Mike Stone has not set their biography yet

Habits of Grace -- Week 3

Habits of Grace -- Week 3

This summer we are taking 10 weeks to read together David Mathis' book Habits of Grace. Each week different people will post their thoughts and reflections following our reading schedule. This week Mike Stone shares some reflections on Chapter 5 and 6. You can download a PDF of the 10-week reading schedule here.

An Idle Mind

There is a saying, “idle hands are the devil’s tools.” How much more dangerous, then, would an idle mind be? Hands, after all, will only do what the mind tells them to.
 
Speaking from volumes of personal experience, times of idle-mindedness are not fruitful times. They are not productive or even really enjoyable. I am an expert at wasting hours lamenting that things are not other than they are. I imagine what life would be if I had made different decisions in the past, or if some challenge I’m facing was to magically disappear. I compare myself to others. I puff myself up and tear others down. Our minds, when left unchecked, are petri dishes of sin. If idle hands are the devil’s tools, an idle mind is the devil’s blank canvas.
 
Standing in stark contrast to idle-mindedness are times and seasons when, through intentional effort, I am growing and transforming my mind; keeping it occupied and engaged. Looking back, there is something absolutely special about the times I have been engaged in training my mind to be more like Jesus’. During those times, when I’m filling my mind with the things of God, there is a noticeable difference in the entire tenor and trajectory of my life.
 
In chapter 5 of Habits of Grace, David Mathis outlines the discipline of Bible memorization. He offers some very helpful, very practical tips on how to make something that often seems out of reach to me appear more like something I can tackle and grow in. In chapter 6, Mathis makes the case for becoming a lifelong learner, continuously saturating our minds with teaching that increases our understanding and appreciation of God - who He is and what He’s done.
 
These two disciplines come together to form a life that is marked by something very specific. A follower of Jesus who knows the Bible deeply and who studies the wisdom and learning God has given others, will display a degree of wisdom and Christlikeness that can be gained no other way.
 

A Constant Companion

No one has the ability to consciously choose what we think about at every moment. We are reflexive and reactive thinkers. How, then, can we change our minds so that the thoughts that pop into our heads, seemingly on their own, will look more like God’s thoughts?
 
I have a close friend that I spent most every day of middle school, high school and the years after with. One of our favorite activities was watching the classic TV show The Simpsons. We can quote, line for line, just about every single episode that aired from 1990 through 2002. When we’re together, about half of our conversation is original thought and the other half is Simpsons' quotes. We see things or think of things that immediately bring to mind a scene from the show and the dialogue just flows out. (A note to young men: this type of skill will not impress your future wives.)
 
We can have this same relationship to the words and thoughts of God. By spending time immersed in the Bible, meditating on it, committing it to memory and consuming teaching that helps us apply it to our lives, we can become people whose first impressions and default reactions reflect more and more closely the thoughts, principles, and values of God. What if, instead of Simpsons quotes, or sports stats, or home remedies, or pop psychology, the things that fill our minds and overflow into our interactions with others were the very words of good news God is transforming the world with?
 

A Light in the Darkness

The world is a dark place. The brokenness wrought by sin can be seen at every turn. A few minutes reading or watching the news will give you ample evidence of the destruction and evil we’re faced with.
 
God intends that His people, armed with minds saturated in Scripture, will be the bulwark against this tide of evil. Even more, God’s people have been tasked with bringing His gospel-remedy to sin and evil out into the world. God’s wisdom and His salvation are the antidote to human-made problems in the world. 
 
Christians who truly know God through knowing the Bible are the only ones equipped for this monumental task. This gospel-spreading mission comprises more than just memorizing verses, although it certainly starts there. We’ve all met people who can quote verses in various situations, but who do so in a way that comes off as glib or arrogant. When we pair memorization with meditation and learning, we can bring God’s truth to bear on situations in a way that sheds light and brings life. This is how God is changing the world, and as followers of Jesus, it is our duty and our pleasure.
 
Knowing what the Bible says and understanding what it means are foundational to being a Christian and to being an effective part of God’s plan of redemption.
Continue reading
  2748 Hits
  0 Comments
2748 Hits
0 Comments

Worldview Ground Zero: Connect

Worldview Ground Zero: Connect
Last week we looked at how story shapes the way we see everything in the world. You can read it here. This week, we're going to explore the ways in which understanding worldview will shape our Christian lives through discipleship. 
 
The Christian life, the Christian world in fact, is founded on the gospel. The gospel is a big idea, but at its very core it is basically the truth that God’s primary business in our world is fixing everything that sin has broken. This begins with the redemption of souls, but extends to every negative consequence of sin in our world. Death, sickness, hate, hunger; all the things people point to and say, “Look at that. Where is God in that?” God is, through the message of the gospel, transforming the lives of people who then go out and right those wrongs.
 
God has decided, in His wisdom, that His message would spread and His people would multiply through one person coming alongside another, sharing the Good News, sharing life, walking together and then reaching out to ever more and more people. Our human relationships, in all their imperfection, variations, and deep complexity, are the very means God is using to fix what sin has broken. It all begins with people, changed by God, and spirals out from there.
 
Our mission as Christians is a mission that’s built on relationships with other people. Those other people are seeing and experiencing everything, including you, through the lens of their worldview. 
 
When we’re interacting with another person, we tend to approach them as 'actions determined by a set of beliefs.’ This is incomplete.  It’s easy, because we can simply outline for them a new belief system, and if they reject it, whatever consequences their actions bring about are their own problem. That approach doesn’t work though, because people are not primarily a belief system. There is a more foundational force at work. People are primarily made up of a story. That story gets written by their personal experiences, then it shapes their worldview, which in turn has created or adopted a belief system as a means of finding redemption, a way of ‘fixing’ what can only be fixed by God through the gospel.
 
Relationships are formed when we make connections with other people. Once we understand that everyone has a story that has shaped the way they see the world, then we can set about the hard work of becoming familiar with that story, and at the same time share our own stories, which is the only way to create the type of connections with others that can powerfully facilitate the life-altering change of the gospel. These relationships are the foundation of discipleship. 
 
In addition to being critical to forming those life-changing discipleship relationships, our worldviews themselves are a target of the gospel change God is bringing about in the world. Our worldviews have to be brought in line with God’s ultimate reality. No longer can we interpret things solely through the lens of our experiences. We must also, perhaps primarily, interpret everything through the lens of Scripture. We have to learn what the Bible says about the true nature of things, and with the help of the Holy Spirit see things the way they really are. This is what Paul is talking about in Romans when he said we need to be transformed by the renewing of our minds.
 
Our worldview has a lot to do with our identity. In our individual stories, we tend to put ourselves in the role of either God or victim. Either of these false identities will create all manner of behavior that does not glorify God. In this way, our worldview determines our identity, which determines our actions. In a biblical worldview, we see ourselves as children of God, co-heirs with Christ, saved by Jesus’ work on the cross, and made righteous by faith. In this way, sanctification, the process by which God is making us more and more like Jesus, is really a question of worldview. Instead of a worldview which leads to a false identity and sinful behavior, we are given access to a redeemed worldview and a true identity and righteous behavior.
 
Beyond identity, there are myriad ways in which our worldviews must be brought into sync with God's ultimate reality. The question many people struggle with is: how? How do we see the lens we are looking through? Again, the answer is discipleship. Even for mature Christians, discipleship and community are the primary means by which we can begin to examine and understand and participate in the reformation of our own worldviews. As we walk closely with other Christians, especially in intentional, accountable, transparent discipleship relationships, the people around us are constantly exposing our assumptions. This happens when others confront us directly as we expose our thoughts and feelings in meaningful conversation, it happens as they observe us, and it happens as we observe them reacting to situations differently than we might.
 
As you consider the effects of worldview, if you're a Christian, look back along your walk with Jesus. I’m sure you can trace a line through all of the ways that God is reshaping you by bringing your worldview into line with His. It's inevitable. Every Christian will experience an ever-increasing love for others and distaste for sin. That's initiated by a change in worldview. I'm sure you can see too, how through that process God has made your relationship with Him more full and fulfilling, how He has drawn you closer to Himself and how your joy in Him has increased. If you desire more of this, and if you desire it for others, the key to seeing this happening is strong discipleship relationships based on an understanding of worldviews, ours and others, and how the gospel changes them.
Continue reading
  3282 Hits
  0 Comments
3282 Hits
0 Comments

Worldview Ground Zero: Story

Worldview Ground Zero: Story

On Monday, Mar. 14th, at Summit, we had our first GCM Equip, a teaching time focused on equipping leaders at Summit to think through and apply our three core values of Gospel, Community & Mission. We heard from Derek Hiebert, a professor at Western Theological Seminary, who taught and discussed with us a powerful perspective on discipleship! 

In The Weight of Glory, CS Lewis wrote “There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal."

This idea was on display as Derek led us through the principles of worldview-based discipleship. Everyone of us has a unique story. Who we are as people is a composite, made up of so many factors. Our upbringing, our socio-economic status, our relationships, the countries, regions, and towns we live in, almost every single thing we encounter and interact with shapes us and all of our perspectives and perceptions to varying degrees. This is called a worldview.

As Derek taught, it’s helpful to think about worldview as the lens we see and experience everything through. How is it possible that four different people can look at the same painting, or hear the same song, or witness the same event, and come away with four drastically different impressions as to what it was they were observing? The answer is that no one sees anything exactly as it is.

Each person brings opinions, impressions, biases, and prejudices to everything, which inevitably shapes the way they experience things. Why do some people prefer one type of music, while others revile it? While there might be some neurological reasons, there are certainly worldview reasons. Our preferences might be based on those of our friends or parents, or the messages we receive about the cultural connotation of different musical genres. All of our senses are filtered through our worldview.

You have definitely experienced worldview in action, maybe without even knowing it. The lens analogy is very appropriate because, as any person with glasses will tell you, you’re not often even aware that you’re seeing things through them. 

Here are some examples to help illustrate and explain:

-A friend of mine grew up in a home where there was not always enough food for everyone. Now, even though he always has plenty to eat, when we share a meal, he is often very guarded and terse. He holds his arm around his plate, eats quickly and says very little. Before I knew the story behind his behavior, I assumed he was just bad dinner company. After understanding the experiences that shaped the way he sees the world, I saw that what I needed to do was change my expectations of what a meal would be like with this friend and enjoy other types of socializing.

-When I was young, my dad always fixed anything he could, rather than paying someone else to fix it or replacing it. He was particularly skilled with auto mechanics. I never really considered that there were kids with dads who did not do this. When I was maybe 10, I was at a friend’s house and his dad said that he was taking their car in for an oil change. I was totally befuddled! Looking back now, it seems obvious. There are places you can take a car to get the oil changed; someone must be taking their car there. At the time though, it really didn’t occur to me that my experience and understanding of how things work might be, in some ways, particular to me; and that conversely, other people have very different assumptions on how life and the world works.

These are just a couple of examples, but I hope it helps you see how a person’s story radically affects the way they see the world, other people, and everything else. 

Next week we will attempt to answer the critical question: Why is this important to discipleship?

Continue reading
  3627 Hits
  0 Comments
3627 Hits
0 Comments

The Christian Life: A Well-Crafted Chair

The Christian Life: A Well-Crafted Chair

The Christian life is truly a miracle. Friends, we have been transformed! We used to be one thing: enemies of God, then, by believing that Jesus is who He said He is and did what He said He did, we become something else: children of God! This inward change has profound outward expressions in the lives of people. The history of Christianity is filled with people who have been changed by God, who in turn go out and become God’s agents in His redemptive plan for creation.

A majority of the significant humanitarian efforts in the world have been carried out by people living this transformation. Christians have fed the hungry, clothed the naked, and freed the slave. We’ve brought medicine and technological advancements that have improved the daily lives of people all over the world.

God is at work in the world, not only gathering His people, but redeeming and reconciling “to Himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven...” (Col 1:20). When we serve others, we display the grace that changed us, proving by our selfless actions that God, and a restored relationship with Him, is better than anything the world has to offer. Brothers and sisters, we must engage in meeting the physical needs of those around us. (See also Romans 8:19-23)

Some Christians may be tempted to think that this is the primary task given to us by God, and to be sure there have been Christian movements committed to this idea, but in reality, this would be the equivalent of carefully crafting a beautiful wooden rocking chair and then just looking at it.

As a (very) novice woodworker, I see the chair-building process, from start to finish, as a process with three purposes. Each of them is dependent on the others, but one of them is the ultimate use, without which the other two lose much of their meaning. The first use is in the crafting of the chair. Crafting a piece of furniture is a labor of love and the craftsman derives pleasure and satisfaction from it. The second is the aesthetic value of the chair. The chair adds to the room it’s placed in, making it more beautiful. The final use is the ultimate use of the chair: a place to sit. It’s more beautiful because of the work that went into it and because of the practical use it offers.

It’s an imperfect analogy, but the Christian life is similar. We begin our Christian lives by experiencing the grace of God which changes our hearts and motivations and provides a deep and abiding joy and purpose. We experience the love and acceptance of our Creator. This is like the crafting phase. We then turn that joy and love outward and are motivated not only to spread the gospel that changed us, though that is the highest good we can offer, but we are also naturally inclined to meet the needs of the broken world and broken people around us in immediate ways. This is like the aesthetic value. Through and over and in all of our service in the world, though, is the ultimate hope of being resurrected to eternal life. This is when the chair fulfills its ultimate purpose: a place to sit and rest.

As we walk in the security of the promise of resurrection and eternal life, every other aspect of our lives increases in value and effectiveness. The change we experience (the crafting phase) is more glorious because what we are being changed into, and the deep joy that accompanies it extends past this brief life and becomes truly permanent; the good we can do (the aesthetic value) is increased in value because we can offer so much more than just temporary relief from the effects of a fallen world, we can show people the way to eternal life (the place to sit).

Paul says,

“For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied. (1 Corinthians 15:16-19 ESV)”

That means that all of the temporal benefits, all of the attractive things about being a Christian, and all the good we can do in the world have to be motivated by and terminate in the ultimate hope and promise of a resurrected body and eternal fellowship with Christ and the church.

This can create tension as we endeavor to live out our Commission to preach the gospel, because it can feel a little weird to say. If you tell people that the best thing about being a Christian is having faith and hope in being resurrected after you die, most of them will look at you like you have two heads.

That’s ok, though, because the effectiveness and advancement of the gospel does not rely on our persuasive arguments, or our work for social justice, or our perfect imitation of Christ. God in His sovereignty has decided that the gospel would advance by His people speaking the good news to one another, and His Spirit giving those people the ears to hear. So it doesn’t matter if it sounds weird, and it’s not up to us to try to make it sound more appealing by changing the message or emphasizing the parts that are easier to swallow.

Should we try to make the world better by advocating for the poor and weak, helping those in need, and loving everyone around us? Absolutely! There is no question that this is a huge and often neglected part of what we are called to as followers of Jesus. We MUST love other people. The best description I’ve ever heard of love is this: choosing the highest good for the other person. Feeding a hungry person is good, and we are commanded to do it, but it’s temporary. The very highest good you can offer anyone is a restored relationship with God and the hope of resurrection and eternal fellowship with Jesus.

People are tired and weary. Showing them a beautiful chair might make their day a little brighter, but what they really need is a place to rest.



Continue reading
  3858 Hits
  1 Comment
3858 Hits
1 Comment

Don't Be Afraid To Discern

Don't Be Afraid To Discern

A Subtle Sabotage

I recently came across a sermon clip online from a well-known pastor in our area. He gave a very impassioned account of a story from the scripture. There was a sense of immediacy and gravity to what he was saying. He would paraphrase a few words of the story, then add a few words for flavor, explanation, or commentary.

 

It was very compelling. I felt myself being drawn along in the current of what he was trying to communicate. I started to notice, though, every few minutes he would say something that set off a tiny alarm in the back of my head. It was like ordering a hamburger without pickles and about three bites in, you taste something...pickly. About halfway through the sermon clip, I started putting the pieces together and realized that there were, in fact, pickles on this hamburger. Even though the majority of the message, apart from the little bits of error was fine, those little bits pointed the whole thing in a direction that was not ultimately Biblical.

A Pervasive Problem

There is a pitfall that we Christians need to be aware of, and the Bible addresses it in a number of ways and places. Jesus says “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the Kingdom of Heaven...” Peter says “...there will be false teachers among you.” Paul cautions Timothy that people will “...accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions...” John warns us that “...many false prophets have gone out into the world.”

While we are typically wary of the influence of blatant sinfulness, Christians have an inclination to see anything that “looks Christian” and immediately approve it and begin to allow it to shape their thoughts and feelings. As an extension of that, we defend things that “look Christian” against criticism. This is how, even in the church, we adopt some patently unbiblical ideas.

It is unfortunate but true that there is an abundance of humanism, materialism, and outright idolatry masquerading as Christianity in our culture today. Ranging from subtle to blatant, we are surrounded by all manner of media, and even churches who put on a very Christian-looking façade, but whose message is in opposition to the Bible and undermines the Gospel.

Prosperity gospel, liberal theology, works-salvation, there are as many flavors of false Christianity as there are types of sin. We must learn to be wise, discerning, and sensitive to the Holy Spirit. If the frequency of warnings in Scripture is any indication, this is an issue that deserves careful attention.

 

The Soap-Boxer and the Cynic

We are right to oppose those who would distort the Gospel and defame the Name we hold above all others. The shape that opposition takes, however, is critical. There are a number of wrong ways. These two are the ones I see most often, both of which I have been guilty of:

 

  1. The Soap Box/Megaphone Method

It can be tempting to respond to things we disagree with by being as loud as possible about it.

In fact, it is very fashionable in the Christian subculture to ‘take stands’ against things. We rant, we boycott, we blog, we nag. The soap-boxer never misses an opportunity to tell someone about something he disapproves of. Everyone around knows what companies he’s boycotting and which churches, pastors, or denominations he disagrees with.

The biggest problem with this method is that it can make us appear divisive, petty, and grumpy. When we become argumentative and preachy, we lose a lot of influence. We should avoid giving outsiders the excuse of disunity among Christians to dismiss our true message. There are times when this method is appropriate, but I think it’s rare.

 

    2. The Cynical Critic Method

It’s very easy to become jaded and cynical in our modern world. Looking around, it appears that everything is broken and there is little hope of redemption, in Christian culture or anywhere. The cynic assumes that everyone and everything is at least a little bit wrong, no one has pure motives and nothing is worth investing himself in. He ceases trying to find the good and disengages entirely from Christian culture.

The biggest problem with this method is that it’s not based in truth. God is at work extending grace, restoring His creation, and bringing His Kingdom to fruition. He’s doing this through the people who preach His gospel accurately, and with right motives, as well as through people who don’t.

 

A Right Response

What should we do then? Like nearly everything, deciding how to respond to counterfeit Christianity should be undertaken with a great deal of care. When you hear or see something, whether it’s a post on Facebook, an idea expressed by a fellow Christian, a book or movie making the rounds, or anything else in the Christian subculture, here are a few ideas of things to take into account when considering how to respond.

 

  1. James 1:19 - Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger;’ This is some of the most intensely practical and applicable verses in the whole Bible. Start here.

  2. Read.‘...they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so.’ Be like the Bereans. They were quick to listen, but made sure that anything they would accept and incorporate lined up with the Scriptures. This means you need to know your Bible.

  3. Pray.‘If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.’ Choosing a response is a matter of wisdom, and God wants you to have it.

  4. Get counsel.‘The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man listens to advice.’ What does your pastor think about it? How about the Christian community you are involved in? Try to get some outside perspective and input on how to proceed.

  5. Be helpful. This one is a little less straightforward and depends a lot on context, but we have to be conscious of the effect our opposition might have on the situation. Consider your platform. Is the way you are presenting your opposition likely to help effect a change? Will the relationship you are speaking into bear the weight of your criticism? Someone you know very well is more likely to receive direct criticism from you than someone you hardly know.

 

I have found that in most cases, the best response is to observe, consider, and take action for yourself and the people in your care. Don’t read the book, don’t see the movie, don’t attend the church, whatever it is, just don’t be a part of it. If your conscience and your God-given wisdom seem to be pointing you in the direction of a more substantial opposition, please consider the above suggestions. Above all, do everything for the glory of God.

 

Continue reading
  3825 Hits
  1 Comment
3825 Hits
1 Comment

Weekly Roundup - 10.11.14

Weekly Roundup - 10.11.14

Each week... y'know, maybe it's time we just face the facts and rename this column Occasional Roundup. We've been doing our best to sift and save the good blogs and articles that come our way, but then we got a Twitter account and it was all downhill from there. Now we're hashtagging, refreshing our feed every 30 seconds or so, and trying desperately to get a retweet from an athlete or celebrity pastor or even our Aunt Millie... We may have a problem. 

The Cure for Shame - Each and every one of us carries shame. There is a cure.

Mutual Confession: A Holy Experiment - God's purpose for calling His people into relationship not only with Himself, but with each other, requires much more of us and has much more to offer than small talk over coffee after service.

Two Fruits of True Forgiveness - A suitable follow-up to the article above.

The Big God in Your Small Group - As our community groups get back into gear after a summer lull, here are some helpful thoughts that might change how you approach the time.

Jesus Ever Lives Above, For You to Intercede - The intercession of Jesus on behalf of believers is a powerful reality of the Christian life.

Will Christians Be Left Behind? - A timely look at one contested aspect of the return of Jesus.

Continue reading
  3732 Hits
  1 Comment
3732 Hits
1 Comment

Weekly Roundup 09.20.14

Weekly Roundup 09.20.14

Every week about this time, the Internet shows up at my front door. It says to me "Can you publish me on your church's website, please?" Of course I respond "No way, you're way too big. Just give me the good stuff." Here's what it gave me.


Gospel Affection - The most important work we have to do as Christians is love. Here are 10 practical ways to love our brothers and sisters.

You Can't Catch Sin Like a Cold - A very helpful reminder to Christians that we choose our behavior.

Theological Impatience - God intends for us to put much time and much effort into knowing Him and following Him, regardless of our desire for instant gratification.

What's All This 'Gospel-Centered' Talk About? - You may have heard this phrase used around our church. Here's a good primer on what it means.

With his latest album 'Anomaly,' Lecrae became the first Christian Hip-Hop artist to hit #1 on the Billboard 200. Here's the video for the title track.

 

Continue reading
  3333 Hits
  0 Comments
3333 Hits
0 Comments

Weekly Roundup 9.12.14 - Back in the Saddle Edition

Weekly Roundup 9.12.14 - Back in the Saddle Edition

Finally! it seems like forever since we got a Weekly Roundup published. See, what happened was, the wheelbarrow we were using to carry the internet over to the sorting room got a flat tire, and then I got lost on the way to hardware store and well, it's a long story, but suffice to say that marmot never knew what hit him. So, without further ado, Weekly Roundup!


Three Questions to Help Diagnose Possible Football Idolatry
- Living in the home of the greatest football team on earth puts us a heightened risk of getting our priorities out of line. A must read for anyone who loves sports.

Why Not Sin? - We know we shouldn't sin, but why not?

How to Decide About Your Next Job - Great wisdom on choosing a job that could really be applied to choices we have to make in many areas.

Regarded as Intolerant Haters: What's New? - Looking to the past, and how the early church flourished in a Pre-Christian culture can help us navigate our Post-Christian one.

We're Story Addicts: Mike Cosper on TV, Movies and the Hearts That Love Them - This interview with the author of a new book has some great thoughts on the design of the human heart and how we relate to the media around us.

John Piper's Message to Ray Rice - a 9 minute audio piece that addresses the heart behind domestic abuse.

 

 

 

Continue reading
  12088 Hits
  0 Comments
12088 Hits
0 Comments

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.

Continue reading
  3488 Hits
  0 Comments
3488 Hits
0 Comments

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.

Continue reading
  3341 Hits
  0 Comments
3341 Hits
0 Comments

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.

 

Continue reading
  3319 Hits
  2 Comments
3319 Hits
2 Comments

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.

Continue reading
  3154 Hits
  0 Comments
3154 Hits
0 Comments

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!

Continue reading
  3364 Hits
  0 Comments
3364 Hits
0 Comments

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.

Continue reading
  4049 Hits
  0 Comments
4049 Hits
0 Comments

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.

Continue reading
  3637 Hits
  2 Comments
3637 Hits
2 Comments

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:

Continue reading
  3277 Hits
  0 Comments
3277 Hits
0 Comments

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.

Continue reading
  3175 Hits
  0 Comments
3175 Hits
0 Comments

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.

Continue reading
  3400 Hits
  0 Comments
3400 Hits
0 Comments

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

Continue reading
  3317 Hits
  0 Comments
3317 Hits
0 Comments

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.

 

Continue reading
  3444 Hits
  0 Comments
3444 Hits
0 Comments

Twitter Feed