We all have mountains we’re hoping to climb this year, but before we begin the climb, let us recognize and give thanks for the good and prepare ourselves to grow in the ways that matter most (love & character). Remember, God is for us. God began a work in you and He will complete it (1:6).
Stay focused. Give thanks. Pray. Abound in love. Grow in Character. Let’s do this!
PSA: I'm DONE with the institutional Church, just give me Jesus!
Do you ever get sick and tired of just showing up to the institution we know today as Church? Many families wake up before they’re ready, rush to get their kids dressed, skip breakfast, interrupt nap time, feel disconnected with the worship, and fellowship with people who complain about every aspect of their lives. We pass people in the hallway who don’t say hello, who was out drinking the night before, who are having premarital sex, who spend Sunday School gossiping, and we hear bits and pieces of a mediocre sermon (as if it would apply to us anyway). These are the same people who preach the Gospel on social media and often pretend to be something they are not. We look around and we see nothing but hypocrites, fakes, and a shell of the Church we read about in the Bible. If we do have a conversation with someone it goes like this,
“Hi, how are you?”
“Great, how are you?”
Then we move on in silence. If we do go to Sunday School it seems like everyone’s favorite time to argue and demonstrate their intellect. Church just seems to lack a certain realness. I mean, come on, are we still saying, “Sunday School” and not “Bible and Coffee?”
Don’t even get started with what it’s like when a person has to volunteer on Sunday. The Check-in System isn’t working… again. People are rude. Some volunteers miss out on the Lord’s Supper and have to take it at home... alone. “Well, just add a separate Lord’s Supper service at the end of service for volunteers,” one well-intended person suggests. “Great,” the volunteer thinks, “Now who is going to watch my children while I spend even more time, in the quiet, with people I don’t really know while pretending to concentrate on Jesus.” Volunteers may deal with people who are thoughtless, careless, and over opinionated. Members come prepared to complain about the music, the building improvements, the sermon conclusion, the announcements, where coffee is served, who is wearing a hat, why others are not tucking in their shirts, and many other things. Sunday may become a mad rush of discouragement instead of a hopeful light of encouragement.
Is all this hassle really worth it? Do we really get that much out of it? Is this the kind of community Jesus was talking about? Can’t we simply have Jesus, and a personal relationship with him, and not put up with the fake Church culture that has lost touch with “Biblical” Christianity? Is “going” to Church really worth it? Would it be better to sit at home, listen to a sermon on YouTube, take the Lord’s Supper with the family, and actually enjoy Sunday? I hear this kind of stuff all the time, and if I’m honest, I’ve been guilty of asking some of the same questions. Those who’ve given up on the Church have concluded that the judgmental culture of the Church isn’t worth it, “I’m just going to raise decent human beings and be nice to people” or “I’m not going to pretend to be something I’m not. I pray to God. If He accepts me, great. If not, o well.” It’s sad to hear.
The most important thing I’d like the reader to perceive is my one-sided negative approach to my evaluation, description, and judgment of the Church. I have an unbalanced scale, so it seems, and I’ve failed to take into account the good aspects of the modern Church culture. Recognizing this helps me realize that something is off and the enemy is at work. Seeds of dissension have been sown. After all, “A false balance is an abomination to the LORD, but a just weight is His delight” (11:1). Jesus doesn’t fear an honest critique of His body, but he does detest a person who has a one-sided approach.
I want to encourage you to join me over the next several weeks as we wade through this conversation and take an honest look at answering the question, “Why should I go to the Church of today?”
Take some time to write a pro / con list of Church today.
Take some time to pray for wisdom in your evaluation.
Take some time for introspection.
Take some time to reflect on this, “As long as people (including me) are a part of the Church, it will be messy and imperfect.”
I admit, if one has the righteous anger of the Lord, it is possible to be angry and “not sin” (Eph. 4:29). Anger is a powerful emotion, and when handled righteously, can enable us to do incredible things for God. Notice the emphasis, for God.
However, more often than not, we use certain Scriptures as an escape clause to justify our human anger. We act in evil ways because ultimately our hearts are evil (Matt. 15:19). In myself and in the ministry, I’ve noticed human anger is a symptom of self-hatred and an unhappy life. When I look back at the times I acted in rage, it was because I was unhappy with myself. I wasn’t living a life that was pleasing to God. We can be tempted to cope with the unhappiness we feel for ourselves by being angry at the people around us.
A few months ago, we had a member absolutely enraged that our kids helped lead worship on a 5th Sunday Fam Jam. This person marched up to an Elder and yelled at him, then stormed off to the car, pledging to never come back. This outburst, poor judgement, and destructive speech manifested itself in human anger.
First of all, we should be slow to anger because human anger prevents us from living a life that is pleasing to God. James puts it like this, “This you know, my beloved brethren. But everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger; for the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God” (James 1:19-20 NASB). The point of Christian living is to be holy. We can’t be holy if we don’t practice the righteousness of God.
Human anger expresses itself is various forms: lies, grudges, abusive language, destructive opinions, bitterness, rage, slander, harsh words, evil behavior. A life filled with human anger is the antitheses of a life filled with the love and lifestyle of Christ (Eph. 5:2). Our human anger justifies our sinful behavior and our sinful behavior brings forth death. When we dwell in human anger, we bring sorrow to the Spirit and suppress Him from working in our lives (Eph. 4:30).
Secondly, we should be slow to anger because human anger because we can kill our relationship with God. Jesus made this emphatically clear on the sermon on the mount (Matthew 5:21-26). When we are angry without a cause we place ourselves in the same category as a murderer. The Scribes and Pharisees thought they were living righteously because they didn’t murder anyone. Yet, Jesus explains the true heart and purpose of the law in that God expects us to have a love that leads to reconciliation. He wants us to love in such a way that rejoices in truth, takes responsibility for our actions, and comes to a compromise. Remember, we are called to love our neighbor as we love ourselves.
We can be "slow to anger" by taking time to pause and ask ourselves these questions:
1) What am I angry about?
2) Why am I angry?
3) Does Scripture agree with my anger?
4) Do my Christian friends agree with my anger?
5) If I asked Jesus His advice, what would He tell me to do?
6) If my anger is justified, how would I want someone to approach me in their anger?
Why do we struggle with loving our neighbor as we love ourselves?
The first reason why we struggle to love our neighbor is obvious, we don’t have the right view of God. We struggle to love horizontally because we struggle to love vertically. We haven’t truly grasped what it means to love God with everything that we are because we haven’t fully accepted everything that God claims to be. If you’re anything like me, you find yourself making excuses as to why God doesn’t get the best, the first, and the primary focus. After all, He as the problem, not us… right?
To love God with everything that we are is to admit that we have the problem. We have the sin issue. We have the inadequacy. We are primarily to blame for our suffering. Loving God, at the core, is to take responsibility for ourselves while embracing the right view of God. Remember, it was in the context of the Old Covenant that the question was asked, “What is the greatest commandment in the Law?” (Matthew 22:36). The law brings wrath, condemnation, and death (Rom. 4:15; 7:10; 2 Cor. 3). The law relentlessly points out our failures. It is in perspective of the Law that we discover our need for grace, salvation, and mercy from a Holy and Righteous God. The reason why the Law points out our failures is because it is holy, given to us by a Holy God (Rom. 7:1-12). We are the man in need of saving, not God.
The second reason why we struggle to love our neighbor may not be so obvious. We struggle to love our neighbor as we love ourselves because we have the wrong view of ourselves.
As we walk the straight and narrow, we may find ourselves erring on the side of self-hatred or, on the other hand, selfishness. The only people who are capable of fulfilling the great two commandments are people who recognize “that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, among whom I am foremost of all” (1 Tim. 1:15). When we have the right view of God and the right view of ourselves, we’ll be able to make headway on fulfilling the two great commandments.
If you struggle with these two issues relating to the greatest commandment, I want to encourage you to attend our Sunday morning service where we'll be tackling what it means to love our neighbor as we love ourselves. The series will be called, "In the Middle." Hope to see you!
You can only choose between one of two options, which would you choose?
A) Do the right thing most of the time with the wrong motives.
B) Do the wrong thing most of the time with the right motives.
Funnily enough, Israel often found themselves doing the wrong thing most of the time with the wrong motives. Like us, they had the greatest commandment at the forefront of their identity, "Love the Lord your God with all of your heart, and with all of your soul, and with all of your strength" (Deuteronomy 6:4). God was, and still is, primarily concerned with the inner moral character of a person and not the outward appearance.
When God told Samuel to make David king, He made his standards well known, "The Lord sees the heart." (1 Samuel 16:7). Yet, time and time again, God had to remind Israel of this foundational truth through trials and tribulations. For instance, during Israel's rebellion God said "They honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me" (Isaiah 29:13). Jeremiah recognized Israel's heart condition when he wrote, "You (Lord) are always on their lips but far from their hearts" (Jeremiah 12:2). Ezekiel said this of His fellow people, "My people come to you (Lord) as usual, sit before you, and hear your words; but they do not put them into practice. Although they express love with their mouths, their hearts pursue dishonest gain" (Ezekiel 33:31).
Fast forward 700 years and we find Isaiah's prophetic truth being applied to by Jesus to Israel, "Isaiah prophesied correctly about you hypocrites, as it is written: 'These people honor Me with their lips, but their hearts are far from Me” (Mark 7:6).
God wants our hearts (motivation), not just our actions. He's wants His followers to be authentic in their walk with Him. This requires us to question and examine our motives (why we do it) behind our actions (what we do). I don't want to come to the Lord, sit before Him, and hear His words without putting them into practice. I don't want to say that I love God with my lips and all the while pursue dishonest gain. I want a pure heart and clean hands (Psalm 24:4).
On the other hand, what do you do if you're struggling with the right motives? What if you're heart isn't buying into it? Simply put, you position yourself under the waterfall of God's grace as you persistently follow Him. Eventually, your heart will catch up to your head.
I’ll admit it, I’m kind of a weird guy, and not simply because I’m a Christian. I have a joking personality and somewhat of a weird thought process. My late uncle, a former co-worker, and wife all made a comical remark to me, “Dude, you’re not right.”
When I think about some of the things that I’ve done, words that I’ve said, or ideas that I’ve had I can’t help but chuckle and laugh to myself. I’m just a weird dude. Christianity is kind of weird as well. I mean, think about it, we gather together every Lord’s Day to eat His flesh and Blood. We let someone else dunk us into a big pool of water so we can have the forgiveness of sins. We give a large portion of our income to a Church mission. If you were not raised in the Church and knew nothing of Christianity, it would be a culture shock.
While Christians do things that are beyond our reason, that doesn’t make them unreasonable. Christians are certainly called to be different, but not delusional. They are called out to be holy, but not crazy. They are commanded to pick up a cross, not pick their noses. While I’m not delusional or crazy (and I only pick my nose when I’m alone or with someone) the Cross bids me to come, lose my life, and pick up my own cross.
When Jesus spoke to His disciples He said, “Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for My sake will find it” (Matt. 10:39 NIV). Interestingly enough, Matthew uses the word “psuché” for “life.” This is the word for “soul.” What did Jesus mean by this statement? Simply put, if we are not ready and willing to surrender ourselves to the Father, even to the point of death, we cannot save ourselves. In fact, the exact opposite will occur. We will be lost. We will aimlessly wander through the desert. Faithfulness requires wholehearted devotion. There is no room for divided loyalties or partial affection. Jesus requires all of us.
This is what it means to love God with “all our soul” (Matt. 22:37). We must unselfishly serve the Lord. We must do what needs to be done regardless of our personal comfort or cost. We must praise the Lord most high while carrying our cross. We must surrender our selfishness and self-seeking life. We must relinquish control of our possessions, powers, and interests to the will of the Father. We must boldly proclaim, “Jesus is Lord” even if it costs us our life.
It is only through this ultimate surrender we can discover true life, “whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.” It is a great Christian paradox. The only way we find our lives is to lose it. The only way to live is to die. When we lose our worldly value, we find a heavenly value that makes life worth living! This might seem weird, but remember, we are too.
What is the greatest thing you can do in 2019? Perhaps you want to lose weight, pay off debt, travel, or learn something new. Maybe you desire to revitalize your marriage or reconnect with lost friends. Goals are important. They help keep us alive and give hope.
In the same way, Jesus had a goal that gave him hope. The bible says, "Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God" (Hebrews 12:3b NASB). The goal was the right hand of God and the burden was the cross.
It is easy to grow weary in our ambition for success. We want to lose weight, but we may be surrounded by those who glutton themselves on pizza and donuts. We want to pay off debt, but we live in a culture of instant everything and selfish ambitions. We want to travel, but we also live in a competitive culture of home buying and portfolio building. We want to learn something new, but we may be surrounded by the naysayers who tell us we'll never be able to do it. Hebrews gives us a little more insight to our burden in our Christianity,
"Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart" (Hebrews 12:1-3 NASB).
The barrier in front of Jesus' goal was the cross, but what enabled him to endure? The week leading up to the cross, Jesus was asked, "What is the greatest commandment?" In other words, "In the midst of enduring your burden, what is the greatest thing?" Jesus unsurprisingly responds, "Love God and Love Others" (Paraphrase of Matthew 22:34ff). It was His love for the Father and His love for others that enabled Him to endure the cross. Love wins.
Similarly, what will enable us to endure? What will carry us through? It is love for God and love for others. When we love God more than food, we will endure, and lose weight. When we love God more than stuff, we will endure, and pay off debt or travel. When we love God more than the opinions of others, we will endure, and learn something new. When we love God more than we love ourselves, we will endure, and become a better spouse.
The greatest thing in 2019 is Love God and Love others. This year, love more than you've ever loved before.
Is Genesis 1-2 symbolic poetry or chronological history?
The Book of Genesis is subject to one of the greatest debates in modern history. It describes the beginning of man, sin, nations, languages, Israel, and the Judeo-Christian worldview. One of the most controversial questions discussed in the Genesis debate is, “How long did it take God to create the world?”
Other topics that arise in this discussion are questions on the nature of the word “day,” the poetic nature to Genesis one, the literalism of the story and many others. In order to provide adequate answers to the above topics, one must start by answering, “What kind of literature is Genesis?” How one approaches the book of Genesis will dictate the understanding of Genesis. For instance, if Genesis is poetic in nature, then potentially everything in Genesis can have a poetic element. There would be no need to take “day” as a literal twenty-four-hour day for that wasn’t the author’s intention. On the other hand, if Genesis is a detailed account of history meant to be taken literally and chronologically with no poetic element, it would be absolutely essential to the truth of Genesis to take “day” as a twenty-four-hour day.
But what if Genesis is a combination of the two? What if the framework of Genesis is meant to be taken as a poetic narrative with historical truths at its core? Or, what if Genesis is meant to be taken as a historical narrative with poetic elements for literary purposes? It isn’t news to the theologian that A.N.E. (Ancient Near East) writers would sacrifice accuracy for rhythm or utilize certain principles when telling their story. When Jewish commentators, like Ibn Ezra or Rashi, come upon passages that seem to be out of chronological order, like the clash between Numbers 1:1 and 9:1 or the age of Isaac and Joseph in Genesis 37:35, they would invoke a famous escape clause, “there is no before and no afterwards in the Torah.” (b. Pesah 6b) Additionally, Jewish commentators understood the writer(s) or editor(s) of the Torah would often “make a general statement followed by the details. One of Hillel’s rules, kelal uperat, that could be translated by this simple formula: ‘The general first, the particular afterwards.’” (Koninklijke Brill NV, 2012) pg. 12).
It means that chronology is put secondary to the story and the author’s intent. They are not writing to give the audience a historical timeline of events, but telling a story about their history. It is one thing to accomplish to the audience a certain fact, it is another thing to intend to accomplish a certain fact to the audience. For instance, if it wasn’t Moses’ intention to describe the exact length of time it took God to create the world, but instead intended to establish His authority for their work week and Sabbath Day as an Israelite, it would certainly change one’s understanding of Genesis one. In other words, Moses may not be writing Genesis one in such a way to describe chronological history, but relative authority. Remember, Moses didn’t write the Torah and then give the commands. Moses gave the commands and then, over time, wrote the Torah.
If Moses were to be asked, “Moses, did God really create the world in six twenty-four hour days?” Moses may respond, “My dear friend, I didn’t write Genesis one for that purpose. My intention was to establish an authority and structure for our week. I wanted to give you a good theological foundation for what we should be doing.” Or think of this challenge, “Moses, was it really possible for Adam to name ‘all’ the animals of creation? How could that be possible in twenty-four hours? Even if Adam spoke a name every five seconds from midnight to midnight, it still wouldn’t be enough time! And he also had surgery in the creation of Eve!” Moses may respond, “My dear friend, I didn’t write that with that intention! I’m simply showing you that man has authority over the animals. I’m not instructing you on how long it took Adam to name all the animals!”
It is also true that even in strict historical records, meant to be taken as literal history, one finds elaborations, exaggerations, rounded numbers, and somewhat of a disregard for the details in order to serve various literary purposes. Simply put, the story needed to sound good. We find this kind of poetic history in the book of Psalms. Psalm twenty-two takes the reader upon a journey to the hill of Calvary where the cry of Christ meets the cross. One could say the factual claims of the poem are true. This same hermeneutic may be applied to Genesis chapter one, but should it?
Until next time!
Severn Christian Church
A Family Church Where Your Life Matters
Our Kids Ministry Team is growing! We're so thankful for willing hearts who want to work together for God's glory! So, thank you Carl, Heidi, Vikki, and most certainly your families for giving you away to the Lord!
We also greatly appreciate ALL our volunteers who serve each Sunday. It's making a difference! Our Kids are memorizing their Scriptures, remembering their monthly themes, and really enjoying their worship time! We know the switch to the new curriculum as been a learning curve, so thanks for working with us!
In the coming future, we'll be looking to renovate our children's rooms and hallway to give our kids a place they find irresistible! We are currently in the process of fundraising for this endeavor, so if you haven't joined our faithful fifty, please do so! We're looking for people who are willing to donate $25/month for 2018. These funds will go directly towards our children's areas.
There will be a SEVERN KIDS volunteer training session on August 11th at 9AM. If you're already a part of the Pre-K Team, Toddler Team, or Kids team or wish to learn more about how to get involved, please join us!
Why was this picture possible? Because of members like you! Part of our budget is dedicated towards funding these camps and helping students along the way. This year, we were able to send 12 students to camp this year (Delmarva, Indian Lake, CIY). So thank you to all the volunteers and members who make this possible!
We also had an avengers themed overnighter this month... with 40+ Students! If you look closely enough, you'll see that Kyle wore a spider-man Onesie all night... LOL! It was an awesome night. Pair that with our beach day and it made for a pretty awesome month!
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