To Walk in Newness: A Response to Charleston

posted in: ethics, World Events | 1

Newness for Charleston

One of my favorite cities is under attack this week.  Not only the city – but more importantly a church filled with brothers and sisters in Christ – those who profess to know the Truth of the Gospel.  We’ve seen prayer vigils and heard stories and listened to news accounts.

While this event in no way surprises me, it does sadden me greatly.  It doesn’t surprise me because we live in a fallen world and sinners are just going to do what sinners do: sin.  At times that sin is so hideous that it makes the front page of every news station in America.  It shouldn’t surprise us because our country has never been free from racial tension and will never be free of racial tension.

It saddens me because all of us are broken people.  Every single person in this world is broken and is need of restoration.  Brokenness lies in the church and outside the church.  The best thing about this brokenness is that we can be pieced back together.

Scripture is so clear of our brokenness.  I’ve been studying the book of Nehemiah and the walls that he was called to rebuild were broken and in shambles.  So clearly evidenced in the lives of the people who lived there and the wall itself.  He was called to restore it.  Nehemiah showed the people how to restore.  Jesus is our physical and spiritual restorer.  He came to fix the broken.

Just as we’ve seen in Baltimore, in DC, in OK, in Charleston, and in schools and neighborhoods and stores and families all across this country every single day: race builds a wall – a shattered broken destroyed wall that shatters relationships and community and thriving.

As partakers of the Gospel we can share healing, restoration, and grace (aka CHRIST) with the broken who live near us.  I see this in so many ways as families I know personally adopt or foster children of different races.  This is such a picture of healing to me.  Of loving someone other than yourself.  Of being Jesus with skin on.

“Because of this decision we don’t evaluate

people by what they have or how they look.  We looked at the Messiah

that way once and got it all wrong, as you know.  We certainly don’t

look at him that way anymore.  Now we look inside, and what we see if that anyone

united with the Messiah gets a fresh start, is created new.  The old life is gone; a new life burgeons!

All this comes from the God who settled the relationship

between us and him, and then called us to settle

our relationships with each other.  God put the world square with himself

through the Messiah, giving the world a fresh start by offering forgiveness of sins.

God has given us the task of telling everyone what he is doing.  We are Christ’s representatives.”

2 Corinthians 5

Freedom – or the lack thereof

posted in: ethics, history, Quotes, Uncategorized | 0

“They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.” – Ben Franklin

I love living in America.  Despite the problems with government that I may or may not agree with, this is still the best country to live in.  There are many who have paid the price for it to be this way and I am grateful.

My two thoughts on this Memorial Day 2013:

1.  Now that I’m a mom, I think one of the scariest things for me would be if little e came up to us one day and sad he wanted to be in the service.  Scary because I never would know if he was going to be called into war or die somehow where I would only receive a flag and a salute in honor of him.  Where I wouldn’t know if he was ever going to be at the next Christmas dinner or family gathering.  Then the best because it would be such an honorable thing for him to do – to fight in serving this country, sustaining the freedom that we enjoy for generations to come – his children, their children.

2.  Since we live in a democracy and not a theocracy – that freedom, as an American, has to apply to all peoples.  Of all religions.  Of all nationalities.  If people from any country are here legally – then they should be offered the same rights and status and freedoms as we enjoy as natural born citizens.  And if anyone else wants to practice their religion, worshipping their gods, then that must be allowed too.  So, if we are in favor of bringing prayers back in our classrooms, than others will need to have the liberty to pray to their gods – or not pray at all.  Freedom in America is not only for Christians, but also for everyone.

Are we willing to live out our faith in the One True God and let others practice their beliefs – all the while praying for them and telling them the truth that will save?

How Should We Respond to Gay Marriage?

posted in: ethics, marriage, sin | 2

Every blog post I wrote has come from personal experience or a conversation I’ve had, etc.  This one is no different.

Yesterday on facebook, I was saddened to find out that a college acquaintance of mine, one who was in youth ministry with me and a professing Christian – now ordained in a denomination, was getting married yesterday to her girlfriend.  This saddened me so much for her.  On our long scenic drive home, the Mister and I were discussing what should be our response.  Here are some thoughts:

1.  A government-sanctioned marriage between two women is not a marriage in the eyes of God.  In our country many states may be allowing same-sex marriage.  This does not make it right in God’s eyes.  God would never rejoice in something that is an abomination or sin to Him.  See Romans 1:18-25, 1 Corinthians 6:9-10.

2.  Sin does not please God – so how could a homosexual marriage?

3.  We all sin (yes), so we should not counsel the person (if you have a relationship with them in the first place) in a harsh, judgmental tone.  Ephesians 5:14-16.  The reason I chose this verse is because the person in my life that got married yesterday is a professing Christian.  I’m not a judger of hearts.  I am also a sinner – a great sinner.  But, this passage is written by Paul to the church at Ephesus.  He is talking about people in the church who have been diluted and mislead by all sorts of unbiblical teaching.  For any to think that gay marriage is promoted by God, or right, has clearly been mislead by the Enemy.

4.  Show compassion; this needs to be our immediate response.  We need to be like Jesus in this encounter.  When he dealt with the woman caught in adultery, he did not shame or accuse her, but allowed her to be free of the sin and the entanglement of it.  Our God does show wrath and anger toward sin, but he also shows compassion on the sinner.  (John 8)  God the Father shows much compassion on me and I’m a sinner.  I would need to show compassion to my friend and hopefully lead her back to a right relationship with God.

5.  Call to repentance.  One of my favorite Scriptures in the NT says this “…God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance.”  Oh that has blessed me and lead me to have a repentant heart so often as I’ve read with tears over my sin this incredible display of God’s love toward great sinners.

6.  What about church membership.  Let me say a few things: first, any denomination that would ordain a homosexual to be a minister of the Word of God and sanction and condone homosexual marriage is no longer a church because they do not hold to the truth of the Word of God.  Second, if this couple were at the church I attend, I would (hopefully) seek to encounter them, provide them with godly counsel about their lives and why their lives demonstrate that they do not believe God or His Word.  If they couple were members and then became homosexual or started living a homosexual lifestyle – that would be cause for church discipline and counsel and a desire for them to turn from sin.

7.  As I’ve been reading in a book about the authority of the Word of God in our lives: this matter of homosexuality (whether it is right or not) is not primarily a question of preference or sexual orientation or anything else for believers.  It is a question about what we believe the Bible to be.  If we believe with the Bible that it is the very word of God and it is profitable and truthful in everything it says and is useful for our lives to instruct us in all truth – and we disagree with what the Bible says about the “rightness” of homosexuality – then obviously we have a disagreement with God.  I have a feeling that I know who is going to ultimately win that disagreement.

As we get deeper and deeper into a country that is living in prevalent sin and as we see sin creep in (or barge in) to our churches – let us pray that we will know what the Word of God says, guard our own hearts and minds, show compassion to sinners, and call them to repentance (just as the Lord has done for us).


Seeing Ourselves in the Face of Kermit Gosnell

posted in: ethics, World Events | 2

Yesterday, my husband, son, and I had the pleasure of seeing our next child on a television screen (an ultrasound machine).  Waving arms, moving head, kicking feet, beating heart.  These things told us this little baby was alive and well.  But, we also know that this little baby is a gift of God and life is precious.  There is no way that we would ever intentionally hurt this baby.

The reports of Gosnell, the abortion doctor in Pennsylvania, doesn’t seem to have the same regard for the human life.  I’ll spare you on the details, but they are gruesome and horrendous.  If you haven’t read any of the reports, trust me on that one.  I’ve read half an article and my husband stopped me this morning, “why are you reading this” – tears flowed as I started talking about it, wondering how anyone could do this to helpless babies or women.

But, I’m not here to point fingers at Gosnell.  He has done wrong.  He will either trust the Gospel on this earth or face the judgment and wrath of God in the next life.  That is for certain.  The wrath of God goes out to those who aren’t under the salvation of Jesus Christ.

However, we are in the same boat.  So many times we can cry over the sin of Gosnell or point fingers or call him a sinner, but how often do we look at ourselves and say the same thing.  The sin that we have committed and will commit is also under the need of the blood of Christ.  Just this week let me tell you the sins that I’ve committed: anger, pride, contempt, argumentativeness, the “silent treatment”, impatience, idolatry, gluttony, and probably many more.  Why aren’t I weeping over my sing –  more often then not I justify it?  Do I really think that those sins are also in need of repentance and the gospel?

So before we go pointing fingers at the hideous, inhumane actions of Gosnell, let us also remember the truth of Romans when Paul says:

“All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23)

And let us also remember our Hope:

“And are justified by His grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 3:24)

Christians and Boycotting (with thoughts from D.A. Carson)

posted in: Books, ethics | 2

I think the first boycott I remember is the Disney boycott years ago when I was in high school (or sometime there about).  Something about their movies…I think.  It was such a big deal back then and I know to some people it still is, but honestly don’t remember the real reason that Christian’s boycotted Disney.  The latest boycott is Starbucks (where I’m sitting right now, sipping on a Vanilla Bean Creme, just ate a blueberry scone, been borrowing their wifi all morning) because they promote gay marriage as a company.  So much time has elapsed between high school and now, but the problem still remains…

How should Christians respond to companies who don’t line up exactly with Christian beliefs or biblical practices?  Should we boycott or should we keep using their products?

I can’t say I’ve always come down with the same position, but lately I’ve been thinking more about this.  How should we voice our opinions in this world that will most decidedly be against everything that is Christian? 

As I was reading D. A. Carson’s Scandalous in light of Easter, I came to this excerpt that is mainly on the persecution of Christians and how we have triumphed because we know that Christ has triumphed.  I loved his thoughts, especially in light of Christians and our boycotts:

“Do not misunderstand me.  We live in a democracy, which is a different form of government from Paul’s, and our Christian responsibilities in this kind of context may mean that we should give a lot of thought as to how to be salt and light in a corrupt and corroding society.  We dare not withdraw into a little holy huddle.  But we must recognize with every ounce of our being that what finally transforms society is the gospel.  There are responsibilities to legislate correctly and pass good laws; God loves justice and holds every nation to account for justice.  Promose the well-being of the city.  Of course we are responsible to look after the poor.  But at the end of the day, what transforms society is still the gospel. 

How does the gospel advance?  By the word of our testimony: Rev 12:11.  This does not mean that they gave their testimonies a lot.  That may be a good thing to do, but that is not what their verse means.  It refers to Christians bearing testimony to Christ; they bear witness to Christ.  They gossip the gospel.  They evangelize.  That is the central way by which they bear witness to Christ. 

Forbid, Lord God, that we should rest so comfortably in our easy and restless society, that we forget that one of the driving dimensions of Christian experience is warfare – not against flesh and blood but against all the hosts of darkness who are filled with rage against us.  Help us, Lord God, to see the enemy and then to deploy the gospel answers, the gospel arms, the gospel solutions, which alone are sufficient in this conflict.  So return us to the cross, to faithful, glorious, grateful proclamations of the gospel, to self-death that we may follow the Lord Jesus, who died and rose on our behalf.” (Scandalous, pg 104-105, 111).

So, application:

1.  If Christians stopped going to Starbucks, what good will that do?  Even if all the Christians in the world quit going to Starbucks, would they close their doors or change their stance on gay marriage?  (Hint: NO!). 

2.  If you stopped going to Starbucks, never to walk in their door or buy their coffee again, would that local manager and the baristas know your heart for the gospel and Jesus and love for your neighbor or would they just know what you are against?

3.  If we boycott everything that is against Christian beliefs or ethics, we might as well just hide away in our little dirt hut in the middle of nowhere, with no electricity, no food except for what we grow, but where would you buy seeds and fertilizer, and what would your kids wear?

We can’t live apart from this world.  God put us here in this world to be a light to it.  If someone asks you about the stance that Starbucks has on gay marriage, you can tell them lovingly that while you disagree on the stance and believe that God designed marriage to be between one man and one woman for life in a covenantal relationship with God the Father, that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy good coffee.  Maybe even have a date night there with your husband or wife!

Loving the Way Jesus Loves: Phil Ryken

posted in: Books, ethics, Uncategorized | 0

Phil Ryken has written one of the most convicting books since Respectable Sins and Mortification of Sin.  Why?  Because I don’t love the way Jesus loves.  Nor do most of us, I would assume.  As a dear sweet man at our church says, “Every sin is a love sin.”  After reading this book, I would agree with him.

Dr. Ryken’s take on 1 Corinthians 13 (the famous marriage love verse chapter) (note: even though the above mentioned man read it in our wedding, we know that it is correctly applied to the local church and not to a husband/wife relationship.) is not a strict commentary, but an applicable look intertwining with stories from the gospels that show us how Jesus perfectly lived out what Paul wrote.  “As a reminder, we are not taking everything from the Love Chapter in order.  As we study this portrait of love, we are connecting everything to the life of Christ.” (pg 47)

One of the most convicting chapters for me personally was the ‘Love is Not Irritable’.  I would consider myself a person who generally gets along with most people.  But, recently, probably since being married, I have come to find out that I am loving toward people who love me, work according to my plan, drive according to my mapped out route, consider me a friend, aren’t overly friendly to me in the cafe early in the morning, or has to repeat my order 3 times.  Otherwise, I’m pretty irritable.  Oh, sin…that it would lose its grip on me. 

Ryken’s book on this love chapter is great for anyone: scholar, lay person, non-Christian exploring the gospels and the life of Christ, would be good for a small group of seekers or on a college campus.

Book Review: Radical / David Platt

posted in: Books, ethics, Worship | 0

There have been two similar books published in the recent past that were pretty much about the same thing: this one is better.  In my opinion, which really doesn’t matter, I know.  I loved Platt’s book: all except the familiarity of the stories he told through out the book.  I’ve heard him preach on several occasions – and I’ve heard them.  So, I could skip over them.

He is very practical and honest in his book: which I love.  He just doesn’t give lofty ideas of how to let go of American Christianity – but he actually gives you ways to do it.

If you are ready for a gut-check (as my cousin calls it) – read it.  If not, keep it on its shelf and pick it up when you are ready.

“Wake up and realize that there are infinitely more important things in your life than football and a 401(k).  Wake up and realize there are real battles to be fought, so different from the superficial, meaningless “battles” you focus on.  Wake up to the countless multitudes who are currently destined for a Christless eternity.” – p 15.  This hits home because what do we normally talk about in our chuches: this superficial stuff.

“As long as we achieve our desires in our own power, we will always attribute it to our own glory.” – p 46.  Do we dream big dreams?  I want to start dreaming big and praying big, so when things happen – God gets all the glory.  How big do you dream?  Do you dream for attainable things in your own power or do you pray for God sized dreams?  Ephesians 3:19-21.

We’ve been hearing a lot about this in our ed staff meetings at our church:

“The church I lead could have the least gifted people, the least talented people, the fewest leaders, and the least money, and this church under the power of the Holy Spirit could still shake the nations for His glory.  The reality is that the church I lead can accomplish more during the next month in the power of God’s Spirit than we can in the next hundred years apart from His provision.  His power is so superior to ours.  Why do we not desperately seek it?” – p 54

I need this especially for the work I am doing right now, because it is so often overwhelming to me: “Our great need is to fall before an Almighty Father day and night and to plead for Him to show His radical power in and through us, enabling us to accomplish for His glory what we could never imagine in our own strength.  And when we do this, we will discover that we were created for a purpose much greater than ourselves the kind of purpose that can only be accomplished in the power of His Spirit.” p 60

Do you really believe this for yourself? “God has created us to accomplish a radically global, supremely God-exalting purpose with our lives.” – p 83.  I don’t think I do.  I again ask petty things that I want.  But, I know one prayer I always pray that hasn’t come true yet.  But, I still pray it.

We are starting Backyard Bible Clubs this summer at our church.  I thought this quote went very well with the reason we are doing it: “Disciple making is not a call for others to come to us to hear the gospel but a comman for us to go to others to share the gospel.  A command for us to be gospel-living, gospel-speaking people at every moment and in every contest where we find ourselves.” -p 94

Who do I go to first when I need advice? “Jesus never intended us to be one voice among, many counseling us on how to lead our lives and use our money.  He always intends to be the voice that guides whatever decisions we make in our lives and with our money.” – p 121

Here is his one year experiment and ways that I intened to take him up on it:

1.  Pray for the entire world.  I haven’t decided yet how I am going to do this, but Operation World is a good start (that he mentions).

2.  Read the entire Bible.  Again, the plan isn’t in place, but it will be done.

3.  Sacrifice your money for a specific purpose: I’m partnering this year with PSSWF because its close, the gospel, and tangible.

4.  Spend your time in another context.  Every month my church works with two low-income/homeless ministries here in Raleigh: feeing the homeless in Moore Square and With Love From Jesus.  Once a month I will partner with these.  This definitely takes me out of my upper-white neighborhood.

5.  Commit your life to a multiplying community.  Pray dot org.  Done.

How will you live the experiment?  For one year.  This is a new year beginning, start now.

Book Review: Living in God's Two Kingdoms

posted in: Books, ethics | 0

I was really excited when I saw this book on the new release list. I had been in recent conversations with friends about how they were personally engaging the culture, and I attend a church that seeks to “engage the city”, and used to attend a church (before I moved) that modeled engaging the city and culture very well. I was intrigued to see what David VanDrunen had to say about Living in God’s Two Kingdomws (btw, the cover design is really cool).
VanDrunen does a good job at laying out the outline of his book, telling you exactly where he is heading. He engages some of the opposing views and arguments that basically are the foundation of this new “area of theological discussion” (Neo-Calvinism, Emerging Churches, but this is not exhaustive).
I personally do not fully agree with either side. I think one side takes it too far, and one side doesn’t go far enough. Finally, though, the author basically states three ways that Christians are to engage the culture, how a Christian should live successfully as sojourners in this land we call “culture” .
1. “Christians should pursue cultural activities not with a spirit of triumph and conquest over their neighbors but with a spirit of love and service toward them.” (p 124). Wow – I think this is probably the toughest one of his three and I wholeheartedly agree. Even our redeemed status doesn’t make us perfect yet, and I personally often struggle with motive.
2. “The New Testament calls us to critical engagement with human culture.” (p 126) I almost wish his whole book would camp out on this point. This is where I try to engage the culture. I learned this well from a friend and professor at SEBTS, and I love reading through secular books, watching movies, and looking at art with this critical mind at work.
3. “The New Testament calls us to engage in cultural activities with a deep sense of detachment from this world and of longing for our true home in the world to come.” (p 126) This is probably the hardest for me to deal with on a personal level. As I get more into style, design, photography, clothing, I tend to step back into a materialistic mindset which the Lord has saved me from, but Satan likes to wedge his foot in my mind.
While the author does a good job at bringing in cultural examples and has a personable writing style (unlike some theological books on differing subjects), I think VanDrunen could have made this a shorter book and made his argument more simple for the non-theological to grasp.
A word for all Christians: you can’t engage the world by separating yourself from it. Home-schooling families who only allow their children to be friends with other Christians, people who will never go to movies, read secular books, watch television, own ipods, allow their teenagers on social networks…this is no way to engage the culture. Read more on VanDrunen’s point #2.
Wherever you land in this discussion: one thing is for sure: We are to be shining lights in a crooked and depraved generation (Philippians 2)