church

Enduring in a Hazardous World

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Man…what a year 2017 has been! We’re on track to break records for the magnitude and frequency of natural disasters this year. USA today says we’ve already tied the record for billion dollar disasters. It is reasonable that people are wondering about the end of the world.

I’ve been asked multiple times if I think these are signs of the last days. My answer is “absolutely”. According to Matthew 24, all of these things – wars, rumors of wars, earthquakes, storms, diseases – are going to characterize the world as we wait for Jesus to return. From the time Jesus rose from the dead and ascended into heaven, we’ve been on the final stretch of history until he returns. So, yes, these are indicators of that…but in many ways, it’s just another tragic day in a broken world. These are the labor pains as a new world is breaking in. Since labor pains usually increase as the birth draws closer, it seems reasonable that these upheavals will increase as we get closer to the end.

Given that, how should the church be responding to this? What is Jesus expecting from us as this world reels and becomes hazardous? If the world were going to end tomorrow, what does God want to see from us?

That’s what we’ll be considering this Sunday as we continue our study in Revelation, reading chapter 2:1-11.

This begins another section traditionally called the 7 letters to the 7 churches. As we stated before, there were more than 7 churches in Asia Minor, so highlighting 7 of them carries the implication that these instructions are for all churches throughout all time.

The first church addressed is in Ephesus. They are commended for an active ministry and doctrinal purity. They were hard at work, serving each other and holding on to orthodoxy. But Jesus zeroed in on something that was lacking. What was it? They were doing the stuff that most churches are always being prodded towards – but it doesn’t seem to be worthwhile without the component Jesus identifies as missing. Jesus tells them to “remember”, “repent” and then “do”. What would that look like lived out in real life?

What does that tell us about God’s expectations of us as this world rocks and reels? What is our main mission as we march toward the end of history?

We’ll also be reading the instructions to the church in Smyrna. They aren’t corrected for anything – but they are encouraged not to do something. What is it? What does that tell us about God’s expectations for the church in the last days? What should characterize our attitudes and ministries? How does that square with frantic end of the world predictions you’ve encountered?

Hope to see you this Sunday!

 

The Triumphant Decline

Have you ever worked really hard on some idea only to have someone else come along and take credit for it, even indirectly? What emotions did you feel?

The human need to be significant and important, at very least for recognition is universal. Ego is a tough wrestling opponent. Yet, as we’ll read in this week’s text, John the Baptist was able to find joy and peace by putting his own ego last and Jesus first.

This Sunday we’ll be reading John 3:22-36 as we continue our exploration of the fourth gospel.

John’s gospel is the only account that indicates that Jesus and John had a time when their ministries overlapped. Jesus began with John the Baptist’s endorsement, and now, we find that he is present when the first hint of controversy arises. His disciples are jealous at the rising popularity of Jesus and his message. John was very popular, probably more popular than Jesus at this beginning stage…he had all the trappings of what passes for successful ministry. Yet it was his joy to step aside for the elevation of Christ.

What reason does he give for that in v27?

Does that help you in any struggles you may have in embracing an intentional humility?

v30 is a powerful statement. It sets the tone for the entire church movement. We haven’t always been very successful in remembering who it is that everything orbits around. How do you think it can bring you joy, like it did for John the Baptist, to allow the reality of Jesus to increase in your life? What would be decreasing in your life as this takes place?

In yet another way, the kingdom of God moves counter to the world’s assumptions, we we find ourselves flourishing through this triumphant decline.

Hope to see you on Sunday!

Myth #3, The Clergy – Laity Divide

Sorry about Wonderwhat being down last week.  Technical issues which have now been rectified were to blame.

vestmentsI have received a lot of invitations over the years, invitations that you have NOT received.  Do you know why?  They were invitations to honor the clergy among us, of which I am perceived to be.  You didn’t get the invite to be honored (or fed or given a plaque or ride on a plane) because YOU are perceived to be laity.  Of course…if the one doing the inviting were to interrogate me first…do a little research beyond the fact that I’m listed as a pastor in a church…they would probably rescind the offer.  As soon as it was discovered that I didn’t attend a seminary or a Bible college, I would be promptly demoted to the position of “lay minister”, because, of course, I didn’t receive official training for my status.   That’s the way it works, you see.  I have a friend who was informed by someone who was inquiring about Eastgate that we aren’t an actual church, because the pastor hasn’t been officially ordained and lacks the proper training.

Hey…I’ll be the first in line to complain about the lead pastor at Eastgate, and his lack of skills (bow-hunting and nun-chuck skills come readily to mind).  BUT…is it really a Biblical mandate that a specific class of people receive official training for a “spiritual vocation”?  Is there really a distinction between a “clergy class” and a “laity”?

The word “clergy” comes from the Greek word “kleros“…it means first and foremost, an alloted portion, or we could say “an inheritance”.  It’s used in 1 Pet 5:3, Pete encourages leaders not to “lord over” “those entrusted to them”.  The word he used for “those entrusted” is “kleros”.  Break it down…who is Peter calling “clergy” in this verse?

Col 1:12 is another passage where this word kleros shows up.  There, it’s translated as “inheritance”.  So…substitute the word “clergy” for the word “inheritance” as you read it.  Who is the clergy in this passage?

We’ll unpack this on Sunday morning as we take on the myth of the clergy/laity divide…and we may also consider the concept of “secular and spiritual” along with it.

See you then.

CORRECTION: Just to qualify, based on Mike’s comment…I want to clarify that I in no way mean to denigrate those who have paid the cost of formal training, nor do I mean to imply that there is no value in being educated to the best of our ability to do so.  My issue is with what essentially a class distinction between those who occupy supposed offices and the general community of the church.  There is no premium on ignorance…but does that entitle a person to elevated status among the saints?

What is the Church Anyway?

Our text this Sunday will be 1 Tim 3:14-16 (In the Message)

Just a few short verses, in which Paul gives an explanation about why he’s writing this letter in the first place.  In his explanation, he gives some very interesting insights about the nature of the church gathering.  How does v15 describe the church?  What three descriptors does he use?  What do those mean to you?

The context is the church, yet what does v16 seem to be talking about?  What do you see as the connection?

Short…to the point…yet a lot to think about.  See youse Sunday.