The Brits Love Their Queen

The Young Queen

The Brits love their Queen. They love the idea of monarchy. At least most of them do. Oh some of them complain about the “Royals” and every once in a while they grouse about the cost of the upkeep of the Palace and the royal treasury or the royal landholdings. But for the most part, most Brits love their monarchy and they love the Queen at the top of it. 

When a birthday comes along, or a royal wedding, or the Queen or one of the princes is making an appearance, or a royal something or other happens, the news is abuzz and the crowds appear, and smiles are glowing all around. The Brits have a lot of warm-fuzzy feelings about the Queen.

This is all despite the fact that the Queen is merely the ceremonial head of government. She has no real power.  She has no real authority. But she does, without a doubt, make a majority of her subjects feel good when they think about her.

The QueenAnd why shouldn’t they?

She was lovely when she became Queen in 1953 and she is lovely today at the age of 91. Each year she does those marvelous (and short) Christmas greetings from the Palace and she is really quite remarkable and dignified. She is admired and loved at some level by most Brits. She seems gentle and kind and really, who wouldn’t want to have a chat and a cup of tea with her? I would.

I was reflecting on all of this on my way to a discipleship appointment. I and another young man were going to study a number of Scriptures related to the Church. And I hit upon a question that I thought would be appropriate. (Side issue: I love it when you ask a question that gets people to actually think and delivers to them as they think, the exact answer you want them to get.) We were looking up Scripture on the makeup of the Church, three of them in Colossians that describe Jesus, as the “head of the Church, his body” (Cf. Col. 1:18, 2:10, 19, see also Eph. 1:22, 4:15, 5:23).

Time for my question.

Over coffee at MacDonalds, with our Bibles open, I asked, …

“Can you think of any examples in real life where, the head of a company, or department, or government has no real power?

It took all of two seconds to come up with the answer I wanted to hear.

“The Queen of England.”

“Exactly,” I said.

“Doesn’t that sound almost completely like how most people in most churches treat Christ, the head of the church? They like him. They admire him. They come out for his birthday celebrations (Christmas) and big events in his life (Good Friday and Easter), many will show up semi-regularly at his weekly gatherings but practically, he has no power, no authority in their lives. They don’t pay attention to his word. They don’t sit and talk with him, even though he is far more accessible than the Queen of England.”

Practically, it seems that most professing Christians are just that, professing. Christians at the lips but, seemingly, unbaptized in any other significant area of their lives.

But our King, our monarch, unlike the Queen of England, has real power and authority. He expects to be obeyed. He expects his word to honored. He desires that we live passionately for and like him and so, represent him in the world as His ambassadors.

When do you think the King wants us to start living like he really is our LORD and Savior? 

Religion is Good for You

This sound clip from BreakPoint.org is worth your ear (Link here). We who are Christians don’t worship Christ because He is good for us (though He is!) but because we believe the evidence that He rose from the dead. At the same time, it is interesting to hear what even secular studies reveal about religious belief on the culture around us.

Will non-believers in Christ take note? Probably not, but it is encouraging nevertheless and I hope it would spur you to pray for your non-believing friends—that they might be given eyes to see and ears to hear what the Spirit of God continues to do in our very imperfect lives. He makes us new.

He forgives us.

He makes us new.

He transforms us.

He makes us better men and women than we would have been without Him.

And in just two weeks we get to celebrate with the whole family of God around the world, that He rose from the grave, conquered sin and death, and one day soon, is coming back to receive us to Himself. Hallelujah, what a Savior.

Here’s the link.

GUARDING ONENESS

“Draining the cesspool of self-centeredness” is the key to a happy and growing marriage. Here’s a great post from one of my former seminary classmates. Curt is a godly man who has known his share of suffering. Wise words here.

Curt Heffelfinger

How to Deal with the Killer of Unity in Any Relationship

My mentor and friend surprised me the other day. I asked if he could recommend a go-to resource on marriage. I figured he would point to any number of more recent publications by major evangelical authors. Not so.

humility word in metal type

He suggested Larry Crabb’s 1991 publication Men & Women: Enjoying the Difference (Zondervan). It just so happens I have a copy in my library. I read it years ago. Never hurts to take another look, so I pulled it off the shelf and began reading again.

It took only twenty-eight pages before these words hammered me:

We will not move very far in our efforts to develop good marriages until we understand that repairing a damaged sense of identity and healing the wound in our hearts is not the first order of business. It is rather dealing with the subtle, pervasive…

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Lessons from the Seat of a Bike

mulberry-from-5th-avenue
Mulberry Avenue in Watseka, IL

Today, I met my goal of 1,200 miles on the bike before the first snow. It was a 13-mile ride that put me over the top. I had to wait out the rain and the thunder but the air was still warm and the wind was favorable for an out and back route. As I rolled by the mostly harvested fields I thought of all the prayers I have prayed from the seat of my bike, all the ideas that have been hatched from that seat, all the confessions I have made to God, and all the things I have learned and am still learning because of undistracted time on the bike.

It may have been one of my last rides in the state of Illinois. Next week we will be packing a truck for our move to South Carolina. So it is a good time reflect on the lessons learned from all my time in the saddle.

  1. Setting goals can be helpful.  There were days when the last thing I wanted to do was get on the bike but the goal drove me forward. What are the things that you know you need to make progress on and need the motivation of a goal to work toward?
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  2. yellow-carpet-rideReaching goals is hard.  Fighting a 15-20 mph wind is not easy on a bike. Riding in 90+ degrees is not pleasant. Riding in the cold is a drag. Crashing and breaking your phone when you are 12 miles into a ride and 13 miles from home is the kind of excitement you don’t want. It takes real effort. And so does plowing the ground of your soul to extinguish everything that entangles your heart and keeps you from growing in Christ. But it is worth it. Jesus is worth it.
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  3. Concentration, when you are in pain is difficult.  After my crash, my hip was severely bruised. But there wasn’t any choice. My phone was broke and I was 13 miles from home. Suck it up and gut it out. But it was much harder to concentrate on praying or even thinking. It took everything to just keep pedaling. People in pain sometimes forget basic truths and simple logic. Have compassion for them and just be there with them in their pain.
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  4. I will miss this flat land and its people. I sometimes complain about how flat it is here and these last 5 years have been painful in many ways. It certainly hasn’t been a cake-walk. But I love the people and the area. Today I road out to the road of one of our former elders at Trinity Church. I thought of all the prayers I prayed for his family, his children, his leadership. I thought of all the prayers prayed and conversations had with so many of the people whose homes I have pedaled by over the years.  But I will miss these flat lands and its people.  Be well Trinity Church family. Go hard after Jesus. Let Him make you into what He wants you to be.
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  5. There’s so much more to say but my 500 words are gone and the CUBS just won the World Series. I’m going to watch their celebration and then get some sleep.

When Repentance Isn’t Repentance

jeremiah

For the past five days, I have been meditating on this haunting text in Jeremiah 4. Three days ago I took a 16-mile ride with verses 1 and 2 echoing through my spirit as I rolled by farmers bringing in their soybeans and corn. Honestly, it was hard to get away from the first two lines. 

The implication of YHWH’s declaration/invitation is that there is a way of “returning” that is NOT a returning to God.

Is it possible that a people could be called to repent, hear that call, know that they needed to repent, begin to move in the direction of repentance, change their behavior in some discernable way, return to some more overtly “religious” patterns of devotion, think that they are somehow doing something good and yet, . . . it all be false, a turning that is for naught, unproductive, even counter-productive?

Listen to Jeremiah’s text. 

1 “If you return, O Israel,” declares the LORD,
.  “Then you should return to Me.
.   And if you will put away your detested things from My presence,
.   And will not waver,
2  And you will swear, ‘As the LORD lives,’
.   In truth, in justice and in righteousness;
.   Then the nations will bless themselves in Him,
.   And in Him they will glory.”
3  For thus says the LORD to the men of Judah and to Jerusalem,
.   “Break up your fallow ground, 
.   And do not sow among thorns.
4  “Circumcise yourselves to the LORD
.   And remove the foreskins of your heart,
.   Men of Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem,
.   Or else My wrath will go forth like fire
.   And burn with none to quench it,
.   Because of the evil of your deeds.”

jeremiah-2The nation was far from God. Israel had turned from God and lived in idolatry, apostasy, and become hardened in heart toward both truth and justice and as a result, righteousness was not a high priority. As a judgment, God was about to send the nation into exile in Babylon. And He told them that when they returned to the land at the end of the exile it was imperative that they also return to Him. So even before they go into their 70-year exile, God pleads with Israel to repent and return to Him.

In fact, the whole chapter is an earnest plea for the nation of Israel to get serious about repentance. And that earnest plea seems particularly relevant not just for ancient Israel but for 21st Century America as well. And what would that look like? The second part of verse 1 tells us.

  • We will put away detestable practices to God.
    (That will require understanding what is detestable to Him).
  • We will not waver in our commitment to eradicate these things from our lives.
  • We will swear as God is our judge.

Just as with Israel, 2,600 years ago, God is calling His people to put away detestable practices and declare our allegiance to Him as our sovereign and only Lord.

He is calling us to put away anything that stands in the way of obeying Him. He is calling us to love truth, justice, and righteousness. He is calling us to swear by His name that we will live lives that are pictures to the world of an earnest pursuit of God, and His Kingdom and His righteousness.

Israel did not heed the call. 

Will the church of America in 2016?

Will you? Today?

Being Dead is a Process of Living

 

John Stott
John Stott

In the early church, the understanding was that if you were alive to God you were a new man. Not a perfect man or woman but new–changed. Romans 6:4 says we walk in newness of life–that we have been baptized into a new life. John Stott in his commentary on Romans 5-8 (Men Made New) writes that when a man enters upon the Christian life he is committed “to a different kind of life.” He has died to one and been born to another.

Understanding this is not always easy. Explaining it to a new Christian can be particularly challenging. There is nothing magical about the process of being dead to sin but alive to God (cf. Romans 6; Galatians 2:19-21). So if you are struggling with continuing sin in your life, good. Keep struggling. Don’t let sin reign in your body. But don’t forget that grace is greater than all your sin. Go and read the sixth chapter of Romans and enjoy this little dialogue as well. 

Older
Christian:     [With great confidence]  “Now that you’re a Christian you’re dead to sin.”

New
Believer:       [With great surprise]   “I am!”

OC:   “Yep.”

NB:   “I’ll never sin again?!”

OC:   “No, I didn’t say that.”

NB:   “You didn’t say that.”

OC:   “No, I didn’t say that?”

NC:   “I don’t understand. Didn’t you just say that I was dead to sin?”

OC:   [Losing some confidence] “Yep.”

NC:   “Can a dead man do anything?”

OC:   “Well . . . no . . . but . . .”

NC:   “If I’m dead how can I do something sinful?”

OC:   “Well you see . . . it’s kind of like being alive!”

NC:   “Oh great! Now you’re telling me that being dead is like being alive.”

OC:   “Let’s try this from another angle.”

NC:   “Yeah, let’s.”

OC:   “How do you feel?”

NC:   “Well I woke up with a sore throat . . .”

OC:    “No, no . . . not how you feel phys . . .”

NC:    [Interuppting]                              “Didn’t you just ask . . .”

OC:    [Interuppting]                                             “I mean spiritually . . .”

NC:   “Well you should have said so!  I guess I feel okay  spiritually.” 

OC:    “Do you feel any closer to God?”

NB:    “Well, I guess so . . .”

OC:    “That’s because, spiritually speaking, you’re alive.”

NC:    “Tell me something.”

OC:    “What’s that?”

NB:    “Didn’t you say that I was dead to sin?”

OC:    [With great confidence again]  “Yep.”

NB:    “Now you’re saying I’m alive.”

OC:    “Alive to God.”

NC:    “What does that mean, ‘spiritually speaking?'”

OC:    “It means you’re dead to sin.”

NC:    “Back to that again.”

OC:    “You need a lot of closure don’t you?”

Read Romans 6. You’ll figure it out.

Why Christians Don’t Read Their Bible

Boots and BibleI ran across this video by Skye Jethani and had to pass it along. In the years since I came to Christ in January of 1974 one of the major changes in my life is simply this–I read my Bible. One of the first things that occurred in my life after my conversion was that I suddenly wanted to read the Bible. I wanted to understand it. I wanted to know the storyline and theme of each book in it and how each book fit into the whole story of God’s plan to redeem mankind.

In the years since I came to Christ in January of 1974 one of the major changes in my life is simply this–I read my Bible. One of the first things that occurred in my life after my conversion was that I suddenly wanted to read the Bible. I wanted to understand it. I wanted to know the storyline and theme of each book in it and how each book fit into the whole story of God’s plan to redeem mankind.

I didn’t know then, but that hunger to know more was fueled by the Holy Spirit working in my heart to draw me into deeper intimacy with Christ. I became a Bible reader and over the years have read through the entire Bible probably more than 50 times and the New Testament, many more than that.

Both at New Song, the church I planted, and Trinity Church I have sought to encourage strong Bible reading plans for the whole congregation. At New Song, it was because I couldn’t imagine starting a church that wasn’t built on a sound knowledge of God’s word and at Trinity because when I first came I found a lot of good people who loved Jesus but who had a lack of Bible knowledge and understanding. They were trying to survive in a world bent on destroying their faith on a verse a day or only opening their Bible on Sunday morning–if that.

(Side Note: one of the reasons non-Christians won’t listen to Christians is that when Christians talk about their faith they simply don’t make much sense because they don’t read their Bibles!)

So, in the interest of helping my readers change their habit patterns and begin to truly sit under the authority of the Word of God, here’s a short video to help you understand why you may have a problem reading your Bible regularly and some suggestions on what you can do about it.

Special Note:  Skye also comments on one of the most misused and misquoted verses in the Bible which I have also written about here.

Now, I have to get back to my study of Galatians.