Saturday, April 30, 2011

Pray, Give, Go: Thinking about our Southern Friends

My heart has been aching this morning for the people who are living with the devastation of so many tornadoes. Below is a link to a recent story about the disaster along with several gripping videos. It seems like only yesterday that a tornado ripped through our area. I can remember the feelings as though it happened yesterday, but the devastation we experienced is nothing compared to what they're going through.

So let's remember them in prayer every day, give to the relief efforts, and even join in with someone and go down there if we can--pray, give, go. May the Lord be merciful to our southern friends.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Kevin DeYoung on Rob Bell's "Love Wins"

I'm a little behind the eight-ball on this, not that that's anything new, but a good friend of mine recently provided me with Kevin DeYoung's response to Rob Bell's new book Love Wins. It is an excellent response both in substance and tone, and I highly recommend it. Here's the link.

Why the Fascination with Royalty?

We’re Americans. We shed the yoke of royal rule some two-hundred-thirty-five years ago for the love of freedom. Others around the world followed suit and today democracy is the dominant political philosophy in the world. And yet millions from every corner of the globe tuned in to witness a royal wedding and the question I’ve been asking myself this morning is why? Given the history of the world in the last several hundred years, why the fascination with royalty? 

Well, at one level the answer is pretty simple: we love pomp and circumstance and few of us have access to that kind of thing. By witnessing the regalia that belongs to others we somehow participate in it ourselves. This is the same reason we love to watch TV shows and movies. In so doing we participate in ways of life that are beyond our reach.

But I think there’s more than this going on here. In our heart of hearts, most of us want to look up to and serve a good king. We long for leadership and we long for a leader who is good, just, honest, morally upright, self-sacrificing, and the like. We will forgive the indiscretions of public figures but in our hearts we long for more.

And the ultimate reason we long for more is that we are creatures who have been hand-crafted by a Creator who is indeed good, just, honest, morally upright, self-sacrificing, holy, mighty, wise glorious, merciful, slow to anger, abounding in steadfast love, faithful, and the like. In other words, he is imminently admirable and we have been created to worship him and be in fellowship with him.

The problem is that along with this impulse, we have another in our hearts, namely, we want to be a king or queen unto ourselves. We want to hold royalty at a distance and live life just the way we want to live life. The desire to be a god unto ourselves is the heart of sin and it causes very real and deep problems in our relationship with the one true God.

But since God is in fact so mighty and merciful, he chose to address this problem himself. Jesus Christ, who is King of all kings and Lord of all lords, humbled himself and became a human being, and being found in the form of a man lived his life as a servant. Imagine that: the Lord of the universe living as a servant. And as a servant, he lived a life of obedience all the way to death on a cross, a death he died to pay the penalty for our rebellion against God.

Now, everyone who believes in him enters into eternal life which Jesus defined as knowing and loving God (John 17:3). In other words, to have life is to be in a vital, loving relationship with the God who created us, and the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus paves the way for that kind of relationship to become real in our lives. There is in fact no other way to have peace with God because Jesus is God who took on flesh to rescue us from the consequences of our sin.

And the eternal hope held out for us in the Bible is that one day he will reign in fact as King of kings and Lord of lords, that every knee will bow before him and every tongue confess that he is the one true Royal to the glory of God the Father.One day we will get the King we've all been longing for and he will reign forever. There will be no end to his Kingdom.

So it turns out that this worldwide impulse to behold royalty goes pretty deep into the human heart and will ultimately be fulfilled in Jesus Christ. For now I pray that we would bow our lives before Jesus and live in the light of his glory for he alone is worthy of the same.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Mission is Mission

Here's something I just wrote for our church's e-newsletter and Sunday morning bulletin. 

God never ceases to amaze me. On the very week I was scheduled to preach on the worldwide mission of Christ, I received a free book from Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando, Florida. I did not know it was coming.
For many months my hope for this Sunday has been to lay out a compelling vision for worldwide missions and to show that there is no real distinction between local and foreign missions. Division of labor? Yes. Division of mission? No. And then I planned to sketch out the contours of a plan that will likely guide us in the coming years as we learn to overflow with the love of Christ into the world.
Then, on Tuesday, I received the book. It’s a classic, in fact, it’s sold over 3.5 million copies since it was first published in 1963. It was written by a close confidant of Billy Graham, Robert E. Coleman, and it’s entitled The Master Plan of Evangelism (Revell Books, Grand Rapids: 1993). As soon as I opened the package I knew the Lord had orchestrated the moment so I prayerfully pulled back the cover and began to read. Just a few pages in I came across the following passage and I urge you to read it carefully, noting especially the last two sentences.
“The days of [Jesus’] flesh were but the unfolding in time of the plan of God from the beginning. It was always before his mind. He intended to save out of the world a people for himself and to build a church of the Spirit which would never perish. He had his sights on the day his Kingdom would come in glory and in power. This world was his by creation, but he did not seek to make it his permanent abiding place. His mansions were in the sky. He was going to prepare a place for his people that had foundations eternal in the heavens.
“No one was excluded from his precious purpose. His love was universal. Make no mistake about it. He was ‘the Savior of the world’ (John 4:42). God wanted all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. To that end Jesus gave himself to provide a salvation from all sin for all men. In that he died for one, he died for all. Contrary to our superficial thinking, there never was a distinction in his mind between home and foreign missions. To Jesus it was all world evangelism” (17-18, emphasis mine).
Amen. May the Lord drive this lesson deep into our hearts at Glory of Christ that we may both go to the ends of the earth and across the street with the eternal hope of the love of God in Christ.
Aching to be on mission with Him,
Pastor Charlie

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Proud of our Daughter & Thoughts on Mass Media

The State of Minnesota has an awesome program through which a high school junior or senior can attend college and get both high and college credit for the same. And the best part is that the State pays for the whole thing. So Rachel has been attending Anoka-Ramsey Community College in Coon Rapids this year and was recently invited to join Phi Theta Kappa, the only major honor society for two-year colleges in the country. Rachel, we're VERY proud of you!

Last night we attended her official induction ceremony at the college at which a man named Richard Broderick gave a mini-lecture on mass media and culture. Broderick proposed that the mass media in the United States is the most powerful "normative institution" in the country. By "normative institution" he means an institution which teaches us what it means to be normal. What it means to be a man, a woman, a child, a husband, a wife, an employer or employee, an American, a human being, etc.

I think Broderick's assertion is probably correct, if not, it's awfully close. Other sociological institutions like family, religion, schools, and workplaces still have a profound normative effect on the American psyche, however, the mass media has thoroughly infiltrated them all. Now, not everything in the mass media is problematic, in fact, some of the information that flows through it is vital for our life in the modern world. However, along with this vital information comes a host of other things that are problematic, primarily because they promote values which are contrary to the values of families, churches, schools, etc.

For instance, values such as respect and loyalty are vital to families but the mass media tends to promote opposite values such as disrespect and self-centeredness. My wife, who is a Spanish teacher, had a kid cuss her out yesterday because she asked him to do something he already knew he was supposed to do. This kind of over the top behavior would not have been tolerated a couple of generations ago but now, largely due to the influence of television and the internet, such behavior is commonplace.

This was, I think, Broderick's most impactful point: the values of the mass media are largely opposed to the values of other normative institutions in our culture and the former is undermining the latter. In the long run this trend will not be good. By the way, his point in the context of the induction ceremony was to encourage the inductees to be "counter-cultural" and war against the values of the media. I didn't agree with everything he said but I nearly shouted "amen" to this!

Now, as a lover of Jesus Christ, this train of thought led me to ask the following questions of myself: what is truly influencing my heart, soul, mind, and behavior? What are the most powerful "normative institutions" in my life? What is teaching me what it means to be a normal man, husband, father, pastor, citizen, etc? Is Jesus' voice the most prevalent voice in my life or not? If so, how so? If not, why not?

I invite you to ask these questions of yourself as well. We are all a mix of influences and that's a good thing. This has always been and will always be. But those of us who have come to know Jesus Christ, by grace through faith, must look to the Lord above all others and let his influence dictate all other influences in our lives. We must allow him to teach us what is normal to the extent that we die to all other "normals."

I will close with Paul's words from Colossians 3:1-4 and Philippians 4:8-9 which teach us that Christ and the things of Christ are the new normal for those who believe in Christ.

"If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory."

"Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me--practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you" (Phil 4:8-9).

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

An Historic Feat and the Worship of God

I haven't blogged forever and a day, at least not here, and this is probably a strange way to start back to blogging again, but something very unique has just happened in the cycling world and I just have to share it with someone!

Belgian cyclist Philippe Gilbert has just completed what is called the "Ardennes Hat Trick or Grand Slam" which means that he won three of the European Spring Classic races in a space of only eight days. He first took the Amstel Gold Race on April 17, followed by the Fleche Wallone Race on April 20, followed by the oldest and probably most famous of the Classics, Liege-Bastogne-Liege, on April 24.

Just to give you an idea of how great a feat this is, the Amstel Gold race was 260.4 kilometers this year, or 161.8 miles. The Fleche Wallone was 201 kilometers or 124.9 miles and the Liege was 255.5 kilometers or 158.7 miles. And not only did Gilbert have to cover these distances at speeds most mortals cannot imagine producing on a bike, he had to overpower the best cyclists in the world at the end of each race to take home the prize. I was particularly impressed with his final effort at the Amstel Race because he led the pack for miles and miles, and still won the race. That is rare. Usually the guy in front tanks and one of those behind him wins.

I suppose this is why he's only the second man in European cycling history to accomplish this feat. The last one ended up testing positive for drugs sometime later, hopefully Gilbert's character is as strong as his recent performances.

Now, as a lover of Jesus Christ this inspires me for at least two reasons. First, I'm absolutely amazed at the God who can create beings who think of things like cycling, who have the ability to set goals and train and achieve seemingly unachievable things, and who have capacities like joy which give a fullness of expression and sense of completion to such feats. Just think of humankind's best efforts at creating robots. They're a total joke compared to just one human being. Take some time and think about all the stuff people do that you take for granted and gasp at the creative capacity of God! He's really amazing. I mean really amazing.

Second, when I think about how much focus and dedication it takes to achieve something like this, I think of Paul's words in 1 Corinthians 9:24-27. "Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified."

So congratulations, Phillipe Gilbert, on an historic feat. Glory and praise to you, God Almighty, for your unimaginable creative capacities and all the grace that's implied in a feat like this. And wake up, my slumbering soul, run as though you may obtain the prize. Exercise self-control, discipline your body, be inspired by earthly things to pursue the wreath that is imperishable.