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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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Excellence of God’s People: Doing Our Best

I stumbled upon the below text in my studies. It orginates from a book called  “Excellence: The Character of God and the Pursuit of Scholarly Virtue” and thought..AMEN! See if you agree 😉

“In this spirit (of excellence), therefore, let us pursue excellence. As we have seen, far from being optional, excellence is in fact a divine mandate that applies to every aspect of our lives, for God himself is characterized by excellence. Mediocrity, sloppy workmanship, and a half-hearted effort do not bring glory to God or advance his kingdom”.

Powerful statement!

How many of us wake up with a focus to be excellent for God? The daily grind of employment, home-schooling, ministry commitments, and activities keeps us in a routine of tasks. Do we ever take a moment of pause and ask, “Am I doing my best?” More importantly, “Is my best a reflection of God’s glory here on the earth?” In the midst of the struggle to balance all of our activities, we often become distracted regarding our fellowship with the Spirit of God, especially throughout the day. He is our Beloved One, it is only fitting that He receives worship by way of mindful work in the Spirit of Excellence?

Included in Believer’s love for the Father through Christ our Lord, there should be a desire to do our best for Him; not from a works-based motive, but from a sincere organic closeness to engage with Him as the leader and active participant; and as the writer stated, of every aspect of our lives. If Emmanuel was with you every day, how would you operate? Would mediocrity be your norm?

The focus of Excellence in terms of it’s effect on the Church along with her individual members can be a bit blurry. Societial norms coupled with pride of life has had its effect on our efforts operate in excellence. The result is either an exaltation of excellence or a complete dismissal of the idea of Excellence in the life of the Believer. It can be viewed as legalistic, however, if we look closer to this idea we can soundly argue that excellence does not equate legalism.

For it is written:

Psalm 16:3 – As for the saints in the land, they are the excellent ones, in whom is all my delight.

Proverbs 12:4 – An excellent wife is the crown of her husband, but she who brings shame is like rottenness in his bones.

Daniel 6:3 – Then this Daniel became distinguished above all the other high officials and satraps, because an excellent spirit was in him. And the king planned to set him over the whole kingdom.

Secular vs. Sacred

Both secular and sacred(church) culture has provided contributions to the perversion of Excellence. I’m speaking specifically to the perception of our effectiveness in secular society, the tools we may use as expressions of worship, and our ability to execute in Faith.

Traditionally, secular society has tagged persons with exceptional abilities or talents as persons are “gifted”.  The same goes for American church culture. It’s often said that a person is “gifted” in things like accounting, or singing; we’ve even said that preachers are gifted. The perversion also includes exalting spiritual gifts above the Gospel. If we are truthful, God himself has not defined or delegated many of these skills as “gifts”. The result: A culture that exalts or worships exceptional skills, talents and abilities; or, we worship the person(s) with the skill. The perversion of Excellence happens when God the Creator and Soverign Lord is no longer the object of our affections.

On the flip side, you may have a church culture that unconciously surpresses the idea of Excellence, resulting in mediocrity. If Excellence is percieved as legalism the result will be sloppy workmanship and half-hearted efforts which can be as equally sinful. Mediocrity can’t be an option for God’s people….because He is Excellent!

Therefore, service unto the Lord and His people is done with joy and, with excellence. Whether working in secular society or ministry, inside the home or the Arts, the idea of serving the Lord and His people with excellence should be in consideration in all that we do. It’s a part of stewardship and it is worship!

 For it is written:

Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything; and do it, not only when their eye is on you and to curry their favor, but with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord.Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.

Lastly, the idea of Excellence in the preaching of God’s word is not left out of this equation. The same issues of idolatry and lukewarmness is evident when Elohim is not the object of worship. Preaching is worship. Excellence in preaching is achived when the Holy Spirit is in charge and there is a resolve to trust God’s Word. Faith in God and full confience in His word (logos) by the Power of the Holy Spirit is the foundation of humility. Preparation is a key component because we know that the those that preach (teach) the Word will be judged with more strictness (James 3:1). I’d like to think that most preachers and teachers of the Word rely on God’s grace, the Word and the Holy Sprit, however, I still have an expectation that ministers of the Word are dilligent to ensure proper preparation that includes sound doctrine.

The Believer’s decision to be Excellent isn’t based on how we do things; but who we do it for.  More importantly, Excellence is a vehicle by which we reflect his glory during our exile here on earth.

Selah

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Why Prison Ministry IS Important

“Remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them, and those who are mistreated, since you also are in the body”. (Hebrews 13:3 ESV)

As you read these accounts and thoughts of those returning back to our communities, may the Holy Spirit teach and reveal the true character of God….and…may you desire this attribute for yourselves. For judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment….Selah 

http://sfbayview.com/2011/04/coming-home-revelations-from-former-prisoners-2/

 When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’ (Matthew 25:31-40 ESV)

Guest Blog: Reforming the Home, Restoring the Prophetic Voice of the Church

Guest Blogger Dr. Carlton Mcleod shares a thoughtful examination of reforming the church. 

And it reads:

“Ecclesia Semper Reformanda Est”

This phrase is Latin for “the church is to always be reformed.” You also may have read it in a shortened form: Semper Reformanda: “always to be reformed.”

Throughout church history, these phrases have simply meant that the church is to always be changing…not towards the world…but reforming biblically: continually getting back to its mandate and prophetic prescriptions. This is exactly what it means to me. Let me explain.

Some people read the Scriptures, study the Scriptures, and maybe even preach the Scriptures…and somehow move FURTHER away from what God is teaching us in His Word. Others read, study, preach, and that study causes them, by God’s grace, to move CLOSER to what God is saying. (Not trying to get into the reasons for this in the post.) In other words, there is often a long trajectory towards compliance or compromise. That curve is rarely linear, but generally from start to finish, there is often a “moving away” or a “move towards” in a life, a ministry, or a generation. We can see this in individuals, churches, whole denominations, and even Nations. Obviously your personal mileage my vary, but I’m speaking generally. 

I’ve lost count as to how many times I have heard people say, “We’ve got to get back to basics! We’ve got to go back to the Acts 2, New Testament church!” That’s all fine and dandy until…well…its time to actually go back to the Acts 2, New Testament church. 🙂
In the spirit of Semper Reformanda, I believe the church in her current state of imperfection, should always be striving to bring herself in line with what God has declared in Scripture. The further we move away, the more He is dishonored. If we catch ourselves becoming unloving, we must move swiftly back. When we find ourselves too inwardly focused, we must recover a passion for souls. When we read the Scriptures and see an area of error, we must repent quickly move back in line. When we discover we’ve adopted a worldly set of guiding principles, we must look again at what God has declared and rebuild foundations!
My personal trajectory is, prayerfully, more towards than away (Please Lord!). I began my ministry pretty young and pretty ignorant. God, in His mercy, continues to “narrow” (word carefully chosen) me concerning essential truths. There are what people consider to be their truths, then there is THE Truth.

There are ways and there is His way:
“Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.” (Matt 7:13-14)
There are also principles and patterns in the Bible, and choosing His when they are given, to me, is the best choice.

So yes, I believe the church should always be reforming…always cutting and chiseling and repenting and going back again and bringing back and fighting against cultural pulls…trying to stay true to God’s precepts, principles, and patterns.
Never attempting to add to them (legalism) or minimize them (compromise), the Lord’s church should be trying to lovingly hold to what God has said would please Him. I don’t think we’ll ever get it totally right, but because we love Him, we must try. May our Lord help us succeed more than we fail.

Are you wiling to “always be reforming” towards the Word, to the glory of Christ?