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Category: Faith (page 1 of 16)

We Your People

The preamble to the United States Constitution reads as follows:

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence,[note 1] promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

Structurally, the preamble includes:

  • Identity of the authors – “We the People of the United States”.
  • Their motivation – “in Order to form a more perfect Union, . . . ”.
  • Their affirmation of popular sovereignty – “do ordain and establish. . .”.

For some reason this preamble came to mind this morning while reading through Psalm 79; in particular the last verse which reads:

But we your people, the sheep of your pasture,
will give thanks to you forever;
from generation to generation we will recount your praise. (Psalm 79:13 ESV)

After spending the bulk of the psalm lamenting the destruction, defilement, and humiliation Israel has endured at the hands of the ungodly around them, and then encouraging God to act on behalf of His own reputation as well as His chosen people, this is the verse that closes things out. This verse serves as a reorientation in thinking and a reminder of what they were made to do irrespective of their circumstances.

It was the “we your people” in particular that made the instant connection in my mind (for whatever reason) to the preamble of the constitution. But rather than assuming their national identify (e.g., “we the people of the United States”), the psalmist affirms Israel’s identify of being God’s people, the sheep of His pasture. Rather than asserting the sovereignty of man, the psalmist acknowledges the sovereignty of God. And the motivation and the attitude and action that result, is to give thanks and recount God’s praise forever.

This was a good reminder for me this morning that, as sojourner and an exile in a land that is not my home, my identify is rooted in Christ and is not constrained nor bound by geography. I am not my own. I have been purchased with a price and have been redeemed from slavery to sin and set free to live in humble submission to the Lord.

May we, His people, give thanks to Him forever and may His praise be recounted from generation to generation.

The WYSIWYG Church

While pulling in to the church parking lot sometime before Christmas I noticed a sign staked into the ground near the entrance that announced our Christmas Eve service time. The sign was relatively small, similar to what you might see on a street corner advertising a yard sale or an open house. Even while driving right past it as I pulled in to the parking lot it was difficult to read the details on the sign. This spurred the thought, “we need a big banner that we put out that not only announces our Christmas Eve service but invites the community to join us”.

This thought came up this morning while having coffee with a friend and he commented that if we were to do that we would have to change our whole approach to the service. He thought that all of our services and events are more targeted at the “family” and building up the believers in our midst instead of being targeted at seekers. He said we would need to change things up to be more “outreach” oriented.

In principle, I get what he’s saying and I can agree with the idea of considering our target audience and thinking about ways we can usher them into the truth and give them onramps to get connected to the church. But I don’t think it means we would have to change our approach to the content and structure of the service. Sure, consider how we might communicate and promote the event differently so that we reached our intended target audience and help them understand the “value proposition” of attending, but the content of the service (telling the story and rejoicing over the incarnation of Jesus) shouldn’t change. As the saying goes,

what you win them with, you win them to.

I think about my life as a young person, growing up in a broken home. When I would go to my friend’s homes to hang out after school and was invited to stay for dinner, I got a small taste of what life in a nuclear family could be like. The structure, the safety, the security, and the routine. Although it wasn’t my family and it wasn’t what I was used to, I enjoyed those moments where I got to see how those families did life and it created within me a desire to have that for myself.

The same can be said for inviting newcomers, unbelievers, and seekers of truth to come and experience what family life in the local church is like. Should we go out of our way to be hospitable and make them feel welcome and comfortable? Absolutely! But should we pretend to be something we’re not and act and behave differently than we normally do? By no means!

The local church can be salt and light to a dying and dark world by being true, authentic, and faithful to what the Lord has created it to be. We are to be faithful to the mission and will of God and allow the Holy Spirit to do the attracting, convicting, and converting. We don’t want people to just come to church. We want people to be the church. When visitors come into the local church, it should be WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get). And hopefully, they are seeing a whole lot of Jesus. To God be all the glory.

Showing Our Children the Gospel

As I sat with my three children last night walking them through our evening devotion I was reminded of something very important. I was reminded that, as important as it is to read the scriptures with our children and as important as it is that we teach and explain the gospel to our children and as important as it is that we pray with them that the seed of God’s Word will land on good soil and yield a harvest in their young lives, it is equally important that they experience the gospel in their interactions with us as parents.

One of the things we discussed during our devotions last night was sin – what it is, how it entered the world, how we are all guilty of it, and how God has solved the problem of sin. We talked about how Adam and Eve responded in their disobedience and how they hid from God in shame. We talked about God’s provision and we talked about how if we confess our sin to God He is faithful and just to forgive us and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

Everything we talked about was real and true. But have you ever wondered what it does to the faith of a child if they hear one thing but experience another? How will it be received if we as parents encouraged them to not hide in shame but rather to freely come to God to find forgiveness and restoration and yet, their experience with us was the exact opposite? If their experience with us was constant condemnation, how would it impact their belief of what we tell them of their perfect Heavenly Father?

Thankfully, our children’s salvation is not hinging on how good of a parent we are or how well we communicate the gospel to them. God is sovereign and His grace is sufficient and His will be done. There is nothing we as parents could ever do to separate our kids from the love of God. But, how well are we showing, sharing, and leading them into that love? As a wise friend is fond of saying, “parents are Jesus with skin on”. Read more

Discipleship in Disappointment

As a parent, one of the most difficult things for me to see is when my children are hurting; both physically and emotionally. However, as difficult as it is, it also provides a wonderful discipleship opportunity and a chance to teach and instruct my kids. I don’t know about you but as a father, I tend to turn pretty much everything into a teachable moment. Last night was one of those moments.

I’ll avoid the details but suffice it to say, my daughter was pretty upset, hurt, and disappointed about something that happened during her school day. Seeing as how this wasn’t my first rodeo, I followed my typical approach to dealing with these situations. At a high-level, my approach involves the following: Read more

The Seattle Seahawks Approach to Discipleship

I stumbled upon an article I clipped last May on Kris Richard, the Seattle Seahawks Defensive Coordinator. Before deleting it I gave the article a quick scan to remind myself of why I clipped it in the first place. And that’s when I saw it; the link to discipleship.

In describing his own preparation for his new position — which included four years as a cornerback in the NFL and seven coaching defensive backs under Carroll, first at USC, then Seattle — Richard says, “You’re always taking notes, always learning, because as soon as you’re stagnant, you’re done.’’

He preaches to his players what he calls “the brotherhood effect,’’ which is defined as “each one, teach one.” That means passing on your knowledge, because “we’re only as strong as our weakest link. But how about no weak links?”

You see, Kris Richard approaches the Seahawks defense the way we might approach discipleship.

Being a Disciple

As disciples of Christ we have an individual responsibility to be “always taking notes, always learning, …”. We are to continue (by God’s grace and the power of the Holy Spirit) growing and maturing in our faith. Our purposeful practice of the spiritual disciplines (Bible intake, prayer, journaling, etc…) as well as regularly joining together with the saints for corporate worship in our local church context can help keep us from getting “stagnant”.

Part of avoiding stagnation is ensuring we are not just taking in and receiving but that we are also giving and sharing. Read more

Getting to the Heart of Ashley Madison

If you are like me, you haven’t done anything to purposely seek out news about Ashley Madison and yet, we are all relatively familiar with the story. Ashley Madison is of course an online service that purportedly provides a discrete way for married people to connect with other married people interested in extramarital relationships. In the past few weeks, the Ashley Madison customer database was hacked and the personal information of the registered customers was leaked online. This has led to the public shaming of many high-profile personalities as well as everyday joes.

I don’t feel the need to weigh in on the “service” provided by Ashley Madison. I think most of us will agree that a Website that exists for the sole purpose of making it easier for people to break their marriage covenant is not a good thing. In fact, it’s an absolutely deplorable thing. But as bad as the Website itself is, I have also been somewhat bothered by the reaction and fallout from the release of the customer data.

I’ve seen so many people who are acting like they’re on a witch hunt and taking pleasure in outing these people on the list and pouring nothing but judgment and condemnation on them because their sin was found out. John 8:7 comes to mind when Jesus responded to the scribes and the Pharisees who were with the woman caught in adultery by saying, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” Read more

Summer Camp Testimonies

Our son just returned from a week-long summer camp. This was his third consecutive year of attendance and it’s proven to be a highlight of his summer.

Although we are typically very excited for him to “tell us all about it!” my son typically needs a couple days to decompress. But usually the stories start filtering out on Sunday and without fail, some of those stories involve the testimonies that were shared throughout the week. From what I understand, these are not personal testimonies shared by other campers but rather stories the counselors share during their time of teaching and instruction.

Given that this is my son’s third year of camp, I have noticed a pretty consistent trend about the testimonies that are shared. They all tend to be what I would classify as “sensational” testimonies that involve things like drug and alcohol abuse and suicide attempts.

I don’t doubt the authenticity of these testimonies and there is nothing “wrong” with them. After all, they do a very good job of painting a picture of brokenness and set the stage for a redeemer to make all things new. But I do find it interesting that when trying to compel a crowd we tend to default to these types of testimonies rather than what might be considered the “boring” testimony of a person who, by God’s grace, has never wandered off as a prodigal.

I’m all for utilizing the sensational testimonies as a means to highlight the amazing grace of our LORD. But when we don’t balance it out by sprinkling in a few “boring” testimonies as well, I have some slight concerns.

Specifically, I worry that if we only use the sensational testimonies we establish a framework by which the campers evaluate their life relative to the subject of the testimony and say, “Wow! Compared to that, I’m not that bad and actually am holding things together pretty well.” I worry we set them up to view their lives relative to the testimony rather than viewing their lives relative to God’s holy standard. I worry that the compelling part of the testimony is how sensational the story is rather than how amazing God’s grace and how He is mighty to save. I worry we don’t help the campers see their own brokenness in a way that positions them to really hear and receive the gospel.

I realize that at the end of the day God’s will be done and it is the Holy Spirit that will draw the campers not the testimonies themselves. But I just want the campers to realize, it’s not necessarily how bad we are that is important but rather how good Jesus is. I want them to realize that a testimony isn’t made sensational by what we do and experience in our brokenness and sin. It is made sensational by a holy, loving, patient, and faithful God who loved us so much that He sent His son to die on a cross so that all who believe in Him will not perish but have everlasting life.

Here’s to praying that all of our kids have “boring” testimonies.

Sonstroke: excessive exposure to the majesty of Jesus

Sunstroke is a serious medical condition, a medical emergency, when the body’s temperature rises too high as a result of excessive heat exposure. Needless to say, you should do everything you can to avoid sunstroke. It’s not good for you.

While leafing through an old notebook today, looking for an empty page to use to write down some notes for work, I came across something I wrote down in October of last year. It read:

Sonstroke = a spiritual condition caused by intense exposure to the brilliance, glory and majesty of Jesus.

I can’t remember the context of what was happening or where I was when I wrote this thought down on paper but it seems to me that Sonstroke is a condition that I should seek with all my heart, soul, strength and mind.

May we all suffer from Sonstroke.

Context for the Congregation

And Moses said to the congregation, “This is the thing that the LORD has commanded to be done.”
Leviticus 8:5

In Leviticus 8 we see Aaron and his sons being ordained to fulfill the priestly duties to which God had called them. You ever think about how this might have been perceived by the other Israelites? I’ve been a human being long enough and in enough different contexts to know that change is not an easy thing for people to accept.

That is why I like what Moses says in verse 5 so much. “This is the thing that the LORD has commanded to be done.” That verse sets the context for what was about to happen. It lets the people know the motivation behind the change. It’s not, “We’re going to consecrate Aaron and his sons as priests because we think it’s a good idea” or,  “because they really want to be priests”, or “because they satisfy the qualifications that we think would make a good priest”.

The LORD commanded it and so Moses and the people respond in obedience. It’s as “simple” as that. In this case, it would have been appropriate for Moses to remind the people, “your opinion, while interesting, is irrelevant”. It’s about God’s plan, purpose and command.

It seems as though as church leaders we would do well to model this approach to some extent. A group of leaders who are in full submission to God and united by the Spirit should be able to introduce change and/or decisions to the congregation by setting the context that everything we do is an obedient response to God’s command as revealed through His word, the Bible. Our primary justification for anything/everything we do should always be the authority of scripture, not our own wisdom or opinions.

In everything, may we fear God more than man and may we submit all things to Christ.

She Wouldn’t Be a Murderer if She Killed Them in Her Womb

Yesterday I read the terrible story of the meth-addicted 39-year old mother in Utah who killed six of her newborn babies over the course of ten years. She already had three children and felt too overwhelmed by drugs to possible care for any more. And so, she carried six children to full-term, gave birth to them on her own, and then immediately suffocated them to death.

She has pled guilty to all charges and prosecutors expect she will be put in prison for the rest of her life.

On it’s own, this story is gruesome, horrible, unconscionable, and downright evil. But here’s the thing that gets me; if she had simply killed these babies while they were still in her womb, this wouldn’t even be a headline. And if it was a headline, it certainly wouldn’t include the word “murder”.

Rather than being prosecuted she would be protected and applauded for exercising her freedom and her right to choose as a woman who is taking control of her own reproductive health.

Look, I’m willing to admit that this is my knee-jerk reaction to a news story and the emotions are raw and unfiltered but no matter how persuasive and well-articulated the arguments, I will never understand the pro-choice (to murder a baby) position. I will never understand how you can maintain a pro-choice position while at the same time being outraged by what this particular mother did.

Is there really much difference between your right to an abortion and what this mother did? It’s the same result; a dead baby.

 

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Let me be clear that if you have had an abortion in your past I am in no way intending to pass judgment on you or condemn you in any way. I too, due to the anger in my heart, have also been guilty of murder. But I have also received much needed grace and forgiveness in Jesus Christ and I believe the law of the Spirit of life has set me free from the law of sin and death. I also believe that same grace and forgiveness is available to you.

My desire in sharing this was to be honest with my feelings and thoughts on the issue and not to hurt or offend. If my reaction to this news story or my position on abortion have jostled your heart in any way, please contact me so we can discuss privately and in love. May God bless you!

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