There is a beautiful paradox in these words of the apostle Paul. He is telling the Corinthian Christians, “I would rather die than let you take away my right to give up my rights! The greatest right I have is the right to give up my rights!”
– Ray Stedman
When in the last century Hudson Taylor, the founder of the China Inland Mission (now the Overseas Missionary Fellowship), started to wear his hair long and braided like Chinese men of the time and to put on their clothes and to eat their food, many of his fellow missionaries derided him. But Hudson Taylor had thought through what was essential to the gospel (and was therefore nonnegotiable) and what was a cultural form that was neither here nor there, and might in fact be an unnecessary barrier to the effective proclamation of the gospel…
– D.A. Carson, The Cross and Christian Ministry
Contextualization is not — as is often argued — “giving people what they want to hear.” Rather, it is giving people the Bible’s answers, which they may not at all want to hear, to questions about life that people in their particular time and place are asking, in language and forms they can comprehend, and through appeals and arguments with force they can feel, even if they reject them.
– Tim Keller, Center Church
You came with what you thought were all the answers to the unanswered questions these “secular” people had. But it didn’t take long for you to realize that the questions weren’t just unanswered; they were unasked. And they weren’t questions. That is, your “secular” neighbors aren’t looking for “answers” — for some bit of information that is missing from their mental maps. To the contrary, they have completely different maps. You’ve realized that instead of nagging questions about God or the afterlife, your neighbors are oriented by all sorts of longings and “projects” and quests for significance. There doesn’t seem to be anything “missing” from their lives — so you can’t just come proclaiming the good news of a Jesus who fills their “God-shaped hole.” They don’t have any sense that the “secular” lives they’ve constructed are missing a second floor. In many ways, they have constructed webs of meaning that provide almost all the significance they need in their lives (though a lot hinges on that “almost”).
– James K.A. Smith, How (Not) To Be Secular
Is it possible to rest and be relentless at the same time?
A couple months ago I added a discipline to my study of Scripture. I started reading a Psalm each day from this great little Psalms reader. A few days ago I was reading Psalm 69 and I was struck by a couple of things I thought I’d share. As I got to verse 13 I read this…
But as for me, my prayer is to you, O LORD. At an acceptable time, O God, in the abundance of your steadfast love answer me in your saving faithfulness.
And so as I read that, I wrote in the margins about waiting on God’s timing. David is certainly asking for something from the LORD, but he knows it needs to be in the LORD’s timing…at an acceptable time. That was timely for my soul.
And so I kept reading and David continues to ask for things.
Things like deliverance.
Things like protection.
Things like mercy.
And then I got to verse 17…
Hide not your face from your servant; for I am in distress; make haste to answer me.
Did you notice that? In verse 13 David seems like he’s just content and chilling out, asking God to move in His timing. But by verse 17 he seems to have forgotten all about “waiting on the LORD” and instead is now pleading for the LORD to move in haste.
So which is it? Waiting or haste? Rest or relentlessness? The answer is YES.
Yes we are to wait and rest in God’s timing. And yes we are to be relentless in our pleading and imploring God to work. He wants to hear from His children. It’s from a position of rest in who we are in Christ that allows us the freedom to borderline pester God with our requests.
So whatever you are facing today, may you rest in the LORD’s perfect timing and also continue to be relentless in your pleading with your Father who cares deeply for you. May we all be like the persistent widow…
And he told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart. He said, “In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor respected man. And there was a widow in that city who kept coming to him and saying, ‘Give me justice against my adversary.’ For a while he refused, but afterward he said to himself, ‘Though I neither fear God nor respect man, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will give her justice, so that she will not beat me down by her continual coming.’” And the Lord said, “Hear what the unrighteous judge says. And will not God give justice to his elect, who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long over them? I tell you, he will give justice to them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?”
– Luke 18:1-8
This task of showcasing God is so fundamental to what I have been made for that I will not figure myself out very well unless I make it a priority. I find myself, in other words (and ironically), only as I make ‘finding myself’ less important than finding and showcasing God.
– Charles Drew, A Journey Worth Taking
The prisoners were now put to back-breaking work leveling the ground inside the camp. One day when Betsie was able to lift only the smallest shovelful of dirt, a guard began to make fun of her. Betsie tried to laugh along with them but only succeeded in infuriating the guard tormenting her. The guard picked up her crop and struck Betsie hard on her neck and chest. In a blind rage, Corrie grabbed her shovel and went for the guard, but Betsie stopped her before the guard had a chance to see her. As blood began to soak her blouse, she begged her sister to keep working. Seeing Corrie stare angrily at the welt forming on her neck, Betsie said, “Don’t look at it, Corrie. Look at Jesus only.”
– Eric Metaxas, 7 Women (this quote is from the account of the life of Corrie ten Boom and her sister. They were subjected to Nazi concentration camps for helping to protect the lives of Jews in their hometown.)
This past Sunday I found myself preaching one of the trickiest texts I’ve ever had to navigate. 1 Corinthians is fun like that. As daunting as it was, I’m also really grateful to be able to teach through a book of the Bible like 1 Corinthians. It raises so many questions that are both timely and timeless for the world in which we inhabit. So if you’ve got questions regarding sex, singleness, and marriage, perhaps this sermon might be of some help. Some quotes I referenced are listed below.
In his writings, Paul always uses the word “gift” to mean an ability God gives to build others up. Paul is not speaking, then, of some kind of elusive, stress-free state. The “gift-ness” of being single for Paul lay in the freedom it gave him to concentrate on ministry in ways that a married man could not. Paul may very well, then, have experienced what we today would call an “emotional struggle” with singleness. He might have wanted to be married. He not only found an ability to live a life of service to God and others in that situation, he discovered (and capitalized on) the unique features of single life (such as time flexibility) to minister with very great effectiveness.
– Tim & Kathy Keller, The Meaning of Marriage
A spouse and a minivan full of kids on the way to Disney World is a sweet gift and a terrible god.
– Kevin DeYoung
Scripture reminds us that in the midst of broken, sinful, frustrating people, God’s Spirit is at work creating a transformed community. God is not surprised by our brokenness. His way of maturing us isn’t thwarted. In fact, it is in, and by the messiness that God does the supernatural work of drawing us into the likeness of his Son. Grace shows up when there is brokenness and sin. The Spirit is most active when there is great work to do. Without this perspective it is hard to enter into the life of a community.
– Richard Plass and James Coffield, The Relational Soul
A few weeks ago, while preaching a sermon about listening to sermons, I quoted Martyn Lloyd-Jones on the power and importance the people have who are sitting in the pews (or in our case, black folding chairs). Your very presence is part of the sermon. You being there has an impact. I don’t know if you’ve ever thought about that, but you are an integral part in the gospel proclamation, even if you are not the one with the microphone. Listen to what the good preacher has to say…
Now the Church is a missionary body, and we must recapture this notion that the whole Church is a part of this witness to the Gospel and its truth and its message. It is therefore most important that people should come together and listen in companies in the realm of the Church. That has an impact in and of itself. I have often been told this. The preacher after all is not speaking for himself, he is speaking for the Church, he is explaining what the Church is and what these people are, and why they are what they are.
The very presence of a body of people in itself is a part of the preaching, and these influences begin to act immediately upon anyone who comes into a service. These influences, I suggest, are very often more potent in a spiritual sense than pure intellectual argumentation.
Not only that, when a man comes into a church to a body of people he begins to get some idea of the fact that they are the people of God, and that they are the modern representatives of something that has been known in every age and generation throughout the centuries. This makes an impact on him, in and of itself. He is not simply considering a new theory or a new teaching or a new idea. Here he is visiting or entering into something that has this long history and tradition.
But let me put it in this form; the man who thinks that all this can be done by reading, or by just looking at a television set, is missing the mysterious element in the life of the Church. What is this? It is what our Lord was suggesting, I think, when He said, ‘Where two or three are gathered together in My name, there am I in the midst.’ It is not a mere gathering of people; Christ is present. This is the great mystery of the Church. There is something in the very atmosphere of Christian people meeting together to worship God and to listen to the preaching of the Gospel.
– Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Preaching and Preachers
YHWH is a Sabbath-keeping God, which fact ensures that restfulness and not restlessness is at the center of life. YHWH is a Sabbath-giving God and a Sabbath-commanding God. Sabbath becomes a decisive, concrete, visible way of opting for and aligning with the God of rest.
– Walter Brueggemann, Sabbath as Resistance
So imagine, says Moses at Sinai, you who engage in production and consumption are not little replicas of anxiety-driven Pharaoh. You are in the image of the creator God who did not need to work to get ahead. Nor do you! God invites the ones at Sinai to a new life of neighborly freedom in which Sabbath is the cornerstone of faithful freedom. Such faithful practice of work stoppage is an act of resistance. It declares in bodily ways that we will not participate in the anxiety system that pervades our social environment. We will not be defined by busyness and by acquisitiveness and by pursuit of more, in either our economics or our personal relations or anywhere in our lives. Because our life does not consist in commodity.
– Walter Brueggemann, Sabbath as Resistance
From the beginning we have been created to be receivers, not achievers. Nothing is more countercultural to contemporary Americans. We have been raised to set our goals high, work hard, and achieve our dreams. Clearly there is merit to this work ethic, but it has limits, and the greatest one is that it seduces us into thinking that we are the creators of our own destinies. The only destiny that comes from reaching for whatever we want is finding ourselves east of Eden. Every page of the Bible presents God as the achiever and us as the receivers of this sacred, good work. Every day this week you have to decide if you want to achieve your life or receive it. If you make achieving your goal, your constant companion will be complaint, because you will never achieve enough. If you make receiving the goal, your constant companion will be gratitude for all that God is achieving in your life. I’m not certain that there are such things as measures of our spirituality, but if there are, then gratitude is probably the best one. It indicates that we are paying attention.
– M. Craig Barnes, The Pastor as Minor Poet
In the land of abundance, people work feverishly hard, and cram their lives insanely full, because the candies are all around, looking up and pleading, “Taste me, taste me, taste me.” People in such a realm live in a perpetual aspirational trance. They are bombarded from first waking till night-time’s last thought by advertisements, images, messages, novelties, improvements, and tales of wonder. It takes a force of willpower beyond that of most ordinary people to renounce all this glorious possibility. It’s easier to work phenomenally long hours and grasp at all the candies than it is to say no. It takes incredible dedication to renounce opportunity, get off the conveyor, and be content with what one is.
– David Brooks, On Paradise Drive
I began, though, to view my drivenness and anxiety about my business perhaps as God saw it: as a person in need of repentance. To give up control. To return ownership of the company to him. And to entrust my future – and possible failure – to him, no matter the outcome. Shutting off my cell phone for one day became a simple act of obedience subverting my illusion that success was in my hands.
-David Goetz, Death by Suburb
And he said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. So the Son of Man is lord even of the Sabbath.”
Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them. And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done. So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work that he had done in creation.
“‘Observe the Sabbath day, to keep it holy, as the LORD your God commanded you. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, you or your son or your daughter or your male servant or your female servant, or your ox or your donkey or any of your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates, that your male servant and your female servant may rest as well as you. You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the LORD your God brought you out from there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. Therefore the LORD your God commanded you to keep the Sabbath day.
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.
Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.
Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.
I am a pastor. Why do you need to know that? Because it will help you understand why I chose to speak on the topic of The Bible and Homosexuality. You need to know that there are people in our church that ask me about this topic, and I wanted to try and serve them well as one of their pastors. That is it. I simply wanted to try and take people to the Bible and see what it has to say about this challenging topic. I also wanted to try and engage with those who would also profess a belief in the Bible, but disagree with my position. I know full well that I did not answer every question and objection. I know that I am a fallible man trying to communicate God’s infallible truth. My hope in posting the video of my teaching is that it might serve you well as you too wrestle with this challenging topic.
Additionally I wanted to list out some resources that were helpful to me in my preparation. As mentioned early on in the video, I leaned much on Kevin DeYoung’s book What Does the Bible Really Teach about Homosexuality? I found this to be one of the most concise, helpful books on the subject. In addition to that book, I have listed below some of the other resources that were helpful to me…
Is God anti-gay by Sam Allberry
One or Two: Seeing a World of Difference by Peter R. Jones
The Bible and same sex relationships by Tim Keller
Hoping for others is hard, but not the hardest. Praying for others is hard, but not the hardest. The hardest task for people who believe in the second coming of Jesus Christ is in “living the sort of life that makes people say, ‘Ah, so that’s how people are going to live when righteousness takes over our world.’”
– Cornelius Plantinga, Engaging God’s World
I don’t know about you, but in times past I have made attempts to get “healthier”, but I tended to focus on either diet or exercise. Though intellectually I knew that I was supposed to do BOTH, I for some reason chose one to the neglect of the other. What is probably no surprise to hear, my efforts toward greater health didn’t exactly work. Sure it was better than doing nothing, but diet and exercise are meant to go together.
For about the last 3+ weeks I have been disciplined in regards to both diet and exercise and it has made a huge difference. Not only do I feel healthier, but there are tangible results that confirm I am getting healthier. So this got me thinking…
In the world of the church and growing as disciples of Jesus, I think people often time choose gathered (Sunday morning service) or scattered (community groups) in an attempt to become spiritually vibrant and healthy. The problem is, like diet and exercise, gathered and scattered are meant to go together. They complement one another. They are two sides of the same coin. To emphasize one over the other is a false dichotomy. They need each other. You need the church gathered weekly. You need the church scattered weekly. To pick only one will not bring the growth and health you desire.
I believe the picture of the early church confirms this reality…
And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.
– Acts 2:42-47
Sometimes these verses are co-opted by those who over value the scattered to the detriment of the gathered. But a closer look reveals that the early church did gathered and scattered. There was clearly gathered (apostles’ teaching/attending the temple) and scattered (fellowship/breaking bread in their homes). I believe this is the way Jesus designed His church to function in order to be healthy and growing.
Will you commit to both the gathered and the scattered? To do less is to rob yourself of the health God desires for you.