Wednesday, July 15, 2020

Firemen and Lighthouses

“There was a man named John who was sent from God. He came as a witness to testify about the light, so that all might believe through him. He was not the light, but he came to testify about the light. The true light, who gives light to everyone, was coming into the world.” John 1:4-5
It all really depends on how we look at our world right now. It seems to me there are two primary perspectives that have emerged as predominant among Christians.

The World is on Fire
With this perspective, we can look at the calendar for 2020 and see so much chaos and confusion, much of it driven by anti-christ. Some of it driven by panic and worry over environmental or natural disaster.

This perspective can cause us to react, to respond as firemen. We can feel a deep urgency to speak into every anti-christ circumstance and splash hope on every natural disaster. As keyboard warriors, we can even be tempted to blame natural disasters on Satan as we seek to sooth and salve — and hose down the world.

It is next to impossible for anyone to address every divergent and aberrant idea that confronts us from all sides. And maybe that's the point. There are more fires than there are firemen.

The World is in Darkness
Understanding that the World is in darkness, that it has been in darkness since the curse, that the darkness is not greater now than it was then and that the source of light is a person can help us find balance and perspective in 2020. Darkness by virtue of its substance, is complete and stands no chance against the light. The light always defeats the dark and the dark is everything that is in opposition to the light.

The Firemen
As firemen responding to fires we are entirely reactive. Our Gospel attitude is in response to those fires and because it is driven by response we can sometimes wander astray of the Gospel in our fervour. We've spent our lives looking out into our own culture and shaking our heads and saying things like "tut tut how far we've fallen", "can you believe they did that", "I'm not shopping there anymore". We risk allowing our response to circumstance serve as our only Gospel witness, which is sort of like throwing a water balloon into a house fire.

The Lighthouse
A lighthouse isn't a primary source of light, a lighthouse is a collection of mirrors and lenses in the upper tower of a home on a seashore. As obedient Christians we are called the Temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19), our home on the seashore - peering out into the darkness of the world, it has a fire. That fire gives us the ability to produce light. The fire doesn't come from us, it is ignited by the Holy Spirit. With it we have the capacity to reflect the light of Christ - out into the darkness. An unlit lighthouse on the shore is of no functional use, darkness cannot reflect into itself.

Often as a lighthouse, we will have the opportunity to speak Truth into specific situations. Apologetics can be good and helpful, but proactively and driven by the authority of Scripture and not by emotion.

Our attitudes are to be as ambassadors for Christ, as a bright reflection of the light of Christ - the message of the Gospel ever on our lips.
“From now on, then, we do not know anyone in a purely human way. Even if we have known Christ in a purely human way, yet now we no longer know Him in this way. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away, and look, new things have come. Everything is from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: That is, in Christ, God was reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed the message of reconciliation to us. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, certain that God is appealing through us. We plead on Christ’s behalf, “Be reconciled to God.” He made the One who did not know sin to be sin for us, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”
2 Corinthians 5:16-21
Does this mean apologetics is of no value or that we should stop having public opinions? Certainly that is not what I am trying to say. However, if our entire Christian life is trying to spray the message of the gospel onto the fires in the world we may end up overwhelmed, discouraged and burned. Culturally reactive Christianity is not what we see in the narrative of Scripture. Consistently and repeatedly Scripture commands us to proactive obedience. Attitudes of; thanksgiving (1 Thessalonians 5:18, Ephesians 5:20), praise (Psalm 130, Hebrews 13:15), worship (Psalm 100, Hebrews 12:28-29), surrender (Romans 12:1-2, Matthew 16:24, Mark 12:30), obedience (Galatians 5:22-26). All of this is meant to be our primary pursuit as followers of Christ. And as we read in 2 Corinthians, serving as ambassadors, reflecting the light of Christ into the darkness.

In 2020, Pursuing Christ in Obedience should be our primary objective. That obedience is marked by our desire to reflect His light into the chaos around us. God's Word is effective (Hebrews 4:12) and will always have His intended effect (Isaiah 55:11). The same cannot be said about my Word if it is not informed by His Word.

My encouragement to you today, as you traverse the minefield that 2020 has brought us, is to pursue Christ in His Word. Put away anxiety (Philippians 4:6-8, Psalm 37) and simply in obedience, reflect the light of Christ into the darkness. We don't have to answer every evil in the World, God promises He will do that.

Sunday, May 31, 2020

As the World Roils

As you are tempted to despair, to forget our good and holy God;
remember the gift of faith and and the sufficiency of our Saviour,
pursue Christ.

As you are tempted to lean on your own understanding, to find comfort in lies;
remember the gift of scripture and the sufficiency of Christ,
pursue wisdom.

As you are tempted to division and conflict, to hatred and selfishness;
remember the gift of God’s grace in the face of our sin and the sufficiency of Jesus,
pursue thankfulness.

As you are tempted to vice, to the sin of idolatry;
remember the gift of salvation that exists only in the person of our Messiah,
Pursue obedience.

no matter how hotly the cauldron of the world boils, remember the majesty of Yaweh;
Pursue the glory of God.

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

God Given Rights

Recent weeks have seen a social and political outcry, demanding the “God Given Right” of Christians to assemble in church buildings for regular Sunday worship. It is a wonderful thing to be a part of the Body of Christ, to have Christ as our head and to have committed to live as slaves in His service. Being recipients of a new nature, having been born anew through the gifts of faith and repentance we have a kinship together as children of God — our good and perfect Father. Desiring to gather together for worship is a good and real affection that we, as the body of Christ, should obediently express regularly. Missing this gathering is good and obedient.

But as we make demands and express desire to gather together physically, we are forced to ask ourselves if this is the only command for the Church that we are pursuing, and if that pursuit is rooted in obedience or selfishness.

It is good to desire gathering as the Church. Good Ecclesiology doesn’t end with simply gathering in a particular way in a particular building. I fear that is the extent of thought for so many who are clamouring and fist shaking at the government for the right to gather at this time. The doctrine of the Church, or how a Church should obediently express worship and ministry together under the authority of God involves far more than simply sitting in a pew in a building once a week.

It is good to desire gathering as the Church, but it shouldn’t rooted in a passion for a building or particular traditions, it is rooted in a person, the person of Jesus Christ. The Church is a people, one of the greatest downfalls that I think we have fallen subject to in Western Christianity is the propensity to refer to a building as the “Church”. Though this may seem equivocal, I think it has led to a larger confusion about just what it is that constitutes the Biblical Church.

It is good to desire gathering as the Church, Christians are of the Church, the body of Christ, His bride, elect, set apart for righteousness. The command isn’t simply to meet once a week and sit dumbly on our pew and be consumers, the Church serves and submits, it works and labours together. I fear that for so many, this desire to gather is an attitude borne out of selfish consumerism. A product has not been delivered as expected and that product is a weekly service that is used as a salve to serve and enable me for the week to come. This kind of gathering is not obedient gathering, this is a kind selfishness that ignores the centrality of Christ and commands of submission and worship. The desire for obedience is good, but we must ask ourselves if it flourishes in all areas of Christian living or simply in this aspect of gathering for my own personal benefit.

It is good to desire gathering as the Church, the Church gathers to bring mutual glory, honour and worship to the King. We submit to Him, He continues to sanctify us so that we might bring Him glory and honour. While we consider the reality of meeting together, and just why we should desire this. It is incumbent upon us to consider all of the other areas we are commanded to obedience in. We are to have a spirit of humility and obedience, to serve in our churches and give of ourselves. Under the authority of our local church we must engage in reaching out to neighbours and friends with the message of the Gospel. Biblical Church membership submits humbly to pastors and elders — to correction and rebuke, it gives financially of it’s abundance. We submit to the headship of Christ and shirk worldliness, we redeem our time and offer thanks in all things. As we demand our right to gather, have we committed to redeeming our lockdown time invested in reading God’s Word and prayer? I need to reflect on that.

It is good to desire gathering as the Church. Social Distancing and this context of worshipping at home — together but apart — has given us an opportunity to look critically at our relationship with the Church. If Church is simply your name on a list and a spot on Sunday morning to consume a sermon and music, then obedience to gathering is only one area of obedience you should be concerned about. We have an opportunity to consider our relationship with the Church, both in gathering and in submitted service to the King, the head of the Church. Don’t simply pursue what you perceive you have lost, pursue Christ and strive for a deep, committed, humble faith that informs your worship and ultimately is for the Glory of God.

We must all return to gathering together again in person as Christians for corporate worship, at the appropriate time. This is an obedience that cannot be set aside. What we must examine in the meantime is our attitudes and affections in approaching this return to gathering. Every Biblical Church should be flourishing with humble submitted Christians chomping at the bit to serve God together, having invested their lock-down time in a faithful pursuit of God in His word and in prayer.

Our affections right now, as always, should be the pursuit of God in Christ by His Holy Spirit.

Sunday, May 10, 2020

Dining With Wolves

“Beware of false prophets who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravaging wolves.” Matthew 7:15
During this time of social distancing, so many of us have been engaging with preachers and teachers online in ways we have never considered before. But have we considered the importance of employing good discernment as we do this?

As much as there are fantastic resources and wonderful gospel teachings available right now — there is also available an abundance of bad teaching and heresy. It is vital that Christians very carefully consider what they consume and what they share. It is vital that Christians point their brothers and sisters in Christ and their unsaved friends, family and neighbours to resources that proclaim the truth.

Here are a few guidelines you can use as you consider whether or not a particular teacher is suitable for you to listen to and share or disregard and denounce.

The Bones
Does the sermon expound scripture? Is the sermon an exposition of the text, explaining it’s meaning and applying it to the Christian life? Just because a teacher or preacher opens their Bible doesn’t mean they are adequately preaching the Word. If they are simply using the text as window dressing to prop up their ideas — a red flag should go up in your mind. So often a preacher will simply read a few passages and then move on with their narrative. Proper exposition will walk through the text and proclaim each part in clarity. If the preacher never opens their bible — flee from their teaching.
“All Scripture is inspired by God and is profitable for teaching, for rebuking, for correcting, for training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” 2 Timothy 3:16-17
The Meat
Does the teacher proclaim the gospel? Is it made clear what it means to be a Christian or how to follow Jesus? What I don’t mean is that they must have an altar call and big appeal to conversion. The message of Jesus is applicable to every day of the Christian life and the reality of it needs to be included in every message.
“Leave Christ out? O my brethren, better leave the pulpit out altogether. If a man can preach one sermon without mentioning Christ’s name in it, it ought to be his last, certainly the last that any Christian ought to go to hear him preach.” ~ Charles Spurgeon
The Face
The preaching of God’s Word should be primarily about the text of God’s Word. Sometimes application can and should be made to current events, when the text demands it and the circumstances warrant it. I have unfortunately seen a number of “sermons” making the rounds on social media of late that are anything but; they are overly conspiratorial and political and qualify only as speeches, not sermons or biblical teaching. If the primary thrust of the sermon is rooted in opinion and void of Scriptural truth you should pause, evaluate and check for meat and bones. The central figure to the message should always be God.
“Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do everything for God’s glory.” 1 Corinthians 10:31
The Feet
But what if there is some truth we can glean from any teacher? All I can say is this, a drop of poison in the cup still kills the one who drinks it. Either a teacher is trustworthy and submitted to scripture or they are not. There are so many false teachers that use just a drop of truth, or who sound trustworthy at first - for this reason we must exercise wisdom and faith. I would suggest you ask your own pastor to help you in discerning if the teachers you are engaging with are suitable and appropriate. Once you determine if a teacher is a false teacher or not be engaged in denouncing those who are false.
“Don’t participate in the fruitless works of darkness, but instead expose them.” Ephesians 5:11
The Eyes
Scripture gives us guidance for recognizing and false teachers and heretics, and it gives us commands to avoid and denounce these. We are disobedient and at risk when we cease to employ biblical discernment. Christian Grace doesn’t tolerate those who lie about our Magnificent God for the sake of social politeness. We can, and should, be kind and polite, but we should never tolerate or consume the teaching of those who are preaching another gospel.
“If anyone teaches other doctrine and does not agree with the sound teaching of our Lord Jesus Christ and with the teaching that promotes godliness, he is conceited, understanding nothing, but has a sick interest in disputes and arguments over words. From these come envy, quarreling, slander, evil suspicions, and constant disagreement among people whose minds are depraved and deprived of the truth, who imagine that godliness is a way to material gain.” 1 Timothy 6:3-5
As you spend time at home, away from your Church family, enjoy wonderful teaching online and in books. But as you do, God has commanded you to be wise.

Tuesday, May 5, 2020

The Days Are Evil, We Don't Have To Be

It can feel like prison. Quarantine, self-isolation, lock-down, social distancing; a new cultural "normal" has confronted all of us in various ways. Depending on where we live, this is walked out in different ways — wearing masks, avoiding crowds, visiting back and forth with just a single family. It can all be so very overwhelming and confusing. The seemingly totalitarian leadership of our governments, the conspiracy theories proliferating social media and the aggressive response from neighbours on various sides of the issue.

Our Chains
Our current state of quarantine coupled with earthquakes, tornados, locusts, wildfiresgiant hornets, food shortages, violence, aliens, government overreach and civil unrest can leave us feeling like 2020 is out of control (it isn't!). What is a Christian supposed to do? How do we have any hope?

Ultimately, there is only one true prison. Temporal discomforts aside, no matter how evil or unjust our governments may become or how mistreated we may feel, even if our leaders turn to a very real and measurable persecution of Christians — true freedom only ever exists in the person of Jesus Christ. When enslaved to sin (Romans 6:20), our only lot is to hold as tightly as we can to our affections; to fight and claw to protect and maintain whatever thing we hold most dear. When enslaved (1 Corinthians 6:20) to Christ (1 Peter 2:16), our hope and joy is in holding fast to our good and holy God; striving to simply obedience in all things (Ephesians 6:6), open handed and in faith.

This holds true in 2020. This Covid-19 pandemic, no matter what the conspiracies, reasonings, abuses or oppressions, no of it holds any power. Ultimately Christ is King (even during a pandemic), and His commands hold true for us today as they did yesterday. We need not fear any of the world events that seem to be mounting to a roiling crescendo (2 Timothy 1:7), we need to fall on our faces before our good and holy God (Ecclesiastes 12:13) in obedience and fear.

Our Hope
The absolute worst possible outcome for anyone is death. For the Christian this is a great hope and comfort (John 11:25). Our only true concern in these dark days should be obedience and faith. No matter what is spinning outside the window or how corrupt the media may become, we need only remain faithful and obedient, giving thanks always (Ephesians 5:20, 1 Thessalonians 5:18). The Christian is commanded to deny self (Matthew 16:24-26), set ourselves aside and hold Christ as the central figure of our lives (Colossians 1:15-17). To live in a posture of repentance (Luke 13:3, Acts 3:19) and faith (Ephesians 2:8). And to surrender the entirety of our affections to our good and set apart God (Matthew 22:37).

Consider Paul, he was an actual prisoner — persecuted directly because of his faith. His times in prison were punctuated by faith and obedience, exemplifying a greater concern for the spiritual wellbeing of those separated from God than for his own physical comforts or "rights" (Philippians 1:3-11).

Redeeming the Days
Do we spend our days wringing our hands, complaining about our lot, fighting with people online who are just "wrong" about oh so much. The temptation is real and creeps into my own heart from time to time. Christian, I want to challenge you — as I challenge myself, consider these evil days as Paul commands in Ephesians 5 (I encourage you to read the entire chapter).
“Pay careful attention, then, to how you walk—not as unwise people but as wise— making the most of the time, because the days are evil.” Ephesians 5:15-16
We have all of this time available to us that we can be using to love our neighbours, care for their needs, preach to them the gospel of Jesus Christ. We can begin redeeming the time by first obeying the command at the outset of chapter 5 of Ephesians; “Therefore, be imitators of God, as dearly loved children. And walk in love, as the Messiah also loved us and gave Himself for us, a sacrificial and fragrant offering to God.”

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

The Year God Stopped the World

God's grace is at work. He stopped the world, and you're here to see it.

When tragedy strikes, when darkness descends like a blanket, when hope seems to fade — we can tend, in our flesh, to feel overcome and discouraged. We exert effort in finding reasons for the darkness and pushing against that darkness. We strain against what we don't understand, especially when it intrudes on our plans. Yet, we don't have to strain against the darkness because we have the light.

We do not have to read Scripture for very long before we are confronted with the sovereignty of God. There is nothing that happens outside of His control (Ephesians 1:11, Romans 8:28) and in fact He is actively achieving His own good and perfect will in a world that is drenched in sin and darkness (Job 42:2, Genesis 50:20). Yet we make our plans, and we see ourselves as wise and wonderful in our own minds and we feel like we have achieved some magnificent level of enlightenment in post modernity. But we simply follow the same patterns that humanity has been locked into since the fall (Proverbs 16:9).

Covid-19 is a global pandemic that has turned everything on it's head, the economy, social norms, political arrangements, borders, food supplies, gatherings even Sunday Worship has been affected by the changes in our world — all in response to this microscopic virus. We have been forced in our fast paced, globalized culture to stop, slow down and narrow our social exposure. God did that. In 2020, God stopped the World.
"For from him and through him and to him are ALL things. To him be glory forever. Amen." Romans 11:36 (emphasis mine)
We have an opportunity to pause, as the world reels and strives to recover what it once was, desperately grasping at what has been deemed most valuable by culture. We have an opportunity to reflect, as the world bemoans personal loss in individualism, convenience, entertainment, sport and travel. We have an opportunity to look forward into the light and pursue Christ; what was — is profoundly diminished by He who is.

We have an opportunity to see God's Grace reflected, even in the darkness. We have an opportunity to intentionally and with great purpose, pursue God in obedience and faith. God stopped the world, but we don't have to respond like the world. God, in His grace, has given every person on the planet an opportunity in the quiet of their home to pursue Him. That pursuit begins with me (2 Corinthians 13:5), but it doesn't end there. This is a dark time, and Christ is the light. Reflect that light, first to your family, and then to your friends and then to everyone you can.

A line from one of my favourite songs; "We serve the uncreated God, so what should we fear?" Now is the time we can abandon fear and proclaim God's grace. Be of good courage, we serve a good and glorious King and He knows what He is doing.

Tuesday, April 7, 2020

The Pursuit of Christ isn't Quarantined

There is no question, the past few weeks have been globally unprecedented. We have no real context for what has been transpiring in our world. The globalization borne from constantly improving communications and travel produced warnings in recent years about the potential for a global crisis. There are entire genres of apocalyptic literature, film and game media. We have been fixated on a disruption of what we find most comfortable, and here it is. We are faced with a dramatic and seemingly drastic response to a fast moving, lethal virus. It's amazing. It's fantastic. It's potentially terrifying.

It is clear that there is a large body of professing Christians who are doing everything except reflecting the light of Christ well in this darkness. This is an opportunity for our Faith to be clearly seen, as we reflect the glory of Christ in this darkness. It can be easy to abandon what Scripture gives us, especially when our neighbours are. It ca be easy to forget who God is and what he demands of us. It can be easy to be overwhelmed and pursue the wrong things. Our primary concern in these days should be the pursuit of holiness in Christ.
“Glorious then will the day be, ‘wherein we shall praise God for delivering us out of the hands of all our sins, and from the hand of Satan.” -William Gurnall
 The correct response can seem to be fear and fleeing. And certainly we are called to obey our leaders (Romans 13:1-7), they are given to us by God (1 Peter 2:13-14, John 19:11). And we are called to care more for others than ourselves (Mark 12:30-31). And we are meant to live in confidence and faith (2 Timothy 1:7). We are not meant to be conspiratorial (Isaiah 8:11-17). Further to that we are called to grace, long suffering, kindness, holiness, gentleness, self-control (Galatians 5:22-26). These attributes still apply in the darkness — they are especially applicable in the darkness. This extends even to our attitudes and actions online.

I was especially impressed by a thought posted recently by a friend of mine, Andrew Ardern.
"May our desire to leave this wilderness be to arrive in God's promised land and not to return to slavery in Egypt."
The object of our affections must continue to be Christ, we don't shift the object of our affections to self preservation like the rest of the world. We need not mourn the loss of what was, as Christians we persist in pursuit of the King. Certainly we must be reasonable stewards, wash our hands, wear masks to protect our neighbours, #StayHome and proceed with wisdom; however as Christians we do this in a redeemed way. We maintain our prime focus on Christ and seek to live in profound obedience, even when it's hard.

  • Be kind to the fearful (Deuteronomy 31:6, Proverbs 11:17, Ephesians 4:32)
  • Be patient with the unreasonable (1 Corinthians 13:4, Romans 12:12)
  • Be obedient to your government (Romans 13:1-7)
  • Be reasonable in all things (Philippians 4:5-9)
  • Be helpful to the helpless (Galatians 6:9, Psalm 116:6)
  • Be thankful in all things (Philippians 4:6)
  • Be confident in God (Hebrews 4:16)