Love is Our Livery

1 Corinthians 16:14 “Let all that you do be done in love.” John 13:35 “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” 1 Thessalonians 3:12 and may the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, as we do for you.” Col. 3:14 “…put on love…”

Are you known in your circle of friends and relations as a Christian? Do the people at the supermarket where you shop and the club where you work out and the people on your commute look at you and know that you are a Christian?

Should they? In the OT the people of God were known as the people of God because of their dress (tassels, beard curls, the cloth and cut of their robes, etc.) They were also known by their behavior and by their speech.

How are the NT believers known as the people of God if all of the clothing and purity laws have been fulfilled in Jesus?

The Apostles instruct us to be clothed in love; to put on love like you put on a robe. Jesus said love would be the identifying marker of Christians. That love would be our livery.

What is a livery?

It’s not simply a uniform. It’s more than that. It is clothing but it’s a sign of covenant; of fidelity and family. Continue reading “Love is Our Livery”

Escaping the Christian Ghetto of the “church”

Individuals are saved into a community. St. Paul refers to this community as a temple of the Lord. This temple is unfinished. It’s a work in progress.

It’s an ever-expanding renovation project, acquiring new people, new tribes, new lands and new areas of human culture – sanded, refitted, resurfaced, polished and repurposed – without end – from the rivers to the end of the earth.

It’s messy but this building is being shaped into something beautiful that houses the Triune God.

But like all renovation projects, in which you are still trying to live in it – it strains patience, strains belief, strains our ability to envision the final product – it requires a lot of faith and hope.

We all know that.

People sin. Circumstances of life are difficult. People move away. People in church are not perfect. Resources are strained.

The people being repurposed into this building, the church, are delicate and difficult, they require specialized tools. And those tools are you and me.

I don’t know if you know this – but you – with all your attributes, life experiences, frailties and character traits – complete me. Without you I am a foot without a leg, an ear without a head.

You were born to have a significant role in my life. To play the part of sandpaper and duct tape. Pry bar and finishing hammer. Veneer and scrub brush. Congratulations. But I also complete you. This community is not the elders. This community is not a select clique.

You need everyone in this community. Not just the folks whose company you enjoy most – who are the most compatible, likeable, lovable and the least work.

I instill a lot of patience in people, by nature, because it takes a lot of patience to be close to me. Ask my wife. There is a fruit of the spirit that you are most adequately equipped to encourage in me. Trust me. Continue reading “Escaping the Christian Ghetto of the “church””

The Tomb Between Worlds

Psalm 126 “When the LORD restored the fortunes of Zion, we were like those who dream. Then our mouth was filled with laughter, and our tongue with shouts of joy; then they said among the nations, “The LORD has done great things for them.” The LORD has done great things for us; we are glad. Restore our fortunes, O LORD, like streams in the Negeb! Those who sow in tears shall reap with shouts of joy! He who goes out weeping, bearing the seed for sowing, shall come home with shouts of joy, bringing his sheaves with him.”

Psalm 126 mentions the restoration of Israel’s fortunes, a return from captivity and victory after a long period of defeat. It’s not specific to a certain episode of restoration; it’s about the people of God and our common experience. No restoration though, was as remarkable and complete as the great Exodus in Christ.

As it says in Ephesians 4:8, Christ led captivity captive and gave gifts to men. All the things that hold us captive – the captain of our woe; Satan, his entire host, his minions of sin; his entire army of death – was led into captivity. God took away our captivity and our sin. But God takes away to replace. He empties, to fill. Jesus gave gifts to replace what He’s taken and those gifts are greater than what he’s taken away.

Compare death to life. The emptiness of fallen humanity to the fullness of the self-sustaining Triune God. Compare joy to sorrow, laughter to tears, song to silence, fear to courage, faith to despair. Compare the taste of cake to the taste of ashes. Christ has come and in His wake is a startling, overflowing grace that drowns our death and numbs our hearts and baffles our intellect.

We are like those who dream. Is it true? Is it real? Are we, you and I, the inheritors of the stars? Are we perfect before the Father? Was our God a suckling babe? Was the Eternal one born in a Roman province under Caesar Augustus, to a virgin maiden? We are like those who dream and we blink in the brightness of the light like those struggling to wake up.

God’s goodness is like a dream because His ways are not our ways. His thoughts are not our thoughts. Our limits can’t bind Him. With God all things are possible. We hear and see with our flesh. God’s actions and promises are contrary to our own experiences. God’s actions are nearly incomprehensible because our minds our created and finite, full of the creation’s limitations. Our flesh aches, our strength fails, our imaginations have borders and boundaries.

For instance, how can we comprehend the idea of eternity, when we live in a word with beginnings and endings? Furthermore, God was a man with two natures, conceived by the Holy Spirit, laid in a manger, honored by angles and shepherds. Its sounds too good to be true. As fallen creatures we are too weak to believe such wondrous things. Continue reading “The Tomb Between Worlds”

Escaping the Christian ghetto of “family”

Jeremiah 29:4-6 “Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat their produce. Take wives and have sons and daughters; take wives for your sons, and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters; multiply there, and do not decrease.”

Can’t we sympathize with those faithful servants of God dwelling in Babylon? Exiled amid a pagan and god-hating culture? We know something about living among pagans. Using the right pronoun is a high crime in our society. God is imminently concerned for our welfare, so he calls us to not be discouraged but to build, to seek fruitfulness; in the field and in the home.

And this is warfare, for the Babylon in which we live hates fruitfulness. Abortion and the politics of sodomy are opposed to the cultural mandate and the ethics of our King. And the culture now is one of mammon and not husbandry – not sowing and reaping plenty as good stewards taking dominion of the soil, but our modern culture seeks the god of money and lays everything on its altar as sacrifice in pursuit of self-gratification with this idol.

Ladies, it’s hard to imagine how counter-cultural and warlike remaining in the home is. How violent a demonstration against the world a full womb is, the vehement politics of submitting to one man and raising 3, 4, 5+ children, even dare I say, teaching them yourselves, what a “revolution?” Men do you know how subversive it is to marry in the sight of God with vows of fidelity? To commit, for life, to a single woman and provide for her? To rear children? To remain in those children’s’ lives?

To put your hand to the plow of your job, not to seek riches for the god of Mammon and self-gratification but for the welfare of a wife who serves and helps you and children who depend endlessly on you -this is subversive. This is Reformation. Continue reading “Escaping the Christian ghetto of “family””

Escaping the Christian Ghetto of “self”

Get out of the Ghetto

Are there times when you feel isolated and alone? Even amid family, friends or y our church community? When you hear your pastors preach and teach about outreach and hospitality and servanthood – do you feel a lack of resources prevent you from taking our calls and admonitions seriously? Do you feel ill-equipped to obey in all that God has called you to do through your ministers? Do you keep people at a distance because you have experienced pain or difficulty in relationships?

Have people let you down? Abandoned you? Sinned against you? Judged you? Or perhaps you are so judgmental, that people aren’t worthy of meaningful friendship because they are prudish, arrogant, self-important and self-righteous? Pretty much, do you keep people at arm’s length where it’s safest?

Isolation. A lack of resources. Ill-treatment. These are all characteristics of a community, which since the sixteenth century, has been referred to as a ghetto. Modern use of the word tends to mean an ethnic, racial, low-income and inner-city. We don’t refer to trailer parks as ghetto – the word now as certain connotations. But the more accurate definition of the word is an isolated community turned inward from a city that is hostile toward it.

We did not set out to build ghettos. Suburban churches in our denomination are small, generally 30-100 people. We don’t have access to the wheels of cultural or political power. We are spread over a vast geographic area, in Seattle, we are in one of the most expensive regions to live in. We like big families. Continue reading “Escaping the Christian Ghetto of “self””

Only Good Christians make Good Pastors

If you put these things before the brothers, you will be a good servant of Christ Jesus, being trained in the words of the faith and of the good doctrine that you have followed. Have nothing to do with irreverent, silly myths. Rather train yourself for godliness; for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come. The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance. For to this end we toil and strive, because we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Savior of all people, especially of those who believe. Command and teach these things. – 1 Timothy 4:6-11

The passage before us is about practicing what you preach. It casts a light on what we practice and exposes the idols and sins so common among Christ’s ministers. Paul exhorts Timothy to “put these things before the brothers” in v. 6. What things? 1 Tim. 3:15 “how one ought to behave in the household of God.” That’s what the whole book is about – the aim of our charge in 1:5.

How do God’s children behave? Those nourished and trained in the words of faith and good doctrine? Paul says put the answer before the flock, which is a matter of both word and deed. This is a theme for Paul throughout his letter to Timothy.

Chapter 1, verse 16 says Paul received mercy from Christ so that Christ might demonstrate His transformative and saving work in Paul’s life, as an example for the flock. Jesus puts Paul and Timothy and you before the flock so that you can put Jesus before the flock.

We are messengers who are the message. God is love. God’s loving kindness and faithfulness are certainties. The minister’s life ought to be his primary example. How do you overcome sin? How are we healed? What is the aim of our charge? How do we love our wives as Christ loved the Church? What is submission? What is selflessness? What is service?

 

Behold the ministers who say, “behold the Lamb of God!”

Continue reading “Only Good Christians make Good Pastors”

Empty and Wide Open

Death and resurrection aren’t just events, they are a process. Jesus didn’t die so that you could live, he died so that you could die. To your sin, to death, to temptation, to worldly passions and desires. Jesus lives so that you can live.

Jesus went into the grave so that you would stop fearing the grave to live a life of hope. He rose so that you can rise. He died under sin so you could die to sin. He died under the curse to free you from the curse.

This is a process called sanctification. You are embroiled in something. Covetousness, lies, debauchery, drunkenness. You murder in your hearts. Back bite, gossip, slander and lust. You justify your sin and condemn others while your spiritual life is choked with self-reliance, envy and shame. Don’t fear that death. Put it to death. Continue reading “Empty and Wide Open”