Warning Signs

Warning signs are very helpful in an environment where there is the potential for danger. Climbing on lions is an activity that, I believe, requires a bit of a heads up.

Often times in life we aren’t afforded written signs that alert us to possible hazards – and that’s especially true as it touches our journey of faith. I’ve said many times that church is a dangerous place. We put a lot on the line to join a faith community – we invest our trust and hopes in it and the potential for disillusionment, or worse, is always present. Beyond just being disappointed by the people of the community, we also have to pay attention to the leadership and guidance that is present in that mix. The dangers range from abusive tactics of overseers to the propagation of a warped believe system. None of these things have warning labels attached to them…but that doesn’t mean we have no means of discerning a problem.

We’re continuing our study called Truth or Consequences, and we’ll be reading the middle section of Jude this Sunday, v5-16.

Jude sort of sounds like an Independent Baptist in this section, doesn’t he? (no offense towards my Independent Baptist friends…but c’mon, you know I’m right)

In v 5-7 he uses three examples from Israel’s history and from rabbinical tradition to re-emphasize that the God who saves us is also the God who does something else? What else is at work in this mix besides God’s desire to save? How does that factor in as a warning sign about the result of following a false teacher?

The focus shifts in the following verses – narrowing in on what these false teachers are like. In V 8-10 there is a theme of rejecting authority – church, civil and even celestial. What sort of warning sign would we assign to leadership based these verses?

V 11-16 provides a dizzying string of metaphors that exemplify what Jude thinks of these teachers. Rain-less clouds, stars that don’t provide for a fixed position, fruitless trees; there’s a common theme to these images – can you think of what it is? Jesus provides a similar warning in Matthew 7:16-20. What is Jude saying here – what are the warning signs to look for?

When Judah started his letter he said he’d rather just talk about the wonders of our shared salvation – and I’m right there with him. This is not my favorite topic, but sometimes we have to stop and read the warning signs for the sake of our spiritual health. This Sunday will be one of those times. See yez’ then!

A Love for Truth

 Last summer I was struggling with my weed-eater. I had come to the conclusion that the spool which held the string was old and faulty and needed to be replaced. I tore the whole assembly off the handle and ripped open the packaging on the replacement head and started trying to attach it to the trimmer. Sweat was pouring down my face and into my eyes as I tried and tried to align the new spool properly onto the shaft of the trimmer, but it just wouldn’t work. Then it dawned on me. I had the wrong replacement part. I had wasted hours and expended so much energy, only to realize I was trying to attach the wrong thing.

Ever been there? Hopefully not – I trust you’re smarter than I. There’s nothing worse than putting a lot of effort into something and realizing, too late, that it was all for naught.

That’s something John will be warning us about on a spiritual level as we finish out 2 John in our study called Truth or Consequences. We’ll be reading 2nd John 1:7-13.

John spent the first part of his letter encouraging us to live in love – then the last part of his letter seems to get a little harsh. How can we reconcile his defense of the gospel of Jesus and his challenge to be loving? Does loving others require us to abandon a claim to a singular truth? Why or why not?

What does John encourage us to “watch” in v8? What is his emphasis concerning how his warning is applied? How does that help us understand the balance of loving tolerance and holding the truth?

The deceptive doctrines he’s warning about are most likely ancient forms of “Christian Gnosticism” – it’s good to have a grasp of what his context was.

In the ancient world there were no motels or formal travel accommodations.  Traveling ministers could only spread their message by relying on the hospitality of local churches. They would be housed, fed and blessed – that is, encouraged. If those systems were removed, the teacher would not be able to continue spreading his views.  Given that context, how do we understand what John is telling us about letting false teachers into the home or blessing them?

This study will require some critical thinking on our part as we press some hard questions to the assumptions our present culture has made concerning love, tolerance and truth. Hope to see yez there!

Weeds in the Lawn

I’ve met a lot of people who have been abused by a church at some point in their lives. I feel like I’ve met more than I should have. I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised though, because the New Testament devotes a surprisingly large amount of space warning us about the dangers of church. Specifically the dangers of bad leadership in the church. Sometimes we bemoan the state of the church today, and we forget that bad leaders have always been around.

The writers of the New Testament were rightly concerned about the vulnerable position people put themselves in when joining to a church community. So they warned, over and over again, that it’s up to us to be discerning and careful when it comes to the leaders we choose to follow.

That will be the subject of our text this week as we read 2 Peter 2:1-3.

As you read Peter’s warning here, what seems to be his main concern about these false teachers? The word heresy in the Greek means dividing into a sect. What would a destructive heresy look like then?

When he says they deny the master who bought them, would you find it hard to follow a person’s teaching who denies Christ outrightly? Are there other ways we can deny Jesus, and what would they look like?

Verse three has the harshest indictments in it. What does Peter say these false teachers are doing to God’s people? Do you see a connection between that and the harsh words?

Given this warning, what is our responsibility as God’s people?

That’s some stuff to chew on between now and Sunday. Hope to see you then!