The Shift from Authority to Preference….

9Marks publishes a journal periodically. I find these journals to be beneficial on many levels. The latest journal focuses on the subject of authority. The article republished below is from Os Guinness. He explains with clarity and precision the subtle shift occurring in Christianity whereby authority is being replaced with preference. I hope this article will stimulate your thinking as you continue to grow in grace. Pastor Chris

 
The Shift from Authority to Preference—And Its Consequences for the Church

Article

09.30.2016

Our modern world has shifted us from a stance under authority to one of preference. Or, expressed more carefully, our modern world tends to undermine all forms of authority other than its own and replaces them with the sense that all responses are merely a matter of preference.

THE LORD AS AUTHORITY

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It goes without saying that authority is central and crucial to both the Jewish and Christian faiths. Unique among the gods believed in throughout history, the Lord is transcendent, so what he says is truth, binding truth, because it addresses us as authority. To dilute this authority is to dismiss the Lord himself.

For Christians, “Jesus is Lord” is the central conviction and confession of the Christian faith. In the words of the previously skeptical but then believing Thomas, we are followers of Jesus because we have reached the warranted conviction: “My Lord and my God” (Jn 20:28). Christians believe that Jesus Christ is fully God become fully human, the unique, sure, and sufficient revelation of the very being, character, and purposes of the transcendent God, beside whom there is no other god, and beside whom there is no other name by which we must be saved.

The follower of Jesus is therefore a person under authority, living before the transcendent majesty of God and unashamed to be so. What God tells us, we trust. And what God tells us to do, we obey. We therefore gladly acknowledge that we are not self-created, we are not self-sufficient, and we are not autonomous. No one in the world has a higher view and more solid notion of freedom than Jews and Christians. The Book of Common Prayer addresses God “whose service is perfect freedom.”

FREEDOM, NOT AUTONOMY

But this freedom has a threefold framework, so it is never viewed as autonomous. First, it is understood as a gift from God and not an achievement of our own. Second, it is always relational, and therefore it is experienced and it matures only in relationship with our Master, our brothers and sisters, and our fellow citizens. And third, it is always lived out within the framework of the teaching of Jesus and the Scriptures. Jewish and Christian freedom is freedom within the form of the truth of God’s way of life.

This means the Christian faith is a faith constituted by the authority of Jesus. Whatever Jesus himself commands, or whatever other authority is given, Jesus’ stamp of authority is the final word for Christians who would follow him faithfully. Jesus’ own teaching and his attitude toward the total truthfulness and supreme authority of the Bible make the Scriptures our final rule and authority. What the Scriptures say, God says, and what God says, we obey.

THE POWER OF PLURALIZATION

Critics dismiss this view of authority as quaint and rigid in the world of modernity. And modernity tends to render it unthinkable in a thousand ways, subtly and systematically. For a start, there’s the inescapable presence and power of

pluralization

—the process by which the proliferation of endless choice and incessant change increases at all levels of modern life. If “everyone is now everywhere,” then everyone is aware of “all those others” all the time, and with all the awareness of others comes the reminder of all the choices and changes that are open to us at any moment. And if there’s a wide array of choice today, tomorrow will bring even more.
To be sure, the dizzying array of choices is most obvious in a supermarket or a shopping mall, but the allure of choice has spread far beyond the walls of official consumerland. From breakfast cereals to restaurants and cuisines to sexual identities and temptations to possible sexual arrangements of all types to self-help techniques and philosophies of life, we are incessantly offered an infinite array of choices, and the focus is always on choice as

choosing rather than choice as the content

of what is chosen. Just choose. Simply choose. Experiment. Try it out for yourself. How else will you know unless you have tried it? After all, there are always others, there is always someone or something more, so unless you try them how are you to know whether you have missed the possible holiday, relationship, or philosophy that might really hit the jackpot?
“Love to one is only a barbarity,” Nietzsche wrote in

Beyond Good and Evil

, “for it is exercised at the expense of all others. Love to God also.”

There you have it. Even God is reduced to consumer choice, according to Nietzsche, and when truth is taken out of the equation, sticking to one choice is no longer a matter of intellectual conviction but a sign of timidity and folly.

Surely, the unspoken adspeak tells us, you should always be open-minded, for the genuine freethinker will always wish to choose and keep choosing, to experiment and keep on experimenting. Our freedom is the freedom to choose, regardless of whether our choice is right or wrong, wise or stupid. So long as we can choose, we are free. Choosing is all that matters. Truth, goodness, and authority are irrelevant to the central act and the main event: you are the sovereign chooser, and you are free to exercise your sovereign right to choose and choose and choose again in whatever way you like—until all choices seem the same and each one shrivels into insignificance.

FREEDOM OF CHOICE V. FREEDOM OF CONSCIENCE

Anyone thinking along can immediately see why freedom of conscience and conscientious objection are routinely dismissed today. Freedom of choice and freedom of conscience are entirely different. Freedom of choice has become autonomous and a matter of entitlement, whereas freedom of conscience was never free. It was a duty and therefore duty-bound and not free. Conscience was once respected precisely because a person was duty-bound, or bound by the dictates of conscience—like Luther’s “Here I stand. I can do no other.” But in today’s world, freedom of conscience is confused with freedom of choice and therefore rendered dutiless and shorn of its rights.

The net effect of this concentration on choosing lies at the heart of our modern consumer society. Choice at the expense of the content of the choice elevates the sovereign chooser and devalues the content of the choice and reduces it to a preference.

Does it matter whether you choose Wheaties, Bircher Muesli, or Irish oatmeal as your breakfast, or football, baseball, or golf as your sport?

Does it matter whether you worship on Friday with the Muslims, Saturday with the Jews, Sunday with the Christians, or not at all? Or whether your sister-in-law is straight or lesbian, or your boss is a heterosexual womanizer, a homosexual, or was once a woman?

There are different strokes for different folks. We are all different and all our lifestyles and journeys are different, so who are we to judge when we haven’t walked in another person’s moccasins? This is my choice. That is yours. We are all free to choose differently, and our choices only amount to different preferences, so who is to say who is right? Or to care what anyone else chooses? And what business do any of us have to judge other people’s preferences?

Whatever.

THE RESULT OF FREE-CHOICE CONSUMERISM FOR THE CHURCH

When such autonomous, free-choice consumerism washes over society from the shopping mall to the bedroom, the office and the ballot box, the result is predictable. What will be the price of obedience to authority, and what will be the respect accorded to principled dissent? Choice—unbounded autonomous, subjective sovereign individual choice—is the playboy king of consumerland, and with comfort and convenience as his closest courtiers and cronies, he now rules much of life. Authority and obedience are therefore banished together. They are the unwelcome spoilsports whose entry might ruin the fantasy game of infinite choices. The result is no surprise—a grave crisis of authority within the church, and a rash of positions and interpretations that in any clearer thinking generation would be frankly seen as the rejection of the authority of Jesus and the Scriptures that they are.

Evangelicals are especially vulnerable to this distortion of choice because of the exaggerated place they give to choice in the call to conversion. It may even be their Achilles’ heel. Whereas the Jews are the

chosen people, so that their faith is their destiny, Evangelicals are a choosing people

, and their faith is often merely their decision.

The step of faith is of course a choice, the most important and fully responsible choice a person ever makes. But when the overwhelming emphasis is put on choice as an act of decision, choosing becomes everything, but it can then suffer the fate of many modern choices and shrink to being lightweight, changeable, and nonbinding. Choice and change are close companions, and those who decide for a faith because they choose to believe it can as easily defect from the faith when they choose not to.

Contrast this modern casualness with the early church’s deep theology surrounding conversion. Choice today can always be casual, whereas the covenantal vow of faith is costly because we commit ourselves to Jesus and mortgage our very selves as we do so. We have chosen, and we are committed. We have picked up our crosses, and there is no turning back. We are no longer our own.

THE TEMPTATION TO TRIVIALIZE CHOICE

The modern temptation to trivialize choice is not new. It ultimately stems from our human fallenness as truth seekers who are always inevitably truth twisters, too. Instead of seeking to shape our desires according to the reality of God’s truth, we seek to shape reality according to our desires—and modern consumerism aids and abets us as never before.

St. Augustine addressed the problem in the fifth century, and his protest against the Manichaean distortions of the Scriptures could apply equally to those who attempt to rationalize their justification of homosexual marriage. Just so today, Christian advocates of homosexual and lesbian revisionism believe in themselves and in the sexual revolution rather than the gospel. They therefore twist the Scriptures to make reality fit their desires rather than making their desires fit the truths of Scripture. In Søren Kierkegaard’s stinging term, they are “kissing Judases” who betray Jesus with an interpretation.

Protestant liberalism has long sauntered down this road, brazenly repudiating the authority of Jesus for the successive authorities of the Enlightenment and post-Enlightenment worldviews. To paraphrase George Canning’s description of those who were fellow travelers of the revolutionary Jacobins, liberal revisionists are “friends of every faith except their own.” In the process whole churches and entire denominations have effectively chased a mirage and committed spiritual and institutional suicide and rendered themselves as irrelevant as they are unfaithful.

The tragic story of extreme Protestant revisionism makes it all the harder to witness the pitiful attempts of evangelical revisionists to follow the Gadarene rush over the cliff. As I write, for example, the pastor of an evangelical church in San Francisco has announced that he regards the way of Jesus as “destructive” to human flourishing as it is now understood. He therefore proposes that it should be relaxed to allow for the more “compassionate” and contemporary lifestyle of homosexual marriage.

Sadly for him and his followers, he does not understand the lessons of the Bible and history—that he is courting spiritual and institutional suicide for himself and for those he is leading astray. Though to be fair, he and others like him are only reaping what others sowed with such fanfare a generation ago. For were we not solemnly sold a barrel of nonsense in the form of maxims that all good seeker-sensitive and audience-driven churches were to pursue? Here is one example from a well-known Christian marketing consultant: “It is also critical that we keep in mind a fundamental principle of Christian communication: the audience, not the message, is sovereign.”

The audience is sovereign? No! Let it be repeated a thousand times,

no

! When reaching out as the church of Jesus, the message of the gospel and Jesus the Lord of the message is alone sovereign—and never, never, never the audience, however needy, however attractive, however prestigious or well-heeled an audience may be. Yes, like the apostle Paul we are to be Jews to the Jews, Gentiles to the Gentiles, and all things to all our fellow humans, excluding no one in any age or any sphere or condition of life. That, of course, is one side of the truth of the seeker-sensitive approach. But the other side of the truth is that we are always and only to be all things to all people, not in order to join them but rather, like Paul, to bring them back to Jesus.

ARE WE CHANGING THE WORLD—OR BEING CHANGED BY IT?

All such evangelicals should search their hearts. For a generation now the air has been thick with talk of “changing the world,” but who is changing whom?

There is no question the world would like to change the church. In area after area only the church stands between the world and its success over issues such as sexuality. Unquestionably the world would like to change the church, but does the church still want to change the world, or is its only concern to change the church in the light of the world? Something is rotten in the state of evangelicalism, and all too often it is impossible to tell who is changing whom.

There are always essential questions to ask of anyone we hear or anything we read. What is being said? Is it true? And what of it? All three questions are discounted in our modern age of information, but as Christians we must never allow the truth question to be removed from its central place. To be sure, faithfulness is costly in the short term. It is upstream and against the flow, and the flow that was once politically correct can suddenly become a raging and life-threatening intolerance.

But costly though that stand may be, it is never as costly as the long-term price of rejecting the authority of Jesus and abandoning the way of life in the gospel. Our Lord warned of that very danger: “Do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell” (Mt 10:28).

Today’s evangelical revisionists should take sober note. Time and again I tremble when I hear or read their flimsy arguments. They may be lionized by the wider advocates of the sexual revolution for fifteen minutes because they are siding with that wider culture in undermining the clear teaching of Jesus and the Bible that stands in their way. For there is no question that Jesus, the Scriptures, and Christian tradition all stand resolutely in their way.

ROADKILL, NOT HEROES

But in truth, the sexual revolution has no real interest in such evangelicals, and they will be left as roadkill as the revolution blitzkrieg gathers speed. But that is nothing compared with the real tragedy of the revisionists. It is no light thing for anyone to set themselves above and against the authority of Jesus and his Scriptures. The apostle Peter betrayed Jesus and was restored, but Judas stands as the warning for all who betray Jesus for their personal, sexual, or political interests and condemn themselves for their disloyalty.

Both Jesus and the apostle Peter tell us to “remember Lot’s wife” (Lk 17:33), but our Christian revisionists should remember Lot himself. Having chosen the benefits and privileges of living in the well-watered garden country of Sodom, having married into their social circles, and having worked his way up into the inner leadership of the city, Lot was suddenly confronted by his moment of truth. He had been utterly naive and deluded in trusting the Sodomites. When the chips were down, they had no respect for his hospitality, no time for his different moral standards, and they threatened to deal with him as brutally as with his guests: “This one came in as an alien, and already he is acting like a judge; now we will treat you worse than them” (Gen 19:9).

Poor Lot had become a joke even to his in-laws. In spite of all his efforts and contrary to all that he imagined, he had still not arrived, and he was never accepted as he imagined. He was always the alien—as Abraham never forgot that he was and was respected for being. We of course should always be resident aliens as faithful Christians who are in the world but not of it—regardless of the world’s pressure on us to change with the times and line up with them on the so-called right side of history.

* * * * *

Editor’s Note:Taken from Impossible People: Christian Courage and the Struggle for the Soul of Civilization

 by Os Guinness. Copyright (c) 2016 by Os Guinness. Used by permission of InterVarsity Press, P.O. Box 1400, Downers Grove, IL  60515-1426. www.ivpress.com.


Silence is Golden

“Silence is golden” is a proverbial saying that expresses the idea that saying nothing is better than speaking. Sometimes being silent is good. Silence gives room for the mind to think. Recently Ravi Zacharias in a “Slice of Infinity” wrote about the value of a contemplative life. It is reproduced below in its entirety. Pastor Chris
“One of the tragic casualties of our age has been that of the contemplative life—a life that thinks, a life thinks things through, and more particularly, thinks God’s thoughts. A person sitting at his or her desk staring out the window would never be assumed to be working. No! Thinking is not equated with work. Yet, had Newton under his tree, or Archimedes in his bathtub, bought into that prejudice, some natural laws would still be up in the air or buried under an immovable rock. Pascal’s Pensees, or “Thoughts,” a work that has inspired millions, would have never been penned.

What is even more destructive is the assumption that silence is inimical to life. The radio in the car, Muzak in the elevator, and the symphony entertaining callers “on hold” all add up as grave impediments to personal reflection. In effect, the mind is denied the privilege of living with itself even briefly and is crowded with outside impulses to cope with aloneness. Aldous Huxley’s indictment, “Most of one’s life… is one prolonged effort to prevent thinking,” seems frightfully true. Moreover, the price paid for this scenario has been devastating. As T.S. Eliot questioned:

Where is the life we have lost in the living?
Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge?
Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?
The cycles of heaven in twenty centuries

bring us farther from God and nearer to dust.

Is there a remedy? May I make some suggestions? Nothing ranks higher for mental discipline than a planned and systematic study of God’s Word, from whence life’s parameters and values are planted and Christ is made known. Paul, who loved his books and parchments, affirmed the priority of Scripture as the means to encountering Christ. And Psalm 119 promises that the God who speaks to us keeps us from being double-minded.

The average person today actually surrenders the intellect to the world, presuming Christianity to be bereft of intelligence. And many a pulpit has succumbed to the lie that anything intellectual cannot be spiritual or exciting.

Thankfully there are exceptions. When living in England, our family attended a church where preaching was taken quite seriously and one-hour sermons to packed auditoriums were the norm. Cambridge, being rife with skepticism, demanded a meticulous defense of each sermon text. When we were leaving Cambridge, our youngest child, who was nine years old, declared the preaching of this church to be one of his fondest memories. Even as a little boy he had learned that when the mind is rightly approached, it filters down to the heart. The matter I share here has far-reaching implications. We do a disservice to our youth by not crediting them with the capacity to think.

God places great value on the thought-life and its capacity to shape all of life. “As one thinks in his heart, so is he,” Solomon wrote. Jesus asserted that sin’s gravity lay at the level of the idea itself, not just the act. Paul admonished the church at Philippi to have the mind of Christ, and to the same people he wrote: “[W]hatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think on these things” (Philippians 4:8). The follower of Christ must demonstrate to the world what it means not just to think, but to think justly. That is, in the words of aging David to his son Solomon, to “acknowledge the God of your father, and serve him with wholehearted devotion and with a willing mind, for the LORD searches every heart and understands every motive behind the thoughts. If you seek him, he will be found by you; but if you forsake him, he will reject you forever” (1 Chronicles 28:9).

With hearts, minds, and bodies, we can follow the God of creation and the Son who stepped into it. After all, it is not that I think, therefore, I am, but rather, the great I Am has asked us to think, and therefore, we must.”



Community Missions

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Yesterday we studied from Acts 1:1-11, the missional call of the church. Several years ago Mark D. Roberts wrote on that topic, which is reproduced in its entirety. May it seal in your heart, a commitment to reach out with the Gospel together as a community of believers, who love and live for Jesus. Pastor Chris

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Gospel Polemics

Andy Naselli in a recent post shared this from Tim Keller. It is an excellent presentation on how to debate in our current age. Pastor Chris
 
Here’s what Tim Keller writes in an extended callout in 

Center Church: Doing Balanced, Gospel-Centered Ministry in Your City

 (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2012), 376–80:

GOSPEL POLEMICS

All Christian movements must be based on commonly held biblical truths, and yet they must be characterized by trust and a willingness to unite around central truths and accept differences on secondary matters that—in the view of ministry partners—do not negate our common belief in the biblical gospel. On the one hand, we must realize that if we are going to maintain a healthy movement over time, we have to engage in direct discussion about any doctrinal errors we perceive. On the other hand, we must engage in such a way that we show great respect for the other party and aim to persuade them, not just punish them.

How can this be done? I suggest the following principles for “polemics”—contending over doctrine—that is seasoned in tone and strategy by the gospel itself. As I’ve read a number of respected Christian authors over the years, I have distilled a few “rules of engagement” that I believe can keep us from either avoiding polemics or engaging in it in a spiritually destructive way.

1. Take full responsibility for even unwitting misrepresentation of others’ views. In our Internet age, we are quick to dash off a response because we think Mr. A promotes view X. And when someone points out that Mr. A didn’t mean

 X because over here he said Y, we simply apologize—or maybe we don’t even do that. Great care should be taken to be sure you really know what Mr. A believes and promotes before you publish. This leads to a related rule.

2. Never attribute an opinion to your opponents that they themselves do not own. Nineteenth-century Princeton theologian Archibald Alexander stated that we must not argue in such a way that it hardens opponents in their views. “Attribute to an antagonist no opinion he does not own, though it be a necessary consequence.” In other words, even if you believe that Mr. A’s belief X could or will lead others who hold that position to belief Y, do not accuse Mr. A of holding to belief Y himself if he disowns it. You may consider him inconsistent, but this is not the same as implying or insisting that he actually holds belief Y when he does not. A similar move happens when we imply or argue that if Mr. A quotes a particular author favorably at any point, then Mr. A must hold to all

 the views held by the author. If we, through guilt by association, hint or insist that Mr. A must hold other beliefs of that particular author, then we are not only alienating him or her; we are also misrepresenting our opponent.

3. Take your opponents’ views in their entirety, not selectively.

 A host of Christian doctrines have an “on the one hand/on the other hand” dimension about them—and without both emphases we can fall into heresy. What if we find Mr. A making what appears to be an unqualified statement that sounds very unbalanced? If that is all Mr. A ever said about the subject, it would be right to conclude something about his position. But what if Mr. A has been speaking or writing these statements to an audience that already believed certain things, and therefore he was assuming those points of doctrine without stating them? At minimum, we must realize that Mr. A simply can’t say everything he believes about a subject every time he speaks. We should not pull out certain statements by Mr. A while overlooking or actually concealing explanations, qualifications, or balancing statements he may have made elsewhere.

4. Represent and engage your opponents’ position in its very strongest form, not in a weak “straw man” form. This may be the most comprehensive rule of all in polemics, because, if you adhere to it, most of the other policies and principles will follow. Do all the work necessary until you can articulate the views of your opponent with such strength and clarity that he or she could say, “I couldn’t have said it better myself.” Then, and only then, will your polemics have integrity and

 actually have the possibility of being persuasive—which leads to our next point.

5. Seek to persuade, not antagonize—but watch your motives!

 John Calvin was a Reformer in Geneva, Switzerland. His comrade in this work was William Farel, who was outspoken and hotheaded by temperament. At one point, Calvin wrote Farel a letter in which he urged Farel to do more to “accommodate people”—i.e., to seek to persuade them, to win them over. Calvin then distinguished two very different motivations for seeking to be winsome and persuasive: “There are, as you know, two kinds of popularity: the one, when we seek favor from motives of ambition and the desire of pleasing; the other, when, by fairness and moderation, we gain their esteem so as to make them teachable by us.”

The Farels of the world believe any effort to be judicious and prudent is a cowardly sellout. But Calvin wisely recognized that his friend’s constant, intemperate denunciations often stemmed not from a selfless courage, but rather from the opposite—pride. Writing to Pierre Viret about Farel, Calvin said, “He cannot bear with patience those who do not comply with his wishes.”

In short, it is possible to seek to be winsome and persuasive out of self-centeredness rather than God-centeredness. We may be winsome in an attempt to be popular. It is just as possible to be bold and strongly polemical out of self-centeredness rather than God-centeredness. And therefore, looking very closely at our motives, we must take care that our polemics do not unnecessarily harden and antagonize our opponents. We should seek to win them, as Paul did Peter, not to be rid of them.

6. Remember the gospel and stick to criticizing the theology—because only God sees the heart. Much criticism today is filled with scorn, mockery, and sarcasm rather than marked by careful exegesis and reflection. Such an approach is not persuasive. No one has written more eloquently about this rule than John Newton in his well-known “Letter on Controversy

.”

Newton states that before you write a single word against your opponent “and during the whole time you are preparing your answer, you may commend him by earnest prayer to the Lord’s teaching and blessing.” This practice will stir up love for him, and “such a disposition will have a good influence upon every page you write.” Later in the letter, Newton writes:

What will it profit a man if he gain his cause and silence his adversary, if, at the same time, he loses that humble, tender frame of spirit in which the Lord delights, and to which the promise of his presence is made? … Be upon your guard against admitting anything personal into the debate. If you think you have been ill treated, you will have an opportunity of showing that you are a disciple of Jesus, who “when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not.”

Newton also reminds us that it is a great danger to “be content with showing your wit and gaining the laugh on your side,” to make your opponent look evil and ridiculous instead of engaging their views with “the compassion due to the souls of men.”

The fourth principle above is especially important. Compare what Keller says earlier in the book:

  • The first step in active contextualization is to understand and, as much as possible, identify with your listeners, the people you are seeking to reach. This begins with a diligent (and never-ending) effort to become as fluent in their social, linguistic, and cultural reality as possible. It involves learning to express people’s hopes, objections, fears, and beliefs so well that they feel as though they could not express them better themselves. (p. 120, emphasis added)
  • Directly address and welcome nonbelievers. Talk regularly to “those of you who aren’t sure you believe this or who aren’t sure just what you believe.” Give several asides, even trying to express the language of their hearts. Articulate their objections to Christian doctrine and life better than they can do it themselves. Express sincere sympathy for their difficulties, even as you challenge them directly for their selfishness and unbelief. (p. 308, emphasis added)


Looking for the Living among the Dead

 
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The disciples of Jesus upon hearing about the empty tomb went running to find out if it was true. The angels who met them at the tomb asked a curious question, “Why do you seek the living among the dead?” From the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry He made it clear that the purpose of His life was die for sin and rise from the grave three days later. The disciples however, seemed unable to comprehend what He was talking about when Jesus would reference His divine purpose. Hence their frightened response to the divine encounter at the empty tomb on that first morning of Easter.
 
Looking back on those events through the accounts in the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) we clearly see how many times Jesus told His disciples what would happen after His death. Each time He mentioned His death, He spoke of His resurrection from the dead. It seems so clear and simple from our vantage point. Why were the disciples so bewildered? But before we become too judgmental of them, let us be mindful of how many times we fail to understand what the Lord might be saying to us as we read His Word. The Lord’s instructions to His people through His Word today are as equally clear as those words Jesus spoke to His disciples regarding His death and resurrection. Let us not be surprised by His Word, but rather let us with child like faith believe and follow. Pastor Chris


Intentional Faith

May we focus our faith on living intentionally each day. We call this “Intentional Faith”. The verse we have chosen to remind us of this theme is 2Cor.5:9:
“….We make it our aim to please him”
Each day we want to purpose to be aware that we live by faith and not by sight. The Word is sufficient to guide our lives in our homes, work and church life. We want our affections, attitude and actions to be born out of faith, trusting what the Lord has said in His Word.


Thank You

The Lord has clearly communicated to Christians that we are to be a thankful people. In all of the teaching in the Bible, we do not find conditions on His desire that we be a people overflowing in and with gratitude. The following is a small sample of Biblical teaching on being thankful:
 
“O give thanks to the LORD, for He is good; For His lovingkindness is everlasting.”  1Chron.16:34
 
“The LORD is my strength and my shield; My heart trusts in Him, and I am helped; Therefore my heart exults, And with my song I shall thank Him. Willingly I will sacrifice to You; I will give thanks to Your name, O LORD, for it is good. ” Psa.54:6
  
“But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and manifests through us the sweet aroma of the knowledge of Him in every place.” 2Cor.2:14
  
“always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father;” Eph.5:20
 
These verses as just a few of the many that teach Christians to be thankful. So in the spirit of these Biblical exhortations I would like to offer my gratitude to God for the blessing of the saints at Bethany. The following is reprinted with permission from Karl Vaters.

“Thank you for staying in a church whose

  • Music
  • Clothes
  • Liturgy
  • Building
  • Service order
  • Preaching style
  • Sanctuary
  • or something else

has changed into something you don’t recognize any more.

Thank you for the heritage you passed on to us that gives us the courage to try new, even stupid things to see if they work.

Thank you for how much you pray for us.

Thank you for reminding us that the methods can change as long as the message doesn’t.

Thank you for keeping the ship steady when people like me want to rock the boat.

Thank you for the times you want to speak up, but decide it might be best to pray about it for now.

Thank you for the times you need to speak up and do.

Thank you for the times you express your concerns in private, so you can stand with us in public.

Thank you for forgiving us when we blow it.

Thank you for letting us reach higher, because we’re standing on your shoulders.

Thank you for letting us reach higher, because we’re standing on your shoulders.

Thank you for catching us when we fall.

Thank you for doing all of this without getting anything close to the credit you deserve.

For these, and so many other blessings that no blog post will ever be long enough for, we thank you.

We can’t do it without you.”
 
AMEN!
 
With a heart filled with gratitude,
Pastor Chris


Easter 2015

As we look forward to celebrating the resurrection of Jesus Christ, we would like to make available to you the various songs we will be singing as a congregation on that Sunday. The titles of the songs below are linked to youtube videos of the songs to assist you in your preparations for our gathering on Easter. Please continue to pray with us that Christ be lifted high as we sing to testify of His saving grace.


Church-Killing Gossip

Gossip is one of the most destructive forces in the local church. The article below, entitled “How to Stop Church-Killing Gossip,” has many helpful suggestions for how we ought to address gossip when we hear it. (This article was originally published on the blog of the Gospel Coalition).

Kent Hughes:

Gossip involves saying behind a person’s back what you would never say to his or her face.

Flattery means saying to a person’s face what you would never say behind his or her back.

Here are some wise words from Dan Phillips for when you hear gossip from someone:

  1. Ask, “Why are you telling me this?” Often, that in itself is such a focusing question that it can bring an end to the whole unpleasant chapter. It has the added benefit that it can help a person whose intentions are as good as his/her judgment is bad.
  2. Ask, “What’s the difference between what you’re telling me and gossip?” See above; same effect, same potential benefits.
  3. Ask, “How is your telling me that thought, that complaint, that information going to help you and me love God and our brothers better, and knit us closer together as a church in Christ’s love?” Isn’t that the goal we should share, every one of us? Won’t it take the working of each individual member (Eph. 4:16)? Isn’t the watch-out for harmful influences an every-member ministry (Heb. 3:12-1310:2413:12-15)?
  4. Ask, “Now that you’ve told me about that, what are you going to do about it?” While the previous two are subjective, this is not. If neither of the previous two questions succeeded in identifying gossip/whispering/sowing-dissension for what they are, the answer to this question will do so. Tip: if the answer is “Pray,” a good response might be “Then why didn’t you do that and leave it there in the first place?”
  5. Say, “Now that you’ve told me about that, you’ve morally obligated me to make sure you talk to ____ about it. How long do you think you need, so I can know when this becomes a sin that I will need to confront in you?” The least that this will accomplish is that you’ll fall off the list of gossips’/whisperers’ favorite venting-spots. The most is that you may head off a church split, division, harmed souls, sidelined Gospel ministry, and waylaid discipleship. Isn’t that worth it?

You can read the whole thing here.

Ray Ortlund explains what gossip is and why it is sinfully enticing:

Gossip is our dark moral fervor eagerly seeking gratification.

Gossip makes us feel important and needed as we declare our judgments.

It makes us feel included to know the inside scoop.

It makes us feel powerful to cut someone else down to size, especially someone we are jealous of.

It makes us feel righteous, even responsible, to pronounce someone else guilty.

Gossip can feel good in multiple ways. But it is of the flesh, not of the Spirit.

. . . Gossip is a sin rarely disciplined but often more socially destructive than the sensational sins.

Gossip leaves a wide trail of devastation wherever and however it goes – word of mouth, email, blogging, YouTube.

It erodes trust and destroys morale.

It creates a social environment of suspicion where everyone must wonder what is being said behind their backs and whether appearances of friendship are sincere.

It ruins hard-won reputations with cowardly but effective weapons of misrepresentation.

It manipulates people into taking sides when no such action is necessary or beneficial.

It unleashes the dark powers of psychological transference, doing violence to the gossiper, to the one receiving the gossip and to the person being spoken against.

It makes the Body of Christ look like the Body of Antichrist – destroyers rather than healers.

It exhausts the energies we would otherwise devote to positive witness.

It robs our Lord of the Church he deserves.

It exposes the hostility in our hearts and discredits the gospel in the eyes of the world. Then we wonder why we don’t see more conversions, why “the ground is so hard.”

Read the whole thing, including his own counsel on what you should do when you start to hear gossip.



Preparations

Easter is the celebration of Christ’s victory over sin. He offered Himself as the final sacrifice for sin, forever. Christ’s life and ministry prepared Him for Calvary. His birth, youth and ministry were leading Him to that eventful moment in human history when the blood of the lamb would take away the sin of the world. As Christians, we have nothing greater to celebrate, then Christ crucified and risen.
Below is a link to a 30 day devotional that you can use to prepare your heart for our celebration of Easter. The devotional guide will provide you with Scripture passages and questions to assist you in meditating on the life of Jesus. May the time you spend meditating on Jesus through your study adequately prepare you to lift up and exalt Jesus on Easter Sunday.