On occasion we read international news stories that detail how people seeking safety will make a mad dash to an embassy Whether because of political, legal or some other issue, the people have gotten into some trouble with the local officials and they need asylum. They need protection.
While stories like this pique our interests they seem foreign. They might as well be tales from another world. Most of you reading this blog live in a nation that affords you tremendous safety and privilege. We don’t feel this type of pressure.
Yesterday after a lunch meeting with a friend downtown I was approached by a young artist. He asked me to listen to his music through his headphones and see if I like it. Since the headphones looked less than clean this was not much of an option. Instead I asked him to break out one of his favorites there on the corner. The young hip-hop artist obliged and got loose with his rhymes.
As he got going three things were clear: 1) He was good, 2) He was smart, 3) He was angry. And I don’t mean angry in the “gangsta” sense but in the anarchy sense. My man wanted to “occupy” something (or someone). Continue Reading…
This video is just the type of thing that will be played repeatedly to promote the caricature of Christianity. As I type it is going viral and doing just that.
Let me be clear: this guy is a horrible representation of Christ and his church. He should be removed from the pulpit. Pastors are to be setting the example of speech, conduct, love, faith and purity (1 Tim. 4.12). This guy strikes out on 3 pitches.
Last week I wrote about challenges for evangelicals amid this new season of sexual debate. This is exactly what I was saying not to do.
It means that we better be clear about the problem. Far too many times I have heard evangelicals talk about homosexuality like our job was to get them to become heterosexual. If we can just get them to be straight then our work is done. The Christian objective in missions is to see people become Christians! This means that we want to see all sexual sinners become worshipers of Jesus. This includes fornicators, adulterers, porn-addicts, homosexuals, or whatever other category you can think up. The goal is to become a believer who turns from the worship of self to the worship of God. It is to turn from rebellion that is characterized by the suppression of truth to the submission that is characterized by obedience to the truth (Rom. 1.18-25; 3.19-27). The central issue is worship, or idolatry. The central answer is always the gospel.
It means that we better be clear about our tone. Can you lovingly engage a homosexual with the gospel in a winsome, tactful and still faithful way? Can you love them? This is really a question that I think evangelicals need to wrestle with and decidedly answer “yes, we must!” Pivoting out of the points above, that is out of the gospel, we have to see our own weakness and neediness. Who among us is not needy of the grace of Christ? Then we must lovingly and faithfully talk to others about it. If you can’t get control of yourself and speak the words of grace and truth to someone who is straight or gay then you need to ask God to give you a bigger heart. Ask him to shake you of pride and work gospel compassion down into you. I know that God is saving a lot of people from a gay lifestyle and I pray that he will continue to do so. As missionaries we need to speak and act like we actually want him to.
About 9 months ago we transitioned to a more formalized membership at Emmaus. The elders’ plan was to interview everyone who wanted to be a member, even if you were a member of our core group. Over the next several months the elders were supremely blessed by the richness of the meetings. We heard so many stories of God’s grace coming from various contexts. This opened our eyes to the many ways in which God works daily in people’s lives.
The meetings also opened our eyes to better know the strengths and weaknesses of the collective members. As people talk you hear theology, practice, habits, and worldview. As a preaching pastor this is gold for me. It helps me to see blindspots that we may have as a church and to consider how to address them.
Some practical questions to ask yourself after a membership meeting: Continue Reading…
Should churches actively speak to political issues? This is a question that comes up whenever an election cycle is upon us. In this morning’s edition of USA Today in an article entitled Churches Tread Lightly in Politics in 2012 the contention is that churches are getting the message and staying away from political issues:
Instead, they’re revamping how congregations mobilize voters by focusing on a broader set of issues than in the past. Preachers are largely avoiding the political fray, and hot-button social issues are relegated to simmer in low-profile church study groups.
Why? For one, Americans are growing impatient with religious politicking: 54% want houses of worship to keep out of politics (up from 52% in 2008 and 43% in 1996), according to the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life. Churches seem to be responding.
Is this right? Are churches compromising their mouthpiece that could bring social change?
If you are like me sometimes you literally dream about lengthy gospel discussions with unbelievers. Sometimes these dreams come true but oftentimes they don’t. A lot of of people simply don’t want to engage on the topic.
I experienced something entirely different a few days ago however. We as a church have recently moved into a 100-plus year old building in an urban and very active area. We conveniently located right next to a high-school and a result there is a lot of natural traffic. We have been trying to build some relational bridges with students and other folks who enjoy loitering around our building. Some of it is simply practical: we want to discourage graffiti. But most of it is missional: we want to talk about the gospel with them.
Years ago my wife and I met a newlywed couple that provided us with no small amount of comic relief. This was seen starkly one day at a church meeting when we met them in the parking lot and the wind was at their back. We smelled garlic–a lot of garlic! As they approached it was overwhelming. Behind a full-toothed grin the new hubby said, “My wifey can cook!”
During the events of the morning we got disconnected. My wife and I tried to find them but were unsuccessful. That is, until my wife channelled her inner Sherlock, she said: “Pick up the garlic scent.” We found the trail of garlic and quickly tracked them down.
As Christians we understand that there is a difference between exposure to biblical truth and consumption of it. The difference of course is that it (the truth) gets down into you. It proliferates everything about you. It seeps into your heart. It reorientates your mind. It recalibrates what you love. It orders what you do. As a result of consuming biblical truth we leave a scent behind. Like my friends who walked among a hazy fog of garlic we as Christians should be leaving a refreshing incense cloud of the grace of Christ.