top3 for February 19, 2021

Before you start your weekend, here are a few things that caught my attention this week. Enjoy and have a great weekend!

#1

I very frequently get the question, ‘What’s going to change in the next 10 years?’  I almost never get the question: ‘What’s not going to change in the next 10 years?’ And I submit to you that that second question is actually the more important

– Jeff Bezos

While it feels that so much of our world is changing, the church can take great comfort in the fact that God is the same yesterday, today and forever. God is the only certainty in an uncertain world. Therefore, the people of God are uniquely qualified to not only answer the question but to offer a helping hand through it.

What won’t change in the next 10 years?

As I’ve already mentioned, God is not about to change. Nor is our God-given mission of making disciples. In ten years, and beyond, we will continue to need to be involved in justice and mercy for all people. And the desire to belong in a community to support and be supported is not going away.

#2

“afterlife of slavery”: limited access to health care and education, premature death, incarceration, and impoverishment — the “skewed life chances” that Black people still face, and the furious desire for freedom that comes with them. ‘Did slavery ever really end?’

 How Saidiya Hartman Retells the History of Black Life

The above quote is very similar to what Ibram X. Kendi says in his book Stamped from the Beginning below. Slaves were rightfully concerned that Lincoln’s emancipation declaration would lead to a different kind of injustice and enslavement. Both of these quotes remind us that the fight for equality must continue. May we not let our guard down and think the job is done when the facts and data show that disparity remains and in some ways is accelerating.

Don’t free us only to enslave us in other ways. Don’t think the job is done when we can walk away from the plantation. We need ability to have jobs, education, economic viability, equality in the marketplace, government, and townsquare. Until that is achieve we have traded one form of slavery for another.

#3

What I want to say, countering the devil, is that in order to read the Scriptures adequately and accurately, it is necessary at the same time to live them.

Eugene Peterson from Eat this Book

Our discipleship intensive groups give me a hard time for liking this book so much. It is routinely one of the books least liked…and I’ll just assume least read too!🙂 But it is full of great wisdom and the above quote is one of them.

You can’t understand apart from doing Scripture. I know my grammar is lacking there, but you hopefully get the point. Jesus did not say go and make students rather he said go and make disciples. Now…learning is part of being a disciple for sure! But it is the means and not the end game of discipleship.

One question I routinely ask myself when reading Scripture is this – What is this Scripture calling me to do? It has been really helpful to open my life up to the possibility that God’s word may very well be speaking into something in real time. I almost come to expect it or at least am not so surprised as often.

The Cross: What an Odd Symbol

We sing the praise of him who died, Of him who died upon the cross; The sinner’s hope let men deride; For this we count the world but loss.


for the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us being saved it is the power of God.

1 Cor. 1:18 –


When I say bald eagle, what immediately comes to your mind? The USA of course.
What about when you see an interlocking U and K? You got it. A smile on the side of a package or truck? Sure…Amazon.

A cross – Christianity. But what an odd way to brand a movement. A horrific symbol of death. Foolish.

Crucifixion was saved for the worst of the worst to not only be an execution but an example. Established by barbarians on the fringes of society and co-opted by the Romans and Greeks as tools to quell opposition. It was meant to inflict maximum torture before a gruesome death. It was meant to convey to any potential enemies…don’t make waves or this will be you too!

Cicero, one of the Roman rulers, said that “to bind a Roman citizen is a crime, to flog him is an abomination, to kill him is almost an act of murder, to crucify him? What? There is no fitting word that can describe so horrible a deed.”
To the Jews crucifixion was equal to hanging on a tree. A lynching in our day’s vernacular. And those who hang upon a tree Deu. 21:23 says that those are under the curse of God. A cursed Messiah? Foolish.

If it were me, I would have considered an ark…that would be a nice branding symbol. Or a fish for the fishers of men statement by Jesus to his disciples. Or a tree like in Psalm 1 planted by a stream never loses its leaves and having fruit in all season. What about a grape for Jesus said he was the vine and we were the branches which would produce fruit if we stayed close. A stone? For the stone that was rolled from Jesus and Lazarus’ grave. What about a church building to signify people in worship? I mean come on, we could come up with something more uplifting and more marketable without trying too hard. A cross? Foolish.

When I survey the wondrous cross on which the Prince of Glory died. My richest gain I count but loss and pour contempt on all my pride

Jesus’ entire life casts a shadow toward his death on the cross. He says it (Mark 9:31). He shows it in his deeds. He even demands it of his followers by saying, “deny yourself, take up your cross, and follow me.” But they refused to believe…and we follow in their unbelief that death on a cross can bring hope for this life and the one to come. But it did, and it does.

for the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us being saved it is the power of God.

1 Cor. 1:18 –

Lent is a journey to Easter. A season of preparation for those of faith. All journeys to Easter must follow Jesus’ original journey to Easter which took him to, not around, the cross. For this season we seek to understand more fully and love more deeply our Lord and Savior and this is not possible without embracing his cross. It is not pleasant but it neither is it negotiable.

Anglican scholar Bishop Stephen Neill correctly asserts that, “the death of Christ is the central point of history; here all the roads of the past converge (come together); hence all the roads of the future diverges (begin).”

Now, I call us as a congregation to prepare ourselves for this journey through the cross to Easter. If we offer ourselves in the example of self-sacrifice given to us by Jesus on the cross, we too will experience the very salvation of God.

Forbid it Lord that I should boast, Save in the death of Christ my God. All vain things that charm me most, I sacrifice them to his blood.

In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.

Lent 2021 – Ash Wednesday

We sing the praise of him who died,

Of him who died upon the cross;

The sinner’s hope let men deride;

For this we count the world but loss.

We Sing the Praise of Him Who Died by Thomas Kelly (1815)

When I survey the wondrous cross

on which the Prince of Glory died,

My richest gain I count but loss

and pour contempt on all my pride.

Forbid it Lord that I should boast

save in the death of Christ, my God;

All vain things that charm me most,

When I Survey the Wondrous Cross by Isaac Watts (1707)

Lent 2021

The lenten season begins tomorrow. Today is normally a day of feasting before the time of fasting begins. Cake is eaten or maybe pancakes – although I’m calling that cake too since it is in the name. You can’t have a pancake without the cake…sounds like a catchy sermon title! But I digress.

As you make plans for lent make sure its not something that you have been wanting to do for a while and just haven’t done so yet. For instance…I know I need to eat better therefore I’ll give up sugar for lent…or coffee…or ice cream (which is sugar, I know, but it is also so much more.)

Now, none of these things are bad to fast from, but the reason why is the key. Is it so that you can feel better about yourself or so you can draw closer to God?

What is something that is distracting you from God? That is one good place to start. Or, what is something that would open you, or your family, up to God’s grace that you are not currently doing now? Another good place to start…and…it comes with an added benefit. To add something good you often must make room be subtracting something not.

The good news is that God is less concerned about what we give up or take on and instead excited about the fact that you are making time to know him more fully and love him more completely.

Church Growth 101 – Sermon Excerpt

How does the church grow? (watch full sermon here)

2 Corinthians 4:1-6 is a master class taught by a master teacher (Paul) on this very important question.

4 Therefore, since it is by God’s mercy that we are engaged in this ministry, we do not lose heart. We have renounced the shameful things that one hides; we refuse to practice cunning or to falsify God’s word; but by the open statement of the truth we commend ourselves to the conscience of everyone in the sight of God. And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For we do not proclaim ourselves; we proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord and ourselves as your slaves for Jesus’ sake. For it is the God who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

2 Corinthians 4:1–6 (NRSV)

The church grows when they…

1) see themselves as stewards/employees/partners not owners.

Existing for the benefit of others. Seeing themselves as blessed to be a blessing and given grace so it may be offered.

2) chase truth not relevance,

Merchants sometimes “adulterated” (cf. NASB here) substances by mixing in something cheaper to cheat their customers; philosophers often accused professional speakers of doing the same, because they were more concerned about speaking ability than about correct content –  Keener, Craig S. The IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament.

May we never water down, cheat, or confuse the gospel with something else. May we never resolve to walk a path that Jesus did not. For it was –

the cross, not prosperity, that was Jesus’ destiny on earth.  

Anytime a group of believers preaches and/or lives out the gospel of personal comfort, the fruit of abundant resources, or the glory of personal fame as the defining evidence of God it is chasing relevance. And it is only a matter of time before the true fruit will be seen. I say this with great fear and humility not with joy or hubris.

3) persist in all seasons not give up when it’s not convenient. I don’t need to go to far here – many of you are watching worship on your devices instead of in person and have been for over a year! That, my friends, is persistence.

4) proclaim one thing…Jesus as Lord and Savior.

The more the “church” is a local body of believers gathered in the name of Jesus, the greater the chance that it can respond to the movements of the spirit in its immediate context. from Prophetic Jesus, Prophetic Church by Luke Timothy Johnson

Let us be careful about our identify as a church. In other words, what are we known for? If it is not Jesus then it is time for an adjustment. There are many good things but only one necessary thing that we stake our identity upon. May it not be social justice, or inspiring worship, or historic sanctuaries (nothing wrong with any of those things mind you!) but instead be clearly Jesus.

As Luke Timothy Johnson reminds, gathering around Jesus puts us in the perfect spot to respond to the needs of the world. And these responses may very well manifest itself as worship, social justice, and long-standing places of ministry among many other things.

5) understand what she is up against, or more specifically, who she is fighting against. 

For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.

Ephesians 6:12 (NLT)

And this battle is won with surrender and weakness and foolishness not shock and awe and strength. 1) Embrace the foolishness of the cross. 2) Surrender to the way of Christ for our lives and this world. 3) Be transparent with our weaknesses so God’s glory may shine. That is how the battle against the rulers of evil and powers of darkness in this world will be won.

By now you may be asking...but how do we increase crowd size? or grow our programming? or super-size our budget? Isn’t that what church growth is about?

The short answer is – no.

Paul realized that God is much more concerned about the strength of our faith rather than the size of our crowd. When the bible talks about growth it refers to depth. Depth leads to width and not the other way around.

And as a result, my stated goal is to not grow a church…it’s not in Scripture that way. No, our goal is to make disciples and my role as a pastor is to help us do that by “equip(ping) the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ. (Eph. 4:12)”

My desire is to help us grow deep…everything else will be taken care of. I believe that will all my being.

Therefore I claim Jesus’ promise to his church when he commanded us to –

33 Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.

Matthew 6:33 (NLT)