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?

Deep Dive on Core, Fringe and World

In previous posts, I’ve described that there are three kinds of people in this world: ‘core’, ‘fringe’ and ‘world’. If you are new to this blog and have not read these, I suggest you do so. Here, I’ll start from the top but will quickly dive into some newer territory without making this post too long.

Remember we said…

  • ‘core’ people were obvious believers in Christ who lived consistently between the Sundays;
  • ‘world’ people refer to those who do not profess Christ at all;
  • ‘fringe’ people are those that are not living their Sunday life between the Sundays.

Fringe “go to church” primarily for social reasons, which may include participating in any “church activity” that they feel some kind of social pressure to participate in; i.e. community service, financial giving, bible study, parking ministry, children’s ministry, etc. These are the things it takes to “belong”, and so they happily do them. Core also “go to church” and engage “church activities”, but they do so because they desire to obey God in all things, regardless of the personal cost. See the difference?

Here’s the question that prompts us to think a little deeper on this: do we associate these labels with people based on their actual state or just their perceivable state? This question matters because the later path allows us to move forward, but the former leads to a quagmire of judgmental-ism. In this world, we cannot know a person’s actual state, and it is dangerous to assume that we do. That’s not to say that we can’t have confidence in our salvation or that we cannot assume that someone who exhibits certain biblical behaviors as being regenerate or not, but those are posts for another day. I’m just saying I don’t want to get into the business of trying to sort out who is actually regenerate and who is not. It’s impossible, and there is no value in it…only confusion, difficulty, and hurt. We simply need some terms to communicate observations of people that lead to our ability to help them; we don’t need terms that we use to pretend to know what only God knows.

Here’s another question that prompts us to think a little deeper: do we associate these labels with people based on their actual maturity or their intentions in becoming mature? This question matters because we as disciple-makers cannot control the process of growth, but we can control the environment in which growth occurs. We do not control a plant’s growth process, but we can influence the outcome of that process by understanding the it and creating an environment that allows that process to work most efficiently. This is the job of a disciplemaker…to understand the process of spiritual growth and help people create an environment that allows this process to work most efficiently.

When a person has become intentional about setting up this environment, regardless of the cost to him, he has by definition moved into the core regardless of how mature he is. A one spiritual-day old believer can become as intentional about the growth process as a 60 spiritual-year old.

And so the mission remains…move people from the world and fringe to the core, then support, encourage and strengthen those in the core as they engage this sometimes intense and difficult journey.

Are you in the core? Are you helping someone else in the core with their “environment”? Are you talking to someone in the world about following Christ more closely? Are you talking to someone in the fringe about following Christ more genuinely? Do you want some help? That’s what SeqHim is here for…make yourself known and let us know how we can help you.

Are you in the fringe? Do you want to move into the core and become intentional about following Christ? That’s what SeqHim is here for…make yourself known and let us know how we can help you.

Are you in the world? Do you want to know what this Christianity stuff is all about? Do you sense that you are not right with God and that bad things will happen after you die? Do you want to hear this amazing story of God rescuing a people he loves from certain destruction and how you can be one that he rescues from the fate you already sense? That’s what SeqHim is here for…make yourself known and let us know how we can help you.

As always, I continue to pray for you all…no matter which ‘zone’ you currently live in!

Going ALL IN

Are you ALL IN?
Are you ALL IN?

Friends, I have to say that I’ve never been more confident that God desires to do something with SeqHim than I have been the past few days.  With relatively little investment on my part, He continues to open doors and make things happen.  I can also say that he is clearly driving the vision.  Why?  Because I feel as if I’m discovering something every day about it.  I understand the difference between creating and discovering, and for the first time in my life I’m creating something that feels so much more like discovery that I have to confess that it actually is discovery.

I’ve never been more confident that God desires to do something with SeqHim than I have been the past few days.

The latest “ah-ha” came just a few minutes ago as the pieces of the SeqHim name, the “core, fringe, and world” concept, and the iterative growth model all snapped into place in a new way for me.  Clearly there has been some intent behind all of these, but honestly I saw them only loosely connected.  Now I see the clearly intentional (though not by me) tight integration.  I’m going to unfold these connections over the next few posts as I attempt to clarify and enrichen this vision that the Lord has given us.

Let’ start with a 80k foot level view.  The name is SeqHim.  Seq is short for “Sequi”, which means “to follow” in latin.  ‘Seq’ is pronounced “seek”, and so that is where we get the two action words in the tag line, “helping on another seek and follow Jesus Christ”.  As it turns out, the “core, fringe, world” concept is a really good way to communicate what I mean by “seek” Jesus Christ.  And, the iterative growth model is a really good way to communicate what I mean by “follow” Jesus Christ.

I’m going to unfold these connections over the next few posts as I attempt to clarify and enrichen this vision that the Lord has given us.

We desire that those in the ‘world’ (those that do not profess Christ) and ‘fringe’ (those that profess Christ but do not seek or follow him) would truely seek Christ, as He is, rather than the pleasures of the world or the benefits of the Christian religion.  We desire that those in the ‘core’ (those who have gone ALL IN for Christ, regardless of their level of maturity) do two things: a) help the ‘world’ and the ‘fringe’ know who Christ really is and what it means to follow him; and b) help one another grow in Christ as they follow him day-by-day.

The iterative growth model is one tool for helping a ‘core’ brother or sister in Christ follow Him more closely.  It helps position maturity as a balance of knowledge, character and behavior.  It balances hearing, believing and obeying activities so that you do not become unbalanced in your maturity.

The iterative growth model is one tool for helping a ‘core’ brother or sister in Christ follow Him more closely. 

In short, the iterative growth model is a way of looking at the adventure that we were all seeking to begin with.  This adventure is to trust the person of Christ so deeply in every circumstance that it is as if he were here among us.  His Spirit becomes so real in His moment to moment guidance that the incremental value of a tangible Christ in this world becomes less.

So, are you ALL IN?  Have you stood up after having pushed all of your chips into the middle of the table and said, “there’s no going back.  I’m doing this, and I’m doing it all the way.  I’m going on the adventure.  It has great risk, and I may get hurt, but I’m doing it anyway because I love my Savior…the one who died for me.” 

Are you ALL IN?

I’m not saying you think you are perfect; I’m asking about your intentions.  Do you desire to go anywhere, say anything and do anything that you Savior desires?  Or, do you desire the combined priviledges of the world and of Christ with none of the cost?  An ALL IN person desires Christ…with all of the cost and all of the priviledge.

If you want to go ALL IN, tell me, then hang around.  There are lots of folks gathering that want to help you with the second phase…following Christ.

John

If you are not moving forward, you are moving backward.

If You are a Butterfly, Act Like One
If You are a Butterfly, Act Like One

“And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.” Romans 12:2a

 

I would argue that there is a negative consequence to not renewing your mind…that is, you will be conformed to this world.

Romans 12:1-2 is a classic verse of Scripture regarding the importance of transformation in the life of every believer.  Most teachers that I have heard stress the importance of transformation in a positive sense…that is, you ought to renew your mind because then you will know God’s will more clearly.  And this is certainly true and a blessing to us.  However, I would argue that there is a negative consequence to not renewing your mind…that is, you will be conformed to this world.  I think it’s one or the other…there is no middle ground.  Each day, you either renew your mind or conform to the world.

Recently, I engaged an online “discussion” with a person who calls himself an “Agnostic Catholic”.  He grew up Catholic, adopted reformed theology, felt certain he was regenerate, then turned away from the faith and to agnosticism.  During my interaction, I renewed an old struggle with the meaning of Hebrews 5:11-6:11 and uncovered some new insights.  Once of which is relevant to this post.

I think he is saying that a person who thinks he is regenerate can fall away if he does not act like a regenerate person acts.

“For in the case of those who have once been enlightened … and have been made partakers of the Holy Spirit … and then have fallen away, it is impossible to renew them again to repentance…”  Hebrews 6:4-6 (NASB)

“But, beloved, we are convinced of better things concerning you, and things that accompany salvation, though we are speaking this way.” Hebrews 6:9 (NASB)

“And we desire that each one of you show the same diligence so as to realize the full assurance of hope until the end, so that you will not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises”. Hebrews 6:11-12 (NASB)

I’m not going to write a commentary here, nor am I trained to do so.  So, please test these thoughts in light of Scripture.  But, I think what’s going on here is that the writer is frustrated that the disciples are not pressing on toward maturity, so he issues are warning.  That warning is, “look, if you are not maturing in your faith, you are at risk of falling away and proving yourself to be a fraud.  So get in gear and press on to maturity.” 

To be clear, I don’t think the writer is saying that a regenerate person can become lost again.  I think he is saying that a person who thinks he is regenerate can fall away if he does not act like a regenerate person acts.

My salvation is not tied to my works, but my assurance certainly is.  For, if I am not acting like a believer, why should I think I am?

And, I think Peter says the same thing.  After calling the saints to maturity, Peter says this …

“Therefore, brethren, be all the more diligent to make certain about his calling and choosing you; for as long as you practice these things, you will never stumble; for in this way the entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be abundantly supplied to you.” 1 Peter 1:10-11 (NASB)

And so, assurance of salvation is tied to maturity. If you are not pressing forward, you may indeed stumble (i.e. fall away), perhaps even to the extent that you prove that you were wrong about His “calling and choosing you” to begin with.

Have you ever interacted with someone who was a believer and now is not?  This is the first I have met…that fell as far and as hard as this.  Only God knows the condition of his heart, but it has awakened me to the reality that unless I am pressing on in maturity, I risk the same fate.  My salvation is not tied to my works, but my assurance certainly is.  For, if I am not acting like a believer, why should I think I am?

Do you allow people to surprise you?

I recently did some study on critical thinking.  One of the core principles is what I would call the art of the question.  That is, spend more time asking questions and less time trying to explain yourself.  While I agreed that understanding one another is good, I was bothered because the ephasis on questioning felt very pluralistic…like to be a critical thinker, you had to accept others views as being equal to your own.  I now understand that rejecting intense questioning simply because others use it in a pluralistic manner would be throwing the baby out with the bath water.  What I have discovered is that questioning is the only way we can learn about people…surprise!  The culture today needs us to learn about them in order to relate to them.  It’s amazing how hostile people become conversant if you just start asking questions rather than preaching dogma and defending yourself.

Those of you following this blog know that I believe the power to change a person’s heart resides in the gospel alone.  But, with some people, you simply have to earn the right to be heard.  We do that primarily by asking questions and genuinely trying to understand where they are coming from.  Once you know where they are coming from, then you can share the gospel in a way that they can understand and relate to.  This applies to all people…no matter where they are in their walk…no matter if they are world, fringe, or core.  If you want to help them move toward the middle, you have to be prepared to ask questions and be opportunistic with your teaching rather than dogmatic. 

You also have to ask questions to know whether your time is better invested in this person or if it would be better to move on, which brings me to my final point.  When you change your attitude away from dogma (here is the truth, take it or leave it) and move toward questioning (once I understand where you are coming from, I’ll communicate the true and full gospel in a way that you can understand), people will surprise you.  Hostile people will calm down.  Intellectuals will become emotional.  Facades melt away.  Issues are uncovered; hearts are softened.  Defensive people will begin to listen to what you have to say.  You will have earned the right to be heard.

I’ll add one more thing here…as an aside, but very important.  To be successful in this, you must have thick skin. You must have already placed your reputation on the alter as a living sacrifice.  If you take on a challenging relationship, you may be called out to your face or in public.  Are you strong enough to control your response?  Are you strong enough to resist the tempation to defend yourself, to strike back, to control your emotions and allow God to deal with how others perceive you, to focus on your objective which is to a) determine whether or not this person is being prepared by the Spirit to receive the gospel; b) share it in a way that they can understand it; c) be obedient to all of God’s commands, for the right reasons, throughout the process.

So, here is my encouragement, in three parts: 

First, you simply must know your Bible and be working on your own transformation.  Anyone can be dogmatic; it requires a different kind of Christian to engage people where they are. 

Second, ask questions before making assertions.  Know where people are coming from before assuming you know what they need to hear.  This is how you get past the natural defensiveness of a lost person in today’s culture.

Third, don’t become distracted from your ultimate purpose of sharing God’s gospel and His Truth.  As you question, the conversation may tend toward distracting topics…it’s ok to weave, but don’t forget where you are trying to head.  Look for opportunities to share God’s truth related to areas of confusion, difficulty, struggle that people have.

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 You Believe Determines What You Become

I have not yet put a section on doctrinal beliefs or core principles for SeqHim.  That will be changing soon.  For those that don’t know me, my doctrinal beliefs line up with evangelical protestantism: sufficiency and innerancy of scripture, the virgin birth, sinlessness of Christ, atoning death of Christ, resurrection, sufficiency of grace alone through faith in Christ alone to save, the reality of heaven and hell, and Jesus return.  I’ll expand on all of these in the future, but this gives you a sense of where we are.  They do matter; and, they do shape everything we are doing.

What I want to exand upon a little more here is our core principles.  I’ve come up with five principles that will shape/guide this ministry unless the Lord leads us to change them.  I would love your feedback on them!!

Transformation is a Command of God

And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.  Romans 12:2 (NASB)

Most (if not all) of the New Testament can be thought of as speaking to one of four major topics: a) what we were before Christ; b) what Christ has done for us; c) what we are after believing in Christ; and d) what our responsibility is after being redeemed. 

This principle focused on this last topic: what do we do now that Christ as redeemed us and given us a new spirit?  Do we go back to living the way we once did?  No, of course not…we are called to live as we are.  We are perfect and righteous in spirit, but our flesh needs to be conformed to this perfect spirit.  This is what we mean by “transformation” and what Paul speaks of in Romans 12:2.  All other responsibilities of being a Christian can be tied back to this one calling: loving one another; serving one another; worship; giving to the poor; etc.  All of this increases in a genuine sense only as we transform.  And so, if you can obey God’s command to transform, you will obey the rest by definition.

God Alone Transforms People, But We Have a Role to Play

Does that mean that we can somehow transform ourselves?  No!  Only the Holy Spirit can transform us.  But, in his soverignty and for reasons I do not understand, He has chosen to use us in the process somewhat like a tool.  We must cooperate in a sense with the working of the Holy Spirit within us.  And, a Spirit-filled Christian wants to cooperate…it’s part of what we get when we are first regenerated.  We long for and strive for and work for the day when we are “set free from this body of death”.

What then do we do?  I believe there is a very simple model that we can remember, embrace, and act on day-by-day.  It is that iterative growth model that I have mentioned before.  If you missed that post, you can catch part one here and part two here.

God Expects us to Help One Another Transform

I can’t imagine being obedient to our calling to love one another if we did not help one another in this mission of transformation.  What greater expression of love is there than to help someone embrace the gospel and grow in Christlikeness?  Giving to the poor is critical, and we should all do it; but, what if we invested more than we do today in people to help them transform to the point where they are even greater givers than we are?  Is that not how we exponentially grow (in number and in maturity) the Kingdom.  One person helping three others become more like Christ, so they can help three others become more like Christ?

Preaching, Teaching, Small Groups, Bible Studies, Books, Podcasts, and all other forms of “mass” instruction have a significant role to play, but at the end of the day the real work is usually flesh on flesh.  It’s person on person helping them practically apply what they are learning to their lives and interpret what the Holy Spirit may or may not being doing in their lives.  It’s defeating the lies of the world that cause us to compartmentalize our lives into our “church life” and our “work life” and our “family life”.  It’s being able to see “Bible teaching” in the lives of peeople we know the best and the people who know us the best.  This is how we ultimately reach the ‘fringe’ and the ‘world’…we must encourage and complement the proclaimation of God’s word with the genuine living out of it and explicit honest interaction with others on it.

Modern Technology Can Be Used for Good, Evil, or neither

My background and career is in technology, so I see first hand how it can be used for good and evil.  I also suggest that it can be used to have a neutral effect.  And this is as true in the Church as it is in business.

With every technological advancement, people first figure out how to make money off if it; cultures then change as a result of broad adoption; and sometime later, the church eventually comes around to doing something with it to stay “culturally relevant”…whatever that means.

I’m not going to go into all of the nuances of this right now.  That’s a series of posts for a later date.  But, I will assert that…

  • …technology should be embraced as a way to win treasure in heaven just as aggressivly as business embraces it as a way to win treasure on earth.
  • …the church has a moral obligation to carefully assess when and how it is used, because it can easily become distracting to the mission of the Kingdom just as the ‘cool’ factor in business can distract from it’s mission of delivering value to shareholders.

Therefore, we will pursue technology aggressivley but only to the extent that it builds the Kingdom in a God-honoring manner.

The Wisdom of a Crowd can be Greater than the Wisdom of a Few

As with the other principles, this can easily be a series of posts on it’s own; but, I will try to concisely explain the intent of this principle.  I, and many others, have noticed an accelerating movement for people to use the web to do things and not just consume things.  There are many, many examples of this…software development (e.g. open source), finance (e.g. Kiva), publication (e.g. wikipedia, blogs, istockphoto), and social networking (e.g. facebook) are just the tip of the iceberg.

These initiatives, and many others, are successful because technology enables the untapped potential of the amateur crowd.  This is a group of people who possess passions outside of their day jobs that are strong enough for them to devote extra time to working with others in their field.  They include amateur bird watchers, scientists, software developers, engineers, philanthopists, and many others.  And, the quality and speed of their production can exceed that of the “professionals”; e.g. compare Linux (open source) to Windows.

And guess what, this amateur crowd also includes faithful disciple-makers.  SeqHim is here to give you, God’s called disciple-maker, a means of working with others to do something as significant as facebook, or Kiva, or wikipedia…only, the significance is for the Kingdom and not for the world.  Can such a crowd be used for good or for evil as technology can?  Do we have to be careful to protect the integrity of the Gospel and the Kingdom itself?  Absolutely!  But there is a way forward to gain the productivity of the crowd without sacrificing the integrity of the Gospel, and I will continue to expand on it future posts…praying that many of you will join in the fight and help shape this thing.

Do you want to join the mission?  Send me a note (jreeves@seqhim.org); check out the get involved pagepray with us; comment on this post; keep coming back…we’re pressing on and accelerating by God’s grace!

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.