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Saturday, August 30, 2014

Christians Behaving Badly

I am disturbed and provoked by recent events and in particular the actions of my brothers and sisters in Christ. 

 

The Apostle John's vision (in Revelation) starts with seven pictures or profiles of the church, the Body of Christ. In particular, the church at Ephesus (Revelation 2).  They fit a middle group of the seven (some good things, some things that need correcting).  The issue for this group of believer (not just Ephesus but communities of faith that fit in this description) is that they have abandoned the love they had at first.  Love for Jesus is no longer first.  It may not be that they don't love him but some idol has replaced him as their first love.  The Gospels and Paul's Epistles all point to love for God and in particular Jesus as our savior as our first and highest love.  And Jesus gave us one command, to love others.  This is the background for what has provoked me.

 

We, the believers in Jesus Christ, and in particular those of us in the United States, are settled into a broken world, using broken machinery (the Institutional church), and broken models (Pastoral role).  We apply "worldly philosophy" in managing the organizations and properties that have become known as "churches" asking men and women to play an institutional role ("Pastor") that is part CEO, part Counselor, Part Teacher, as a profession.  The rest of us, who call ourselves believers, have succumbed to being consumers of programs and entertainment which also gets called "church".  In this context, recent events have demonstrated our collective brokenness.

 

If love of God (and Jesus) is our highest priority followed by loving others, there should be no injustice and there should be no misuse of authority, and there should be no "I told you so" amongst the brothers and sisters if and when a fellow brother or sister stumbles.  The recent events of injustice, misuse of power, demonstration of lack of respect for authority and each other, and clear absence of love as the highest and governing motive in our lives should serve to open our eyes to the "idols" that have replaced God.  I am speaking specifically of the idols of self, the idols of mission, the idols of culture, the idols of prestige, and the idols of prosperity (in any and all forms).

 

Love doesn't violate authority when there is no clear scriptural reason to violate it (Romans 13).  Love doesn't threaten violence and use violence as a first, second, or third resort.  Love doesn't "get in the face" of the authorities God has instituted.  Love doesn't value "a cause" (mission) above the relationship of the disciple and Jesus.  Love doesn't air and resolve "family" issues in public forums.  Love doesn't mistreat brothers and sisters to get "results" and preserve "brand".  Love doesn't pile on a brother or sister when they stumble or fall with "I knew it" and "I told you so" (Galatians 6:1-2).  Love isn't any of this because God is love and none of this resembles how he has dealt with me (1 John 4).  Whatever "god" is represented in the lack of love, it isn't the God that I know and read about in the Bible.

 

If I were an unbeliever, why would I want any of what I see in and through the brokenness we call "church"?  If I were a believer gifted to be a leader, why would I stick my neck out in ministry when all I should expect is pressure, skepticism, criticism, and judgment from those who call themselves my brothers and sisters and claim to be part of the same family.   There is nothing attractive about what we call "church" in America.  There is very little Biblical about what we call "church" in America.  There certainly is an absence of love in the actions of "one nation under God" including the actions of those who claim to be children of THE LOVE.

 

Our counsel is the same as that for the Ephesus model...REPENT.  Return to our First Love.  Conquer self. Conquer idols.  Conquer the patterns of this world.  Be the Church (the assembly of believers in Jesus Christ).

4:11 am edt 

Christians Behaving Badly

I am disturbed and provoked by recent events and in particular the actions of my brothers and sisters in Christ. 

 

The Apostle John's vision (in Revelation) starts with seven pictures or profiles of the church, the Body of Christ. In particular, the church at Ephesus (Revelation 2).  They fit a middle group of the seven (some good things, some things that need correcting).  The issue for this group of believer (not just Ephesus but communities of faith that fit in this description) is that they have abandoned the love they had at first.  Love for Jesus is no longer first.  It may not be that they don't love him but some idol has replaced him as their first love.  The Gospels and Paul's Epistles all point to love for God and in particular Jesus as our savior as our first and highest love.  And Jesus gave us one command, to love others.  This is the background for what has provoked me.

 

We, the believers in Jesus Christ, and in particular those of us in the United States, are settled into a broken world, using broken machinery (the Institutional church), and broken models (Pastoral role).  We apply "worldly philosophy" in managing the organizations and properties that have become known as "churches" asking men and women to play an institutional role ("Pastor") that is part CEO, part Counselor, Part Teacher, as a profession.  The rest of us, who call ourselves believers, have succumbed to being consumers of programs and entertainment which also gets called "church".  In this context, recent events have demonstrated our collective brokenness.

 

If love of God (and Jesus) is our highest priority followed by loving others, there should be no injustice and there should be no misuse of authority, and there should be no "I told you so" amongst the brothers and sisters if and when a fellow brother or sister stumbles.  The recent events of injustice, misuse of power, demonstration of lack of respect for authority and each other, and clear absence of love as the highest and governing motive in our lives should serve to open our eyes to the "idols" that have replaced God.  I am speaking specifically of the idols of self, the idols of mission, the idols of culture, the idols of prestige, and the idols of prosperity (in any and all forms).

 

Love doesn't violate authority when there is no clear scriptural reason to violate it (Romans 13).  Love doesn't threaten violence and use violence as a first, second, or third resort.  Love doesn't "get in the face" of the authorities God has instituted.  Love doesn't value "a cause" (mission) above the relationship of the disciple and Jesus.  Love doesn't air and resolve "family" issues in public forums.  Love doesn't mistreat brothers and sisters to get "results" and preserve "brand".  Love doesn't pile on a brother or sister when they stumble or fall with "I knew it" and "I told you so" (Galatians 6:1-2).  Love isn't any of this because God is love and none of this resembles how he has dealt with me (1 John 4).  Whatever "god" is represented in the lack of love, it isn't the God that I know and read about in the Bible.

 

If I were an unbeliever, why would I want any of what I see in and through the brokenness we call "church"?  If I were a believer gifted to be a leader, why would I stick my neck out in ministry when all I should expect is pressure, skepticism, criticism, and judgment from those who call themselves my brothers and sisters and claim to be part of the same family.   There is nothing attractive about what we call "church" in America.  There is very little Biblical about what we call "church" in America.  There certainly is an absence of love in the actions of "one nation under God" including the actions of those who claim to be children of THE LOVE.

 

Our counsel is the same as that for Ephesus model...REPENT.  Return to our First Love.  Conquer self. Conquer idols.  Conquer the patterns of this world.  Be the Church (the assembly of believers in Jesus Christ).

4:01 am edt 

Saturday, August 23, 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 (defined as: "the application of knowledge"), and wisdom (defined as: "sound judgment").  It also tells me I must be thoughtful and perhaps obedient in the application of 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.

6:06 am edt 

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Do Be Do Be Do

"Do".   Action, also called "works" in Christian circles.  Depending upon your alignment doctrinally and organizationally it could be something to be embraced or implicitly avoided.

 

"Be".    A state, also known as our relationship status.  These are matters of the head, heart, and soul.

 

Is there a place for both being and doing?

Is there a balance between being and doing?

 

Let me confess myself then offer some insights.

 

I believe that both the "Be" and the "Do" have a place in my working out my discipleship.  I think James speaks as clearly as anyone on the subject (James 2:14-26).  I believe this is implicit when Jesus talks about loving him in John (John 14:15 - "If you love me you will obey my commands..." and John 15:12 - "This is my commandment: love one another, as I have loved you.").  I believe that God defined the nature of love as "do" growing out of "be" when John speaks of God in 1 John 3 and 4.  I believe that we cannot give what we don't have and that this is implicit in the "Great Commandment" (Mark 22:34-40, Mark 12:28-34 - Because God loves me, I can love me.  Because I love me, I can love others.).  I believe that "Do" independent from "Be" leads to problems regardless of what the "Do" is.  I believe that "Be" without "Do" is lying to myself.

 

Let me be clear, because of God's great love for us, we are saved by His grace.  My faith in that is all that is required.  This is the foundation of "Be" (Being a Christian).

 

Because of my faith in that, because of my recognition of God's great love for me, because I am different (2 Corinthians 5: 14-17), I am compelled to act.  In fact it isn't me acting out as much as it is Jesus acting out through me.  God's love for me, enabling God to love me and others through me.  This is the foundation of "Do" (Acting like Christ).

 

They ("Be" and "Do") must both exist.  "Be" is my relationship with God (First).  It is my relationship within myself (second).  It is my relationship with others (third).  Where there is no relationship, there is no "Be".  It is in the "Be" (being) that value and meaning come to the "Do".  "Do" is our witness of and to the Gospel of Jesus Christ - God's love for us (What He DID for us).  It is each and every intentional act that says... "God loves you!". 

 

If the "Be" is right, the "Do" brings glory to God. If the "Be" is broken, the "Do" brings glory to me.

 

Know that I am a Christian first, by observing me.  Then when I speak, it will confirm what you see and you will see and know Jesus through me.  It is similar to knowing someone's priorities by observing how they spend (their time, their money, their energy) without them ever saying a word.  In fact, their actions ("Do") give context to what they say ("Be").

 

Some of my brothers and sisters in Christ have been so battered with a tradition that focuses too heavily on the idea that "salvation is by grace through faith and not of works lest any man should boast" that they have effectively "side lined" themselves for fear they may be viewed as trying to "earn" salvation.  This is a mistake and unscriptural.

 

Some of my brothers and sisters in Christ have been so battered with a tradition that focuses too heavily on the idea of a "social gospel", that God's love is only doing what is best for society.  They have effectively stripped their personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ ("Be") out of their religion.  This is a mistake and unscriptural.

 

Since there is only one body, one Spirit, one hope, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, and one God... this isn't about any man made organization or philosophy.  Jesus, as God's Word, defines the "bylaws" for our being his disciples and he says we must "Be" and "Do".   Look at the impact of 12 men committed to this in Christ Jesus.  What would happen if all disciples of Jesus Christ worked together, in Christ, to help each other "Be" and "Do"?   What could be done from that shared pool of spiritual relationship and material resource?

 

Pray for God to "re-form" us back into his image.  First as individual disciples and collectively as HIS church, the Bride of Christ.

6:31 am edt 

Saturday, August 9, 2014

I Am A Liar

I tell lies.  Mostly I tell them to myself.  It makes sense.  If my nature is that of sin, disobedience, and opposition to God, that makes me a son of the Adversary and he is the father of lies (Matthew 8:44).  I tell myself untruth, lies, in an effort to appease forces that seek to command my allegiance.  I tell myself I am hungry when I am not.  I tell myself I deserve things or should have things that satisfy appetites of my body. I am being asked to serve my flesh (1 John 2:15-17). They are largely untrue and largely demands that source from my unspiritual nature (Romans 8).    My unspiritual nature is demanding and relentless. It is a formidable foe.  Fortunately the Spirit, the Holy Spirit, is stronger.

 

The battle between my unspiritual nature and the will of the Holy Spirit is a battle to the death - something or someone dies (2 Corinthians 5:14-17).  My unspiritual nature leads me to sin and sin leads me to death (Romans 6:23, James 1:12-15).  The Holy Spirit requires me to put to death the unspiritual nature.  In either case, Jesus died. 

 

I get to decide if Jesus died for a purpose or for no reason at all (as it pertains to my life).  I decide for life or I decide for the lie. 

7:05 am edt 


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