Reckless Worship - Good and Gracious King

Good and Gracious King is a song written by a group you probably have never heard of. CityALight is the music and song writing ministry out of St. Paul’s Castle Hills Church located just outside of Sydney in Australia. Their songs have are creative, singable and full of rich teaching from God’s word. I was introduced to them a couple of months ago and they have dominated my playlist in the car. Good and Gracious King is one of several that I absolutely love - because it both focusses on the personal benefit of the gospel for a sinner and the praise to the one who saves.

The first verses begins with an echo of Isaiah 6 - I approach throne of glory - reminding the singer how we come (needy) and what we receive (acceptance) simply because of the graciousness of God. The second part reminds us of the glorious exchange we receive because of the cross - our burdens are taken upon Jesus and He gives us his strength. The chorus breaks forth in praise…God you deserve the glory, you need nothing, I have nothing, but you accept me. This refrain helps to redirect the attention off of us and back to the one who saves us - everything in this world, including salvation is all about one thing - God’s glory and he deserves all of it.

The next verse again reminds us of the change because of the work of christ - we were orphans, we are now children; we were enemies, but we are now friends. This reality again invokes the praise of the chorus - God deserves the glory. The bridge again echoes back to Isaiah 6 - Holy, Holy, Holy and interpreting for us what happens when Isaiah’s lips are touched - God is good and gracious.

There are many sings that are too focussed on us - but some will criticize deeper theological songs or hymns for not focussing enough on how we feel or what the gospel has done for us. This song bridges both - it is full of rich theological content and a consistent refrain of praise that is motivated by the character, life, death and resurrection of Jesus.

There are many new songs (and old songs for that matter) that should be left out of the repertoire of music leaders in churches, but this (and many other CityALight songs) is not one of them. This is a great song that I hope our church will be adding to our list soon. If you have not listened to other CityALight songs like "Yet Not I But Christ Through Me or I Want To Know You I would highly recommend them to you - new, fresh, biblical - worship…




















Reckless Worship - Should We Sing "Won't Stop Now"

Recently I heard noticed several churches in our area were singing this song - I had never heard it before. We sing a lot of new, fresh songs in our church, so I am always curious to find new songs that would be singable for our Sunday gatherings. Typically I will listen the song while reading the lyrics to understand not just what is being said but what those words mean.

There are some encouraging things about this song. While God’s or Jesus name is not mentioned specifically it is obvious He is the object of the praise and It starts out with praise for all God has done in the singer/song writers life and expressing a desire to now be ready to follow where ever God will lead. The second verse is also positive - expressing that in every season (good and bad) that God’s grace is enough and directing attention ahead - to some point in the future - where things will be better. The early apostles want us as disciples of Jesus to fix our eyes on heaven & eternity where all things will be as they should be and Jesus is on the throne ruling as King over everything - with everything under his feet once and for all for ever.

However, the chorus and the bridge of the song give greater context to what the author is desiring - “Your presence is an open door; We want You, Lord Like never before; Your presence is an open door So come now, Lord Like never before.” It is hard to know what the author desires - is he longing for heaven - or is he longing for some kind of extra experience of Jesus in the here and now. In some ways desiring God’s presence more is a good thing but don’t we have God’s presence fully through the indwelling of Jesus in us & the presence of the spirit in followers of Jesus. Is there some part of the presence of the Spirit that we lack or that we do not have. That would seem to contradict what Paul says in the New Testament about the presence of God in our lives. It is true we can grieve the spirit and we can choose to walk in step with the spirit but are we lacking the presence of God and in need of some kind of secondary blessing of the God in our lives. God says he has given us everything we need for life and godliness already. In fact - Jesus tells his disciples that it is a good thing that He (Jesus) is not here with us - he sends the spirit to us and that is exactly what we need - do we need more? The desire for the presence of God, either in Spirit or in Jesus, does not appear to be a future focussed experience at the return of Jesus but something in the present.

The bridge further digresses - “I know breakthrough is coming, By faith I see a miracle, My God made me a promise And it won't stop now”. What breakthrough we are singing about is very unclear - we are anticipating the coming of Jesus - but that does not appear to be the focus. What miracle are we be faith oping in - release from some experience we are enduring, monetary success, physical healing. The bridge sounds like the refrain of a health and wealth gospel teacher on TBN. Clinging to God’s promises is a good thing but what promise specifically are we clinging to - his presence, his forgiveness, his return. There is a great deal of ambiguity of what we are hoping in - it could be all of God’s promises - but why not just speak to or talk about a couple specifically - that God will never leave us, that we will be resurrected, that we have a future in the heavenly places with the King. And the repetitive nature of the bridge ending with “I won’t stop now” sounds motivating - like a cry at a pep rally - but what will we not stop - believing, obeying, trusting, following.

The song itself has so little specific biblical content that it could be sung by Mormons, Jehovah Witnesses, Muslims and probably just about any other religion because there is no focus on Jesus, the cross, or the empty tomb - While a good song does not need to have all of those things in it to be sing worthy, it would seem some kind of uniquely Christian content would be great since we are “Christians”.

The song is vibrant musically - the song certainly is popular among many churches - but the song is lacking - it might easily cultivate emotions of joy or reflection but joy & reflection in what is left to the imagination. Maybe it is meant to be intentionally non specific so that way no matter what tradition you come from - you can sing it.

“Won’t Stop Now” certainly does not fall in the tradition of songs that teach as Ephesians and Colossians tell us our singing is to do. It does invoke a command to not stop - but what we are not stopping is unclear. As a pastor myself, I would not want this song sung at the church I attend because it does not direct us to anything of substance. Sure it is an expression of praise and a call to follow - but where we are following, who we are praising and where we are going is anybody’s guess. I do see a miracle coming - it is the return of Jesus. I do see a breakthrough - when every knee will bow & every tongue confess that Jesus is Lord tot he glory of God the Father. And God did make me a promise - but the promise is that He Won’t Stop - he won’t stop his plan, he won’t stop his work in me & he won’t stop the advancement of the gospel until every person who he has said will be saved is saved.

Next week we will look at the song “Good And Gracious King”

Dealing With Sins of the Heart

Preparing for the release of his new film, Cold Pursuit, Liam Neeson told an interviewer of a time that he felt rage in his heart after a friend of his was raped. In the interview Neeson said, nearly 40 years ago, he was so angry, that after hearing the rapist was a black man, he walked around the street with a club, looking forwany black man to kill. “It really shocked me, he said, this primal urge I had. It shocked me and it hurt me. I did seek help, I went to a priest… I had two really good friends that I talked to. And believe it or not, power walking, to get rid of this.”

Soon after his revelation many have responded to Neeson calling for boycott, calling him a racist and even wanting him digitally removed from an upcoming movie. Neeson’s response to the incident, he acknowledged in the interview was wrong, and are not satisfied with his response.

I actually found something remarkably profound about his honesty, the reality of change in a persons life and the need for greater confession for sins of the heart. People generally will acknowledge or confess sins that are public and known - if there is irrefutable video evidence of a crime or an act of violence, it would take great delusion & self deception refuse to admit it. But how many of us have committed sins in our heart, in our minds, things no one will ever see - how many of us will confess that to God much less anyone who actually knows us.

Neeson himself recognized the horror of his heart and actions 40 years ago - he was appalled by his heart then and now. But how often are we similarly appalled by the anger, violence, wrath or hatred in our hearts. How often do we confess what we are feeling or thinking - to others - so that there is both real confession and real accountability.

As followers of Jesus, we of all people should have an awareness of the wickedness that are hearts are capable of. We of all people should be able to have real self reflection about not just what we do, but say, think and feel. And we should have the confidence in Christ to be able to speak to others openly and honestly about what we feel, the sinfulness of our attitudes, our need for the healing power of Jesus and the accountability of others to help keep us from falling into that slippery slope again in the future.

I don’t know Neeson’s heart - he seemed since in the inappropriateness of his anger years ago. But I do not know the wickedness of my own heart - what I have thought, dreamed or desired would be appalling to Rolling Stone or anyone else who could peer into my soul. In fact, the one who does see into my inner parts, knows the depth of my sin - yet this is what makes the salvation through Jesus Christ all the more amazing - his grace - knowing fully well my depravity - extended to me - while I was yet as sinner Christ died for me and for us.

Don’t be deceived friends - what Liam Neeson admitted - is no doubt true of you - you may have thought or done worse - no one else may know your true intentions -but God does - so cling to him, trust in his grace, and confess honestly - he is faithful and just to forgive.

Liam Neeson appeared on Good Morning America Tuesday to discuss his controversial statements about a racist revenge fantasy he harbored decades ago after a friend of his was raped. “I’m not a racist,” Neeson told GMA‘s Robin Roberts. “This was nearly 40 years ago.”

Neeson retold the story, which first appeared in an interview with The Independent after a journalist asked him how he tapped into roles centered around revenge (as in his upcoming film, Cold Pursuit). According to Neeson, after he learned that his friend’s attacker was black, he spent several nights walking around predominately black areas with a heavy stick, looking for conflict so that he could fight, and possibly kill.

On GMA, Neeson spoke about the moment he finally realized what he was doing, saying, “It really shocked me, this primal urge I had. It shocked me and it hurt me. I did seek help, I went to a priest… I had two really good friends that I talked to. And believe it or not, power walking, to get rid of this.”

Roberts pressed Neeson about the backlash to his Independent interview, noting one criticism in particular: that the actor apparently didn’t ask his friend for any other physical details about her attacker besides his race. Neeson clarified that he did ask about other physical attributes, and maintained that his reaction would’ve been the same had she been raped by anyone else.



The Old Testament, The Gospel and Heresy

Most heretics and false teachers never step into false doctrine intentionally with a desire to destroy the church. In most cases, these misguided theologians and pastors are often trying to protect the church - ironically from scripture itself. They are often concerned about possible misunderstandings and abuse of God’s word. Their efforts are admirable in a sense - even if their efforts are dangerously wrong.

The heretic word is thrown around way too often today - if someone disagrees with your view of Ecclesiology or Eschatology - the H word is thrown around faster than you can say John Calvin.

Sometimes the description of heretic or heresy can be appropriate. Sometimes some pastors are dangerously close to falling into false teaching. It is a slippery slope - and someone can slip quickly.

Al Mohler draws attention in the article below to a dangerous trend by some in the church - unhitching the Old Testament from our Gospel Ministry. His words are poignant and relevant to the situation of the day - it is worth a read…not to attach the labels of heretic to others but to make sure you don’t fall into the same heresy that has destroyed so many others through out the years.

Read the Al Mohler Article Here.

Is it OK to get attached to a foster child?

By Ashley Gorman

“How can you get so attached to foster children when you could lose them?’ Of all the foster care questions, this is by far the most common. This question assumes a very clear and universal premise: parenting involves attachment. And when it comes to foster care, parenting requires serious heart-labor without any guarantees of permanency.

I feel especially soft toward this question, as two different foster children have come and gone through our home over the past two years. I was their temporary mom. I’ve thought, “I could love you. I could invest, and teach, and bathe, and clean, and snuggle, and sing you to sleep. And one day, after all that, you could just leave. And there’s nothing I could do about it. These questions once swirled in my mind: “Can I love with those odds? Can I really do this? Can I offer my whole heart knowing it might wobble out the door in the custody of a social worker one morning?”

A change in perspective

I thought I needed to answer these questions, until the Lord showed me otherwise. My husband and I were at a foster-parent-small-group of sorts. What struck me was that, while these parents were talking about themselves a little bit—their struggles, tears, and frustrations—the majority of the time was spent talking about the kids and their families. The group was obviously about others, not self.  

And it hit me: There are children who are daily being pulled out of all sorts of situations they cannot handle, and my questions about it have nothing to do with them and everything to do with me. If I say I want to live considering others’ interests as more important than my own, why don’t any of my questions have to do with the child? For example, “What will happen to them if I say no?” I had a perspective shift on what foster care means for the child instead of me. I started asking, “What’s the biggest thing these kids need during the trauma they face?”

Understanding attachment

The best thing a child can get while going through trauma—the big factor that gives them the chance to develop emotionally, spiritually, physically, mentally, and academically—is attachment. It’s the thing child development experts say divides those who continue forward normally and those who have (usually) irreversible damage to their coping skills, life choices, social interactions, emotional stability, and mental health. The one thing I’m terrified to give is, ironically, the one thing they desperately need to survive.

I have the resources I need if I have to face grief over losing a little one—a healthy marriage, a church support system, an extended family, access to other foster parents, proximity to good counselors, and a job. But a potential foster child is most likely in a situation that looks nothing like mine. So, who has the best resources to make it through loss? Why would I deprive a child of the one thing she needs to survive that loss?

What to do with the heartbreak

The reality is that there’s no such thing as parenting without heartbreak. Natural, adoptive, or foster parent, none of us get through this thing unscathed. As much as everyone hates thinking about it, we all run the risk of losing a child after years of investment. They could run away. They could hate us and end up estranged. They could, God forbid, have a short life. We could die unexpectedly, and they could end up in the home of one of our family members.

On top of that, we end up letting them go eventually anyway—whether that means they leave the nest for college or a job or marriage. All moms and dads put their heart on the line without guarantees. Foster parents simply choose which type of heartbreak they face. Not even God gets through parenting without pain. Often his children bring him sorrow and grief in the Scriptures. So why do I think I’m exempt?

A holy heartache

After a season with us, one of our foster kids left us to live with his aunt and other siblings. I knew it was very good thing for him, but some days I found myself crib-side, bawling like the little one who used to be in it. Loving that little boy (and the little girl who came after him) ripped me in half, and God is still mending the tear.

Since we became friends with his aunt and uncle, we got to visit him in his new home. We got to see him reunited and playing with his sisters. They were dancing, playing, laughing, and reading books together. They were all entirely different children because they were finally reunited. And I watched this baby boy, now wobbling around on his own two feet, bouncing up and down to music and holding the book I used to read to him every day.

My mind put a fragmented, flurry of thoughts together on our way out the door. He’s happy here. The time he spent with us was important. And his family is almost at the point of reuniting with him fully. God is doing a work in their family to bring them back together, because God is always in the business of redemption. I suppose he had to go somewhere for that time. He ended up with us; and now, somehow, he’s where a child should be at his age.

All of this was because we got attached. No matter what his life holds in the future, I can deal with the crib-side tears now because I know he got what he needed—mind, body, and spirit— in that little season of his life. In fact, the sorrow brings me a strange joy. The tears are my confirmation, my proof, that he got the bonds he needed to grow. I rejoice knowing that my holy heartache has a purpose, and all that investment made a developmental difference in his life.

The gospel and the God who got attached

In a very real sense, my loss was his gain. I know it sounds cliché, but because of foster care, I understand Jesus more than I ever have before—the one who willingly chose unimaginable pain and loss so we could have life. Jesus faced a cross because our attachment to him was more important to him than the fear of pain. He could certainly live without attachment to us, but, just like a foster child, we could not make it without attachment to him.

Remember, attachment is how we enter the Divine family and develop as his children. Union with Christ, or attachment in a sense, is how we are reconciled to the Father and brought into his family (John 1:12; 2 Cor. 5:17; 1 Cor. 6:17; 1 Pet. 3:18). Staying attached to the Vine is how we continue to grow (John 15:5; Gal. 2:20). It’s crucial to our development. Attachment, for us, is everything, too.

Counting the cost  

You will have to count the cost of becoming a foster parent. It will cost you—your heart, time, and fears. But because we are the people of the cross, who consider the interests of others as more important than our own, the most significant cost we can count is that of the child’s. What they might gain or lose should be our main concern.

I’m not saying any of it is easy. Fear and loss are an unavoidable part of all parenting, and life. So, if you’re considering foster care, I’m asking you to choose to love the children. Offer them the very thing that Christ offered you. And instead of fearing what you will lose after you bond with them, allow what they would lose without your care to frighten you more.

 

 

Proper National Anthem Etiquette

Monday morning, September 25, 2017, we are bombarded again with reports & articles about what grown men are doing when the National Anthem is being played.  Men & women from all parts of the country are debating, arguing, tweeting (including myself) & venting about what is appropriate - Stand, Kneel, Sit, Walk around, eat a banana, wear your hat, eyes closed...you get the idea.   

Now in all fairness, I consider myself pretty patriotic.  My grandfathers were both veterans in the military during war time.  Some of my extended family served for various lengths of time in the armed forces.  My father was a Lieutenant Colonel in the United States Army and a Chaplain for more than 20 years.  He was no stranger to combat - serving twice in the Gulf Wars.  I grew  up around the military; I wore proudly as a kid my own pair of fatigues & jump boots (82nd Airborne), watching the pomp and circumstance, the honor & dignity that the soldiers showed, & even today my favorite football day is the Army-Navy Game (Go Army Beat Navy!). 

I understand much of the frustration that many are having in regards to professional athletes & their response to the playing of the National Anthem.  I have also been particularly fascinated with the response of many Christian patriots:  the disgust for the athletes, the rhetoric of anger & hostility towards those who share a different opinion.  The idea that someone could dishonor, show disrespect or show disunity has gotten many just plain spitting mad.  

But I can't help contemplate a level of hypocrisy from many followers of Jesus on this matter.  I hear the rants:  "show respect & honor", "you are spitting on the graves of the armed forces" or "if you don't like it just leave the country".  But how many of these same Christian patriots consistently & intentionally show dishonor & a lack of respect to King Jesus:  those who sit in services on Sunday refusing to open their mouths & lift up praise to King Jesus because they "don't sing".  Or those who can not put down their phones & turn off Facebook for 45 minutes to listen to a message from scripture by their pastor.  What about those who can't seem to find the discipline to arrive to a  service on time, ready to engage, fellowship, & grow in Christ.  Or those who take their commitment to Christ and his local church (membership for some of you) as something expendable & passing so that the first time they hear something they don't like they are off to another church or no church at all.  What about the Christian who defends the President of the United States when he calls men (of all races) "sons of b....." or the Christian who calls the president a card carrying member of the KKK (do we no longer read our bibles well enough or at all to know such dishonor & disrespect is forbidden in the Old & New Testaments).  What about the 18 year old Christian who does not respect & honor his parents, boss, teacher, or for that matter Jesus when he/she cheats, gets drunk, lies, worships money or has sex outside of marriage.  Or the husband (or wife) who has shown dishonor to his/her spouse with laziness, anger, un-forgiveness or marital affairs.  What about those who spit on the cross & the empty tomb when they continue to engage in the very sin that Jesus died to cover & gave them the power of the spirit to overcome.  

I guess what I am struggling with is why many are in an uproar the over disrespect of the flag while simultaneously showing dishonor, disrespect & un-allegiance to the name of Jesus, the cross or their local church.  Remember, even while we are Americans, as Russell Moore says, we are Americans best when we are not Americans first.  Our ultimate true allegiance is not a to a flag but to a King; it is not to a country but to a kingdom; it is not to the Star Spangled Banner but a new anthem of Heaven: “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!” (Revelation 5) .  It seems many followers of Jesus in America are not Christian Americans but rather American Christians and their ultimate allegiance is bound up in the flag & a political party rather than the cross & the Kingdom of Christ.

The whole battle of the anthem as it were is probably not going to end soon.  There are people on both sides of the issue who are raising the stakes with dishonesty, misrepresentation & over generalization that makes a real dialogue almost impossible.  Even the NFL can not make up its mind:  "we want our players to exercise their rights as citizens to protest" & then figuratively crucify a player who exercised his right NOT to protest (Look up Pittsburgh Steelers for more).   Church, is this really a battle we should dig our heels in on.  Should we be leading the charge to vilify the protestor even if we think they are wrong.  Should we be mocking the athlete or laughing at vulgarity coming from Pennsylvania Avenue.  Are there not much more pressing issues we should be concerned about as followers of Jesus: like sharing the gospel of Jesus (not America) with every man, woman & child we have the privilege of meeting, knowing or interacting with; or serving the elderly couple of widow in our church by inviting them over or out for dinner; or pursuing to know Jesus as our greatest treasure (even greater than the National stamp on our passport.  

Continue to show proper etiquette for the National Anthem & the flag:  stand or salute or place your hand over your ears as the American Flag passes you; hold it there until the last note of the Anthem is played or sung, stand for & give attention to the national anthems of other nations as well but let's start taking seriously what it means to honor Christ & his kingdom right now too.   At the end the day as much as I love my country (and I do), as much as I show respect for our flag & our anthem & the men & women who fought for it (and I do - thanks Dad), as much as I sing with joy our national anthem (and I do - usually in full harmony) & hope that the freedom it represents will continue for generations to come; I want to be more concerned that the Mexicans, Iranians, Indians (which ever kind you think of first), Germans, British, Japanese, & yes even North Koreans will learn to sing a better anthem ("Worthy Is The Lamb"); to recite a greater pledge ("I believe Jesus is the Christ"); to become citizens of a better kingdom (The Kingdom of Christ) and to find their identity in a greater leader (King Jesus).  

One day soon Jesus will gather people of all nations, languages, flags & anthems around his throne - some will bow in worship before the Savior King; others will bow in submission to a conquering King - but all will see clearly that there is only one allegiance that really matters.  Maybe we should make a little more clearly where our allegiance lies even now.  I know where mine lies (Follower of Christ, Husband, Father, Friend, Pastor, Son, Son-in-law, Grandson, American)....Do you?!?

 

13 Reasons Why

If you have a teenager in your house you have probably heard whispers or rumblings about the Spring show on Netflix that has captured the attention of high school students, parents, schools, & psychologists across the country.  It is based on the book of the same name, chronicling the days after a girl killed herself after a litany of abuses she underwent from her classmates & others she trusted.  This is a tragic enough story - a young girl felt she had no other option but to take her own life because of the pain afflicted on her by others.  This is where they show begins...

But the rest of the series details a "gift" she leaves for the 13 people who were at the center of her decision to commit suicide - tapes that explains the "why" to those who were complicit in the abuse - either from bullying, rape, or simply doing nothing when it became clear she was having problems.  

The TV show is graphic - both in its portrayal of rape and suicide.  The show is vulgar in its dialogue.  The show in some sense portrays many of the realities and struggles that high school students face - often because of bullying and abuse by their peers.  In many ways the show opens up dialogue about things that often do not get discussed.  Suicide is unfortunately all to common among young people - many have followed through on it - many more have considered it or attempted it.  Because of this reality many believe that "13 Reasons Why" is the right show to begin an important dialogue at the right time with students & parents alike.   

But I think the show is dangerous & the dialogue it begins might lead to answers & conclusion that are counter intuitive to the problem of teen suicide in our culture and provide no lasting hope for those who feel they have no other option but to kill themselves.   There are two great reviews of the show by Christian commentators - Russell D Moore writes on on his blog; so does the Gospel Coalition.  

My own teenage daughter came home asking about the show that her peers were talking about.  My wife watched the entire show with her - spending time talking about themes, concerns, & problems with the content and portrayal.  I watched two episodes myself.  My concerns about the show are this.

1)  It appears suicide is being used as an attempt at Revenge to those who have wronged the main character.  Through the tape, she is getting justice, as each persons listens to it, comes to grips with their role in her death.  In a sense, this could make suicide more palatable to some - people are causing pain, the pain won't stop, so I will inflict pain on them from the grave.  She kills them emotionally.  I feel this will actually lead to more suicide not less.  

2) It makes the main character look like a martyr:  she is fighting a larger evil than suicide - bullying.  Her death leads to a greater good so to speak.   This is why I think so many think this show is a good conversation starter on this subject.  But it appears that essentially - the main character becomes the bull after she takes her own life - bullying her classmates & peers with accusations of guilt (some real, some may not be).  The bullied becomes the bullier.  

3)  It makes suicide seem like the best answer to the problem.  Was suicide & the subsequent tapes the only way to reconcile what has happened to this girl?  Does it make anything better?  Well for the girl - we get to see this alternate reality - almost as if her life carries on in a "galaxy far far away".  But lets be honest - the girl is dead.  She is not going to haunt anyone.  She gets no second chance when her friends realize they are complicit role in all this. There is no second time line she goes on living with joy - she is gone.  All the appearances we see of her can make us forget that she is no longer alive.  The main character feels justified in both her actions to take her life and to leave the tape - but she never gets to see their response to all this, she is never vindicated - all this leave is more unresolved pain upon pain.

4)  There is no hope presented.  Once the students all feel guilty - once they all listen to the tape - once the parents burry their daughter - then what.  No resolution is offered.  No hope is presented.  No answer to the problem of guilt, suffering, pain, abuse, or depression.  In a lot of ways, great questions may be raised but he audience is left to figure out what the answers to those questions are.  Even if everyone in the show recognizes their guilt - then what.  

I don't recommend the show.  But I do know that there will certainly be some curiosity from both parents and teens alike - Even my own daughter said the show was so real to her own high school experience.  A few suggestions for you if you are already allowing your teen to watch the show or thinking about it.  a) this show is not for those under the age of 16.  we live in a culture where we always assume our children are more mature than everyone else and even if a movie says PG-13 our 6 year old can handle it - we often let our kids grow up too soon by exposing them to things they are not ready to see or hear in their youthfulness.   there are far more productive ways to talk about bullying, abuse, sexuality, and suicide with your teen than this show.  it is graphic and vulgar and will not help in most cases.  b) if you are going to allow your older teen to watch the show - watch every episode with them - at the end of each episode talk about what you saw, heard or felt.  Direct your teen to issues of morality and holiness.  Ask how the gospel speaks to what is mentioned in the show .  Explain how the gospel provides hope for the guilty, sick, abused and depressed.  Talk about how the lead characters actions are simply instilling more pain - on her peers, parents, or strangers.  c) ask your teens to be honest with you about things they experience - bullying, abuse or other forms of pain.  tell them you are ready to listen and to understand - that you are there to help and that suicide does not help anything but only compounds the pain on those left behind.  

Finally - remind your children that all sins - including bullying, abuse, sexual, and even suicide - remind us of our guilt before God and that only hope for anyone is the precious blood of Jesus shed on the cross - he took our guilt and paid for it completely so that even our darkest past sins can be atoned for.  Remind them that Jesus (and the church) is an "oasis of faith, hope and love in a world of doubt, despair and hatred."  To be people that extend grace to others - even those who have hurt them - showing the love and forgiveness of Christ to their peers.  

 

Forgive

We live in a culture that feeds off vengeance that we like to mask in the form of "justice".  Every body seems to want "justice" - whether it is the person who feels they are wrongly accused of a crime to the athlete who feels they have been unjustly paid for their services.  We want someone to pay when they do something wrong towards us - although we are quick to want leniency or mercy when we are on the other end of the issue.  This retributive justice is everywhere.  To be fair, there are many times when I want it for me or my family even if I do not actively seek it out - so in a sense I am the proverbial "pot".  

It is rare in our society when you hear someone offer what sounds like unadulterated forgiveness and mercy.  In a society of strength (or perceived strength) such a response just does not seem or feel natural.  Perhaps that is because it is not natural - at least not when we are living in opposition to God & his kingdom.  

But this week we heard of a family who epitomized true, biblical forgiveness:  Their father had just been murdered live on Facebook.  The perpetrator seemed to show not remorse.  Yet they stepped before a news reporter & before the accused had been apprehended, they said they had already forgiven him.  In the article it said:  "Godwin’s former wife, Dorothy Crumpton, called the victim her “best friend.” When, at the end of an interview, CNN host Don Lemon asked Crumpton for a message to finished with, she decided to quote from the Bible’s most important passage — John 3:16. “OK, since I got the last words,” Crumpton said. “‘For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.'”

You can read the full article below.  

The response of this family has in some circles been called "shocking", "unfathomable", or "baffling".  But to the church it should not be surprising.  Any person who has experienced the grace, mercy & forgiveness of Jesus Christ should be the first to forgive - even the most heinous offenses - because we know that God has forgiven us of even of our most heinous sins.  

In your life, you will most likely not be called upon someone who has murdered a person you love.  But you will find that your character or name has been assassinated; that your marriage has been attacked perhaps even by the person you are married to; you will be wrongfully terminated by an employer or have your finances stolen by a common thief or a trusted financial advisor - in all situations God has called us to forgive - 70 times 7 - infinitely.  Many in the church find it all to easy to explain Jesus words in Matthew:  "but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses;" as if Jesus is not serious, that forgiveness is not important or that you have an escape clause in your salvation.  At its core I think Jesus words are clear - if you are unforgiving person, you have most likely not experienced the forgiveness of God through Jesus, therefore you will not be forgiven in the future either.  

Think upon that - stew that over the next time you withhold forgiveness to the person at church who gossiped about you or towards the classmate that copied your paper or the spouse that was unfaithful.  Instead of looking for the reason why you are not obligated to forgive in your personal situation (as if God's law and character are subservient to your wants or desires), be reminded of all the times you were dishonest, unfaithful & disobedient to your Creator - Remember, in Jesus he is faithful and just to forgive all your sins & in light of the Cross - Forgive others.   

There will be thoughts from time to time that justice will not be served if you forgive; or that someone will not face the consequences if you so easily forgive the offense - but remember - every sin will be judged - either in Hell or on the cross of Jesus.  To withhold forgiveness is to say that the justice you will get in the short term is more sufficient that the justice of God - it is not.  So forgive ~ then forgive again ~ then forgive again - that is after all what Jesus would do!

http://conservativetribune.com/facebook-killer-victims-family/

Source: http://conservativetribune.com/facebook-ki...

Are You Discerning?

The movie, "The Shack" was released last week nation wide.  It is based on the best selling book of the same name by William P Young.  The book (and subsequent movie) seems to generate two polarizing perspectives:  1) some love the book and have been deeply impacted by its teachings on Jesus, God, suffering and forgiveness.  2) others find the book to espouse at best poor exegesis of scripture or worst out right heresy.  

While I have not seen the movie, I believe that the content that it focusses on provides an opportunity for all Christians to ask "are we discerning"?  Do we know enough about scripture and what it says about Jesus, God, suffering, forgiveness or many other topics to be able to spot good, sound theology; questionable teaching or blatant false doctrine or heresy.  

You see there are statements in "The Shack" that should cause a Christian reader to at the very least pause - is this right - & yet, very few questions are raised.  When theologians or pastors raise objections to the content they are usually met with the bold statement - "this book is not a theology book"; "the author is not making doctrinal claims" or "the Bible uses allegory to explain truths we should not get hung up on the allegorical representations of God".  The problem is this - the author tells us why he wrote the book:  Paul wanted his kids to enjoy a story, and through the story, to understand their own father better and the God that their father is in love with.  Isn't this the essence of theology - to understand God better.  What we find of Young's theology is that God does not judge sin; God submits to human; & A god who makes no demands on people. Tim Keller says "The Shack effectively deconstructs the holiness and transcendence of God. It is simply not there. In its place is unconditional love, period. The God of The Shack has none of the balance and complexity of the Biblical God. Half a God is not God at all."  But most people do not see that - they are so caught up in the story telling that they do not realize the story actually leads them farther away from the true character of the God of the bible, not closer to it.

If you want to read some additional reviews of the book/movie and some of the problems there in try here & here.

If you and I are to be discerning - to be able to spot false gospels, distorted gospels or gospel light - we must immerse ourselves in knowing the real thing to so well that when someone, even a Christian says something that does not align with how God has revealed himself in his word we can spot it a mile away.  

If you want to be discerning - don't spend all your time reading books about what others think God is like or listen to music about someone else experience or watch a movie - instead spend time interacting and growing in intimacy with God through his word - learn who he revealed himself to be, how he wants you to deeply know him & to understand how much he loves you in Jesus - the Bible provides that for you - open it!

Helping Our Children Listen To Sermons Well

 

This is a great article from Dr. David Prince.  I pray it help you as you lead your children to listen well to God's word.

I was recently asked, “How would you explain to children in grade school what a sermon is and what they should be doing during the sermon?” I thought it might be a good question to answer in an article since I have frequently had similar questions over the years.

What is a sermon?

A sermon is when a man of God delivers the message of God directly from the Word of God (the Bible) to the people of God in the church and to unbelievers who are also listening. A sermon is not merely an intellectual lecture, form of entertainment, or self-help pep-talk; instead, a sermon actually transforms people by the power of God and his gospel. The preacher’s goal is to influence the whole person—mind, will, and emotions—with the truth of the gospel.

What should children be doing during the sermon?

1. Respecting others

Like any other important setting where groups of people are attempting to listen and learn from someone speaking, the child should think about how his or her behavior affects others. This understanding should have both positive and negative aspects. Negatively, the child should avoid actions that distract others, but positively, the child should be engaged by listening which can help others listen more effectively as well.

2. Actively listening

While this may seem obvious, it is important to point out that good listening is a learned skill; it is an active pursuit and not a passive one. Jesus said, “Take care then how you hear” (Luke 8:18), and every parent ought to be training their child to obey that command. Jesus also warns about those who hear but do not understand (Mark 4:12).

You can say to your children on Saturday night or Sunday morning:

  • “I wonder what God will teach us in the sermon on Sunday?”
  • “Let’s pray that we will understand the sermon and pray for our pastor.”
  • “Let’s thank God that we have His Word to guide us.”

3. Keeping a tally of important stuff

If your children are really young you may want to write down important words like God, Father, Jesus, Christ, Holy Spirit, church, gospel, and so on, and have them circle or make a tally mark by each one every time the pastor mentions that word. If they are too young to recognize the words, then you could do symbols for each one. This will allow you to point out that these key categories show up in the pastor’s sermons no matter what part of the Bible he preaches from (if the preaching is good Christ-centered preaching). Also, if you know what text your pastor is going to be in that week, you could draw out keywords from that particular text.

4. Drawing pictures

Many children will naturally take the bulletin and draw pictures on it during the service. That can be a good thing if you encourage them to draw pictures related to the worship service and particularly for them to draw what they are hearing in the sermon. This is both fun and fascinating. Parents can learn a lot about how their children are processing the sermon by talking to them about the pictures afterward. Focus on your children understanding the main point of the sermon while not being critical of anything they draw regarding the sermon.

5. Recognizing the windows

I like to think about illustrations in sermons as windows. You see through them in order to see something else. Illustrations are not like paintings, which are an end in themselves. Children will naturally listen to the practical illustrations in the sermon. If we call them windows and train children to listen to the sermon illustrations thinking about what they are supposed to really see as they look through them, then we will help them become better sermon listeners for life.

6. Listening for one thing ….

I think it is important to train them to listen to sermons without a me-centered attitude. I think in every sermon we should think first and foremost about God, second about others, and then how we can serve God and others. Here are a couple of things you can train your children to be listening for and to tell you after the sermon.

  • What is one thing you heard about the gospel of Jesus Christ?
  • What is one thing you learned about God?
  • What is one thing you can do differently to serve God and others?

Your interaction with them about these things should be lighthearted and enjoyable. The only wrong response is to not be listening. These listening strategies are merely points of contact for parents to utilize and guide the discussions in whatever direction they see fit. Some weeks will end in uproarious laughter over a drawing or comment, and others may lead to very serious and important discussions over biblical truth. Both are needed. These thoughts are certainly not exhaustive and you may have other creative ways that come to mind, but the key is to not act like getting them in the building is the end of your parental responsibility.

Charlie Brown Agrees: Christmas Time Is Here

There are many traditions about Christmas that I love - caroling; decorating the house; Christmas morning breakfast with the kids before we touch a present...

But one of the things I look forward to every year is watching the Charlie Brown Christmas Special.  History says that the executives at CBS did not love the idea.  In fact they were vocal opponents of having the Bible read during the now famous scene with Linus.  Charles Schultz fought to have it left in - which obviously he won.  The iconic comic strip with the kids that never grow old, with no adults to squelch their fun except for a mumbling voice in the background and all the antics of the band of misfits is not the most amazing production ever but it has stood the test of time.  Perhaps one overlooked aspect of the show is that Linus, who notoriously carried his security blanket every where he went, finally let go of the blanket when he read the words "fear not".   I wonder how many of us truly grasp this concept.  

We can not make too much about Schultz's faith based on this show - his Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown episode seems to be more indicative of his belief in God and Christianity - "you will wait all night expecting something to happen and in the end it will let you down".  But, his Christmas special still is aired every year, all around the world, and it still has Luke 2 prominently read for all to hear each Christmas.  

Take a moment again this year - make this part of your holiday tradition.  Watch the show and be amazed at what Christmas is Really all about...

Christmas Time Is Here

Celebrating Christmas, the birth of Jesus Christ, is a wonderful time in our church year.  But it is hard, even for Christians, to not get sucked into the consumer mentality of the holidays and to make this season more about me (us) than Him.  This should not surprise us - this is what we do with most things - we make them all about us.  We look at life, relationships, even our church life asking the questions - Am I happy; Am I enjoying this; Am I content; Am I getting anything out of this.  

In some sense there is a time to ask some of these questions (I say some, not all).  But I am not sure that as we evaluate things we should make these kinds of questions our first concern.  When we do we neglect God's greater concern for two more important factors - namely His Glory and Others.  Scripture regularly encourages us to address our hearts when it comes to WHY we do things or for WHO we are really doing them for.  But rarely (or perhaps never) does the Bible focus its attention on whether or not we are content, happy or satisfied.  

God wants us to be focussed first on Him - is God satisfied.  God calls us to be hoy as he is holy so I would assume since that is not true of most of us all the time, it would be safe to say that he is not completely satisfied with our actions.  But the Bible also directs our attention to the needs of others, consistently and often at the expense for our concern for our own needs.  It is not that our needs are not important but that God wants us to look to him (or others by him) to meet our needs instead of us trying to manipulate things to get our needs met.  

When you come to church - are you asking what will I learn, what will I feel, what will I do or are you concerned whether or not God is praised by what is said or with what you can help others with in their walk with Christ?  It may not feel natural to put others before ourselves but that is exactly the example we have from Jesus and one that he wants us to put on full display for others to see as well.  

[3] Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. [4] Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. [5] Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus.  (Philippians 2:3-5 ESV)

This next year - turn the focus off of you (what you feel, want, desire, love, etc.) and instead turn the focus back on God and others (how can I love God, how can I worship God, how can I love others, how can I serve others) - what you will find is that your joy will be full and God will miraculously meet the needs you no longer made paramount because you have made him paramount and others more important than yourself.

Why Do We Exist

This is the question that has produced more discussion (and arguments) than perhaps any other.  Why do we exist?  Some would say our church exists for us to fellowship with other Christians.  While that is true in a sense, if that is the primary reason we exist, it would seem God would be effective in creating a true fellowship of people by taking us to Heaven where we can fellowship perfectly.  Some might say it is to worship.  I love worship - but again I would think worshipping in the presence of God in heaven would be a whole lot sweeter than what we call worship here on earth.  Or maybe the church exists to grow as disciples.  I think this is important but wouldn't we learn far greater standing before Jesus in his throne room than from all the imperfect pastors & teachers that make up our churches.  

As I look at the church - there is only one thing that the church is called to do, to exist for, that will not be infinitely better in heaven:  that is Mission.  There will be no mission as we know it in heaven - everyone will know God perfectly for ever.  But right now on earth, the church exists for mission - the Missio of God.  You might say, our church does not exist "primarily" for us at all - but rather we exist for the sake of those who are not yet part of our church, in hopes that by God's grace they one day will be.  

This does not make worship, fellowship, & discipleship less important.  I actually think it makes it more.  Follow with me - We are growing in our knowledge of Jesus Christ and the gospel not simply for our own benefit but for the sake of making Jesus known in the world and area of influence that is around us.  True discipleship produces mission.  

Learning to love and bear with the men and women God has put into our church, our brothers and sisters in Christ, is not simply for our collective benefit but so the world might see the power of the gospel bringing reconciliation to all kinds of relationships as we learn to love, serve, forgive, pray for, bless and encourage men, women and children (many who are not like us in any other way outside of the gospel).  True Fellowship gives us a passion for mission because we have already seen how God has reconciled us to each other and there is always room for one more.

Worshipping God through the preaching of the scriptures, prayer and singing is not simply so we can feel good about ourselves and uplifted for the day.  It is to remind us about the mission of God to save a people for himself through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus - As we sing of our redeemer, listen about our redeemer, pray for our redeemer, we are reminding each other about why Jesus came in the first place.  Worship gives us the zeal to be on mission because we are passionately proclaiming the glory of God to the nations. 

Our church does not want to simply be a fellowshipping, discipling or worshipping church.  We want to be a church that is on mission - that lives out the life changing power of the gospel in our relationships, that is growing in the life changing power of the gospel in our discipleship and that is celebrating the life changing power of the gospel in our worship - so that every man, woman and child might have the repeated opportunity to see, hear and respond to the gospel of Jesus Christ without having to come or go anywhere.  

Mission ~ Missio ~ The church

Jesus and Politics

During an election cycle, probably like most of you, I have more conversation about politics than probably in the previous three years combined.  At times it can be fun & interesting while other times it is frustrating & exhausting.  All of us "arm chair" politicians talk with such fervor & conviction about policies, candidates & the future - all of us feel right, none of us feel wrong.  As we approach election day here are some thoughts so that our Gospel Allegiance supersedes our national or party allegiance.

1.  Some things are not fitting for followers of Christ to Engage in - putting a sign in your front yard that says "Hillary for Prison in 2016" or "Trump - Make America Hate Again" maybe how some of us feel but they are not the kinds of sentiments that followers of Jesus should make known publicly - primarily because it hinders our witness.  but also because it shows little to no respect & honor for the leaders & candidates of our nation.  Some of us may feel strongly that Hillary Clinton should be prosecuted.  Others of us may feel strongly Trump is the worst candidate in years.  But we should speak words to build up, not tear down; speak words that bring life, not destroy; speak truth but speak it in love.  This is also true of our Facebook pages & Twitter feeds - we can speak with such anger and hatred, vulgarity and callousness.  We can vilify those who do not agree with us and make strange bed fellows with those who do agree.   In some cases the candidates on the opposite aisle are followers of Jesus - and thus should be treated with love & kindness as our brothers or sisters in Christ and not as enemies - even if we disagree with them on real, fundamental issues.  In other cases, the candidates on the opposite side from us are not followers of Jesus at all - they are lost & they need the grace of God to be demonstrated to them  & shared with them.  Being sarcastically humorous or crudely humorous does not allow for either of those responses to be made known.  God - let the words of our mouth and the meditations of our hearts, be acceptable in your sight - Oh Lord....

2.  We must be careful not to vote & make decisions for just pragmatic reasons - it can be easy to check our theological convictions at the door when we discuss politics or enter the voting booth. We can make decisions primarily or only based on what the politician promises me or people like me.  In a sense this seems natural.  But remember Paul tells us "whether you eat, drink or what ever you do (including vote, speak about politics, etc.) do ALL to the glory of God.  That means our primary motivation is not what the benefits are to me but how I bring glory to God in the voting booth.  Ultimately, that is an issue that only you and God can know in your heart.  So when you vote this year - ask yourself, is my decision to cast a ballot bringing glory to God or bringing glory (or something else) to me.  Digging into this deeper - does it bring glory to God to vote for a person who supports the killing of innocent children?  does it bring glory to God to vote for a person who promises me a tax break?   does it bring glory to God to vote for a person is unethical or dishonest?  God - whether we eat or drink or vote or argue or debate or support - may we do all to your glory.

3.  Are We Choosing to Apply Standards of Morality & Righteousness Inconsistently - I remember in the mid 90's, the evangelical church for the most part was defiantly in opposition to the second term of President Clinton primarily because of his multiple scandalous affairs that had come to light in the years prior.  The "moral majority" said character matters, not just politics & platforms.  The democrats of course voiced their displeasure by saying "what goes on in the bedroom is private & has no bearing on one's ability to lead".  This election cycle the roles have been reversed - the democrats are saying Donald Trumps lack of character matters because of his disparaging remarks about women, other races and his repeated divorces.  While the republicans are boldly declaring "what went on in the past has no bearing on his ability to lead".  We could make the same argument about Hillary Clinton on various issues.  When followers of Christ inconsistently hold to standards not only do we lose credibility but so does the gospel.  IF something is wrong & matters in 1990 it matters today - it does not matter who we are supporting.  If honesty matters it should matter when it comes to Hillary Clinton & her repeated dishonesty in this campaign.  If character matters then what Trump did in 2016 as well as in 2005 matters.  God - may we consistently submit ourselves to your word & holiness so that we do not become hypocrites or pharisees.  

4.  Just because Jesus is King does not mean our votes do not matter - I am absolutely certain Jesus reigns today and tomorrow and forever.  If the candidate I want to be elected is defeated all is not lost.  If the Supreme Court moves farther away from where I Hope it would be God is not losing.  But just because Jesus is King before and after the election does not mean we can just throw our votes down the toilet singing "que sera sera" - what ever will be will be.  We are still responsible to make God honoring decisions.  In my state of NY it is already clear who will win the electoral votes of this state.  Like it or hate it - Clinton will win NY.  But does that mean my vote does not matter?  I must still vote my God honoring conscience.  God has said that one day  - every word we have ever had will be exposed before the throne of Christ and we will be held to account for it - don't you think that this is also true for how we vote?  We will have to give an answer one day - why did you, a follower of my son, vote for a someone who has no concern for the law & does not speak truthfully?  Why did you, a follower of my son, vote for a masogaonistic womanizer?  I am not saying don't vote - I am saying vote with the expectation that God will ask why.  And remember he knows your heart and sees right through the rhetoric.  God may we remain confident that you are on the throne and be subject to your authority and wisdom in our homes, our workplaces, our schools and our voting booths.

5.  Remember Neither Party Will move us any closer to the Kingdom of Jesus - I know this comes as a shock to you but liberals policies will not usher in a millennium of peace & conservative policies will not make the church great again.  What moves us closer to God's design is for individuals followers of Jesus to be transformed into the image of Christ.  The party of Lincoln and Nixon is not necessarily more godly or biblical.  The party of Roosevelt is not necessarily more righteous.  Both parties have a glimpse of morality (the democrats concern for creation care, caring for the poor, & care for immigrants are good things; the republicans concern for protection of the unborn, national security, and a strong labor force are good things) but both parties have immense problems.   We do not put our trust in chariots or horses or elephants or donkeys (some of you will understand that later).   We put our trust in the Lord God, make of heaven and earth, and in Jesus Christ his son, our King and Savior.  What moves us closer to the Kingdom of Jesus?  Living on mission.  Sharing the Gospel with every man, woman and child.  You can vote till the cows come home (is that a southern expression), you can argue about politics, you can advance a better tax code or welfare reform - but none of that will usher in God's kingdom at its fullest.  Some of us care more about our politics and voting habits than about the church & God's mission.  Some of us need to get our priorities straight.   God - may we trusting you alone for our past, our present and our future.

There is probably more that could be said but I think this is a great place to start...This election, maybe more so than ever before, is challenging & complicated.  Some of you are wrestling deeply with how or even if you should vote at all.  I pray we will each honor Christ this November and beyond, all the while praying for the church to be an effective witness during these challenging times.  

Come Lord Jesus Quickly - Maranatha!

Foster Care - Gospel Mission In Your Own Home

My family has had the wonderful privilege of being foster parents to 4 different children since 2013.  We were challenged to do Foster Care after watching a fascinating independent film that showed how the power of the gospel being displayed through the church had nearly eradicated the need for additional foster homes in one state.  We had always talked about adoption at some point but God began to change our minds (we are still pro-adoption and would strongly encourage any follower of Christ of nearly any age to prayerfully consider such a step).  

We have had the short term emergency placement - where the child is dropped for a few days and then taken away just as quickly.  We have had the long term placement that eventually leads to adoption to some other family (another Christian family where they continue to learn about Jesus).  We have had the long term placement of a medically fragile child that likely will never be adopted or leave foster care.  It is heart breaking when a child leaves our home - my entire family (including me) will cry over the loss like a death in the family.  We eat ice cream, play games and drown our sorrows for the evening in something fun - then the next day we start fresh wondering what next God will use us for.  

We do not treat our foster children as - well foster children.  We don't even call them that.  They are ours - for as long as God gives them to us.  We introduce them as ours, even the color of their melamine is drastically different than ours.  We celebrate their birthdays and Christmas and any other event that is important.  We take them on vacation.  We have a wall of pictures in our house dedicated to our family - and each one of them is on it.  Their names and faces are etched into our story. 

Recently I heard that Suffolk County Foster care has only two - that is 2 - Dos, zwei - homes that are ready and capable of taking medically fragile children.  That is astonishing.  there are hundreds of churches, tens of thousands of Christians and only 2 families.  How is that possible?  Many will say - I can not do fostering or adoption. I could not disrupt our family, I do not have the time, I do not have the resources, I could not possibly give them up - subtly suggesting perhaps that I must be heartless that I am able to give them up.  

We know both the Old and New Testaments are pro-adoption.  James commands the church to take care of the orphans (and widows) because it is what pure religion looks like.  We know we are adopted through the blood of Jesus - becoming joint heirs of the family of God.  If anyone should be active in the adoption or foster care word it is followers of Jesus.  Yet, the church is often not involved in orphan care.  We put bumper stickers on our car, we might even congratulate the family that did it.   It is one thing to say we are pro-life - but what about being willing to take that child that is not aborted but left at the hospital into your home.   You can say your are pro life - or you could show you are pro life.  

Now, not everyone is called to adopt.  Not everyone is called to foster (and you might be one of those people or families) - but EVERYONE in the church is called to care of the fatherless and the orphan.   Adoption is one way.  Foster care is another way.  Being a family that serves the adoptive or foster homes in your church is another way.  Supporting Soundview Pregnancy services is another way.  There are many ways to get involved.  But there are also many excuses that keep many of us from doing anything.  

This month - pray - ask God - how can you bring him glory by loving and serving the fatherless and the orphan.  God may very well surprise you by directing you to do fostering.  If you have questions about - my wife and I regularly talk with couples about the joys, struggles and benefits of fostering.  We would be happy to talk with you.  Being a foster home is not as hard, elusive or expensive as you might think - but it is rewarding - it will change the child who comes to your home, change biological children you already have, change your church.   In fact you will probably discover you will be changed just as much if not more than the child who comes into your care.  You may not be able to move across the world to share the gospel.  But you could invite a young child who has no permanent home into yours - and to both share and demonstrate the life changing power of the gospel - all from the comfort of your couch, your backyard, in the car line, at McDonalds or Disney World.  

Compassion - Get Some...

My wife and I watched a 20/20 story on Kayla Mueller the other day.  It was a remarkable story of a young Christian woman from the United States who went to a war torn area in the middle east to show the compassion and love of Jesus to others.  Everyone who worked with and around her commented on how kind, loving, joyful and compassionate Kayla was.  One afternoon, while traveling to assist a humanitarian group (Doctors Without Borders) she was kidnapped by ISIS.  Kayla was beaten and raped by her captors - yet all the while, other captors with her, noticed her hopeful, kind and compassionate spirit even amidst great adversity.  During her time in captivity, multiple people were sought to assist Kayla and to see her released.  The US Government, while securing the release of a traitor and rescuing other victims did not seem to show the same interest in rescuing Kayla.  Kayla's family felt abandoned by their own country.  In addition, the humanitarian group would not help, even though they had multiple opportunities to do so.  The reason:  Kayla did not work for them, they could only assist those who they were directly responsible for.  Asked if they had a moral responsibility to seek Kayla's rescue, the director said no.  

Sadly, I think this is the response of many of us - not just on matters of international significance but also matters very close to home.  We hear of people around us who are hurting, being oppressed, needing assistance - and we regularly turn our eyes away to these people.  Maybe it is because they are not like us, or that they are not really our responsibility or that we can not do as much as the need so we decide to do nothing.  Even among followers of Christ our compassion towards others is often limited.

Yet, as I look at the life and ministry of Jesus - he was regularly looking to help, serve and minister to those who were hurting, oppressed, in need - in many cases people who were in those positions not because of random acts of violence but of their own willful foolish decisions.  Jesus would eat with the marginalized (tax collectors, prostitutes); he would spend time with the outcasts (l leper), and he would help the needy (blind, sick, mourning). Jesus was filled with compassion - not just for their spiritual needs (he was) but for their physical needs too.  He provided an example of what true compassion looks like in the kingdom of God for us.  But even more - he showed compassion to us - disobedient sinners, outcasts, dead, needy - in that he came to this earth to serve us, to love us, to die for us on the cross and to purchase our pardon and salvation through his substitutionary work on our behalf.  He was compassionate to us in a way that cost him greatly - his time, his position, his life.

Of all the people in the world who should be the most compassionate are those who have experienced the greatest compassion.  Jesus has shown us that - are you compassionate to others - to those you see who are hurting, needy, oppressed, sick, cold,...not just praying for them- but being compassionate in a way that costs us something - our time, our money, our position, our life.  Who can you show compassion to this week?  How can you show compassion to those in your sphere of influence?  How can you be a vibrant disciple of Jesus that puts the gospel on display for all to see & others to experience first hand.   Compassion - you got some, let's give some...