Bring Joy to God

Luke 15.7

If you have been following this blog at all, you know that this spring we took a family trip to Disney World – this was the entire family – Janet and I with our two boys, Parker and Jonathan.   My parents and my in-laws joined us as well.  Over the course of the week at Disney, we made many memories.

Two memories from this trip stick out in regards to joy.  Parker had his first ever root beer float. He had only recently discovered root beer, and the fact he could add ice cream into the mix caused him to become giddy with joy.

Jonathan provided the second example.  He was finally tall enough to ride all the roller coasters.  As he rode, he would laugh, cackle, cheer, scream, and at the end of the ride, ask to do it all over again.  Roller coasters brought joy to Jay.

You expect to bring your kids joy at Disney World. But what I didn’t expect, in preparing for my first sermon at Mississippi Avenue Baptist Church last week, was to discover how you and I can bring great joy to God.


In Luke 15:1-10, Jesus shares two parables that answer the question of how we can give God joy.  The first parable is about a shepherd who lost one sheep out of his herd of 100.  This shepherd drops what he is doing, finds the one sheep, and when he returns with it, celebrates finding what was lost with friends and family.

The second story is similar.  A woman has ten coins, loses one, and also drops what she is doing to scour the house until she finds her lost coin. Once she finds it, she calls her friends and neighbors to her house and celebrates the discovery of her lost coin.

But we not only see joy in this passage, we see the complete opposite too.  In the introduction to these parables, the Pharisees and the scribes are grumbling over the fact that Jesus ate with tax collectors and sinners.

What’s the big deal, you ask?  Why care about who Jesus eats with?

Tax collectors were considered traitors as they helped the Roman Empire, who occupied Jesus’ homeland. Some even exploited their fellow Jews for their own financial gain. As traitors and exploiters, tax collectors were “regarded as outcasts (especially) by the religious.”[i] Furthermore, “The sinners were the immoral or those who followed occupations that the religious regarded as incompatible with the law.”[ii]

The Pharisees and scribes were furious that Jesus chose to eat with such people.

The same thing might happen today if you were to see someone you love and respect – at a restaurant eating with a couple who is LGBTQ – or with someone drinking a glass of wine – or even worse – with someone wearing a Chiefs jersey. Even if the reasons for eating with them is right, you may feel scandalized – even when you shouldn’t!

That the Pharisees and scribes grumbled about Jesus eating with tax collectors and sinners reveals that they held a fundamental misunderstanding of God. They believed that God would never seek out a sinner or a tax collector.  They had a hard time understanding “that God is a seeking God, a God who takes the initiative” to reach the lost.[iii]  Jesus is the ultimate example of God taking the initiative to seek and to save the lost.

So Jesus shares two parables to straighten them out.


One purpose of these stories was to help the Pharisees (and us!) understand that God desires for the outcasts of the world to come to repentance and faith in God.  And, to go a step further, that the religious leaders (and us!) should celebrate the return of sinners to God – rather than grumble.

Joy and grumbling are on opposite extremes.  One can’t be filled with joy and grumble. It is near impossible to both grumble and to bring joy to God.

In these two parables, we learn how we have the capacity to bring joy to God.  In order to understand how, let’s look deeper at these two parables:

In both stories, we see that the search becomes a priority.[iv]  Both the shepherd and the woman stop everything that they are doing to find what is lost. The shepherd leaves the herd – most likely with a helper – in order to find the one that is lost. The woman drops what she is doing and looks for the coin.

But the search wasn’t an easy one, it takes work.[v]  It wasn’t easy for the shepherd to search for the sheep. There was always potential for danger as he wandered back into the wilderness to find the lost sheep. It wasn’t easy for the woman to find the coin. She had to light a lamp and sweep the house, until she found it.

While the search took work, it was all worth it in the end as the recovery causes rejoicing.[vi]


Jesus finishes each parable by explaining that God is the one doing the seeking – he is the shepherd, he is the seeker of the coin – and that when the lost is found, there is great rejoicing in heaven.

Notice too that there is an option for us – either we, as followers of Christ, become those who seek the lost OR we are those who grumble.  Each of us will find ourselves in this parable. Either we are the ones causing the rejoicing or we are the ones who are grumbling.

Share your faith with someone this week.  If you are unsure who, pray about who that person should be, and expend great effort to bring the gospel to them that we may bring great joy to God.

 

 


[i] Morris, TNTC, 255

[ii] Morris, TNTC, 255

[iii] Morris, TNTC, 255

[iv] Bock, NIVAC, 408

[v] Bock, NIVAC, 408

[vi] Bock, NIVAC, 408

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Petty Irritants & Great Faith

James 5.8

 

I struggle mightily with the petty impatience of every day life – those little irritants that greatly annoy such as slow drivers, clueless people in the self-checkout line, and Janet’s kids (they’re my kids when they behave) – these are fine sand-papers of my life that drive me more than a little crazy.

Last Sunday, I preached out of James 5:7-11 on patience.  The patience that James speaks to is not necessarily patience with minor irritants.  Instead, he focuses on patience from a 30,000-foot perspective. Using James 5 as a guide, we are going to zoom out on patience and impatience so that we can better understand what is at their core.

When we understand the 30,000-foot view of patience and impatience, we will be able to deal with the petty irritants of daily life.


In James 5, we learn a great deal about patience and how to become more patient.  At the core – the main take-away, if you will – is that faith is at the core of patience.  The inverse is also true. Disbelief is at the core of impatience. As God’s people in the USA, we are fortunate enough to live in a place where we experience infrequent opposition.

What we struggle with are those petty impatients – those small irritants that in the grand scheme do not matter.  But there is a chance – a greater than ever before chance – that we may be headed for days in which we will face persecution – especially due to our adherence to what Jesus teaches on love.

The danger, then, will not be that those small things that make us impatient will go away – oppression amplifies our impatience – faith minimizes impatience, and impatience often leads to grumbling against others.

In James 5:9, we are commanded not to grumble.  The danger is that if you grumble now, you will grumble even greater when real oppression hits.

To grumble less, we must grow in faith, and as a result, we will be better prepared for the greater oppression we may experience.


We like to say patience is a virtue. But we tend to see virtues as optional, as something we’d like to attain one day, but maybe not all that crucial to daily life.

Since faith is at the core of patience, disbelief, then, is at the core of impatience.Therefore, because disbelief is at the core of impatience[i], patience, then, is not optional.

But you may be like me – I find it hard to wait on God.   It is likely as much a sign of my arrogance as it is my impatience, but I don’t like to wait around – I like to get on with things. This is an example of “The impetuous side of impatience. This is where many of us sin almost daily: charging ahead in our own plans without stopping to consult the Lord.”[ii]

The blessing we receive when we wait on the Lord to act is greater than any blessing we could try to create on our own.  When we take our lives into our own hands, according to our own plans, we will inevitably and always come well short of what God would have for us if we only had waited on him.

Grow strong in your belief that God’s plans for you are better than your plans for yourself – in other words – grow in faith and you will grow in patience.

 


[i] http://www.desiringgod.org/messages/battling-the-unbelief-of-impatience

[ii] http://www.desiringgod.org/messages/battling-the-unbelief-of-impatience

 

Ask Boldly in Prayer

Matthew 7.7

 

Take a kid to a store – really any store at all – it could be a tire store, a fabric store, a hardware store, and they will find something that they want you to buy for them.

You take them to a tire store and they want a tire.  You take them to a fabric store and they want…actually I’ve never been in a fabric store, so I’m not sure.  But I know that when you take a child to a hardware store they will find something – a nail, a light bulb, a 2×4, a chainsaw – something, and they will have to have it.

We need to start channeling our inner child in prayer.  Kids ask with boldness.  We need to recapture some of that boldness in our requests.

But we need to do so without reacting like a kid when we don’t get our way.

In Matthew 7:7-8, Jesus invites us to ask – to ask with boldness – and there is even a sense that we should “explore the extent of his generosity”.[i]

We can pray with boldness knowing that even when we ask for something we should not have that according to Matthew 7:11, God will only give what is good.


I know what you’re wondering – how in the world am I going to find time to pray with boldness?

My guess is that many of us already pray.  Maybe, you already pray at meal time or  when tucking your kids into bed.  You may pray before your own bedtime.

You may be praying right now for this blog post to finally end.

One easy way to improve your prayer life is to simply improve on what you are already doing. Make your routine prayers meaningful.

If you pray before you eat, one thing you could do is to change that prayer that usually lasts a few seconds or a single moment into one that lasts several moments. If you’re worried that your food could go cold, pray at the end of the meal – if you have friends or family present, ask for prayer requests.  The same can be true of bed time – instead of “now I lay me down to bed” pray with your kids – again, think of someone or something to pray for and make the routine meaningful.

You probably already have times for prayer built into your daily life – simply make those times meaningful.

 

 

[i] France, NICNT, 279.

Lightsabers, $10, and Financial Responsibility

light saber

After 10 years at NRHBC and Cross Church, our church family graciously gave us a sabbatical. Like any All-American (Texan…) family, we went to Disney World. The five days spent at the different parks were filled with fun, exhaustion, and memory making. We spent countless hours at play, countless steps pursuing that play, and countless minutes waiting in line for the play to commence.

The danger of taking a first-grader and a kindergartner to Disney is the sheer number of  purchasable items found throughout the parks. It makes one wonder if Disney does this on purpose.  Not to be a conspiracy theorist, but it’s almost like they know that when a kid (or let’s be honest, an adult) finishes a ride, they will want to buy something associated with all the fun they  just had. It seems like the location of the gift shops are more than just a coincidence.

What’s not a coincidence is how Janet and I were unwilling to buy everything the boys (and I) wanted to buy.  Knowing this, we made a decision a few months prior.  We decided that we would not be paying for our Disney trip and souvenirs for months and months after we got back home.  (Sorry Mr. MasterCard.)

Instead, we gave Parker and Jonathan ten dollars a day.  To spend on whatever their little hearts desired. If they wanted a $10 churro, they could buy one.  Or a $10 plastic sword.  Or whatever…

If they didn’t want to spend their money, it could accumulate.  I trust you can do the math, but just in case, if they spent nothing, they would have $20 after 2 days, $30 after 3, and so on.

It’s safe to say that they were pretty excited. From day one, they started to make plans. After a few days, with the savings they brought plus the money they accumulated, both Parker and Jay saved enough to buy lightsabers.

Enormous lightsabers. Brobdingnagian (it means enormous – you’re welcome) lightsabers. Lightsabers that are easily 2 feet taller than they are.

And, of course, I had to buy one too.

Had they not saved their money, we would not have bought the gigantic lightsabers. The cost would have been too much for Janet and I. But because the boys decided that’s what they wanted, and were not dissuaded by other enticing souvenirs, they bought them (with the money we gave them…but not Mr. MasterCard’s money).

Comically large lightsabers taught my boys financial responsibility.

And enable us to have awesome Jedi battles.


I wish this were my idea – that I had some sort of brilliant fiduciary idea, but alas, I can’t take credit.

Vacation on a budget is a Spence family tradition.  When I was 10, my family went to Hawaii.  Given $10 a day (notice that inflation didn’t impact what I gave the boys), I was permitted to buy whatever I wanted.  For some reason, I came home with several gecko inspired items – toys, shirts, and other assorted junk.

I’m a spender, so there was no accumulation for something greater.

Eight years later, my family went to Europe and my parents’ financial instruction substantially increased.

Instead of receiving souvenir money, we were given a budget to manage for the entire trip. This budget covered our food, travel, souvenirs, admissions, and hostels.  Prior to the vacation, each of us three kids were given the money and the responsibility to pay for ourselves.

Spence Eurpean Vacation

The family in Prague…I question my shoe game.

In Paris, if we wanted to see the Louvre, we had the money to go to the Louvre.  If we wanted an expensive meal or amazing souvenir, we had to make choices.

I remember once that my debit card exceeded its daily limit. When I asked my Dad what to do, he encouraged (forced?) me to problem solve. The trip was priceless as was the experienced gained in budgeting, problem solving, and planning.


As a parent, I want my kids to have the best – the best vacation, the best souvenirs, the most fun, and on and on.

But more important than that, I want to prepare them for adulthood. One day, we pray, Parker and Jay will be out on their own. They will need to save money, to spend wisely, to sacrifice what they want in the moment for what they want long-term. They need all these things as an adult that they already experienced in Disney World.

If ginormous lightsabers help prepare them to be adults, then we are more than happy with their souvenir choice.

That…and the awesome lightsaber battles.

 

Goliath – Outnumbered and Outmatched

1 Samuel 1745

 

Yesterday, I had the privilege of preaching at North Richland Hills Baptist Church on Fearless: Possessing a Lionhearted Righteousness. It’s based off of Proverbs 28:1, “The wicked flee when no one pursues, but the righteous are bold as a lion.

When reflecting on righteous boldness – which is a great definition of true courage – David comes to mind, especially how he found the courage to fight Goliath.

Many know the story, this true story, of David and Goliath, more often than not because of sports. Some don’t even realize that this story is in the Bible.  Any time a person – or a team – “overcomes seemingly insurmountable odds” to win, Sportscasters call it David versus Goliath.

When the underdog defeats the overwhelming favorite – when the US Hockey team defeated the Soviet Union at the 1980 Olympics, when Buster Douglas knocked out Mike Tyson, when the Jets won Super Bowl 3 over the Colts, or…when I lose at backyard basketball to my boys…these are instances of the Davids of the sports world defeating Goliaths.

But, as one commentator states it, “the biblical narrative is not primarily about human courage and effort; instead, it is about the awesome power of a life build around bold faith in the Lord” (Bergen, NAC, 187[i]).

The traditional interpretation – or at least the one that has seemingly permeated our society – is that we all have the potential to find within ourselves the courage, the strength, the skill, to defeat our Goliaths.

But this is NOT the story of David and Goliath.


In 1 Samuel 17:16, we are told that for 40 days Goliath challenges Israel and mocks God.

This is the same God that delivered the Israelites from Egypt in dramatic fashion.  He changed all the water in Egypt to blood.  He caused all of Egypt to become enveloped in darkness.  He parted the Red sea.

This God made the sun stand still for an entire day. This God made the walls of Jericho fall. What is it to God to defeat one giant?

Yet “at this moment, for whatever reason, despite all the stories and past experiences, Goliath looked bigger than God.”[ii]   We know that our God is bigger than any of the Giants in our life – and yet, there are times when we forget.

The Israelite soldiers forgot. They lacked faith.  We forget. We lack faith.

David, on the other hand,   “saw God as bigger and stronger than the fearful Philistine. So he went out to fight knowing that God would give him victory over Goliath — and when he did, the victory would demonstrate God’s power and faithfulness, not David’s courage.”[ii]

Goliath is outnumbered and outmatched by a simple shepherd boy empowered by the Lord.


How can we gain this courage?

Do you remember the parable of the talents in Matthew 25?

A master leaves giving one servant 5 talents (this is an amount of money…not ability), one servant 2 talents, and the last servant 1 talent. The servant given 5 talents doubles it by the time the master returns.  Same for the servant given 2 talents. But the servant given 1 talent did nothing…he buried the money given to him. The master tells his first two servants “Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much.”

Curiously – the emphasis is on faithfulness – the first two servants show courageous faith by investing the talents and not shirking their responsibility.

David shows faithfulness in a little (taking care of a flock, killing a bear and a lion) and so God gives him faithfulness over a lot (defending Israel, defeating a Giant).  Courageous faith with a little will lead to courage with a lot (From lion & bear to giant warrior).


What is the lion in your life? The bear?  What things do you need to show faithfulness over that are (comparatively) little so that God can make you faithful over a lot?

What giants are in your life?

To discover your giants, ask yourself: what are you most afraid of?  What do you have difficulty conquering?  What giant in your life seems bigger than God?

What causes you to question if God is big enough to conquer?

Is it the Goliath of Sin in your life? Is it the giant of sickness?  Does someone you love – or even yourself – have cancer? Have you allowed the Goliath of addiction into your life?

“These giants, who are bigger than we are and very intimidating to our flesh, will be slain just like David’s (Giant) was — by faith. And our courage to face them will not come from our self-confidence. It will only come from confidence in God’s powerful promises.”[ii]

Our God is bigger than the Goliath of Sin. Our God is bigger than the Goliath of addiction.

Do not leave this blog having heard the story of David defeating Goliath, and have the AUDACITY to think you are big enough to slay your giants. YOU ARE NOT.

ONLY God is big enough to conquer the Goliaths in your life.


[i] Bergen, NAC, 187

[ii] http://www.desiringgod.org/articles/where-real-courage-comes-from accessed May 11, 2016

What is #90in90?

banner-90-in-90

 

On Sunday, April 10, Cross Church kicked off 90in90, a community service initiative in honor of our second birthday as a campus.  Over the course of 90 days, I am asking everyone at Cross Church to serve for 90 minutes.  The goal is to reach 10,000 minutes, which equates to 111 people serving for 90 minutes.

As people serve, I’ve asked them to post pictures to social media with #90in90. You can search #90in90 on Facebook and see several pictures even after just the first week of 90in90.

There are some boundaries to the community service – 90in90 is not for serving our church family or for serving our own families either.  Thankfully, the opportunities to serve are endless, and we’ve listed a few opportunities to serve with like-minded partners at  crosschurchdfw.org/90in90.


You may be asking yourself, why?  Why serve?

I believe service is a spiritual discipline – just like prayer, Bible study, meditation, fasting, and the like. Spiritual disciplines are those activities that Jesus Christ did in devotion and fellowship with God the Father, and we do them to become more like Christ.

I’m not alone in believing that service is a spiritual discipline. Both Richard Foster and Dallas Willard, spiritual discipline gurus, have written at length on service as a spiritual discipline.   Foster offers the picture of Jesus washing the disciples’ feet as justification for service as a mandatory spiritual discipline for Jesus’ followers.  He writes:

Foster.ServiceQuote

In Matthew 20:26-28, Jesus tells us that greatness is found in serving others, “whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” 

Not only does Jesus tell us to serve, he gives us an example of serving others in John 13, when Jesus washes the disciples feet.  Jesus redefines greatness as serving others.


90in90 at Cross Church is a way for us to become more like Christ.  As we serve others for just 90 minutes, we put ourselves in a place for the Holy Spirit to mold us, re-make us, to transform us in the image of Jesus Christ.

Wherever you find yourself – at Cross Church or somewhere else – serve others that you may become more like our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

 

An Ascension of Joy

Luke 24.51-52

 

Three times in my life I’ve had to say goodbye to family, who were heading overseas for the gospel. Each time I was uncertain of when I would get to see them again. The first was when my oldest sister, Wendy left. Having to say goodbye was quite hard, especially not knowing when I would see her again.

A few years later, my parents also left for Central Asia. Again I had no idea when I would see them again, or even if I would see them again as they went to a near-impossible place to live.

The third time was the hardest. We said our goodbyes in their bedroom, in Central Asia. There were several turbulent things going on in my life and I had no desire to depart from them. This was several years ago – a dozen or so – and I remember hugging and not wanting to let go.


This past Sunday, I preached on the Ascension of Jesus in Luke 24.  I would have thought the disciples would be heart broken at the ascension – as they had no idea when Jesus would return. But this departure of Jesus has a curious impact on his disciples. For them, it was a cause of great joy and worship.

Luke 24:50-53 records this great joy, “Then Jesus led them out as far as Bethany, and lifting up his hands he blessed them. While he blessed them, he parted from them and was carried up into heaven. And they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy, and were continually in the temple blessing God.

Early in preparing for this sermon, Pastor Scott asked if I had ever heard a sermon on the ascension. Worried that this was a trick question…that maybe he had just preached on it, I have no substantial reply.  Thankfully, he hadn’t preached on it – nor could he remember hearing a sermon on the ascension. So it’s possible that you haven’t either – even those of you who have been in church for 50 or 60 years like Pastor Scott.

Not to sound too much like Jerry Seinfeld but I answer the question, “What’s the deal with the Ascension?”

The ascension occurs 40 days post-Easter.  Where it to happen in 2016, it would be on May 5. (What a way to celebrate Cinco de Mayo!)  The ascension has a wealth of significance – believe it or not, it is incredibly important to our lives today.

But – how can the departure of our Lord and Savior from this earth have such rich importance? Wouldn’t we be better off if Jesus had stuck around?  Wouldn’t it be better for us if every time someone questioned whether or not Jesus is real, he could emerge out of a humble home in Nazareth, wave, and prove that everything he said is true?

In fact – as CRAZY as it sounds – there are several ways that we are better off as Christians because Jesus ascended into heaven.  Just like every other part of his plan, what Jesus did (and does) is better than what I think would be the best plan – including the ascension!

The ascension is an example of a separation that is a blessing to both parties…like sending a student off to college. It is better for this world for Jesus to be in Heaven than it would be had he stuck around.


But the question still persists,  how do the disciples respond with joy at Jesus departure?  Why aren’t they weeping with heart break? How is Jesus’ departure an ascension of JOY?

At his ascension Jesus gives us several things, but I am going to highlight 3.The first is that Jesus is an advocate for his people.

The ascension is one of joy because in Heaven, Jesus is an advocate for his people.

There are several scriptures that are helpful in understanding this point, but I’m just going to look at one, Romans 8:33-34:

“Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died – more than that, who was raised – who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.” Romans 8:33-34

Jesus ascends to Heaven, is seated at the right hand of God’ the Father, and who intercedes for us.  He is our advocate – an advocate is one who does certain things or says certain things on behalf of another.

One day I long to be in a place where I can turn to a security guard and say, “Don’t worry – that tall, sweater-vest wearing, grey-haired man?  He’s with me.”

In the Old Testament, the High Priest would go once a year into the Holy of Holies to offer a sacrifice as an intercessor for Israel. Now, we have Jesus, the Great High Priest, constantly in God’s presence and interceding on our behalf.

If Jesus were on this earth, we would not have an advocate at God’s right hand, interceding for us.


 

Next, the ascension is one of joy because Jesus is a seal that secures salvation. Again, there are several verses that are helpful, but I am going to look at just Hebrews 9:12, “Jesus entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption.”

For our adoption of Parker to become official we had to go to the courthouse, recite official-sounding words, and sign paperwork. That ritual sealed Parker’s place in our family.  There is nothing he, nor anyone else, can do to be out of it – his place is secure.  (No matter how much he will protest as a teenager…)

By entering into God’s holy place in heaven, Jesus secured our eternal salvation. His blood paid the penalty for our sins, once and for all, and his place in Heaven acts as a seal – a binding agreement – that those who believe in him for salvation will not perish but have ever lasting life.

Again, we would be without that tremendous blessing from the ascension if Jesus had stayed on this earth.  He would not be our seal for salvation if he didn’t ascend into Heaven.


 

The third aspect of the ascension is that it is a sign of his return. Luke 21:27 explains, “And then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.”

Just as Jesus ascended into Heaven, he will return one day in the same fashion. The ascension is a promise of the descension. He left, but only temporarily, and promises to return again.

(Just like that kid who left for college who’s coming back home one day….)


 

Jesus is your advocate before God the father – interceding on behalf of those who believe in him.

Have you believed?

He guarantees the salvation of those who have surrendered to him.

Have you surrendered?

Just as he departed, Jesus will return one day.

Are you ready?

Why I’m Pro-Life

Stand4Life

 

I awoke today with no idea that this day marks the 43rd anniversary of the Supreme Court decision in the Roe vs. Wade case that made abortion legal in the United States.  Furthermore, I had no idea the depth and breadth of abortion – no realization of the actual numbers, until I read this tweet from Al Mohler.

You may wonder why it matters, or if pro-life is just an issue that (evangelical) pastors are supposed to champion.

This is more than just doctrine for me. It’s more than just a political issue. Pro-life has a face for me.

At times that face brings smiles.  At other times it brings frustration. It always brings love.

My son, Parker, is alive today because his mom chose life.


In March of 2008, Janet and I were faced with a choice.  We had just finished something between 18 months and 2 years of infertility treatments and had to make a choice. Our doctor encouraged us to pursue further, more drastic, measures or to pursue adoption.

We chose adoption.

Little did we know that at the same time a young woman was facing a choice of her own. She was in High School, and had plans for her life, plans that did not include having a baby. She found herself pregnant and was faced with a choice.

The young man who fathered the baby gave her money for an abortion. She weighed her options – adoption…or abortion.

She chose adoption.


King David recorded these words in a song, “For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.” Psalm 139:13

Parker was knit together in his mother’s womb.  He was never a mistake to be erased, an inconvenience to be discarded, or fetus to be disposed of.

I’m Parker’s dad because she chose life.

When you have to chose whether you are pro-life or pro-choice, what I want you to do is remember Parker.  Think of a boy who loves to play soccer, who is best-friends with his little brother, who could play video games all day long, and who never seems to be in a hurry.

Remember these pictures so that you can remember that each life has value, and each life is to be protected.

Parker.Janet

Janet holding Parker moments after his birth.

ParkerAndMe

Parker.Baby

Parker.Mickey

Parker with best-friend and little brother, Jonathan.

Parker.Disney

Boys standing

Parker.Porter

Parker’s birth mom chose life.

If you’re on the fence, think about Parker, and think what my family’s life would be like without him.

A PSA on Cross Church & a New Policy

CrossChurch_c_tagline

For as long as I’ve been on staff at NRHBC, we’ve had in place a co-ed car policy. Namely that your church staff are not to ride in a car alone with someone of the opposite gender that is not a member of the staff’s family.

The policy is in place to protect the reputation of the staff member as much as it is to prevent potential bad choices. On occasion it’s been a tad annoying, but it is a smart policy to have and one that is absolutely needed.

Speaking of things that are annoying, let’s talk about group texting.

We’ve put in place a new policy at Cross Church about co-ed texting that mimics the car policy.  In a word, I’m asking my staff not to text someone of the opposite gender in a one-on-one text.

In other words, when Josh and I need to text a woman who is not family, we will have to have a third party in on the conversation.  Sally will need to include a third party when texting a man who is not her family or fiancé.

We will protect privacy.

Please help us to follow this policy and be understanding when it becomes annoying.

Blessings,

Pastor Mark

 

My Terrible (Worship) Reputation

Luke 19.45-46

 

And (Jesus) entered the temple and began to drive out those who sold, saying to them, “It is written, ‘My house shall be a house of prayer,’ but you have made it a den of robbers.” And he was teaching daily in the temple. The chief priests and the scribes and the principal men of the people were seeking to destroy him, but they did not find anything they could do, for all the people were hanging on his words.”


Picture yourself entering the temple, first through the court of the gentiles, standing with Jesus.

Instead of prayers, hear sheep bleating.

Instead of worship, hear birds screeching.

In the place of God’s Word, hear salesmen calling out the cheapest prices – the best deals – in what was supposed to be a sacred place.

In place of teaching, hear coins dropped into metal plates and people bickering over exchange plates.

Now it is easy to understand why Jesus acted.

There were other places that animals could be sold…there were other places where coins could be exchanged. At some point in Israel’s history, all of this commotion was in another part of Jerusalem.

Maybe it was just a matter of convenience that motivated them to bring it into the temple. Maybe no Gentiles really ever showed up to pray, to worship, to hear God’s word.

Whatever the case, the Jews, according to the theologian Darrell Bock, “turned the temple into exactly the opposite of what it was designed to be…In the very presence of God, as it prepares for worship, the nation dishonors its God”.*

By putting money changers in the Court of the Gentiles, the priests and other leaders are limiting the Gentile’s access to God. What was to be a place of worship became a den of robbers. Jesus was forced into action because of the gulf between what was supposed to happen in worship and what was currently happening in their place of worship.

Today, are we innocent of this crime? How have we turned our worship into the opposite of what it was designed to be?

Unfortunately, I think the answer is obvious.  We turn worship into the exact opposite of what it was intended to be by making worship all about ourselves.


A confession is in order from me.  Just as Paul said in 1 Timothy 1:15 – that he was the foremost of sinners… on this topic, I am the foremost among sinners.

The problem with serving at one church since you were 25 is that it is hard to shake a reputation that you earn when you are young and foolish.  I earned the reputation on staff at our church to dislike a certain style of worship – so any time our church brought in someone who led a special event, but did so with southern gospel music – I, and I am embarrassed about it now – made my disinterest in attending well known to the pastor.

The litmus test for whether or not one can worship has nothing…NOTHING…to do with worship style.  It has everything to do with the heart of the music and the heart of the worshiper.

Remember the story of Cain and Able? It’s no big deal if you don’t.  The story of their life is found in Genesis 4, which is the 4th chapter of the first book of the Bible.

Cain and Able are brothers – in fact they are the first children born to Adam and Eve. Cain farms. Able shepherds.

They both bring a sacrifice to God – with a grateful heart, Able brings the best of his flock to sacrifice. Cain, with a begrudging heart, brings only what is left over.  God accepts Able’s sacrifice, but rejects Cain’s. God tested their heart and found Cain’s worship lacking…

If the music has at its heart to glorify our God – to glorify Jesus Christ – and to glorify the Holy Spirit, each and every Christian should be able to worship regardless of style.

When a Christian makes worship all about their worship style preference, that Christian is making worship all about themselves, when it should be all about God.  As we worship, do we honor God – whether or not the worship style meets our preference?  Or do we dishonor God, and only have ourselves in mind – when we refuse to worship to a music style that is not our favorite?

Worship must be centered on glorifying Christ Jesus – anything else is just about glorifying ourselves. By placing the money changers and sacrifice sellers in the court of the gentiles, the Jews made worship all about themselves. We must make sure we don’t fall into the same sin when we worship by insisting on a style that meets our desires.


*Bock, Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament: Luke, 1572.