We Must Be a Broken People

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Our Church has been finishing up a five-part series. The last of which was on the

 

“perseverance of the saints”. This biblical idea basically means that though our salvation is secure, we as Christians will persevere in our faith until the end. We won’t throw our love for Christ aside, we won’t give Him up. Ultimately though, we recognize that God is the one at work within us, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.

Contemplating this concept is difficult for me. God clearly calls us to turn from our sins and always be repenting and turning back to Christ. This being the fruit and proof of salvation. And then there’s the other side: it’s ultimately God who’s doing the perseverance in and through us. It’s crazy to think about!

However mind-boggling God’s sovereignty is, He is teaching us much through our Wednesday night home-groups through our church. We talk in a group of 12-18 and

 

discuss the sermon from Sunday. We read through selected scriptures and open the floor for discussion. We eventually got on the topic of “how to recognize those who are persevering and those who are not”. Because, what sets good-works-salvation-bob apart from by-grace-through-faith-alone-Nolan? We externally do the same things, don’t we?

God led me back to a verse in Luke 18:10-14.

 

“Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”

This account is always a humbling reminder of what a broken heart before God looks like. It’s not flashy, it’s not proud or arrogant. It’s not perfect, It’s just broken.

We look at the pharisee and think he looks pretty good, by cultural standards. And the tax collector is pretty much the scum of the earth. At face value we could make a judgement call and say the Pharisee is “persevering”, but is he?

Jesus is getting deep here. The pharisee is pompous and arrogant before God, flaunting his spiritual “goodness” (aka filthy rags). He thanks God he’s not like other people. He thanks God He’s not like “those” people. He’s literally placing his good works on a false scale. This made up scale places the Pharisee as creator, the “other people” as the measured standard, and rigs it to go in his favor. He tries to “trick” God into thinking he’s good.

The contrast is this lowly tax collector. By societal standards, a thief, a swindler. The scum of the earth. But his prayer sounds much different. “be merciful to me, a sinner!” He recognized his sinfulness before God. He realized that he deserved nothing other than condemnation. And he physically expressed it by beating his chest is anguish over his separation from God. Naturally from the outside you’d think “this guys screwed up!” and he certainly was. But there’s a difference between these two screw-ups.

One was broken. One was not.

We have this idea in the Church that if we show our brokenness we will be shunned. And this should never be the case. This ‘scum of the earth’ Jesus was referring to was not scum to Him. But rather this man was the one who was saved in the end. Not the one who “looked good”.

“The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.” – Psalm 51:17

An arrogant, thinks-they’re-put-together-person is not persevering in Christ. They are persevering by themselves.

A broken, contrite heart recognizes their own flaws. They turn to Christ for forgiveness and reveal themselves to be the truly persevering. And what does the latter example have that the former doesn’t? The Holy Spirit himself.

As a Church we must be a broken people. We must. Without brokenness and vulnerability what do we have? White-washed tombs and people not getting the spiritual nourishment they desperately need. We must be broken before we can be healed.

Emotionally Fat but Spiritually Famished

A few weeks ago, my wife and I were driving home from Church. We pulled into our driveway, stepped out in our nicer clothes, guitar in-hand, and proceeded to walk up the driveway.

For some context, there’s a church across the street from us, so there are usually cars parked beside the road sunday morning.

Anyways, an older lady was walking back to her vehicle and she noticed us.
Seeing our clothes and guitar she deduced we had come from church. She asked us if we had, and we said that we just came back. Her reply at that point was something that’s stuck in my heart for weeks now, not so much for her motives (which i’m sure were pure), but rather for the deeper significance behind it.

What were her words you ask? Just two – “Good job!”

Why is this significant? Because, as a Christian, going to church isn’t a “good job”. Church was never meant to be something that you do once a week, you get a pat on the back, and then you live your week like the rest of the world (Colossians 3). Stepping foot in a building doesn’t automatically make you a Christian, or even a “good” christian, if there ever was one (Romans 3).

The real question is “what is a Christian”?

-The American churchis emotionally fatbut spiritually famished-.jpgThis american “christianity” has shaped us into a lifestyle of comfort, materialism, and godlessness under the guise of “i-go-to-church-a-few-times-a-month-so-im-a-christian” mentality. This is not Christianity. The buttery-smooth speakers who entice the flesh with little regard for Christ and him crucified. Never mentioning death to self, never mentioning that you could die for being a christian, only plopping you down in a seat and allowing you to consume until you’re emotionally fat and spiritually famished.

And before i’m misunderstood, attending church is VERY important in the Christian life. Or, i should rephrase, meeting at a church house and having fellowship with THE Church is essential to the christian life (Hebrews 10:24-26).

From scripture, there’s an interesting connection that i noticed while teaching the 7th and 8th graders a few weeks back. I asked a trick question, “what’s the difference between a christian, and a disciple?”.

***dead silence***

Me – “Nothing!”

If you are a Christian you will be a disciple. Matthew 28:19 equated sharing the gospel with making disciples. It’s not different. If you want to see people saved you MUST see them discipled. It’s not a “come to the front” moment, it’s a “lay down your life, give everything you have, and submit to a Christ into a life of godliness”. This doesn’t sound comfortable!

We want our cars, our houses, our boats! We want security! But Christ says to lay them at his feet. Don’t cling to them. Having a house or most anything isn’t sinful. But our hearts can so easily entice us into relying on them for our joy rather than Christ.

As one of my favorite songs says “You possess your possessions or they posses you” (Switchfoot – “If the House Burns Down Tonight”).

And I think that’s the danger of so called american Christianity. We love being comfortable, rich, and fat, more then we love Jesus. And this is an eternal error.

Sure, there’s a whole lot more to being a christian then what I’ve mentioned, but I want to make this clear – If you are a Christian, you are a disciple, and you are to die to yourself and make disciples. Don’t neglect fellowship with the saints. Don’t just go, sit down, and leave. Fellowship is building each other up, maybe encouraging, maybe rebuking.

But either way. I think the American mindset of Christianity has it all wrong.

So, as you see the myriad of people coming in tomorrow for Easter Sunday, welcome them with open, loving arms. But don’t sugar coat the gospel message. The Christian life isn’t easy, but it’s so very worth it.


Key Verses:

Matthew 28:19
Colossians 3
Hebrews 10:24-26

 

 

 

A Radical Response To the Gospel

As I was studying to teach the 7th and 8th grade lesson on Acts 19, I was struck with the Ephesian people’s response to a horrifying discovery: Their pagan magicians could not contend with the power of Jesus.

The sons of Sceva (the pagan magicians) were meddling in places they shouldn’t have been meddling. They saw all the wonders that Paul was saying and doing in Ephesus, and thought that all they needed to do was invoke the name of Jesus, and maybe they too would be able to command demons and heal the sick.

In verse 13 they try to command a demon, but what happened to them would horrify anyone who found their hope in pagan worship. The demon literally said “Jesus I know, Paul I recognize, but who are you?” and proceeded to beat them and strip them and send them running.

So now the high and mighty sons of sceva were brought low by the power of satan. And all the people finally understood – these men do NOT have the answers.

Though i’m taking some liberty, i can imagine the people were comparing the two people – Paul and the disciples vs. the sons of Sceva. The two don’t even compare! One can command demons and heal the sick in Jesus’ name, and the other? Well, they get beat to a pulp for even trying. Based on the response of the Ephesians, I can imagine they listened to what Paul was preaching and many of them believed.

The power of the gospel is greater than we realize. The transformative power in the hearts of people as a result of the gospel is apparent in this passage. They ended up burning 50,000 pieces of silver’s worth of pagan books! That’s right around $5,000,000 worth of idolatry.

That’s the equivalent to:

  • 185 Ford 2018 F-150 Trucks
  • 12,500 GoPro Hero 5 Blacks
  • or, 6,501 iPhone 7 Plus’s

As Christ said, “where your treasure is, there your heart will be also”. I think the Ephesian people who believed the Gospel were beginning an act of repentance in burning this paganism out of their lives.

This echoed in the ears of the silversmiths, who crafted the idols. They would lose their livelihood, so what did they do? Well, they were going to lose their pride and money, so they rioted and chanted godless things. Sound familiar?

All this to say, a radical gospel changes people radically. You can’t have one foot in the world and one foot in holiness. You’re either being swept away in sin’s current, or your swimming against it in the Spirit’s power.

Do I have that ‘crazy’, ‘foolish’, ‘radicalized’ faith that the world looks down upon? Am i friends with the world? Or have i renounced my pagan practices (or maybe, addiction to money, entertainment, etc.) and allowed God to burn them out of my life?

The Bible makes clear that true disciples of Jesus make disciples, and look radically different from the world. Is this true of us?

My Trophies

Ever gone to that conference and got a ton of free books? Or perhaps your friends have some fantastic new titles that you really want to read. 20160430_120023.jpgI can relate to both. A couple of years ago my wife (then girlfriend) and I went to a counseling conference in Lafayette Indiana (read about here!). Of course I purchased many great books that are still sitting on my shelf collecting dust (besides one I’m currently reading).

I don’t know if it’s because I’m a slow reader, or perhaps I just don’t take the time to read each day, but I walked into my apartment and realized I’d only read about 10% of them. I had turned my Christian books into trophies, not tools. They had become pseudo status symbols of my walk with Christ, hoping people would assume that I’m an avid reader who devours great Christian authors.

God really convicted me on this and I’ve begun to be more diligent to read more. Self-discipline is something I need more of. Whether it be to stop watching Netflix and read, or take my work break to open the scriptures, I’m trying to commit to use my time in a more profitable way.

And I’m not saying owning books you don’t read is bad, I’m just saying for me, I found that I had become lazy and just bought them for a sub-conscience (now conscious) want to feel more spiritual or godly. But God’s shown me (quite obviously) that the only way they can help me grow in godliness is if I actually sit down and open the pages.

 

 

Work and Ministry Update (April 2016)

As of now, I’m currently working full time for an. animal feed company by the name of New Country Organics. I mentioned in another post about it, but now it’s in full swing.
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My responsibilities include delivering feed all around Virginia from tuesday-thursday and on the other days I’m either packing orders or packaging feed. All in all, I do enjoy it. It’s not my dream job by any stretch but it’s certainly not a bad one! The people I work with are generally nice and hard working, save maybe a couple.

I’m definitely looking forward to being alone on the road as a time of prayer (eyes open!) and sermon listening!

On the ministry end of things my wife and I are quite busy! Wednesday nights are “breakpoint”, otherwise knows as youth group. We’ve enjoyed getting to know the youth and have found it to be quite a growing experience to build relationships from scratch. As Christians I think we get far too comfortable in our cliques, so this has been a generally positive experience for the both of us.

On Thursday nights we spend the evening fellowshipping over dinner. We sing and pray with a few other people from our church. This has been very challenging in a lot of ways because, as I said before, building brand new relationships (especially praying with new friends!) can be uncomfortable. But there really is nothing like singing ” good good father” in a living room amongst other believers. It can’t be beat.

And lastly on Sunday mornings we spend on the worship team and my wife sings in the choir. I’ve found I enjoy playing bass more than guitar, but it’s still fun either way. My wife also plays the flute quite wonderfully and many people have been edified by her talent.

Sunday evening is student lifegroup. It’s sort of a more intense youth group, with added small groups at the end for accountability and encouragement.

As of now, that’s what we’ve been up to for the most part, be praying for us as we move forward in life and marriage and seek what God may have for us!

A Man Without Community

As each day went by this week I’ve been continuing my trek through the Bible chronologically each morning. I wake up, eat breakfast, sip on some coffee, and do my best to dig into God’s word. The typical distractions of a smartphone and news feeds attempt to divert my attention, and they do succeed some of the time. It’s helped me immensely to just leave the phone in another room. But that’s just me.

Anyhow after getting through a portion of Genesis the plan then skips over to a book called Job wherein we find a man (named Job) who had life by the horns, quite literally. He had 500 yoke of oxen after all.

Reading a chapter of Job every morning has led me to some conclusions:

  1. Job had a great life
  2. He then lost every earthly thing
  3. His community of “friends” didn’t make it any better
  4. God was still glorified in it

Job had a great life by any standard. He had a thriving farm, a wife, and some kids. tree-648788.jpgBut it didn’t stay that way. Men stole his oxen and murdered his servants and a storm felled the place where his children were. His life quickly unraveled before his eyes. His wealth, his children, and soon his health were all taken as a test to show Jobs unwavering devotion to God.

Right where I am in my reading is where his “friends” chime in to say their peace in this situation. In chapter eight, Bildad pleads with Job to repent and ask God for mercy, to which Job replies in chapter nine that he is in the right, he hasn’t sinned in this situation.

His other jovial companions, Eliphaz and Zophar mock Job’s words. And still Job clings to the truth that he is in that situation not because of his sin, but because of God’s sovereign plan.

The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.

Imagine being personally blamed for the death of your children and the loss of all your earthly possessions! I can’t imagine the deep sadness and temptation to despair. His solace was knowing that God was in control and God had a plan he was working for good. Job didn’t have Romans 8:28 as we do, but he lived it out far better than many of us ever will.

In these first chapters it’s amazing that we don’t see an account of genuine friends encouraging Job and helping him. It seems his pool of friends were a bit shallow.

This makes me immensely thankful for the community of believers called the Church. As Gods people we are called to help those in need, clothe the naked and feed the hungry. Job didn’t have that. He was scraping his skin with clay pots for relief.

If you still don’t have many close christian friends, hope in Christ. Seek community in the local Church. You’ll find it’s an indispensable privilege we take for granted so much.

We don’t have to go through life’s hardships alone as Job did. Job didn’t have the Church, but we do. Take advantage and get plugged in.

 

 

 

Nature Is Not Your Church

As I drove home from work today, I was behind a allgau-63427_1920.jpgvehicle with many bumper stickers. One read “what would Buddha do” while another said “Nature is my Church“.

I want to zero in on the latter sticker. The phrase holds many misconceptions about what the Church is, or rather who the Church is.

Nature is certainly a beautiful thing and God’s word says that nature is pointing back to God in Romans 1:20. In fact, we are without excuse because of it’s beautiful masterful design!

I actually love fall leaves and beautiful freshly fallen snow and especially the mountains!

dawn-190055.jpgBut nature is not God. God created it as an arrow pointing back to Him, and many people have taken nature and made it point only back to itself. That is idolatry.

Nature can’t be your Church because a thing or a place isn’t a church. The Church isn’t a thing or a place. It is the body of believers in Christ. It’s not a building, it’s not a beautiful view, it’s all those in Christ.