Fighting Isn’t the Goal, But not the Enemy

So on Sunday I encouraged some of you to go “have good fight with your spouse” when you got home.  That may have struck some of you funny, and others as nothing uncommon.  Some of you emailed me telling me you didn’t obey the admonition and hoped you wouldn’t be church disciplined 🙂  And some of you said you probably needed to have that conversation but weren’t sure how to start.  Here’s the deal … We are self-protective, peace-keeping, people-pleasers … every last one of us.  We all have our own devices, techniques, and clever schemes for making life work the way we want it to, but we are all the same in what our heart seeks.  And unless we live at the cross, finding our acceptance and identity in God’s Jesus work, we “pop” into action spinning wildly or quietly into “I matter” mode.  I really don’t want to encourage strife in the home, but I do want to promote honesty, depth, and courage … and always humility.  My point here is that for many of the relationships in your life, you falsely call them “good, or at peace” when in actuality they are merely superficial, “surfacy”, and violently committed to self-protection and self-promotion.  Welcome to the Galatian church community.  They feared rejecting the Judaizers lest they be rejected.  They wanted peace so their world wouldn’t get too messy, and as a result they deserted the Gospel of grace, embraced false teachers, and shunned the one guy who really loved them enough to speak truth.  Thanks Paul, for loving grace more than “false peace”, for loving Gospel more than “smooth sailing”, and for going after the Galatians people-pleasing souls with such fervor that we feel it hitting us today.  

Please love each other enough to deal with real issues.  Pursue the kind of peace that is willing to break the peace.  Flee people pleasing with the passion that can really love people.  And most of all make your one aim to cherish the grace of the Gospel as an undivided servant of God.  Now go kiss your spouse!

Living in Galatians 1:6-10,

Pastor Mark

That Transformation Look

God has wonderfully designed us all uniquely and yet has given us all faces.  I’m not trying to be silly here, but think about the way He intends for us to express worship and delight.  The eyes express the heart.  You can see it.  When someone is moved the eye is affected.  Tears, Brightness, Reflection, Affirmation and Agreement, Wonder and Awe.  I love seeing it in worship, it means softness and a desire to love God with ones whole heart, mind, and soul.  As a preacher it is a sweet thing to get the vantage point I get and see certain truths of the Scriptures grip certain people and to observe their visceral reactions, and sometimes their audible expressions.  The eye is linked to the heart, no doubt.

29 times the word “eye” is used in Wisdom Literature.  It also expresses the watchful care of our Father upon His children.  Psalm 33:18 – “Behold, the eye of the LORD is on those who fear him, on those who hope in his steadfast love”  and communicates scorn, mockery, and grief, Job 16:20 – “My friends scorn me; my eye pours out tears to God.”  Psalm 6:7 – “My eye wastes away because of grief; it grows weak because of all my foes.”  Proverbs 30:17 – “The eye that mocks a father and scorns to obey a mother will be picked out by the ravens of the valley and eaten by the vultures.”  I think it’s a funny thing that people think they can hide sin in their hearts, it so often shows all over their face, I’ve always called that the “sin buzz” that glosses ones eyes, makes it hard for them to make eye contact, and darkens ones countenance.  I pray my eyes always reflect the joy of the Lord, even in sorrow, an eye to His glory because His eye is always on me for my good.  Keep looking up and out with me!

With Eyes of Joy,

Pastor Mark

Gideon Reaches Lake County

Ok, so who doesn’t love the story of Gideon?  Why?  Because he was so … well, so like us, so lame.  Check it out, in Judges 6 we find the nation of Israel yet again in opposition to what God has called them to be, they “did what was evil in the sight of the LORD” (6:1).  And so the cycle of Judges kicks back in, this time with the very polite, very careful, very comfortable Gideon.  The angel of the LORD shows up on Gideon’s dad’s property, what’s Gideon doing?  He’s being very careful to make sure he’s got some food to eat without the enemy Midianites knowing what he’s up to (beating out wheat in the winepress, huh?  Isn’t that for wine, not wheat? – 6:11).  He’s greeting by being called a man of valor (yeah right) and rather than that making him bold, it makes him polite, “Please sir (6:13) … please Lord (6:15)”.  Then he uses stall tactics, let me “bring out my present and set it before you (6:18).”  The meal is consumed by fire springing up from the heart of the rock as the LORD touches it with his staff (6:21).  He gets that he has met with God now and bolstered with confidence (well, sort of) he goes by night to destroy the altars of the false gods because “he was too afraid of his family and the men of the town to do it by day (6:27).”  Of course in the morning everyone is upset and wants to know who did this thing … and well he hides behind dad (Joash) who tells the people to let the false gods defend themselves (6:30-31).  Then of course it’s the infamous give-me-a-sign fleece episode.  Wet fleece, dry ground … then dry fleece, wet ground.  OK, God, I give!

Then, once God has thoroughly established a weak leader, He thins out the troops – all the fearful ones are told to go home and the ones who get on their faces to lap water like dogs are selected – to establish a weak army.  Now, God has everything as He wants to put Himself on display, and the 300 men rout the Midianites, Amalekites, and all the people of the East who were “like locusts in abundance and their camels were without number, as the sand that is on the seashore in abundance (7:12).”   Do you get it?  A fearful, proof-needing, comfort-driven group was the victor in one of the greatest military engagements of all time!  Not by might, not by power, but by My Spirit says the LORD.  Let’s take our fears, our comfort, our need for proof, and like Gideon keep moving forward until God makes His name known throughout all Lake Country and beyond.

A Weak Warrior,

Pastor Mark

Michael Phelps – Swimmer and Sinner

My sons and I loved watching Michael Phelps make Olympic history this past summer, we were riveted to the TV, but guess what … he’s a sinner in need of a Savior.  No superhero, no rescuer … He too needs rescue.  Good to be reminded that even those of worldly success can’t take their gold medals to heaven and need the joy of the Gospel to fill up what their achievements only mask.  Read CJ Mahaney’s great post on Phelps here:

Pray for Michael to come to Jesus!


Can’t Swim, But Love Jesus,

Pastor Mark

A Growing Concern about “Honor”

OK, I rant … The established Church has often grasped for power, the true Church sought to live out love and humility.  Those interested in change grasp for having a voice, those passionate about God’s glory for unknown lives of faithfulness that point people to an all-glorious God.  I fear sometimes we get confused on this issue when it comes to how we treat, talk about, pray for, love and honor those in leadership over us … specifically now speaking of President Obama.  I have a concern for “honor” in the American conservative church these days.  I have read, heard, and observed those who seem to think whoever doesn’t agree with a Biblical World View should be treated with disdain, called evil, maybe even undermined.  This is so contra-Biblical and opposed to the Gospel Christ preached and lived.  Let me offer these few arguments in my defense …

(1) The word “honor” (timao) used in 1 Peter 2:17 – Honor everyone.  Love the brotherhood.  Fear God. Honor the emperor (king) is the same verb Jesus used speaking of honor to His father (John 8:49), in the calling of honor to the Son (John 5:23), in honoring parents (Matthew 15:4; Mark 7:10; Luke 18:20; Ephesians 6:2); in honoring widows (1 Timothy 5:3); and in those the Father will honor who serve Him (John 12:26).  If we teach our kids to honor and obey their parents, but speak disrespectfully about the President we have established a double standard.  If we offer love and compassion to widows in need, but speak without love toward our leaders we are hypocrites.  If we say we love the Lord Jesus Christ, but refuse to speak with grace and honor to those He has put over us, we are noisy gongs and clanging cymbals.

(2) If we take the example of Christ as a model for our service (Philippians 2:5) then our heart is to be that of humility and service, selflessness and not grumbling.  He loved to the ultimate, is our response to complain and attack to the ultimate?  He came for the sick, to heal and help, not to ridicule and despise those who stood against him (He reserved the ridicule and attacking for the religious frauds).

(3) How about the example of Joseph, mistreated by Potiphar’s wife, forgotten by friends, and he made no attacks, complaints against the leadership, he humbly endured and God elevated him.  What about Peter and John (Acts 4) who when they were told to stop preaching said they couldn’t but were willing to accept whatever consequences without grumbling or harsh words against their accusers.  Then there is Paul, who faced some pretty aweful stuff (2 Corinthians 6:4-10) but never attacked those over him, called them names, or dishonored those he sought to lead to Christ.

(4) If, as some believe, President Obama is evil and against the plan of Christ, then shouldn’t their response be as Jesus directed in John 15:20, not suprised and no need for alarm or attack in response, but rather humble acceptance as Jesus, our Master did?

(5) It seems to me I recall the Sermon on the Mount talking about loving enemies and praying for them.  I actually read a “Christian” leader say we shouldn’t pray for President Obama because his agenda is evil.  I guess I missed that caveat in Jesus’ sermon.  He said loving those who love and agree with you isn’t that hard, even the unbelieving world does that.  Do not you who oppose the President have an opportunity to demonstrated that you live the words of Jesus by how you respond to a situation that you call unjust?  Maybe it should be practiced.  I also recall that when President Bush was in office, these same voices wanted his attackers to treat him with honor, why do we not offer the same thing we were asking of others a few years ago?

(6) In a world where terrorism is an ever present reality we need to be far different.  Terrorists attack their enemies to hurt and destroy.  The pattern of the Christian martyr is to love their attackers and pray for their salvation. Why would Christians resort to attack, to dishonor and disrespect?

(7) If God wants to bring about His purposes for you, for the awakening of the Church, and for the glorious display of His character, we should welcome that, not only when it comes as we think it should, but whenever it comes.  

You can certainly disagree with leaders.  You can oppose what they teach and stand for.  You can debate and vote against an elected official, but let us follow the call of the Gospel in the way we love all people and honor the President.  I pray the Church in America will stand for truth these next four years … and will do it with amazing grace!

For the Love of the Church,

Pastor Mark