You Can't Carry Fire

"Can a man carry fire next to his chest and his clothes not be burned? Or can one walk on hot coals and his feet not be scorched?" (Proverbs 6:27-28).

This warning, from a father to his son, is one that shouldn't be taken lightly and is as true now as it was the nearly 3,000 years ago when it was written.

The world we live in is inundated with sex. Suggestive images are everywhere, images are pervasive and seemingly inescapable, and men, in particular, are always trying to carry fire next to their chest. The end of this kind of risk can only be death.

It's important to understand that the temptation to lust in and of itself is not sinful. But what's perhaps more important to understand is that this temptation is something we ought to always be on guard against, and in being on guard we must always be prepared to run. The father's warning couldn't be any clearer: "Keep your way far from her, and do not go near the door of her house" (Proverbs 5:8). This is precisely the place where most of us stumble and fall. Rather than making every effort to avoid sexual immorality, we play with it. We dabble and tinker, almost as if playing a game. But we fail to realize it's a game we can't win. 

Are you carrying fire next to your chest? Are you walking on hot coals thinking you can escape the burns? Don't be so foolish. It cannot be done.

Am I My Brother's Keeper?

There is a famous line in Genesis 4. It says, “Am I my brothers keeper?” The line comes after Cain brutally murders his brother Abel. God asks, “Where is your brother?” The only way Cain can think of answering is by “minding his own business,” and pointing the finger at the brother he just killed.

Most of us are familiar with this section of scripture and this verse in particular. What we’re not familiar with is how to handle it. It’s easy to take the side of Cain. In a culture of hyper-individualism we shake our heads in agreement that we are not our brothers keeper. We think to ourselves, “their business is their business. I don’t need to worry about what they’re doing or not doing.” And when we do poke into someone’s business, we’re often told, “mind your own business!” Maybe there are scenarios where we ought to mind our own business, but more times than not we’re simply abdicating a responsibility that is ours to keep. We are our brother’s (and sister’s) keeper.

The church is the family of God (Mark 3:31-35). This means that if we are a Christian, our brothers and sisters are not only those who are related to us by blood, but are also those related to us by the blood of Christ spilled on the cross. To be a member of this family means that we care for one another. It means that we are in one another’s business–not for the sake of gossip, slander, shame, ridicule, or scorn– but for the sake of building up. It means that we care whether or not our brothers and sisters are representing Christ in their day to day lives. 

Jonathan Leeman, in writing about church membership, puts it like this: “Church membership is not about additional requirements. It’s about a church taking specific responsibility for a Christian, and a Christian for a church."*

“Church membership is not about additional requirements. It’s about a church taking specific responsibility for a Christian, and a Christian for a church."

The gospel of Jesus frees us to love one another in ways that we would not have previously. It frees us to celebrate with our brothers and sisters in their victories, and weep with them in their failures. It frees us to ask questions, and to have questions asked of ourselves. The church is to be a family like none other on this earth. It is God’s grace that we get to care for one another in such a way that doesn’t promote our individualism, but exemplifies his kingdom instead.

*Quoted from Leeman's book: Church Discipline.

Little Moments

Last night, our Gospel Community gathered, and we concluded our discussion with this: it isn't up to us to save the world.

That might sound like a no brainer way to conclude a discussion. We're certainly well aware of this reality. We know that Jesus is the world's only hope for saving the world, but this doesn't stop us from thinking that we need to figure out some way–some really big way–to save it ourselves. 

The question that sparked this mind-blowing conclusion was, how can we display generosity in a practical way that begins to influence and change our city with the gospel? After a few moments of silent thinking, a few answers were given, and then finally the golden answer, "We don't need to figure it out right now."

Little Moments

Our tendency in life is to think we need to do something big, and that we need to do something big right now. It's a "go big or go home" mentality that, more times than not, leads to nothing getting done. But this isn't the way Jesus intended for his disciples to function.

Jesus wants us to be aware of the little moments. 

When the disciples were arguing about what it means to be great, he tells his disciples that greatness is defined by service, and not just service, but serving little children (Mark 9:37). Jesus's point is that serving those who are easily and quickly overlooked is a big deal in the economy of his kingdom. 

In another instance, Jesus says:

'I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me. Then the righteous will answer him, saying, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you a drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?' And the King will answer them, 'Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.'

In other words, Jesus is saying that his Kingdom is about intentionally slowing down and serving in the seemingly insignificant and often unnoticed little moments of life.

Today, as you seek to be generous with your time, talents, gifts and possessions, ask God to help you notice the little things that lead to little moments that end up having a big impact for the kingdom.     

Do You Need Help?

Jesus said, "Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you" (John 16:7)

We are most comfortable when we feel like we are in control. In order to be in control, we have to be able to control life circumstances around us. For the most part, we can do this quite easily. We have a general routine we stick to that helps us to know the rhythm of our days, and often, this rhythm goes mostly uninterrupted. Sure, there might be a few glitches here and there, but nothing we can't get back under control. 

Sometimes, however, life circumstances take a turn for the worst (that's at least how we see it). All this means is that we feel out of control. Life has suddenly become "out of our hands," and all we want to do is get it back. 

The reality of this control is only a facade. If we face reality, not a single one of us knows what the next moment brings, and although we're accustomed to life feeling safe, in the blink of an eye it can feel anything but. It never really has been in our hands though.

When Jesus spoke those words to his disciples, "It is to your advantage that I go away," they must have been shocked. How on earth could it be an advantage for Jesus to go away? This is the Messiah, the King of all Kings to rule and reign this world, it can't be a good thing for him to go. But it is. Jesus tells us that in his leaving he doesn't leave us alone, but leaves us with the Holy Spirit, the Helper. The question that needs asking is: do I live a life that needs help?

Jesus' followers are made to live a life that needs help. The call to make disciples of all nations is far too grand to accomplish in our own strength. We, the Church, followers of Jesus, need help. I've become convinced in my heart and mind (and it's okay if your not), that if I'm living a life that feels safe and under control, then perhaps I'm not really living up to what Jesus has called me to.

The reality of truly following Jesus means that I'm going to need help. It is to our advantage that Jesus ascended into heaven. He will one day return, but in the mean time, are you following him with the Helper that he has given?  

The Value Of The Church Gathered

Author's Note: This post was originally written for and posted to the Taproot Church Twin Falls website.

In Taproot Church, we gather every Sunday morning to worship Jesus, sit under the preaching of God's word, and be equipped for the work of ministry in everyday life. 

We also gather in Gospel Communities (GC's). GC's are small groups of people, joined by the gospel, pursuing the renewal and redemption of their community together for the purpose of being discipled and making disciples of Jesus.

The Sunday Gathering and Gospel Communities are invaluable pieces to the ministry and mission of Taproot Church. These are two of the primary ways in which we're able to press into the reason for our existence, which is to know Jesus and make him known.

Below are some reasons why we value these gatherings the way we do.

1. It's biblical. Hebrews 10:24-25 says, "And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near." The early church valued the gathering of the saints to the point that correction was necessary if there was a neglecting of it. It was in the context of the church gathered that people were encouraged in the midst of all that is difficult in this life. 

2. It reflects God. The God of the bible is Triune. This means that he has existed in perfect community for all eternity. Being his image bearers, we long for this kind of community, but sin has distorted it. Now, instead of enjoying the presence of God and others, we would rather hide (Genesis 1:8). In the finished work of Jesus, the type of community we see in God is restored to his church, and we reflect that to the world. "By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another" (John 13:35).

3. Discipleship. The commission of Jesus to his disciples is to make disciples. A disciple is a follower of Jesus. Discipleship is the process of learning how to follow Jesus. This does not happen alone. It also doesn't happen in the context of a one and a half hour service on Sunday mornings (though this is vital). Discipleship is the process of a lifetime and it's greatest value comes when we are gathered with others who are learning how to follow Jesus along with us. It's in the context of the gathered saints where our weaknesses and sins are revealed, and it's in these gatherings where we are most likely to be pointed to Jesus. Proverbs says, "Whoever isolates himself seeks his own desire; he breaks out against all sound judgement" (Proverbs 18:1). Living life in this type of community is often not easy, but it's always worth it.

4. Equipping and maturity. Paul wrote to the church in Ephesus, saying, "And God gave the apostles, prophets, evangelists, shepherds, and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood" (Ephesians 4:11-13). Paul is not talking about offices in the church, but gifting. In other words, there are those in the church who still operate in this APEST model of gifting, and they've been given these gifts for the equipping of the saints. (We'll talk more about APEST another time). Furthermore, the hope in this is that the saints would reach maturity in Christ, that is, that all followers of Jesus would know Jesus more fully, and realize their value in the gathering of the church. If left to a small group of people or one "dynamic" preaching pastor, the local church is sure to never see real maturity. This isn't always the case, but often it is. We are equipped and we mature when we gather and are equipped through the gifting of many. 

5. Whole body ministry. The church is referred to as a body (1 Corinthians 12), which requires all parts in order to function well. Often, there are several parts of the body which are neglected or not used at all, but when the church places value in the gathering of the church, the whole body is included in ministry. This is why our Sunday gatherings are not referred to as services. The goal of the Sunday morning gathering is not simply to serve you, but to serve you by equipping you, helping you to see that you are a vital part of the ministry of the church. You are then equipped to go out and serve not only in the local church, but in your city, neighborhood, workplace, schools, etc. In this, you are doing the work of ministry in your everyday life.

6. To be sent. When saints are equipped, saints are sure to be sent. This is a difficult but beautiful part of being the church. The work we do is in hopes that more would come to know, follow Jesus, and be gathered with Jesus' Church. This happens as people are sent.

7. Worship. The final thing I want to say about the gathering of the church is that it's an act of worship to King Jesus. He paid the price for our sins on the cross, rose victoriously from the grave, and is alive and well, ruling and reigning at the right hand of God today! All this is for the church. Jesus loves his church. We are his bride, and no matter how messed up we tend to be, he sees us as perfect, beautiful, and holy! When we gather, we do so because of the love and finished work of Jesus. 

Christ is all!

And The Word Of God Increased

Last Sunday night we wrapped up our first series; The Movement of the Church. We looked at how the movement of the church is multiplying. One of the norms seen in Acts is that the church increased and multiplied, and our message honed in on the fact that the church multiplies as the word of God increases. Listen to these verses:

And the word of God continued to increase, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests became obedient to the faith. (Acts 6:7)

But the word of God increased and multiplied. (Acts 12:24).

So the word of the Lord continued to increase and prevail mightily. (Acts 19:20)

I love the scriptures, and it is my prayer to see all those who follow Jesus have a deep hunger and passion for them as well. They point us to Jesus.

"And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself." (Luke 24:27).

So, what I want to do here is provide some resources that will help you in your reading of scripture, and will help you in leading your family to do the same. 

For General Study

These books will help lay some good theological foundations. They are especially helpful for leaders and heads of household.

For Family Worship

These are some of my favorite family worship resources.

Studying Your Bible

These resources are great for teaching you how for trust your bible and read it well.

Bible Plans

I find it's easiest to read scripture when you have a plan. There are numerous you can follow but here are some of my favorite.

Bible's

It's nice to have a few bible's to choose from. My personal favorite to read is the ESV. I especially love the study bible. I also find the NLT to be a good change of pace. Finally, and I know it's highly debated, but, The Message can be very pleasing to read. However, it's not a translation. So don't read it like one. It's a man's (a very smart one I might add) commentary on scripture. Enjoy the beauty of Eugene Peterson's prose! 

  • ESV Bible (My personal favorite)
  • ESV Study Bible (Likely the best out there)
  • NLT Bible (not as much a literal translation but good none the less).
  • The Message Bible (Not meant to be read as a translation, but can be very enjoyable for a change of pace and some poetic mediations in scripture).

This is by no means an exhaustive list of resources, but I hope it proves to be helpful.

Blessings and happy study and worship times!

 

 

Interrupted

My guess is that your day is filled with countless interruptions (my son just burst into my at-home office, telling me he "needed to go potty," just as I was typing these words!) The question we all need to ask is: how are we responding to the interruptions? 

Anger. Agitation. Frustration.

I know my quickest response to an interruption is anger, agitation, or frustration. This is how I normally react when my two-year old walks into my office telling me he needs to go pee. Again! "For crying out loud. Why can't you do it by yourself!" That's how the thought process in my head normally goes (by God's grace it didn't this time).

It's sad that I still react in this way. One would think that I'd be used to the interruptions by now. Or that I would at least respond more graciously. But because of my sinful heart, I react in a surprisingly agitated way almost every time. Because, when I'm interrupted, I feel like my world and my time are being taken away. It's a pride issue. And at it's core is the reality that I want to be the uninterrupted god of my own world.

It's an unhealthy and unrealistic way to live.

But again, by God's grace, it's a place that each of us can grow out of and more into the image of Jesus. By looking to Jesus, we can see how to rightly respond to and receive the interruptions of our day.

Listen to this passage from the Gospel of Mark:

"And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed. And Simon and those who were with him searched for him, and they found him and said to him, 'Everyone is looking for you.' And he said to them, 'Let us go on to the next towns, that I may preach there also, for that is why I came out.' And he went throughout all Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and casting out demons.'" - Mark 1:35-39

Jesus simply wanted some alone time, and he went to great efforts to get it. The text tells us that he woke up "very early in the morning, while it was still dark." Jesus was intentionally trying to get away. To be alone. He didn't want to be interrupted. 

But he was. 

It didn't take long before they found him. His disciples. The crowds. All the people in the world who needed him (we're awfully needy as sinners, aren't we). 

What I love about the passage is Jesus's response. There was no anger. No frustration. No disgust with the fact that he had been found, interrupted, and pulled away from his devotions with his Father. No. Jesus simply went on with his day as if the interruption was part of what he was supposed to be doing. He went with the interruption, not as though it was interrupting his work, but as though it was his work.

Jesus, more than anyone else, understood what it meant to be interrupted. He faced the ultimate interruption in our place by becoming a man, and having his life of eternal glory with the Father interrupted. And he would eventually go to a cross, and his life of perfect union with the Father would be interrupted. But it was interrupted for us. 

To put it simply: Jesus responded perfectly to interruptions in our place and on our behalf!  

C.S. Lewis on interruptions

C.S. Lewis had some great thoughts on interruptions. He captures well in words what Jesus did in life. He clarifies for us that instead of viewing interruptions as moments that interrupt our work, we instead need to see that interruptions are our work. Listen to this:

The great thing, if one can, is to stop regarding all the unpleasant things as interruptions of one's 'own,' or 'real' life. The truth is of course that what one calls the interruptions are precisely one's real life–the life God is sending one day by day; what one calls one's 'real life' is a phantom of one's own imagination. This at least is what I see at moments of insight: but it's hard to remember it all the time.*

Embracing the interruptions

Moments of  uninterrupted time are wonderful, but they aren't real life. The reality is that most of life is interrupted, but it's also in those interruptions that life is lived. Jesus shows us, and C.S. Lewis explains to us, that every interruption is an opportunity to be embraced as what it is–real life. Interruptions are real life moments that we're given every day, not to be angry at, but to receive and use for God's glory.

This means that when my two-year old busts into my office 15 minutes from now needing to go potty again, I can receive it as part of my real life work and joyfully take him to go potty. And believe it or not, this act is just as pleasing to God (if not more) as praying or preparing sermons!

What about you? How are you going to respond to interruptions today? Are you going to react in anger because your imagined world of uninterrupted perfection is being interrupted? Or are you going to receive (as Jesus did for you) what your real life work is?

 

* Quoted from What's Best Next, chapter 18, by Matt Perman. Originally quoted: Wayne Martindale and Jerry Root, eds., The Quotable Lewis (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale, 1989), 335.