I Blew it Again

Luke 14:12-14
Then Jesus said to his host, “When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or relatives, or your rich neighbors; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid. 13 But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, 14 and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”

Yes the truth is, Pastors mess up just like everyone else. Yesterday a man came to the church building wanting some food and a ride to Noblesville, a nearby town. Dad and I were both here, so dad gave him a little money so he could buy a dinner and I offered to give him a ride to Noblesville. We had about 15 minutes to talk. He appeared to have been a man beaten down by life, he had little to nothing, and was one who felt he was unaccepted everywhere he went. Sure, he may have been just looking for a handout, but his needs were real. As I dropped him off, a flood of thoughts started rushing my head. Why did you not give him you shirt?, why did you not take him home for dinner?, why did you not offer for him to stay at your place tonight? And a recurring answer kept coming up, he might harm me or my family. Pause and think of all the risks we take in life. Many of us took a huge risk by getting in our cars this morning. Some risks are more extreme, like bungee jumping, jumping out of a plane, mountain biking, etc., and some get a rush out of facing death in many of these things. The risk creates a rush, a joy. The point is, we are all going to die, and we all take risks that could lead to death. So why did I fear it yesterday, to the point that it kept me from inviting this guy to my house? Many of us might think it reckless to invite someone we don’t know, a stranger, particularly a homeless, poor, stranger into our homes. However, if I am going to take risks why not take them in areas that would show the love of Christ to the lost in stead of for personal gain or rushes? I think of Jim Elliot and the other men that took the gospel to cannibals. Where is my focus, on my personal contentedness, ease of life, joy? Or is it on the Glory of God, Being a light, and spreading God’s Kingdom? Yesterday I have to say if was closer to personal contentedness and joy. I feel more like I gave the guy a handout, rather than taking the opportunity to show him the love of Christ, and the acceptance of Christ.

Other Bible Verses for Reading: Luke 6:20-36, Luke 10:25-37

Postmodern Mindset Hits Again

I was driving home from work yesterday listening to the radio, when a DJ rudely interrupted my listening pleasure (side thought: I love hour long music sets with no talk, but fifty interruptions to let you know what station you are listening to and that this is an hour long music set with no talk). Anyway, the DJ announced that we had our crisis of the day and to call in with “your thoughts”. Evidently there was a 13 year old who was wanting to be put on birth control, but her mom would not let her, so her cousin gave her her’s. Wow! what a story. I turned the radio off at that point. My question was to myself, at what point did we as a society start calling in to DJ’s (trained in how to talk in a deep voice and run sound equipment) to ask advice on life’s difficult questions? Even greater, when did we call in so we could be given advice from people we have no idea who they are and actually call in to these radio shows? This happened to be a secular radio station, but lets face it Christian radio call in shows aren’t a whole lot better. Then it dawned on me, this is the post-modernity they taught about in seminary. We want to hear about experience and opinions, but not truth! We would rather take a poll of everyone’s opinions and see which we like better, than to get advice from someone we know is going to give us the truth. We live in a society where we tell our problems to everyone and anyone, except those that can really help. The role of the Pastor has been so diminished that they are a last resort instead of the first. The role of parents has been so degraded that communication there is difficult, so we seek our peer group. We question everything and every authority to the point that only those with no real authority have the greatest voice. Even greater, the Word of God has been de-elevated to the point of it being just another good opinion, rather than the first and last word of authority on how to live life and what is right and wrong.

So, I leave you with this question: Do you think like a Christian or do you think like the world?

Modesty: Men

Christian men need to be careful to be humble in appearance as well, but maybe the greatest way in which modesty affects men comes in the area of attraction. By our nature we are often most attracted to that which is immodest, so we must train ourselves to not be.

Romans 12:2 Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.

Melody Green (Keith Green’s wife) writes on the subject of modesty in an article entitled “Uncovering The Truth About Modesty”:

Essentially, the Scripture in 1 Timothy says that it’s all right to dress however you want to, unless you are making a claim to godliness

Therefore, if we as Christian young men do not retrain our thought life and what we are attracted to, we will be attracted to women that are not making a claim or primarily concerned about godliness. In turn, and I do not say this to give young ladies any excuse or escape from doing what is right, we may mislead some young ladies and cause them to think they have to dress immodestly to get our attention. Young men, train yourself to be attracted to girls that are modest and godly, for this pleases God.

Husbands have a responsibility in this area as well. We should not encourage or demand our wives to dress sexy or immodestly. There is a temptation to want the one next to you to turn the heads of other guys. We must be careful that we encourage godliness to be the chief beauty of our wives, and continue to put it forward as the most attractive thing in our eyes.

Modesty: Women

1 Timothy 2:9
I also want women to dress modestly, with decency and propriety, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or expensive clothes, 10 but with good deeds, appropriate for women who profess to worship God.

Modesty is a difficult subject in this day and age, but as a father with 2 young daughters it is a growing concern. I hear many say that it is too difficult to find modest clothes now, and so they give up. Others argue that saying anything about one’s dress is legalism. So what do we say. In regards to legalism it is important to realize that our righteousness is not based upon the way we dress or do not dress. However, doesn’t our dress say something about whether or not their is righteousness within. Afterall, being modest or immodest is not a matter of legalism vs. freedom, but sin vs. a desire to please God. At the heart of the problem of modesty is the ultimate question, am I more concerned about pleasing God or am I more concerned about pleasing myself or others. When it comes to teenagers, this is a real challenge and a difficult thing to see. As teenagers we are so caught up in what others think, trying to come up with our own idenity, and trying to fit in somewhere, this is where the parents must step in and help them realize the importance of how they dress.

Modest: Having a regard for deciencies of behavior or dress; quiet and humble in appearance, style, etc; not displaying one’s body; not boastful or vain; unassuming; virtuous; shy or reserved; chaste.

Biblically: Wanting to display Christ rather than self. Wanting the most noticable thing about us to be the fruit of the spirit.

Hearing the Word

This past Sunday I continued our study through Nehemiah, finding ourselves in chapter 8. The exciting thing about this chapter is the focus placed on the reading and preaching of the Word of God. One of the Marks of our church is the centrality and primacy of preaching, and our aim is to make our preaching expository. In The 9 Marks of a Heathy Church, Mark Dever writes:

“The first mark of a healthy church is expository preaching. It is not only the first mark, it is far and away the most important of them all, because if you get this one right, all of the others are sure to follow…Preaching should always be expositional because the Word of God should be at its center, directing it. In fact, churches should have the Word at their center, directing them. God has chosen to use His Word to bring life.”

Therefore, it should follow, if this is the most essential thing to a church, then the first and most important thing someone looking for a church should seek is a church centered around expository preaching. But what is expository preaching? It is preaching that approaches a text and draws it’s main points from the main points of the passage. Sometimes it goes word by word, other times it can come from a much longer passage, but in the end you walk away thinking about what God has said and not the opinions of the pastor. The goal of the preacher is not to be creative with a text or find a text that talks about what they want to say, but to explain to the congregation what God wants of them.

A church that centers on Expository preaching sees that the Word of God is sufficient and the most important thing that men need. Music is good and needed and helpful, but it is not the reason we are to attend church. Fellowship is wonderful and needed, but neither is it to be the main reason we attend church. We are to attend a church because we need to hear God’s Word. All of the other things done in church life are to flow from a response to the reading and preaching of God’s Word.

Mark Moment

I had a Mark moment last week at a conference. For those of you don’t know what a Mark moment is, it is a bit like an epiphany. It is something very obvious that when you realize it seems very profound. An example, a introverted person one day realizing that he or she does not really enjoy being the life of the party.
So here is my Mark moment:
I find myself busy trying to do great things for God, when my focus should be solely on Christ being great in me.
It is a funny thing how something that seems so good can be so wrong when your perspective is off just a little.

Learning Obedience

Hebrews 5:8
Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered.

Yesterday I was reading a chapter in John Piper’s book The Passion of Jesus Christ on the reasons why Christ came to die and he began it based on this verse. It was a bit of a duh moment for me, or a Mark Moment for those of you familiar with that phrase. It was one of those moments where you realize something that has always been true and that you probably have already known. This time it was a moment where the Holy Spirit used the Word of God to show me the practicalness of a simple biblical truth. Although there are complex theological issues in this verse it was the simple truth that hit me, the perfect Savior learned obedience through suffering. As I applied that it made suffering and difficulty much clearer. Suffering is not a bad thing, it is what God uses to make us obedient and fit for heaven. Suffering is not punishment, it is the means by which God makes us suited to bring Him glory. For me this makes it easier to count all trials as joy! It also shows the importance of obedience in the Christian’s life. Although we are completely saved by the once for all sacrifice of Christ, that sacrifice and suffering must produce in us obedience or else our salvation is not real. The Christian life is quite simple, Trust and Obey. However, my sin tends to make it quite difficult. Therefore, I need my gourds blasted!
I asked the Lord that I might growIn faith, and love, and every grace;Might more of His salvation know,And seek, more earnestly, His face.
’Twas He who taught me thus to pray,And He, I trust, has answered prayer!But it has been in such a way,As almost drove me to despair.
I hoped that in some favored hour,At once He’d answer my request;And by His love’s constraining pow’r,Subdue my sins, and give me rest.
Instead of this, He made me feelThe hidden evils of my heart;And let the angry pow’rs of hellAssault my soul in every part.
Yea more, with His own hand He seemedIntent to aggravate my woe;Crossed all the fair designs I schemed,Blasted my gourds, and laid me low.
Lord, why is this, I trembling cried,Wilt thou pursue thy worm to death?“’Tis in this way, the Lord replied,I answer prayer for grace and faith.
These inward trials I employ,From self, and pride, to set thee free;And break thy schemes of earthly joy,That thou may’st find thy all in Me.”

The Church as a Community

I am beginning to wonder if I and others have lost the idea of community. We live in such an isolated society, that it is easily done. The church is to be a community of believers, and you see how tight of a community they were in the book of Acts. It is difficult to let others get close enough to us and to force ourselves to get close enough to others to build the community we are called to have. However, if we follow the different responsibilities laid out in scripture we must open up and reach out. There are a lot of lonely people surrounded by people in our communities. There are apartment complexes where thousands of people live, and you can live there and not know a single other person. You can live in the same gated community and never spend time with one another. We have to be careful not to let this mind creep into the church. Can people come into our worship and sit down, surrounded by people and leave never really having any contact or relationship with others there? How often do we put up walls keeping people from getting to know us deeply? The church is a place where we come to be one, to build and hold one another up. It is a shared responsibility we all have.

Blasted Gourds

Blasted Gourds is a phrase I borrowed from a John Newton Hymn. It refers to chapter 4 of the book of Jonah. God destroyed the gourd plant that brought Jonah pleasure, and Jonah complained. The Gourd plant symbolizes the things that we take great pleasure in, forgetting that they are gifts from God, and losing sight of God’s will because we are wrapped up in them. Jonah needed it removed in order for his heart to be right before God. So too I find that I have things in my life that God rightfully blasts to make me more obedient to and dependant on Him.