Salt and Light

Jesus told his people to be salt and light. That is we are to be everything good accomplished by salt and light.

How?

By hearing the Spirit (All of the Godhead at work by Holy Spirit) and obeying him.

How?

His word, his counsel by his word, his application of his word as he leads your thinking, his flat-out direction of your steps in obedience to his word etc.

Result? Ruined for anything that does not have the fragrance of biblical fidelity.

I’m not unique to this in history (many have gone before), but the Scriptures have ruined me. The bible has completely made me a stickler for doing things in a bible way. Don’t hear that as me putting “bible way” over the top of my preferences. I mean a properly exegeted, not cultural alone kind of way. My kids play sports, go to public school, watch TV, hunt, play x-box…and I do to. I’m not talking about withdrawal from society stuff. I mean the every essence of God’s kingdom infecting all we do in our engagement of our domains for King and Kingdom.

That’s good, but that also has an edge to it. Why? When things are done contrary to clear teaching, your discernment keeps you from being able to just let it go, and that will get you in trouble sometimes and keep you being able to simply participate in some things.

Sometimes salt has to sting to preserve. Sometimes light has to temporarily blind in order to cause one to see.

Applying the bible to everything as intended will bring life and healing and kick the curse in the teeth. But you have to know it.

Read it. Follow a yearly reading plan. Study it separate from reading. Make yourself learn to obey it. Learn to hear the Spirit whispering through the pages as your pray over the text, pray the text and do so before Jesus when no one is looking. Teach others to do the same (that’s called making disciples and teaching them to obey everything Jesus said).

This will satisfy your soul, make you happy, make your prophetic (that’s the get in trouble part), and make you obey Jesus as you become salt and light. Nothing wrong with that.

 

Post-Christian South Versus Jesus’ Way

Living in the “bible belt” has it’s good and bad. I’m a child of the bible belt. Some good. Some bad.

The good? Easy access to Scripture. Evangelical doctrine purged (mostly) of post-enlightenment liberalism. Respect for elders. Honor for those who have passed on and their families (I love that in my town we still stop for a funeral procession. I’ve buried both my parents, and we’ve buried my wife’s mom, and nothing quite like people stopping to honor your grief). Strong sense of family. There’s more, but that’s not the point of this post.

The bad? Assumed salvation. Assumed gospel content. Poor child evangelism. Poor preaching. Moralistic therapeutic deism disguised as Christianity. Bad theology in many pockets (distinct from the overall absence of liberalism). Salvation tied to “asking Jesus into my heart” with no concern for following Jesus in obeying everything he has commanded. There’s more, but again, can’t be unpacked in this post.

What I am concerned about in the post-Christian south is a form of godliness that denies the power of God to supernaturally advance his kingdom. A lacking ethical standard rooted in the inerrant bible, God’s word, truth (noun not adjective in John 17:17), manual for life.

People who call themselves Christians yet show little concern for others in failing to observe boundaries. People who are concerned with not violating the law, but show little regard for biblically ethical behavior and practice…We are called to a higher ethical standard. It’s legal to seek an abortion, but we have a higher ethic for life. Power and a desire to be known leads to compromising biblical ethics for the sake of legality. Make sense? People who have little regard for the role of pastor/elder/overseer who passively/aggressively come after under-shepherds with little to no respect while doing nothing to obey Jesus’ teaching. People who will not receive instruction, but look for ways to contend and divide or just do things their own way. People not wanting to keep the covenant, but looking to get as much spiritual product as they can. People just being lazy.

None of us are perfect, but we must be humble people, striving to obey Jesus, loving each other and our neighbors well, fighting for joy, keeping unity and peace and smelling like what we read about in Scripture.

We can use marketing, CEO strategy and business tactics to build an organization, but it may not be the church. We must go after Jesus end and means to get the church.

Here’s Matt Chandler’s take:

 

Think in this, and may it produce a love for Jesus and a desire to see his kingdom come and his will be done on earth as it is done in heaven.

Restoration

TRC! Hey, want some really good news on the restoration of one of our own?

One of the reasons it’s wise, as Christians, to go beyond the legal to the biblical concept of uncovering sin and shining the healing light of obedience to Scripture on that sin is that there is never a cause to wonder if all has been done in decency and order. Legal does not always equal ethical. Laws have loopholes, and loopholes provide conveniently dark places for sin to hide as “legal”.

Another trap for sin is our culture’s idea of what is “Christian” and what is not. Our culture whispers the lies that say, hide it, don’t say it, don’t let others know and all will be well….you preserve the person’s whatever. The problem? Jesus does not give us that option. Sin thrives on and grows in darkness. He gave us a clear path to him being put on display as the unifier, healer and restorer and us seeing the miraculous work of the gospel of the kingdom producing fruit…Matthew 18:15-20. Think about it. What is there for the congregation to give Jesus glory for if there was never a problem for him to solve we couldn’t?

We believe God’s word as the inerrant truth for all regardless of their acknowledging it or not, and we’ve had to practice Jesus’ process on occasion.

We have reason to celebrate. Likely, you’ve been seeing Jackson Bishop around church and he’s been in our RL group when he gets to be home from his rather amazing job. If you are coming over from Kingston, you will see Jackson. Our brother, friend and fellow follower of Jesus, Jackson Bishop, has been restored to us. The Spirit did his work as we obeyed his word. Jackson will be playing in the Band on Sunday because there is no probation with God. Repentant and restored is the way.

In the parable of the lost (prodigal) son, Jesus tells us we welcome home the one who was “lost” with a dad gum party…we’ll sing to Jesus with our brother playing in the band. So, will you bring a little extra party feel to your praise tomorrow? You should.

Let’s celebrate what God has done.

Integrity In our Institutions

One of the qualifications of a pastor/elder/overseer is that they must have a good reputation with those outside of the church. That means that they are actually functioning outside of the church in the public square.

A side note: its not like Paul’s instructions in 1 Timothy 3 don’t apply to everyone else. You know, the pastors must be stellar in the community, but the rest of us can be scoundrels! Pastors can’t be drunkards, but us church members can party every night and every day…

No! All Christians, especially those in leadership, must operate with a stellar reputation outside.

We are watching my Alma Mater process a sexual harassment issue, and it’s clear to anyone who cares to care that the leadership covered it up, and they’ve only acted since it became public.

We are also seeing the “Christian political conservative” machine implode before our eyes with sexual misconduct issues left and right.

“Conservative Christians” finding underhanded ways to get rid of people that they feel threatened by or are not in their network of buddies.

I see this trend…some who claim doctrinal conservatism have a tendency to be ethically corrupt far beyond people whose doctrine lacks something to be desired. I don’t get it.

I’m doctrinally conservative. But I’m a nobody, and that grace has kept me humble, hidden and depending on Jesus. It seems “conservatives” who rise to positions have a tendency to get corrupt, act like coarse donkeys, and make Jesus look bad.

Doctrinal “conservatives” may tend to shun solid people with best practices and expertise in favor of those who are buddies or have money alone. Forget if they are actually a good leader or competent. Why?

Why do “conservatives” have to be terrible at vision/mission/strategy/tactics…planning and executing a plan…honoring their word…

Psalms 15 (ESV) O LORD, who shall sojourn in your tent?
Who shall dwell on your holy hill?
2 He who walks blamelessly and does what is right
and speaks truth in his heart;
3 who does not slander with his tongue
and does no evil to his neighbor,
nor takes up a reproach against his friend;
4 in whose eyes a vile person is despised,
but who honors those who fear the LORD;
who swears to his own hurt and does not change;
5 who does not put out his money at interest
and does not take a bribe against the innocent.
He who does these things shall never be moved.

Psalm 119:21 says, “You rebuke the insolent, accursed ones, who wander from your commandments.”

Jesus simply won’t put up with his name and reputation being slandered by those who claim it. See Ezekiel 36. See Matthew 23 where Jesus rebuked the religious conservative elite of his day for their hidden sin…hidden under their pride in their doctrine.

Don’t hear me bashing doctrinal conservatism. I am one. There are solid people who hold solid and orthodox and conservative positions who also love people, love their neighbors, are winsome, loving, evangelistic, welcoming and keep their spine of steel. Jesus did that. Sinners loved Jesus. Those who were doctrinally conservative and mean spirited hated Jesus. Sinners got saved. The so called “conservatives” got told by Jesus, “how do you ever expect to escape the damnation of hell?”

What’s funny is many who are “conservative” are more concerned if a person is “reformed” than if that person actually has any sense of moral ethics. They want to keep reformed guys who actually produce solid work out of such places. But none of them would get on a plane with us to work in some of the hell holes we work in around the world holding forth Jesus Christ and him crucified for sinners while working in the public square. None of them would go to the Mosque with us to be friends with Muslims and invite them to Jesus and be their friends by loving them well. None of them would let the Imam speak to their people so he could be around some Spirit filled people who would love them. But, by God, they are “conservative”. Hadn’t won a soul to Jesus in years, but they are “conservative”. They are rude, arrogant and excluding, but they are “conservative”.

It’s time for judgment to start with the household of God.

I’m already an outsider to these cats, so it’s not like they’d even read this or care what I think, but I do want our people who love the gospel, want to see sinners saved and discipled to engage and plant churches would see the sin for what it is, come out from the midst of what happens in the dark that Jesus will bring to light, and leave that mess for the joys of walking with Jesus in public and holding firm to every biblical doctrine, loving our neighbors well and never compromising anything God hold dear.

Rant over.

 

 

 

Unity, Peace, Joy, Love

Unity, peace, joy and love. These are four words I daily ask the Lord to make describe our atmosphere at TRC.

We are a family, and like all families, it’s easy to get caught up in our feelings and undermine, often not intentionally, the unity, peace, joy and love of the whole church.

We are a covenant church who believes that church membership is not only biblical, but necessary for healthy families, local engagement and global engagement.

If you have any doubt about that, check out this article Is Church Membership Biblical?

If we are members of one another, and clearly 1 Corinthians 12 teaches this, then unity, peace, love and joy matter.

In certain seasons of life families take each other for granted, assume too much, and often take too much liberty. That often happens in the family of the local church.

TRC will be 15 years old in March of 2018, and we have passed through seasons of success, hardships, challenges, growth, and in all of that we have remained unified and on mission. To tell the truth, that is a constant leadership challenge.

Clear vision, strong and diversified leadership and God’s grace making it all effective have kept us strong.

As we continue to live out the Radical Life (UP / IN / OUT), don’t expect that attacks won’t come. Often they come from within. They have come in the past, and they will come again. The enemy likes to sow bad things when we get up in our feelings. Watch out for that.

As I look around and observe other fellowships around us, I’m reminded of how good things are for us. So, I want to remind us of the covenant we’ve made and exhort us to live up to it.

It’s good to remember our covenant with each other. All through the bible God calls his people to covenant renewal. Each week we take the Lord’s Supper together is a covenant renewal. We are reminded of the gospel, who we are and what God has done for us. That should cause us to be reminded of the body he has created in the local church that we are to be members of through the gospel.

If you are a member, here is the covenant we agree to together:

  • I commit, as a worshiper of Jesus, to live a life of worship that reflects the Glory of God.
  • I commit to knowing God and his Word, and I commit to apply God’s Word by the leadership of the Holy Spirit.
  • I commit to be corrected by church discipline if my actions depart from the Word and dishonor Jesus and his cause.
  • I commit to serve the Kingdom of God through TRC with my attendance and gifts.
  • I commit to give financially and materially to the Kingdom of God through TRC.
  • I commit to unity in the church. I will not allow my views on non-essential doctrines, personal preferences, or personality conflicts destroy that unity. I commit to love and honor my family of faith above myself, and to love and honor God above all.
  • I commit myself to the vision and strategy of TRC.

These things matter, and when we are reminded of them, they help us to not take each other for granted. It’s not just about me. It’s about us together on point, Jesus who is over us and empowers us for his mission and his kingdom.

Unity, peace, joy and love. These are held up by the local church being in covenant together.

Strive for this, and don’t take it for granted.