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!

Thursday, March 9, 2017

"What the Transgender Debate Means for the Church" by Russell Moore

The transgender debate is not going away. We need to think through it well so we are prepared to stand for God's truth with gracious confidence. We need to prepare our hearts to sacrificially welcome and love wisely when the wreckage of sexual brokenness comes knocking at our door.

Russell Moore responded with this post the day after the White House rescinded President Obama's executive order regarding transgenderism in public schools. Here are some excerpts (emphasis added), but I encourage you to go and read the whole thing.
...the cultural conversation on gender identity issues requires more than good policy. It demands a gospel-centered response from the church
Ultimately, the transgender question is about more than just sex. It’s about what it means to be human. Poet Wendell Berry responded to techno-utopian scientism with the observation that civilization must decide whether we see persons as creatures or as machines. If we are creatures, he argued, then we have purpose and meaning, but also limits. If we see ourselves, and the world around us, as a machine, then we believe the Faustian myth of our own limitless power to recreate ourselves. ...
The Sexual Revolution has always whispered promises of this kind of godlike self-autonomy. ... If human sexuality exists solely for our self-actualization and satisfaction, then it makes no sense to impose restrictions based on something as seemingly arbitrary as gender. 
So how should we as Christians respond? 
First of all, we should never mock or belittle those suffering gender identity disorders. ... They feel alienated from their identities as men or women and are seeking a solution to that in self-display or in surgery or in pumping their bodies with the other sex’s hormones. In a fallen universe, all of us are alienated, in some way, from who we were designed to be.
...this also means that we will love and be patient with those who feel alienated from their created identities. We must recognize that some in our churches will face a long road of learning what it means to live as God created them to be, as male or female. That sort of long, slow, plodding and sometimes painful obedience is part of what Jesus said would be true of every believer: the bearing of a cross. ...
Second, we must bear witness to the goodness of what it means to live as creatures, not as self-defining gods and goddesses. God created us as human, and within humanity as male and female (Gen. 1:27). We are all sinners, so we chafe against having ourselves defined by a Creator, and not by ourselves or our ideologies. ...
If Christians see ourselves as people who are “losing” a culture rather than people who have been sent on a mission to a culture, we will be outraged and hopeless instead of compassionate and convictional. If we do not love our mission field, we will have nothing to say to it. 
We Christians believe that all of us are sinners, and that none of us are freaks. We conclude that all of us are called to repentance, and part of what repentance means is to receive the gender with which God created us, even when that’s difficult. We must affirm that God loves all persons, and that the gospel is good news for repentant prodigal sons and daughters, including for those who have trouble figuring out which is which.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Hero Husbands

For all your Christian husbands, I commend sustained meditation on Ephesians 5:22-33. By "sustained meditation" I mean, like, say, reading it everyday for a month (for starters). And when you read it, I don't mean blow through it in a minute and run off to work. I mean read it slowly and thoughtfully and prayerfully. There's nuclear-powered grace in there for your marriage.

Christian marriage is about the gospel. It's intended to be a living parable of the gospel of Jesus - his love for his bride, the church. And, Christian marriage only becomes a beautiful portrayal of that gospel when it is soaked in that gospel. So, dive into the deep pool of gospel grace in Ephesians, all won for you by the sacrificial love of Jesus. And then you'll find power that animates you to live that parable in your marriage.

I love an illustration I've heard Russell Moore give on a couple of occasions. It's a great example of the fruit of meditation on Ephesians 5. It goes something like this:
What if I said, 'Men, I want to draw your attention to (fill in your name) here. This man is a hero. Do you know what he did? 
When he went to bed last night, he adjusted the pillows in such a way as to provide maximum comfort for his body. 
When he woke up this morning – imagine this! – he got into the shower and washed his body with warm water and soap. He cares for his skin in such amazing ways! 
He then lovingly checked the weather – he checked the weather! – just so that he could clothe his body in clothes appropriate to the day’s temperature range. 
And that’s not all! He then went downstairs and he prepared food. He did the hard work of getting out a bowl and choosing a cereal that appealed to his body’s appetite. He then pulled the cold milk from the fridge, and poured that milk over his cereal and he intentionally!, proactively!, perseveringly placed bite after bite of delicious cereal into his mouth so that his body could have energy from which to draw strength for the day. 
Can we get a round of applause for (your name)? This guy is a hero!'
Silly, huh? But it's actually pretty serious...and convicting...and helpful.

It's aimed at helping us understand Ephesians 5:28-30, and live it out in real time.
"In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body."
You and I are called to love our wives as our own bodies. To love your neighbor-wife as yourself. We all naturally nourish and cherish our own bodies. Well, the Bible says that our wives are one flesh with us! No closer "neighbor" than that! We learn to love them by paying attention to how we take care of ourselves, and then applying that same care to them.

What if you loved your wife AS YOURSELF?
What if you cared for and nourished and cherished her as much as you do your own body?
What if you wanted to nourish her emotionally and spiritually with as much desire as you have for your physical appetites to be satisfied?
What if you cherished her and sought her well-being as much as you cherish your well-being and comfort? 
What if you were as jealous for her to have time to rest and read and pray as much as you want time to relax?

When you see a desire for your own good, God is teaching us to connect the dots for the sake of love!

Are you loving your wife as your own body?
What if it was as AUTOMATIC as it is for your own body?
Wouldn't your marriage begin to tell a different story? 
It would be a living parable of The Greatest Love Story.

You'll need serious grace for this. God knows that. So, the gospel is not only the pattern for Christian marriage. It's also the power. This kind of humble, loving, sacrificial, servant heart will only grow in you as you keep your eyes on Jesus (again, remember that commendation of sustained meditation on Ephesians 5:22-33?!). How has he loved and served you? We dare not lose sight of it!

The man in Russell Moore's illustration isn't a hero. It doesn't take any grace to take care of yourself. But it does take a ton of grace to love your wife as Christ loved the church; to love her as your own body. Praise God, grace is available by the megaton! 

There is a Hero Husband, and it's not you. Jesus loved you with a totally undeserved, even-when-you-were-running-the-other-way, to-the-utmost, almost-too-good-to-be-true, never-say-die sort of love. Get your eyes on that Hero Husband, and his grace will enable you to love your wife in truly heroic, sacrificial, steady, sweet, strong, sensitive, non-self-pitying, free-from-score-keeping, gospel-adorning ways.