Category Archives: Pre-Camp 2011

Revelation 2-3 – He who has an ear let him hear…; June 29, 2011

Revelation 2-3 – He who has an ear let him hear…

 

As we’ve been talking about connecting (see post on Hebrews 11-12) it’s important that we also connect with what God is doing in the Church as a whole, not just the places that we visit on Sunday mornings.  In Revelation chapters 2 and 3, Jesus communicates with 7 churches, giving encouragement and rebuke, drawing them to a more intimate walk with Him.  If you are looking for an in-depth study of this passage you are in no way going to find it here.  This is merely a summary and application that will hopefully connect us to a deeper understanding of Christ’s call to us through His letters to the churches.  I am by no means trying to show that these letters to the churches should be grouped in the way that I group them.  I am simply grouping them for the sake of application to our hearts today, and so that this post isn’t 376 pages long.  If you haven’t already, I would suggest reading through the passage.  I will not be addressing the passage specifically very often, but will focus on pulling themes and application from the passage.

 

We will begin by addressing the first four churches of Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, and Thyatira.  These four have a unique connection due to what Christ chooses to address within each.  Problem of persecution and worldly seduction has always plagued God’s people as far back as Balaam in the book of Exodus.  But here we see the problems in new light hedged in by issues of doctrine and love.  Persecution is always a matter of faith.  If one’s faith is weak or, more likely, non-existent, one hardly finds oneself in the middle of harsh persecution for long.  And faith historically has been argued from two very popular points of view: religious and social.  The religious point of view holds that the most valuable and worthy task of any individual is to search for truth where it may be found and once found held ferociously.  Words are scrutinized for meaning.  Philosophies stand and fall at the unwavering plum line of reason.  Truth and the code of conduct berthed out of it reign supremely and often without mercy.  We see it in virtually every corner of the world.  The social view, however, is not as concerned with rules or philosophies and is much more concerned with the individual.  The social point of view will seek to tolerate and incorporate the myriads of philosophies and even religions.  The social is fluid, lacking hard lines and precision, but abounding in acceptance.

 

These four churches are being called to a higher level of faith.  Often it is our usurpation of our faith that often draws us to harder lines on peripheral, unnecessary behaviors while at other times our not holding tight enough to the source of our faith causes us to blur the lines so incoherently that we no longer truly believe in anything.  Both in the midst of persecution can be volatile.  One will establish an order and become the persecutors while the other will adapt to the societal structure so thoroughly that it will no longer need to be persecuted for its beliefs because it believes in everything.  The seductions of Balaam are not limited to sexual immorality and the worship of graven images.  The seductions of Balaam are what draw us away from true worship of the Father.  The unrelenting pursuit of truth and knowledge can be just as blinding as sexual perversion.  The subtle wooing of tolerance without absolutes can be just as numbing as the habitual kneeling before a figure of gold.  Christ is calling us to value love and truth.  We should have the strengths of the first along with the strengths of the fourth.  Only then can we avoid the seductions that come to draw us away from His Name.

 

In the instructions to the final three churches we can find a similar connection, albeit loose.  In what we learn of these three churches we can very accurately account for the majority of those who claim to be Christians.  There are those who on the outside look like they have everything together. They are often Sunday School teachers, deacons, volunteers, those who are always wanting to do more and more without regard to family or self.  People who try to prove their faith by doing without ever tasting the transformation of rebirth.  They simply liked the ideas of Jesus and salvation but never really allowed their hearts to be changed by them.  If you have ever worked in or around a church you have met them.  Actually, if we could be honest with ourselves, we have probably been them.  We have been the ones who on the outside look as white-washed as a Pharisee, but on the inside are as dead and rotting as the world.  Then there is the one who can’t decide between Spirit and flesh.  The one who is happy to do or even lead the Spiritual things while still having the availability to follow the flesh on occasion.  These are the ones who do more than enough good to justify their limited amounts of bad.  They have tricked themselves and the people around them into believing that faith is mustered and manageable not given and grown.  And then there are those who have endured.  Those who have warred.  Those who have weathered the storms and come out firmly founded on the Rock.  These receive the promise of the Open Door.  These are welcomed in by the Father.  These are pillars in the House of the Lord.  Which are you?  Do you pursue acts of righteousness tirelessly without ever entering the rest of the King?  Do you believe that you are owed your reward for doing just enough acts in the name of Christ without ever surrendering to Him?  Are you one who has seen the Open Door and run through it leaving all else behind?  May we all have ears to hear what the Spirit is saying to us.  I love y’all more than you know.  Grace and peace,

 

JOT

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Hebrews 11:32-12:3 – Connecting; June 15, 2011

Hebrews 11:32-12:3 – Connecting

 

I’ve always been a fan of epic literature.  From the Iliad/Odyssey to Beowulf to Tolkien’s mythology, there’s always been a joy for me in reading something so deeply connected to preceding events and ideas.  It’s like floating on the ocean and feeling small yet somehow a part of it’s majesty since you are the one present to experience it.  In my trip to Israel, I felt that connection to the historical accounts in Scripture.  I felt lost in the myriad of events and places that I had only read about.  Naturally, the Lord spoke in those moments.  This passage, actually including all of chapter 11, connected with me over and over again as we visited the different sites in Israel.  I felt a connection to the stories.  I felt a connection to the people.  I felt a connection to the faith that had begun on the places where we stood.  The Hebrews passage, and really the Bible in itself, is about connecting to faith.

 

Unfortunately, here at home in the Bible belt, most people who profess the same faith that I do have no such connection.  The Old Testament is old and dead, merely a bunch of stories meant to teach us lessons.  The God of the Old Testament is grumpy and wrathful and therefore not palatable for our American, free will sensibilities.  We prefer to define what faith means for ourselves and miss the connection to true faith.  We would rather ask for better directions to the Promised Land instead of trust a cloud that leads us to the Red Sea.  We would much rather justify renouncing God with our mouth or physical actions to fit in with the rest of society so we don’t have to deal with the uncomfortable circumstances of being thrown into a furnace or spending a night with lions.  After all, our God of the New Testament is a God of grace and forgiveness.  And lest we forget, we can always redefine Heaven and Hell so that no one has to go or be punished anyway.  If ignorance is bliss, self-deception is bliss’s purest form.

 

It is my prayer that you allow the Spirit of God to examine your heart.  Are you plugged in to the faith described in Hebrews 11 or are you still trying to redefine it on your own terms.  One of the easiest indicators to find out which type of faith you are walking in is how you view the Scriptures.  Are you committed to reading, studying, living and breathing God’s Word?  If the answer is no, then I must question your faith.  Romans 10:17 says, “Faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.”  If you have little to no understanding of the Scriptures personally, you have most likely made up your own faith.  You’ve pulled bits and pieces from pastors, Veggie Tales, and Sunday School classes as a kid and made your very own comfortable faith.  You have no relationship, no true love for God, just a fondness for your idea of Him.  The Spirit right now, as you’re reading this, is calling you into connection with the faith of those who have gone before.  The faith of Abraham, Moses, Joshua, Rahab, the prophets and judges, the Apostles, Paul, and Stephen.  He’s calling you into the faith the Christ exemplified in His life on earth, showing us how obedience was to be lived.  Connect with Him.  Plug in to the faith that brings life, joy, and peace.  Join the “cloud of witnesses” as the Spirit draws us and gives us opportunity to give glory to the only One worthy of it.  If you have questions or don’t know how this works, please feel free to ask.  I don’t have all the answers, but we can go together.  I love y’all more than you know.  Grace and peace,

 

JOT