Posts Tagged ‘Word’

Meeting

In my 35 years of working experience I have come to recognize a phenomenon I call The Meeting Culture. Interestingly enough it crosses through the borders of the various regions in which I have been employed, across industries and even informal groups.  It became more salient in the later part of my career in the hospitality industry because I was engaged in trouble shooting challenged operations.  As I refocused my life on ministry and spiritual growth I was somewhat surprised to find the same culture at play within the fellowship of ministry, but then people are people no matter where we are.  Interestingly enough the heart of the culture has its genesis in both settings.

The early church, particularly the early Jewish church experienced a new phenomenon.  The practice of Judaism had long been tolerated by the Romans.  Zealots and radicals were put down but synagogues and temple worship were given a pass by the Latin conquerors.  However this new practice, these followers of Jesus were not content with their own kind and taught intolerance of other religions. Jesus was not just a god among gods, he was the God and the only one worthy of worship by all, not just the Jewish people.  Pack that up with the rumors spread by opponents and Christianity became anathema to 1st century rulers.  Gathering became dangerous.  It came to the point that the writer of Hebrews had to encourage and even mandate that the early believers meet together for fellowship and encouragement in the faith (Hebrews 1:25).  However there is a danger.  One that Paul clearly recognized when he wrote to the Corinthians and condemned their time together as not focused on their faith, “…because you come together not for the better but for the worse.”  He extends this warning in a positive sense when in Ephesians 4 he states:  “And he gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ;”  Ephesians 4:11-12  When the meetings stop resulting in “the work of service to the building up of the body of Christ.” – and this is not your local church body – then it ceases to serve or follow the Gospel.

This is what I found as I started engaging businesses in crisis.  The deeper the crisis, the more meetings they had scheduled.  They would have manager meetings, department meetings, position meetings, strategy meetings, every kind of meeting that you can imagine.  They would plan these meetings, record these meetings and unfortunately never adequately execute anything that came out of these meetings.  In most cases the company had fully executable procedures and policies already in place.  So that raises the question, “What is the purpose, what is the drive for all those meetings?”  It became pretty obvious that even in distressed operations people need to feel successful.  This is what they find in their endless meetings…success.  They are able to have the most successful meetings.  They come out of the meetings feeling like they have made real progress.  They feel like they are fulfilling their purpose and calling.  The focus of success ceases to be the execution of purpose but becomes the discussion and planning of purpose.  However life and business are hard.  So when push comes to shove it is easier to have another meeting than to actually hold oneself accountable for the execution necessary for success.  This was fortunate for me as it kept me employed for a couple of decades.

So how does all this apply to our faith.  Let me be clear the gathering of the Saints is mandated by Scripture and empowered by the Holy Spirit.  The problem is when the meetings instead of focusing our faith become the focus of our faith.  When the center of our faith life is in a building instead of in our hearts; that building becomes a cage for the Gospel instead of a launching pad.  The impetus for this is the same as the meeting focused businesses that I have engaged.  We believe that we can find success in our meetings (services, gathering, experiences….).  We can be holy, inspired and powerful inside those four walls.  We are rarely challenged and often supported inside those four walls (unless we find ourselves challenging the culture inside those four walls!).  We are safe in the practice of our faith inside those four walls.  After the conversion of Emperor Constantine in 312 AD Christianity transitioned from a fringe group of Jesus fanatics to the primary religion of Europe.  It was during this period that a corollary to the Meeting Culture developed.  It is the idea that there are special “professional” children of God who really should carry the weight of the Gospel ( re-read Ephesians 4:11-12).  They get to lead the meetings where we can be so successful.  The newest class of these professional Christians is the worship leader.  Again worship is wonderful, but if the top of one’s life in Christ exists only in the midst of well engineered worship sets, we go back to the problem of the meeting culture in business.  The Gospel is contained, not executed.  The personal satisfaction and alleviation of personal responsibility that this culture provided made it grow.  It was easy to move from a fellowship of equals celebrating and sharing the gospel of redemption both together and in their communities to being a culture of meetings and rituals performed by “professional” Christians and from there to the place where the meeting itself became not only a celebration of salvation but the mode of salvation.

There was a time in my life when I measured the health of my faith by the number of meetings I attended.  This week I went to two church services, Wednesday night prayer, a small group, served at youth group and did the Friday morning prayer card session.  I am rocking for the Lord.  Now none of those things is bad.  Not event the collection is bad.  The fact that I used my attendance as a Spiritual scorecard is bad.  Honestly at that time in my life my immersion in the church was probably necessary to my spiritual formation but God had to rip the scorecard out of my hand.  I am particularly stubborn so my grip on that card was pretty tight.  It took pretty intense situations in my life to move me from a meeting scorecard to a biblical scorecard.  Now I know that you are ready for me to lay out all the check boxes on that biblical scorecard.  Sorry, no such luck.  It does  not work that way.  There are two metrics for the scorecard, the Holy Spirit and the Word of God.

Jesus tells the disciples in Luke 12 that when they are brought to judgement for their faith, “The Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say.”  Paul uses the Holy Spirit as a scorecard for his words to the Romans in chapter 9, “I am telling the truth in Christ, I am not lying, my conscience testifies with me in the Holy Spirit,…” and in chapter 14 he sets the Holy Spirit as the scorecard for the very kingdom of God, “for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.”  

David says in Psalm 119:11, “Your Word I have treasured in my heart, That I may not sin against You.” and Jesus uses His Word as the metric for a Hupomone life built on the rock in Matthew 7 as compared to the foolish life of the man who did not act on his Word and built his house on the sand.  This is what we do when we center our lives in the house instead of on the foundation.

Build your faith on the Rock.  Fellowship together with purpose (the Gospel) not as a purpose and you will see the hand of God move in and around you like never before.

But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. Romans 8:37

 

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hupomone

Why Hupomone?  Is it just to sound cool?  Is it to demonstrate that I know a word in NT Greek?  Ok, I have to admit it is partly because it does just sound cool.  God spoke this word to my heart while I was forming a series of short devotionals for radio.  I was engaging the idea of perseverance when I noticed Paul using this word over and over.  If you add the verb form hupomeno, then it appears just short of 50 times.  As I began to dig deeper into the concept (not only used by Paul but also by Luke, James the brother of Jesus, Peter and John in Revelations) I realized that the words so often used in translation only captured part of the idea these men were conveying.  Indeeds sometimes the connotations that we attribute to those word contradict the very heart of the message. So by focusing on Hupomone I stripped away my preconceived notions of what all of those words mean.  This is what I encourage you to do.  God has a very special message for each of us buried in this fairly simple Greek word as it sits within the whole of the Word of God.

“But the seed in the good soil, these are the ones who have heard the word in an honest and good heart, and hold it fast, and bear fruit with perseverance.”  Luke 8:15

Jesus in telling this wonderful parable of the Kingdom of God and the effectiveness of the Gospel tells us a little about those who have pursued the hupomone lifestyle.

  1.  They have heard the Word.  The Gospel is the basic unit of hupomone.  Without the Gospel hupomone does not exist.
  2. They are genuine.  Hupomone cannot be faked.  Hupomone requires an honest and good heart.  Many try to fake it.  They may even believe somehow that they are pursuing truth.  However in the end it is their fruit and the inconsistencies in it that betray them.
  3. They hold fast to the Gospel starting a positive “Crazy Cycle” (Eggerich, Love and Respect).  As the first point states the Gospel is the basic unit of hupomone.  It comes from the God of hupomone, the only one who can say that He is the same, “yesterday, today and forever”  This is the “crazy cycle” of hupomone.  The Gospel seeds hupomone in your life.  Then as you practice it by holding fast to the Gospel it grows, in turn your ability to hold fast grows, the Gospel Grows in you, in turn your ability to hold fast grows….well you get the picture.
  4. They produce fruit.  When all is said and done a hupomone lifestyle produces unmistakable fruit.  It is the fruit of the Spirit.  It is the fruit of life in Jesus Christ.  It is the litany of life qualities that Paul wrote to the Galatians encouraging them to get back on the hupomone crazy cycle.

Unlike so many other things in life, Hupomone is for everyone.  It may look a little different on each one of us but it will always start with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  It grows when that Gospel is engaged honestly from a good heart.  It creates it’s own crazy cycle of growth and maturity that results in an incredible harvest of Spiritual fruit.

     

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    “Go take for yourself a wife of harlotry and have children of harlotry’ for the land commits flagrant harlotry forsaking the Lord.”  Hosea 1:2b

    For the complete text of this study including extensive scripture references click here

     

    The word of the Lord which came to Hosea the son of Beeri during the days of…”  Hosea 1:1

     

    The formula “the word of the Lord” is of paramount importance to who we are as the people of God.  Without this formula Christianity simply becomes a collection of well thought out doctrines without divine power.  It appears Eleven times in Acts, Seventeen times in the New Testament, only once of which is a direct quote from the Hebrew Scriptures ( 1 Peter 1:25 ).

    (See full text for references)

    It appears Thirty two times in the Minor Prophets and constitutes the very base of their message and core of the authority by which they spoke.  Unfortunately it is very clear that this formula was also utilized by those who spoke falsely, for personal gain or from fertile imagination, often without immediate repercussions.

    (See full text for references)

    This formula is used Nine times in the Pentateuch.  Twice it refers to a personal message from God to Abraham.  Twice it refers to those who feared or respected God through his messenger Moses.  Three times it refers to the specific will of God concerning a situation and then twice it is used to denote the general commands of God.  In all cases it is something that should be greatly respected, immediately and continuously obeyed and contains the combination of promise and consequences involved in obedience or disobedience.

    (See full text for references)

    “The word of the Lord” appears Seventy Five times in the Historical Books of the Old Testament,(See your Bible for references) defining a theme of the redemptive history of the Bible.  Add to it the Four appearances in Psalms and the One Hundred and Twenty appearances in the Major Prophets (See your Bible for references) and we have a biblical formula that must not be ignored.  (This gives a grand total of 267 in the NAS)  Yet it is one that I am afraid is down-played in our modern times.  In fact I would even go as far as to say it is largely ridiculed, relegated to examples of crazy ranting, embarrassing exclamations or simply inappropriate use. However the message of the Bible is clear.  The Word of the Lord is IMPORTANT.  It contains promise, command and consequence.  It brings real love, real judgment and real salvation to a humanity that fell in the garden, abandoned God in the Flood, rejected God at Babel and throughout the redemptive record has struggled with the concept of “The Word of the Lord.”

    “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were unwilling.”  Matthew 23:37

     

    Those who have carried this Word have been dismissed, ignored and persecuted throughout history.  So rarely have they been embraced as to almost make it suspect when the general public (even of the People of God) embrace their words.  Today the lack of respect continues even within the church in a land where we have more Bibles per capita than perhaps ever in the history of the world.  We quibble about translations.  We reject inspiration.  We modify to fit our experience and common choices.  Can the end be any different from those who throughout time have rejected the very authority of the Word of the Lord?

    The importance in this modern world of the declaration “The Bible is the Word of God” is primary. It is the watershed of modern theological controversy. On the right of this mountain peak are all those who believe that the Bible is the revelation of God and is infallibly inspired. They may differ on many details of interpretation of that revelation, but they agree as to its authority. On the left of this peak are all those who reject the Bible as the primary authority in faith and life, substituting for it any one of several forms of authority ranging from the human mind to the common experience and agreement of the church. Some of these on the left may hold with us as to the truth of every primary doctrine of Scripture, but they themselves do not belong to us because they accept those doctrines on a ground which is insufficient, and if the pressure of the battle becomes too great, they will relinquish those doctrines such as the virgin birth, the unique deity of our Lord Jesus Christ, the bodily resurrection, the second coming, etc. Therefore, though we may differ in many details with those who are on the right of this watershed, we belong together and must recognize this modern division in the theological world. Only on the basis of the Bible as the Word of the Lord can we ever have agreement on Christ, on the way of salvation, and on ecclesiastical matters. When we reject the Bible as this authority, it results in the “don’t care for doctrine” attitude of the liberal.”  Dr. Harold John Ockenga  (http://www.biblicalstudies.org.uk/article_word_ockenga.html , 10-6-2012)

    For Hosea the entry of the Word of the Lord to his world was a life changing proposition.  This was true through out the Bible and continues to be true today.  If one were to research each of the biblical references for this formula I am guessing that one would find someone whose life was changed.  This would indeed be the case for our protagonist Hosea.  He was about to embark on a life journey which would express the heart of God and the depth of His plan for the salvation of a lost world.  It would be an embarrassing and difficult journey.  Disrespect for the Word of the Lord is nothing new.  False prophets, crazy prophets and mistaken prophets clouded the vision of God’s people then even as they do now.  Skeptics doubted and the intellectual explained away the impact of God on Israel, relying instead on the might of nations, the power of wealth and the scheming of men to preserve the nation.  Hosea had a Word of the Lord for them.

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