Wednesday, May 10, 2017

How A Ministry to Strippers Was Born

Read the story HERE of how "Scarlet Hope" got started. It's heartbreaking, yet incredibly encouraging. The same Jesus who saved prostitutes while on earth is willing and able to save them today through the courageous and sacrificial love of women like Rachelle Starr.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Homosexuality, Identity, and Safety

I'm so grateful for Sam Allberry's courage. He is a pastor in the Church of England and he has dealt with same-sex attraction all his life. His transparency about his sexuality and his uncompromising commitment to the teaching of the gospel is beautiful. Sam is the author of Is God Anti-gay? (highly recommended). He recently addressed the Church of England General Synod. I strongly encourage you to watch his 2 minute statement.


Sam also recently wrote a really helpful piece for The Gospel Coalition website entitled, "How Celibacy Can Fulfill Your Sexuality." What he writes is extremely important for single Christians (and married Christians!). Take another 2 minutes and read it. Be sure you find out what he means when he says, "If marriage shows us the shape of the gospel, singleness shows us its sufficiency."

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Why We Look into the Word

I pray Psalm 119:18 nearly every time I begin reading the Bible.
"Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law."
This is a prayer for spiritual sight. I want to behold the glory of God revealed in his word, with the eyes of faith, aided by the Spirit.

The goal of reading the Bible is not to earn blessing points with God, as if time logged could be cashed in for stuff or better circumstances. The goal of reading the Bible to behold the glory of God. And the glory of God is an end in itself. We don't use God as a stepping stool to get on to bigger and better things.

So, we need to see his glory. Because if we're blind to his glory, we'll fixate on all manner of fool's gold "treasures" that this world offers for our satisfaction. And we'll end up with lots of sand in our mouths as we run after each mirage and land face down in the desert of unfilled promises.

So, I commend the prayer of Psalm 119:18 to you, along with the sharper focus that is provided by 2 Corinthians 3:18:
"And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit."
If our Bible reading is aimed at seeing the wonders and glory of God, the sharper focus is found in the face of his Son. If we want to see who God is and what he is like, we must look at Jesus.

In context, the glory of "the Lord" here is the glory of the Lord Jesus. We need to see "the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, ... the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ" (2 Cor 4:4, 6). And we need the Spirit's help to do so. "For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit."

The blessed result of this kind of "seeing" or "beholding" is that we become like the One we admire. "And we all...beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed in the same image (the image of Jesus), from one degree of glory to another." We are changed. We are transformed. The word there is the one from which we get our English word 'metamorphosis'. That same word is used in Romans 12:2 (emphasis mine):
Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
Now pull it all together. We look into the Word to see the glory of God. The glory of God is most clearly and radiantly revealed in Jesus. When we behold that glory, we are changed. Our values align with the infinite worth of the Son of God. We turn from the fool's gold offers of this world and we trust in and treasure Jesus. We are no longer conformed to this world. We are transformed by the renewal of our minds. We begin to reflect his glory more and more ("one degree of glory to another"), and we grow in wisdom and walk in the good will of God. And we more clearly show this dark, blind world -- by radiant, Christlike lives -- the glory of our God. We help them see what we've seen.

So, why do you look in the Word? Why do you read the Bible?

Read The Book to behold The Glory. Look for wondrous things! Look for glory! Look for it in and through Jesus. Don't merely look for intellectual stimulation, as if new and interesting Bible data could change you. Look for a greater glimpse of the glory of Christ. You're going to need the Spirit's help for that to happen. Pray for it. Seek it. Ask, seek, knock. And find the One you've been looking for all your life.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

A Song (and a Quote) to Thrill Your Soul: Meditations on the First & Second Adam

The Bible talks about two Adams. We are all "in" the first or the second. Take a few minutes and read carefully through Romans 5:12-21 and 1 Corinthians 15:21-23, 45-49 and you'll see what I'm talking about.

We don't meditate on these realities enough. So, here's some help.

First, do yourself a favor and check out the song "This My Soul" by The Gray Havens. It's best listened to with the volume way up and time to take in the lyrics. You can find the lyrics here.

Second, savor this quote by John Stonestreet (found here):
The first Adam yielded to temptation in a garden. The Last Adam beat temptation in a garden. The first man, Adam, sought to become like God. The Last Adam was God who became a man. The first Adam was naked and received clothes. The Last Adam had clothes but was stripped. The first Adam tasted death from a tree. The Last Adam tasted death on a tree. The first Adam hid from the face of God, while the Last Adam begged God not to hide His face.
The first Adam blamed his bride, while the Last Adam took the blame for His bride. The first Adam earned thorns. The Last Adam wore thorns. The first Adam gained a wife when God opened man’s side, but the Last Adam gained a wife when man opened God’s side. The first Adam brought a curse. The Last Adam became a curse. While the first Adam fell by listening when the Serpent said “take and eat,” the Last Adam told His followers, “take and eat, this is my body."
In the name of the Second Adam, Amen. 

Monday, May 1, 2017

Do You Grieve the Gap?

Do you grieve the gap between what you know to be true and your experience of that truth? Between the concept of a gracious God and the reality of your gracious God?

This gap is not okay.
It ought to bother us.
We ought to grieve.
It's not something to throw up the white flag on and make a truce.
It's something to fight to close.

We don't want to be hypocrites. We don't want Jesus' words in Matthew 15:7-9 to apply to us:
You hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy of you, when he said: "'This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.'"
We want to "taste and see that the Lord is good" (Ps 34:8) and "trust in the Lord with all our heart" (Prov 3:5-6) and be "satisfied with the steadfast love of the Lord" (Ps 90:14) and "know his love that surpasses knowledge" (Eph 3:19) and "rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory (1 Pet 1:8).

Nevertheless...the gap will always remain, to some degree or other, in this life.
And it will often be a painful, frustrating, discouraging reality.
It will bother us.
And it should.

Nevertheless...the gap will not always remain.
One day, faith will become sight.
One day, all of our doubts and unbelief and coldness and spiritual insensitivity will be eradicated.
White-hot, holy, whole-hearted, single-minded, sincere and sweet love for God and others will be our constant lived experience!
We will know fully even as we are fully known.

AND (here's why I'm writing this), the experience throughout our lives of grief and longing and sorrow and frustration over the gap, will actually make the closing of the gap that much sweeter.
In God's mysterious and merciful providence, the painful longing for wholeness will make the experience of wholeness that much sweeter when it is fully and finally fulfilled.

So, let's keep grieving the gap.
Let's keep seeking to close the gap.
Let's set our hope fully on the day when the gap will no longer remain (1 Pet 1:13).
But let's remember this: not only will that gap one day close in the restoration and renewal of all things, but the presence of grief over the gap in this life will make the presence of perfectly integrated enjoyment of God that much sweeter.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Priming the Pump for Sunday - 1 Corinthians 5

We're going to be studying 1 Corinthians 5 this Sunday as we return to our "Cruciform Living" series through the book of 1 Corinthians. I'd encourage you to read the chapter in advance so it's fresh on your mind for Sunday morning.

Here are a few questions that might help you slow down and wrestle with what's in this sobering and important chapter:
  • What are your connotations with “church discipline”?
  • How might those associations affect you as you approach 1 Corinthians 5?
  • What is church discipline? How would you define it?
  • What seems to be the biggest problem Paul is addressing in 1 Corinthians 5?
  • Is there a difference between making wise judgments and being judgmental?
  • If so, how do you know the difference?
  • Does Paul describe any good purposes for church discipline in this passage?
  • Are there any other good purposes for church discipline that you can think of (even if they’re not directly addressed in 1 Corinthians 5)?
  • How does “Let us therefore celebrate the festival” (v8) fit into Paul’s line of thought?
  • What’s with the Passover reference? 

Monday, March 13, 2017

Do You Know Mildred Fay Jefferson?

You should! She was a real life heroine!

Mildred attended a segregated high school in Carthage, TX. She went on in 1951 to be the first African American woman to graduate from Harvard Medical School, the first female surgeon at Boston University Medical Center, the first woman admitted to the Boston Surgical Society, and a professor of surgery at Boston University Medical School.

In addition to these (amazing) accomplishments, she was a tireless proponent of the Pro-Life cause. She did so on the basis of her Christian faith and the Hippocratic Oath.

She wrote:
I’m opposed to abortion as a doctor and also because I know it is morally wrong. An individual never has the private right to choose to kill for whatever reasons, be they whim, convenience or compulsion. Because I know abortion is wrong, I will use every means available for free people in a free country to see that it is not perpetuated.
I became a physician in order to help save lives. I am at once a physician, a citizen, and a woman, and I am not willing to stand aside and allow the concept of expendable human lives to turn this great land of ours into just another exclusive reservation where only the perfect, the privileged, and the planned have the right to live.
With winsome clarity, she argued for her position. She did so in 1972 in one episode of the series, "The Advocates." Her presentation persuaded the then CA Governor Ronald Reagan. In his words:
I hope you won’t mind my writing to you, but I had to tell you how truly great you were in your testimony on the “Advocates” program regarding abortion. Yours was the most clear-cut exposition on this problem that I have ever heard. . . . Several years ago I was faced with the issue of whether to sign a California abortion bill. . . . I must confess to never having given the matter of abortion any serious thought until that time. No other issue since I have been in office has caused me to do so much study and soul-searching. . . . I wish I could have heard your views before our legislation was passed. You made it irrefutably clear that an abortion is the taking of a human life. I’m grateful to you. 
She challenged not only the medical community and political leaders, but all of us:
The fight for the right to life is not the cause of a special few, but the cause of every man, woman and child who cares not only about his or her own family, but the whole family of man.
Read more about her here.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Gospel Freedom

William Cowper (pronounced "COO-per"):

To see the Law by Christ fulfilled,
To hear His pardoning voice,
Changes a slave into a child
And duty into choice.

From his poem "Love Constrained to Obedience" 

Friday, March 10, 2017

Priming the Pump for Sunday - Jonah

We're going to be studying the book of Jonah this Sunday. I'd encourage you read the book in advance so it's fresh on your mind. As you read, it might be helpful to keep a few questions in mind. They just might help you understand and catch the impact of this book a bit more:

  • What’s the point of the “appointed” language (ESV) in Jonah?
  • Do you find any irony in the book of Jonah (hint: there's a lot)? What's the purpose of the irony?
  • What does this book reveal to us about God?
  • With whom do you identify in this book? Why so?
  • Why do you think the book ends so abruptly? What might be the purpose of such an ending?
  • If you were to summarize the book in a sentence, what would you say? 

How to Welcome New Neighbors

Ed Stetzer (professor, author, etc.) recently moved from Nashville, TN to Wheaton, IL. His new neighbors welcomed his family to the neighborhood with a 4 page letter! It wasn't cranky or awkward. It was warm and loving and practical. Stetzer writes about his neighbors' welcome and concludes by saying:
"Now you won’t care about all the details, but we did—we consulted this list regularly. And every time we saw their invitation to the church. 
Their list made us know: 
  • They were glad we were here. 
  • They took time to welcome us and care (and we just had dinner with them). 
  • They invited us to church.
So, what a great idea for you to make with new movers."
I really recommend you read the post. It's not long. As he said, you won't care about the details (even though I did because I know all about the "local color" recommendations having lived in Wheaton for 16+ years!). But the real point of reading it is the beautiful example of loving, thoughtful, missional, intentional neighboring it provides. We need more examples of that. So, read on, and let's get intentional about becoming the loving, neighborly examples the church and our world so desperately need!