Thursday, June 30, 2011

Being on Mission with Christ at Glory of Christ Fellowship

Here's a devotional I wrote for our church's e-newsletter last week. I'll post this week's devotional tomorrow, Lord willing.

As the Pastor for Vision & Teaching at Glory of Christ, I have the distinct privilege of serving the Lord and his people by prayerfully discerning the direction in which the Lord is leading this church and then working with others to test and refine that discernment. The hopeful outcome of this process is that we as a church, as a people of God called by God to be his own, will live and love and work together for the glory of his name and the good of the nations and the joy of our own souls. This may sound lofty but it’s biblical and by the grace of God in Christ it’s our privilege (Eph 4:1-16; 1 Peter 2:9-10).
For the last year my discernment of the Lord’s direction has been strong and persistent: we’ve spent some years building an adequate theological and relational foundation at this church and now it’s time to put on the armor of God and take the gospel to every corner of the world, starting with our own communities. This movement has been confirmed in many ways and is now articulated in our church’s mission statement, namely, Glory of Christ exists to make disciples of all nations by living lives of worship, walking together in community, and engaging in the mission of Jesus that we may grow to full maturity for the glory of Christ.
Beloved, it’s hard for me to articulate how powerfully this mission rings in my soul and how significant it is for our lives together in the coming months and years. I honestly don’t know how to put into words the strength of passion and longing in my heart, but this much I know. God Almighty has planted and rooted us in this place that we might give our lives—our everything—to exalting his glorious name in Elk River and beyond.
And I know that this movement outward must begin in our hearts and homes, then in our Community Groups, then in our church as a whole, then through strategic partnerships with other God-centered, Gospel-loving movements in our city, state, nation, and world. We cannot do this but our hope is not in us, rather, our hope is in the God who called us and planted us and rooted us and is now sending us with his overflowing love and power.
Next week I will write about how this movement can begin in our hearts and homes and extend beyond them. For now, please join me in praying that God would complete this work he began in us all the way to the day of Christ Jesus.

Longing with you to overflow with the love of Christ,
      Pastor Charlie

Friday, June 17, 2011

Mission as the Overflow of Joy

Sorry that I've not blogged in a while, my computer crashed and I had to get a new one. That sentence was harder to live than it was to write! I'll say more about that soon but for now here's a devotional I just wrote for our church's e-newsletter and bulletin.

In last week’s devotional I turned the corner from writing about prayer to mission, but in making this turn I did not leave prayer behind. Prayer is absolutely central to being on mission with Jesus because being on mission with Jesus is about being in love with Jesus. It’s about walking with him and talking with him and learning from him and submitting to him and overflowing with the joy that is in him to those who need him.
Earlier this week I received an e-mail from Pastor Mike which included a quote from Lesslie Newbigin. Newbigin’s words so well express my own sense of what it means to be on mission with Jesus that I decided to pass them on to you today. Please read them carefully and cherish the truths he shares.
“There has been a long tradition which sees the mission of the Church primarily as obedience to a command. It has been customary to speak of ‘the missionary mandate.’ This way of putting the matter is certainly not without justification, and yet it seems to me that it misses the point. It tends to make mission a burden rather than a joy, to make it part of the law rather than part of the gospel.
“If one looks at the New Testament evidence one gets another impression. Mission begins with a kind of explosion of joy. The news that the rejected and crucified Jesus is alive is something that cannot possibly be suppressed. It must be told. Who could be silent about such a fact?
“The mission of the Church in the pages of the New Testament is more like a fallout which is not lethal but life-giving. One searches in vain through the letters of St. Paul to find any suggestion that he anywhere lays it on the conscience of his reader that they ought to be active in mission. For himself it is inconceivable that he should keep silent. ‘Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!’ (1 Corinthians 9:16). But nowhere do we find him telling his readers that they have a duty to do so. . . .
“At the heart of mission is thanksgiving and praise. . . . When it is true to its nature, it is so to the end. Mission is an acted out doxology. That is its deepest secret. Its purpose is that God may be glorified” (The Gospel in a Pluralistic Society, [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1989], 116, 127).

Longing with you to overflow with the joy of Christ,
Pastor Charlie

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

King Tut, Rachel and Me--Or, Dad's, You Should Date Your Daughters

It's summer, Rachel's out of school, so we did something special for our date tonight--we went to see the King Tut exhibit at the Minnesota Science Museum. The experience was a good one for Rachel but it was a great one for me. Reason being, King Tut was all the rage when I was a kid and I've wanted to see this exhibit for a long time.

The journey began with an obligatory trip down memory lane. Yes, I watched the video of Steve Martin's classic "King Tut"--more than once. When I was young, I listened to that song so many times that I memorized every word and can recall them all to this day. So I just had to laugh when I found myself lined up "just to see the boy king"--never thought that would actually happen, but it did!

Before we went into the exhibit, we watched an omni-theater film about the Egyptians mummies, particularly the Pharaohs. It was a good film and made the experience of the exhibit all the more meaningful. I'm not sure the film alone would be worth a trip to Saint Paul, but if you're interested in Egyptian history for one reason or another it's certainly worth the price of the ticket. As a Bible teacher, I found it very enlightening, especially because one of the mummified Pharaohs was likely the one of which we read in Exodus--and his body is so well preserved that you can easily make out his facial features and see some of his hair. The narrator made the comment, "This is the only character in the Bible who has been preserved for us." I found that comment both fascinating and funny.

As for the exhibit itself, I found it extraordinary. It's quite late now and I doubt I'll be able to find the words to express how I felt but let me try--and please forgive me if what I say sounds strange! I've spent many years studying the ancient history of Israel, Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Persia, Greece and the like, and thus I felt somewhat breath-taken as I stood inches away from statues and carvings and crafts that were created by 3,000+ year-old artisans. These artisans were alive at the same time some of our biblical heroes were alive--Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, and Moses to name a few.

And coming so close to their handiwork somehow made time collapse so that I felt as though I was not at such a distance from them. One day some person took up the tools of his trade and crafted an artifact and some days later I stood there beholding his handiwork up close and personal. I don't know, the older I get and the more I study, the easier it is for me to see that the people of the Bible and surrounding cultures were just people like you and me. The exhibit helped me to feel that at a deeper level.

As for King Tut himself, there were several portions of the exhibit dedicated to him and his tomb. It's a fascinating story, really, but I'll leave that for you to look up on your own. His mummified body was not on display as it's kept in the Valley of the Kings in southern Egypt, but an exact replica of it was and that in itself was fascinating. It's hard to get your mind around how a person's body could be so well preserved after so many years but, again, looking at that replica made ancient dead people seem more like...well...people.

As I stood there taking in the details of that replica, I thought of the great and terrible day of the Lord when he will command his prophets to prophesy over the dead bones of so many billions of people that they might be raised from the dead. The righteous will be raised to eternal life and the unrighteous will be raised to eternal judgment (Ezekiel 37; Matthew 25). I both rejoiced and trembled at that day and prayed that God would grant me the grace to be ready for it by the might and mercy of Christ.And I smiled the smile of a beloved son as I remembered the words of Jesus in John 10:27-30, "My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father's hand. I and the Father are one."

After the exhibit, Rachel and I went to the Hard Rock Cafe in Minneapolis to get a bite to eat. We were actually trying to go to Chevy's, one of our favorite Mexican Restaurants, but it was closed--closed down, that is--so Hard Rock was the only thing open we could afford! I didn't like the atmosphere but the food was good. We had a few laughs together and enjoyed one another's company and then drove home.

We had a really good date tonight. And by the way, Dads, you should date your daughters (or sons for that matter, although if you have sons call this time something more manly than a date!). I've been doing this since Rachel was three or four and it is one of the deepest joys of my life and hers. I love my little girl so much, I can't even tell you, but that love is the fruit of many small investments over a number of years. The difficulty of fitting this into my busy schedule every week is well worth the relationship that has come as a result of it. Just take the plunge and do it, you won't regret it and your children will benefit for life.

Alright, it's time to go to bed--you've got to be kidding, it's almost 1:00 a.m.--ugh! Since it's so late and I'm probably not thinking straight, here's Steve Martin's classic nod to the old boy king. To see the  SNL version, just google 'Steve Martin King Tut' and it'll come up.

Monday, June 06, 2011

Piper, Carson, Keller on Marriage

I can't figure out how to embed this video into my blog, but here's the URL. It's worth a listen. The key thought is this: love is not the sustaining force of the covenant of marriage, rather, the covenant of marriage is the sustaining force of love. And this is designed to shout from marriage the nature of the relationship between Christ and the church. Amen. Give it a listen.

Friday, June 03, 2011

Matt Redman's "You Never Let Go"--A Slight Correction, or Maybe not so Slight

Yesterday I posted Matt Redman's song, "You Never Let Go," and said that it's been helping me hang on amidst the storm, and would probably do the same for you. However, the more I've thought about how I said what I said the more I realized that I--as usual--got it backwards. It's not that the song is helping me hold on to God but rather that the song is helping me remember that God is holding on to me. It's God that will "never let go" of me and in this is my hope, and in this is the hope of all who believe in Jesus Christ.

"My [Jesus'] sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father's hand. I and the Father are one" (John 10:27-30).

"And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.

"What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God's elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died--more than that, who was raised--who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.

"Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, 'For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.' No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.

"For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Romans 8:28-39).

Amen. Praise be to Him who is holding on to us and will never let go!

Thursday, June 02, 2011

Matt Redman's "You Never Let Go"

I'm embarrassed to admit this but it's true. A couple of week's ago we sang this song in church and I thought to myself, "I don't like this song," mostly because I found the verses hard to sing. But a few days later I noticed that I couldn't get the chorus out of my mind and given what I was going through that week, it really ministered to me.

Then as the Lord would have it we sang the song in church again last Sunday and this time I still found the verses hard to sing but I really fell in love with the bridge and the chorus. I can't get this song out of my head and now I'm writing to encourage you to give it a chance, too. (I put it this way because someone else admitted to me that they didn't like the song when we sang it--either time!)

Like Redman's "Blessed be the Name," I think this one will help a lot of people hang on in the midst of the storm. I know it's doing that for me right now and I'm grateful to Matt and much more to the God who inspired him.

Thanks, Lord, for your sustaining mercy in our lives. May you use this song as one tool to keep us hanging on to You who loved us from before the foundation of the world.

Yes, We Need "Alone" Time with God

Last week I ended my devotional by saying that prayer ought to feel like love not duty. As Paul Miller writes, “[Jesus’] prayer life is an expression of his relationship with his Father. He wants to be alone with the person he loves” (NavPress, Colorado Springs: 2009, 45). This week I want to say a little more about that word “alone.”
Jesus didn’t do prayer on the fly. He didn’t squeeze it in amidst other things. Certainly, he above all people knew what it meant to pray without ceasing and he prayed at all times, but that was neither the totality nor the heart of his prayer life.
Rather, the heart of his prayer life was being completely and regularly alone with his Father because the purpose of his prayer life was love. Surely there was work to be done and Jesus needed wisdom and power for that work, but that work was an overflow of the love he shared with his Father—the same love that sent him into the world in the first place (see John 17).
As Miller writes, “Jesus’ example teaches us that prayer is about relationship. When he prays, he is not performing a duty; he is getting close to his Father.
“Any relationship, if it’s going to grow, needs private space, time together without an agenda, where you can get to know each other. This creates an environment where closeness can happen, where we can begin to understand each other’s hearts.
“You don’t create intimacy; you make room for it. This is true whether you’re talking about your spouse, your friend, or God. You need space together. Efficiency, multi-tasking, and busyness all kill intimacy. In short, you can’t get to know God on the fly.
“If Jesus had to pull away from people and noise in order to pray, then it makes sense that we need to as well” (47).
Amen. May the Lord grant us a greater love for him so that we will put aside excuses and learn to be with him who loved us from before the foundation of the world. May we learn the beauty and power of a life lived with God in prayer and the Word.

Longing to be alone with our Father,
      Pastor Charlie