View From The Summit

Biblical and theologically informed thoughts on life, culture and current issues.

The Gospel Is Not Disposable

The Gospel Is Not Disposable

 

Family BBQs are one of my favorite things about summertime. I love cramming my plate with a hamburger or two, chips, baked beans and, of course, potato salad. The only problem is that always, right as I’m dishing up that last spoonful of delicious potato and boiled egg goodness, my convenient-yet-all-too-cheap paper plate always starts bending.

This convenient, disposable, unfortunately bendy dish was invented back in 1904 when a veneer plant worker named Martin Keyes started thinking about the idea of disposable plates. Keyes saw his shift buddies eating their lunches on pieces of maple veneer and spent the next two years perfecting the process of pressing wood pulp into a mold to make plates. His plates pioneered the assortment of disposable products that allow Americans every summer to chow down on burgers and hot-dogs without ever having to think about cleaning up.

Unfortunately, the mentality that goes along with single-use disposable products - use once then throw away - describes how Christians often view the gospel. We see the reality of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection, as what we believe to get saved, but after that “single-use” there really isn’t much need for the gospel anymore. The Bible however, presents the gospel not just as the way we get saved, but as central to the entire Christian life. Both how we come to Jesus (salvation) and how we grow in Jesus (sanctification) are rooted in the gospel.

In 1 Corinthians 15:3-8 the Apostle Paul explains to his readers the essential events of the gospel. The gospel is truth that Jesus died for our sins, was buried, and was raised to life. This gospel, Paul tells his Christian readers, is the message “which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved” (1 Cor. 15:1-2). In other words, the gospel isn’t a “paper plate” we use once then trash. Instead, it is essential to how we go on and grow as believers.

It isn’t surprising that the gospel should be the ongoing center of our growth. In two different letters Paul says that the gospel itself “is the power of God...” (Rom. 1:16, 1 Cor. 1:18) In the rest of the New Testament, only Jesus is described with words like this (1 Cor. 1:24). Remaining rooted in the gospel then is the best way for us to stay close to Jesus.

IMPERATIVES vs. INDICATIVES

One of the best ways we can remain rooted in the gospel for our ongoing growth is to distinguish between the Bible’s imperatives and indicatives. I know, I know… the big words aren’t helping, so let’s make this simple.

A lot of people think of the Bible only as a book of commands, full of lists telling you what to do and what not to do. Certainly the Bible does contain commands, or imperatives, but those imperatives are never given without being tied to a gospel indicative (something true that has happened). That means that every instruction regarding how we’re to live and grow as believers is grounded in what God has done for us and in us through the gospel. The Bible motivates us to change in our lives by reminding us that our lives have been changed! Scripture’s constant plea is to become who we already are.

Here are some examples:

“Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal bodies... present yourselves to God (imperative) ... as those who have been brought from death to life ... since you are not under the law but under grace (indicative).”
- Romans 6:12-14

“Having been set free from sin [you] have become slaves of righteousness (indicative) ... now present your members as slaves to righteousness leading to sanctification (imperative).”
- Romans 6:18-19

“But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh (imperative) ... those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires (indicative).”
- Galatians 5:16, 24

Tullian Tchividjian, a pastor in Florida, uses a simple equation to show the need for our hearts to rest in these gospel declarations:

IMPERATIVES - INDICATIVES = IMPOSSIBILITIES

Tchividjian is saying that without a gospel indicative it is impossible to obey an imperative. The power to follow and obey Jesus is the gospel. What the gospel has done and is doing in our hearts is central to how we grow in Christ. Regularly reflecting and meditating on Jesus’ work on the cross and all its implications and applications in our lives is incredibly important. The gospel is not disposable.

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Hitting A Slump

Hitting A Slump

I've been in a slump.

 

Batters get it sometimes. Some players have described a batting slump as a completely helpless feeling when they struggle at the plate.

 

What a great way to describe it. A completely helpless feeling. I don't know what the problem is. It's a feeling of so many different things. Overwhelmed, undisciplined, discontent, restless. Sometimes its a sad feeling, sometimes its nervousness. Whatever the cause is, or whatever the actual symptoms are, I have realized a few things from it.

 

First, when we are disconnected from God a slump can slide us into depression

How many times does the Psalmist cry out to God for rescue? Because he realizes that when he is sinking the only one capable of pulling him out is God.

 

“In my distress I called upon the LORD; to my God I cried for help. From his temple he heard my voice, and my cry to him reached his ears.”

Psalm 18:6

“I cry out to God Most High, to God who fulfills his purpose for me.”

Psalm 57:2

 

Second, a slump could be a sign that something in our life needs to change

Something has become stagnant. We're not talking about falling into a routine, we're talking about being stuck in a rut. Being discontent with where we are in our lives is good from time to time. However, we can't let constant discontentment and constant disappointment be the major theme of our life. It's okay if God has called you to stop and grow in one place for awhile. Recognizing when He wants us to stop and grow and when He is moving us along to another stage of lifecomes with maturity and growth.

 

Finally, a slump isn't always a bad thing

If we can recognize we are in a slump, then we're able to take the next step and work on pulling ourselves out. Let's be clear, God is the one who calls and saves and sustains, but that doesn't exempt you from the hard work and ambition. When we see the symptoms of a slump, it can motivate us to great things. What holds us back so often from attempting these great things is fear. Fear of failure, fear of the unknown, fear of consequence.

 

We all have slumps of one degree or another. The key is to not let those slumps slide down into darkness. Allow God to rescue you. Fill yourself with the word. Surround yourself with people who want to encourage you and see you succeed.

 

Flee from those helpless feelings and towards a God who will be there. Each time you hit a slump.

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Weekly Roundup 07.18.2014

Weekly Roundup 07.18.2014

Each week (or so), we get the internet delivered to us in a large dump truck. We run the whole load through a cheesecloth and compile nothing but the very best articles and blogs into a neat little package and drop it off at your door. I mean web browser.

Disillusionment with the Church - If you're feeling disappointed with the church, perhaps you've been looking at it all wrong.

The Road to Jericho and the Border Crisis - I try to avoid posting overtly political content in this column, but some of the things I seen and heard Christians say recently makes this blog very salient.

The Unexpected Answers of God - An excellent reminder of the power and purpose of prayer.

A Booby-Trap in the Christian Budget - Jesus talked about money more than any other subject. It deserves our thought and care, too.

I am Ryland - As our culture begins to attempt to redefine God's created order as it pertains to gender and sexual identity, we must endeavor to respond with wisdom, gentleness, and love; no matter where the brokenness is found.

The Doctrines of Grace - John Piper with a moving testimony of the effect and power of these precious doctrines over the course of his life and ministry.

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Weekly Roundup 07.05.14

Weekly Roundup 07.05.14

Each week, we put the internet through a 7-stage cold-filtering system and eagerly wait to see what comes out the other end. This is a selection of the most helpful, inspiring, and informative articles and posts for your reading enjoyment.

As it turns out, many of our favorite internet content creators seem to slow down some during the summer, and there may not be enough Weekly Roundup worthy content for a new post every week. If you don't see one in a given week, don't panic! We'll be back soon.

When We Best Learn the Bible - Studying and learning from the Bible is a skill and a discipline. Here are some helpful reminders.

Real Church - Dane Ortlund offers some very difficult wisdom about living as the united body of Christ.

I Could Have Sued and Won - Our Christian worldview extends to all areas of our lives. Even when we have been legitimately wronged.

Good and Bad News of the Hobby Lobby Decision - No doubt you've heard about the landmark Supreme Court decision handed down this week. Here are some thoughts from Russell Moore, among others. I'd recommend clicking some of the links to other posts about the topic for a well-rounded understanding.

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Appeal to the Word

Appeal to the Word

Growing up, even though I wasn't a Christian I tried to be a good kid. However, I wasn't immune to peer pressure. I wanted to be liked. I craved the approval of my friends, and loathed telling them I couldn't do things they wanted to do because my conscience wouldn't allow it. When I was about 15, I brought this conundrum to my mom, hoping for some wisdom about how I could dodge the peer pressure and save face with my friends.

 

“Blame me.” she said. “Just tell them I’m making you come home. I don’t care what your friends think of me.” That simple escape route freed me of the responsibility of trying to defend my conscience on its own merit.

 

Prepared to make a defense.

A lot of people can quote at least part of 1 Peter 3:15: “...always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you...” At times this has left me feeling the burden of being able to explain and defend every passage of Scripture and doctrine in the Christian faith. This is a crushing weight. There are people who have devoted themselves to being able to “disprove” our belief system. Some aspects of our faith are just plain difficult. There are complex doctrines, obscure passages, and things the Bible says that we just won’t get. Paul, the greatest theologian the world has ever seen, tells us that some things are “profound mysteries.” God intended this. To paraphrase CS Lewis, a god who was very easy to understand would not be a god I want to worship.

 

So what do we do? We are living in a culture that seems to become less tolerant of and even hostile toward our beliefs and worldview by the minute. Simply attempting to live out our lives as followers of Jesus, we can expect to be met with opposition at every turn. In fact, Jesus promised us this would happen (John 16:33).

 

In an earlier post, I talked about how we can fall back on our personal conversion stories when looking for a way to share our faith. But what about times when the doctrines we follow as believers are difficult to understand, let alone explain?

 

The requirement that only believers be allowed to take communion is an example of this. We believe, because the Bible says so, that communion is not for unbelievers. But how can we explain this in a way that doesn't come across as unnecessarily exclusive or even plain mean? Or what about the traditional Christian views of sexuality? Sure, we can offer a few pragmatic and reasonable arguments for the social ills resulting from the current sexual ethic, but clearly these have failed to be persuasive. Often times, someone questioning the Christian worldview is not looking for a beneficial exchange of ideas anyway.

 

In spite of this intentional opposition, we are called to be winsome in our presentation and create goodwill among our neighbors. How do we remain faithful, truthful and helpful while at the same time loving, encouraging, and welcoming?

 

It seems Jesus and my mom were on the same track.

 

“For I did not speak on my own authority...”

Throughout the gospels Jesus is constantly being questioned by Pharisees who are seeking to find holes in his arguments, and flaws in his character with which to discredit him. Many times, when put in these situations, Jesus doesn’t attempt to debate these men, instead he simply points back to his Father.

 

Repeatedly we see him saying, especially in John’s gospel, “I’m not speaking on my own behalf, I’m just telling you what The Father told me.” Here is an example from John 7:

 

John 7:15-18

15 The Jews therefore marveled, saying, “How is it that this man has learning, when he has never studied?” 16 So Jesus answered them, “My teaching is not mine, but his who sent me. 17 If anyone's will is to do God's will, he will know whether the teaching is from God or whether I am speaking on my own authority. 18 The one who speaks on his own authority seeks his own glory; but the one who seeks the glory of him who sent him is true, and in him there is no falsehood.”

 

You've probably seen Piers Morgan, the English talk-show host, eviscerate Christian “celebrities” as they attempt to give arguments and defenses of our values. A few times I have seen Christians, such as Rick Warren and Mark Driscoll, simply say something like, “Look, I've chosen to submit myself to the Bible, and this is what it says.” The antagonistic host is no longer attacking the believer but attacking the Bible itself, a much more difficult target. Instead of feeling like a gazelle isolated from the group by a hungry lioness (yes, Piers Morgan is a lioness in this analogy), you have made yourself a zebra, safely blended into its large herd, the mass of stripes confounding and discouraging the lioness who then chooses to go find easier prey.

 

True humility

Christians are often accused of being arrogant because they claim to know the ultimate truth. Secular culture, on the other hand, asserts that everyone can decide what truth is for themselves. One side is saying “I’m going to submit myself to this standard which has been in place for millennia and has been subscribed to by billions of people and has proven to create flourishing cultures and societies.” The other side is saying, “Truth is whatever I say it is right now.” Which of these is the arrogant position?

 

The Bible is one of the greatest gifts we’ve been given. It contains everything God intended His people to have in His primary communication with them. We can trust it, we can lean on it, and we can appeal to it when despite our best efforts, we simply don’t have an answer for why God has asked us to live a certain way.

 

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Weekly Roundup 6.21.14

Weekly Roundup 6.21.14

Each week the internet has a lot to say about everything. We use a quantum computer and an increasingly fine set of sieves to shake it all out and leave nothing but the very best, most interesting, inspiring and helpful articles and blogs. We hope you enjoy!


Much Needed Clarity on Sanctification - Sanctification, the process by which we become more like Jesus, can be complicated and difficult to understand. I suggest reading the background links, but even on its own, this post has some great points.

Mommy Guilt and The Cross - A great reminder and great insight for moms or anyone whop has a mom or knows a mom.

12 Questions to Ask Before You Watch 'Game of Thrones' - The hugely popular, and controversial HBO show raises some important questions about how Christians consume entertainment. John Piper answers them with great wisdom, and exposes the human heart.

Agents of Grace - This is a powerful story. Most of us are not parents of children with special needs, but stories like this can give valuable insight and perspective both for sharing our lives with people who are, and for our own lives.

Thoughts on Visiting - Caring for and walking with the sick is an important part of our lives in this fallen world. This post offers some help with how to do that most effectively.

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Weekly Roundup 06.14.14

Weekly Roundup 06.14.14

Each week we employ a medium-sized team of gremlins who are required to read every word published on the internet, using Windows 3.0 computers and 14.4kbps modems. They forward the good articles and blogs on to me, and I choose only the very best of those to bring you, for your weekend reading enjoyment.

The Heart of the True Father - This excerpt from Matt Chandler's excellent book, The Explicit Gospel, has some added relevance this weekend as we remember and celebrate our dads.

How to Grow Spiritually - This article might seem a little academic, but if you've ever felt like your spiritual growth has stagnated, there is some great wisdom here.

4 Changes That Jesus' Second Coming Produces in Us - Living in an era of already/not yet, where God's work of redemption through Jesus has begun but is not yet complete should produce some very important effects in our lives.

Why Was Judas Carrying the Moneybag? - This was hands down the best thing I read this week, and definitely one of the best short-format writings on our hearts and money I've ever read. Thinking through this question has implications and provides insight into a great many financial issues.

Free Music! - My favorite record of 2013, Citizens self-titled album, is available free on Noisetrade. You may recognize a few of the songs from our Sunday Morning Worship. If you are blessed by them as I have been, consider leaving a tip with your download, and be sure to share it!

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Weekly Roundup 06.07.14 - The Double Dip Edition

Weekly Roundup 06.07.14 - The Double Dip Edition

Each week, we spend an inordinate amount of time on the internet. The only slightly redeeming effect of that is finding some inspiring, encouraging and thought-provoking articles and blog posts. Here is a selection of those.


As it turns out, no matter how much a person has to do, the clock and the calendar march on, undaunted. The last two Fridays came and went with no regard for the fact that I had blog posts to do, among a preponderance of other things. The result is a slightly more filtered list of only the very best of all the posts I could find over the last two weeks. I hope you enjoy it.

Dangers of Theological Controversy - There has never been, nor will there be an end to theological controversy until Jesus comes back and sets us all straight. Here are a couple of pointers for navigating it well.

Partnering with People in Their Pain - This is a necessary, required, satisfying, life-giving aspect of what it means to live the Christian life.

Grace is Not a Thing - As Christians, we are utterly dependent on grace. We should spend a commensurate amount of time and effort attempting to understand it.

The Bible Has Power - Paul Tripp Explains how the power inherent in the Bible has a tangible impact on our lives.

Are Christians Prone to Over-Compensate for Cultural "Losses?" - We are designed and called to be culture-makers, Thabiti Anyabwile helps us understand the means and the limits.

Mission Trends: 4 Trends for Churches to Consider - Ed Stetzer watches closely the intersection of Church and Culture and offers some great observations

The Gift of Rest - It's always a blessing to see God's grace manifest through some of life's most difficult situations. If you're a crier, grab some tissues.

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Tell Your Story

Tell Your Story

The Author of reality is at work; He’s warring with evil, redeeming a fallen, futile creation, setting right every wrong. And you have been conscripted. You have been commissioned. The champagne bottle has been broken against your hull.

 

Every Christian has been given a specific and important role in the Father’s master plan to “reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven” (Col 1:20). We have been personally called to take part in a sweeping epic. God is gathering His people from all corners of the earth in preparation for the culmination of all time, the establishment of the new heaven and new earth.

 

God is doing it, but He has decided that the brush in His hand, the means of His redemption, the agent of His reconciliation, is you. Ultimately, Jesus is the Brush, the Means, and the Agent, but even He tells us that we are to continue the work He began, and even do greater works.

 

This should land on you like an airplane full of elephants. It certainly does to me.

 

“I am not gifted or equipped for that,” we might say in our cleverest Christianese. Unfortunately (or fortunately if you are looking at it correctly) no one gets off this hook. And we should not want to. Anyone who has truly tasted and seen that the Lord is good will want to share that with people.

 

Sharing comes more easily for some than others. Some of us have to expend great effort putting to death the selfishness that causes us to withhold this good news from those around us,. But every single person who claims Jesus as their King and Savior is given the command and privilege of declaring the goodness of God with our lives and our words.

 

Declaring God’s Goodness with our Words

 

There is a widely quoted saying that goes something like this: Preach the gospel at all times. Use words when necessary. It’s usually (mis)attributed to Francis of Assisi. The implication is that our actions are the most important way we can image the Gospel to the world.

 

The problem, and the reason the quote is mostly unhelpful, is that no Christian’s life is at every point a perfect testament to the goodness of God, or even a good one. We drag God’s name and grace through the mud repeatedly with our actions. Thankfully faith does not come by watching; faith comes by hearing. We can always tell people about the greatness of God, even in the midst of the contradictory evidence of our lives.

 

But not everyone is an expert orator. We can’t all form clever arguments and give comprehensive explanations of Christianity, though we should all be working to grow in that area. What every single one of us does have that we can offer to a dying world is our story. We can tell people what God has done for us, how He loves us and how he is changing us.

 

Paul’s Strategy

 

This was the very strategy used by the Apostle Paul. As Paul stood before King Agrippa facing potential execution for preaching the Gospel, he was given one chance to defend himself. Basically, the whole 26th chapter of Acts is the account of that defense. Paul tells the story of his conversion on the road to Damascus, how God overcame his sinfulness and changed his heart in a very real, effectual way. To erase any doubt of the purpose of his story-telling, look at what happens when he has finished giving his testimony:

 

And Agrippa said to Paul, “In a short time would you persuade me to be a Christian?” And Paul said, “Whether short or long, I would to God that not only you but also all who hear me this day might become such as I am—except for these chains.” -Acts 26:28-29

 

Paul plainly states that his aim the entire time was to convert anyone who might hear what God had done in him. He knew the power of personal testimony.

 

Your Story

 

You may be thinking, "Of course Paul is telling his story. Jesus showed up, knocked him off his horse, blinded him and said 'Follow me.' I'd tell that story too. My story is not that exciting.” But, to quote Matt Chandler, “There is no second class conversion story.” Everyone is equally dead and everyone is equally saved by grace.

 

Whether God saved you at the age of 6 in your Awanas class, or at 16 at a Christian concert, or at 26 out of a strip club, or at 56 in a prison cell, or at 76 in a hospital bed, we have each been brought, by no merit of our own, from death to life.

 

This is the staggering truth that belies any claim of a second class conversion. If you were saved at a young age and protected from any amount of trouble, hurt, and earthly consequences of sin, REJOICE! God has been exceedingly good to you! If you were saved later in life and were redeemed from your bad decisions and renewed in your mind and spirit, REJOICE! God has taken the mess you made of your life and is using it for your good and His glory! Rejoice and tell someone!

 

Your story has a power that no clever argument can have, because it’s your experience. It’s not based on logical consistency or erudition or persuasive language. It’s based on what God has done in your life and there is no counter argument to that.

 

There is a war going on and you have been drafted. You have been given a name, rank, and serial number. And you have been armed with the story of your salvation by grace through faith in Jesus, and God’s transformative work in your life. Use it like your life depends on it. Someone else’s life might.

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Weekly Roundup 5.24.14

Weekly Roundup 5.24.14

Each week, usually on Friday but this week on Saturday, we bring you a sweet melange of articles, blog posts and other media from around the web for your weekend reading enjoyment.

Evangelical Leader Not Waving White Flag on Gay Marriage - This is a phenomenal Huffington Post interview with Russel Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission. He gives a great Biblical framework for how Christians ought to engage with our culture as it shifts toward a predominantly secular worldview.

The Great American Commission - A look at the current state of global evangelization and the relative role of our country.

When We Get Small and God Gets Big - In the midst of suffering, God shows Himself to us in a powerful way.

Blue Collar Man: On Financial Struggle and Working for a Living - A very helpful reminder to people of all collar colors of the supremacy of Christ in every type of work.

And because I can't get this song out of my head:

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8 Ways to Engage Your Neighborhood This Summer

8 Ways to Engage Your Neighborhood This Summer

 

In the beginning of Kenneth Grahame’s classic The Wind in the Willows there is a scene that reminds me of life in Western Washington. Spring has just arrived. Tired of spring cleaning, Mole feverishly escapes from the darkness of his hole into the warmth of a sunlit meadow. After a cold and isolated winter, Mole is filled with delight as he explores a new world bursting with life.

Every May I feel like Mole. The sun appears. The thermometer passes the 70 degree threshold. And like animals scurrying in the meadow, suddenly people appear on every front lawn, squinting in the brightness, gently brushing moss and mildew from their sleeves.

Spring’s annual collective emergence is a great opportunity for Christians to engage our neighborhoods in ways we weren’t able during the dreary darkness of the Washington winter. Outside every front door is a mission field, a community of people who need Jesus. But encountering our neighborhoods with the good news of the gospel requires intentionality.

Here are eight simple ideas to help you engage with your neighbors this summer.

1. Go in your front yard.

Most us of live in the back of our house. We drive into our garage and the rest of summer life happens in our backyard or on our back deck. Unfortunately, those back yards are usually surrounded by a six foot high fence. Not overly conducive to neighborly conversation. Spending more time in your front yard gives opportunities to actually see and be seen by people in your neighborhood.

2. Do yard work.

Yard work is a great reason to be in your front yard. Often the best conversations happen when two neighbors stop their lawn mowers to chat.

3. Go on walks.

Make it a habit to take an evening stroll around the block. If you want to meet neighbors beyond the two families you’re sandwiched between, you have to be on your street without being in your car.

4. Borrow stuff… and give it back.

In our independent American culture we’re usually reticent to borrow anything from anyone. However, neighbors are almost always happy to loan out their stuff - if you bring it back even better. Need a ladder? Ask your neighbor, then clean it for them after you use it. Don’t have eggs for that batch of ice-cream you’re whipping up? Borrow some and return with a container of it for your neighbor. And remember to offer your own stuff for loan.
 
5. Host a BBQ.

There is nothing better in the summer months than grilling out. Instead of just smelling the aromas from your neighbor’s yard, invite them to come over and join you.

6. Organize a garage sale.

After you’re finished spring cleaning and you start getting ready for that garage sale, ask a couple of neighbors if they have enough stuff to join you for a sale together.

7. Plant a garden.

Backyard gardening is hugely popular right now. Because of this, the state of your corn crop and heirloom carrots make a great connecting point with others in your neighborhood.

8. Serve your neighbors.

There is no better way to engage your neighborhood than by actually finding where needs exist and meeting them. Maybe an elderly neighbor needs some yard work done, or someone is sick and needs a meal made. Draw other neighbors into these acts of service so you can work alongside one another.

Bonus: A great way to cultivate gospel intentionality is to draw a map showing the houses and families on your block. Pray for a different family each day. If you have children, draw them in and pray together each day over dinner. This will grow your love for each neighbor and make you more aware when opportunities to engage are in front of you.

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Weekly Roundup 05.16.2014

Weekly Roundup 05.16.2014

Each week, we endeavor to bring you a selection of the most helpful, interesting, inspiring and thought-provoking articles and videos from around the internet. Enjoy!

 


You Just Wait - Those of us who are parents will probably be able to identify with the experience of the author here. While you're on his blog, I would highly recommend taking a few extra minutes and read as much of his content as you possibly can. I have been so blessed by his very accessible insights on so many topics surrounding the Christian life.

The Church Needs More Tattoos - The world is full of people who don't know Jesus yet. A lot of them, like a lot of us, are kind of messy. Are we ready for them, to love them and share the Gospel with them?

Are We Christians Good Neighbors? - One of the most important questions we can ask ourselves.

Getting Clear on Evangelism - We all want to (or should want to) evangelize. Maybe we ought to give careful thought to what that really means. Jeff Vanderstelt, from Soma Church here in Tacoma has some great words.

The Christian is an Enigma - If you've already had your coffee and you're eager to dig into a complex, heavy topic, here is a great article about human nature that puts words to something we have certainly experienced in ourselves, but might not have understood very well.

This is an excellent exhortation from Paul Tripp about how we choose and use our words.

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Shame Undone

Shame Undone

 

GUILT vs. SHAME

In my early twenties I spent my summers coaching basketball camps with Athletes in Action (AIA). Thursday of camp week was always gospel day. Coaches had the opportunity to share with campers the message of Jesus’ death and resurrection. One of my favorite illustrations to use was one you’ve probably heard yourself. It goes something like this:

You get a speeding ticket and have to appear in court for the violation. Luckily your dad is the judge. After he gives the verdict of what you will owe, he removes his robes, comes down from the judge’s seat and pays your penalty. (The entire illustration is here)

While the illustration breaks down on multiple levels, it has been useful at times to help people understand the concept of substitution.

Our use of illustrations like this reveals our tendency to frame the gospel in judicial terms.

    •    Humans are guilty before God and deserve the penalty of death.
    •    God sent Jesus to die in our place.
    •    Jesus’ death removes our guilt and the penalty that stood against us.

A legal understanding of the gospel is certainly biblical. Paul uses legal terms when he says we were “made alive together with [Jesus], having forgiven us all our transgressions, having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us, which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross” (Col. 2:13-14).

The problem is that the reality of what Jesus accomplished for sinners on the cross goes far beyond the courtroom scenes of a good John Grisham novel. When we think about the gospel only as removing our guilt we miss an aspect Scripture talks about as much or more - shame.

WHAT IS SHAME?

All of us have experienced shame, but it’s hard to find the language to describe it. Ed Welch, author of Shame Interrupted, defines shame as, “the deep sense that you are unacceptable because of something you did or something done to you, or something associated with you. You feel exposed and humiliated.”

Shame is that sense within you that if people really knew everything about you they wouldn’t love you, or even couldn’t love you. You feel rejected, contaminated, exposed, worthless, like you don’t belong. In your relationship with God you think God could easily love other people, but he only loves you because he has to.

WHERE DOES SHAME COME FROM?

Shame results from both your own sin and the sins of others against you. When there are things you have thought or done which are outside the bounds of “respectable” sins, shame follows.

Sometimes shame comes merely as the result of living in a world broken by sin, where you don’t always fit in and are at times rejected by others. You feel like an outsider.

Shame cuts deepest in those who have been abused or violated physically, emotionally or sexually.

RID OF OUR SHAME

The story of the Bible is the story of shame’s demise. Follow the plot line:

    •    Before the fall there was no shame. Adam and Eve were naked and unashamed. (Gen. 2:25)
    •    After the fall their eyes were opened and they felt exposed and vulnerable. (Gen. 3:7)
    •    There will be a day when God’s people are clothed in fine linen and made ready as a bride for the wedding feast. (Rev. 19:8)

At the center of this story is Jesus.

Born in a stable to a young woman whose morality had been questioned by her own fiancé, Jesus was well-acquainted with the sideways glances, the rumors whispered. He walked dusty roads seeking out those familiar with shame: the broken, the outcast, the contaminated. He sat with the Samaritan woman at the well. He allowed Mary to anoint him. He touched lepers. He ate with tax collectors. In everything he did Jesus announced shame’s undoing.

The climactic moment of shame’s demise came at the cross where Jesus took our shame upon himself. Exposed, naked, spat upon, mocked, hung on a tree, Jesus was considered “cursed by God” (Deut. 21:23). Yet “for our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Cor. 5:21).

At the cross this incredible trade happens. Jesus takes all our shame, all our dirt, all that we hide. In exchange he gives us his purity, his righteousness, his holiness. His reputation is now ours. In Christ our identity has changed. We are now beloved, a “chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God” (1 Pet. 2:9).

Through the gospel our shame has been undone.    

 

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Weekly Roundup 5.9.2014

Weekly Roundup 5.9.2014

Each week, we scour the vast internet for the very best in helpful, encouraging, inspiring and interesting content and serve it up, piping hot, to you the SCF Blog faithful. We love you, enjoy!


With this weekends' NFL draft putting football back into our collective minds, please take a moment and watch this video about a man who has been completely overcome by the goodness of God, and lives it in a radical way.

"I feel great about having an abortion" The Culture of Death Goes Viral - A truly heartbreaking viral story from this week is a clear call for Christians to engage the culture through desperate, fervent prayer and wise, loving action.

The "Jesus Wife" Fragment is a Hoax - Many of you have probably heard about this through the news or social media, hopefully it can be put to rest.

JI Packer's classic Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God  - Each month, christianaudio.com offers a free audiobook with no strings attached. This month's book is especially worth the download and listen.

How a Dad Loves a Prodigal - A beautiful story of redemption and restoration that might prove helpful to anyone navigating a relationship with a loved one who does not know or isn't following Jesus.

The Problem With Seeking God's Will - Sometimes we make 'God's Will' more complicated than He Himself has; worse still, we make it an idol.

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The Sunday Morning Meltdown

The Sunday Morning Meltdown


Sometimes I just wish I were a grandparent.

This past weekend my parents visited from Canada. While they were here they took my two oldest girls out on dates. Wherever Ava and Miren wanted to go, they went. Whatever they wanted to do, they did.

I want to be the one that gets to give them what they want. Instead, I find myself saying “no” an awful lot these days.

“Dad, can I have some ice cream?”
“No, you already had two pieces of cake, a donut, and a bag of chips today.”

“Dad, can I stay up and watch movies all night?”
“No, it’s already 9:00pm and I’m going to bed.”

“Dad, can I stick my entire hand down my throat?”

Ok, so no one actually asked that last one. But, when my one-year-old started jamming all five fingers into her mouth for fun, I had to say NO!

Of all the settings you have to say no to your kids, there isn’t a more difficult place than church.

When your daughter tries to grab the woman’s hair in the next row, or runs to the stage to play the drum set, or suddenly decides to start singing at full volume during prayer (not that any of my daughters have ever done those things), you’re fully aware that saying no may be the catalyst to an epic eruption of flailing and screaming you desperately hope no one else has to experience.

Recently though, I had a revelation. My reticence to say no is completely about me. I want to be the spiritual superstar with superstar kids. I want to maintain the identity and image of the perfect parent with children that behave glowingly in every situation. Sunday morning meltdowns do little to promote that perception.

But not saying no to my kids is no help to me, no help to them and no help to others.

When it comes to how our kids deal with the expectations of sitting still in church, saying no actually starts way before Sunday morning. In fact, we’ll cut down significantly on the amount we have to say no by intentionally training our children in spaces where the threat of a fit doesn’t put us on the verge of an anxiety attack.

This week I came across this article that had some great tips on how this can look. I'd encourage you to read it and think about what is said.

No Fuss Parenting - Teaching Kids to Sit Still

My prayer for us at Summit who are parents of young children is that we’d be a community of grace for one another. Realize we are all, both us and our kids, sinners being made more like Jesus. The gospel says that our standing before God and each other is based on one reality - the life, death and resurrection of Jesus - not our perfectly behaved kids.

Let’s not love ourselves by failing to say no to our kids. Instead, we need to love our kids well by taking the time to train their heads and hearts.

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Weekly Roundup 5.2.2014 - The Listicle Edition

Weekly Roundup 5.2.2014 - The Listicle Edition

Each week, we will bring you a carefully curated collection of content from all over the web, hopefully you'l find these links as helpful and/or interesting as we did.

Our Fearful Apologetic - At the places where our Christian subculture and the secular culture intersect, there can be friction. The Gospel teaches us to see those intersections as opportunity to spread love and light.

The Battle for Life Endures - and So Must We - The abortion battle is neither won nor lost, which is why Christians have to keep waging it.

A Statement Stronger Than Silver - A look at the headline-grabbing debacle concerning the LA Clippers, racism, and the punishment handed down from the NBA. How can God's redeeming work and ultimate plan for the world and humanity help us understand these situations?

Living Out God's Design For Marriage - The Gospel shapes our lives an marriages in powerful, practical ways.

For those of you who might spend less time on the internet than we do, a "listicle" is a combination of a list and and article (Like, '25 things you didn't know about Steven Segal's hairdresser!' or 'The 19 best Oreo cookies ever dunked in milk!') that have become so ubiquitous on blogs and social media in recent months. It seemed that among all the great blogs and articles on faith and culture which get collected and filtered throughout the week, there was a preponderance of that type of thing this week. So while this post is usually limited to around 5 articles or so, the listicle really seems to lend itself to more of a shotgun approach, so here goes:

4 Reflections About Online Dating

5 Lies I Used to Believe About Being A Christian

6 Types of Grace

Be "Quick to Hear" - 15 things to recall next time you're criticized

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Weekly Roundup 04.25.2014

Weekly Roundup 04.25.2014

Each Friday, we will put together a short list of some of the most interesting and helpful things from around the internet for your weekend reading enjoyment and to help you stay current with what is happening around the world.


China is on course to become the 'world's most Christian nation' within 15 years - From a British newspaper, a report on the spectacular growth of Christianity in China as it's people "seek meaning and spiritual comfort that neither communism nor capitalism seem to have supplied."

But what about gluttony!?! - Kevin DeYoung takes a look at a potentially misunderstood and neglected aspect of the Christian life.

The Me-Time Myth - Written by a mom for moms, but honestly, who among us doesn't fall into the trap of resenting the things that require our attention at the cost of the things we'd prefer to be doing?

Explaining hard things to our children - Another article geared toward parents, but as a Christian community, the raising of Godly children is a responsibility that falls to each one of us.

The Moral Majority is No More: Millennials and a New Social Witness - As followers of Jesus and bearers of the light of the gospel, it is incumbent upon each of us to thoughtfully engage the culture we have been placed in. This is an insightful article on the shifting demographics and worldview that we are participating in the redemption of.

Sinner, Come Home! - The closing message of this week's Together for the Gospel Conference saw John Piper delivering a powerful evangelistic call, reminding us that our primary mission in the world is to invite people into the love of Christ, and this is true even for Calvinists.

 

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The Perils & Joys of Biblical Cliff Diving

The Perils & Joys of Biblical Cliff Diving


This Sunday we start our new sermon series, “Seeing and Savoring the Gospel in the Old Testament.” Maybe just calling it “The OT Gospel” would be easier. We begin by diving into the book of Genesis.

Now if you’re like me and you grew up in Sunday School with flannel graph Adam and Eve, clothed in strategically placed palm branches, lounging alongside lions and tigers, getting into Genesis feels as comfortable as sliding in to a relaxing hot tub. The stories are familiar. The characters like old childhood friends.
   
But in our familiarity with Genesis we can forget the enormous gulf that exists between our 21st century American cultural experience and that of the language and culture of the Ancient Near-East.

The reality is that approaching Genesis is less like easing into a hot tub than diving off a 100ft cliff. Without a proper survey of the landscape and the gap that exists between ourselves and this ancient text, many have crashed into the rocks and shallow water below.

So how should we approach Genesis? What do we need to know to hear what God wants to speak to us? Here are 3 things:
       
1. Someone wrote Genesis….   
This seems simple I know, but it’s important for us to remember that the entire book of Genesis wasn’t handed to Moses on stone tablets. Moses wrote Genesis 3500 years ago as the first volume in the five-part series we call the Pentateuch (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy), which covers 2000 years of history. Though like the rest of God’s Word, Genesis is inspired and infallible, Moses still wrote out of his own experience, culture and context. For this reason we need to listen to Moses on his own terms. We can’t take him out of context or twist his words. The biggest question we need to ask when we read Genesis is not, “What does this mean to me?”, but rather, “What did this mean to Moses?”

2. … for somebody …   
Though we all benefit from the entire Pentateuch, Moses wrote Genesis specifically for God’s people Israel as they were in the wilderness waiting to enter the Promised Land. Israel had been enslaved in Egypt for four hundred years when God sovereignly led them out of bondage. They were a people stripped of identity. Hard-hearted and stubborn they wanted to return to Egypt. Their worship was mixed with the idolatry of the world around them. Wandering in the desert, without a land of their own, they struggled to believe God’s promises.

3. … for a reason.   
It was into this situation Moses wrote a record of beginnings. An account of who Israel was, and even more important, who their great God was.

Genesis shows that God has sovereignly and unilaterally acted in creation. Unlike the god’s of Egypt that Israel still clung to, Yahweh is the source of all life. Every place and every thing is under his creating and controlling hand. God is ruling over his creation, but is also intimately involved with it.
   
Genesis also displays the depths of human rebellion. Yet, in the midst of sin’s ugliness, God is carrying out his plan to set apart a people for his own possession. God keeps his covenant from one generation to the next until his promises are fulfilled.

All of this means that Genesis isn’t about the exact age of the earth, the nature of earth’s atmosphere before the flood, how dinosaurs became extinct, or the existence of giant rock monsters (see the latest meeting of Hollywood and the Bible -- the Noah movie). Many have crashed into these rocks (not the monsters but these debates) and missed the depths of this amazing book. By trying to answer specific questions only 21st century people ask we bypass the joys of this ancient narrative and completely overlook the reason God has seen fit to preserve it for us today.

Genesis was written for people rescued from bondage yet still struggling to live out their new identity. People who, in spite of their redemption, are still prone to idolatry, stubbornness and sin. It was written to encourage people as they journey in the desert on the way to the Promised Land by answering life’s biggest questions: Where did we come from? Why are we here? What is wrong with the world? What’s going to make it right?

Do you think we might still need Genesis today?

Scattered throughout Genesis are the seeds of God’s sovereign grace. Grace that might not answer every question we want it to, but certainly answers the questions we need it to.

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Weekly Roundup, April 18th 2014

Weekly Roundup, April 18th 2014

Weekly Roundup is a collection of interesting and helpful stories and articles from around the web. Links will be posted every Friday for your weekend reading enjoyment. 

 

In anticipation of the forthcoming movie, here is David Platt, author of Radical, with some important thoughts about the subject. The main video is below, but the link has some other great things to add to the conversation.

Why you should not believe Heaven Is For Real

 

 

If your heart and wallet are still reeling after Tax Day, here is a Biblical perspective on taxes and Matthew 22:20-22

Why does the IRS get my taxes even when Jesus has my heart?

 

As a church, we have spent the last year rethinking and reapplying the idea of community to our lives together. Here is a great article with a unique angle on how we view community.

Every Christian's 2nd most important book

 

Our churches should reflect the increasing diversity of the communities we are serving. The good new is, God has ethnic diversity and inclusion specifically in mind for His church. How can we approach this the way God did?

How can we increase ethnic diversity in our churches?

 

This is a fantastic discussion centered around a great book that you can find on our bookshelves at the church. it might not be the 2nd most important book you have, but taking the time to read and be taught by the Holy Spirit and the people God has gifted for our benefit is always a worthwhile endeavor.

Take God at His Word: Kevin DeYoung on the Character of Scripture

 

When a secular website gives a glowing review of a Christian album, it is a refreshing reminder that God is redeeming all aspects of human life, including arts and entertainment. It may not be suited to every musical taste, but if nothing else, take a listen and perhaps commit to pray for these Christ-exalting men and women as they bring the Gospel to the world through their music. (This is the band who's song All glory be to Christ we sing occasionally).

Review: King's Kaleidoscope - Live in Color

 

 

 

 

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The Cosmic Reversal of the Cross

The Cosmic Reversal of the Cross

 

Jesus’ arrival on the stage of human history, in small town in the backwoods of the Roman Empire, shattered every expectation of the Jewish Messiah. Surely God’s King, the Cosmic Deliverer, would have a royal birth, an aristocratic upbringing, the best education and opportunities, and would quickly conquer Israel’s enemies and free her from Roman oppression.

Instead, as Carl Trueman says, “God achieves his intended purposes by doing the exact opposite of that which humans might expect.”1 Everything about Jesus turns the world’s value system — its definition of power, strength, blessing, and wisdom — completely upside-down.

Nowhere is this cosmic reversal seen more clearly than during Jesus’ final week.

Consider:

Palm Sunday - We would expect God’s King to enter Jerusalem on a war horse, angel armies in tow, ready to spill the blood of his enemies. Instead, Jesus rides into Jerusalem on a colt, about to spill his own blood for his enemies.

The Last Supper - The night of Jesus’ betrayal the King of the Universe removes his outer garments, takes the position of a servant and washes the filthy, calloused feet of his disciples. Every disciple. Including Judas who would betray him.

The Cross - Jesus gives up his own life to the brutality of Roman crucifixion. The one who could call down angels, surrendered in silence as nails were driven into his hands and feet. At the cross God triumphs over sin and death by what seems like allowing sin and death to triumph over him. Strength is demonstrated through weakness.

Understanding life through the cosmic reversal of the cross transforms us. Martin Luther called this way of thinking the “Theology of the Cross.” It is a view of life that “comprehends the visible and manifest things of God seen through suffering and the cross.” In other words, our understanding of all that God is doing in the world and how he does it is reversed at the cross.

When we think and live through the lens of the cross we do life with counter-cultural ideals. Suffering and self-sacrifice become manifestations of power. Submission is a demonstration of strength. Leadership is shown through service.

The cosmic reversal of the cross is what Paul had in mind in Philippians 2.

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

As you reflect in a special way on the cross this Good Friday, remember that the gospel story is not about a strong God sending a strong Messiah to save strong people who obey, but rather a strong God becoming weak in Jesus in order to save weak people.2

 

1 Carl Trueman, The Forgotten Insight. http://www.reformation21.org/blog/2011/11/the-forgotten-insight.php

2 Although I cannot recall the exact phrasing, I am indebted to Tim Keller for this language.

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