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March 17th is Saint Patrick’s Day. Like many American holidays its original meaning is all but lost in its most prominent celebrations. Before it was an excuse to wear gaudy green accessories and drink beer St. Patrick’s Day was about remembering one of the most remarkable life stories in church history.
Faithless Church Kid to Runaway Slave
Maewyn Succat was born in the Roman province of Britain in the late 4th century. His father was a Deacon in the Roman church. His grandfather was a priest but Maewyn didn’t embrace his family’s faith. At about age 16 Maewyn was abducted by Irish raiders and carried off to Ireland where he became the slave of an Irish chieftain. Enslaved in a foreign land Maewyn turned to God. He trusted in the Jesus he’d grown up learning about and developed a robust prayer life.
After six-years of forced labor Maewyn had a dream telling him to escape. He traveled 200 miles to a port where he was somehow allowed to board a ship without paying the fare. After landing the ship’s company lost their way and wandered through an uninhabited wilderness for 28 days. Maewyn, now a young man, urged his companions to trust God and prayer on their behalf. God answered his prayer when a herd of wild boars emerged providing food for the starving band of men.
We use the term “member” to describe our relationship with our health club, insurance company and even the jam of the month club. For many the term describes a formal business relationship. But for Christians membership matters in more significant way.
Members of Christ’s body
The Bible tells us that everyone who has trusted in Jesus is a “member” of the body of Christ (the Church). This body metaphor is where the word “member” comes from. It’s a picture of profound unity enhanced by a beautiful diversity. You don’t become a member Christ’s body by filling out an application or paying a monthly fee. Membership is guaranteed at no cost to you through Jesus’ death and resurrection. When you trust in Jesus you become a part His body, the Church, and inherit His mission.
But what about membership in a local church? Sometimes joining a local church can feel like another business relationship. It may be practical for managing church government but does it really impact our relationships with Jesus or our ability to pursue God’s mission for our lives? I believe it does. Here are four reasons why local church membership matters.
Whether we’re talking sports, stocks or politics Americans love winners. The Bible gives us a different perspective. Life’s winners don’t make out so well when God’s Kingdom is unleashed on earth. The first become last. Those with stellar reputations get no credit. The wealthy become miserable and the powerful are humiliated. That’s because the gospel is for losers.
Selective Bible Reading
Victory, prosperity and tangible success are some of our most cherished cultural values. This shapes how we read the Bible. Most of scripture assumes God’s people will be oppressed and defeated. It speaks of the faithful as the losers of society. We tend to cherry pick promises of blessing and victory and celebrate the “winners” of scripture. The Psalms, the Prophets and Epistles all spend far more time encouraging faithfulness from the bottom of society than celebrating life’s winners but we can come away with the impression that the Bible is all about winning.
Scriptural narratives get the same treatment. We focus on Israel’s exodus from Egypt and initial conquest of Canaan but overlook the hundreds of years spent fractured and defeated by foreign oppressors. We love the story of David defeating Goliath but rarely speak of his humiliating flight from Absalom. In Israel’s exile, we emphasize three men rescued from a fiery furnace or one delivered from the lion’s den rather than the decades of humiliation and oppression inflicted on the entire nation. [Read more…]
The Evangelical Church puts a lot of emphasis on family. We pride ourselves in promoting “family values”. Our resources pour into ministries supporting, children, parents and marriages. We celebrate marriage as a sacred institution. The church should support healthy families and encourage God-honoring marriages. Unfortunately, in doing so, we often overlook the vital role unmarried adults play in Christ’s church. Single people can be an afterthought in the Evangelical world but if we’re going to be biblical we should celebrate singleness.
The Church and Singleness
Roughly half of adults in the United States are single. Evangelical Churches typically focus disproportionately on married adults. There are all kinds of single people. They vary in age, spiritual maturity and gifting. Some have never married, others are windowed, still others have suffered through the pain of divorce. Some would very much like to be married but haven’t yet reached the stage of life or met the person that makes marriage the best choice. Others are open marriage but content in their singleness. Still others have no desire to marry.
Unfortunately, the emphasis many churches put on marriage can leave this beautiful and diverse group of Christians lumped together in the “singles” category. The way many churches make these people feel is something of a joke (as Jon Acuff points out here). We need to do better. [Read more…]
The purpose of this blog is to explore God’s timeless truth from a fresh perspective. My goal is always to think about timeless truth. At times I have addressed political and cultural issues in an attempt to consider Biblical principles in new and relevant ways. While this can be helpful it can also be controversial. Unfortunately, in some of my posts the subject matter that was intended to serve as an introduction or backdrop for the Biblical truth I want to focus on has inadvertently become the focus of the post instead.
Through interactions with some of my readers and input from some wise and godly counselors I’ve become convinced that the potential for misunderstanding and distraction that comes from using these kinds of topics as a lens for examining God’s truth outweighs any potential benefits. As a result I will seek to avoid political and controversial cultural subject matter when the blog starts up again in February.
I’ve also decided to unpublish some of the past posts that dealt with these types of subjects. The posts I’m removing have proven to cause more difficulty and confusion than genuine benefit to at least some of my readers. I’m not retracting what I wrote in these posts but I acknowledge that they were written in a way that emphasized potentially divisive subjects in a way that, at times, overshadowed the Biblical truth they were meant to highlight.
If you have any questions or concerns about this shift of emphasis going forward or about any of the posts which I’ve removed please free to leave a comment or to contact me directly.
Fresh Eyes on Truth is taking a hiatus for the next month and a half. I have other priorities to focus on during this time and want to set aside some time to consider the future direction of the blog. Thank you for understanding.
Please check back in February for more new content. In the mean time if you have any input or suggestions for what you’d like to see from this blog in the future send me a message or leave a comment below.
It’s that magical time of year. We celebrate Jesus’ birth with a surreal sense of wonder. The magic is about more than flying reindeer and mysteriously appearing presents. We also see the impact of the fantasy of Christmas in real life.
The season prompts us to eat without considering calories and spend money we don’t have. We expect relatives, who drive us crazy all year, to fill us with joy. We hope Christmas cards will preserve friendships we’ve been too busy to keep up with the rest of the year. Even snow (which in February is messy and inconvenient) is supposed to bring the beauty and joy of a winter wonderland.
The Real Christmas Story
The sense of Christmas enchantment impacts the way we think about Jesus’ birth as well. We display manger scenes with a refreshed and perfectly groomed Mary who is the picture of serene beauty. Our songs describe Christ’s birth as “calm” and “bright”. We imagine a clean, peaceful infant who never cries or needs a diaper change. It’s an enchanting picture but it’s a fantasy. [Read more…]
This is part five in a series of blog posts inspired by C.S. Lewis‘ remarkable work The Screwtape Letters. If you haven’t already done so you may wish to read the previous installments first and return after reading part one, part two, part three, and part four. I’d also encourage you to read Lewis’ masterpiece to get a feel for where I’m coming from with these posts. I plan to continue to alternate posts from this series with other topics.
My Dear Lipweed,
You seem pleased that your patient has a “keen, scientific, mind” and a “high regard for logic”. You claim such traits make him an “ideal candidate for cultivating a strong, modern, atheist”. What drivel.
You have been brainwashed by your own propaganda! You speak as if clear thinking and intelligence are desirable traits. Better tempters than you have succeeded in developing some of the less stupid humans into assets for our Father’s kingdom but this has been accomplished despite intelligence and a high regard for science, not because of it. A keen mind in a patient is never an asset!
Fake news has been in the real news lately. The amount of misinformation that gets shared online is alarming. In addition to the blatant lies of fake news, intentional misrepresentations of truth, opinion masquerading as fact, and gossipy speculation abound on the internet. There are people crafting clever lies to earn money from website clicks. This misinformation is then easily spread through social media networks like Facebook and Twitter.
Vigilantly Represent Truth
As Christians, we represent the God of truth. Our enemy is the father of lies. Anytime followers of Jesus contribute to the spread of misinformation we dishonor God and advance the agenda of our enemy. As a Christian I lend my credibility, and by extension the credibility of Jesus (whom I represent) to everything I share online.
We must be vigilant representatives of truth. That means we can’t assume what we see online is true just because it agrees with our general perspective or was shared by someone they know and trust. Valuing truth requires us not to share anything until we confirm it contains no false or misleading information, biased propaganda or online gossip.
Check the Facts
This is part four in a series of blog posts inspired by C.S. Lewis‘ remarkable work The Screwtape Letters. If you haven’t already done so you may wish to read part one, part two, and part three first. I’d also encourage you to read Lewis’ masterpiece to get a feel for where I’m coming from with these posts. I plan to continue to alternate posts from this series with other topics. Part five will be published on November 25th.
My Dear Lipweed,
You have bungled it! By our Father Below, you must see that. Why, in the name of all that is evil, would you allow your patient to enroll in a Philosophy class of all things? Not only to enroll but to be engaged and interested. For him to be immersed in Mathematics, Chemistry or even a properly narrow History course might have sufficed as distraction but Philosophy is the very opposite of where we want his mind to be.
You ignorantly seek to reassure me that the professor is a staunch atheist, as if that is a safeguard against the disaster you are flirting with. Have you even read my letters? Our goal is not atheism! Our goal is a pseudo-Christian who is angry and hateful toward the world but ignorant about the condition of his own soul. This requires distraction, subversion and above all apathy. You have awakened your patient’s intellect regarding subjects he has no business thinking about! Do not think you will avoid punishment.