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.

Reconciliation From the Heart

Radical

There comes a time and a place where one must sit down and consider the past.  For many, this comes during the end of a season or the end of a year.  As I sit and think about the past year, I am baffled by all that has happened in my life.  I think that sometimes we live our lives moment to moment, constantly driving towards the next accomplishment and goal.  This rhythm produces a profound effect on our lives and the lives of the people around us.  We become producers of content, from our 140 character tweets to our daily conversations and we become content in our lives of producing.

The good Lord has provided many opportunities to develop relationships, and in doing so, many opportunities to fail at developing relationships.  It’s in that space, when we can quietly reflect on things that we could have done better, times where our worship went astray that we can learn from our mistakes.  Time that we can repent, confess and return to worshiping the Creator.  It amazes me that throughout my life, God continues to bring leaders that are patient enough to walk through the maturation process and loving enough to love, even when my heart is not in the right place.  It amazes me that God was gracious enough to provide a wife for me that loves me regardless of how she feels about me in that moment.  It amazes me that I have the family that I have, knowing that I don’t deserve that gift.  There comes a time when you have to reflect on the gifts given.

The idea of radical reconciliation is so foreign to the world that we live in.  The world that produces content at 140 character tweets and insta-everything.  We take in and we push out more information than ever in the history of the world and in that process we lose part of the commitment that our words have had in the past.  It seems to me that friendships and family are disposable terms in our current culture.  That the words, “I love you” are little short of, “we are friends now, because you are doing what I want.”  This systemic interaction produces the same level of commitment that our 140 words do.  Approximately 7 minutes of life in the twittersphere.  So the question begs, how do we radically reconcile our relationships and bring them to a point where they mean more than the tweet?  It’s a complex problem, as all human interactions are.  There are endless possibilities, more numerous than the sand of the sea.  I don’t think that the solution is as complex.  I think that the solution is rather simple, actually.  The solution is found in our understanding of ourselves and the willingness to accept our condition.

In short, God has given us everything that we have.  Our relationships, our material goods and the life that live.  We manage to only bring destruction to the table.  Our sin nature to put it simply.  If this is true, the order of reconciliation should look something like, I have committed so much destruction and sin in my life that there is no room for me to judge you on any level.  Therefore, because of my condition, I have no right to do anything except forgive and reconcile.  In doing so, I will go out of my way to ensure that our relationship edifies the people around us.

The problem with radical reconciliation is that forces us to move from the field of competition, to the field of reconciliation.  It forces us to put down our pride, our self righteous indignant flesh.  We don’t live in a reconciled world, because we still want to live in the world of “me.”  Unfortunately, the world of me creates destruction.  The world of me wrecks lives and causes discontentment within our communities.  The world of me rips through the relationships in our lives, producing communities that can’t trust and don’t want to live together.  The world of me, disrupts and ruins the world that I live in.

There comes a time and a place that we have to reflect on the past, and my prayer is that as we look at the past, as we gaze into the future.  A future where all things will be made new.  A future that the brokenness of this world will be no more.  In doing so, we gaze at the One who can change our hearts radically, so we might be able to reconcile our relationships.

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.

Wild and Wrecked

I have to admit that last week was rough and this week seemly is rougher, but something is different. Something is different, because I’m different. Last week I was bent on taking on the world. I was going to do something about everything. It was me against the world, and I was going to walk out all the world problems in a fit of rage.

This week someone said something to me, a comment that changed my prospective across the board. It’s not like it’s the first time that this particular person has said something like this to me, in fact I’m pretty sure that it’s the rock that smacked my soul around during sermon prep.

God is God and He loves His people, regardless of what side they are on currently. 

In the midst of war zones in Iraq, St. Louis and Israel, (just to name the headlines)  God loves His people and my job is simply to pray and witness the Good News of the Gospel.  The change that is so invigorating in my life, so undeniably real, that I cannot help but tell someone about it.   And that leaves me humbled in complete submission to the Creator.  

Who am I and where did I go?  That seems to be the question lingering in the air, the question that ultimately falls back into what is my identity in.  Does Christ define me or have I attempted to hijack my identity again?  It all boils down to who I rest under, is it Adam or is it Christ.  If it is Christ, I walk out my prayer in humble submission to the one that paid it all.  I begin to see people differently, and my thoughts and actions are transformed through my interactions with the living God.  If I rest in Adam, my thoughts and my actions reflect the broken nature of my flesh.

Let us not forget our identities as we walk out our faith, minute by minute, day by day.  

The God Delusion – Riding the Curtails.

As I continue this wonderful journey of diving deeply into the writings of a man, who on the surface hates all that is religion I am met with a deeper understanding of why on an intellectual level, people hate religion as a whole. You don’t have to read but several pages into The God Delusion and you can find the premise behind the entirety of the work.   Mr. Dawkings, in the preface presents his ultimate point, and something that we as Christians should consider.

Indoctrination of our children with religiosity, rather than grace is a grave mistake.

Richard would probably refute this as the premise to his work, and in some sense that is fine.  His goal is to scientifically disprove the probability of a God and mine is to simply learn from his work.   I’m sure that there are some that are reading this article and stopping at this point, with scripture flying through their well-trained brains to refute my point.

[6] Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it. (Proverbs 22:6 ESV)

[6] And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. [7] You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. (Deuteronomy 6:6-7 ESV)

[14] But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it [15] and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. (2 Timothy 3:14-15 ESV)

[19] For I have chosen him, that he may command his children and his household after him to keep the way of the LORD by doing righteousness and justice, so that the LORD may bring to Abraham what he has promised him.” (Genesis 18:19 ESV)

As you can see, the bible is very clear about the role of parents in the education of their children in the ways of the Lord.

I would humbly offer that the way of the Lord is grace.  It’s not the tribal language, nor the traditions of your particular church.  It’s assuredly not the ways of Christendom that have long failed in the desperate attempt to moralize and control society.  Grace, given through faith, as a gift, undeserved, is the root in which the life of the Christian steams.

This is not to say that traditions are worthless, or inherently wrong.  I personally believe that understanding the history of the Church is important, but it should not be the central teaching of parents to their children.  Instead, the traditions that are taught should point to the giver of grace, the one that walked out grace through every minute of His life, Jesus.  Central to all teaching, must be Jesus or we simply indoctrinate our children with religious idols, which will ultimately lead to destruction.

Dawkings’ point is very clear, and regrettably true.  As a Church, we have failed in many cases to articulate the doctrine of grace in words that children understand.  Admittedly, this is difficult to do especially after I offer that we should allow our children intellectually explore the world around them.  I present this idea, with the caveat that the community of believers that is influential on the child can open discuss the ideas and wonders of not only science, but of other religions as well.  We teach our children to engage the world, offering and understanding the prospective of grace.

The implications of the “Greats” in the bible ring so crystal clear here, it’s almost easy to miss.  When Jesus says,

[37] And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. [38] This is the great and first commandment. [39] And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. [40] On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 22:37-40 ESV)

He’s giving us the teaching for our children.  Mr. Dawkings has no need to make his continued point that “religion” indoctrinates children and is the cause of so much strife in the world (more to come on that) if the generations of children where discipled, rather than indoctrinated.  If well-taught grace is the cornerstone of all teaching it should drive the Great Commission, out of love, not fear or religious duty.

[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 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)

In essence, we are fulfilling the Great Commission by teaching our children grace.  We stop allowing our children to ride on our faith, but rather explore the deeper truths that will in time be revealed to them through the Holy Spirit.

We as Christians need to stop pretending as if we are God and we have the ability to change the hearts of anyone, especially our children.  We need to model grace and teach the truths of the faith with razor sharp accuracy and undeniable meekness.

 

 

1 Corinthians 10:31

clouds

“So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”  (1 Cor 10:31)

As I sit on a plane headed to Denver to spend sometime with my family, I ran right across this verse. lt was not particularly what “I” planned to contemplate as I’m in the middle of some theological writings, but alas l keep coming back to with a yearning heart.

What are the implications in our daily lives if we take this verse literally? (I read this as a prescription)

The first implication that immediately jumps out at me is the fact that my life is not my own. We can see this weaved in and out of the NT, the idea of complete sacrifice to God, our lives. Paul points out that your life is not your own, but to be used to preach the Gospel.
(1 Cor 10:31)

Has the gospel gripped you to the point that you will do whatever it takes (short of sin) to spread the good news?

What situations do you find yourself in, where you don’t glorify God? What about when you do?  What in the circumstance changes?

Do you feel like you glorify God in your daily life? If not, are you trying to earn God’s favor or are you worshiping?

Just some thoughts at 10,000 ft. in a tuna can.