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Thursday, May 27, 2004

when the cat's away

When my wife and I are away from home, we have a rule for our five kids about calling us, which is “DON’T call unless it is flooding, burning or bleeding.” Any of us who have ever been kids all know that great unspoken and unwritten rule: when no adult is present, there are no rules. It just goes to prove that when we were born, they may have broken the mold, but there is proof that it grows back . . . ((wait a while, you'll get it))

So my wife and I will be out and the phone will ring with "daddy, brother’s looking at me" or "mommy, she’s breathing my air again" or "I got blood in my veins" (actual call, that last one) or some other non-emergency.

It makes you wonder about Paul and Timothy. Paul told Timothy "I am writing these things to you, hoping to come to you before long." (1 Tim 3:14) What? You mean that Timothy is left in this church—alone? Without Paul? With all those . . . “church people?”

Which brings up another question:
“What's the difference between a cult and a church?” To tell the difference, look at the foundation. What is the foundation of a church, particularly, THE church?

Paul makes an interesting statement: “in case I am delayed, I write so that you will know how one ought to conduct himself in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and support of the truth.” (1 Tim. 3:15).

How will Timothy direct the church without Paul? I wonder if Timothy was left feeling like a baby sitter or big brother while the “parent” was out of the “house.” I wonder what those church people were acting like?

The way to tell the difference between a church and a cult is how either treats Christ. “The church’s one foundation is Jesus Christ her Lord”, as we confess with that great hymn. The foundation of a church is found in the mystery of godliness, which is explained in 1 Tim 3:16.

The foundation of a cult is the non-mystery of ungodliness with another ministry, namely the ministry of hinderance and/or destruction of the work and message of Christ.

The conduct of the church is based on its foundation. What the church thinks of Christ affects its stand, its ministry, its action. Put another way, the difference between a church and a cult is how Christ is handled.

Does a church merely nod at ideas or is it transformed by the reality of the person and work of Christ Jesus?

Does a cult live a God-saturated life?

Which is better: a comfortable place where everyone is welcome, finds a place to fit in and has a great social life; or, a place where there is conviction, discomfort, admonition, working, growing? Guess which one the church should be. Guess which one draws more people at the expense of doctrine, even that great confession?

I asked myself these questions and invite you to do the same:
How do I handle Christ?
Do I treat the sufficiency of His person and work with a Sunday morning fervor, or have I let Him penetrate my being every day of the week?
Do I or have I undermined anything He has tried to say or do?

Am I a “church” or a “cult”?

Recently we set out to enjoy a PBS series, "Colonial House." Making a long story very short, 17 people were selected to live like it was 1628 for 4 months in Maine last summer. The man appointed to be "lay preacher" was a liberal religion professor from California. The governor was a southern baptist minister from Texas. The governor tried hard to enforce the bible-based country law of the colony, but was met with opposition constantly. He and his family had to leave due to personal family tragedy and could not continue the project

The lay minister held "discussion meetings" and had no real preaching of the Bible (he tried one three-hour sermon, but did not do it again). Since he was appointed governor, he began to raid the wine, relax the laws and the people were lazy and apathetic. Ironically, in retrospect, he did admit he did not model the "man of God" the town needed.

The town was the most miserable, backward colony I have ever seen. In its day it should not have survived, and I raved about this for a few days. Then I remembered a horrifying story by Nathaniel Hawthorne of a colonist who discovered one night that everyone in town, including the town minister, was a witch. Apparently, the problem did exist and, well, we see where we are today.

Really, the project provided a micro-picture of where we are today, having removed the Bible from our government AND our churches. One person actually walked off the project because he could see where history was "going" and did not want to be there when it happened . . . how tragic.

Thursday, May 20, 2004

gettin' ready

as I have been preparing for my bible study on Rev. 2:8-11, God has given me this to think about:

* my oldest daughter was splashed in the eye with a corrosive chemical last week (she's fine now). She saw the same doctor my youngest son did when he got stuck in the eye with an arrow two years ago.

* two days ago my oldest son got his eye smashed with a ball and his eye was bleeding. He saw the same doctor.

* the people we have been buying our house and land from decided that we have until the end of July to close the deal move out (they are ditching our 6 year agreement). I will be in Africa at the end of July, which follows June, my most busy time of the year with 86 students coming for two weeks of intensive courses.

* my 60 year-old dad got a broken collarbone and a totaled Harley in a motorcycle accident while riding California to Washington D.C. for a Memorial Day celebration. Apparently this truck the convoy was following on the highway slammed on his brakes and dad hit the back of the truck--and the bikes following him dominoed into the pile. This was his last year as a team-leader. Fortunately, the accident happened while in his home state and he is going home.

* my sister is moving to San Diego from Denver (she is getting to the east coast the long way).

* I put ten dollars of gas in my van, which is supposed to last to the end of the month. At $1.86 per gallon you don't get too far down the road . . .

* I gotta hot water leak under my kitchen sink I can't get stopped.

* I am almost finished reading John Steinbeck's "The Grapes of Wrath."

* Today's my birthday.

* * * * * * * *

Le's turn in our song-books to sing that front-porch ballad we all remember so well . . .
"Gloom, dispair, agony on me.
Deep, dark depression, excessive misery.
If it wern't for bad luck, I'd have no luck at all.
Gloom, dispair and agony on me."

(there is actually some levity in the fore-mentioned ballad, but you may have to be over 30 to get it . . .)

Tuesday, May 18, 2004

intention

(context for this post comes from "mailbag" posted on 5/12/04)

Jesus’ intimacy with his church takes place on two levels: locally and universally. We can get an idea of what this is like when we see Him walking among the candlesticks in Revelation 2. There is no difficulty in seeing one walking among such well-lit fixtures, observing them from all sides, noting the strength of light and length of tallow. The responsibility to burn belongs to the candle, but it is set in place by the same one who can remove it.

There is another image of intimacy found in His holding the seven stars in His right hand. I remember my fascination with marbles as a child, holding them in my hand, turning them all around, fingering them, listening to them rub against each other, fascinated by the marks and lines that ribboned through them.

Perhaps Jesus considers His churches in much the same way, only by the millions. Hand cupped, fingers together, face close by, touching, turning, fingering, pushing, looking for that one . . . there it is . . . pulling it out of the pile, holding it up to the light between finger and thumb.

* * * * * * * * * *
I know your deeds. I know what you enjoy pouring yourself into. I know what you enjoy spending your energy on. I know the things you do without anyone asking.

I know your toils, your labors. I know the things that draw out your energy. I know the things you do because you have no choice but to do them. You may or may not enjoy doing these things, but you do them.

I know what you can endure, how you hold up balancing the things you like to do and the things you are required to do. I know what you are like when you are held under.

I know what you cannot endure. I know what you tolerate and what you do not tolerate. Are the things you put up with the same as the things I put up with?

* * * * * * * * * *
What does it mean to have left your first love? This is a tough statement. Once, the Ephesians were encouraged to speak the truth in love (4:15) and now the Ephesians are hearing just that. There should be a balance between truth and love and they are discovering that they have been fighting so hard for the truth, they forgot the love.

If we stop to think about it, considering all we do in ministry (or marketplace or missions) because we love to do it or considering all we do in ministry (or marketplace or missions) because we have to do it, what does it matter if there is no love?

Jesus says that Ephesians have forsaken their foremost love. What is that? I think a clue is found in Matthew 22:35-40.

If we are to love God and from the overflow of love to Him we love others, then losing the first love is losing love for God and love for others. So what does it matter if you do what you enjoy or because its your job if there is no love? What does Paul say to the Corinthians in 1 Corinthians 13 about doing all these things without love?

Larry Norman, speaking the vernacular: “you can be a righteous rocker on a holy roll or you can do most anything. You can be a Leon Russell on a super-muscle or being a corporate king . . . But without Love, you ain’t nothin’, without love.”

So waddya do?
Remember how you got started with Christ. Eph 2 (You were . . . remember . . . remember).

Repent and do the deeds you did at first.

Remember how when you began your new life in Christ and you wanted to do everything out of love for God and how it sloshed over and affected everyone else? Is that happening now?

Ok, class. Can anyone tell me what was paved with good intentions?

Class?

Wednesday, May 12, 2004

mailbag

I am seeking God's perspective on some issues so I started a new Bible study last night. Looking at Revelation 2-3 I read through what Jesus had to say to 7 churches and here are my initial impressions:

Ephesus (2:1-7) "First Church of INTENTION". This church seems to want to do the right things, but they have gotten off-track.

Smyrna (2:8-11) "First Church of IGNORANCE". They are about to face persecution and the things they are rich in will not help them.

* Pergamum (2:12-17) "First Church of INTEGRATION". This church has compromised its teaching by mixing things displeasing to God into its ministry. God will war against false teachers!

Thyatira (2:18-19) "First Church of ILL-ADJUSTMENT" (a church plant of the "First Church of Integration") They, too have compromised, doing great deeds, but do them with wrong intention, motivation and for the wrong reasons.

Sardis (3:1-6) "First Church of INACTIVITY". They are "in extremis" (at the point of death).

Philadephia (3:7-13) "First Church of INDECISIVENESS". This church really has nothing negative said about it, save their seeming hesitation to go through the door God has opened to them.

Laodicea (3:14-22) "First Church of INDIGESTION." Lukewarm, rejectable, ignorant, poor values.

I put an astrix by Pergamum because I feel this is where most western churches are today, mixing political correctness and "sensitivity" to the point they are not only rendered ineffective, but are idolatrous as they exalt their style of ministry over God's Word.

"Seeker Sensitity" has reduced the gospel message to "believe in Jesus" without saying why this is necessary. People don't know of sin because it is offensive and brings discomfort. Well, even Jesus said He sent the Holy Spirit to convict the world of sin, righteousness and judgment.

If we are going to ignore the words of Jesus and have our backs saddled with the teachings of Balaam and the things God wars against, we might as well change our sign out front . . .

Tuesday, May 04, 2004

can you do this?

Mat 10:32 "Therefore everyone who confesses Me before men, I will also confess him before My Father who is in heaven."

Mat 10:33 "But whoever denies Me before men, I will also deny him before My Father who is in heaven."

Mat 10:34 "Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword."

Then do this.

If "The Passion" showed you what you could not imagine about the death of Christ, then this will show you what to do about it.

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