Church, we must seize this pandemic moment!

I just participated in an online meeting where JD Greear and Andy Crouch were talking about “Ministry During and After a Crisis.” The meeting led me to this thought, it would be a catastrophe for Christians to fail to embrace the truth that God is at work during this pandemic. I say that because I am concerned that we are tempted to coast through this pandemic by binging on TV, wine, and food. More than coasting or even worse, numbing or escaping from the realities of life, certainly God desires to transform his people and prepare them for a new season of ministry.

As we think about the book of Acts (and church history in general) we find that God uses persecution to light a fire in his church and for the spread of the gospel. Is it possible that God wants to use Covid-19 to do a new work in our lives, churches, country, and world? I will be bold enough to say that the answer is yes! With that said, I would like to give us 8 things that we should be doing now and that that will empower us to come out of this pandemic ready to make a positive difference in this world.

  1. Spend time in God’s Word. Here at New Life Church I am excited to say that we are going to begin a church-wide campaign that encourages people to be reading and studying God’s Word. We can’t expect to grow spiritually, or to be ready to see how God wants to be at work in us, if we are not digging into God’s Word. Are you immersing your heart and mind in the Word?
  2. Spend time in prayer.  Are you using this time to ask God light a fire in your life? Are you asking God to use this time to create a spiritual hunger in the lives of people in your everyday life? This Sunday, May 3rd, we are working with a number of other local churches to have a community time of prayer online. Pray, pray and pray some more. We simply can not expect to see the Spirit work if we are not faithful in prayer.
  3. Ask and answer the question, what work does God want to do in your life? Are there some strongholds or idols in your life that God wants to surgically remove? Are there any life long habits that have caused you more pain than anything else? Addictions, anger, bitterness, apathy, legalism,  materialism, lust? God has given you this unique time in order to shape you into the image of his Son, Jesus Christ.
  4. Don’t give into fear and anger. During this pandemic we have acted as if people are the enemy. I don’t know if this behavior is really new, perhaps it is just heightened during the past few weeks. We have been acting like the enemy is people who disagree with our opinions regarding Covid-19. The bible can not be more clear that people ARE THE MISSION, not the enemy! Even now during the pandemic, let’s use words that heal. Consider the possibility that your “well-researched” conspiracy theory is really just nonsense. Speak and live in such a way that draws people closer to Jesus. Don’t burn relational bridges during this pandemic.
  5. Be praying specifically for “Who’s Your One?” Here at New Life Church we have asked people to identify one person in their everyday life that needs to know Jesus personally. So let me ask you, who’s your one? Keep praying. Reach out to them via cell phone or Zoom. We don’t need to go off mission because of the trials we are going through.
  6. Maybe the best thing you can do is truly unplug, get away from distractions, and find rest in Christ. There have been times when I have thought, why in the world (pastors might be the worst at this) are we trying so hard to keep ourselves busy? Maybe it’s God who is working overtime to get us to slow down so that we will focus more on him. A.W. Tozer writes this, “Unquestionably, part of our failure today is religious activity that is not preceded by aloneness, by inactivity. I mean getting alone with God and waiting in silence and quietness until we are charged with God’s Spirit.”
  7. Leave behind the idea of a being a lone ranger Christian. This pandemic has revealed to us that we need to be in relationship with other people. Community in the church is the green house for discipleship to flourish. Let’s stop with the idea that it’s “just me and Jesus.” When things get loosened up, when it is OK to gather together again, get involved in a Life Group or whatever your church calls it.
  8. Be determined to come out of this pandemic and leave behind consumer Christianity. If this pandemic is over and you are still sitting at home on Sunday morning looking for the best worship experience then you need to know that you have moved away from following Jesus and into a lifestyle of consumerism. Make a commitment NOW that when the pandemic is over to be more involved than ever in your local church.

Perhaps this can become a theme song for us…

Main Takeaways From EFCA One 2019

  • We voted as a denomination to amend article 9 of our Statement of Faith. You can see below that we removed the word ‘premillennial’ from our Statement of faith and replaced it with the word ‘glorious’. The primary reason for removing the word is so that we, as a denomination, stay focused on the essentials of our Christian faith. We don’t want to exclude people from our denomination, and our churches, because they do not hold to a premillennial perspective regarding the end times.

We believe in the personal, bodily and premillennial glorious return of our Lord
Jesus Christ. The coming of Christ, at a time known only to God, demands constant
expectancy and, as our blessed hope, motivates the believer to godly living,
sacrificial service and energetic mission.

  • I am excited about the future of the EFCA because there is a laser focus on the gospel, community and making disciples.
  • Paul’s relationship with Timothy is a powerful example of how important it is that every Christian is making disciples (1 Timothy 2:1-12).
  • Being a preacher is not enough. We must be making disciples who make disciples.
  • “Death? That’s so B.C.” Quote from Pastor Eric Rivera
  • “If the disciples we are making aren’t making disciples are we making disciples of Jesus?” Quote from Disciplemaking Lab
  • “People can be sitting in our churches for 10 years and still not be making disciples. Why?” Quote from Disciplemaking Lab
  • “If our programs are creating consumers and not disciple-makers, what do we do?” Quote from Disciplemaking Lab
  • “When it comes to discipleship there will come a time for our people where they will have to decide if they really want to embrace the ways of Jesus or go back to attending church, listening to sermons and enjoying worship music.” Quote from Discipleship Lab
    • This made me think of the Matrix when Morpheus asked Neo if he really wanted to see reality or just go back to living in a false reality. As Christians we are faced with a red pill, blue pill choice. What will we choose? Consumerism or discipleship?
  • “79% of people in our culture want to talk about spiritual things. Only 35% of the people in our churches are engaging in these kinds of conversations.” Quote from Lab on Missional Impact.
  • Do the people on the other side of the political side know that you love them and care about them? Or is your angry rhetoric causing a barrier to the gospel? This was a thought I took from the Lab on Missional Impact.
  • Ed Stetzer shared the inspirational story of Jane the Uber Driver. It shows how we can make disciples in everyday life! It is not as complicated as we make it out to be!
  • Also made a good connection with an EFCA pastor in Salem, ND that I believe will lead to us doing a better job of developing leaders in our church here in Watertown, SD.

Reaching Millennials

Honesty forces me to admit that I am not an expert when it comes to understanding and ministering to millennials (those born between 1981 and 1996). But I will say that it is my desire to reach people of every age with the good news of Jesus Christ, and that certainly includes young adults (millennials).

Just the other day I was reading through “Our Secular Age:  Ten Years of Reading and Applying Charles Taylor” when I stumbled onto a chapter that discusses the ways that we can reach millennials. The chapter was written by Derek Rishmawy , and I want to take just a moment to summarize the argument that he is making.

So, how do we minister to millennials?

  • Shun despair and nostalgia
    • The church needs to be careful about acting as if we are a people without hope. This is a problem that I see frequently on social media. Anger, rage, hopelessness, and cynicism, are all too common. It is clear to many of us that our culture is changing and we are not quite sure what to do or how to respond. The problem is that we won’t make much difference in this world if we, as Russell Moore puts it, “are longing for Mayberry.” We need to know that when we give into cultural despair or continually pine for the good ole days, we are revealing that we have lost sight of the good news of Jesus Christ. There is nothing attractive to millennials, or anyone else for that matter, when the church acts as if God is off his throne and clueless about what to do with this lost world.
  • Preach apologetically
    • The argument that Rishmawy seems to be making is that we live in a day and time when people are actually open to having “spiritual” conversations. This means that there is a good opportunity to make a case for the legitimacy of Christianity! We need to do a better job of explaining how the gospel answers the deepest needs and longings of the human heart. This world and everyday life have meaning BECAUSE God is real, and he desires to be in relationship with his creation.

“Even if we can’t answer every question, we can begin to show them there is a robust, intellectual tradition of Christian reflection on these issues beyond the half-remembered lessons they received in Sunday School.” -Our Secular Age

  • Make space for Thomas
    • This might be the one that stands out to me the most. Millennials are at an age, a stage of life, where they have lots of questions about faith and the meaning of life. The mistake the church makes many times is failing to allow people to ask tough questions. Instead, we throw out cliches and pat answers that don’t ring true, or we make it seem like it is a bad thing to ask questions in the first questioning christianityplace. This is one reason that in September we are going to do a sermon series entitled, “Questioning Christianity: Dealing With Tough Questions About the Faith”  (Click the link and then scroll down just a bit and you will see it).

Love to hear your thoughts, ideas, or questions!

Being Religious Is A Good Way To Waste Your Life

THE STORY

CREATION-God spoke and the universe was brought into existence.

FALL-Man rebelled against God. Sin infected the entire universe. Death and hell are now enemies of every person born on earth.

REDEMPTIONJesus died on a cross to redeem (liberate from the bondage and slavery of sin) all creation. Believers have been called to bring the message of redemption to those who have been enslaved to sin and death.

RESTORATION-One day Jesus will return and make all things right.

These four words describe reality, the story that is unfolding all around you in everyday life. Here is the important question, how will you respond to this story?

A) Pursue a life of pleasure and comfort.

B) Become religious (cold, lifeless orthodoxy) and stay out of trouble. Live a safe, respectable, moral life.

C) Realize that your days on earth are numbered, die to self, live life with passion and zeal so that that others will come to know and experience the good news of Jesus Christ.

So, which answer best describes your life?

“You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet.

“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. -Matthew 5:13-16

The Mission of God (Jonah 1:1-7)

We do terrible damage to Scripture when we take it out of context. Let me explain what I mean.

Many of you know that there are four words used to describe the story of Scripture:

CREATION-FALL-REDEMPTION-RESTORATION

  • Creation: One Hebrew word sums up the picture of Genesis 1 and 2: shalom. Peace. Earth was full of God’s shalom, the kind of peace in which everything works according to God’s intention. The world was made for human flourishing, there we could live in joy in the presence of our Maker, worshiping God by loving Him and one another forever.
    Fall: Adam and Eve rejected God’s rule over them. We refer to their rebellious choice as “the fall,” and because the represented all of humanity, their action affects us too. We have–through our attitudes and actions– declared ourselves to be God’s enemies. This rebellion results in physical and spiritual death.
    Redemption: Thankfully the loving Creator who rightly shows Himself to be wrathful toward our sin is determined to turn evil and suffering we have caused into good that will be to His ultimate glory. So the next movement shows God implementing a master plan for redeeming His world and rescuing fallen sinners. In the Person of Jesus Christ, God Himself comes to renew the world and restore His people. The grand narrative of Scripture climaxes with the death and resurrection of Jesus.
    Restoration: The story doesn’t end with redemption. God has promised to renew the whole world, and the Bible gives us a peak into this glorious future. The restoration of all things will take place in two ways. Christ will return to judge sin and evil, and He will usher in righteousness and peace. God will purge this world of evil once and for all. -Taken from “Counterfeit Gospels: Rediscovering the Good News in a World of False Hope”

So Jonah, like you and I, are living in a story of redemption. Jonah is called by God to preach the Word of the Lord to the Ninevites. Jonah refuses to do so. His hard heart can not deal with the idea that the Ninevites might repent and therefore escape the judgment of God.

Now the word of the LORD came to Jonah the son of Amittai, saying, “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and call out against it, for their evil has come up before me.”  But Jonah rose to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the LORD. He went down to Joppa and found a ship going to Tarshish. So he paid the fare and went down into it, to go with them to Tarshish, away from the presence of the LORD.

One mistake we might be tempted to make is that we scoff at just how calloused Jonah was to the people of Nineveh. I say ‘mistake’ because the point is for us to realize that we are quite a bit more like Jonah than we would like to admit.

In Matthew 28 we find that Jesus gives all Christians their marching orders. We are to go into all the world and make disciples. Making disciples is part of God’s mission of bringing redemption to this fallen world. The shocking part of all of this is that we, like Jonah, can live our lives yet avoid the mission of God in a million different ways. We get busy. We are tired. We fail to love our next-door neighbor as ourselves. We think that this great mission is the church’s job and we fail to embrace the theological truth that we are the church.

We need to come clean and admit that we are a lot like Jonah. I know I am. The next step is to get out of our comfort zone and join God in what he is doing all around us in everyday life. Let’s be less like Jonah and more like Christ who saw the crowds and instead of retreating he felt compassion.

When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore spray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.

 

Everyday Life Is Our Mission Field

As the weather turns warmer here in South Dakota we are now able to be outside for more than 5 seconds without fear of freezing to death. This makes me very happy! The warmer weather, besides making me happy, also means that there are opportunities to get to know the neighbors who have been hibernating for the past 4 months.

One of the things you will hear us say here at New Life Church is that everyday life is our mission field. We believe that God has strategically placed us in our homes, neighborhood, workplace, and city to live as ambassadors for Jesus Christ. I wanted to share with you, through pictures, what some very creative people put together in our church foyer to express the truth that we are to live as missionaries in everyday life. I will also share with you some practical ways that you can change the world at the end.

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PRACTICAL STEPS TO TAKE TO CHANGE THE WORLD

  • Pray and ask God to soften your heart towards his lost sons and daughters.
  • Don’t wait for someone else to take action. Decide on a couple things you can do right away and get started.
  • We are, again, dedicating the entire month of July to loving our neighbors in practical ways. We call it “Mission Watertown.” Please be watching for more details.
  • Make your house a place of hospitality. Invite neighbors over for a meal.
  • Put a picnic table in your front yard. Sit outside more and start up conversations with neighbors.
  • Put your grill in front of your house and invite neighbors to join you.
  • Begin building relationships in your everyday life. Slow down. Ask questions. Make time for conversations. God has placed you where you are for a strategic, kingdom reason.
  • Find areas of the city where there are real problems. Financial hardship, broken families, fatherlessness, etc. Roll up your sleeves, get involved and make a difference.
  • Ask your Life Group to brainstorm with you ways that you can work together to make a difference in the Watertown area.
  • Read good books that encourage you to live like a missionary:

17 Of My Favorite Quotes From “The Simplest Way To Change The World: Biblical Hospitality As A Way Of Life” by Dustin Willis and Brandon Clements

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Here are 17 of my favorite quotes from “The Simplest Way To Change The World: Biblical Hospitality As A Way Of Life” by Dustin Willis and Brandon Clements

Too dependent on the mega church?

Can you imagine the power of the church in which ordinary members knows what it means to be filled with the Spirit of God and led by the Spirit of God? God’s plan to glorify Himself in the church never consisted of platformed mega-pastors, cutting-edge-art, or expensive buildings. The real power in the church is found in the Holy Spirit moving through ordinary people as they carry His presence into the streets. p. 12

Can we change the world from our home?

But what if I told you that you could actually change the world, right from your home? If you desire to join God’s mission but have no clue what that looks like in normal life, we have good news for you. You already have access to the ultimate game-changing secret weapon that will transform the way that you think about your life as part of God’s mission. The secret weapon for gospel advancement is hospitality, and you can practice it whether you live in a house, an apartment, a dorm, or a high-rise. p. 19

Put the grill at the front of the house

I (Dustin) have been amazed by how the simple act of rolling my grill to my front yard (not the backyard) and grilling burgers has effectively allowed me to meet neighbors, hear their stories, share our lives, and point to truth. I’ve never printed flyers or sent out mailers. I’ve simply heated the charcoal and watched people show up. One of the most ordinary things we do every day is eat a meal at our homes. We do this small act with intentionality and usually with other people, and we simply watch the Holy Spirit bring about the significance. p. 22-23

God loves to use the ordinary

If we are ever going to join all our lives to God’s mission to change the world, we need to reclaim all of our ordinary pieces as part of that gospel mission. We will have to reject the notion that something has to be big or unusual to be significant. We will have to view the ordinariness of our lives as significant and allow God to use our homes as a seed to be planted and grown, not something to be discarded or devalued. p. 24

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Our homes are a weapon for the gospel

Thinking about our homes in this way is a wonderfully freeing concept. As it turns out, we have a more fulfilling and rewarding purpose for our homes than using them exclusively for our benefit and comfort. Instead of thinking of them only as a personal refuge, they can be opened as spiritual hospitals for the hurting around us. Instead of being an oasis of self-interest, they can be transformed into a weapon for the gospel, a four-walled tool to wield in God’s cosmic battle against sin and evil. As we do this, we become the type of counterculture that puts God’s generosity on display. p. 24

What in the world do you mean when you say ‘Biblical hospitality?’

The Simplest Way To Change The WorldAt it’s core, the practice of hospitality is obeying the command in Romans 15:7 to “welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you.” It’s receiving others into our lives-into relationship and, yes, even into our homes. It welcomes Christians as a way to walk in the truth that we’ve been made family through the gospel, and it welcomes non-Christians in an attempt to model and extend the gracious invitation we’ve received from God in Christ. p. 26-27

I’m an introvert so I don’t have to do this hospitality thing!

Half of all people identify as introverts, so if you are one, we realize you may be thinking, Yeah, but I really can’t practice-I don’t want to practice-hospitality because I’m an introvert. It would be too draining. Please do not read this book thinking the message is, force yourself to be an extrovert because of the gospel! Please don’t let your personality type be a barrier to living out a god-ordained calling that is actually tailor-made to suit your personality type. I understand that introverts get the rap that they don’t like people, but that’s not true. We just like people in smaller, quieter doses that our extroverted compatriots do. I have found that inviting one person (or a couple of people) to my house where they enjoy quality time together, have a good conversation, and experience a volume level that never gets too stressful is actually totally my speed (and completely fits the bill of hospitality!). p. 31-32

Hospitality won’t happen by accident

We cannot haphazardly live out hospitality. We must pursue it intentionally, and frankly, it needs to be calendared. Having people in my (Dustin’s) home for a meal or a game night or to watch a big game tends to happen only if my wife or I put it on the calendar. p. 35

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How is social media impacting us?

Though social media is a wonderful tool with many redeeming qualities, it is also a perfect breeding ground for this ability to be “connected” without really being connected in the truest sense. We can craft our images carefully and interact with the carefully crafted images of others, but oftentimes the depths of knowing others and being known are impossible to reach via these online interactions. And even though many of us are addicted to our devices, people are starving for the depth that comes from real, in-person relationships. p. 59

Hold up! I want to change the world by scolding it!

When feeling threatened by the culture changing around them, many Christians assume a defensive posture-and this is the simplest way to not change the world. Many resort to the relational equivalent of yelling at a driver who just cut them off, or they become touchy or overly combative (all in the name of “defending the truth”). This combative, aggressive stance may feel like the best path to stand up for the things that we believe in, but much of the time it fails the “speak the truth in love” test Paul gave us in Ephesians 4.  p. 60-61

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Eating the body of Jesus or eating a burger?

Think about it: are we more likely to convince our neighbors to come to a church service where we symbolically drink the Savior’s blood and eat His body, or to eat a burger on the patio? p. 64

Why practice hospitality in the first place?

By the simple act of opening your door you are joining in on what God is doing to heal the planet and welcome prodigal sons and daughters back into his family. You are turning your home into a wartime hospital where the spiritually hurting can get hope and care they need. p. 67

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What if your house became known as “that house?”

Imagine this: what if your house (or apartment, etc.) became known as “that house” in your neighborhood? What if your home became a little bright spot in your community, that when people walk or drive by your door, their heads turn a little and they start to wonder what’s different about you, because you don’t seem to think about your home the same way everyone else in the neighborhood does? p. 72-73

Um, my house is kinda messy so I can’t do hospitality

In reality, you inviting others into your messy house is actually a beautiful act of vulnerability. It’s letting them see that you are a busy, imperfect human that does not live in a glass house. This is actually more hopeful than bringing them into a spic-and-span environment, because their house is probably messy too. The good news of the gospel is that our homes or our meals do not have to be perfect-we are free to be real humans who have messes and burn casseroles. p. 83

I just simply can’t add something else to my busy schedule!

You don’t need to add another task to your already-busy schedule. Instead, think like a missionary when living out your normal, everyday activities. p. 94

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Get off the couch and go outside

This may come as a newsflash, but your neighbors don’t live in your house. So if you never leave your humble abode, you’ll never meet any of your neighbors. They are not going to bust up in your living room and introduce themselves, and if they do you should call the cops ASAP. p. 97

How do you get to the gospel?

The end goal of hospitality is not that you simply host people in your home as much as you use your home as a place to display and speak the gospel. Paul, who repeatedly pointed us to the practice of hospitality also boldly proclaimed his desire to be valiant about the good news of the gospel: “I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for everyone who believes: (Rom. 1:16). Clearly the aim of hospitality is more than merely inviting someone into our home, sharing a meal and a few good stories, and calling it a night. We are missionaries, after all. Paul reminded us, “We are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us” (2 Cor 5:20). And pastor Charles Spurgeon said, “Every Christian…is either a missionary or an imposter.” p. 119

Do you REALLY know the story of Jonah?

This Sunday I am going to begin preaching through the book of Jonah. If you have been in the church for very long you know the basic story. The prophet Jonah runs from God and gets swallowed by a large fish. Eventually, reluctantly, Jonah preaches (the shortest sermon in world history) to the wicked city of Nineveh and they repent. You already knew that, right? I want to suggest to you that there is much more to this prophetic book then first meets the eye. If you will read Jonah with an open heart and mind I believe it both challenge and inspire you on a deep level. Here are just a few of the themes we will discuss in this book:

  • The sovereignty of God. Even the sea, and the creatures of the sea, are under the control of God.
  • The grace and mercy of God. The ironic part is that these characteristics of God are what infuriates Jonah!
  • The mission of God in the world. Israel has been commanded to be a light to the nations but they were more concerned about their prosperity than they were the world around them.
  • You will have to deal with some tough questions. For example, are we more like Jonah or Jesus?
  • How an attitude of nationalism can keep us from caring about others. Just for kicks look up the word “jingoistic” and then ask yourself if you see this as a problem when it comes to fulfilling the Great Commission.
  • There are tremendous similarities between Jonah and the elder brother in the parable of the prodigal son.
  • We must deal with the fact that we all have the tendency to love our comfortable lives more than we love other people.
  • The gospel is clearly being pointed to throughout the book of Jonah.
  • The book is, start to finish, a love story. The love of God for his lost sons and daughters.
  • A wonderfully inspiring theme is REVIVAL. The entire city of Nineveh repents and turns to the Lord. Will you join me in praying for revival here in Watertown, South Dakota? In your hometown?

My plan is to blog through each chapter, but today I just wanted to share this EXCELLENT video that details the overall story-line of the book of Jonah. The video was produced by the creative people at The Bible Project.

The Incarnation of Jesus

“Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit.” -Matthew 1:18

Does the incarnation inform and teach us about the mystery of Jesus Christ being both God and man?

(OR)

Does the incarnation give us an example of how we are to live as followers of Jesus Christ?

I think the answer to both questions is yes.

The gospel makes absolutely no sense if Jesus was not both God and man. The incarnation is a core doctrine of the Christian faith. Hebrews 9:11-14 makes it clear that our sins are atoned for because of the shed “blood of Christ”. The shedding of blood requires humanity. But this blood has the power to atone for all sins for all time precisely because Jesus was God. The incarnation informs and teaches us about the nature of Jesus and how he needed to be both God and man for his sacrificial work on the cross to be redemptively effective.

The incarnation also gives us some clues about how the body of Jesus Christ (the church) should conduct itself in the world today. Paul says in Philippians 2:4-8, “Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” Paul is telling us to look at the birth of Jesus Christ and use it as an example of how we are to live.

Paul is not saying that we can “do incarnation.” Only Jesus Christ, as God-man, can do incarnation. Although we as mere humans can not duplicate the incarnation we can and should emulate the humility that Jesus demonstrated through his birth (God becoming a baby, scandalous marriage, poor, running from the law, etc…).

A few questions to consider this Christmas season…

Jesus came to earth as a weak, vulnerable baby. He came to serve others and die so that others may live. How should this impact the way that you approach everyday life?

Jesus boldly went into the broken, sinful, and dangerous world that He created. Jesus was not obsessed with personal comfort and safety. How should this challenge the love affair many American Christians have with safety and comfort?

Have you ever communicated the story of Christmas as an exciting rescue mission that Jesus went on to save all those who are lost in their sins? How might this change the way our kids think about Christmas?

How does the incarnation challenge the the tendency that the American church has to sit back and wait for people to show up on Sunday morning?

How might the truths of the incarnation of Jesus Christ lead you into a deep sense of gratitude and worship this Christmas season?

 

 

The Greatest Weakness in the Church is…

The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Look at him! A glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ Yet wisdom is justified by her deeds.

I think the greatest weakness in the American church today is that we are not good at being a friend to sinners. I have lived in a few different parts of the country (California, Arizona, Illinois, New Jersey, South Dakota) and it seems that getting outside of our church walls and loving the unchurched is what we struggle with most.

Here are a few reasons I believe we are not so good about being a friend of sinners.

  • Poor understanding of holiness. I think we primarily see holiness as abstaining from things we believe to be wrong. Drugs, watching trashy movies, adultery, lying, etc… The problem is that abstaining from sin is only one aspect of what it means to be holy. Holiness ultimately means to be like God. In 1 Peter 1:16 God tells us to “be holy as I am holy.” If we are to pursue being holy like God it means first and foremost that we look like his Son, Jesus Christ. Jesus lived a scandalous life because he loved the unlovely. He spent time with the most hated, despised and marginalized people of his day. Tax collectors, prostitutes, lepers…sinners. Does this reflect the way we live day to day life?
  • Apathy. Perhaps the issue starts here. We simply will not care about the lost all around us unless our heart is broken over them. The best way to overcome apathy is to spend time immersing our heart and mind in the truths of the gospel. It is impossible to truly study the life of Christ and spend time with him without developing a love for those who are lost. Are we studying God’s Word? Are we asking God to soften and break our heart?
  • In-house fighting. Are you complementarian or egalitarian? Are you pre-trib or mid-trib? Are you Reformed or Anabaptist? Are you Republican or Democrat? Do you support gay rights or not? Christians love to argue about their beliefs on social media. Arguing online is easy.  We can type out our thoughts and be done for the night. Building relationships with the people outside of the church walls is messy and time consuming. What would happen if we invested the time we spend on social media, TV and entertainment on building relationships with people all around us?
  • Busyness. I think for many of us we get so busy in everyday life that we simply have stopped asking the question, “what am I working so hard for?” When we fail to slow down we may wrongly assume that our priorities are pleasing to God. When was the last time we seriously reflected on what we are truly pursuing in life?
  • We prioritize programs over relationships. Did Jesus ever run a “program”? We want something to sign up for. A project. A short-term commitment. Too often we are waiting for someone else to come up with an idea for evangelism and then we think we will jump on board. It’s time to own up to our responsibility to live as salt and light right were God has placed us. What opportunities has God brought into your everyday life to serve him and love others?

So what is the answer?

Someone asked me the other day what our response should be to the fact that there are hurting and broken people all around us. They felt overwhelmed and did not know where to begin. The best way to answer that question is to look at Jesus. Reforming the church is best done by studying the life of Christ. How did Jesus live? What was important to Jesus?  Here is what we know. Jesus built relationships with sinners. So, we do what Jesus did. We build relationships. We spend time with people. We love them. We share the gospel with them. We refuse to wait for someone else to lead the way. We set the pace for others. We make our house a place of hospitality. We look at the brokenness in our city and move towards it. We love others when they don’t deserve it because that is what Jesus has done for us.

For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. -Romans 5:6-8

*Above photo taken from Huffington Post.