Spiritual War and Pride

Clive Staples Lewis famously said in his book The Screwtape Letters,

“There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils. One is to disbelieve in their existence. The other is to believe, and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them. They themselves are equally pleased by both errors and hail a materialist or a magician with the same delight.” (C.S. Lewis, Screwtape, p. IX)

In the West, we often downplay the supernatural. We think, “Everyone who believes in science knows that angels and demons are not real, but myth. Just own up to your problems and deal with them.” This is an arrogant statement. If you think this way, as a non-Christian, then you dismiss what a vast majority of the world believes — that the supernatural exists, which explains much of what happens in the natural world. Many in Africa or Asia, with experiences wholly different from our own in the West, have had encounters with the supernatural. Many religions worldwide attempt to tap into spiritual forces through various activities like Tai Chi or Yoga (more on this in a future blog). But in the West, we turn to psychology for explanation. To medications to solve our body chemistry. To self-help books to fix our character flaws. But what has happened over the past 70 to 100 years in America and Europe? As we have sought natural explanations for sin and human nature there has been: an increase in depression and those on anti-depressants; increased suicide; an increase in sexual activity outside of marriage with increased family breakdown or abortion to get one’s life back on track; an increase crime; an increase in the prison population; increased sadistic behavior and interests of people; an increase in homelessness; an increase in drug use; an increase in technologies with increased porn use, increased social media usage, increased loneliness, etc. (for more on this listen to Tim Keller on Spiritual Warfare, episode 60 – https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/timothy-keller-sermons-podcast-by-gospel-in-life/id352660924?mt=2&i=1000117673576 )

Sadly, Christians are not much different from the world, statistically. Which means one of a couple things. Either there are a lot of people who claim to be Christian who are not and who wreck the statistics for true Christians. Or increasingly we don’t know what it means to be Christian and we are in desperate need of discipleship (which means submitting yourself to a teacher [a more mature Christian] who can guide you).

What I am about to say might sound rude, but the fact is that sometimes Jesus said things that sounded rude: it is the height of arrogance for a Christian to assume spiritual warfare is not behind our struggles. Sure, our flesh and sin nature is very much a part of each of our struggles. But when a Christian says to another Christian, “Don’t blame it on spiritual warfare, you just need to own your own sin and overcome it!” that person: 1) implies Christianity is a works-based religion by making it about what you do; 2) implies they know all, which they don’t – only God knows all. How do you know if there is or isn’t something spiritual behind a person’s struggle? and 3) that person intones they have it all together, which is unlikely – some people who come across as having life figured out may actually have deep struggles, which they suppress. Those closest to them see it, even try to point it out, but they arrogantly shut those people out through methods of control to avoid facing reality. So when a person makes a statement like, “Don’t blame the devil, just own it and overcome it!” That statement might actually come from the work of the demonic to create a stronghold in a person or situation, which they will likely never overcome.

Let me explain.

The devil (diabolos, or accuser) sets himself up to work on the mind and heart of a person using their natural bent. If a person doubts or has a low self esteem, the accuser exploits their own doubts to make them feel worthless. For those who are strong and confident, the demonic plays on their pride so they look down on those who struggle and think, “What’s wrong with that person!? I’m not gonna give them any of my time.”

So in one person the demonic appeals to their pride to make them feel like they are in the right; in another person the demonic appeals to their doubt and they wallow in despair.

Now the demonic can never posses a Christian (for we are sealed with the Holy Spirit of God for the day of redemption – Ephesians 1). But the demonic can and does influence Christians through demonic oppression (see Ephesians 6:10ff.) And the demonic will target those who are striving to be effective for the Kingdom of Heaven. The demonic will target churches to get them off track, and the accuser will target those who are arrogant and those who emotionally struggle. When the enemy exploits this, we need to recognize it and turn to the Lord instead of our natural instincts.

So how can you tell there is the beginning of a supernatural struggle in which you need to turn to the Lord in prayer? When you or people around you begin to become irrational. Some of this might be a chemical imbalance in one’s brain or hurts and hang-ups from one’s past that create a filter of understanding and response. But as we develop the attitude of the Beatitudes (Matthew 5:3-12), we will interact with people in these situations differently. We (Christians – see Matt. 5:1-2) are called to take on Christ’s nature (Galatians 2:20), reflecting His character to become a beacon of light (Matt. 5:14-16), a safe harbor for people to seek God and be transformed by renewal of our minds (Romans 12:1-2). It is then we experience freedom.

If you become annoyed and look down on someone when they begin to struggle, check your pride and pray. Offer to seek the Lord with that person and encourage him or her through prayer with them. If you begin to struggle, know that by seeking the Lord in prayer, He will calm your spirit and bring peace, which surpasses understanding (Phil. 4:4-7).

As this relates to Dare2Share coming up as a church, of course the accuser will play on your doubts if you don’t want to do it; and the accuser will play on your pride if you look down on those who don’t desire to do it. In both cases, pray. What does God want for you, and then obey.

GODSPEED

What is the aim of Grace Church Seattle?

What is the aim of Grace Church Seattle? What is the aim of any church? What constitutes a church both biblically and historically? These are questions I will answer in reverse order, in brief, with the goal to inspire those committed to Grace to participate in the aim of this church.

If you have been a part of Grace, you know this is a very friendly and loving community. And you know that we have been in transition for some time.  If one were to read the statistics on transitioning a church community from one that is stagnant to one that is vibrant and actively reaching people for Christ, one would learn that it takes about seven to ten years with consistent leadership and vision casting.  This is our aim as the pastors and elders of Grace Church.  And we have had a united vision since 2013.  But to understand our aim, we first need to understand what constitutes a church both biblically and historically:

“A local church…is an assembly of professing believers in Jesus Christ, organized as a spiritually gifted team to implement the Great Commission, and to love and care for one another.” – turret2.discipleshiplibrary.com

The above quote and podcast goes on to say that this group needs to not just come together for fellowship, friendship, or worship.  But it must be organized for the expressed purpose of implementing the Great Commission.

What is the Great Commission? It is found in five Scriptures, each given at different times from Jesus to His disciples in each Gospel and Acts to give His followers mission and meaning in life (see Matthew 28:18-20; Mark 16:14-16; Luke 24:45-49; John 20:21-23; and Acts 1:8).  The basic thrust is that Jesus commissioned His disciples to go preach the gospel and replicate themselves in anyone who was open to the gospel of Jesus Christ, teaching people to follow Jesus as a community of Christians and in turn keep making disciples from 33 AD to the present and until Christ returns.  For no one knows the day or the hour of his return (Acts 1:5-8) and so we are to get after it (Acts 1:9ff.).

Historically, the reason the church went from 0.0000001% of the Roman Empire in 33 AD to 11% of the Roman Empire by 310 AD and 25% by 325 AD is because of people like you and me taking this commission seriously and trying to organize together, in Christian unity and fellowship, to become a team to reach people for Jesus.

The above answers the second question: what is the aim of a local church? Now to the original question: what is the aim of Grace Church Seattle?

In short, we have the aim to organize to make disciples (which means sharing Christ and trying to help people become a “disciple” = follower of Jesus).

We have a specific plan for this:

Dare-2-Share: A ministry of equipping and sharing the gospel in our community. We plan to do this annually as a church.

Children’s and Family Ministry: This is a vital part of what we do.  Our goal is to develop a system similar to the “Trivium” approach in how we teach and make disciples of N-12th grade. And we are in need of a Children’s Ministry Director to develop an aspect of this system for Sunday School and Children’s Church (N-5th grade).

What is the “Trivium” approach? There is a classical method of teaching that I have seen, firsthand, which equip students in the gospel for how to engage this fallen world.  The basics are Grammar, Logic, and Rhetoric.  (The following is the general big idea of our plan and not details — we will work to implement the plan September 2019).

First, in summary Grammar refers to learning the basics and using a child’s ability to soak up truth through memorization.  Children up to 5th grade can more easily memorize compared to the older ages.  this is how their brain works, like a sponge.  And so our goal is to hire a Children’s Ministry Director who can work with Pastors Mark and Lucas to build this quality ministry that lays a foundation for our children.

The second part is Logic.  Students in Middle School like to argue.  So why not use their natural inclination at that age and teach them to engage ideas and logically think through what to believe and what the Bible says about truth and beauty.  Both Pastor Lucas and my beautiful wife, Katy, are being trained to lead “CanaVox JV” small groups. (Canavox is an organization that hosts reading groups for adults and is developing something similar for parents and their teens – https://canavox.com/ ).

What does this mean? “Cana” as in the wedding of Cana (John 2) and “Vox” as in voice. “JV” as in 6th-12th grade students.  We (pastors and Katy) envision these groups being made up of dads and sons with Pastor Lucas.  We envision these groups being made up of moms and daughters with Katy Faust.  The goal is to discuss ideas and and create the context to equip both parents and their students.  (What times these groups meet will be determined for fall 2019 – likely 9am or 6pm on Sundays).

The third part of the Trivium approach is Rhetoric, how to present yourself.  As these students are in CanaVox JV, they will grow and learn how to be a mentor to younger students.  And we will challenge, train, and equip these students to get involved in leading small groups of elementary school students both Sunday mornings (during Children’s Church) and potentially other venues as our ministry grows. The ultimate goal for these High School students is to be equipped to engage the world in college and the work-place as representatives of Jesus Christ.

College Home Community: I have heard many good things about the College-Career HC meeting on Tuesdays.  This is a vital transitional ministry from High School to adulthood.  And Pastor Lucas and company are doing a great job.

This is the aim of Grace Church Seattle.  I have just walked us through our vision for the next year.  We are asking you to voluntarily get on board.  May God bless you.

GODSPEED

 

 

 

Like a jealous husband

GOD loves you.
.
Did you know this? Did you know that He cares about you so much that He has spent an exorbitant amount of time and energy to make sure He could be in relationship with you.  And GOD is Holy.  There is no other being in the universe that compares with His might, power, or holy nature.  No other being has always existed.  No other creature has the power of our GOD.  No other so called “god” of human creation could every achieve what true GOD has accomplished.
.
Yes, there are forces that exist that try to compete with His glory, and for your attention. But like a jealous husband who has pledged his very essence to be faithful to you, his bride — so also our GOD, the GOD of the universe, has pledged to His bride to be faithful even to the point of death. And our GOD proved it by becoming a man in Jesus to compassionately reach out to the world in love in order to prove His pledge, and lay down His life for us who were unfaithful.
.
This…is…the gospel of Jesus Christ.  GOD pledged to be Israel’s GOD and through the faith of Abraham, save the world.  GOD saved Israel from slavery in Egypt, miraculously with plagues and mighty acts, and declared a Covenant relationship with Israel as their GOD, with expectations that Israel would respond with love to God and by obedience (see Deuteronomy 5:6-6:9).  GOD laid down His rules, but they were for Israel’s thriving and GOD’s glory.  GOD made human beings.  And thus, only GOD knows what is best.  So he gave us the play-book, the instruction manual of how to live so that we would thrive as a species.  And GOD warned that if we did not live in obedience to Him, if we did not love GOD by living faithfully, that it would not go well for Israel.  That His anger would burn, like a jealous husband who pledged His faithfulness and was faithful despite Israel’s adultery.  And to prove it, GOD sent His Son to die in our place.  To appease GOD’s wrath, to bring justice to an unjust situation.  GOD’s love for us and our love for Him can only be understood with this backdrop.
.
What do I mean?
.
Love, biblically, is not emotion and sensuality.  It is much deeper and more real than that. Love, biblically, is about commitment no matter what.  It is about doing and saying what is best for your spouse, even when your spouse doesn’t want to hear it.  And we know that GOD is perfect, Holy, just, and without sin.  So when He speaks, who are you to speak back to GOD? (see Romans 9) We love GOD because GOD first loved us (1 John 4:19).  And His love was demonstrated through His sacrifice and ultimate death, a criminal’s death even though He had done nothing wrong.  And this servant act, an act that elevates Jesus above every creature, demonstrates true love.  True love responds by not cheating.  True love seeks the other’s best.  GOD demonstrated this love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for our sin.  GOD loves you.  And He expects this same kind of love in return.
.
I read in my devotional time this afternoon in Romans 10 and Isaiah 65.  Specifically it mentioned a pharisaic mindset that GOD hates, which rejects.  When we have the attitude, “I am better than you, more deserving of grace than you.” This is a stench in GOD’s nostrils.  This stench causes the older brother in the prodigal son story to reject the younger brother who was forgiven and received again by the father because of his repentance (see Luke 15:11-32).
.
We are called (whether we like it or not) to be like our prodigal GOD.  One who throws a party for a repentant sinner.  And I must admit, I am more like the older brother than our prodigal GOD.  Father, forgive me, a sinner.  Help me embrace your love and turn your love around to others.
.
GODSPEED

The Catholic Church needs Reformation

As a representative of Jesus Christ and as a Christian leader, a Pastor and Elder, I am disgusted by the sexual abuse by priests within the Catholic Church. Those who committed such crimes deserve to be imprisoned along with those who covered up such heinous abuse.

It is time for reform in the Catholic Church. “Tradition” does not equal Scripture. Scripture was written of the Spirit and your traditions are of men. Thus a Priest (aka an elder, overseer, or Pastor — a minister of the gospel paid for their service onto the Lord and responsible for oversight of worship services and shepherding of people’s souls) is held to a higher standard than the average person (Hebrews 13:17 and James 3:1ff.) Therefore, all priests, bishops, cardinals, deacons, and the pope should be held responsible not only before God, but also before human courts (Romans 13:1-7). And priests should be allowed to marry (see Luke 4:38-41, the first “pope” named Peter had a mother-in-law; I.e., he was married). And elders / overseers are to be “husbands of one wife” (see 1 Tim. 3:1-8 and Titus 1:5-9).

Catholics, traditions of men only create hypocrites. And even still, the abuse of the Catholic priests is heinous in the eyes of scripture, evidence these “priests” do not know the Lord (see 1 Cor. 6:9-11). Reformation must begin with revival. Revival begins with repentance. We are called to bare fruit in keeping with repentance. May this be true for all Christians held to account to a Holy God.

GODSPEED

Critics slam Vatican’s ‘disturbing’ silence on abuse cover-upshttps://www.cnn.com/2018/08/15/us/pennsylvania-catholic-sex-abuse-vatican/index.html

“Tolerance has to work both ways.”

In the Supreme Court ruling today 7-2 in favor of the baker who refused to make a same-sex wedding cake for a gay couple getting married, Justice Kennedy said to the attorneys in the case, “Tolerance has to work both ways.  And I’m very concerned by what I’ve seen in this case, that tolerance was not extended to Mr. Philips, the baker, because of his religious beliefs.”

I believe this IS the issue for conservatives.  It is not that we don’t love and tolerate gay people, it’s that we are told if we have a religious conviction, we are wrong and we need to conform, which is the opposite of tolerance.  And thus, people in authority with this view (Judges, Governors, Civil Rights Commissions, City Councils, Principles, Teachers, etc.) have seemed to suppress the religious right with, as Kennedy called it, “animus.”

This case may not solve all the issues on this topic, but it is a win for freedom and Separation of Church and State.

GODSPEED

A Mini Revival Afoot

I believe a mini-revival is afoot at Grace Church Seattle.

How do I know? Well, there are signs.  I will not say what is happening or when or how, but simply share from two articles about how we know the Holy Spirit is at work.

First, you cannot tell if the Spirit is at work based on the external signs such as spiritual wonders, tongues, visions, etc.  Those all may be manifestations of God, but they can also be faked (they can be manifested by something other worldly that is spiritual but is not of the Holy Spirit).

So how can you know if the Spirit is moving? Joel Comiskey (in Spirit Filled Small Groups) states that the fruit of the Spirit will be evident: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, and self-control (Gal. 5:22-23).  The enemy will try to shut this down, but those with the Holy Spirit in them and by the power of Jesus’ name will not succumb to the devil’s scheming, but will be like a tree planted near water whose roots run deep and thus when the scorching desert wind blows, the leaves remain green and full of life (Jeremiah 17:7-8).

A second way we can know the Spirit is moving is based on Jonathan Edwards book about the 1742 Great Awakening The Distinguishing Marks of the Work of the Spirit of God.  Edwards points us to 1 John 4, and states there are five positive measures (or marks).  One, peoples love for Jesus will be elevated.  Two, the Holy Spirit will operate against sin and the work of the devil (i.e., conviction and repentance of sin).  Three, there will be a greater regard for the holy Scriptures.  Four, truth will be heard and resonate with those hearing from God.  Five, there will be an increased love for God and therefore our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ.

I am seeing increased love for Jesus in our church, increased repentance of sin, increased desire to read and know the Word of God, increased desire to know truth, and increased love for God and people.

A third way we can know the Holy Spirit is at work…there is a general feeling, a buzz, an excitement.

As your pastor, I felt the Lord lay this all on my heart to let you know what I am seeing. Again, I may be wrong, but don’t we all desire this to be truth?

GODSPEED

 

 

What does it mean to act like men?

I was preparing my sermon from 1 Corinthians 16:5-14 and read in the English Standard Version (ESV) and New American Standard (NASB) the words – “[13] Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong.  [14] Let all that you do be done in love.” (ESV)

Then I did what I normally do, I went to Bible Gateway and cut and pasted from the ESV. I noticed v. 13 said, “be courageous” instead of “act like men” and I was curious. Why the change in wording from the ESV I hold in my hands to the online version? Then I noticed on Bible Gateway it says there is an ESV(UK), the British version.  So I clicked on it and discovered the ESV in my hands is the United Kingdom rendition.

So I thought to myself what my seminary professor of Greek and New Testament Theology always used to say, “It doesn’t matter what it says in the English version you hold in your hands, what matters is what it says in the original language.  The Greek definition of words is sometimes hard to directly translate, and so those doing translation have to make interpretive decisions to convey the meaning, hence why certain things are translated differently.”

So what does “be courageous” or “act like men” literally mean in Greek? The words literally mean (in Greek) “play the man”[1] or “to conduct oneself in a manly or courageous way, to be brave, to display courage… Aristotle uses the word to indicate the display of courage…as a mean between fear and confidence (Nichomachean Ethics III, VI, 1, 12…).   The word was also used in the papyri in the exhortation, ‘therefore do not be fainthearted, but be courageous as a man’ [and]…‘to act like a good man’ as used in a letter to a philosopher telling him to finish his task and not be distracted by wealth or the charm of youth…[NDIEC, 4:67-70].   Josephus uses the term to describe the courageous fighting of the Jewish defenders of Jotapatha (Jos. JW, 3:268), and in his description of Titus telling his troops to be courageous, but using forethought and not running personal risks (Jos., JW, 5:316).  It also appears in Titus’ speech of encouragement to his soldiers as they are discouraged in their siege of Jerusalem (Jos., JW, 6:50).  Imp. calls for an habitual action.” [2]  Colin Brown, in his theological dictionary says it means, “behave in a manly way.”[3] Dr. Craig Blomberg of Denver Seminary says it means to “put away the immaturity that has led to so many of your problems and grow up in the Lord.”[4] Chuck Swindoll says, “Essentially it means to grow up, start acting like an adult rather than like a child, push toward spiritual maturity rather than wallow in your preschool mantra of “me, me, me.”[5] Tis a struggle against spiritual immaturity.  They needed to “set aside fussiness, whining, and complaining and instead progress toward maturity in Christ…”[6]  Swindoll continues with application for you and me, “Are you easily offended? Do you cling to your personal rights and privacy? Maybe it is time to grow up—to leave the nursery of the world and enter the school of higher spiritual learning.”[7]

So what does it mean to be a man? In the Christian sense, it means to be like Jesus.  To be strong and courageous when talking about God with people who would suppress your voice.  It means speaking out for the downtrodden, and challenging leaders to act justly. It means spending time with God the Father when your flesh is weak and you need to be recharged.   It means washing people’s feet, and thinking of it before anyone else does.  It means holding your tongue when falsely accused, and speaking up when others are unjustly treated.  It means steadying yourself spiritually when you know God’s will, but also know you might be inflicted with pain, consequences, even death for doing God’s will.  It means giving everything up for the sake of those you love, possessions, your plans, your future so that others’ needs can be met.  It means dying to yourself.

What does this look like for Christian men today? Frankly, many men in the American church tend to be spiritually weak (we are manly about football or hunting, but we are not courageous in doing the right thing; we are manly about stuffing our feelings, but we are not manly about working through issues in a direct and loving way; we are manly about swallowing our pride, but then we harbor resentment of unresolved issues). Women have taken up the “be strong and very courageous” mantra by steadying their home, spiritually.  By making sure all the needs are met, physically and emotionally.  By making sure discipleship happens.  By making sure church is a priority.  By making sure attitudes are in check between siblings.  And frankly, many men like it that way, but they are empty and don’t know why.  They know they should go to church, but don’t know why.  They know they should read the Bible with their wife, but chose sleep.  They know they should help their children study the word, but watch a TV show with them instead.

Men, we should be the first to say, “Church takes priority over baseball games on a Sunday.” or “Devotionals takes priority over TV.” or “Let me hear you heart; what does Jesus say we should do in that situation?” or “I support you.” or “I love you.” or “Here, let me do the dishes for you instead.” or “Just because everyone else is doing it doesn’t mean we are.” or “I will give up golf for my family while our kids are young.” or “Let’s use that money I would have used for a family vacation and help Joe down the street who has an $8000 medical bill.” or “Let’s go talk with Joe down the street.”

Men are others oriented, like Jesus.  Men don’t think of self, first; men think of God, first, then family.  A godly man doesn’t make his children and wife an idol, a godly man makes Jesus, “My Lord, my God.”

Men, behave like men.  Don’t dis GOD.  Don’t ignore Jesus who is knocking on your heart. Don’t displace the Holy Spirit and allow your flesh to be feed and corrupt your soul.  Act like men, be strong, and do it all in love.

GODSPEED

[1] Ben Witherington III, Conflict & Community in Corinth: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary on 1 and 2 Corinthians, p. 319.

[2] Cleon Rogers, The New Linguistic and Exegetical Key to the Greek New Testament, p. 390.

[3] Colin Brown, New International Dictionary of NT Theology, Vol. 2, p. 562.

[4] Craig Blomberg, The NIV Application Commentary: 1 Corinthians, p. 337.

[5] Chuck Swindoll, Living Insights, New Testament Commentary: 1 & 2 Corinthians, p. 269.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Ibid., p. 270.

Why come under Jesus’ Lordship?

Our goal at Grace Church Seattle is to reach seekers and unbelievers with the gospel of Jesus Christ. We who call on the name of the Lord for salvation are also called to make Jesus our Lord.  Making Jesus the Lord of your life is without question the goal of Christianity.  The goal is not your salvation alone.  The goal is not your comfort.  The goal is the glory of God and our enjoyment of a right relationship with Him through Jesus Christ.  And this only happens as we place ourselves under His Lordship.
.
We each are called to come under Jesus’ Lordship. But you will always feel like this is about rules so long as you misunderstand the gospel.  You will always feel like leadership is communicating like Pharisees until you understand the very meaning of the word gospel.
.
The english word “gospel” is “euangelizo,” which looks like the word “evangelize,” doesn’t it? That’s because it is the word to evangelize, but it means so much more.  It literally means “to tell the good news” or to evangelize about who is Lord.
.
In the Greek culture, to evangelize was to tell people that the Roman Emperor is Lord.  This was considered a statement of fact, and if you didn’t like it too bad, he was Lord.  To disrespect him as Lord (to speak ill of Caesar) or ignore his lordship (to disobey the rules of the Roman Empire) was treason, and warranted consequence.  The first century Roman citizen did not have the option to deny allegiance to the Emperor.  So when the Emperor would die and a new Emperor would be established, the heralds (preachers) would “evangelize” (or share the gospel) that there was a new Caesar.  Or if the Emperor changed a law, the heralds would evangelize so that everyone would be informed and comply with the news rules or decrees of the Empire.
.
Now take the above historical context and apply this to Jesus Christ.  The Gospel of Jesus is that He is Christ the Lord, and therefore all other “lords” or “emperors” or “kings” or “masters” are not; rather, Jesus is Lord and deserving of our allegiance.
.
This is either true, or it is not true.  If it is true, then no matter your religion or political persuasion, you are accountable for your response to the declaration: Jesus is Christ and Lord.  In other words, if Jesus really did rise from the grave and if He really is seated at the right hand of God the Father, then there are consequences for all human beings for their belief or disbelief.  If you disbelieve (and this is true), then you will go about your daily life but face consequences upon death and the day of reckoning.  If you believe, then you are called to conform your life to this belief.  The biblical word for believe is synonymous with trust and obedience.  So to believe Jesus is Lord and Savior to get salvation and not conform your life to His Lordship is to actively disbelieve even though you say you believe.  Even the demons believe and shudder (James 2:19).  Truly regenerating belief results in change of lifestyle because the Lord of one’s heart has transitioned from self or some other god to the Lord of the universe (Titus 3:4-8).
.
How does this related to the state of Grace Church Seattle? (i.e., what must we do with this information?)
.
We are called as a church — as individual citizens of heaven who on this earth come together for worship and ministry as a local body called Grace Church Seattle — to come under the Lordship of Jesus Christ as a community.
.
This is from the top-down and bottom-up.
.
Our leadership has been praying more in the last few years than we ever have.
.
Our leadership has been seeking the Lord’s vision for Grace Church to come under Jesus’ Lordship and follow His lead and His vision for Grace.
.
Our leadership has sought the Lord’s vision related to children’s ministry, youth ministry, Home Communities, worship on Sunday’s, investing in leader development, the investment in our worship director, the hiring of our newest pastor — and we believe we have heard of the Lord as we continue to move forward.
.
Now there is one thing that has been pressed on my heart that I believe is from the Lord for Grace Church — we need to unite to go out and evangelize.
.
I hear fear and trepidation when I speak with people about sharing the gospel.  It is true we have a psycho public school philosophy in Seattle that is scary for parents who need to make decisions if they should place their children in that environment; it is true that the morality of Seattle has shifted to the extreme progressive-liberal left since 2012 and Christians are smaller than a minority voice; it is true it has become very difficult to stand for the morality of Jesus in everyday conversations at work or on social media; and it is true that our families are facing enormous pressures financially, which cause stress in marriages and a current church-wide feeling amongst many women that they are under some kind of spiritual attack.  And I am sure there are many other crazy insights you or I could share, here, that would make us all feel like it is time to panic.  But as I sit, typing away, I feel a calm and the need to say — Jesus is Lord!
.
He can identify with you because He lived this life as a human being.  He faced trials and temptation and yet was without sin.  He stayed the course and achieved victory over sin – all the way to His death, for you.  And…He…was…raised!
.
You are a citizen of heaven and as Jesus is, so you will also be (1 Corinthians 15:22-23, 49).  You are a citizen of heaven, and His power resides in you through the deposit of the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 1:13; 2 Corinthians 1:22).  You are a citizen of heaven, and you will be transformed by His power when He comes, and until then we are to live…as… citizens…of…heaven (Philippians 3:20-21).
.
Don’t cower.
.
Don’t run by moving to another city with cheaper housing and conservative politics.
.
We are not called to have a Christ-Against-Culture mentality.  We are called to have a Christ-Transformer-of-Culture mentality. The Apostle Paul didn’t strategize to change the Roman Empire by heralding the gospel in the countryside.  He went to the city-center.  Like the hub of a bicycle wheel that transfers power from the center through the spokes to the rim where the rubber meets the road, so also the morality of our culture flows from city-centers to the rest of culture.

Seattle is a big hub.
.
This is why I feel called to Seattle. To impact and influence culture-changers. And I feel called to ask you, to compel you, to work with me to be a culture-changer.  Every sermon I preach doesn’t just have the goal to expound what the text says, rather every sermon has the goal to show you and your friends (believers or unbelievers) how the Gospel of Jesus — calling for our allegiance to His Lordship — makes us culture-changers.
.
Like I said, the goal of Christianity is not your comfort, not even your salvation (which is a primary goal and a huge part of what we do, but that is not the end); rather the goal of Christianity is transformed people who are under the Lordship of Jesus Christ and who make a real difference in this world.  And so I feel compelled to call for us, the committed at Grace Church, to band together in unity to become outward focused.
.
This will be the thrust of our vision and focus beginning in August as we prepare for the fall and as we gear up for the fruitfulness that I believe is ahead.
.
– 1 Corinthians 15:58
.
GODSPEED

What is Lent?

I went to a pastor’s meeting in West Seattle yesterday and saw a smudge on the forehead of a fellow pastor and thought, “What the heck?” and then remembered it was Ash Wednesday.

What is Lent?

The word “Lent” comes from an old Anglo-Saxon word for springtime, lencten.  This describes the gradual lengthening of days in the spring following the winter solstice. Lent has no meaning in itself other than to prepare us for Easter and new life in Christ. About a month and a half after Christmas, six weeks before Easter, the Church has historically begun Lent on Ash Wednesday.  Ashes of burned palm leaves from the previous year’s Palm Sunday and marked on the forehead of repentant sinners.  The following is how this tradition developed over time.

By the 2nd and 3rd century AD, Christians prepared for Easter as the holiest time of the year.  This was done in private because Christianity was not a legal religion in the Roman Empire until the beginning of the fourth century.

In the early church, baptism of new believers was in associated with the Easter Vigil. Because wolves in sheep’s clothing were intentionally trying to gain membership in the church to lead people astray, preparation for baptism took three years in the early church.  Christians were given catechesis instruction in doctrine (the Greek Katechein means “to teach”).  They were instructed to withdrawal from pagan practices and loyalties and they were taught in the new “way” of Christianity.  In the year they were admitted for candidacy of baptism and membership, during Lent they were instructed to engage in fasting and abstinence in preparation for the Easter season at which time they would be baptized into Christ and the new community (the “Church”) on Easter Sunday.

In the 4th to the 7th century AD, the Lenten season began on Ash Wednesday in preparation for Holy Thursday, some six weeks prior to Easter.  Preparation for baptism was joined by fasting and other practices for absolution from public sins and crimes. The goal became purity of the Church.  In the 7th century, the custom of the Catholic Church was for confessing sinners to be presented publicly before the Bishop and “expelled” from the congregation to symbolized the expulsion of Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden (“you are dust, to dust you will return” in Gen. 3:19).  They would thus live in “quarantine” for the forty days of Lent, abstaining from meat, alcohol, bathing, haircuts, shaves, marriage relations, and business transactions.  This was all in anticipation of of absolution on Holy Thursday, before Easter, which commemorates the Last Supper of Jesus our Lord.

In the Middle Ages, the emphasis was placed on personal rather than public sin.  As a result, traditions of Ash Wednesday were mitigated in such a way to incorporate all adults of the parish.  The emphasis was for all confessing Christians (those who claim to be believers) to “turn away from sin and be faithful to the gospel” (see Mark 1:15).

Three traditions have characterized Lent: (1) a somber atmosphere; (2) fasting and abstinence; and (3) devotions centered around the suffering Messiah.

Fasting and abstinence are two different disciplines.  Fasting is not a literal 40 day fast of no food.  Rather the purpose is to limit the quantity and quality of food during this time.   Actual fasting from food can take place during this season, but should be for a limited time.  When one feels the hunger pains, devote those moments to prayer.  Abstinence refers to the kind of food and drink one denies. For example meat and alcohol.  This promotes self-discipline and supports one’s prayers.  It cleanses oneself of previous abuse and sin.

Alms-giving and giving are promoted in conjunction with the discipline of fasting and abstinence.  The idea is to give of one’s surplus to help the needy or to help a mission.

It should be noted that fasting and abstinence is a voluntary practice.  All of Lent and the traditions that surround Lent do not save, they only remind us and point us to the One who does, Jesus Christ.

By grace you have been saved, through faith in Jesus Christ and not of your own works (like Lent) so that no one will boast (Eph. 2:8-9).  We are to boast in the Lord alone.  Lent simply reminds us of Christ’s suffering on our behalf and prepares us for the season that the gospel is most prevalent, Good Friday and Easter.

GODSPEED

%d bloggers like this: