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Narrow Way Chronicles: Exclusivity of Inclusion

In a recent tweet I shared:

#Pride, #Presumption, and #Partiality create a culture of self-righteousness and hidden agendas. #churchpolitics”.

I thought it appropriate to elaborate because intent can be misconstrued and I wanted to allow for robust discussion.

Today, the term “inclusivity” does not prompt ideas of church unity. Opponents of the Way continue to do a “bang-up” job in hijacking and perverting the Creator’s intent on certain ideologies that is designed to reflect His glory. The ideology of “Inclusivity” is no different. History teaches that diversity and inclusivity have existed since the beginning of time. The Old and New Testament scriptures clearly show examples of communities that included all races and social-economic backgrounds.  It is only after the coming of the Anointed One, Jesus the Christ, do we see intentionality of this idea of Inclusive Communities. ….so let’s not get it twisted. ;-).

The intention of the tweet; however, was addressing my limited time and experience with the subject with regard to church unity. My sincere hope and prayer is that the Holy Spirit will be active in guiding my hand to write; as well as an active guide to those who are reading these thoughts.

It is written, He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the Churches:

This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.  If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.

Compassion and True Fellowship

The issue: Are our churches TRULY inclusive? With our drive to expose evil, false doctrine and plant churches, have we created a culture of elite communities? Is the mission still about the Gospel or has the mission become about growing a denomination, positioning for political leverage or making your brand known? Do we reflect true Koinonia or is the local church another social construct that is intended have a “positive” effect on the community? If true Koinonia is the intent, what should it look like and how much of our application is modeled biblically?

I have often been engaged in conversations with persons that boastfully share that they are socially connected with”like-minded” Believers. Notice I didn’t say, fellowship; and, that gave me pause to think (Hence the #ChurchPolitics).

What does the idea of being like-minded mean?

Secular society uses this phrase often. Should I assume that this idea takes on a different connotation because I perceive a spin of conservative Christianity or It is safe to assume that being like-minded is a belief or series of beliefs that is shared commonly through a connection of cultural norms to one may be accustomed; and if not accustomed, Idolize?  We’ve seen this in Charismatic circles.

It is elitism; BKA partiality.

If you initiate a Google search the topic, you will find little teaching or exhortation that addresses this, especially in conservative circles. Largely because most of our siblings still have that big plank in their eye.

Partiality is a sin and it greatly displeases Elohim our God. Because it is hidden, it is easy to deny that we have issues. When we choose to “do life” with people that do not foster sanctification, we stifle growth. Not only of ourselves but others that desire true sanctification.  Jerry Bridges exhorts: “It is not the fact that we are united in common goals or purposes that make(s) us a community. Rather, it is the fact that we share a common life in Christ.

Partiality convinces us that God’s choice isn’t good enough, smart enough, pretty or handsome enough, not quiet enough, or charismatic enough. Partiality says this person is not acceptable to my standards. Partiality shows no grace and therefore, shows no love. This is wickedness.

When we opt in for partiality instead of inclusivity we become complacent in our relationships. We are not intentional with the put offs and put-ons, and we do no “one anothering”.  The result is isolation among the saints. This is a dichotomy of true fellowship. Koinonia and sharing the Gospel is what the Father wants and desires for His children. Lastly, partiality is hidden and presumptuous sins. Partiality is heinous and damaging to the Body of Christ.  In Psalm 19:13 the writer prays:

Keep back your servant also from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me! Then I shall be blameless, and innocent of great transgression. 

The church is not as inclusive as we like to think we are. Partiality is a real issue, more than we would like to admit. People choose not to bind themselves to a local body because they do not feel loved or safe.  At any rate, Jesus teaches compassion. Though the Savior operated as a prophet, he was remarkably compassionate to sinners. Do we desire or display that same compassion or do we make assumptions about people based on limited information or gossip? Moreover, what are we willing to risk or sacrifice to engage in true Koinonia? If your local body struggles in this area please check out this teaching by Arturo Azurdia of TCP titled “The Antioch Paradigm”.

 

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Reading Refresher: The Pursuit of Holiness, Jerry Bridges

jb

Too often, we say we are defeated by this or that sin. No, we are not defeated. We are simply disobedient. It might be good if we stop using the terms victory and defeat to describe our progress in holiness. Rather, we should use the terms obedience and disobedience. When I say I am defeated by some sin, I am unconsciously slipping out from under my responsibility. I am saying something outside of me has defeated me. But when I say I am disobedient, that places the responsibility for my sin squarely on me. We may in fact be defeated, but the reason we are defeated is because we have chosen to disobey.

We need to brace ourselves up and to realize that we are responsible for thoughts, attitudes, and actions. We need to reckon on the fact that we died to sin’s reign, that it no longer has any dominion over us, that God has united us with the risen Christ in all His power and has given us the Holy Spirit to work in us. Only as we accept our responsibility and appropriate God’s provisions will we make any progress in our pursuit of holiness.

To the Church of the West! A Parallel of Laodicea: Same Sex Marriage Is Not Our Issue

nhewy Prophets like the late A.W. Tozer and Leonard Ravenhill were spot on in their past observations of the American/Western churches. Below are a few observations I found applicable to today’s current climate.

“I’m concerned in my spirit (that) the reason the world goes to hell-fire tonight is because we’ve (the church) lost Holy Ghost fire”.

“God is taking His hands off of America. We’ve had so much light and we’ve(the church) rejected it”

“The early church was married to poverty, prisons and persecutions. Today, the church is married to prosperity, personality, and popularity”.

“I believe every church is either supernatural or superficial. I don’t believe there’s any middle ground”.

In light of recent events, it is important that the BOC remain focus on a few things:

  1.  Declare the message of the Good News. People are dead and we still have this task.
  2.  Continue to trust and obey the Lord. We already know what the result of this decision will be.
  3. Don’t get distracted and be quick to give an opinion. For the word instructs: “For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge?”…additionally it says: Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil.

With that said, it is now time for the Universal Church to clean house! History teaches us that a civilization that allows evil to prevail is a result of the Bride’s obedience and faithfulness to her Groom. We see this in the Church in Laodicea. The process of separating the sheep from the goats is being intensified. What side will you be on?   SELAH

The Hustle of the American(or western) Church: Part 3, The “Business” at Hand

And now…for the The following link from http://www.ecclesia.org was sent to me and I found it extremely helpful.

I’ve always wondered why churches operated as businesses. 503c status in churches seemed kind of off in my opinion because it didn’t seem practical and much of the standards contradicted or compromised the Believer’s ability to honor Elohim.

It is written: Study to show thyself approved, rightly dividing the Word of Truth. Initially when I read and studied this, I didn’t fully understand, but as I continue to strive for obedience in Christ I’m finding that there are so many layers to this onion called life.

I exhort the Body of Christ to continue to seek the truth only in God’s word. click here to read the article….good stuff! http://www.ecclesia.org/truth/501-church.html

Children of a Lesser god: the Idol of Technology

It’s the new Babylon. Technology, Technology, Technology…and its place in civilization.

I recently read a post by a “gen Xer” sharing his views on Machine Learning (Machine learning is a subfield of computer science that evolved from the study of pattern recognition and computational learning theory in artificial intelligence). 

The author, self-professed authority of Biblical narrative,  usues the historical narrative about of the Tower of Babel from the OT. He uses this event as a means to argue the fact that technology exists primarily as a tool to drive behaviors of humans. In that, companies will have and will continue to use technology to control and observe behaviors. He gives some good examples on how they can gain from this information. Ironically, he also brings light of Elohim’s sovereignty.

It is no secret that there is a feeling of uneasiness in this current age. This is one reason.

Technology has given us a since of control, yet there is empiricle data that we are loosing control when it comes to what our children are exposed to, how our personal information is being used through data-mining, and what is consumed through our eyes and ears. Perversion is commonplace and if we are willing to admit it, American Christians would rather go about their days in ignorance, indifference, or avoidance rather than discuss the fact that this is a problem within the Church.

I’m baffled by the fact that people, not just “Christians”,  say they welcome growth but are always trying to avoid being uncomfortable. It would be much easier to fill our conversations with small talk and engage in avoidance rather than apply the word:  Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The so-called Christian of our modern age is oblivious to the idolatry of technology.

To admit that technology, sports, and other pastimes are idols would be to admit that many of us are idolaters; and who wants to confess that?!  Moreover, if we talk about it, truth is revealed, when truth comes, then we have to choose between the Creator and the created thing. SELAH  (see the results in Rom 1:22-25)

Tech professionals are taught that the mission of Technology is to INTEGRATE.  This means technology’s use should be the primary driver of the business and daily works in society.  In laymen’s terms: Our lives should solely be dependent on technology…even how we study the Word of God. …just a thought.

Don’t get me wrong I embrace the use of technology. I find it very useful and I believe that society can greatly benefit from all innovation; however, how is it effecting you spiritually?

Is Technology making your sleepy and dumb…bitter or joyful?..Are your bearing fruit? Are you salt and light? Wait!…before you get prideful in your response, you must understand a few things: Posting “inspirational quotes”, engaging in online theological debates on social media may not account for bearing fruit, one may also want to ask: Do my actions glorify God or do they glorify me? For it is written:

Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord. Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. For it is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in secret. But when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible, for anything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says, “Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.” Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. (Eph. 5:8b-16).

…and indeed they are…

The wisdom of functioning in a society that is alien to the things of the Holy is the quandary, yet the solution is so simple. We must make the  sacrifice and we must choose to die daily. When we are honest and truthful about our inclinations and desires, this will bring to light the struggle and therefore bring an opportunity for spiritual growth. Do you desire this growth?  Practical application is given in the Word (Matt 6:33, Matt 5:29, 1 Cor. 13, ..and so on) so there is no excuse for ignorance. However, we choose ignorance when we refuse to yield to Godly wisdom, robbing us of spiritual fruit.

Technology and it’s purpose is a simple tool. It’s not needed to worship Elohim, for that’s is why we were created. My sincere exhortation for the Body of Christ is to repent, consecrate yourselves, and live Holy (separate) as God has called us. This doesn’t necessarily mean that we should become Amish, nor do I suggest legalism, however please be mindful of your spirit and prefer that which is more important to the Lord Our God in Christ!

Be well!

Guest Blog: 3 FEMALE GHOSTS THAT HAUNT THE CHURCH

The following is from blogger Jen Wilkin of The Gospel Coalition. http://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/3-female-ghosts-that-haunt-the-church

FEB 12, 2015

I will never forget the first time I met my pastor. Our family had been at the church for two years before a meeting with another staff member threw me into his path. The first words out of his mouth were, “Jen Wilkin. You’ve been hiding from me!” A giant grin on his face, he draped me in a friendly hug, and then proceeded to ask me about the people and things I cared about. He kept eye contact. He reflected back what I was saying. I was completely thrown off. I don’t remember what books were on his desk or what artwork hung on the walls, but I left his office that day with a critical piece of insight: this room is not haunted.

He was right—I had been hiding. Coming off several years of “part-time” ministry at our previous church, my husband, Jeff, and I were weary and in no hurry to know and be known by the staff at our new church. But as a woman with leadership background, I had other hesitations as well. Any woman in ministry can tell you that you never know when you’re walking into a haunted house.

If you’re a male staff member at a church, I ask you to consider a ghost story of sorts. I don’t think for a minute that you hate women. I know there are valid reasons to take a measured approach to how you interact with us in ministry settings. I absolutely want you to be wise, but I don’t want you to be haunted. Three female ghosts haunt most churches, and I want you to recognize them so you can banish them from yours.

These three ghosts glide into staff meetings where key decisions are made. They hover in classrooms where theology is taught. They linger in prayer rooms where the weakest among us give voice to hurt. They strike fear into the hearts of both men and women, and worse, they breathe fear into the interactions between them. Their every intent is to cripple the ability of men and women to minister to and with one another.

Though you may not always be aware these ghosts are hovering, the women you interact with in ministry frequently are. I hear ghost stories almost on a weekly basis in the e-mails I receive from blog readers.

The three female ghosts that haunt us are the Usurper, the Temptress, and the Child.

1. The Usurper

This ghost gains permission to haunt when women are seen as authority thieves. Men who have been taught that women are looking for a way to take what has been given to them are particularly susceptible to the fear this ghost can instill. If this is your ghost, you may behave in the following ways when you interact with a woman, particularly a strong one:

  • You find her thoughts or opinions vaguely threatening, even when she chooses soft words to express them.
  • You speculate that her husband is probably a weak man (or that her singleness is due to her strong personality).
  • You feel low-level concern that if you give an inch she will take a mile.
  • You avoid including her in meetings where you think a strong female perspective might rock the boat or ruin the masculine vibe.
  • You perceive her education level, hair length, or career path as potential red flags that she might want to control you in some way.
  • Your conversations with her feel like sparring matches rather than mutually respectful dialogue. You hesitate to ask questions, and you tend to hear her questions as veiled challenges rather than honest inquiry.
  • You silently question if her comfort in conversing with men may be a sign of disregard for gender roles.

2. The Temptress

This ghost gains permission to haunt when a concern for avoiding temptation or being above reproach morphs into a fear of women as sexual predators. Sometimes this ghost takes up residence because of a public leader’s moral failure, either within the church or within the broader Christian subculture. If this is your ghost, you may behave in the following ways when you interact with a woman, particularly an attractive one:

  • You go out of your way to ensure your behavior communicates nothing too emotionally approachable or empathetic for fear you’ll be misunderstood to be flirting.
  • You avoid prolonged eye contact.
  • You silently question whether her outfit was chosen to draw your attention to her figure.
  • You listen with heightened attention for innuendo in her words or gestures.
  • You bring your colleague or assistant to every meeting with her, even if the meeting setting leaves no room to be misconstrued.
  • You hesitate to offer physical contact of any kind, even (especially?) if she is in crisis.
  • You consciously limit the length of your interactions with her for fear she might think you overly familiar.
  • You feel compelled to include “safe” or formal phrasing in all your written and verbal interactions with her (“Tell your husband I said hello!” or “Many blessings on your ministry and family”).
  • You Cc a colleague (or her spouse) on all correspondence.
  • You silently question if her comfort in conversing with men may be a sign of sexual availability.

3. The Child

This ghost gains permission to haunt when women are seen as emotionally or intellectually weaker than men. If this is your ghost, you may behave in the following ways when you interact with a woman, particularly a younger one:

  • You speak to her in simpler terms than you might use with a man of the same age.
  • Your vocal tone modulates into “pastor voice” when you address her.
  • In your responses to her, you tend to address her emotions rather than her thoughts.
  • You view meetings with her as times where you have much insight to offer her but little insight to gain from her. You take few notes, or none at all.
  • You dismiss her when she disagrees, because she “probably doesn’t see the big picture.”
  • You feel constrained to smile beatifically and wear a “listening face” during your interactions with her.
  • You direct her to resources less scholarly than those you might recommend to a man.

These three ghosts don’t just haunt men; they haunt women as well, shaping our choice of words, tone, dress, and demeanor. When fear governs our interactions, both genders drift into role-playing that subverts our ability to interact as equals. In the un-haunted church where love trumps fear, women are viewed (and view themselves) as allies rather than antagonists, sisters rather than seductresses, co-laborers rather than children.

Surely Jesus models this church for us in how he relates to the role-challenging boldness of Mary of Bethany, the fragrant alabaster offering of a repentant seductress, the childlike faith of a woman with an issue of blood. We might have advised him to err on the side of caution with these women. Yet even when women appeared to fit a clear stereotype, he responded without fear. If we consistently err on the side of caution, it’s worth noting that we consistently err.

Do some women usurp authority? Yes. Do some seduce? Yes. Do some lack emotional or intellectual maturity? Yes. And so do some men. But we must move from a paradigm of wariness to one of trust, trading the labels of usurper, temptress, child for those of ally, sister, co-laborer. Only then will men and women share the burden and privilege of ministry as they were intended.

My most recent meeting with my pastor stands out in my memory as well. He’s often taken the time to speak affirming words about my ministry or gifting. On this occasion, he spoke words I needed to hear more than I realized: “Jen, I’m not afraid of you.” Offered not as a challenge or a reprimand, but as a firm and empathetic assurance. Those are the words that invite women in the church to flourish. Those are the words that put ghosts to flight.

“Five Marks of Excellence That Could End the Worship Wars” (in your church)

The following contain excerpts of an article written by Dr. Donald T Williams , PhD, is Professor of English and Director of the School of Arts and Sciences at Toccoa Falls College in Georgia. You can read the full writing on http://www.touchstonemag.com/archives/article.php?id=22-06-019-v

“we cannot find, encourage, and preserve the best contemporary music without knowing those marks of excellence that made the best of the past stand out and survive so long.

What are those marks? There are at least five: (1) biblical truth; (2) theological profundity; (3) poetic richness; (4) musical beauty; and (5) the fitting of music to text in ways that enhance, rather than obscure or distort, its meaning.”

Please check out the full article..I particularly found the following to be true in many cases in today’s contemporary “gospel” or so-called “Christian” musicians and singers, and it reads:

“Fitness: A good fit between the words and their musical setting is essential to great worship music even when text and tune are both excellent in themselves. The most egregious violation of this principle may be A. B. Simpson’s “A Missionary Cry”: “A hundred thousand souls a day / Are marching one by one away. / They’re passing to their doom; / They’re passing to their doom.” If ever there was content demanding a minor key and a mournful, dirge-like tempo, this is it. But this song is set to a completely inappropriate snappy march tune, as if we were happy about the damnation of the unsaved!

Examples of a good fit between message and music are the quietly meditative, plainsong-derived melodies of Picardy in the contemplative “Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence” and Divinum Mysterium in “Of the Father’s Love Begotten,” or the sprightly and joyous rhythms of Ariel in “Oh, Could I Speak the Matchless Worth.” A contemporary song with a good fit is Don Francisco’s ballad, “I’ve Got to Tell Somebody.” Michael Card is especially good not only at writing worthwhile texts but also at giving them appropriate settings”.

For many of today’s American churches, Sunday services are a complete train-wreck when these marks of excellence are not recognized. Most do not feel the need to examine the process by which we follow. Tradition trumps scripture and the Holy Spirit is ignored. The result is performance and entertainment, which is idolatry.

Let’s tighten it up people and clean it up.