold, poor, blind, and naked (Revelation 3:15-17).  In the category of "Dead", Jesus needs to be but is not their source (Revelation 3:1, 14).  The good news for the "Dead" church is that Jesus is life (John 14:6).  He was raised from the dead by the power of God and raises others from the dead.  He can raise a church from the dead.  The "Dead" church needs to wake up, invest in what Jesus offers, humble yourselves, repent, and obey (Revelation 3:2-3, 18-19).  Unless the "Dead" call upon Jesus, they will be separated from him (Revelation 3:2-4, 20).  If they do, in faith, they can trust that he will come to them and redeem them (Revelation 3:2-4, 20).  It is what he does to those whom he loves.  He reproves and disciplines (Revelation 3:19).


I believe each of us, especially those of us who are leaders, can look at our fellowships, our community of faith, our "church" and see who we are.  We need to be objective according to God's Word, not tradition, not the patterns of this world, not based upon our observations of what we are doing, and not based upon our opinions.  Base it only on God's Word... chapter and verse.  Base it only on Jesus (God's Word - John 1:1-18).  Only he is true (John 14:6).  Only he can show you the path (John 14:6).  Only he can be your source of life (John 14:6).  Our minds can be and are corrupted (Romans 1:21,28) and they need to be transformed (Romans 12:2) which is why we cannot trust our own assessment of ourselves but must stick to God's Word.  The "Hope" for the church is Jesus.  It isn't in what we do but will affect what we do.  It isn't in what we say but will affect what we say.  It starts inside each of us (Romans 3:22; 2 Corinthians 5:14-17).  As each of us repents and is transformed, renewed, reborn, then our families will be, and our churches will be, and our communities will be, and our nations will be.  Apart from each of us being authentic as disciples and leaving our former life to cleave only to Jesus (Ephesians 5:31-33), we will be inconsistent at best, for sure we will "struggle", and eventually we will "die".  The only way to be "acceptable" is to present ourselves as living sacrifices (Romans 12:1), concluded that Jesus died for each of us (2 Corinthians 5:14-17), leaving our former ways for His ways.

7:30 am edt 

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