Repentance & Tragedy

Sunday my pastor Kelsey Cates preached on Luke13:1-5.
An often overlooked passage about an evil ruler who committed horrible acts on people and another catastrophe that results in loss of life. This subject must have been insensitively brought up in a discussion. Jesus aimed at the heart of those in the crowd, for he said, “do you think that they are worse than the others?” “You too, you need to repent unless you perish.”Pastor Kelsey explained why we need repentance and the seriousness of sin. 1) repent & 2) perish were the keywords driving the main point of the sermon. Repent, meaning to think differently or to be changed. Perish referring to the ultimate death not only the end of one’s life but eternal destruction.
Kelsey gave us the key to repent, “Repentance only comes when you replace sin with something better. Jesus is that Better.”
Later in the sermon, Kelsey preached an exhortation to come to repentance in light of the gospel saying, “Jesus is the Better…… A Christian that repents every day has tasted and seen the goodness of the Lord….. His mind has been changed after experiencing the Better.”
We are not saved by any amount of good works. Righteousness and holiness are something that we cannot earn. Jesus died on the cross for our forgiveness and imputed his righteousness to us that we may be saved by grace through faith in Jesus.
To listen to the full sermon click here: Kelsey Cates – Sermon – Change Your Mind
Kelsey provided a contemporary example for Luke 13:1-5, the recent shooting of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas school in Parkland, Florida.
This sermon was timely for me, as I have been wanting to express a thought about this tragedy. By waiting until after Sunday, Kelsey gave me a greater insight and a wonderful text to base it off of.
We should examine our lives to find sin and replace it with satisfaction in Jesus. Are we doing this when a crisis occurs? Did we do this with the hurricanes? Do we do this with terrorism?
What about this? Are we being judgemental with our comments about the Florida school shooting? Judgemental? What? That would mean that we are criticizing the victims or assume that we are better.
No. We do not say that we are better. But the logic that we use might say otherwise. Why did the shooting occur? What is the reason something like this will not happen to us?
To say that we do not deserve what happened is to imply that the victims did.
Even if we are not using the same tone or judgment, isn’t it still legalism? Things like that do not happen to me because of,…? Who I am, what I do, what I believe?
Take a look at the Florida school shooting from a different perspective.
Let’s agree that we absolutely sympathize with the victims and families.
What about the shooter? What about him? What does he deserve?
Maybe we do not reason our safety against the tragedy of the victims, but do we claim for ourselves to be the judge of the guilty?
The shooter deserves every punishment that is lawful according to the government and God. But don’t we deserve this also?
If you were asked, “what is keeping you from judgment and punishment for your sins?” our only acceptable answer is what Jesus did on the cross. And if our answer is not that Jesus’ blood covered our sins and that is the only reason we do not deserve immediate judgment, then that is legalism. It is self-righteousness, it is works based, merit-based righteousness.
What is the appropriate response to a tragedy such as this?
Look to the gospel. That Jesus the sinless one was crucified as a criminal. We can be relieved in tragedies by fixing our eyes on the greatest tragedy. In dire circumstances, this truth anchors down further that God can use the worst of things for redemption. Tragedy reminds us the hope that eventually all things will be made new.
What are we to do though? Love.
Are the victims and families of the victims our neighbors? Yes. Is the shooter our neighbor? Yes.
We should not feel secure because of what we do and we cannot revel in someone else’s condemnation.
In such a sensitive time it is never more crucial to be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to anger.
Love does not accuse. We should not leap on opportunities to transfer blame to organizations, political parties, or current procedures that we are seeking to attack.
As believers in Christ, we should be agents for justice and reform. But, of first importance is the gospel and our repentance, that we may be able to minister to the world.
To an atheist, the highest power they know can only be either evolution or Darwinism. The solution for disaster from evolution or Darwinism is the survival of the fittest. I am sure that is comforting at the funerals.
Or to an atheist, the highest powers are the civil government. So something by our government must be done to rectify this disaster or justice has failed.
As believers, we trust God for justice. We have the hope of a good and just yet merciful God who will right every wrong.
If our response to disasters as believers in Christ is the same response as the rest of the world, we need to repent.

Recommendations:

 

Doctrine of Repentance – Thomas Watson

Grace & Discipleship

After recently preaching Cost of Discipleship (linked if you haven’t heard it) from Luke 14: 25-27, I would like to add some more practical thoughts and resources on personal growth in the Christian life.

I hope we can all agree that our engaging Jesus with consistent Bible reading and prayer is essential. There are many other “spiritual disciplines” as I like to refer to them, such as meditation, fasting, journaling, singing, etc.

The main thing is this, training up in Christ does not happen by accident. We certainly do not perform anything for our salvation but we do have a part in our sanctification. Romans 12:2 says, “To be transformed by the renewal of your mind.”

Now, what does that look like?

As I have discovered that nobody else’s devotion is going to look exactly like mine, as it shouldn’t. Since this is the case it could be very helpful to personalize your devotion time.

I do commend at least a morning devotion time, simply because it has the effect on an upcoming day, not as the day is ending.

Sometimes the benefit of this devotion is simply encouragement for the day. Or sometimes it provides needed grace and mercy after I feel like I have failed or sinned somewhere. Other times I receive a bit of wisdom for a particular topic or decision. Others, it seems to be filled with prayers for other people. To be honest, sometimes I oversleep and miss my time or, maybe I have that time but it was not profound at all and I do not feel any different than when I woke up.

To personalize this time, you may like to have a consistent place and location. Or you may like to randomize your devotion time by walking outside, listening to different worship music, or going to a public place.

There is one more thing that I want to consider about growing in Christ, we need each other. We need others that are growing in Christ that may not be exactly like us. And occasionally though hopefully not very often…….we will need to fight for one another.

What I mean is this, take Paul and Peter, for instance. Paul was an educated scholar of the Old Testament, a Hebrew of Hebrews. Paul was probably wealthy, powerful, and an influential man who after conversion loved Christ and served the mission.

Then take Peter, a fisherman who probably couldn’t read all that well. If it had not been for Jesus calling him, Peter would have spent most of his life working very hard, living a blue-collar life, and smelling like fish. But Peter, after conversion loved Christ and served the mission.

Paul at one point rebuked Peter for showing favoritism to the powerful  Jewish social circles. Peter felt compelled to remind Paul to minister to the poor.

I believe both had a personal growing relationship with Christ. I believe both served Jesus well. But, I also believe both were served by their being in ministry near one another because they sharpened each other in complementary ways.

Because Paul wrote most of the letters in the New Testament, we have this impression that he was this loner missionary conquering Greece with nothing but the clothes on his back and the gospel. But, how many times does he include in those letters, a request to thank a long list of people with funny Greek names? Paul not only needed help, he loved his friends. He loved Timothy and Titus, and Luke, and all the other people that accompanied him. In the book of Acts as he is leaving he tells the church that is trying to keep him, “Why are you trying to make me cry?”, “I have to go.” (paraphrase)

So we should aim to grow personally and learn to feed ourselves scripture and to meditate and grow in our prayer life.

But Christianity is not a solo mission. Jesus designed us to be in community, namely the church which he is the cornerstone.

In the church, there are shepherds and brothers for each other’s edification, mentorship, and accountability.

In 2 Timothy 2:2, Paul writes to Timothy, “and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men, who will be able to teach others also.

I would like to close with several recommendations and also would love to hear your comments or questions and recommendations:

Bibles:

I am not going to fight over Bible translations. If you’re a King James guy, great. You like the NIV, great. It’s a fight that nobody wins. The best Bible translation is the translation you will read. The guys doing translations are smarter than me and we have the freedom to choose. Stay away from some versions that are way too lax like the Message or the New World Translation which is a Jehovah’s Witness bible translation and you will be fine. To be clear though my preference due to biblical accuracy and readability are the ESV, CSB, NKJV, and others are acceptable like NIV and NLT.

Another Bible edition that is extremely helpful is a Study Bible. All the above-mentioned translations have their Study Bibles. Study Bibles have a commentator who includes helpful insights below the referenced scripture verses. These are useful in understanding difficult passages, creating a devotional environment, and providing context such as time, author, critical events, type of literature, etc.

Podcast & Audible or Christian Audio:

There are many great preachers that upload their sermons for free. If you do not want to listen to more preaching, an alternative is podcasts that can be helpful covering topics in a conversation or interview format. Audible and Christian Audio provide books to listen to rather than read. I recently started listening to “The Whole Christ” by Sinclair Ferguson as my first audiobook.

The great thing about podcasts, sermons, audiobooks, is that you can multi-task. You can drive, work out, do your chores, etc. all while listening to something that is helping you grow in Christ.

I also advise, choosing to listen to more than one podcast. Balance it out to not have just one teaching style in your head. Also, it is beneficial to get the gospel applied from different age groups, different regions, different cultures, even different denominations. For example, I listen to Tony Merida out of North Carolina, Art Azurdia from Portland, Joe Thorn from a suburb of Chicago, Tim Keller from New York City, and Matt Chandler from DFW.

Podcast Recommendations:

The Briefing with Al Mohler (Christian analysis of world news updated every weekday morning)

Radical or Pray the Word by David Platt

Culture Matters by The Village Church

Good Books:

How do I know it is a good book? It makes me want to pick up the bible more.

Some people frown upon reading other human’s works rather than the God-authored bible. I understand what they are saying, but the execution of this idea is what I have a problem with. I have a hunch, that people that “only” read the bible probably don’t read as often as they think they do. And that people that read other books for personal growth can responsibly read these types of books, grow in discernment, be helped taught the meaning of scripture, and are probably reading the Bible more than those that claim to “only read the bible”. It is valuable and important to learn from godly Christians who have gone before us or are in it with us.

Book Recommendations for personal growth:

-Knowing God – J.I. Packer

-Pilgrim’s Progress – John Bunyan

-Abide – 6-week devotional in the Lifeway Growing Disciples Series

-Spiritual Disciplines – Don Whitney

 Briefing – Al Mohler

Audible audible, an amazon companyChristian Audiochristianaudio

Grace & Fascination

Wonder, awe, breathtaking, etc. These are words that have been used to capture an experience. Maybe this was with God, or in nature, or with a newborn child. It was definitely not describing a grocery trip to Wal-Mart.

You are probably thinking, “Yeah, that’s the point, they are extraordinary.”

Do we really only ever stop and pause at a few extraordinary moments in life?

With so much instant entertainment in our culture, we may have become desensitized to the miracles of life.

We should with hungry humility seek out the “everyday” miracles and attribute them to God. That’s what the word “fascination” brings besides the words mentioned earlier, is a sense of on-going, continuous, searching out.

We should be fascinated with grace. We should be fascinated with what God is doing in our lives.

This simultaneously brings about a higher sense of worship for God and gratification. God gets the exaltation, the credit for what is happening in our life. We find more satisfaction, more joy, thankfulness for what is going on in our life. This practice will also strengthen our faith, provide endurance for when we get rocked, it will bring to light that God is great and there is much more going on than the trial in front of us. Whether you need reminding that there is more than this crisis, something better than the mundane, or whether you need assurance that God will work out all things for the good of those who love him and are called according to his purpose.

Be fascinated with every miracle God has in motion. Be curious to find out what we are not seeing. Be hungry to find out what we can thank God for that we have been ignorant of in the past. We need to be in pursuit of fascination with the miracles around us.

As a believer in Jesus and in particular a pastor, I have a calling to invest in people’s lives. With every text message and every lunch, there are exchanges of grace. There are so many things that happen daily and weekly that make a lifetime of differences.

As a husband and best friend to my wife, a connection that is unexplainable. A relationship that is indivisible, there is nothing in my life that does not affect her nor her’s mine.

As a parent, every night when I come home, I can see and hear little miracles. My children have a story of their own now. They have their own interactions at school, with other kids. My little girl is in Pre-K and has a boy crushing on her. My son has his playground adventures and wants to start karate. Are these not moments to treasure?

As a co-worker, we spend 8-10+ hours a day, basically as a family away from home. For some of you, it may just be a couple of people. For me, it is 70 people. C.S. Lewis said, “I have never met a mere mortal.” Every day I go to work with 70 people who were made in the image of God.

History contains fascination. The present should hold our fascination. The future intrigues our fascination.

To be bored is to fail at worship. To not be fascinated with your life is to be guilty of being lazy with your eyes and mind. To not be fascinated is to fail to recognize what is going on around us.

How can you stir up your thankfulness? How can you slow down to realize your fascination with life around you?

What can you do to turn the moments that are difficult into experiences that can be more helpful? Is it treating your spouse differently? Is it changing a parenting approach, performing a job better or rescheduling something? Life is too precious to not be fascinated with our lives and seek out the grace that is present and become transformed by it.

Grace & The Weekend

Friday 4:59 PM. It is almost here, you woke up thinking about this moment, this freedom. In one minute, you have….. the weekend!

What could you do? Where are we going to eat? I am going to be able to stay up late, sleep in, enjoy a lazy Saturday afternoon, and then do something great again Saturday night, and when I get up Sunday, all day football.

Oh this is going to be great.

Is this what we are thinking Friday at 4:59?

Some of us might be thinking, I just want to sleep! Or I am going to binge watch all weekend long.

The weekends have turned into 2 days for gratifying the flesh.

I am going to do what I want. Wake up when I want. Eat what I want.

Does it ever really satisfy though?

After the “party” nights, whether that is social partying or a Netflix and fast food – stay at home party, has this weekend satisfied?

If you’re a believer involved with a local church, did you do all this while sliding into a service at 11PM and then maybe go to lunch with some folk and then go nap, just to get up Monday and do it again?

How can we inject GRACE into the weekend? How can our weekends receive gospel transformation?

Here are a few small things that can inject grace into our weekend (while still allowing plenty of rest and that are free)

Warning: If you follow this, your weekend might not look like everyone else’s when you go back to work Monday. Your stories might not be the same. But hey, why don’t you be a rebel:

1. Begin Saturday morning with a devotional. Even after you sleep in. When you wake up Saturday, don’t just turn on T.V. and spend the next 14 hours ruled by your own mind and flesh. Here you are Saturday morning with an option: zone out or pick up your bible.

You want to have an awesome weekend? Pray and spend time in God’s word. 15 minutes. 5 minutes. Have a small time where you seek His presence and be in touch with His Spirit.

There is NOTHING better.

I know. I know. A bowl of cereal? Re-runs? Spending time with Jesus is better than that? Yeah it is. You think hiking, fishing, watching whatever, playing whatever, is greater than the God who invented all that? You got it twisted. Get your weekend started off right with time with the Lord.

Then go about your Saturday recreation however you might, but be open to change after this small time where you sought God.

2. Some time Saturday afternoon / evening: Pray. Pray for your pastor. Pray for your church. I’m not talking about monk-like hours of prayer while everyone else is at the movies or dinner. Go have fun, stay in and hang out, do whatever you want to, but, pray for some people that you know from church, especially if there are some people in hard times. Pray for your pastor who may still be working on his sermon. Pray for your church’s unity. Pray for those who you might meet tomorrow. Pray for how God might use tomorrow morning’s service.

3. Go to church early. Don’t sneak in 15 minutes late and leave during the last portion of worship. Why? To fellowship. You might need to hear something from someone. You might need to say something to someone. There is great edification in a cup of coffee before worship, there is great strength in friendly chit chat before the service, there is an invitation into someone’s lives if you are the one to be there to show a guest where the kids go, or where they can sit, or greet them in the parking lot. It is worth waking up 15 minutes earlier or going to sleep a little earlier.

4. Speak to someone you usually don’t. Even in small churches, groups and routines are formed. Even if you enjoy speaking to most of the people, even if you are sure everyone knows that you care for them, even if you are an introvert, there is a great exchange of encouragement and strength in widening our fellowship.

5. Be honest. If not everything is alright. Don’t say everything is alright. If you need help or just want to vent, your church is exactly where you should be able to find someone to help or listen, but if they ask if everything is ok and you say, “oh yeah, perfect”. It is really difficult to help or listen. This could be whether you just aren’t right with, the Lord, yourself, someone else, etc., or if there is a specific situation where someone has offended you or you have offended someone else.

This doesn’t read like a manual for throwing the best party or a dude-bro’s map to excellent weekend.

However, there is great joy in resting. There is great joy in the Sabbath. There is great joy in seeing small seeds of prayer and intentionality bearing fruit even over just 2 days’ time.

Get your rest, relaxation, recreation over the weekend, but if you aren’t fulfilled in your average weekend, add a few small ways to find grace in your weekend and see how much joy you have over being a zombie for two days.