Thy Kingdom Come

Last week I had the privilege of teaching how God formed his family in the Exodus story and what it means to the Church today.  We talked at length about how God has called His family to live as a distinct community within the pagan world.  As soon as we get the audio you will be able to find the three sessions at porterbrookstl.com. 

The Spirit has done an amazing amount of work on my heart in this area, pressing out what the distinct community actually looks like.  It’s one thing to study, exegete and preach what a community is suppose to look like.  It’s an entirely different exercise to pastor the local church to the same goal.  After teaching Sunday on the Festival of Booths, the Lord continued to work on my heart.  What does it look like to live dependent on God, faithful to His word and engaged in community?  What does it look like to be called as an empowered community distinct in and with the pagan world?

It didn’t take long for the exercise to become a reality.  How does the church engage the world with something like gender identity?  It’s a hot button issue, now that Target has chosen to allow open restrooms to our friends that identify with a different gender.  This of course has become a moral outrage in the Christian communities that I have the privileged of being involved it.  Not that the communities as a whole are outwardly making statements, but as many things in the social ecosystem, one persons comments can be taken as the opinion of the majority.

I’ve seen the arguments, the Bible teaches that this is wrong.  God made Adam and Eve, not Adam that identifies as Eve or even an Eve that identifies as Adam.  It doesn’t take much to see that sexuality is something that is deeply important to God.  So the question begs why?

I believe that we find at least a hint of why in the book of Ephesians.

Wives and Husbands Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands. Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body. “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband. (Ephesians 5:22-33 ESV)

We clearly see here that Paul draws an analogy to relationship between a husband and a wife and Christ and the Church.  There is an implicit sexual nature to the analogy because the one thing that a husband and a wife have that is explicit to the relationship is sex.  Biblically, sex is for the marriage, a bond that is meant to be shared and nurtured through the physical act of consummation.  As a Christian this teaching shouldn’t be new or anything ground breaking.  I’m making the case for the moral outrage.  The issue with attempting to draw the moral backlash from these verses is that God through Paul is speaking about the relationship between a man and a woman whom has been called by God to be in the family of God.  Someone who’s heart has been changed by the super natural act of the Holy Spirit described in Ezekiel 36:

I Will Put My Spirit Within You “Therefore say to the house of Israel, Thus says the Lord GOD: It is not for your sake, O house of Israel, that I am about to act, but for the sake of my holy name, which you have profaned among the nations to which you came. And I will vindicate the holiness of my great name, which has been profaned among the nations, and which you have profaned among them. And the nations will know that I am the LORD, declares the Lord GOD, when through you I vindicate my holiness before their eyes. I will take you from the nations and gather you from all the countries and bring you into your own land. I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules. You shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers, and you shall be my people, and I will be your God. And I will deliver you from all your uncleannesses. And I will summon the grain and make it abundant and lay no famine upon you. I will make the fruit of the tree and the increase of the field abundant, that you may never again suffer the disgrace of famine among the nations. Then you will remember your evil ways, and your deeds that were not good, and you will loathe yourselves for your iniquities and your abominations. It is not for your sake that I will act, declares the Lord GOD; let that be known to you. Be ashamed and confounded for your ways, O house of Israel. (Ezekiel 36:22-32 ESV)

So the question still begs, how does the Christian react?  Again, the answer can be found in Ephesians 5.

Walk in Love Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints. Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving. For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. (Ephesians 5:1-5 ESV)

We are to walk in love and be imitators of God.  The same God that came down and loved us when we were enemies of Him.  When we hated Him to the point of death on a cross, He loved us.  Our job as the church is not to make some moral outrage and boycott Target, that is the reaction of the world.  That’s the reaction of a pagan nation when something doesn’t go politically the way that they feel is right.  Do we boycott McDonalds because they help in the sin of gluttony?  Do we boycott every business that hires people what are living together but are not married?  Of course not, so the issue isn’t in fact a moral issue.

So what is the real issue?  The real issue is our hearts, Christians.  We only want to love, when it’s convenient and comfortable for us.  Someone who looks very different or has a completely different world view causes tension in our hearts and it’s a tension that we want to avoid.  How can I love this person whom looks and acts counter-cultural to my own beliefs?  And in that statement lies the very insidious sin in our hearts.  We still believe that the faith that was given to us was for us and in reality, the faith that was given to you as a gift from God is the faith causes you to engage a culture that is not like your own with the same love and grace that Christ engaged you with.

Or have we so quickly forgotten  the Gospel that saved us, is saving us and propels us into the world?

 

 I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel—not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. (Galatians 1:6-7 ESV)

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An Open Letter to the Walking Dead

This morning I woke up much like every Wednesday and rolled out of bed for prayer.  It was a good prayer time, Jesus was lifted up and people were prayed for.  Our elder team gets up early because we believe that prayer is important, its essential and its vital to the life blood of the Bride.  As prayer ended, we started off our meeting with our current church planter and elder and he informed the group that it was true, a good friend and leader in our community had fallen and was removed as an elder and pastor of a major church.  For Pastors, there is nothing more devastating than hearing that someone had fallen.  As leaders in the community it immediately caused a tension that was physical.  My heart sank, a brother was hurting and his family was in the crosshairs of the world.

 

We prayed and we grieved.  A brother was hurting, and his family is in the crosshairs, but Jesus is still good, right and perfect.  He is still King and he still reigns on high, may we never forget that.

 

I sat down at my computer, getting ready for the firehose of work and wondered how quickly the social media ecosphere would take to a fallen brother.  8AM and the blogs were already picking up the story, my heart sank deeper.  I promised myself that I wouldn’t read the comments  and I wouldn’t engage… but I did.  I wanted to know and it brought me deeper into sadness and sinfully murdering people in my mind.  How could brothers and sisters say these kinds of things about a fellow brother?  Did they not remember that he is sinful man just like me?  My mind was racing, is this how the church reacts to brokenness?  What if I fall?  What if I’m found out, that I’m not as good as a Christian as I portray?  What about his family, I hope they aren’t reading the things that are being said.  Would this be the way that the church treats my family?

 

All these questions came racing across my mind, instantly pulling my heart from sadness to fear to anger and back again.  So I prayed.  Not because I’m a great Christian, but I prayed because there was nothing that I could do.  I prayed, my co-workers knew that something was wrong and I didn’t care.  My family was under attack and seemingly it was from within.

 

Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me.

 

The words echoed in my heart and in my head.  I once was lost and now I’m found, I was blind but now I see.  How glorious grace is.  Not the Americanized cheap grace, but the life giving grace that can only be found in Jesus.  My brother is hurting and his family is still in the crosshairs.

 

This letter is for you Christian, that grace my abound in your life.  Amazing Grace.  When you are given a voice that has the potential to reach thousands, may grace abound.  When you post your thoughts on family, may grace abound.  When a man is hurting, may grace abound and when his family is put up for public display, may grace abound.  My friend is a man, broken like the rest of us.  He has his faults and they are very public.  May we look upon the mirror as if our faults and our brokenness is laid as bare as his, because it is.  May we be a people of repentance, reconciliation and grace, because we were bought with a price.  Called to be a distinct community in a pagan world.  So many of us failed today, my grace abound.

The Free Gift of Leadership

I was hanging out with one who’s name is only mentioned in the secret circles of the church planting word yesterday and throughout our conversation I was captivated by a thought over and over.

No surprise here, the thought is in the title. It would seem to me that the collective church has had an identity issue with the concept of leadership and the development of disciples. The identity crises is this; many church leaders have fallen for the idea that they are in charge and need to have their well meaning voice heard in the discipleship of the scattered community. (The scattered being, small groups, missional communities, etc)

The rub is simple. If you are doing discipleship well, training leaders to be leaders and allowing them to make mistakes, you are essentially letting go of your identity as a leader and allowing the Senior Shepard to work in the hearts of the people that are being discipled by the people you trained up. It creates spirit dependence, it forces great discipleship training and actual grinding to happen. Most of all, it opens up the hearts of the first generation leaders, to the Spirit so that they don’t start believing the lie that they die something amazing.

The argument is not to have strong leadership and work hard in the giftings you have. The argument really is, pastor are you willing to let God work through your people, developing leaders and allowing you the space to enjoy making new disciples?