Ed Stetzer is spooky smart regarding the church and gospel

Posted on by Cor in FAITH | 1 Comment

This guy knows a lot about a lot. But it resonates because he knows and cares a lot about Jesus. And he wants others to as well.

Yesterday we hosted a conference at which Ed Stetzer spoke. He is spooky smart (is it the beard?) and I mean that in the most positive manner possible. Here are several of my takeaways.

1. Do not forget that Jesus said, “I will build my church.” Do not forget the who. It is God who will build his church. This doesn’t mean we don’t discuss the how. But we must do so in response to the who. The who is Jesus. Jesus builds his church.

2. Stetzer re-coined a popular expression to say, “God’s mission has a church.” Many times it is stated that “God’s church has a mission,” which is true. But Stetzer’s point was to make clear God is the starting point. Then move from him to his mission and kingdom and church. Ultimately, this all concludes with the glory of God.

3. You can’t lead what you won’t live. This should not be a novel message. But it is critical. Are you living in the ways you are leading? It is much easier to talk about justice than practice it. It is easier to say “Love your neighbor” than to actually do it. Don’t call people to something that you’re unwilling to do. That’s hypocrisy.

4. The gospel needs proclamation and demonstration. We need to share and show. Most churches migrate toward one or the other. Churches need both. A true witness to the gospel demands both. Does your church tend toward one more than the other? How might bringing a balance enhance your gospel reach?

5. The gospel is both cosmic and personal. Matt Chandler calls it the gospel on the ground and in the air. Why is this significant? The cosmic aspect of the gospel shows that God’s plan is much greater than just you. The personal aspect shows that God’s plan includes you. The gospel includes both cosmic and personal.

6. The cross is central to both cosmic and personal aspects of the gospel. So whenever you find people and churches neglecting the cross there is reason for concern.

7. Christians are losing societal influence (especially with young people). Let Stetzer explain. Picture 4 equal sized groups. One consists of non-Christians, a second group of nominal (i.e. in name only) Christians, a third is congregational (i.e. church attending) Christians, and a fourth are Christians by conviction. Ed shared that the second and third groups used to see the fourth as their chaplain. They do so no longer. The second and third groups are increasingly taking their cues from non-Christians.

8. The squishy middle of American Christianity is disappearing. Ed believes the second and third groups are slowly disappearing. Previously there have been higher degrees of cultural Christianity. This is disappearing and will continue to do so. Ed does not believe this means the sky is falling. But it may mean things will be more black and white. And for Christians, specifically, things will get more difficult.

9. The church is to be in rebellion against THE rebellion. The world is engaged in THE rebellion against God. All of us were a part of this rebellion at one time. Through grace, God rescues and redeems some out of THE rebellion. Now we are to rebel against our former rebellion (Some mistakenly understand this to mean the church fights against all the sinful, rebellious people. That’s not it. Our fight is not against flesh and blood but rather the spiritual forces inciting rebellion throughout God’s creation.). What can make this hard is we can still be drawn to elements of our prior rebellion.

Those were just a few of the many insightful comments Stetzer made throughout the day.

Thanks, Ed!

QUESTIONS:

1. Do any of these comments resonate with you?

2. How might your church benefit from one of these truths?

Guest Post by Sarah Taylor: Ending our wedding with our first ever kiss

Posted on by Cor in Sex and Relationships | 1 Comment
First-Kiss-After-Wedding-Ceremony-600x400

Does your first kiss have to be at your wedding ceremony? No. But it could be. And that would be amazing.

When my husband and I started dating we decided that we were not going to kiss. If we did end up getting engaged and married our first kiss would be at our wedding when the pastor says, “You may kiss your bride.”

I know it sounds crazy. In fact, if I were to hear of someone doing this now, I would probably think they were a little too “fundy”.

If you know me at all, you would know the last thing I want to be is a legalist. The only things I’m legalistic about are eating ice cream every night and not being legalistic.

So why did we decide to do such a crazy thing?

It’s not because we thought that kissing before marriage was wrong. But we didn’t want to get into what happens after you start kissing (what might be classified as the “danger zones” back in the days of youth group). So we avoided doing something we wanted to do to protect our physical purity before marriage.

We both had some “wish I wouldn’t have done that” feelings from past relationships and wanted to do it up right this time around.

For me it was about setting myself up for success.

If I want to lose some weight after I’ve had a baby, I cannot have ice cream in the house. If I have ice cream in the house I WILL eat it. So I can set myself up for success by not having the ice cream in the house. I can’t eat what doesn’t exist.

So if we wanted to keep ourselves pure, we knew we had to take a few steps back from the lines we didn’t want to cross.

Now I know this is not the best plan of action for everyone. Most people are probably much stronger than me and can not eat the big, delicious bowl of mint chocolate chip when it’s calling your name from the freezer. And maybe you can have clear lines in your physical relationship that you will not cross. Great for you. For us, this was an easy way (well not always so easy) to stick to our guns on our convictions.

All in all it went pretty well.

And it was pretty great to end our wedding with our first kiss.

QUESTIONS:

  1. What do you make of Sarah’s (and her husband’s) decision not to kiss until their wedding?
  2. Can you see the benefits in making such a decision, even though it was difficult to carry out?

9 questions facing Christians in response to gay weddings | Is it religious freedom or discrimination?

Posted on by Cor in FAITH | 6 Comments

engagingcultureTwo weeks ago I started a conversation on an important topic. It started: A baker, a florist, and a photographer refuse their wedding services to a same-sex couple. Is it an expression of religious freedom or discrimination?

The conversation was the second highest ever commented in this space.
*My assumption: There are some who conversed around this issue as non-Christians or professed Christians who do not believe homosexuality is a sin that violates the Bible’s teaching. For the sake of what follows I am addressing those who believe it is a sin but believe differently in how the church and Christians should respond.
Given this, I thought it beneficial to reflect some of the findings. Additionally, it is important to cover what was learned and what still warrants discussion.
  1. Most hold that the gospel must precede a changed lifestyle. But this leads to rampant disagreement in how Christians ought to relate to non-Christians. What is the tact Christians should take in engaging non-Christians, seemingly to point them to Christ? Is it by loving without consideration of their sin or is it by identifying their sin and pointing them to God?
  2. Tone matters but it’s really hard to discern. People don’t get the advantage of knowing your intentions. They can’t see your heart. They only have your words. So it’s critical to be clear. This is true especially in sensitive conversations. So what is your tone? More importantly, are you being clear with your words so that your tone can’t be misinterpreted?
  3. Situation matters but it’s really subjective. People disagree. Christians who want to honor God disagree. One says partake. Another says abstain. It’s impossible to find a clear cut response that fits every situation. But it’s important to consider the circumstances of the situation in making your decision. So what specifically are you seeing in this situation that’s influencing your decision?
  4. There are consequences whether you partake or abstain. The one who partakes believes they can show Christ’s love. They risk their service being misperceived as acceptance of (i.e. condoning) the sin. The one who abstains believe they show Christ’s holiness. They risk their refraining as being misperceived as God not loving this people. What is your participation or abstinence communicating and is this the message you want shared?
  5. This situation is indicative of a larger approach in relating with others. This issue doesn’t happen in a vacuum. It’s a person making this decision. And they will likely make it based on past experiences in engaging with culture. Are you being consistent in this particular situation? More specifically, if service is refused to a couple, would you also refuse service to others demonstrating sinful lifestyles/choices?
  6. The decision to participate/abstain is not the last decision to be made. To the one who participates (given assumption above) a time will come when your views on homosexuality will come to light. What are the circumstances that you see yourself sharing these views? To the one who abstains a time will come when you must reach out to a homosexual couple. What are the circumstances that you believe will allow you to connect with this couple to share God’s love?
  7. Most people commenting dislike discrimination but uphold religious belief as suitable for refusing service. It is an interesting dynamic. It’s as though commenters can see both sides of it. They see the issue as more gray than black and white. What about you? Where are you at? 
  8. Is this issue comparable to the slavery and racial segregation debates of last century? It is posited that with time Christians views will change. Effectively this will be a non-issue 20 or 40 years from now. Would you agree or disagree and why?
  9. There is disagreement about what loving others necessitates. One person says it is serving another. Another says to truly love to is to share the message of Christ. One says it must uphold truth that doesn’t tolerate sin and another says it must uphold grace that tolerates sin. What do you believe loving others outside the Christian faith looks like? What is it and what is it not?
There’s a lot there! But I think it’s critical for Christians to be wrestling through these and conversing with others (and God) while doing so.
Share your comments below! 

Friends with Benefits is B.S. [video]

Posted on by Cor in Sex and Relationships | 2 Comments

“Friends with benefits” has become common vernacular. And I’m not just talking about outside the church.

Sex before marriage. Sex absent of covenant. Sex without commitment. But somehow, some way, it’s okay. “Because she’s my friend.”

As I share in this video, FWB is a far cry from what God depicts in the Song of Solomon and how the sexual relationship should look.

It is so easy for us, even as Christians (sometimes, we are the worst violators), to justify our sin.

“It won’t happen. I’ll be careful.”

“God will forgive me.”

“My behavior doesn’t matter.”

“It’s not that bad because I really do care about her.”

“There’s grace for me.”

Do not reassure yourselves with these words while planning to sin. Such thinking shows you are already astray!

This justification leads people to trample underfoot the design of God found in the Song of Solomon.

They bust through the locked gate. They trodden down the flowers of the secret garden. They throw themselves upon the exclusive fountain.

They don’t commit to love, to sacrifice, to commit themselves to the other.

They take their “benefits” from the relationship.

“After all, she is my friend.”

That’s B.S.

She deserves more.

So do you.

A legit conversation on whether Jesus would bake a cake for a gay wedding

Posted on by Cor in FAITH | 95 Comments

Bake cake for gay weddingA baker, a florist, and a photographer refuse their wedding services to a same-sex couple.

Is it an expression of religious freedom or discrimination?

See here for other articles introducing this topic.

That is the raging debate amongst religious and political leaders alike.

To severely oversimplify the issue, on one side are supporters who believe the refusal of wedding services to a same-sex couple constitutes discrimination and on the other are supporters who believe religious liberty permits them to refuse their services.

This is not justcor’s first incendiary conversation topic that has remained civil. Look here for another legit conversation on this topic.

I hope it can be seen how important an issue like this is.

And it must also be seen how critical it is to handle it with thoughtful consideration and care. In the end, we are not merely discussing laws and bills and institutions, but people. Real people. People that matter to God and should matter to us, REGARDLESS of which side of the issue you are on.

Let me frame the discussion:

1. The majority of people reading this blog would identify themselves as Christians. Please avoid inflammatory comments that begin with the phrase, “How could any Christian believe…?” and then state the opinion in opposition to yours. This doesn’t foster conversation.

2. Additionally, it’s not helpful to claim that people just don’t understand you or your position. It’s possible, even likely, that they do and yet they still disagree.

3. A preferable approach is for you to ask questions of the other side or differentiate between stronger and weaker arguments in the position you hold. Precious few can clearly articulate these differences and provide reasoned responses why they feel/think/believe what they do compared to their dissenters.

(** It’s valid to link elsewhere but could you also summarize it here to make it easier on us?)

Here’s what I’m asking:

Regardless of your position, while still being respectful, what are the most compelling arguments (ie. rationale, evidence, etc.) you’ve heard from BOTH sides?