Weakness, Fear and Trembling.

Yes, Paul was human, too.

It is almost impossible to think or talk about Paul in Bible and not think of the amazing things God accomplished through him.  In terms of accomplishments it’s a little like watching a highlight reel of a 5 time XGames gold medalist, 6 time Olympic gold medalist, who also wins Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Nobel Prize.  And that would just be the highlights.

Read between lines though and it’s clear that Paul had very real challenges, too.  In fact he faced the same emotional challenges that people often struggle with.  He had inward fear and was downcast (2 Corinthians 7:5-6).   He had a physical or emotional “thorn” that caused him to “plead” with God for relief (2 Corinthians 12:7-9).  Like I shared 2 weeks ago most commentators 1  believe that when Paul talks about his arrival in Corinth (1 Corinthians 2:1-5) being marked with, “weakness, fear and trembling” that it was because of his fear of persecution.  This would be completely understandable considering the last few cities he had worked in.  Add to that he was traveling without his usual traveling companions.

I haven’t put a post up for almost a year.  Why write one now?

Because I read this last week:

“When I brought my fifth baby home from the hospital, I never imagined writing a suicide letter or ending my life by running into oncoming traffic. My husband never considered planning a funeral for me and one of our babies or raising our five children alone. And, thankfully, my family will not be left to wonder why I took my own life—because, instead, I found help for my Postpartum Depression (PPD).” (read the full article here)

If you haven’t suffered through a genuine bought of depression it is difficult to have sympathy with someone in the midst of it.  It’s not uncommon for people to give advice like, “stop whining”, “suck it up” or , “just get over it” to people who seemed depressed.  Because of this kind of advice and because we have unconsciously created an environment where we assume that mature christians shouldn’t suffer through seasons of fear, anxiety or depression, it is not easy for those who do, to talk honestly about it. The author from the above article writes, “women who suffer with PPD often fear that asking for help could potentially discredit their trust in God and expose what may wrongly be seen as spiritual immaturity.”  Despite these challenges she says that one of the keys to making it through these kinds of challenges is to, Reach out for help.” Notice Paul received comfort in his difficult season of life from Titus coming to him (2 Corinthians 7:5-6).

These realities of Paul’s life shouldn’t be glossed over.  Because they remind us of three essential truths in life. One, no one is immune to seasons of physical or emotional hardships. If someone as “mature” as Paul had them, it is no sign of weakness for you suffer through them either.  Two, never be afraid to cry out to God for help!  Paul did. Not only did Paul cry out to God but he had no problem relying on others or asking help from others (2 Tim 4:11).  Three, those challenges don’t have to define us or our actions.  Despite these challenges Paul remained faithful!  As John Calvin says in his commentary on 1 Corinthians 2:3,“Paul, therefore, was not devoid of the influence of fear, but that fear he controlled in such a manner as to go forward”.  Let that be your prayer in the midst of physical or emotional trials, “Lord, despite my current challenges, let me move forward.  Give me the courage and strength to be faithful.”

 

  1. “As, however, Paul here connects fear with weakness, and as the term weakness denotes everything that was fitted to render him contemptible, it follows necessarily that this fear must relate to dangers and difficulties.” – John Calvin Commentary on 1 Corinthians 2 http://biblehub.com/commentaries/calvin/1_corinthians/2.htm

 

Potty talk.

Every generation writes it’s own moral codes.  Sometimes little changes from one generation to the next.  Recently, moral codes seem to be changing at an increasing rate.  This last Wednesday we talked about North Carolina’s new state law that says, ‘transgender people must use public bathrooms, showers and changing rooms that correspond to the sex on their birth certificate’.  The Federal Government has filled suit against the state law, calling it a form of discrimination.

First I played this segment from PBS ‘Morning Edition’ (audio & text available).  Based on the PBS segment and background about the North Carolina law, I asked these four questions to get discussion started:

1  Is forcing people to use the bathroom of their biological sex a for of discrimination?

2  Is there a diction between gender identity and your biological sex?

3  If you owned a business, what would you do with your bathrooms?

4  What does the Bible say about these issues?  And what does the Bible tell us about how to respond?

Here are few links that compliment some of the discussion and might further help you think through the issues.

James’ made the point that a large factor in the understanding the difference of oppinions has to do with a clash of ‘Word View’.  EVERYONE has one!  Even if you can’t define it, it’s the unique road map that helps you navigate the world you live in.  It is the assumptions that you base you ideas on and the foundation that determines what is real and what is true in life.

Here is good basic explanation of ‘World View’ and what a Christian World View looks from Focus on the Family and a more in depth explanation from Christian Apologetics & Research Ministry.

James sent out this link following our discussion, it points out how a poorly thought out world view can create confusion.  It is both hilarious and scary. But it makes the point very well that just because you believe something, doesn’t make it true and when we deny what is true, we can look like fools.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xfO1veFs6Ho .

Pat brought up the point that at times it like it feels like these changing social ideologies are, “being shoved down our throats”.  Although I am hesitant to agree, his point is made in this article that essential shoots down the compromise that most of us agreed to, making all restrooms sings door, single stall restrooms.

‘The Atlantic’, had an article with the subtitle, “The views of religiously conservative Americans no longer dominate U.S. culture or law. How will LGBT supporters engage with their perspectives on sexuality?”.  It’s worth reading.

I also quoted from the speech of the Attorney General, Loretta Lynch regarding the North Carolina law, here is the transcript of .

Lent: Why bother.

Is it really worth taking time to add this man-made (it’s not commanded in the Bible) seasonal marker to you already busy life?  I believe it is.  If you decide to practice Lent this year here are few ideas

  1. Usually Lent involves laying something aside (examples: social media, sugar or particular food or drink, a meal once a week or say lunch each day, or a habit, like sarcasm)  for a period of 40 days leading up to Easter.  It is supposed to give you an added reminder to focus on repentance, and to serve as a reminder that all you really need for life, you already have because Jesus gave his life for you.  So you give us something as a reminder that life doesn’t exist in the things we choose to enjoy or that are often distractions from us being more Jesus focused.
  2. It can also be the taking up a practice.  Like reading the Bible at the start of everyday or committing yourself to praying each day for a set amount of time.

Here are a few resources for you:

Redeemer Presbyterian Church, 40 Lent Day Devotional:  http://bit.ly/16tsYiT

Relevant Magazine, “Why Lent Still Matters” :   http://bit.ly/1MxOOmz

Christianity Today Magazine, “Lent – Why Bother”  :

Steven R. Harmon

In central Texas, where I grew up, the period between Ash Wednesday and Easter Sunday made obvious the distinctions between how Catholics and Baptists practiced their faith.

Catholic friends came to school with ash smudges on their foreheads, ate a lot of fish, gave up various pleasures for a time, and went to extra church services. My Baptist friends and I did not. We wrongly considered this evidence that Catholics believed they had to do these things to be saved. We believed we were saved by grace and therefore didn’t have to do any of that.

As a seminary student, I served as pastor of a small Baptist church in the same area. By this time I had discovered the Christian year and decided to lead the congregation to take up its observance. Advent went all right; four Sundays of anticipating Christmas didn’t seem like such a bad thing. Having two Sundays in the season of Christmas seemed a bit odd, but explaining their connection to “The Twelve Days of Christmas” took care of that.

With Epiphany approaching, I knew I would have some explaining to do, so I gave an overview of the history and significance of all the seasons in the Christian year. My church members looked at me, as the local expression went, “like a calf looking at a new gate.” One said, “Brother Steve, this is all very interesting, but we’re not Catholic. We don’t observe Lent.”

Can Baptists observe Lent? All Baptist congregations observe some sort of calendar in their worship. Though many Baptists may profess that they “judge all days to be alike,” in reality they do “judge one day to be better than another” (Rom. 14:5), as many expect certain days and seasons of the year to be recognized in worship services. Some of these, like Christmas and Easter, are the inheritance of the patristic church. Other special dates on the calendar of a Baptist church reflect the secular calendar. If Baptists already observe a calendar without worrying that such observances are unbiblical and hinder congregational freedom, and if they have already granted pride of place in this calendar to two feasts of patristic origin, then they can observe the Christian year, including Lent.

An extreme example of the Baptist neglect of Lent is the longtime celebration by one Baptist college of the week prior to Easter Sunday as “Resurrection Week.” Without the observance of Lent, and Holy Week in particular, Easter Sunday fails to keep in proper balance the Cross and the Resurrection as the two main New Testament paradigms for the Christian life. The dominant paradigm for Christian discipleship this side of heaven is “sharing in his sufferings” (Phil. 3:10). Baptists not only can but should observe Lent, because it will help them take up the cross and follow Christ in the midst of a suffering world.

For Spiritual Exercise

Frederica Mathewes-Green

“Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable …. I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified” (1 Cor. 9:25, 27, ESV).

Lent is a time of year to remember that God has seen fit to make us not airy spirits but embodied human beings living in a beautiful, material world. The soul fills the body the way fire fills a lump of coal, and what the body learns, the soul absorbs as well. Spiritual disciplines such as fasting are analogous to weight-lifting equipment. One who uses them in a disciplined way will be stronger, not just when he’s lifting weights, but also for every situation he meets.

While some people think of Lent as a time to personally choose something to “give up,” the practice of the Eastern Christians, from the earliest centuries, is to observe a common fast. This is not a complete fast, but rather abstaining from meat and dairy—basically a vegan diet. Tertullian (A.D. 160-225) likened it to Daniel’s diet in the king’s court, when he abstained from meat and rich foods and grew stronger than those who feasted.

There’s something to be said for following an ancient, universal Lenten custom like this instead of choosing your own adventure. Most of us are not capable of being our own spiritual directors. We don’t have the perspective needed to choose the things that will really change us. (Deep down, we may not even want to change. I like to say, “Everyone wants to be transformed, but nobody wants to change.”) A fast like this, observed for 2,000 years by Eastern Christians in lands from Eastern Europe to Africa, India, and Alaska, is time-tested. (The Lenten vegan fast was once a Western custom too, seen by some churches still holding a “pancake dinner” just before Lent to use up the butter, milk, and eggs.)

In Lent we are one not only with the church through time, but also with those in our local church. Orthodox Lent begins with the Rite of Forgiveness, in which all church members form a circle and, one at a time, stand face-to-face with each other and ask forgiveness. This experience is profoundly healing and also preventive; I’m more likely to restrain a harsh word in July if I recall that I will have to ask this person’s forgiveness again in March.

Lenten disciplines train us like athletes, strengthening our earthly bodies and souls, healing the body of believers in our local parish, and forging union with the body of Christ throughout time. “Forgetting what lies behind” and the sins of the past, we “press on” to combat those sins that lie ahead, made stronger by our Lenten disciplines, “for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 3:13-14, ESV).

To Lead Us to Christ

Michael Horton

While Israel’s neighbors celebrated the cycle of seasons as shadows of the realm of the gods, Israel celebrated the interventions of God in historical events of judgment and deliverance. The major feasts include Passover, Firstfruits (Pentecost), the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur), and Tabernacles (Sukkot). In commanding these feasts, God was incorporating them into his unfolding drama, anchored in his promises and their future fulfillment in Christ.

Unlike the Old Testament, however, the New Testament does not prescribe a church calendar. Furthermore, Lent became associated in the medieval church with all sorts of rules and superstitions. For the most part, the Protestant Reformers continued to celebrate Lent, but in a more evangelical way. They inveighed against the connection between fasting and penance “as a work of merit or a form of divine worship,” as Calvin put it. Lent is still celebrated today in Lutheran, Anglican, and many Reformed churches.

However, many of the English Puritans and Scottish Presbyterians went further, arguing that such observances fostered superstition, constrained the conscience where God had left it free, and undermined the Christian Sabbath as God’s appointed holy day. (At the same time, the Puritans did call for special days of thanksgiving and fasting, by order of Parliament!)

In my view, these special days are valuable chiefly as a teaching opportunity. To be sure, every Lord’s Day is a celebration of Christ’s saving work. Paul seems to have allowed freedom to celebrate old covenant feasts, but upbraided those who bound Christian consciences on the matter, especially with fasts and abstinence.

I believe an evangelical celebration of Lent affords an opportunity to reinforce rather than undermine the significance of Christ’s person and work.

Lent is a 40-day preparation for the observance of Christ’s passion and Easter. It gives us an annual opportunity to trace the history of redemption. We learn that the number 40 is associated with a trial, a preparation, even an ordeal that leads either to blessing or curse in the stories of Noah, Moses, and Jonah. Recapitulating Adam’s trial and Israel’s 40 years of testing, Jesus was taken by the Spirit into the wilderness for 40 days, fasting instead of following Adam and the wilderness generation of Israelites in demanding the food they craved (Matt. 4:1-4). Resisting Satan’s temptation with God’s Word, Jesus was the Last Adam and Faithful Israel who fulfilled the trial not only for himself but also for us, as well as bearing the curse for our covenant-breaking.

New disciples in the ancient church were instructed daily in Christian doctrine and practice for the 40 days of Lent, leading to their baptism on Easter Eve. They realized that they were quite literally wrestling with demons from their pagan heritage. Isn’t our culture just as toxic? Are we really making disciples, or just superficial converts?

When unburdened by superstitious rites, Lent still holds tremendous promise if we will recover its evangelical purpose; namely, leading us and our children to Christ by his Word. Hopefully we can all agree that this goal remains the central mission of the church every Lord’s Day.

http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2010/february/13.54.html?share=S%2b1bB6B1%2fEQMAE%2fxRBMj3tc1aD1LZCmw

Beautiful!

I really enjoyed our “Debate” series.  Each week I was reminded of what a thoughtful and articulate group we have!

Starting next week we are going to spend 8 weeks looking at the lives of 8 extraordinary women in the Bible.

The world we live in today makes a big deal about external beauty.  Cars, houses and women all get noticed when the “outside” looks good.  Everyone comes to understand that outward beauty can be deceiving.  Just because something has outward appeal, doesn’t guarantee that that the object is truly desirable.

Here is good breakdown of one of the best know passages in the Bible.  The description of the virtuous (woman of “valor”) woman in Proverbs chapter 31 verses 10 -31.

Looking forward to our new series!  -Noah

 

THE 10 VIRTUES OF THE PROVERBS 31 WOMAN

1. Faith – A Virtuous Woman serves God with all of her heart, mind, and soul. She seeks His will for her life and follows His ways. (Proverbs 31: 26, Proverbs 31: 29 – 31, Matthew 22: 37, John 14: 15, Psalm 119: 15

2. Marriage – A Virtuous Woman respects her husband. She does him good all the days of her life. She is trustworthy and a helpmeet. (Proverbs 31: 11- 12, Proverbs 31: 23, Proverbs 31: 28, 1 Peter 3, Ephesians 5, Genesis2: 18)

3.  Mothering – A Virtuous Woman teaches her children the ways of her Father in heaven. She nurtures her children with the love of Christ, disciplines them with care and wisdom, and trains them in the way they should go. (Proverbs 31: 28, Proverbs 31: 26, Proverbs 22: 6, Deuteronomy 6, Luke 18: 16)

4. Health – A Virtuous Woman cares for her body. She prepares healthy food for her family. (Proverbs 31: 14 – 15, Proverbs 31: 17, 1 Corinthians 6: 19, Genesis 1: 29, Daniel 1, Leviticus 11)

5. Service – A Virtuous Woman serves her husband, her family, her friends, and her neighborswith a gentle and loving spirit. She is charitable. (Proverbs 31: 12, Proverbs 31: 15, Proverbs 31: 20, 1 Corinthians 13: 13)

6. Finances – A Virtuous Woman seeks her husband’s approval before making purchases and spends money wisely. She is careful to purchase quality items which her family needs. (Proverbs 31: 14, Proverbs 31: 16, Proverbs 31: 18, 1 Timothy 6: 10, Ephesians 5: 23, Deuteronomy 14: 22, Numbers 18: 26)

7.  Industry – A Virtuous Woman works willingly with her hands. She sings praises to God and does not grumble while completing her tasks. (Proverbs 31: 13, Proverbs 31: 16, Proverbs 31: 24, Proverbs 31: 31, Philippians 2: 14)

8. Homemaking – A Virtuous Woman is a homemaker. She creates an inviting atmosphere of warmth and love for her family and guests. She uses hospitality to minister to those around her. (Proverbs 31: 15, Proverbs 31: 20 – 22, Proverbs 31: 27, Titus 2: 5, 1 Peter 4: 9, Hebrews 13: 2)

9. Time – A Virtuous Woman uses her time wisely. She works diligently to complete her daily tasks. She does not spend time dwelling on those things that do not please the Lord. (Proverbs 31: 13, Proverbs 31: 19, Proverbs 31: 27, Ecclesiastes 3, Proverbs 16: 9, Philippians 4:8 )

10. Beauty – A Virtuous Woman is a woman of worth and beauty. She has the inner beauty that only comes from Christ. She uses her creativity and sense of style to create beauty in her life and the lives of her loved ones. (Proverbs 31: 10Proverbs 31: 21 – 22, Proverbs 31: 24 -25, Isaiah 61: 10, 1 Timothy 2: 9, 1 Peter 3: 1 – 6)

 

From:  http://avirtuouswoman.org/10-virtues-of-the-proverbs-31-woman/

(Melissa Ringstaff has been writing at “A Virtuous Woman” since 2001, her blog can be found at: http://avirtuouswoman.org

Going to Jail for Jesus

A very good article from Al Mohler about the county clerk in Kentucky who is serving jail time for not issuing a marriage licenses to same a sex couple.  The article sheds light on some little know facts about the case (did you know that she hasn’t issued any licenses since the Supreme Courts decision to legalizing same sex marriages?)

The situation in Kentucky is actually a practical question for us all in this regard:  As followers of Jesus, there ought to be some things that we all ought to be willing to put our foot down and say “no” to.  There should be some things that you will participate in or support, even when it may cost us something to take such a stand. 

Here is the link to the Al Mohler article:

 

http://www.albertmohler.com/2015/09/03/in-this-world-you-will-have-trouble-welcome-to-rowan-county/

Truth from the Pretend Church

If there wasn’t something good/enjoyable about it, they wouldn’t copy it.  That was my first thought when reading about the the Church that was “non-religious”.  I had a real mix of emotion and thought after reading about this “Church” and wasn’t sure what to take away from it.

So here are a few of the questions we’ll address this next week:

What makes a church a “church”?

What elements did “pretend church” borrow from traditional church that helped make it enjoyable for the people that went?

What can we learn from this “pretend church” ?

If you could change one thing about Sierra, what would it be?

It’s worth scrolling through the pictures at the top of the article to get a feel for what they did.

The article can be found here:

http://goo.gl/7LLyKG

Free Ice Cream? Better Than That?

Remember when Nick organized “Free Coffee” at the college as an outreach (speaking of which… what do you think about doing it again?)?  Loved it!  Finding creative ways to get engage people in conversation about Jesus and/or to get them interested in church is not easy.

I love what this Church in Huntington Beach is doing. They bought an Ice Cream Truck, renovated it and use in their town, giving out free Ice Cream with a message. “What could be better than free Ice Cream? The good news about Jesus!”

Below is the link to their site.  How about we get our own truck????  Got a better idea?

https://www.compasshb.com/ice-cream-evangelism