Prepare To Be Hated

I have been really impressed with the ministry of Mars Hill in Seattle since 2009 – I ran across a sermon back then in a series called Doctrine…I’d never heard a pastor preach like Driscoll (from Mars Hill) preached…and I loved it.

Since then, I’ve began liking some of the other pastors that are similar to Driscoll – guys like Matt Chandler from The Village Church in Dallas. And recently, I learning to love the work of David Platt and Francis Chan – some other guys in the mix are JR Vassar from Apostles in NY, and Darrin Patrick from Journey in St. Louis.

These men are doing their best to represent Jesus – to preach the Gospel – to love the people that God has called them to lead.  Some of them, by nature, are a little more brash than others (Driscoll and Chandler)…and while this absolutely attracts and motivates some, it brings out the worst in others.

Vassar and Platt don’t seem to be as brash as Chandler and Driscoll – actually, none of them are as brash as Mark – and its his brashness and leadership style that seems to get him in the most trouble…and leads many people to hate him…I would imagine that all of these men, and those that choose to preach the gospel unapologetically are going to be looked on with disdain; however, I’ve also found this to be true: it doesn’t matter how sweetly and gently they preach The Word – when you preach it the way it is, you will be hated.  I feel the need to say that again…if someone chooses to preach the gospel, they are going to be hated.

 If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you… -Jesus [John 15:18]

Tonight I was reading an article from people that are angry at the stance that these men (and men like them) are taking – they are being true to scripture – whether it is presented like Driscoll or like Chan. And in the end, Truth is Truth.  The most perfect teacher to walk the face of the earth angered people – He turned people away (either because they didn’t like His message or because they didn’t want to accept the challenge of following Him); He angered people and people hated Him because his message was different than anything else – the exclusivity and inclusivity of His message was and still is counter cultural.

This realization hit me hard tonight – like a shot to the chest.  This is what Jesus is calling me to do – to preach The Word…The Word in all of It’s counter cultural, exclusive and inclusive, people enraging and soul saving Truth. Most of those that read this post may not be fans of Driscoll or Mars Hill, and that’s okay. You may not know who any of the other pastors are, and that’s okay too. You may completely disagree with their approach to leading churches and preaching the gospel, and that’s also just fine.  I’m not hear to try to make you think one person’s way of presenting The Truth is better than someone else’s..but I am trying to drive the point home that if you want to serve Jesus – if you want to lead and serve His church – if you want to preach and teach the gospel…Prepare to be hated.

Look, I am sending you out as sheep among wolves. So be as shrewd as snakes and harmless as doves. But beware! For you will be handed over to the courts and will be flogged with whips in the synagogues. You will stand trial before governors and kings because you are my followers. But this will be your opportunity to tell the rulers and other unbelievers about me. When you are arrested, don’t worry about how to respond or what to say. God will give you the right words at the right time. For it is not you who will be speaking—it will be the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.

A brother will betray his brother to death, a father will betray his own child, and children will rebel against their parents and cause them to be killed. And all nations will hate you because you are my followers. But everyone who endures to the end will be saved. When you are persecuted in one town, flee to the next. I tell you the truth, the Son of Man will return before you have reached all the towns of Israel.
 
Students are not greater than their teacher, and slaves are not greater than their master. Students are to be like their teacher, and slaves are to be like their master. And since I, the master of the household, have been called the prince of demons, the members of my household will be called by even worse names!
 
But don’t be afraid of those who threaten you. For the time is coming when everything that is covered will be revealed, and all that is secret will be made known to all. What I tell you now in the darkness, shout abroad when daybreak comes. What I whisper in your ear, shout from the housetops for all to hear!
-Jesus [Matt. 10:16-27]

Power of the Holy Spirit

I’m reading a book called Radical by David Platt.  If you haven’t read it, it’s amazing.  I have been challenged immensely to step outside of the American dream and pursue the calling and command of the Gospel.

I came across a section of the book the struck pretty deep – and I can’t get it out of my head (no matter how much I try to ignore it) – so, I’m sharing it with all of you…prayerfully consider these words.

You are witnesses of these things. And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.
                   -Luke 24:48-49
“Consider what it takes for successful businessmen and businesswomen, effective entrepreneurs and hardworking associates, shrewd retirees and idealistic students to combine forces with a creative pastor to grow a “successful church” today. Clearly, it doesn’t require the power of God to draw a crowd in our culture. A few key elements that we can manufacture will suffice. 
 
First, we need a good performance. In an entertainment-driven culture, we need someone who can captivate the crowds. If we don’t have a charismatic communicator, we are doomed. So even if we have to show him on a video screen, we must have a good preacher. It’s even better if he has an accomplished worship leader with a strong band at his side. 
 
Next, we need a place to hold the crowds that will come, so we gather all our resources to build a multimillion-dollar facility to house the performance. We must make sure that all facets of the building are excellent and attractive.After all, that’s what our culture expects. Honestly, that’s what we expect. 
 
Finally, once the crowds get there, we need to have something to keep them coming back. So we need to start programs— first-class, top-of-the-line programs— for kids, for youth, for families, for every age and stage. In order to have these programs, we need professionals to run them. That way, for example, parents can simply drop off their kids at the door, and the professionals can handle ministry for them. We don’t want people trying this at home. 
 
I know this may sound oversimplified and exaggerated, but are these not the elements we think of when we consider growing, dynamic, successful churches in our day? I get fliers on my desk every day advertising entire conferences built around creative communication, first-rate facilities, innovative programs, and entrepreneurial leadership in the church. We Christians are living out the American dream in the context of our communities of faith. We have convinced ourselves that if we can position our resources and organize our strategies, then in church as in every other sphere of life, we can accomplish anything we set our minds to. 
 
But what is strangely lacking in the picture of performances, personalities, programs, and professionals is desperation for the power of God. God’s power is at best an add-on to our strategies. I am frightened by the reality that the church I lead can carry on most of our activities smoothly, efficiently, even successfully, never realizing that the Holy Spirit of God is virtually absent from the picture. We can so easily deceive ourselves, mistaking the presence of physical bodies in a crowd for the existence of spiritual life in a community.”

Update From Ashland – 7.7.12

Of all the things that have gone on so far – through all the moving, and family stuff, and working in the church plant, and continuing in seminary, and working through the adoption process, and more moving – God has continued to be so good to us.

The last time I posted an update we were a couple of weeks away from moving into our new house.  We didn’t buy a house, but God has blessed us with a rental that is larger than our previous house but is cheaper (so very thankful for that).  The move was incredibly hectic.  Our move date was during the last week of school for the girls – our house was a mess, and for those of you that know Janice well, that drove her crazy!  But we made it through.  On our last night, several of the guys from the band showed up and stayed late helping us with everything – a huge thank you goes out to all of them!!

What made things even more hectic was that Janice had several cupcake orders due at or around the same time as the move.  She was amazing.  And in the short month that we’ve been living in our new place, she has taken it from being a house into being a home.  She continues to be amazing to me and to our daughters – keep her in your prayers (she is married to me after all).

The girls are doing great – and by great I mean they’re driving us crazy with the unending amount of energy they seem to have everyday (we are blessed).  Summer break has been a good time for our family – please pray that God would help us to grow closer to Him and each other.  Your prayers will be even more important as we continue down the road to adoption.  The wheels are turning slow, but we know that God is sovereign – we want to trust His timing with all of this.

A couple of our friends from Arizona stopped by to see us a couple of weeks ago – it was really refreshing to spend time with the Bobbi and Sky and the kids.

New Hope Church continues to experience the ups and downs of being a church plant.  God seems to be bringing new people into the congregation all the time, which is exciting.  He also continues to show me places where I need to grow and mature.  Pray that I will be the leader that God has created me to be – not just as the worship pastor at New Hope, but also as the husband to Janice, and the father to our girls.

We love you all, and thank you so much for your continued prayer and support.

Until All Have Heard…

Chris

The Enemy of Gathered and Scattered Worship

Last Sunday I got to preach a message on corporate worship – the singing and praying and raised hands and being on our face before God when the church gathers together.  Corporate worship is awesome, and we, as Christians, should be involved in this type of worship – we need to continue to gather together and worship as the body of Christ (Hebrews 10:24-25).

But gathered worship doesn’t begin when we are together on Sunday morning, or Saturday evening, or whenever your congregation meets. It begins when we are scattered throughout the week – when we are with our families, alone in the early hours of the morning, on the drive to work, while having dinner, or at the game with the guys.  When we are scattered, we are still the church; we are still followers of Jesus, and he expects all of our worship.

The enemy to giving Jesus all of our worship is idolatry – worshiping created things rather than Creator God (Romans 1:21-25). In order to combat this, we have to know who or what our idols may be.  On Sunday, I shared a list of questions that I found on the Mars Hill website.  If we are going to be the type of worshipers that the Father seeks, then we are going to have to smash the idols in our lives – and that does not begin on Sunday morning.  Take some time and ask yourselves these hard questions, and be honest enough with yourself and God to answer them truthfully.  This could be the beginning of a whole new level of connection between you and God…

WHO/WHAT ARE YOUR EXTERNAL IDOLS?

  • Who/what is my Lord that rules over my life determining how I live?
  • Who/what is my Judge I am living to earn the approval of?  
  • Where do you give the firstfruits of your wealth?
  • Where do you give the firstruits of your time?
  • What people and things take the majority of your life?
  • What do you plan and pray for?

 WHO/WHAT ARE YOUR INTERNAL IDOLS?

  • What false beliefs do you hold about God?
  • Which parts of Scripture do you deeply doubt or even disbelieve?
  • Deep down in your heart who/what do you love, cherish, treasure, long for the most?
  • Deep down in your heart who/what do you despise and hate the most?
  • Who/what makes you happiest? Why?
  • Who/what makes you saddest? Why?

WHO/WHAT IS YOUR MEDIATOR BETWEEN YOU AND GOD?

  • Who or what other than Jesus do you use to get closer to God?
  • Who or what if taken from your life would cause you to not walk as faithfully with God?
  • How do you define yourself, especially when introducing yourself to others?

WHERE IS YOUR FUNCTIONAL HEAVEN?

  • When daydreaming about escaping this life, what does your functional heaven look like and how is it different from the real heaven?
  • On earth, where do you run for your safety or comfort as your hiding place (e.g. the fridge, alcohol, the television, a person, a place, a hobby)?

WHO/WHAT IS YOUR FUNCTIONAL SAVIOR?

  • What is your picture of hell in this life (e.g. being single, not having children, being poor, etc.)?
  • Who or what do you use to save you from what you fear (e.g. a relationship, children, money, shopping, sex, etc.)?

WHAT GOOD THING HAS BECOME A GOD THING?

  • Which idols are in your life that when appreciated and/or stewarded correctly are means of worship but have become objects of worship (e.g. work, family, health, friendship, pleasure, leisure, hobby, etc.)?
  • If you could obtain or change one thing/person in your life what would that be?
  • What idols am I selling to others?

 

2 Weeks and Countings

We’ve almost finished up our first year in Ashland, OH – and God continues to do amazing things. He continues to provide for us. He continues to bless. Summer is coming and with it comes big changes for our family.

The first change is that we are moving in two weeks into a bigger house – but the rent is cheaper and I think we could have the option to buy if God would lead us to stay here long term. Our new landlord is great, and is working hard to get things prepared for us to move in – he’s also letting us paint in the house (which all of you know we love to do). But, now, its getting down to crunch time – we have a lot to get done before June 1. Pray that God would give us the endurance and time to make these things happen.

Another big thing on the horizon for this summer is our pending foster/adoption of a couple of little boys. We still have several hoops to jump through, but we believe that this is something that God wants us to do – our hearts are open and excited about expanding our family.

Please pray for us as we are moving forward – pray for our family – pray for New Hope.

Cultivating Contentment

Over the last several weeks the idea of being content has been on my heart.  I probably make at least one comment per day to my wife about how I’m not content about something – job, ministry, finances (just being honest). She does a great job of reminding me that God is in control, but there is still a part of me that wants more or wants something different.  And this has been hugely unsettling in my heart.  It has made me irritable towards my wife and daughters – and I hate that.  But, I just can’t seem to get a handle on being content.

My mind runs the gamut of feelings associated with not being content just about everyday – it’s like a roller coaster.  And again, Janice does a great job of encouraging me, but I have to believe that she gets tired of doing that – she’ll get to the point where she says, “I just want you to be content with something.”  And I’ll respond, “me too.”  I’ll have a few moments where I’m feeling good about things, but then my mind begins to race again.

Today, I came across a post on The Resurgence (www.theresurgence.com) written by Dave Kraft on covetousness.  In his title he describes it as the “acceptable sin.”  And that’s exactly what it has become.  Coveting what others have has become a way of life in the United States – all of the marketing seems to be built on what we don’t have – showing us people that do have that thing, and how we’ll be happier if we just had “it.”  For example – the iPhone 4 comes out – it’s a great phone with tons of great features.  Not too long after that, there’s a commercial that begins to air showing a phone that talks back to its owner – giving directions, advice, movie showtimes, etc.  Behold, the iPhone 4S.  And people that just got an iPhone 4 are genuinely upset because the 4S is better…and now they have to have it.

This is a small example, but this is what creates a culture of covetousness in us.  We have to have the new “whatever”…And our happiness/joy hinges on having whatever that “whatever” is.  We say things either in our minds or out loud like: if I only had a new vehicle that didn’t have these problems I’d be happy – if I only had a bigger house, with a nice deck and pool – if my husband or wife would act like this, or treat me like this – if my kids didn’t have these problems – if I could have that job, making that money – (a personal one that I’ve struggled over the years) if I could only be a part of that ministry or lead that church…

“What is causing the quarrels and fights among you? Don’t they come from the evil desires at war within you? You want what you don’t have, so you scheme and kill to get it. You are jealous of what others have, but you can’t get it, so you fight and wage war to take it away from them. Yet you don’t have what you want because you don’t ask God for it.  And even when you ask, you don’t get it because your motives are all wrong—you want only what will give you pleasure.” -James 4:1-3

Just reading this passage of scripture stings – it’s a brutal reminder of the brokenness and sin that we wrestle with (especially in western culture).  It’s something that I wrestle with – daily.  While reading the post from Dave Kraft, he posts a prayer…and I want to share it with you:

“Jesus, [I want] to be content with who I am, where I am, what I’m doing and what you’re doing. To covet nothing but a dynamic and anointed walk and work with you. To cling to you and you alone.”

I want this – I want to cling to Him and Him alone.  To find my joy and purpose in Him…I’m not there yet, but God isn’t finished with me yet – and so there is hope.  What about you.  Are you cultivating a culture of contentment or of covetousness?

Here is the post by Dave Kraft:

http://theresurgence.com/2010/09/30/coveting-the-acceptable-sin

Loving Like Christ Loves (a Re-post)

Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church…Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her…”
Ephesians 5:22-23,25

This passage from Ephesians was running around in my head this morning as I talked to my wife and to my kids before work.  As men, especially men that are involved in church, we love to quote the first part of this passage.  And, if we’re brave enough, we like to use it on our wives.  Especially during disagreements – we use it like some sort of spiritual trump card.  We use it as if to say, “See, the Bible says that you need to submit to me.”  The truth is, yes, wives are supposed to submit to their husbands.  But, where we fall short as men, is that we fail to see the next part of the passage – or at least we grossly misinterpret it.

The next part says that the husband is the head of the wife – and too many times we take that and interpret it as boss, or we use it to bully or wives.  This is shameful and arrogant.  We take it from a worldly perspective instead of a Godly one.  Husbands are the heads of their wives as Christ is the head of the church, and in verse 25 we get to see what that kind of headship looks like.

This kind of headship looks like love. This kind of headship is love. We are supposed to love them, with an unconditional love – an unwavering love – an unfaltering love.  We are to love our wives with the kind of love that is written about in 1 Corinthians 13 – a love that is patient and kind – a love that is not envious or boastful – a love that isn’t childish, always insisting that it gets its own way – a love that isn’t irritable – a love that doesn’t harbor bitterness or resentment – a love that bears all things – a love that believes even when things seem impossible – a love that endures through the painfulness of this life – a love that does not end.  This is how we are supposed to love our wives.

This is how Jesus loves us.

And how does he show us this? Through the cross.  We need to go over the crucifixion story again – line by line, word by word.  We need to take a good look at his sacrifice.  Jesus laid down his life for his bride, the church.  And men, this is what we are supposed to do in word and deed for ours.  This is how we lead.  By serving and sacrificing for our wives.  This is how we truly become the heads of our homes – by loving our wives unconditionally.  This love isn’t a selfish love – but a selfless love.

Our example is not in other men or our culture – it doesn’t come from trying to be a man’s man.  Our example comes from Christ.  Romans 5:8 says this: God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.  While we were still his enemies He died.  We should do no less for our wives – completely giving up of ourselves, and doing all we can to serve them and love them like Christ has done and continues to do for us.

So, men, what does this look like in your home?  In your marriage?  How can you joyfully sacrifice for your wife today?  Make a list.  Sit down and talk to her about it.  You may even need to repent to Jesus and your wife for not loving her well.  Whatever it takes, don’t hesitate – take those steps today.  Lead her by loving her – just as Christ loves you.

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