Tuesday, January 31, 2012

She is Not Yet What She is Going to Be!!!

In the past few weeks I have been alarmed and even frustrated with some blogs, facebook posts and youtube videos. It seems it is in vogue to talk about how ugly the bride of Christ is. It seems popular to bash the church - to highlight her flaws. Certainly, there are assemblies that meet today under the name of “church” that have no desire for real doctrine, no hunger for truth, no accountability or discipline; and yet, they claim to be a church - but that is not a real church according to Scripture. The truth is that the bride of Christ is made up of people who have been redeemed by Christ, that have a hunger and thirst for holiness, and they come together and connect for God’s glory, “warts and all.”  Part of the beauty of the Church is that even though we sit by selfish, older or younger people that may be nothing like us, we are unified because of the sacrifice of Christ.

I read a post a week (or so) ago that said something like this: “I have been in church most of my life and some of the meanest people sit in the pews. Yet I have been in bars and know some people that would give you the shirt off their back.” Let me state first, I would imagine in those same bars, restaurants or mall that there are some very kind people, there are probably some very giving people, but also in that same room you will find people who will gossip about you, lie about you and even steal from you. Some within the church would also be found to be extremely generous and “giving”.  But, the comparison this person is making is between the worse experience in the church and best experience from the bar (or anywhere else). Let me state, for the record that religious people can be extremely vile, but so can people at any restaurant. Should we expect more from the Church? Certainly!  We should expect more from the people of God and, if the church would function as it should with grace, love and biblical confrontation there would certainly be less of this. However, I go to church with people who are struggling with gossip, lust, anger, lying and myriad of other issues. God has placed us together to help us sharpen each other, to provoke one another to good works, and to aid in one another’s sanctification. It is really easy to take cheap shots at the bride of Christ and truthfully, the world and believers should expect her to look more like her Groom: however, if you kept telling me how you like me, but despise my wife I would conclude two things: (1) You don’t like me as much as you say or you wouldn’t hate my wife (2) One of the ways you can love me is by being kind to my wife. I believe Christ says the same thing general thing when he states things like: Jn. 13:5 By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another." Or 1st Jn. 4:20, “If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen.”  If I was always quick to point out to my wife the beauty of other women, only to point out her flaws, would that be love? 

All this to say, there should be a higher expectation among the people of God, but there also should be an understanding that we are sinners, saved by grace, being sanctified by Christ, His Word and His people. As a believer, if I attempt to make my case by pointing out the best of morality in man and the worst of the hypocritical church-goer, it leads to weak strawman arguments. Is the Church perfect? No. Can we glorify Christ as we strive to live holy under the authority of the Word and mutual accountability? Yes. She may not be all that pretty now, but on that wedding day she/we will presented spotless as we worship the King!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Is Your Anger Righteous?

Many in our leadership are walking through a wonderful book by Robert D Jones entitled Uprooting Anger.  I am also highlighting this book in our Bible study time on Wednesday night, as well as leading my family through it at home. Here is what I know…everyone gets angry, we display it in a variety of ways and many hide it better than others, but nevertheless all of us, in our fallen nature get angry. I find it perplexing however, how many times we allow our hearts to be our greatest deceiver by convincing us that our anger is “righteous” when in truth seldom, if ever, is our anger really “righteous.” In his book, Jones gives three criteria of righteous anger:  as you read these criteria below, allow it to be used as a spotlight to search your heart.

·        Righteous Anger Reacts Against Actual Sin: This means when looking at the Word of God in passages like Rm. 3:23 and 1st Jn. 3:4 what is happening is a violation of God’s Word. There is a tendency to get anger over being inconvenienced, ignored or even your preferences being violated. But an angry reaction to any the aforementioned things is sinful. 

·        Righteous Anger Focuses On God and His Kingdom, Rights and Concerns, Not on Me and My Kingdom, Rights and Concerns: The emotions is coming because of God centered motives not self centered motives. Often times what we see as actual sin, is not what causes us to get angry. For instance if your boss is self-centered and mean spirited. Many times our heart wants to convince us that we are angry at his sin, but in truth, we are angry that his self-centeredness or his arrogance impacted us. Did the boss sin? Yes. Was your anger righteous? No. It was self centered and in fact arrogant because what made you angry is that you believe you deserve better. Sound familiar? It did to me. 

·        Righteous Anger Is Accompanied By Other Godly Qualities and Expresses Itself In Godly Ways: Does the anger you have show self control? Does it cause you to gossip? Does it cause you to have bitterness? Does it cause you to call, write, whisper, meet to “share your heart” with someone? If so we can put lipstick on the pig all day long, it is still a pig. We can tell ourselves how pure our motives are and how we are taking up our armor for the Lord, but in truth what we feel is leading us to sin, therefore righteous anger is not a reality to us.

When I went through this short little list in my mind I realized that seldom do I have righteous anger. Even when my boys need correction because of sin and I take them to the Word of God, many times I am convicted of my anger in the situation. Many times my first response is that angry feeling, not because of their sin, but because it inconvenienced my life. It is such a blessing and so refreshing for the Lord to reveal sin in our life that leads us to repentance; yep—it is sanctification! Thank the Lord for that!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Why My Wife Chose Mr. Wrong

I am sure this title alone has caused some of you great joy and you long to hear all of my short comings!   However, not only did Michele choose to marry me… “Mr. Wrong,” but I also chose to marry her, “Mrs. Wrong”.  In the coming days we will have a new book on marriage by Tim and Kathy Keller entitled “The Meaning Of Marriage.” In short, Keller argues that in light of Scripture, none of us marries the right one. That is because marriage is intended by God to be a picture of the Gospel, it means commitment to a fellow sinner to love them by choice, and it is not some Disney, fantasy - driven emotion. Below you will see a link and the article by Tim Keller that is an excerpt from his new book. I hope it blesses you as it did me.

You Never Marry the Right Person
Timothy Keller
Thursday, 05 January 2012

How our culture misunderstands compatibility.

In generations past, there was far less talk about “compatibility” and finding the ideal soul-mate. Today we are looking for someone who accepts us as we are and fulfills our desires, and this creates an unrealistic set of expectations that frustrates both the searchers and the searched for.

In John Tierney’s classic humor article “Picky, Picky, Picky” he tries nobly to get us to laugh at the impossible situation our culture has put us in. He recounts many of the reasons his single friends told him they had given up on their recent relationships:

“She mispronounced ‘Goethe.’” “How could I take him seriously after seeing The Road Less Traveled on his bookshelf?” “If she would just lose seven pounds.” “Sure, he’s a partner, but it’s not a big firm. And he wears those short black socks.” “Well, it started out great ... beautiful face, great body, nice smile. Everything was going fine—until she turned around.” He paused ominously and shook his head. ”... She had dirty elbows.”

In other words, some people in our culture want too much out of a marriage partner. They do not see marriage as two flawed people coming together to create a space of stability, love and consolation, a “haven in a heartless world,” as Christopher Lasch describes it. Rather, they are looking for someone who will accept them as they are, complement their abilities and fulfill their sexual and emotional desires. This will indeed require a woman who is “a novelist/astronaut with a background in fashion modeling,” and the equivalent in a man. A marriage based not on self-denial but on self-fulfillment will require a low- or no-maintenance partner who meets your needs while making almost no claims on you. Simply put—today people are asking far too much in the marriage partner.

You never marry the right person

The Bible explains why the quest for compatibility seems to be so impossible. As a pastor I have spoken to thousands of couples, some working on marriage-seeking, some working on marriage-sustaining and some working on marriage-saving. I’ve heard them say over and over, “Love shouldn’t be this hard, it should come naturally.” In response I always say something like: “Why believe that? Would someone who wants to play professional baseball say, ‘It shouldn’t be so hard to hit a fastball’? Would someone who wants to write the greatest American novel of her generation say, ‘It shouldn’t be hard to create believable characters and compelling narrative’?” The understandable retort is: “But this is not baseball or literature. This is love. Love should just come naturally if two people are compatible, if they are truly soul-mates."

The Christian answer to this is that no two people are compatible. Duke University Ethics professor Stanley Hauerwas has famously made this point:

Destructive to marriage is the self-fulfillment ethic that assumes marriage and the family are primarily institutions of personal fulfillment, necessary for us to become "whole" and happy. The assumption is that there is someone just right for us to marry and that if we look closely enough we will find the right person. This moral assumption overlooks a crucial aspect to marriage. It fails to appreciate the fact that we always marry the wrong person.

We never know whom we marry; we just think we do. Or even if we first marry the right person, just give it a while and he or she will change. For marriage, being [the enormous thing it is] means we are not the same person after we have entered it. The primary challenge of marriage is learning how to love and care for the stranger to whom you find yourself married.

Hauerwas gives us the first reason that no two people are compatible for marriage, namely, that marriage profoundly changes us. But there is another reason. Any two people who enter into marriage are spiritually broken by sin, which among other things means to be self-centered—living life incurvatus in se. As author Denis de Rougemont said, “Why should neurotic, selfish, immature people suddenly become angels when they fall in love ... ?” That is why a good marriage is more painfully hard to achieve than athletic or artistic prowess. Raw, natural talent does not enable you to play baseball as a pro or write great literature without enduring discipline and enormous work. Why would it be easy to live lovingly and well with another human being in light of what is profoundly wrong within our human nature? Indeed, many people who have mastered athletics and art have failed miserably at marriage. So the biblical doctrine of sin explains why marriage—more than anything else that is good and important in this fallen world—is so painful and hard.

No false choices

The reason that marriage is so painful and yet wonderful is because it is a reflection of the Gospel, which is painful and wonderful at once. The Gospel is—we are more sinful and flawed in ourselves than we ever dared to believe, and at the very same time we are more loved and accepted in Jesus Christ than we ever dared hope. This is the only kind of relationship that will really transform us. Love without truth is sentimentality; it supports and affirms us but keeps us in denial about our flaws. Truth without love is harshness; it gives us information but in such a way that we cannot really hear it. God’s saving love in Christ, however, is marked by both radical truthfulness about who we are and yet also radical, unconditional commitment to us. The merciful commitment strengthens us to see the truth about ourselves and repent. The conviction and repentance moves us to cling to and rest in God’s mercy and grace.

The hard times of marriage drive us to experience more of this transforming love of God. But a good marriage will also be a place where we experience more of this kind of transforming love at a human level.

Excerpt from THE MEANING OF MARRIAGE © 2011 by Timothy Keller with Kathy Keller.  Published by Dutton, A Member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc. Excerpted with permission from the publisher. All Rights Reserved.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Worthy Resolutions

On December 31 at 6 pm I saw a “tweet” someone sent out to their Pastor that read: “Pastor help! I only have 6 hours to run a marathon, lose 20 pounds and pray more.” As I laughed and read it to my wife, I also thought to myself: “At least he remembered what his resolutions were.  Goals are good and I can’t think of a better time to set them than at the first of the year; however, they should be goals that matter - they should be goals that include not only “losing 20 pounds” but they should include goals that impact the Kingdom. I have shared before that one of the things Michele and I try to do is discuss our giving not just in the beginning of the year, but throughout the year. We know that giving can be something we simply do rather than an area we focus on growing in. Make a goal/resolution that impacts your children and spouse and challenges them to grow - make a goal that impacts your sanctification. There is nothing wrong with goals that impact your physical health and by all means do this… but in your goal setting go back and at least examine if any of them work toward the sanctification of you and your family. Below are just a few ideas to help:

  • Write Your Goals Down: I don’t mean in the back of some notebook you look at once every 6 months. We have wonderful resources today - use your outlook, calendar, smart phone and choose different periods of time to be reminded of these goals. One of my goals in 2011 was to journal more. I used a website I mentioned before on this blog to help me.   http://ohlife.com/  it sends me an e-mail asking me how my day was and all I have to do is e-mail the site back a short or long journal entry. I didn’t return the e-mail as often as I should but I did better this year than ever before!
  • Have Primary Goals & Secondary Goals:  John Acuff wrote a blog on this and called the secondary goals “cousin goals.” He calls them this because cousins are seldom like your brothers or sisters - they are people you like and want around but you seldom have them over except on holidays (sorry for all the cousins I just offended).  But, in short you want to have primary goals that you see as things you “must do.” You make plans put them on your calendar; you put these in places that will remind you what you should be doing.  The “cousin goals” are things that you would like to do but they can happen after the primary or as a result as the primary goal. For instance, if one of your goals is to read more this year and another is to have a more consistent family worship time this year, accomplish both by going through a book part as of your family worship. Or if you want to run a marathon (Primary) secondary would be to lose 20 pounds. Some of the weight loss will come as a result of the running.
  • Set Accountability: Tell your spouse or friend what some of your goals are and ask them to mention them to you from time to time.  Often in midst of accomplishing goals…life happens. If I have someone asking me about them and holding me accountable, I tend follow through better. You can set a plan in place for accountability; for instance, if you want to read through the Bible this year there are wonderful Bible reading plans on the internet and even in apps for your phone that can help you.
  • Think About The "Why": If you think about the reasons you have set this goal, and the benefits and/or blessing that will come from it as a result, it will serve as motivation. For instance, if you want to read more just because you don’t read enough, chances are not very good for you to accomplish this. But, if you want to read more in the subject areas that you are struggling in personally and spiritually, then you have more meaningful reason/motivation.
  • Place Steps in Front of You: If your goal is to run a marathon, don’t go outside and start by running 20 miles hoping you can get the other 6 by the end of the year. Set a goal for a 5 or 10K by March. Then maybe a ½ Marathon by August (if it’s not too hot). If your goal is to read more, think through how many books and put on your outlook as a reminder in February that you should have finished your first __(fill in the number) books.
  • Set Realistic Goals: If you are 200 pounds overweight, you may not want to set as a goal that you will climb Mt. Everest by November. If you struggle with reading you may not want to commit to reading 200 books this year. But you may want to commit to reading a book every month or every two months.
I think one of the most important things we can do as believers is to set goals that glorify God and then set up ways to follow through. I pray that 2012 will be a year that the Lord works in our lives like never before!

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Happy New Year!

I want to begin this year by sharing a blog you have likely missed over the holidays, by Bro. Jeff Summers. I have had the honor of serving with Bro. Jeff Summers for the last 15+ years and love him and his sweet family. This two-part blog he wrote would be a great thing to for you to use in your family worship time to begin this year.  Below is a copy of the first of his two part blog, to let you get a taste of what it is all about (the second part is linked at the bottom). 
Also, beginning this year, I will probably post a new blog weekly rather than two blogs each week. The goal of this blog, first and foremost, is to help those in our flock at Trinity, but also to help other believers by providing either resources or food for thought.  Thank you so much for following this blog during 2011 and for all the kind comments, facebook posts and e-mails. You can also follow me on twitter at Chad_everson.

Hope this blog blesses you and gives you a spring board to begin a great discussion with your children.
As we are on the precipice of a new year, its a good time to reevaluate our priorities, renew and strengthen the things that remain, and resolve(d)…in the past tense. In other words, our minds are made up. Its decided. Its not something we intend to do, but it is a settled mindset trusting in the strength of the Lord to supply the power and grace as we live out those resolves. This is crucial as it pertains to parenting…especially parenting teenagers.

John Piper wrote “Teenage Resolutions: For Mom and Dad” back in 1993 dealing with a teenager’s resolve for Mom and Dad. As I read it, I thought “Wow! This would be great to read to my three teenage children, because they NEED this!” And then I got to thinking, but what about me as a Dad. Instead of handing down this wise “edict” for them to apply, I began to evaluate my own resolve as a parent. What should our teenage children expect from us, as parents? Not just parents, but parents that claim the Name of Jesus as Lord. 

So! I will add my own resolves [in brackets] to parallel John Piper’s. Not that his is lacking, but I need to do so as a way of making sure I parent as the Lord desires. This is a bit of a work in progress, so I would love to hear your comments. What would you say as a parental resolve to your children?
My plan is to sit down with our family and use this as a tool to discuss our commitment to one another, and ultimately to our Lord Jesus, who calls our family to live in faith in Him and His Word.
Due to the length, I will break this up over two blogs; one this week and one next. I’d love to hear your feedback on these resolves.

Resolved: I will obey your instructions and do what I know you expect of me, even when it is not mentioned. I will not force you into repeated reminders, which I sometimes call nagging.

[Resolved: I will make my instructions clear, and will refrain from impatient promptings when not obeyed immediately, and will not nag or repeat myself. I will deal with the issues of your heart, not simply behaviors.]

Resolved: I will not grumble or complain when I do my chores, but remember what a great thing it is to have a family and a home and clothes and food and running water and electric light and central heating in a world where millions of teenagers have none of these.

[Resolved: I will not grumble or complain when completing parenting responsibilities. I will express my gratitude to you remembering what a wonderful gift you are from the Lord.]

Resolved: When I think your demands are unfair, I will move to do them first, and after showing an obedient attitude, I will ask if we can talk. Then I will explain my side and try to understand yours.

[Resolved: I will patiently listen to your appeals with a desire for understanding, and will correct my demand if wrong.]

Resolved: I will not stonewall you and give you the silent treatment, which I dislike when my friends do it to me. If I am depressed and want to be left alone, I will say, “I’m sorry, I don’t feel like talking right now. Can we talk later? I’m not mad; I just need to be alone.”

[Resolved: I will respect your feelings and give you the necessary time that you need. I will not attempt to lecture or pressure you, but will be available to you to listen, guide, and pray with you.]

Resolved: When I do something wrong and let you down, I will apologize sincerely with words that you can hear. Something like: “Mom, I’m sorry, I didn’t pick up the pile of clothes.”

[Resolved: I will forgive you and give you the grace that God gives me when I fail. I will also apologize sincerely with words that you can hear when I fail as a parent.]

Resolved: I will call you by affectionate family titles, like “mommy” or “daddy”, or “mom” or “dad”. And I won’t let other kids pressure me into calling you nothing, or calling you something disrespectful as though true affection were embarrassing or childish.

[Resolved: I will express affection and treat you in ways that will not embarrass you in front of your friends. I will speak and act in ways that show your worth and respect in front of your friends. I will treat you as a young man or woman growing into adulthood.]

Resolved: I will say thank you again and again for the ordinary things you do for me. I will not take them for granted as though you were my slave.

[Resolved: I will say thank you again and again for the ordinary things you do for me and our family. I will not take them for granted as though you were my slave.]

Resolved: I will talk about my feelings. Both the positive ones (like happiness, pity, excitement, sympathy, etc.) and the negative ones (like anger, fear, grief, loneliness, discouragement, etc.). I will remember that unshared feelings lead to estrangement and coldness and even more loneliness and discouragement.

[Resolved: I will make our home atmosphere one where you feel free to talk about your feelings, both positive and negative. I will not minimize your feelings. I will take them seriously and help you work through those feelings biblically.]