Radical Words

I’m devastated tonight as a look through the lens of the digital mediums at the world today.  I was blessed all day because I got to spend almost the entire day with my son, in the safety of my small house in South St. Louis.  We played ball, laughed and he ate everything that I would give him.  It was an amazing day, fruitful in every way.  After he went down for the night though, my reality changed drastically.  I checked the social medias and found that in my blissful day, the world was anything but blissful.  This not so blissful day deserves a response.  I have been relatively silent up until now.  This deserves a biblical response.

Here’s the deal.  Racism in any form is anti-Gospel.  Period.  If you’re exegetical work lands you in some sort of racism, you’re wrong.

“For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.” For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him. How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?” So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.”

Romans 10:11-17

My response will sit here in Romans 10.  The meta-narrative of the Bible provides the baseline for the response, but honestly this is a targeted response, mainly the Christian community.  I believe that Paul’s discussion here provides us a clear framework in which we need to address racism.

First, Paul denounces racism in this passage.  To the Church at Rome, Jesus’ work on the cross was for both Jew and Greek, no distinction.  In other words, theo-centric racism isn’t grounded in Christianity.  It’s grounded in the sinful nature of our hearts.  It’s a direct reflection of the fall, the turning from a Holy God.  It’s the same sinful nature that causes all people to turn away from God and commit horrible acts.

If you are still reading this, you read that right.  The racism that has been so proudly put on display over this weekend is rooted in the exact same nature of OUR sin.  Real talk here, I’m not calling you racist.  In fact, I believe that as we throw the word racist around so freely we are quickly becoming divisive and alienating brothers and sisters, without a Gospel cause.  It’s simply the Doctrine of Sin, and when a group of peoples sinful nature gets a world wide stage it is Biblical for the Church to respond.

Here is where I believe that the Church is failing to respond in a Biblical manner.

  1. We, the Church continue to use politically charged language.  Liberal this, and conservative that.  The entire Bible is a Story about a Hero that comes to redeem His people, the Church.  Paul points this out in the Roman’s passage above.  The majority ‘we’ are grafted in to His family.  The world that we live in as sojourners, utilizes those terms to divide and thus, we have allowed our sinful natures to take over and divide.  You can point at Satan if you feel appropriate here.  I tend to think that it’s our sinful hearts wanting identity in something other than Jesus.
  2. While it is absolutely appropriate and Biblical to become angry with systemic racism in our country, it is absolutely sinful to utilize the oppression of a people as a podium for politics, in the name of Jesus.  If you are so angry that a people group are being oppressed, do what God has called the Church to do in the first place.  Love the oppressed and pray for your enemies.  You, Christian were once an enemy of God, and yet He loved you.  You, Christian were made in the image of God, commissioned to continue the work of Jesus, put your hand to the plow.  You, Christian were saved for a purpose, live like it.  How you do that, as long as your walking in love and led by the Spirit is on you.  Be creative, be encouraging, be challenging, be aggressive, be the Church.
  3. While you are out doing out of your being, here is my last point for the response.  Paul points out in the Romans passage above that those racist, evil, misguided, ill informed, people need to hear the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  So do the heroin junkies that are outside my house right now, kicking in the park across the street.  So do the people of North St. Louis and East St. Louis, where there will be statistically at least one person killed tonight.  The Gospel needs to reach the ears and hearts of the not-yet believer, and God’s plan from the very beginning was to use the Church as the vehicle in which the Gospel would be spread to every people group, globally.  If this is true and you aren’t supporting church planting, you’re wrong Christian.  You want to see the oppression lifted off a group of people, freedom in Christ is the only way.  We need churches planted on every block, corn field, desert, beach and street in the world.

 

The disclaimer to this response is this, Jesus wept.  If you aren’t weeping for the oppression of brothers and sisters, grab a brother a work through a hard heart.  If this response makes you feel uncomfortable, good.  Grab a brother or sister and work through it.  If we as a Church aren’t going to model how a redeemed community is to function, we can’t expect the communities around us to look any different.

 

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)

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.

Morning Thoughts

The Way of Love

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

(1 Corinthians 13:1-7 ESV)

There is something about living the Christian life that should be appealing to anyone and everyone that encounters the Gospel.  Something that is so genuine, so open and so free that it is just pouring out of every member of the body.  The something is love.  As I sat last night and pondered over the words in this passage, begging for wisdom and guidance I recognized something within the words.  Paul is talking to the church in Corinth, a church that was so eager to use their spiritual gifts that they started to misuse them.  Paul’s words, His guidance was not to throw the gifts out, but to pursue them.  His exhortation down that line starts in 14, but the premise starts here.  The Way of Love.
As I read the words, I have to recognize two things.  First, Paul is again reiterating that regardless of the gifts and the talents that we have, without love they are nothing.  This is nothing new, as Christians we should know and operate out of love.  There is something much deeper going on in the words though, something that pulls at the strings of our character.  If we read the well quoted passage about the qualities of love, and we put into context of our character we find that the passage digs into our souls.  The deepest parts of who we are, and why we do what we do.
Our character should be patient and kind; it does not envy or boast; it’s not arrogant or rude.
In a series of passages that talks about our spiritual gifts, we find that the apostle Paul is writing for an inward reflection, of an outward response.  If our character is love, that is who we are on the deepest level, it’s qualities will be reflected outwardly towards everyone.
So, my prayer for this morning reads something like this:
Father,
I know that my heart needs to be focused and refocused on the finished work of the Cross.  Your Son took my place, took my punishment and my guilt on that day.  He defeated sin and death, an accomplishment that only He could do.  I know that my heart doesn’t always reflect the nature of love, the perfect nature of Jesus.  I beg Father, that you continue work in my heart, that you continue to press me deeper into the Gospel and that you teach me how to love Your bride.  Let my character reflect Your nature, let my actions and my gifts flow from a heart that is deeply in love with You.  Wrap me in your arms, hold me, so that I might know the love that can only come from you.  Amen.

The God Delusion – What we can learn from Richard Dawkins

I know that I haven’t been writing a lot on this little bit of web space that I can call my own. It’s a habit that I would like to cultivate again, but it seems that the myriad of life events has taken my focus off of blogging and into the culture as I know it. It’s not a bad place to be, but there is something to putting thoughts on paper and sharing them with the culture of the web that is unique in a sense and allows for deeper introspection.

As I sit down to write a sort of introduction to a series of writing, I’m pressed to pray for the hurt and the sufferings of the people that I would call my family. Death, sickness, abuse, complacency and a host of other griefs continually plague society, causing pain both physical and emotional. My prayer is that we as Christians are pressed deeper into the gospel as we joyfully engage life’s events, whether its in a time of suffering or abundance.

Father,

We know that you are the great I AM, the immutable definition of love.

You are the giver of grace and the faith that justifies and sanctifies,
and we at times forget our place in this fallen world.

Father, forgive us of our trespasses, our feeble attempts to be you.

Break us free from the bondage of slavery that is our flesh, and shower your grace upon us.

Focus our eyes on our Redeemer and Hope, the Guide through the valley’s and the mountains.

Let us not forget that we are never alone, that the great Shepard is always watching, feeding and tending to His flock.

We are but children to the Father, dependent in all aspects of our lives.

Glorify yourself through us Lord, providing the strength that we need in times of desperation and the strength that we need in times blessing.

Point our hearts towards the Gate, who is the Provider and the ultimate Comforter.

Amen

 

Interacting with Richard Dawkins’ “The God Delusion” 

As I was sitting, looking through my Amazon account for the next piece of literature that I might consume, I stumbled across this book placed interestingly enough in the “religion” section.  It’s an interesting experience when you come across a piece of literature that is diametrically opposed to your beliefs and you have the strongest of sensations to engage it.  Admittedly, there was a part of me that wanted to interact with the material to develop an argument, a counter point to Mr. Dawkins work.  Briefly, I imagined writing a book, similar to the point/counter-point literature that has fueled much of the academic work  throughout history.  My mind quickly snapped back into whatever reality I was in and refocused on the why I would read this particular book.  After some prayer and thought, here is why I will engage this text. 

  1. We live in a world that largely hates God and/or the idea of God. Dawkins articulates a world view that is pervasive. It benefits the missionary to know. 
  2. It’s a challenging read, to know deeply that God is real and to wrap your mind around the other side.  Christians tend to run to dogmatic, programmatic language when faced with difficult conversation.  Shortly, it strengthens our faith. 
  3. It forces me to not rely on my personal theologically linguistic constructs as a means to discuss the topic of God with an atheist.  How can I discuss the doctrine of atonement with someone who thinks God is a “mystic child abuser.” 
  4. It opens up conversation with atheists.  Especially, the well read ones.  
  5. It teaches Church history from a different view point.   Obviously, the Church missed the mark during the time of Christendom.  Dawkins, is quick to discuss how “religion” has been a driving point for much of the bloodshed in history. (I will flesh this out later, as I think the issue is deeper than that.)

So my prayer as I start this journey is that my biases are placed on the cross and that the Holy Spirit works deeply within my heart to show me what he has for me.  It will be an interesting journey, considering I’ve already started to repent of the pride that is being sanctified in my heart.  

The Rise of Pseudo Intellectualism Pt. 1

Lets just put this on the table, clearly displayed.  I have a unique understanding of intellectualism and Christianity.  To date, I strive to understand and maintain an open mind towards secular studies of science, psychology and sociology.  I love reading, understanding what drives social interests and where society is ‘at.’  I’ve played the part of the ‘intellectual’ debating sciences, religion and of course sports.  I can hear the reader now, “That’s great Adam, but why do we care?”  It’s not about me, that just a baseline card to start on before laying out the rest of the article.

I’ve been on a Facebook sabbatical, because at this point Facebook has become more of prayer request board than any sort of communication device, at least from my people.  We use it to promote lots things but in reality my peeps from years past just keep my prayer list full.  They don’t know it, I read the things that they write, the pics they post and the events they go to and I know what is going on.  I used to live that life.  I know where they are and it burns inside of me.  I know the emptiness that they feel and I understand that need to fill the emptiness with some sort of intellectual bolstering.  I want desperately for everyone to see the real Jesus.  Not the pastors and the churches that get all sorts of media attention.

Some people might or have called me a bit of an extremest about doctrine and theology.  I already admitted that I love reading and learning and I have some set beliefs on doctrine, but that doesn’t mean that they can’t change.  That doesn’t mean that I’m not open to understanding why people are drawn to certain churches or pastors.  Here is where I start having an issue.  The media, specifically the liberal media loves to point out churches that have some ‘wack’ thought processes or massive issues deeply in them.  Generally, the mega churches and of course the Catholics.  After they post an article or run a story about “the church believes,” the outpour of prayer requests starts coming in.  Hundreds of people start commenting falsities about Christianity and seemingly are fine rolling around with false conclusions about God and the church.

I blame the ego of men in the Church

That’s right.  I don’t blame Marx, Nietzsche, Freud, Wordsworth, or Darwin (who was a theist). They played a prominent part in the downfall of the Christian influence and opened up doors for communication that the Church couldn’t handle.  They provided a solid foundation for intellectualism and Pantheism.  The response of the church?  Well let’s see what we have running around in the very loosely based Christianity umbrella.  Mega church pastors that are rolling around in 14 million dollar houses, claiming anything but Jesus.  Anyone who is actively proclaiming the Word of Faith movement is actively participating in pantheism.  It’s not just the word of faith movement, the Catholics are continuing a tradition of hiding sin within the confines of the Vatican and allowing priests to continue to minister the word of God after having sexual relations with children.  It’s sad, and it’s damaging to the very fabric of the testimony of the church.  If you think that’s harsh and it hurts to read, I hope that you understand it comes out of a love for Jesus and his bride.  In our extended church family we had to deal with infidelity within the staff of the church.  Leaders, sinning and they are going to continue until they are dead, they are blinded by their own personal idolotry.

The Truth

Men are going to continue to sin.  Sanctification should be happening and the leaders of the church have to address sin.

23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Rom 3:23 ESV)

Does that make the church irrelevant in today’s society?  In some sense it actually makes the church more relevant, because the church can teach what Christianity is all about.  Grace.  Far too long, the church has made laws and constitutions to hold their congregations back from the moral underlying of society.  The church can call on grace, call on Jesus to help repair those whom are broken with the understanding that all have sinned, not just the outsiders of the building.  This is not to say that we as Christians shouldn’t strive towards Jesus, never taking out eyes off of the cross, but it’s relieving to know that you don’t have to be perfect.  That the church can release itself from some of the dogmatic rulesets that have been self imposed.  We as Christians should engage the world as Christians, as humans that have sinned, will sin and want deeply for the Holy Spirit to continue to press out our natural state.

This kills much of the sounding board for pseudo intellectualism and secular reasoning.  The church shouldn’t feel the need to combat science with theology.  Science has continued and will continue to edify the great word of God.  We don’t have to create a societal divide based on what we know as truth and the process that continues to prove the truth.  Jesus called us to arms, commissioned us to speak boldly all that we have been taught.  Our mission shouldn’t be to win the intellectual skirmish, but the war for souls.

The Great Commission

16 Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. 17 And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted. 18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in[a] the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:16-20 ESV)

So how do you win the war on ideology, intellectualism and pantheism?

Jesus

I believe and will continue to attempt to walk out how to walk out some extremely hard truths for people to believe.  Charles Darwin once said,

“I am not apt to follow blindly the lead of other men”

Why would we expect the cultures that we are in to blindly follow anyones lead?  Jesus called us to teach His truth, to speak about His life, death and resurrection.   Imagine if the presentation of the Gospel would have been something that Charles himself had been taught.  Imagine if we put our ego’s down, pride being much of the root of sin, and walked out what Jesus called us to walk out.  Christianity as a moralistic ruleset is dead.  It started out as dead and is dead.  Christianity as a lifestyle, Jesus as a savior and an understanding that moral codes and laws bring death.  I’m with Mark Driscoll on this.

It’s time for a call to Resurgence.

Generational Thoughts

I see a generation rising up to take their place,
With selfless faith, with selfless faith,
I see a near revival, stirring as we pray and seek,
We’re on our knees, we’re on our knees.


Have loved me

Heal my heart and make it clean
Open up my eyes to the things unseen
Show me how to love like you

Hosanna, hosanna
Hosanna in the highest
Hosanna, hosanna
Hosanna in the highest

Boom. It hit me like a MAC truck. The Holy Spirit hit me like Ed Reed from 15 yards out. I don’t pray for a generation rising up to take their place… I don’t know if I press the generation to seek and pray for a near revival, and I’m not sure if we as a Church could honestly say that we do either. I would say that we press good programming, fun activities and Gospel connections that draw on Mommy and Daddy’s faith. Daddy is ultimately responsible for his child’s growth but what am I doing as a youth leader to press that personal faith and growth in the students and parents I engage? 

These are my thoughts as I worshiped the one true God.  The Creator of all, the King of Kings, the Father.  What am I going to do with the ministry that you have entrusted me with.  Am I going to get on my knees and pray for this generation?  A generation that needs more prayer and more intercession.  A generation that needs MEN to boldly proclaim the gospel to their offspring and not shy away from spirituality like it’s some effeminate quality that ranks right up with going to the mall.  Than it came again, Ed Reed style… A deep feeling like we as a Church don’t ask the right questions.  Tim (the Lead pastor) starts his blow up about asking the right questions.  Not forcing my contextualization, allowing them to teach me what they need.

So I prayed and much like Isaiah in Isaiah 6 it hit me:

Isaiah’s Vision of the Lord

1 In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple. 2 Above him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew.  3 And one called to another and said:
“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts;
the whole earth is full of his glory!”
4 And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke.  5 And I said: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!”
6 Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a burning coal that he had taken with tongs from the altar. 7 And he touched my mouth and said: “Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for.”
Isaiah’s Commission from the Lord
8 And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” Then I said, “Here I am! Send me.” 9 And he said, “Go, and say to this people:
“‘Keep on hearing, but do not understand;
keep on seeing, but do not perceive.’
10 Make the heart of this people dull,
and their ears heavy,
and blind their eyes;
lest they see with their eyes,
and hear with their ears,
and understand with their hearts,
and turn and be healed.”
11T hen I said, “How long, O Lord?”
And he said:
“Until cities lie waste
without inhabitant,
and houses without people,
and the land is a desolate waste,
12 and the Lord removes people far away,
and the forsaken places are many in the midst of the land.
13 And though a tenth remain in it,
it will be burned again,
like a terebinth or an oak,
whose stump remains
when it is felled.”
The holy seed is its stump.
Go and speak the Gospel.  Speak the words of God and trust that it won’t return void.
10 “For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven

and do not return there but water the earth,
making it bring forth and sprout,
giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater,
11 so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth;
it shall not return to me empty,
but it shall accomplish that which I purpose,
and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it. (Isa 55:10-11 ESV)
I went in to the cell group with one strategy.  Speak the Word to the teenagers and let them tell me how that effects their lives.  Let them do the talking and carrying the converstation.  Help lead the converstation when needed, but let them work out the life applications with guidance.  In short, I listened.  It’s an interesting lesson to learn and that is to listen.  Contextualizing only works if you have the right context.
If you aren’t in your missional community living life, you have no idea what to context too.  You have to live the life, learn the customs and roll deep with the trash of other peoples lives.  Jesus did it, it’s biblical and it’s what we are called to do.  This experience doesn’t just lend itself to teenagers, those dudes you are discipling once a week for an hour probably need you to engage, listen and teach the Gospel as it relates to them.
Pray for resurgence, pray for generational change, pray bigger than you can imagine because God is infinite and good.

Lip Service

Lip Service

Father we come to the table to ask forgiveness,
Our hearts are wicked, and our necks full of stiffness.

We call out your name as if we love you,
Talking about how Your the way and Your the one we turn too.
We read your Word and pray to Your Son,
Without truly recognizing that Your the only one
I pray that throughout the day,
That my actions, words, and worship
Bring glory to the one whom came down to live and pay

Father forgive me when I stumble,
And I’m left broken and astray
My flesh is weak and commanding
So many idols do I pray
But I come to you in repentance
Knowing that my heart services it’s master and it has so much to say.

Father forgive my lip service to you,
Each and every living day.

Total Depravity and Fellowship

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. (2 Corinthians 12:9)

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. (James 1:2-4)

Sometimes it’s hard to recognize just how relient we are on Christ.  It’s so apparent when something doesn’t go right, or life gets stressed beyond where we are comfortable.   This is where we find ourselves in complete depravity, needing everything from the Creator. If we look deeply in the words that Paul wrote to the Corinthians we see that he found great joy in feeling completely in need.

This week in the Basic Series, we talked about fellowship which ultimately comes down to the interpersonal relationship that we have with Jesus.  It seems counterintuitive to think that an ‘internal’ relationship is directly responsible for our external ‘fellowship’, but through the scriptures I think that we can see how it directly plays out.

“My grace is sufficient for you, for  my power is made perfect in weakness.”

Fellowship is about relationship, and relationships are built around trust.  Trust is built off of mutual vulnerability, allowing others to see and feel our depravity.  It’s incredibly scary and it causes us to pull back.  But God.  His power is made perfect in our weakness, as we see above.  He wants us to recognize that it’s not in the fellowship that we as a group are made strong, it’s in Him.  See the relationship with Jesus works different than the relationship or fellowship that you have with your friends or even with the Church.  God himself came down in human form, vulnerable to sin and capable of death.  His resurrection defeated death and sin, so we can rest him him.  There doesn’t have to be mutual vulnerability because like the song, His love never fails.  Fellowship will fail, friendship will fail, but God…. our love fails,

“For  God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not  perish but have eternal life.    For  God did not send his Son into the world  to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. (John 3:16-17)

Anyone who does not love does not know God, because  God is love.  In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that  God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him.  In this is love,  not that we have loved God  but that he loved us and sent his Son to be  the propitiation for our sins.  Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.  No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and  his love is perfected in us. (1 John 4:8-13)

Paul can, “Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that  the power of Christ may rest upon me.” because he knew that God’s grace and sovereignty never fails.  His love never fails.  If we continue to breakdown how these passages lace back into our vertical relationship with Christ we see that God is love, and

Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away.  For  we know in part and we prophesy in part,  but  when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away.  When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways.  For  now we see in a mirror dimly, but  then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as  I have been fully known.  So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love. (1 Corinthians 13:8-13)

The greatest gift from God is love.  The power of Christ is love.  Without the power of the Holy Spirit we cannot love even one person.  We can’t love ourselves, we can’t love our kids, we can’t love our friends, we cannot love.  You can’t have fellowship, and you definitely can’t have true communion without the power of the Holy Spirit.

The passage in James continues to reenforce this point.

Count it all joy, my brothers,  when you meet trials  of various kinds, for you know that  the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.  And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be  perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. (James 1:2-4)

Count it all joy, my brothers (community), when you meet trials of various kinds (depravity), for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness (love).  And let steadfastness (love) have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.  Depravity looks ugly and it is.  We are all capable of murder, but it’s God’s grace and continuing sanctification working through us that provides us with a glimpse of what it’s like to love.  Through that insight we can start and work towards loving each other in community.  True fellowship.  It’s through his gospel that we find love, the words of his scripture and a interpretation of the Holy Spirit in our hearts.

So my challenge today is that we focus on our interpersonal relationship with Jesus.  We work towards a greater communion with Him so that we can have a greater communion with His bride.

Facebook Prayer

poorprayer

I think the more appropriate prayer looks something like this:

Dear God,

Thank you for all that you have done for my family, friends and loved ones. Please continue to give them the boldness to spread the gospel wherever you would have them go. Father, I pray that you will continue to purify them through the refiners fire so that they can look more like your Son Jesus Christ. Thank you for your promise to always be with them thank you for continuing to bless them with the grace and mercy that they don’t deserve.

O and as for the blessings, thank you Father for blessing us with more of You.

We ask this in Your Son’s almighty name,

Amen.

There has been some questions to why I would repost a prayer that looks significantly different than the image that that was reposted.  Comparing the prayers I think that you will find that the prayer I wrote really focuses on thanking God for all that he has done and asks him for more talent to complete the tasks that Jesus set forth before ascending back into heaven.  Matthew records that Jesus commands us to, “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.”

 

The Great Commission

 

Now the eleven disciples  went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them.  And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted.  And Jesus came and said to them,  “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.  Go therefore and make disciples of  all nations,  baptizing them  in    the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them  to observe all that I have commanded you.  And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:16-20

 

The first part of the prayer focuses on the Great Commision and asking Jesus to continue to provide boldness to teach all that Jesus commanded.  I think that one of the best examples of boldness that we see in the bible is Stephen in Acts, proclaiming the Gospel to the Jewish leaders knowing that he was possibly signing his death warrant.

 

Yet the Most High does not dwell  in houses made by hands, as the prophet says,  “Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool. What kind of house will you build for me, says the Lord, or what is the place of my rest? Did not my hand make all these things?” “You stiff-necked people,  uncircumcised in heart and ears, you always resist the Holy Spirit.  As your fathers did, so do you.  Which of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? And they killed those who announced beforehand the coming of  the Righteous One,  whom you have now betrayed and murdered,  you who received the law  as delivered by angels and  did not keep it.”  Now when they heard these things  they were enraged, and they  ground their teeth at him.  But he,  full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw  the glory of God, and Jesus standing  at the right hand of God.  And he said, “Behold, I see  the heavens opened, and  the Son of Man standing  at the right hand of God.”  But they cried out with a loud voice and stopped their ears and rushed together  at him.  Then  they cast him out of the city and  stoned him. And  the witnesses laid down their garments  at the feet of a young man named Saul.  And as they were stoning Stephen,  he called out, “Lord Jesus,  receive my spirit.”  And  falling to his knees he cried out with a loud voice,  “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” And when he had said this,  he fell asleep. Acts 7:48-50

 

For my family and friends, I want that kind of boldness.  The boldness that makes a difference, the boldness to do what Jesus commanded.  I know that this idea looks different from what has been taught before but it’s what Jesus wants.  We find out more about what that boldness and life looks like in Luke 9.

 

Take Up Your Cross and Follow Jesus

 

And he said to all,  “If anyone would come after me, let him  deny himself and  take up his cross  daily and follow me.    For  whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.    For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself?    For  whoever is ashamed of me and of my words, of him will the Son of Man be ashamed  when he comes in  his glory and the glory of the Father and of  the holy angels.    But I tell you truly, there are some standing here who will not  taste death  until they see the kingdom of God.” (Luke 9:23-27)

 

and

 

The Cost of Following Jesus

 

As they were going  along the road,  someone said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.”  And Jesus said to him,  “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.”    To another he said,  “Follow me.”  But he said, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.”  And Jesus  said to him,  “Leave  the dead to bury their own dead. But as for you, go and  proclaim the kingdom of God.”    Yet another said, “I will follow you, Lord,  but let me first say farewell to those at my home.”  Jesus said to him,  “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.” (Luke 9:57-62)

 

Obviously, the scripture points out that the cost of following Jesus is high.  You actually have to give up certain amenities (read everything) in order to make that commitment.  Thats a far cry from the prayers that read something like, “God, I want, I want, I want, I want….”.  The cost of following Jesus looks more like, “Jesus, here is what I have and it’s yours.”  And the real kicker to this whole idea is that “In the beginning God, created…. “ so all that you have is not yours anyway.

 

The main point here is that it’s not what you can give, it’s what has been given to you.  Jesus paid the ultimate price of being crushed on the cross.

 

But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed. (Isaiah 53:5)

He was crushed so that we can live, he died to save us from ourselves and our selfish desires.

 

The prayer doesn’t get any easier from here.  It reads “Father, I pray that you will continue to purify them through the refiners fire so that they can look more like your Son Jesus Christ.”

 

But  who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears? For  he is like a refiner’s fire and like fullers’ soap.  He will sit  as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, and they will bring  offerings in righteousness to the  Lord . (Malachi 3:2-3)

 

I pray that my friends and family go through the trials and the tribulations and have been set forth for them before the beginning of time.  I pray that they go through them so that they can be refined, so that they can continue to become more like Jesus.  I pray that they walk through them pressing deep in the gospel and trusting that Jesus will be with them through the entire journey, that they will glorify the one who deserves all glory.  Psalms 23 reads:

 

The  Lord  is my  shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green  pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He  restores my soul. He  leads me in  paths of righteousness for his  name’s sake. Even though I  walk through the valley of  the shadow of death, I will  fear no evil, for  you are with me; your  rod and your staff, they comfort me. You  prepare a table before me in  the presence of my enemies; you  anoint my head with oil; my  cup overflows. Surely  goodness and mercy  shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall  dwell  in the house of the  Lord forever.

 

Jesus didn’t say that it would be easy, He didn’t say you would get everything that you want.  He said that he loves you.  We see the Jesus, all man, all divine weeping for he loved his people so much.

 

Jesus wept.  So the Jews said, “See  how he loved him!” (John 11:35-36)

 

We see at the end of The Great Commision that Jesus will be with us always, to the end of the age.  He’s with us now, the one who loves the world and loves you.

 

Paul lays out so clearly in Romans that grace is a gift from God.  We can’t work our way to heaven.  Jesus is the only way.

But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if many died through one man’s trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift by the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for  many.  And the free gift is not like the result of that one man’s sin. For  the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brought  justification.  For if, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness  reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ.  Therefore, as one trespass  led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness  leads to justification and life for  all men.  (Romans 5:15-18)


My prayer reads a little different from most that you will read on Facebook.  It’s deeper, it’s very real.  When I pray for my friends in family, I pray for a deeper relationship with Jesus, whatever the cost.  I know that regardless of what that looks like, the joy and happiness, the freedom and family is worth it.  Its worth it because I love them enough to show them Jesus.  I love them enough to trust that the Holy Spirit will change hearts that need to be changed and continue to provide the guidance that Jesus promised.  Thats why I pray the way that I pray.