Everyone loves the poor, until asked to share a meal in their home with one.
Everyone loves mercy, until they have to embrace the actual mess of inconvenient victims.
Everyone loves justice, until it disturbs their comfort zones.
Everyone loves the prophetic, until it exposes sin among them.
Everyone loves grace, until it calls them to repent.
Everyone loves love, until it speaks truth.
Someone asked if it is God’s will when evil happens.
I suspect it is God’s will that we have the right to reject Him and choose evil, because He wants us to have the related ability to freely choose the love, grace and rule He offers us.
I also suspect that He grieves with us at what some have done with those choices.
~ Jim Wright
Is it any wonder that a generation raised to believe it’s all about them has a hard time grasping that it’s all about God?
They are easy prey for those peddling God’s amazing grace, love and acceptance, while rejecting repentance, truth and change.
The greatest deceptions, however, involve half truths.
Unfortunately, there’s just too much of this going around these days, and it’s terminal when it comes to healthy believers and healthy ekklesia.
Among our fellowships, we keep it real.
We have to. We have no choice.
Continually, people are coming to the Lord through us from places of deep bondage and despair.
Tim Day, a fellow elder here in Virginia, is co-teaching a Biblical Foundations discipleship class with Sheri Warren and me on Sunday evenings.
That class pulls together folks from indigenous, participatory fellowships that are relating together in our county. Through it, the three of us – with help from other local elders – are helping to lay a foundation of sound doctrine in those churches through their emerging leaders.
Over the last few weeks we have focused on spiritual gifts, and the importance of everyone being able to encourage and minister to one another in our local fellowships as we each use the gifts God gives us for our mutual benefit.
This is the one year anniversary of a wedding I performed for Oscar and Nicole.
Marianne and I hosted the wedding in our home, and they are part of the fellowship that meets there.
I was very sick at the time, and had to have a stool beside me just in case I felt weak and needed to perform the ceremony sitting down. But I made it through on my own two feet and it was a great time of celebration!
This was a highlight of ministry for me. Oscar and Nicole mean a lot to Marianne and me, and are evidence of how God delights in redeeming lives.
Here’s more of the story…
Today is our wedding anniversary.
Our marriage is a testimony to the greatest gift two people can give each other: The ability to love, and be loved.
Critique of the Center Church by Tim Keller [Part 3], by Neil Cole
I like Tim Keller’s books. We even went to the same seminary and share many similar influences. But Neil Cole provides a needed critique on Keller’s latest book, which views churches as institutions.
The fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Gal 5:22-23 NIV
Self-control is the last fruit of the spirit. In life no one wants to be last. Somehow last implies that you don’t measure up, didn’t try hard enough or couldn’t quite do it. However, I don’t think being at the end of the list of fruit puts self-control in that same category.
I think self-control is like the parenthesis in math. For example, with (3+2) x (8+2) the math inside the parenthesis has to be completed first. You would get a totally different answer if the parentheses were missing from the equation.
In a sense love and self-control are like the parenthesis. They help group the other fruit. 1 Corinthians 13, the front parenthesis, reminds us that without love we can do nothing. Self-control comprises the back parenthesis.
Nearly a year has passed since I’ve been with the very first fellowship I helped start here in Virginia. I’ve missed them dearly.
Last night I got to be with them, share some stories of their beginnings, and convey a sense of God’s special pleasure and love towards them.
We all laughed and listened and talked – and there was life.
The fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace… Gal 5:22
I am reminded of a children’s song that the kids liked to sing when I taught at a Christian school years ago. The song is I’ve Got Peace Like a River.
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. (I Cor 13:4-7)
The fruit of the spirit is love….. (Gal 5:22)
The Lord’s kind of love is a seemingly impossible task. No one in themselves is able to sustain this love. I would like to say that this is the way that I love, but that would be a misrepresentation of the truth. My goal is to strive towards it.
Real people want real answers and real freedom from real issues – not just the tidy platitudes of half truths.
Maybe that’s what has shaped my strong reaction to hyper grace, which is really half grace: It cannot offer real freedom from real issues because it seeks the grace of God’s affirming love and presence, but not the grace of His transforming truth and rule.
Many Christians have lost their way by embracing “hyper grace”, which is really half grace – it robs them of the power to become mature disciples and the confidence needed to go forth as ambassador’s of God’s full grace.
Marianne and I have a plaque in our home which says:
“One who practices hospitality entertains God Himself.”
This week, look around and make an effort to see those who have no family or are going through hard times – then ask if they’d like to share Thanksgiving with you and your family at your home later this month.
This is love.
If you live outside the United States and don’t celebrate Thanksgiving, then use some other time of celebration. You will bless, and be blessed!
The greatest challenge facing the Church today are those who promote truth out of balance:
- Those who think the Person of Christ can be fractured from His concurrent propositional truths, moral precepts and commands;
- Those who want the vibrancy of the internal Living Word, without submitting all things to the authority and discipline of His written external Word;
- Continue reading
Don’t confuse God’s love and grace with His delight.
You can have the former, which is unmerited, but still miss the latter, which comes from doing His will and obeying His commands.
Are we living up to God’s plan for His body? What is His plan for His body? Are we all heart? Are we all head?
I believe a spider web exemplifies the body of Christ. A spider web is both beautiful and useful, but also very complex. The spider’s silk has the unique ability to become softer or stiffer depending on the stress the web receives. It is not stagnant but active. God so designed the spider’s web that when one strand breaks, the strength of the entire web actually increases.
God desires the same for His church. There are times when a situation requires softness and the “web” needs to reach out and actively demonstrate that attribute. In contrast, sometimes the body needs to show stiffness and resolve, so rushing to the rescue might not be the best answer.
You tell me how in Christ love is everything.
How it transcends morality, truth and even scripture itself…
How if we just expressed your concept of love, the world will beat a path to Jesus…
Yet you recoil at basic truth, like the reality of sin and moral precepts.
And you reject much that God has revealed in His Word to help us understand His own nature and thus the parameters of authentic love – for the good not just of individuals, but whole societies.
Somehow, you have been deceived into thinking that authentic love is freedom from truth, when actually it is truth set free.
This afternoon, Marianne and I are hosting an outdoor wedding by our pool for a couple in one of our fellowships.
One of my greatest delights is seeing God redeem lives, and being part of that process – especially when it comes to performing weddings for men I’ve mentored in the Lord.
The groom is someone I got to know while he was in jail, where I helped introduce him to Jesus. Since his release several years ago, I’ve had the privilege of continuing to walk with him as he’s learned to let the Lord put his life back together.
There were some hard stretches, like when he ended up living in the woods, homeless, for several months while God burned some unhealthy attitudes out of him. Some would have rushed out in “mercy” to save him from that fate, but I knew that it was what the Lord wanted. So rather than “save” him from being homeless, I drove him to the store to pick out a tarp for his tent, then dropped him off at the homeless “community” behind the local K-Mart.
Rather than run from what the Lord was doing in his life, he manned up to his issues and let God do His sovereign work of transformation. I was privileged to be there for him as an older brother in the faith, and to help him during that difficult time go to those places in his life where he finally got real and allowed the Lord to bring healing.
Since then, he’s been on a fascinating journey as he’s been developing his own successful business. I’ve had the privilege of helping as a trusted counselor, based on my own entrepreneurial background. In fact, he was the subject of a TV program that was broadcast last year on several local stations about some of what we do in our fellowships to mentor folks – including business.
Since then, he has grown greatly in the Lord and is one of those brothers who is always there when someone needs help.
God delights in bringing beauty from ashes. Today, we celebrate yet another step in yet another man’s journey as he continues to grow in the authentic life in Christ – along with is wonderful bride.
As I perform the wedding, I will share about what marriage is about – as God created and ordained it. As we see the institution of marriage assaulted on all sides, maybe we need to re-affirm these principles.
So here’s part of my “pastoral” charge for the new couple:
“In Genesis 1, Scripture tells us that God created humanity in His likeness and image. I believe He did this by putting His essentially masculine qualities into men, and putting those aspects of His nature that are more feminine, into women. That’s why, I believe, the Bible says He created us as male and female.
“He then ordained the institution of marriage, which represents the coming together of those masculine and feminine qualities so that we, in marriage, can reflect the completeness of His own nature – in unity of purpose, in the security of lifelong fidelity, and in the bonds of joyful, sacrificial love.
“The challenge, and the delight, of marriage is learning to honor and esteem those essential differences that we possess as husband and wife …”
To Oscar and Nicole, may the Lord bless you and keep you.
May the Lord make His face shine upon you and be gracious unto you.
May the Lord turn His countenance upon you and give you peace.
Yesterday’s wedding of Oscar and Nicole was one of the most amazingly joyous celebrations we’ve ever had the pleasure of hosting at our house. Life was breaking out all over. And the dancing as awesome.
Marianne and I want to thank everyone who came for your help. It was the Body of Christ – and community – in all it’s glory.
The way everyone pitched in, especially when we had to figure out at the last hour how to move everything indoors due to the rain, was a blessing beyond measure. We totally enjoyed ourselves – which is something hosts can’t often say.
Here’s a couple of pictures. We Christian’s sure know how to have some fun!
As my close friends know, for the last seven years I’ve been dealing with a rare autoimmune condition called scleroderma (also known as systemic sclerosis).
Recent medical tests indicate that it is now impairing my lungs. This is a progressively debilitating and likely fatal development, and there is no known cure. I was not surprised by the latest test results, as I’ve been feeling my health deteriorate more rapidly over the last several months.
I’m posting this to be transparent and so none of my friends feel blindsided. I am totally open about what’s happening, and not bashful over it, so don’t feel you have to ignore it when you’re around me. If you have questions or want to just talk about it, feel free!
However, I also do not want it to define me. My life has been, and will continue to be, about so much more than this disease!