What Does SeqHim Believe?

This is long overdue, but better late than never. Please do not read into my tardiness that I do not believe doctrine is as important as the other stuff I have been discussing. I happen to believe it is far more important and actually drives the whole reason for starting SeqHim in the first place. I mean, if Christ has not risen then we who suffer for Him are to be the most pitied, right? (First one to chime in with the verse reference gets a root beer dum-dum…or at least a picture of one.)

Without further delay, here is a brief summary of what we believe from a doctrine perspective. I think you’ll find that it is a pretty classic summary of orthodox evangelical theology, though I am certainly no theologian. As Mercy Me says, I’m just trying to find my way home. Nonetheless, this is the mental model we are operating under.

God

There is one God, existing in three persons (“triune”): the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. God creates and sustains all things. He is eternal…that is, he has no beginning and no end from a time perspective. He is infinite…that is, we can learn about him forever. He is perfect…that is, he does the right thing always. He is Holy…that is, he is unique and separate from human beings in his majesty.

Bible

Though penned by man, the Bible is the one and only divinely inspired text available to man today. Because it is inspired by God himself, it is inerrant, infallible and is to be regarded as the final authority on all matters of faith and practice for all Christians of all time.

Jesus

Jesus Christ (i.e. Jesus the Messiah) is the second person of the “triune” God. That is, Jesus is both fully God and fully man. Though Jesus is eternal, he was born into this world by the Holy Spirit approx 2000 years ago through the virgin, Mary. Jesus lives a sinless life and performed many supernatural miracles. He claimed to be God and the Jewish Messiah, was crucified, and then was resurrected three days later in authentication of his teaching. The resurrection was physical and bodily; many witnesses saw Jesus in the flesh after his resurrection. After appearing to these witnesses, Jesus ascended to Heaven where he is now exalted at the right hand of God the Father. He is designated as King and ruler of God’s Kingdom now and for eternity. As such, all people will bow to Jesus now or in eternity in submission to His authority.

Holy Spirit

The Holy Spirit is the third person of the “triune” God. He is a unique person within the triune God, distinct from Jesus Christ and from God the Father. His ministry is to convict the world of sin and to be a helper to all believers in Jesus Christ. The Holy Spirit indwells each genuine believer in Jesus Christ and seals them as a down payment on God’s promise to fully deliver the believer to Heaven.

Sin

Man was created in the image and likeness of God, but sin entered the world through the first man…Adam. Sin is moral imperfection present in every human being (except for Jesus) and cannot be tolerated by our Holy God. Without God’s intervention, the entire human race would be destined for Hell…a horrid place of permanent separation from God. Without God’s intervention, we would get what we deserve.

Salvation

God sent Jesus Christ to earth with one primary mission: to redeem the human race from the consequences of sin (i.e. spiritual death). Jesus accomplished this through his death and resurrection. His sacrifice on the behalf of those who believe in him is accepted by God as full payment for our sins. Therefore, we can be “saved” from punishment simply by believing in Christ. Believing in Christ means: first, accepting His teaching in full; second, receiving God’s gift of salvation (usually through prayer); and third, following Him in his life of sacrificial love for God and for others (starting with baptism). God changes us so that we are able to believe, then it is by believing and receiving that we are pronounced “not guilty” of our sin. The natural behavior of a changed person is to follow Christ in his sacrificial love for God and others.

Church

The Church is the universal and timeless union of those who have become God’s children through faith in Jesus Christ. While constantly under attack, the Church shall never be overcome by Satan and His evil forces.

Eternity

All human beings are eternal and destined to live life one time, die and sometime in the future be bodily resurrected to face a judgment that will decide where they spend their eternity. By default, all human beings are sinful and deserving of Hell, a physical place of eternal torment through final and complete separation from God. If a person places their faith (i.e. trust) in Jesus Christ alone to be saved from Hell, God will accept Jesus sacrifice as suitable punishment for that person’s sin and accept them into Heaven, a physical place of intense intimacy with God.

Satan

Satan is an angel of God who chose on his own volition to rebel against God. Several angels followed his lead in the rebellion and thus became known as demons. Satan and his demons are powerful with respect to human beings but inept with respect to God. He has been given some freedom to rule this world for now, until God redeems it. He is to be respected but never feared, because God is our Father and has him completely under control.

So you are in the core…now what?

Follow Christ no matter the cost to yourself!
Follow Christ no matter the cost to yourself!

Remember when Jesus called his disciples?  “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will make you fishers of men.” (Matthew 4:19).  There are three parts to this…”Come”, “follow me”, and “I will make you fishers of men.”  Relative to what we have been discussing, “Come” corresponds to ‘seeking’, for seeking corresponds to the receiving of a call to follow Christ.  But what do you do after receiving the call?  First, “follow me” then become “fishers of men”.  That is, live a life like that of Jesus, then call out to others to seek and follow Christ themselves.  This is a simple accurate way of looking at the entire Christian life.

“Then Jesus said to his disciples, ‘If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.

Christianese really bothers me, but as you can tell, I’m throwing alot of it out there.  What does it really mean to “be a disciple of” or to “follow” Christ?  It means that we are aiming to become just like him.  Sorry, more Christianese…what does it mean to “be just like him”?  Does it mean that we ought to have the same divine powers as Christ?  Does it mean that we should never marry because Christ never married?  Does it mean that we should become itinerate Jewish Rabbis roaming Isreal on foot in sandles?  Clearly, becoming “just like him” requires some thought about the ways in which we are to be just like Christ.

Let me give you some thoughts.  I’ll chunk this into a series of categories…let me know what you think!

Personality.  Personality is designed to be unique from person to person, therefore, we need not emulate Christ’s personality in full.  If Jesus was laid back, but you are a naturally tight person…that may not be something you need to change.  It would need to be changed only where your “tightness” is a reflection of fear, lack of contentment, etc.  Peters aggresivness was not his problem; control of that aggressivness was the problem.

Ability.  Again, out gifts and abilities range from person to person.  Jesus was an excellent teacher; that does not mean that we all are.  The important principle here is that you know your abilities and you use them for God’s purposes.

Divinity.  Jesus is both fully God and fully man.  While he was on earth, he demonstrated characteristics of both. We must not attempt to emulate the divine attributes of Christ – only the perfected manly characteristics.

Perfection.  When Jesus was born, he had both a perfect spirit and perfect flesh. When we are born, we have a dead spirit and corrupt flesh. When we are born again, we are given a living perfect Spirit, but our flesh remains corrupt. Therefore, while temptation is not unique to us (Christ suffered just as we do), sin is unique to us. That is, moral perfection is unique to Christ alone. The significance of this is that our goal should be to strive for perfection, understanding and accepting the fact that we will not succeed until we die, as we suffer through temptation as Christ did.

Circumstances.  Each person has a unique context in which they live their lives, and this context is an important factor in determining the “right thing to do”.  We are not expected to arrange the same circumstances for ourselves that Christ dealt with directly.

Calling.  God called Jesus to specific ideals, passions and functions.  Some of these we share (e.g. caring for the poor, defending the weak, standing for righteousness, etc), but some we need not share (e.g. calling out the religious hypocrisy, drinking the cup of God’s wrath, etc).  What are your ideals, passions, and functions?  Which do you share with Christ?  Which are unique to you?  We all have a unique “calling”…just be sure it lines up with Biblical principles.

Jesus is the perfect example of holiness and righteousness in a human being and we need to do anything and everything to emulate that.

So, we don’t really need to be “just like him”.  But, he is the perfect example of holiness and righteousness in a human being and we need to do anything and everything to emulate that. What are you doing to better emulate these the holiness and righteousness of Christ?

Ooops…that’s more Christianese. Let me try again … what are you doing to improve your knowledge of God’s truth through the Bible, iron out the imprefections in your character, and do the right thing more often?

What does it mean to believe God?

A couple of posts ago, we went a little deeper on what it means to hear God.  If you remember, this was the first of three activities that we perform to help ourselves grow spiritually.  Today, we will talk a little more about the second activity, believing God.

Iterative Growth Model
Iterative Growth Model

As with hearing God, numerous well-written books on “belief” have been written and many more could be written.  Here, we will focus not so much on defining belief and faith, but on the things we can be doing to strengthen our belief in what God has said.  But to do that, we will scope the term belief to “believing what God has said”.  In the post of “hearing God”, we discussed some aspects of understand what God has to say; in this one, we’ll discuss some things we can be doing to strengthen our belief in what we understand Him to have said.

I’ve mentioned before that the activities associated with believing God are similar to training activities in the world of athletics.  Baseball players become better players by playing the game, yes, but the best players excel at training between games.  Every athlete at the top of his game is obsessive about training.  They learn from experience, but they are compelled to train to the point of suffering out of devotion for being the best at what they do.  How much more so should a Christian be compelled to train to the point of suffering out of devotion for being the most like their Savior they can be?

What are these training activities?  I believe they are most widely known as the spiritual disciplines.  Pick up anything by Dallas Willard and you will be blessed in his encouraging view of how God changes us through these disciplines.  The disciplines are used by God to prepare us for our future circumstances.  He knows what is about to happen to us, and he provides opportunities for us to discipline ourselves in more controlled circumstances before the trouble hits.

Disciplines like prayer, study, worship, solitude, fasting, scripture memory, scripture meditation, and others train us internalize God’s Word.  They train us to make His Word part of us.  They train us to allow His Word to change us…to change who we are and therefore how we react natually.  In my life, I’ve tried to develop this habit of calling upon some specific verse of scripture when I excounter a challenging or tempting circumstance.  How could I do this if I only read the scriptures in a cursory manner?  How could I do this if I only engage extra-biblical resources?  How could I do this if I only attend bible studies for social reasons or to check it off of my “what I need to be doing to be a good Christian” list?  I can’t.  Earnest prayer, thoughtful study, focused meditation, sacrifical fasting, and (most important this day and age) regular time alone are what is required.

I’m sorry to say that this is hard work, and unfortunately that is not what many Christians these days sign-up for when they walk down the aisle.  But, God’s way is always the best and “safest” way.  And, in most cases, I would say that this little bit of pain helps us to avoid the great amount of pain that comes by trying to deal with life without having been trained on God’s ways.

I’ll leave you with this.  I’ve been a Christian since the age of eight, and clearly God has been providing for and protecting me since then…no question.  But, I did not experience consistency in life or steady change until I got serious about spending daily time alone with the Lord.  If you do not already, I encourage you to spend a few minutes every day reading a passage from scripture, really thinking about what God is saying to you through it, and praying about it with God.  If you do not know where to start, start with the book of John.

I promise that there is nothing you can do that will have a greater impact on your life than this very simple yet difficult to stick with activity.  For me, what started as a form of sacrifice (giving up some of “my” time) has turned into a joy that I cannot imagine living without.  If it were not for this simple discipline, I would be full of knowledge, but I can’t say I would genuinely believe what God has said nor have experienced the charater change that I have.

What has God taught you lately?

More than one wise disciple-maker has told me that they could guage the temperature of a person using one simple question…

What has God taught you lately?

Brilliant, IMHO.  I’d like to share something specific God has been working on in me and pray that it might be an encouragement to you.  If you are performance-oriented, this post is for you.

So many of us struggle with a strong performance-orientation.  That is, we are driven by goals, performance, winning, competition, results, excellence, and the like.  On one hand, I praise God that he creates people who are driven to perform at high levels.  The Bible is full of such people, and if it were not for the obedience (i.e. performance) of the heroes of the faith, we would not even have a “faith”.  But, as with so many good things God provides, this blessing can become a bondage to us.

Now, I’m not going to dive into the pop-psychology of performance “bondage” and why we ought to blame our parents for being as we are.  Rather, I’m going to show you a simple truth and pray that God will use it to help you the way He has used it to help me in the past week.

Think about who we would be if it were not for God.  We would be dust…literally.  We would be as significant as the ground you walk on.  This is why is absolutely fascinates me how an athiest can avoid despair…there is no reason whatsoever for an athiest to ascribe significance to matter that rises from insignificant organic matter and disintegrates back into that insignificant organic matter.  The philosophy behind all this is a topic for another day, but it should be intuitive to a reasonable thinker that significance does not rise from insignificance.  Something, or someone, of significance has to give an object significance for it to be genuinely significant.

As I said before, there is nothing wrong with a drive to perform; but, whether we recognize it or not, performance is usually tied to significance.  We perform because we are attempting the earn significance from someone we perceive to be more significant than ourselves.  Said another way, we’re trying to “earn their love”.  And the fact is that no one’s love is worth attempting to earn, because it is vapor…earned love is not really love; earned significance is not really significance.  Satan just likes to make us think that to keep us from living fully in God’s genuine love and sigificance.

Therefore, I have two important principles for you today.  I pray you will find them biblical, helpful, and a light from the Lord himself today.

First, you are significant only because God gives you significance through His love for you.  Your performance has zero affect on your sigificance.  Yes, it may affect rewards in Heaven, but it does not affect God’s love for you nor your true sigificance.  If you did not grow up in a healthy home, I know this is hard to understand…but, it is indeed true of your Heavenly Father.  Just how significant are you?  Significant enough for the God of the universe to condescend to that of man and die for you in Christ.

“For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.  For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would even dare to die.  But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.  Romans 5:6-8 (NASB)”

If you struggle with performance, as I do, it would be helpful to memorize this passage and meditate on it regularly.  Who are you trying to impress with your performance?  A boss?  A spouse?  A son/daughter?  A neighbor?  A competitor?  Who is it?  Now, what do you really have to gain?  If you believe in Christ and have been regenerated, you already have divine significance bestowed upon you by God’s love as demonstrated by His death for you.  Why not just rest in that?!?

Second, work hard (i.e. perform with maximum excellence) at everything you do, but do it as an expression of Christ-like agape love for others.  Performance ought to be seen as something we give away with no expectation of anything in return; it should not be seen as something we use to earn something from someone more significant than ourselves.  Be motivated to empty yourself for others as Christ “emptied” himself for you.  We had nothing to give back to the Lord for His sacrifice, yet he did it anyway.  Likewise, give of yourselves in your work (no matter what it is) as an expression of love for others. 

  • Do you go to school? 
    • Don’t learn to impress or even meet the expectations of your parents or teachers.
    • Do it because educated people are better equiped to serve others.
  • Do you run a household? 
    • Don’t do it to impress your neighbor, spouse, or children or to make them feel a certain way.
    • Do it simply as an expression of love toward your spouse and children, regardless of their response to your efforts.
  • Do you manage other people’s money? 
    • Don’t do it to impress your peers or clients. 
    • Do it because as an expression of love for the person for whom you manage money.
  • Do you write software? 
    • Don’t do it to impress your boss, peers or an open source community.
    • Do it as a work of service to your leader, company or community.
  • Do you clean inside or outside of a building/home?
    • Don’t do it to impress your boss or home owner.
    • Do it because God is orderly, and you can love the owner by providing an orderly space for them.
  • Do you lead or manage other people?
    • Don’t do it to build an empire and to extract significance from people by ruling over them.
    • Do it because you care about developing people and working as a team to love those your team serves.
  • Do you teach the bible, blog or engage forums?
    • Don’t do it to build a reputation or empire.
    • Do it simply because you care about other’s development and welfare.

What do you do?  In what way are you trying to perform for someone else?  How could you change your attitude so that you do what you do to love others rather than gain love from them?  How can you use your work to pour significance into someone else who is not lovely, rather than trying to exact more love and signifiance from those who have nothing to give?

And so, we can summarize with a simple statement…one I plan to carry with me and live as best I can:

God has already made you significant; there is no need to extract significance from others, as if it were even possible.

I started this by saying that this is something God has been teaching me recently, but I would love to know what he has been working with you on!  If you would like to encourage others by sharing, please do so.

What Does it Mean to Hear God?

Excellent question…thank you for asking! 😉

In a previous post, I introduced my view of spiritual growth, which I believe is a biblical view…please tell me if you disgaree! 

Remember there are two fundamental principles:

  • spiritual growth occurs along three dimensions: knowledge, character and behavior.
  • growth on these three dimensions occurs by iterations of hearing, believing and obeying God.

And, remember the graphic we use to discuss this subject…hopefully it is an image that helps you get your arms around this subject at a high level as we dive deeper into different elements of this complex subject.

Iterative Growth Model
Iterative Growth Model

What  we want to dive a little deeper on today is the activity of hearing God

As we’ve discussed, the purpose of the iterative growth model is to help people understand what it means to grow in Christ and how we cooperate with the Spirit during the transformation process.  Knowledge, character and behavior are the what…that is, these are attributes of our person that change.  Only the Spirit can affect this change.  Hearing, believing and obeying are activities that we are responsible for and are used by the Spirit as a tool, so to speak, in our transformation.  They are the how.  Therefore, when I talk about “hearing God” in this context, I’m talking primarily about the activities we are responsible for that the Spirit uses to increase our knowledge of Him. 

My intention is not to start a debate on non-essentials such as whether or not God speaks audibly now as he did in the past; however, one essential is necessary to move forward, and that is the sole authority of Scripture.  Everything you read on this site assumes that while God may reveal Himself in many ways, there is only one source of divine authority for faith and practice: Scripture.

There are two major categories for activities related to “Hearing God”: Scripture and Non-Scripture.  Ok, I guess that was a little patronizing…but, here’s the point.  Scripture is the only authority, and everything else is subject to it; but, that is not to say that extra-biblical sources are not helpful, of course.  Otherwise, I’m wasting my time writing this and you are wasting your time reading it.  When I am discipling someone, my first goal is to get them in the Word regularly to a) establish private bible study as a discipline, joy and priviledge, and b) develop a foundational understanding of the essential doctrines of the faith tied to Scripture directly.  My second goal is to feed them extra-biblical resources that strengthen weak areas of their understanding.  In this way, I can be an effective disciple-maker without being the best teacher.  I need only be concerned with helping the disciple develop skills of discernment…measuring everything they read against what they know to be true from Scripture.  My prayer is that you are doing that very thing with everything you read from SeqHim!

What are these extra-biblical resources?  I think of them as being any media that God uses to speak to his people, outside of the Bible itself.  Yes, I do believe that God speaks to us through our conscience, and He does not need media to speak to us.  I just don’t call that a “resource”.  So, examples would include books, classes, sermons, podcasts, videos, dramas, bogs, twitter feeds, seminars, conferences, etc.

Now, relatively speaking, there is a little good stuff out there, and alot of bad stuff.  The challenge for any disciple-maker is to discern the good from the bad.  And not only that, but discern the best from the good, where the distinction between the good and the best has to do with knowing where your disciple is in his walk and the kinds of resources that would be most beneficial for him/her right now. 

The vision of SeqHim includes tools and support for helping disciples and disciple-makers discrern the good from the bad and the best from the good.  Presently, this blog (and more effectively, R2 coming in a few weeks) can be used to share opinions on the best resources.  In the future, we’ll add structure, meta-languages and enhanced search capabilities to make a personalized community ranked list of resources one click away.

I’m sure there are other good sources of info on the best resources out there…I just have not seen any that live up to the standards I have in mind.  If you know of some good ones, please let me know. 

I would love to hear your feedback on the passages of Scripture and extra-biblical resources that have had the greatest impact on your walk!

Treasure in Earthen Vessels

One of my favorite bands is Jars of Clay.  They get their name from 2 Corinthians 4:7…

“But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves.” 2 Cor 4:7 (NASB)

Paul’s point here is that God has chosen us (as ordinary, fragile, and insignificant as a clay pot) to hold and distribute His gospel so that He would receive all of the glory for it’s power and not us.  But, you do not even have to leave Paul’s letters to the Corinthians to see something else that this body of ours “contains”.

“Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own?  For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body.” 1 Cor 6:19-20

And so, God has chosen (for reasons that are hard if not possible to comprehend) to use fallen, broken, sinful, frail people to hold something as significant as not only God’s universal message of justice, grace, and mercy but also the very Spirit that regenerates and transforms us.  This is the same Spirit who participates in Creation and who resided among men only in the Holy of Holies before Christ.  Amazing…absolutely amazing.

What could be more amazing?  The fact that I, and I’ll bet many of you, do not think on this very often let alone allow it to affect our moment to moment behavior.  How can it be that I get so caught up in the meaningless, being tricked into thinking that it is somehow more significant that the fact that God has called me to be a vehicle of His gospel and His Spirit to a fallen, lost, Hell-bound world?  How can it be that I worry more about the price of a tank of gas than the price Christ paid for my sins.  How can it be that I worry more about how I’m performing and measured by my boss at work than I am my boss who redeemed me, resurrected me, called me, and indwelled me?  How can it be that I worry more about what other insignificant earthen vessels think of me than what the infinitely significant contents of my own vessel thinks of me?

I’m often reminded of a couple simple and practical points that I have used throughout the years to move my attention away from the vessel and toward it’s contents.  I’ll share them here and pray that He would use them to help you as well.

First, frequent and regular prayer matters.  As busy as life gets, too many times I am duped into thinking that my relationship with God is strong enough to skip daily prayer for a season so I can “get things done”.  That’s a lie.  I don’t care how “mature” you are, we all have to be reminded of the treasure within us or we will forget.

Second, every moment of our lives represents an opportunity to live through the strength of what lives within us rather than the weakness of it’s container.  We do not have to change anything about our circumstances to fully glorify God. 

Did you know that a single mom changing the diaper of her 6-month old has the same opportunity to glorify God as does Billy Graham sharing the gospel with millions of people on TV?  This relatively unknown single mom and Mr. Graham are made of the same insignificant earthen material and possess the same gospel and Holy Spirit.  How could one glorofy God and the other not?  It’s all in the heart and motives for doing what you do.  Are you doing all you can, wherever God has placed you, to hear Him, believe Him, and obey Him?  Are you genuinely concerned about how much you reflect the Spirit’s joy, compassion, humility and perseverance?  If you change that diaper out a selfless concern for the baby, joyfully content with the role God has given you then you will be more pleasing to God than a person sharing the gospel with millions of people only because of the attention or money it brings him.

At the end of the day, especially when the world begins to become confusing, I come to the same conclusion that Solomon did:

“The conclusion, when all has been heard, is: fear God and keep His commandments, because this applies to every person.”  Ecclesiastes 12:13

Any believer, no matter their job or circumstance, can and must fear God and keep His commandments.  In this way, we live by the power of that which lives in us and not by the frailty of the vessel itself.  This is how we glorify God, and all of us have the same opportunity to glorify God to the same extent. 

And so, my encouragement for the day is to seek God and his commands, then live them to the best of your ability right where you are moment to moment.  Let’s leave the excuses behind and help one another in the journey.

Deeper Dive on Growth Themes

In my last post, I introduced the concept of a growth theme.  Think of themes (joy, compassion, humility, perseverance) as the more concrete sub-components of the growth dimensions (knowledge, character, and behavior).  And remember, growth on these dimensions within the themes is a result of hearing, believing and obeying God.  Later, I’ll go a little deeper on hearing, believing and obeying God…the things we do.  But first, lets look a little closer at what we are trying to become (increasingly joyous, compassionate, humble, and persevering).

Joyfully forget yourself and focus on others forever.

The above statement is something I made up as a kind of personal mission statement.  Notice how it includes each of the four growth themes…joy, humility (forget yourself), compassion (focus on others), and perseverance (forever).  We are followers of Christ if we do this increasingly, genuinely and in the context of God’s truth.  Note that I did not say we are “saved” because of it.  We’re “saved” because we professed faith in Christ and He gave us life by His grace alone.  What I’m taking about here is actually following Christ after we have been regenerated.

Now, let’s look under the hood.  Are four themes really enough?  What about love, wisdom, righteousness, contentment, faith, dependenance, generosity, etc?  As I said before, we created a mind map to organize these characteristics so that we could get our arms around the different facets and begin to eat the elephant one bite at a time, so to speak.

Here is a link to that mind map: Themes v0.3

Remember, this is one of an incalculable number of possible arrangements.  This is just one that works for our purposes.  I’m happy to take feedback on it, because I do want to improve it…but, let’s not miss the forest for the trees either.

And so you will see that we’re framing contentment as a joy issue.  If you do not have God’s joy, it is possible that the underlying cause is a contentment issue.  With this kind of vocabulary, we can use it in a number of different ways to help people.  Here are a few:

Assessment: Helping Disciples Know Where They Are

We can develop a means of helping people understand where they are in their walk with regard to joy, humility, compassion, and perseverance.  This then drives where/how they spend their time addressing areas of weakness (rather than simply ammassing knowledge by an endless stream of “bible studies”).  The intent of “assessment”, would be to help someone understand that contentment is a bigger issue in their life than say generosity.

Guidance: Helping Disciples Know Where to Go and How to Get There

Guidance can be attached to the same vocabulary.  Guidance (e.g. passages of scripture, teaching, books, podcasts, disciplines, ad-hoc experiences and advice, etc)  can be provided on how to become more generous, for example, and loaded into a shared repository.

Search: Helping Disciples Find The Best Stuff Fast

Now that guidance has been loaded against a specific vocabulary, and a person understands their need using the same vocabulary, an extremely efficient search capability can be put into place that helps a disciple find exactly what they need almost immediately.

There is alot more to be said, but alas…it will have to wait until next time.  Until then, I will continue to pray for all of you as you strive to become more like our Savior.

Themes of Spiritual Growth

Let’s pick up on a thread that I started several days ago re: spiritual growth.  Remember that we discussed two basic principles:

  • spiritual growth occurs along three dimensions: knowledge, character and behavior.
  • growth on these three dimensions occurs by iterations of hearing, believing and obeying God.

And, we used the following as a picture to illustrate the basic concept.

Iterative Growth Model
Iterative Growth Model

Now let’s break down the components of knowledge, character, and behavior so we can get to something that each of us can use in our daily lives and help others to do the same.

Several months ago, some faithful buddies and I brainstormed “christian attributes”.  We asked, “what are the characteristics you would expect to see in a follower of Christ?”  Obviously, many attributes came to mind, including wisdom, righteousness, humility, generosity, love, contentment, etc.  We then organized them into four major themes: joy, humility, compassion, and perseverance.

Therefore, when we talk about growing in knowledge, we’re really talking about growing in knowledge of what it means to be joyous, humble, compassionate and persevering.  When we talk about growing our character (internal attitudes and unseen behaviors), we’re talking about developing a joyous, humble, compassionate, and persevering character.  When we talk about growing in behavior (externally observable behaviors), we’re talking about acting joyous, humble, compassionate, and persevering.

Clearly, there are many, many ways to organize these attributes.  This is just the way we did it, and I think it works pretty well.  In future posts, I can share the detailed “mind map” that describes how we organized the attributes and dealt with “super-themes” like righteousness and wisdom.

Now, remember the second principle that describes how we grow in the three dimensions and their four components.  Generally speaking, we grow in knowledge by hearing God; we grow in behavior by believing Him; and we grow in behavior by obeying Him.  Therefore, we grow in our knowledge of what it means to be joyous by hearing what God has to say on joy; we grow in chracter with respect to joy by genuinely believing these truths from God; and, we grow in joyous behavior when we obey these new truths that we genuinely believe.

I have lots of examples from Scripture and from my own experience to share, and will do so over time, but for now let’s start with one from Acts.  Do you remember Paul and Silas in prison (Acts 16)?  They behaved in an extraordinary way.  First, rather than grumbling (which I’m sure I would have been), they are singing and praying.  Then, when the earthquake hits and the prison doors are busted open, they did not flee.

Now look, I’m excited by the growth God has caused in me over the past several years, but I am nowhere near this level of mature behavior.  Paul and Silas were so focused on the welfare of their guard, they essentially sacrificed themselves for him…a non-Jew and a non-Christian.  Why on earth would they a) be singing in prison; and b) not leave when God “obviously” was trying to set them free by way of the earthquake?  In the first case, they had learned to be “content in all circumstances” (we bucketed contentment within the joy theme).  In the second, they had serious compassion for the jailor and knew what “the right thing to do was” (see my previous post).  Why were they so joyous and compassionate?  Because they knew the promises of God and they genuinely believed them.  They had already invested years into knowing God’s word and practicing the disciplines required for training themselves for just such a moment.  Of course, Paul (at least) had the additional experiences of supernatural encounters with God, but these are not necessary to grow to the point Paul was.  We can all get there by studying God’s word, proactively training ourselves to believe it, and them acting upon it in any circumstance.

And so my encouragement is simply this: know God’s word, believe what you know, and obey what you believe.  Over time, learn a little more, believe a little more and obey a little more.  Just keep moving forward and never stop. 

If you need help, please raise you hand.  I, and many others joining this community, are here to help you!

The Ultimate Goal

In my last post, I spoke about the specific and immediate goal of ministering to God’s people.  But what is the ultimate goal?  How does the mission of SeqHim converge with and support the ministry of the Church?

I mentioned what I believe is the ultimate goal in my last post, and I want to expand upon it here a bit: bring glory to God.  That ought to be the underlying reason for anything we do (or do not do).  Otherwise, what is the point?  Do everything you do for the glory of God, and work hard at it.  Yes, it is good to just chill from time to time, but even that brings glory to God…it acknowledges a) that God designed us to need rest and recreation; b) that our efforts are not nearly as important as we usually think; and c) that God himself rested and commands us to rest as well.  And so, go play golf, take a nap, or watch HGTV this weekend knowing that you may be bringing great glory to God in the process!

Given that it is good to rest and it is good to work, what do we work at?  What work brings glory to God?  Is it only “ministry” work?  Am I bringing glory to God when I go to church, serve in the nursery, help little old ladies across the street?  Sure, but does that mean that I am not bringing glory to God when I am writing a computer program, changing diapers, taking out the trash, leading a marketing project, punishing the kids, performing financial analysis, studying for a test at school, and so on?  I certainly hope not, because most of us spend most of our time doing these things that are usually perceieved as less or even non-spiritual.

Then how do we glorify God in everything we do, whether it is a ‘rest’ activity or a ‘work’ activity?  Here is a phrase that has helped me tremendously through the years: ‘do the right thing for the right reason’.  As long as you are doing the right thing (with pure motives) in any situation, you are bringing glory to God.  Sounds easy, right?  Ha!  If you think that is easy, you have never really been serious about it because it’s incredibly hard!  As a matter of fact, it’s impossible as long as we remain in this fallen world prior to our perfection.  And so, allow me to revise our goal statement to make it a bit more accurate to what is really expected of us: “strive to do the right thing for the right reason”.  We are to love the Lord our God with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength…to do the very best with everything God has given us to do the right thing.  Thankfully, God’s grace enables us to try and still accepts us when we fail!  But the true measure of our faith is the effort we put into doing the right thing, purifying our motives and avoiding the wrong thing…regardless of the personal risk.

So, may this be an encouragement to you today.  Strive to do the right thing, moment by moment, for the right reasons.  Make it your number one priority, higher than any any other objective you have for today.  Expend yourself learning how to determine what the right thing is, seeking the Lord in His Word, asking the Him for moment by moment wisdom, trusting that He has granted you that wisdom (James 1:5), and then acting accordingly, confidently and courageously.  In this way, you will be a delight to the Lord, He will be glorified, you will be transformed, others around you will be loved as Christ loves them, and others will be attracted to the Savior through your example of Him.

Core, Fringe and World in Luke 15

I owe this one to my pastor, Pete Chiofalo, and his wonderful message from Luke 15 this past Sunday.

First, I’ll provide a quick interpretation of Luke 15:11-32; then, I’ll comment on how each of the three groups we have been discussing (i.e. core, fringe, and world) are represented in “the prodigal son”.

Luke 15:1-2 makes it clear that the next three stories (i.e. the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the lost son) are in response to the grumbling of the Pharisees that Jesus is hanging out with “sinners”.  Each of these parables makes essentially the same point: God has great concern for the lost; He will in a sense leave those who do not need finding to look for the lost one; and, God (and all those of like mind) will rejoice greatly when the lost one is found. 

Focusing now on Luke 15:11-32, we have a man with two sons.  The younger requests his future inheritance ahead of time and leaves the home to squander it; he becomes “lost”.  The older stays behind to continue working diligently for his father.  The younger “comes to his senses” in v17, which simply means that God has convicted him of his sinful ways and his heart has repented.  He returns home to confess his sin, and his father is eagerly waiting for him – rejoicing to the point of throwing an extravagant welcome home party for his “found” son.  Meanwhile, the older son is angry, because he felt he had “earned” what the younger son did not “earn” and was given anyway.  He was jealous of the father’s forgiveness, grace and mercy toward the younger one.

A plain interpretation of this story is that the the father in the story is God; the younger son represents all of us who have realized our “lostness”, confessed our sin to to God, and received His welcome into the Kingdom through genuine faith in Jesus Christ; the older son represents all of those who have grown up in the church and yet continue to try to earn God’s favor by keeping religious rules, completely missing the importance of forgiveness, grace, mercy, and faith to the point that we look down on (and are even jealous of) those who are received into the Kingdom on the basis of God’s grace through faith alone.

If you’ve read some of my earlier posts, I’ll bet you know where this is headed. 🙂

What I have been calling the ‘world’ are all of those who are in the same position that the younger son was in while he was away from his family “squandering his estate with loose living”.  In verse 17, this younger son moved from the “world” to the “core”.  He confessed his sin to the father (v21) and received life (v32).  And the ‘fringe’?  You got it…the older son.  Though he grew up in the same house, he never realized it was grace and mercy that bound him to the father.  He always believed it was his efforts.  People in the ‘fringe’ typically have “grown up” in the church, hearing sermons on God’s grace and forgiveness every weekend (or, at least every Easter and Christmas).  And yet, somehow, their inability to rejoice when the wretched and poor are sought and embraced reveals are heart that was never right with the Lord to begin with.

I’ll end with two questions:

1. How do you act around “sinners”?  How do you feel about other believers who seek out “sinners”?  What is your immediate reaction when a known sinner walks into your church on Sunday?  What will you do to help move people from the ‘world’ to the ‘core’?

2. Do you love those in the ‘fringe’?  Or, do you feel superior because you are the younger son rather than the older one?  What will you do to help those in the ‘fringe’ move into the ‘core’?

Here’s one suggestion on how to answer each of these: keep reading this blog and engage with your feedback.  I have some ‘blue sky’ ideas on how we can help one another do both of these, and I’m going to need alot of help to make it happen!

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