Midweek Lesson

Wednesday was our monthly midweek meeting by house church. These are my notes from my lesson. A little rough around the edges, and not exactly he way I delivered it, but pretty close. I could clean it up and make it more blog-worthy, but I'm not. :-)

I want to challenge us this evening, all of us me included. This will hit some of you, as it does me, right square in the heart. Others, it may not apply to, you're already doing exactly this.

In fact it applies to me so well, I thought about not sharing it. Maybe it's just me, I doubt it, but if the challenge doesn't apply to you, please take no offense.

Thinking about our study of John, one thing that stands out is that Jesus is always with people. His ministry was outward focused.

I am not.

I've come to realize that my life is very inward focused. My schedule, my blog, my hobbies. I like to think of myself as a having a good 'balance', in reality, day in and day out, the balance is shifted toward me.

But the things that get me agitated, frustrated, angry,

Remember this passage from John 12:24-26:

Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him.

Remember Sunday, we talked about finding 'balance'? Jesus didn't call us to balance, to make room for his goals in our lives. He called us to die. It's a radical concept. A very hard teaching. If we embrace it, all bets are off on our lives, we will be dead and obligated to God.

I think of this quote from Soren Kierkegaard [which I've used here before].

The matter is quite simple. The Bible is very easy to understand. But we Christians are a bunch of scheming swindlers. We pretend to be unable to understand it because we know very well that the minute we understand we are obliged to act accordingly. Take any words in the New Testament and forget everything except pledging yourself to act accordingly. My God, you will say, if I do that my whole life will be ruined. Herein lies the real place of Christian scholarship. Christian scholarship is the Church's prodigious invention to defend itself against the Bible, to ensure that we can continue to be good Christians without the Bible coming too close. Dreadful it is to fall into the hands of the living God. Yes, it is even dreadful to be alone with the New Testament
.

All this - Jesus always with the people and dying to ourselves – got me thinking about what the 'Christian lifestyle', and therefore mine, ought to look like. That got me thinking about all tha passages that refer to our relationshiops – the 'one another' passages. Let's look at some.

Romans 12:10 Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.

Romans 12:16
Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly.[1] Never be conceited

Romans 15:7
Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.

Romans 16:16
Greet one another with a holy kiss.

1 Corinthians 12:25
that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another.

2 Corinthians 13:11
Finally, brothers, rejoice. Aim for restoration, comfort one another, agree with one another, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you.

Galatians 5:13
For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.

Ephesians 4:32
Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.

Ephesians 5:21
submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.

Colossians 3:13
bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.

1 Thessalonians 5:11
Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.


As Christians, our focus is outward, on others. But we live in a society that focuses on self.

Look at the action words in these passages. What are our action words? Buy, relax, go, work, spend. There are others, not all bad, but our ways are for us, but God's ways are for others.

We cannot do many of these things if we do not spend time together. We must break our schedules, our priorities and get involved with other people, especially disciples.

Let's look for ways to be together, make spending time a priority. Not just 'D-times' or study times, but fun times. Kid's recitals and soccer games, dinner out or in our homes, home projects, watching the game,etc.

As I look at my own life, I have two thoughts:

  1. My first thought is that I long to change my way of thinking, to make time with others a priority and find ways, invent ways, of being with disciples. This is needed, desparately perhaps, in myself and in others. I want to change my mode of operation from one of "I want to get home and be alone" to "I long to spend some time with my brothers!".
  2. My second thought, however, is to run from this. I frankly don't want to change. This goes to the core of ME, I'm not sure I want to go there. As Soren Kierkegaard said, "if I do that my whole life will be ruined." What I want is to feel good about the revelation and keep on living the same way.

I can't stay the same, but can I really move toward such a change? Prayerfully I can.

How about you?

11 Comments

The truth is, my most relaxing times often *are* with my friends (well, sometimes I do just need a nap). I firmly believe that Jesus' insistence that we love others comes not from some whimsical "Hey, I need a second rule because two rules are better than one - how about 'love your neighbor'? Yea, that has a nice ring to it." I believe it comes from knowing exactly how we are made and how we tick and what will help us tick best. Our Best Life Now (TM) really comes from loving God and other people and intangible blessings that spring from doing those two things.

Some days, I come home from work, plop down and turn on the television. Unless I doze off, that hour that I waste with my brain turned off doesn't even give me the rest I was hoping for and probably could have used.

FWIW, I also think this message can be "heard" better by many with a bad Kipism experience if we use something other than the previously overused "outward focused" expression.

It is so easy just to indulge in our private, separate lives. And so hard to break that pattern.

Each Christian must love his neighbor as himself, and must love other Christians as Jesus loved his disciples. We are all made differently and so that love can be carried out in different ways by different people. We won't all look alike doing it. Still, I don't see how we can live this out if we spend all our free time hiding out in our private, separate homes.

The difficulty in weaning yourself off the McKean paradigm, and trying to figure out what to do, and finding the balance of enough and not too much, is that it is more open ended with very little guidance. I think at that point, you have to go back and look at the baby you don't want to throw out with the bathwater.

It makes life less sincere when having "D" times, or "quality" times, or scheduled household meetings or whatever, is that they are a construct. It just becomes another part of the mission. When you have to make a point of loving your neighbor, then there is a shallowness there that is indeed not the intent of scripture. It becomes something to do, that you do because you want to please God and obey him.

This can only be the fruit of a resonating paradigm that demanded performance tasked oriented environments, based on speculation and false assumptions on scripture. This type of environment develops a performance to please oriented atmosphere that limits faith to the extent of ones own abilities to perform the task at hand. For example, you may point out to me in our "D" time that I need to be friendlier at church, and spend more time with outsiders/non-Christians (which is really a non-convert into ICOC mandates); pointing out that one of my weakness is being self centered. When the truth of the matter is that this person might very well be extremely polite, loving, and caring to his grocer, gym partner, land lord, fellow employees, and his family. But because these acts of love and kindness can't be measured by "leadership" in any way, there becomes an issue of this brother being self focused. Well, this discouragement of being so self-focused frustrates this brother, so, he has to build the construct of paying more attention to strangers and other church members, who have always considered him weak because he is just a quiet guy. They indulge him in a condescending way that comes from thinking that "I have the way of outwardly focused and am good at it" that a certain type of person may have. He doesn't develop any deep relationship with these people that he is being pressured into dating or just hanging out with, always feeling the outsider, and with that much mental, emotional, and spiritual energy going out in those efforts, he has nothing left for his grocer, gym partner, land lord, fellow employees, and his family. The "Institutional" demands actually cut right into what was his obedience to God. If it is up to you, make peace with everyone. Be mindful of your own affairs and love your neighbor.

The Epistles were written for the lifestyle of the convert. Notice that the Great Commission isn't reinstated in the epistles, but loving people with gentleness, mercy, kindness, meekness, like mindedness, and what more are all encouraged. I have much more to say on that issue, as to whether or not the Great Commission was the mission of the Church, or the mission of the Apostles to build the church, but anyway, we are encouraged more than ever to act like the good Samaritan and follow the golden rule. Christianity isn't rocket science, its just that if you have been speaking English, and everybody else is speaking Greek, it's hard to understand. As a one time convert into the ICOC (of which without I wouldn't have become a Christian, so as I owe my life to it) I understand paradigm in which your puzzle is writ. But as an Engineer my friend, you must know that sometimes you need to start fresh when it comes to trying to build a blue print. Sometimes you need a new angle to look at things. I think that challenge lies more in escaping what "loving your neighbor" means as a construct, or just a natural response in the way that you live. Look at this scripture, it is Romans 12:1-5:

"1 I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. 2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God. 3 For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith. 4 For as we have many members in one body, but all the members do not have the same function, 5 so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another."

At first only verse one came to mind, but then I read down. This scripture is perfect for what I am meaning. My example above was a guy who was doing fine, just not fitting into the mold and construct that certain ex-McKean churches still apply to, but yet, obeying every inch of scripture.

Now, don't take me wrong, everybody needs help in their growth, and needs people in their lives, but not when it is a humanistic demand not made by scripture. Believe it or not, the example above in only about 20% autobiographical, it's just that I have seen too many good brothers go their own ways because of issues like this. And yes, I am saying that there still needs to be some changes in us and our thinking. I look over the list of scriptures that you gave, and none of those have anything to do with be creative enough to obey them. Don't you see your church friends at least two to three times a week? For the world, that is a lot. With kids in sports, scouts, birthday parties, vacations, holidays, tutoring, what have you, then on top of that you try to make time for your wife…well, most folks rarely do more than that. But as Christians, we feel obligated to spend more time with other Christians. That's not a bad time, but seeing them on Wednesday's and Sunday's, plus bible study is great, and plenty of opportunity to show kindness and support. Plus, true Christians tend to gravitate towards each other socially anyway. I think that if we over think, and make too many demands of ourselves, then we start wondering if we are righteous enough for God. Well, even that statement makes us sound foolish.

Salguod,

Thanks for sharing this. It is pretty timely for me as I know that I'm coming out of a self-centered "funk" that I've been in for the late-spring and summer months. I have pulled back my heart from my brothers and sisters as well as my co-workers and neighbors. It is good to be back on the upswing, it feels good to be an instrument in God's hand again.

Allan, I appreciate your response. I will speak for myself as opposed to a church or leadership group. I know that I've gotten burned out looking to meet needs all around me to the point of being overwhelmed and withdrawing my deep love for others. I have fallen into the "keep warm and well-fed" camp. I've lost (what I believe to be) the right perspective - I am an instrument in God's hand to be used to help others. Some needs I am better equipped to meet than others. The other needs I trust that God will send another instrument... but until then, I can lend my ears and my time. I find myself in this position with Christians and non-Christians alike.

As an Engineer, I know that sometimes it's best to throw out your first pass at solving a problem and start all over. But I believe that the foundation laid by God (Jesus, the Prophets, and the Apostles) is still good so it's a matter of getting back to the solid foundation and being able to discern the difference between a commandment of God versus a teaching of man. The trick is to be able to not get caught up in the pretty packaging of man's teachings because the bows look prettier than the truth of the Scriptures. Kierkeggard's quote gives me great pause in this regard.

I definitely don't have the corner on that market, but I think I'm older and wiser than I was in the past, so I'm able to see more.

Allan, I don't know your story or history with the old ICOC or with what church you were involved. So obviously, I cannot speak to that at all. I can speak about my experience here in NH. It wasn't always pretty, but God is still using it to help me see some things. God has obviously used your experience to help you to see some things as well.

Byevad, I appreciate your response, and its graciousness...for full disclosure, I was converted into the ICOC (also my Christian conversion) in 1989 into the Arizona State University campus ministry of the Phoenix Valley Church of Christ. A couple of years later (after a campus ministry internship) I was a member of the Las Vegas mission team. Then I moved back to Phoenix to make up some grades that needed to be repented of. Then, I met my then girlfriend and now wife. We were half volunteered, half chosen to move to the South Bay region of the San Diego Church of Christ to improve upon the singles ministry. Two years later we got married, lead a married house church for a while and then decided to move closer to my wife's family (and I also had to motive to leave the San Diego church, but not the movement) So, because of some conversations I had with a brother named Tom Caswell (SP?), we picked Columbus (the home of Salguod) and stayed there for five years. Well, again there was a combination of life circumstances and a need to follow my heart. I had become extremely frustrated with the slow, or lack of response to the HKL (as per my opinion) and knew that I could no longer be a healthy contributor to that fellowship. So, we moved to the small town in Kentucky where my in-laws live. Per Salguod's direction, we picked a local fellowship to be a part of. Picking the best game in town, we pick the local Mainline coC. It is a good fellowship, and surprisingly there were and still are a great number of "True" Christians among them. Although there are the occasional differences in understandings, we have still found great comfort and love among the believers here. They are a terrific loving caring giving group of baptized, evangelizing, Christians.

Regardless, the Henry Kriete letter opened my eyes to much, and since then, through much prayer and bible study, I have learned even more, and more and more has continued to become evident to me. I take great comfort in the online fellowship that I have with brothers like Doug and Beg, and JohnE and others, and am glad for brothers like you also who take privilege in being open and straight forward with me. So thanks, I am grateful.

Thanks all. Paul, uh, P. Allen :-), yor comments are right in line with what I was driving at. My lesson was not so much teaching, althoguh it was a bit of that, as much as it was my sharing my heart and my realization of myself. This is what I need to be thinking and doing, where I see that I need to go. It may not apply to others in the smae way.

Oh, and I urged you to find a church home? I didn't recall that. Hmm, sounds like something I would have done, though. I'm glad you did and glad it worked out for you. :-)

Allan, another old-time ICOC'er, eh? I was converted in the summer of 1989 on the University of New Hampshire campus. I later met my wife-to-be there and have been married now for 11 years with 2 beautiful little girls.

The HKL was definitely a time marker in the ICOC history. There are some that say it's the best thing that has happened. There are others who say that it's the worst thing. I tend to think that ultimately it will be a good thing, but there was probably a better way to resolve the issues that were addressed. But then again, that's easy for me to say being a wee bit isolated here in NH. I can say that I have been affected by the aftermath. I have seen people I love dearly hurting in very deep ways.

I have always been a bit of a rebel and opposed "cookie cutter" discipleship. For example, I know brothers who are deathly afraid of "discipleship groups" but who flourish well in one-on-one time. I know others who are just the opposite. So which is the best way? The answer may be different for different people... and I'm OK with that, as long as the standard of Jesus is upheld and God's commands are respected and obeyed.

Enough of my blathering. Thanks for sharing and I pray that God will continue to help us to understand his love for us in much deeper ways.

Oh, and I urged you to find a church home? I didn't recall that. Hmm, sounds like something I would have done, though. I'm glad you did and glad it worked out for you. :-)

Yeah, I remember it clearly, we were in Randy's dining room, and I was sharing with you a few things of how I was feeling and the move, and you suggested that I find a new church home. It was a great idea, and has worked out wonderfully. Thanks!

Doug,

I'm just now understanding that 90% of the problems we have in our churches are because our community is lacking.

Thanks for the good word.

I'm just now understanding that 90% of the problems we have in our churches are because our community is lacking.

Huh?



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  • I'm just now understanding that 90% of the problems we have in our churches are because our community is lacking. Huh?...

    P. Allan Frederick
    Midweek Lesson
  • Doug, I'm just now understanding that 90% of the problems we have in our churches are because our community is lacking. Thanks for the good word....

  • Oh, and I urged you to find a church home? I didn't recall that. Hmm, sounds like something I would have done, though. I'm glad you did and glad it worked out for you. :-) Yeah, I remember it clearly, we were in Randy's...

    P. Allan Frederick
    Midweek Lesson
  • Allan, another old-time ICOC'er, eh? I was converted in the summer of 1989 on the University of New Hampshire campus. I later met my wife-to-be there and have been married now for 11 years with 2 beautiful little girls...

  • Thanks all. Paul, uh, P. Allen :-), yor comments are right in line with what I was driving at. My lesson was not so much teaching, althoguh it was a bit of that, as much as it was my sharing my heart and my realization...

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