Friday, January 29, 2016

Touching Base, Part 294

31 Jan 16
Series - House On Fire! Part 1
What is your Modus Operandi?

This is a useful tool for small group discussion, personal reflection or in a one-on-one conversation. We believe that if the Sunday teaching in this series is discussed outside the morning services, it will be an opportunity to go deeper and build community because God's Word needs to be discussed in community.

What do you do when your heart health is not keeping pace with the demands of life? Every morning your feet hit the ground running, routines have become taskmasters, schedules are full, to-do lists are long… and you always feel a little behind. Even as you deal with that fast pace, you know that your heart health is not good.

Ever just pushed through knowing there are deeper issues within your heart which need to be dealt with? Ever felt like an athlete… like you’re just playing through the injury?

I would call this the “inside/outside-story” tension. On the outside we may look great, we may even want people to believe everything is great, but the inside story tells a completely different message.

Ever had this happen in your relationship with Christ? And instead of fixing it, for some this becomes their modus operandi (often used in the abbreviated form MO), a Latin phrase, loosely translated as "mode of operation", the method of operating or functioning, when the outside story looks very different than your inside story.

As we begin our new Series, House on Fire, we come to the first of the seven churches of Revelation, the Ephesian Church. If you are discussing this as a group, read all of Revelation chapter 1 and make observations about who is writing, from where, who is the audience, what symbolic language do we understand? How is Jesus portrayed in chapter 1?

The problem for the Ephesian church was that their inside story did not match their outside story and God called them on it through John’s vision.

What does this church need to do to deal with this problem? V.5a unloads the action required:

“Remember” - I call this an “inventory” word. They need to get perspective by thinking back, because in their case thinking back will help them see from where they have fallen.

What is their outside story? (v.2, 30) What might people see, and note that God sees it clearly.
What is their inside story? (v.4)

How many churches have an outside story that doesn’t match their inside story? Busy churches don’t mean healthy churches.

How do you fix the problem? That answer would be based on what the inventory reveals. For the Ephesians it was clear.

“Repent” - I call this the “turn around” word. Don’t name it and claim it but name it, and get rid of it. This word very literally means to change one’s way of life. They have an unhealthy MO! An inside/outside” problem.

Verse 4 tells us exactly what they need to repent of - they have abandoned their first love. This word “abandon” helps them see the heights from which they have fallen.

This rebuke contrasts with what Paul wrote the Ephesians 35 years earlier, that he never stopped giving thanks for them because of their faith in Christ and their love (agapÄ“) for the saints (Eph. 1:15–16).

Remember - this large city was thoroughly stirred by Paul’s message (Acts 19:11–41), with the result that the silversmiths created a riot because their business of making shrines of Artemis was threatened – Ephesus had become a house on fire! Ephesus was key in the establishment of the Gentile church. They have indeed fallen from a great height.

Here are some questions to discuss.
- What would it be like to be in a church where this is the MO?
- How would you know this was the condition of the church? Think of specific attitudes and behaviors.
- How hard would it be to break out of this pattern? (for the individual, and corporately)
- What is the danger of this being a church’s MO? See v.5b.

Note another contrast in this text - we have seen the contrast of the outside/inside story. Note v.1 - where is Jesus, how is he portrayed? Yet read again v.4, where are the hearts of the people in relation to Christ?

Here is how I might sum it up (what might you add?):

Jesus is present, but not central; He is referenced, but not exalted; He is legendary, but hearts are not loyal; He is part of their vocabulary, but not part of their vision; He is mentioned in their prayers, but not submitted to in their walk; He is part of their history, but not part of their present day; His truth they hotly defend, but their hearts are cold, they pretend.

Note one more thing John wants them to do.

“Do the works you did at first” - I call this getting back to the basics.

This instruction might seem odd, seeing that they are already portrayed as a busy church (v.2, 3). However, what works might John be referring to that has to do with rekindling a cool heart? What work is essential to a House on Fire?

What did the early church believe about the work of the church?
Here is a clue: note what Paul said when he wrote them years earlier. Read Ephesians 3:14-21. What is Paul doing? What work is Paul committed to on behalf of the Ephesians? If you said “prayer” you win (sorry no free trip to Moose Jaw).

It is interesting that when you see this work of prayer in the New Testament the emphasis is on corporate prayer. In Acts, and in the rest of the New Testament, the majority of God’s recorded workings came when his people prayed together.

There are some tough issues to tackle in life, some big mountains to climb, and none are bigger than the human heart. A heart is not rejuvenated, restored, healed, and lit on fire by just taking inventory and changing one’s mind - but by the power of God. Jesus walks in amongst the church, able and ready fan the flame.

He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches! What does our church need to hear? God wants us to love Him from the inside out and He walks in amongst us, wanting to fan that flame.

How many of you pray for people whose hearts are not right with God? Maybe their situation is exactly like Ephesus or different, but what is true is that it’s an unhealthy heart. Take some time to pray for God to light the hearts at Bethel with greater passion. Take time to pray for your loved ones and friends who you know have cold hearts or cooling hearts towards God.

Also check out and be sure to come to Unleashed, starting on February 14th at 4 pm.

Mark Kotchapaw

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