Friday, April 29, 2011

4 rungs of Community

There are four different types of Community that are possible. All of these types can happen at the same time, and, indeed, if they do occur at the same time will create wholesome community. Each rung of Community grows in its strength and ability to retain Community within diversity (the first is easily broken, the last is hard to break)

Bear in mind that I write this from the standpoint of the Community of believers within the Church. Gospel believing Christians, the commonality that initially brings this diverse group into community. These same rungs of Community may be seen in a bar, but that is a bastardization of Christian, biblical, Community. We see it there because there is truth outside of the Church, because it is God’s creation.

1) Discussion:
The first and weakest rung in community is discussion. This rung is the weakest because a simple disagreement could, and indeed does break this type of community.

This type of community works well initially. So as to begin journeying with other believers, but if community does not move past this point then this community is doomed to fail; for shifting thoughts, and differing views will prevail over Gospel Community.

2) Play
The second type of community is where the majority of friendships and churches end their quest for Community. Play. Playing together, spending time together is good, but it is not paramount.

Play works well to move people into a deeper understanding of each other. Likes and dislikes are more readily available making it less likely for a group to disband over a simple disagreement because disagreements have been overcome in the past (likes and dislikes of sports, movies, actors, politics), so what can't a larger disagreement be overcome now?

Time is this type of community’s biggest enemy. Over time the group will grow and develop and if this stage is not past then the group will disband and move on.

3) Serve
The third type of community is concrete for a group that discusses and plays together. Like going on a weeklong missions trip. The group is initially quite and reserved, but by the end of the week they’re talking of burping and farting (while showing they can do both) like a family.

If a group that spends more time together than just a weeklong trip by discussing weighty topics, playing together then serves together often this group will attain a higher level (or deeper level) of Community.

The enemy of this level of Community is a manifestation of the previous two. If a strong enough, or controversial enough topic is disagreed over and time is allowed to pass without service together then this community will, like water on concrete flake away into dust.

4) Suffer
This is the steel of community, the I-beams that hold the structure together. If a group is graciously allowed to suffer together they will endure much to remain together. Moving, changing jobs, and time will not separate them.
Again, if God is gracious and allows the group (church) to endure these four things genuine community will be had, to his glory.

So it ought to be ever apart of our teaching to lead our people in suffering well. We should begin teaching this now. We are a young church and have yet to preach a funeral. But it will come. Car wrecks happen and suffering is ever-present. Therefore we must begin to teach our people now, before it happens to suffer will. (Hebrews 11 is a fantastic passage to begin with).

Tuesday, April 26, 2011


“And take up… the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God.”

This thing, this book, is your offensive weapon.
Do you know where yours is?
When was the last time you read its pages?
When was the last time it broke you of your sin?
How often do you run to its pages for comfort?

There are many of you who claim to be Christian but do not care for the Bible. You are no Christian. For how can you love God and not his Word? How can you love God if you have no idea who he is? He is revealed clearly in Scripture but you wouldn’t know that because you don’t read it.

Rather than knowing the Creator of the universe you create your own god from mismatched verses and pithy quotes and call that ‘God.’ You bow your knee before an imagined being. You claim a stake in the righteousness bought by Jesus but you simply want the gift and not the Giver.

“But it is hard to read the Bible.” Some of you may say. You’re right! It’s hard to read something that is, “Living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” Before which, “No creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.” (Heb 4:12-13) But it must be done.

As a believer in the Gospel you must read the Bible, for in its pages is the Gospel spoken of and expounded upon. In its pages has the God you love revealed himself to you. In its pages is sound doctrine; in its pages is your firm foundation. May God convict you and bring you on your knees to your Bible, that he may reprove you and teach you of his greatness. So that above all things you desire to be satisfied by God and nothing else.

Stop wasting your life on frivolous pursuits you warrior of the King. There is a battle to be fought and sin to be killed; there are the weak to protect and the poor to love. There are others still inside the prison to be rescued by the Gospel. You are chosen to be the proclaimer of God’s Gospel. Come out of your drowsy state and see the urgency that is all about, see the smoke of battle in the air, put on the whole armor of God and prepare to strike your foe. Take up the Sword given to you and be taught how to use it by the Great Teacher.

But understand that the battle will not last forever.

The time will come when you may lay down your bloodied sword. When your dented breastplate may finally be taken off. When your splintered shield may be put aside. When your feet may breathe the free air. When your eyes will no longer see through the slits of a helmet but see the full picture. The day is rushing towards us that we may go into the Kingdom and no longer be sojourners in a distant land. When we will no longer have to suffer outside the camp with Christ but rather we will be with our Father in his house. When all will be as it should be, when sin is finally killed and Satan thrown down, when all that has been broken by the fall will be remade anew.

But, my fellow believers my brothers and sisters, that time has not yet come. Now we must stand firm in the Gospel of God. Now we must take up our sword and fight. Now we must wear the armor for our good and the glory of God. Now we must see dimly through the slits of our helmets. Looking to Jesus the founder and perfecter of our faith who for the joy set before him endured the cross… So too must we joyfully suffer a little while longer.

So be wary for this land is full of dastardly fellows that wish for nothing more than to see the redeemed fall and Jesus mocked. Wear well the armor of you King. Fight well the fight of faith. Stand firm in the righteousness of your Savior. You, oh Christian, are a beloved child and will soon be home.

The Nitty-Gritty

It’s a scene in every war movie ever made. The one where the knights or soldiers say goodbye to the familiar, to their families, to their lives and walk out the front door to face the unknown and death. With their packs slung over their shoulders they mount up and head out to fight the veil enemy.

It’s a feeling often-found in airports and at dinning room tables that of leaving friend and family. The feeling that both causes ones heart to sing and to weep simultaneously.

It’s the feeling we should get in churches; it’s the scene we should see in our lives. The feeling of going out to fight the war, the scene of loving God more than family or friends. Whether it means leaving for far lands or meeting friends in coffee shops and behind white picket fences doesn’t matter. For Christianity is a fight to believe and fight to kill sin and a fight to grow.

Christianity is a war. To be Christian is to be at war. Thus it is a struggle and a fight to simply have faith that you were/are/will be redeemed. This is not easy-believism, this is no cakewalk, this is surely not a continually ball of fun. It’s raw, it’s wearing, it’s tiresome and, quite frankly, it hurts. But, it’s worth it. It’s worth it because, “There is a Redeemer, Jesus God’s own Son; precious Lamb of God Messiah… Hope for sinners…”

It's worth it to know Jesus and enjoy Him more than the paltry fleeting pleasures of sin. It's worth it to have one simple thing to live for. It's worth it to be a "sell-out" to who you were for who he is. It is worth it to be passionate about a singular all-encompassing purpose. "To live is Christ."

Wednesday, April 20, 2011


We’ve lost something. Once we stood in awe of our father’s immeasurable strength. Once our fingers wrapped around only one of our parent’s fingers. Once we had nothing to regret and there was always a bigger bed to run to when the monsters in the closet were too scary to handle alone. Simplicity was our theme and our hearts were whole.

There was an innocence that defined us, that caused our imaginations to sore higher than the clouds and further than Pluto. When catching fireflies on a summer’s night was more fascinating than all the passions we now possess. When our lunches were packed in brown paper bags and we always hoped we had something yummy to trade. When lying in the grass staring at the clouds was better than TV.

But we’ve lost something. Things have changed.

Now we stand in awe of nothing. Now our fingers no longer hold anything but our pride. Now we have massive regrets and we must face our monsters on our own. Now complexity is our theme and our hearts are shattered.

The innocence that once was our definition is only a distant memory we’ll never be able to return to.

But here is the catch, the deal, and the hook: today is never too late to be made brand new. “Who you are is not what you did, you’re still an innocent.” There will be new months and new days, there will be new years and new loves, and there will be new houses and new fathers.

So whether you’re 21 or 79 you’re still growing up and by the sheer grace of God we are told, “Therefore if anyone is in Christ he is a new creation, the old is gone the new has come. (2 Cor. 5:17)”

Though our past is a pain and will constantly be used to show us our failings we must, by the grace of God, preach this Gospel-truth to your hearts and apply it to our deep wounds as a doctor applies a bandage, that we have been, and are being made brand new.

It is how and why and what we sing, "My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus' blood and righteousness."

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Once More Enchanted

*This is a portion of a letter I wrote for a good friend of mine. It is also the culmination of 3 or 4 weeks of thought. I pray it impacts you as the thought processes behind it has impacted me.*

We’re on an adventure. One that will claim our lives in the end, but an adventure nonetheless; one where we’ve left the cool green grass of our childhood and traveled to the bone chilling heights of our youth; one that will take us through the labyrinth like forests of middle age; one where we’ll end in the desert of old age on the shores of eternity.

Though I know little of the trials of life, I know a few things. We’ll fight dragons and demons; we’ll be princes and princesses, we’ll dance knowing our lives won’t ever be the same; we’ll hold our heads high like the hero’s of old; we’ll weep at the death of companions; we’ll cry in anguish in the depths of disparity; we’ll curse God and bless his hand simultaneously. And in all of this that sovereign God will be sitting on his throne orchestrating the symphony of our lives. For. His. Glory.

It is why we exist, not for self, nor for others, but for God’s own glory. This must sink deep into our hearts and overflow into our minds and push our souls up through our mouths. Glory. Glory. Glory.

It’s where we’re going! Can you see it? You can almost taste the sweetness of its air! You can see its shimmer on the horizon of your thought. You can feel the warmth of his face on your heart. Though the valley oft covers the beauty of the sight every valley has two mountains.

Therefore let that childlike speechless wonder rise. Be again enchanted by something. Once more see your imagination take flight and feel the wonder of your childhood have life breathed anew into it.

See that the fairy tale of your life is no tale at all. You, my friend, are the one locked in the tall tower whose been saved by our Jesus in his shinning armor. You are the sleeping beauty awakened by the kiss of Jesus your King. You are the slave turned child by the finding of a shoe and its placement on your foot by Jesus. Royalty is what you are, though you do not feel like it (neither did the pauper).

Therefore, O child of the King, may He live forever, I beseech you to, please, take up your proper place at His side. To, by His mercy, prepare your heart to be fitting for His Lordship. That as you, O child, continue in the pain of this life our King, whose rule is eternal, will transform you into such a beauty that all gorgeous surfs will be merely peasants in the mud, yet you will be a child of the King. Realize your position. Take hold of your call. The dragon lies slain at your Savior’s feet. You. Are. Free.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

The Broken, Rag-Tag Group Called "Church"

Many of my conversations over the past few weeks have centered on the Church. Most of them have been about failings experienced by the former congregants. How the church, who says, “God is love,” treats the adulterer worse than The Scarlet Letter. How the church, who says, “God saves all kinds of people,” damns the homosexuals.

We, the Church, are a rag-tag group of individuals brought together by our similarity, our similarity of being wretched sinners saved by grace. We, the Church, are a ripped up jeans wearing (even if you wear a suit) band of broken people. There is nothing glorious about us, nothing beautiful about our problems. We, the Church, are messed up.

But we, the Church, are also the bride of Christ. Though our failings are oft and our wretchedness runs deep. It is in this despairing view that we see we are able to only truly do one thing as the Church, we cannot create special events nor can we treat everyone with complete love and respect, but we can show our desperate need for a Savior.

We do not love the way we’ve been loved, we do not practice what we preach, we do not walk the walk, but in not doing all those things we show that we need Jesus to be our righteousness. We need him to be our love; we need him to be our practice; we need him to be our walk.

The Church does not save anyone. Jesus does. He is the love that all Scarlet Letters, homosexuals and prideful Christians need.

Hopefully the Church continue to grow and mature and seek to grow in love all while realizing our sin is just as despicable as those sins that are more visible to the naked eye. Hopefully we begin to fight our sin rather than hiding it under the carpet or in the dark corners of our hearts. Hopefully Jesus becomes our only hope.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

My Generation's Need for Scripture (pt.3)

Life is breathed out by Scripture, all that was once mundane and boring takes new form. The reader’s heart is quickened to see the colors of the trees with a wholly different meaning. The senses are heightened to feel the gentile breeze as it has never been felt before.

No longer is life a constant struggle for excitement, rather it is an adventure to live. For there is an enemy in need of fighting and there is a struggle worth living through.

The need to run from high to high is not necessary for there is depth to the life in awe of Scripture. The flatness of the former life is one that stands in stark contrast to the vastness of the life lived in the pages of the Bible.

It is not a book of guidelines to be picked up at the readers convince. It is not a newspaper to be read only for the comics. It is not a self-esteem boosting piece of ‘literature.’ And it is surely not something to be read so as to be seen as a ‘good person.’ It is home.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Is it Worth it?

Is it worth it? What you live for; what you’ll fight for is it worth it? What you’ll die for is it worth it? Much can garner our attention and move our affection but is it worth it?

My car was broken into yesterday, but nothing was taken (something tells me Journey the Way street signs wasn’t what they were hoping for… suckerz). It’ll cost a pretty penny to fix. But in the worry of finances this question arose: is it worth it to worry about money? This one arena of life, one portion of the whole pie, is it worthy to be worried about?

No. No, it’s not worth it. To falter and faint over an issue whose remedy is simple is a waste of time.

So my question to you is: is it worth it? Whatever consumes your thoughts and drives you to deep depression or joyous heights is it worth it? The binge drinking or the addiction to cigarettes, the constant need for noise or the ever-present relationship, is it worth it.

Is it worth your whole life to be devoted to that one thing?

There is a demand placed on you (us) one that requires your everything. Jesus living your perfect life and dying your dreadful death demands grateful, radical, transformation… Is what your living for worth it?

Thursday, April 7, 2011

My Generation's Need for Scripture (pt.2)

Part 1 can be read here.

Scripture is seen by my generation as this really old, really boring drag of a read. Most of us probably wonder why The Bible has been on the top selling list since it is such a fatiguing read. Also, we see no point in Scripture. We think it’s more jumbled up than Aesop’s Fables and much more difficult to understand (at least Aesop’s Fables has a lesson(s) learned paragraph at the end of each story).

I believe if we understood the point of Scripture rather than seeing it as being a really boring really old book we’d see it as a beautiful work that only God could do. For all great stories have a climax and all great stories captivate, but only one great story can bring the dead to life.

Jesus. He is the climax of the tale of Scripture.

For in the beginning we are introduced to this God who creates and grants life. Leaving the rest of the characters to be introduced as they are created, man and women.

But shortly after the start there is the fall, which throws the first characters into this desperate situation. Yet here, in the rising action of the story we learn the sheer mountain that must be over come, not simply by those who fell, but by all who come from their line.

And thus the action continues to rise and archetypes come and go and foreshadow come into focus only to leave the focus; all of this building, building, building to the stories inevitable climax, one that leaves all others far behind.

Then he appears. A baby in a manger, who will live the life no man has ever lived and will die the most horrendous death that all men should continually be dying. The cross of Christ being the literary and literal crux of all of mankind and all of creation, this is the point of Scripture.

The action is now falling and the resolution is soon to come. The story is finished with a look into the future.

It is Jesus, he is the point of the Book; he is the hero in every tale; and he is the one readers look to, to understand the most beautiful tale ever spun. But this is no tale, making this all the better, this is truth. For if you remember your childhood well you will remember the best stories where the ones that came true. Yet here is one that was never a fairy tale or fiction, here is one where the enemy is utterly evil and the princess in need of saving is you. Where the tower we're trapped in is higher than ever we could have thought and the Knight (who's armor is indeed shining) who saves us is a King. Here is a story to be captivated by. A story to be saved by.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Jesus, I my Cross Have Taken

Listen to this song as you read the lyrics here.

1. Jesus, I my cross have taken,
All to leave and follow Thee.
Destitute, despised, forsaken,
Thou from hence my all shall be.
Perish every fond ambition,
All I’ve sought or hoped or known.
Yet how rich is my condition!
God and heaven are still my own.

2. Let the world despise and leave me,
They have left my Savior, too.
Human hearts and looks deceive me;
Thou art not, like them, untrue.
O while Thou dost smile upon me,
God of wisdom, love, and might,
Foes may hate and friends disown me,
Show Thy face and all is bright.

3. Man may trouble and distress me,
’Twill but drive me to Thy breast.
Life with trials hard may press me;
Heaven will bring me sweeter rest.
Oh, ’tis not in grief to harm me
While Thy love is left to me;
Oh, ’twere not in joy to charm me,
Were that joy unmixed with Thee.

4. Go, then, earthly fame and treasure,
Come disaster, scorn and pain
In Thy service, pain is pleasure,
With Thy favor, loss is gain
I have called Thee Abba Father,
I have stayed my heart on Thee
Storms may howl, and clouds may gather;
All must work for good to me.

5. Soul, then know thy full salvation
Rise o’er sin and fear and care
Joy to find in every station,
Something still to do or bear.
Think what Spirit dwells within thee,
Think what Father’s smiles are thine,
Think that Jesus died to win thee,
Child of heaven, canst thou repine.

6. Haste thee on from grace to glory,
Armed by faith, and winged by prayer.
Heaven’s eternal days before thee,
God’s own hand shall guide us there.
Soon shall close thy earthly mission,
Soon shall pass thy pilgrim days,
Hope shall change to glad fruition,
Faith to sight, and prayer to praise.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Getting Ahold of Happiness

It’s occurred to me that our vocabulary is rather weak… or at least our syntax is. Often when pain comes flying around the corner of our lives like a freight train out of control we say that God is big enough and good enough to handle our pain while he sustains us through the trial.

But in the sentence of God being able to handle our problems there is an inferred ability for us to be able to handle all the good in our lives. But here’s my question: If we are unable to handle the bad circumstances in our lives what makes us think we can handle the good ones? What about our lives show us, humans, as being competent enough or reasonable enough to be able to deal properly with happiness?

The answer begged is that we are unable to handle the good in our lives. Because if we were able to properly handle the happiness of life than there would be no necessity for trials, for if the good things directed worship to God, as they ought, then the need to try those good things against hard things (creating pain) would be unnecessary.

The reason being for my inquiry into this is I have never heard anyone say, “God is big enough and good enough to handle my happiness (whatever the joy may be); God is big enough and good enough to handle my engagement, new job, newborn, love, family, friends.”

If God can handle the bad things in life, the things that drive us to our knees, which cause blurred vision because the tears are so thick, and forced breathing because weeping is difficult, if he can handle those times… He surely can handle joy and happiness.

A sovereign God demands that we see this, because he is not a cosmic gumball machine used only in pain.