From the monthly archives: October 2014

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Reformation Day, the Scripture and the Zombie Apocalypse

Suppose we ponder how slippery is the fall of the human mind into forgetfulness of God, how great the tendency to every kind of error, how great the lust to fashion constantly new and artificial religions. Then we my perceive how necessary was such written proof of the heavenly doctrine, that it should neither perish through forgetfulness nor vanish through the error nor be corrupted by the audacity of men. It is therefore clear that God has provided the assistance of the Word for the sake of all those to whom he has pleased to give useful instruction because he foresaw that his likeness imprinted upon the most beautiful form of the universe would be insufficiently effective. — John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion (Book 1)

Today is Reformation Day. It marks the anniversary Martin Luther nailing his 95 Theses to the door of the church in Wittenberg, Germany and the start of the Protestant Reformation. Luther’s statement was a definitive challenge against the practice of indulgences, in which release from Purgatory would be granted on the basis of donations to the Church. He saw the practice prescribed nowhere in Scripture and, in fact, he saw it as a direct violation of good news revealed in Scripture. 

Other Reformers, including Calvin, recognized this tendency to forget God as he has revealed himself and to “fashion constantly new and artificial religions.” The Reformers’ burden to hold up the Scripture as the one, true revelation of God was married to their burden for the souls of men and women. To depart from Scripture was to enter into despair and insecurity. In the Scripture, God has revealed good news of great joy that comes on the wings of truth that is hard to hear. It is the “hard truth” that we wish to adjust but we do so at the peril of our “great joy.” No man-made religion could offer the secure hope revealed by God in the Scripture.

Today is Halloween. It draws its origins from the church calendar. November 1 was “All Saints Day,” a day originally intended to celebrate the faith of those who had died and, in particular, those with remarkable faith. Many churches had a store of the relics of the Saints (bones, hair, coffins, etc.) that would be brought out for the public on All Saints Day for all to pay to see. This payment was given as an indulgence payment – eradicating some of the penalty for sin. The night before “All Saints Day” was “All Hallows Eve” (Halloween). This night grew as a celebration of its own that included a fascination with the dead and mortality. 

That fascination continues today…because we all fear death. We fear the horrors of what exists on the other side of our existence and so we immerse ourselves in the world of the dead (and, today, the impending Zombie Apocalypse). Maybe we’re attempting to find some foray into death and thereby remove the fear of the unknown? Maybe we long to mock death, and this is the only way we know how? 

And maybe the only antidote to our fear is what God has revealed in the Scriptures. Namely:

  • We have all rejected God’s authority to be our own authority – ruthlessly taking what we want to secure our future and give us joy (Romans 3 and, in particular, 3:21-27).God must deal with that wanton, self-centered rebellion with justice and wrath. Therefore, each person stands condemned before God, needing to be saved from God. (Ephesians 2:1-3)
  • But God, being rich in mercy (Ephesians 2:4), has offered the solution to this problem, which we cannot solve. 
  • He does so by offering himself in Christ (fully God and fully man) to live a perfect human life and, yet, to receive as a substitute all the wrath our sin deserved (1 John 4:10). 
  • Therefore, the Christian (who by faith in Christ no longer faces wrath) is credited with Christ’s perfect life and accepted forever by God. (2 Corinthians 5:21 and Romans 8:32-39) 
  • And Christians have nothing to fear, not even death.

Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery. (Hebrews 2:14–15)

“Death is swallowed up in victory.” “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. (1 Corinthians 15:54–56)

Tonight, fear not. Fear not the Zombie Apocalypse. Fear not the many dangers, toils and snares you may face. Fear not your impending death. In Christ and Christ alone we can mock it all (read 1 Corinthians 15:54-56 again). God has graciously provided and revealed the rescue from all of it. He is for you forever – the Bible tells you so.

Vote! Let's Trust God, 'Be Here' and Love Our Neighbors through Our Ballots

Final call for Colorado ballots! Election Day, as well as the final day for registration and voting, is November 4. If you are not yet registered, you can go to the Colorado Secretary of State website for help.

If you are still holding on to your ballot and wondering about candidates, Colorado Family Action (CFA) has also put together a voter’s guide personalized for your district.

The CFA recently noted that, “Sadly, only about 50 percent of Christians in the U.S. are registered to vote and of that, only half of those will actually show up at the ballot box. Too many Christians are failing to take advantage of one of their greatest means of making a difference in America – their right to vote.” 

Few of us have done anything to “deserve” living here. If we see beyond the brokenness and poor condition of our country to recognize we’ve still been entrusted to live and participate in a great nation, then Jesus’ words in Luke 12:48 may be very motivating: “From everyone who has been given much, much more will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.”

Some may not view it as such a blessing to live here, but we must humbly submit to the fact that God “gives to all mankind life and breath and everything … having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling places” (Acts 17:25-26). In this case, we can accept that God has appointed us to “Be Here” in this nation, and voting is one simple way to make a difference and to love our neighbors.

Regardless of your perspective on living in in the United States, we can “trust God and do good” (Ps. 37:3) through a prayerful consideration of candidates and issues as we faithfully cast our ballot.

Halloween, Sanctification and ‘Moving into the Neighborhood’

Over at the Desiring God blog, there is a challenging (provocative?) post on how our approach to Halloween might actually reveal how we view and work out our sanctification. The post is centered on a video of Jeff Vanderstelt expounding on these thoughts. Here is an excerpt:

It is easy for us to get locked into Christian bubbles and soon lose contact with those who desperately need to know the good news. And it’s easy to mistake sanctification to mean separate from the world instead of separated for God’s work in the world. But Christians, says Vanderstelt, are truly called to move toward need, and be in the middle of the brokenness. We are not of the world, but we are sent into it.

And here is the video:

You can read the entire post here. Vanderstelt’s thoughts are right up our small group reboot alley and are worth chewing on and praying about.

May Jesus and his good news haunt your Halloween.

Digital Interval for the Week of October 19: "Which Sinner Are You?"

There are two types of sinners: The relativist and the moralist. Is one worse than the other? Romans chapter 2 makes it clear that God's wrath is not only for the overtly licentious, but also for the subtly self-righteous.

To watch/listen to the entire sermon, click here.

Humility Helps You Believe in the Power of Prayer (and Helps You Find a Regional Prayer Gathering)

About every other month, Summitview comes together for an all-church worship and prayer night. This past month we did so again with a slight twist. Whereas typically we pray general prayers for our church body and city, this time we prayed very specific prayers for very specific people. There are a number of people in our church that are struggling through immense challenges right now, and we felt that the best way to support them would simply be to gather a hundred people together to pray for them. That’s what we did, and I trust that God is moving in very real ways in the lives of the people for whom we prayed. In fact, I have heard of some remarkable answers to those prayers.
However, the whole process of collecting prayer requests prior to the meeting made me realize something: We’re really bad at asking for help. Collecting prayer requests is like pulling teeth. For as long as I can remember, we have had cards available on Sunday mornings for people to submit prayer requests. We also have a email address and we’ve previously used a button on our website to submit requests. But through all of those avenues, I would estimate that we get a request about every six to eight weeks, and they’re almost always from people who are just visiting our church. Now, obviously, most of us exchange prayer needs through more personal means. Still, in my daily interactions, I don't feel like I receive many requests for prayer.
Why not? Why are we so reluctant to ask for prayer? There are probably a number of reasons. Sometimes the whole theology of prayer confuses us. We want to be careful not to presume certain things about God or demand that he change things. We want to avoid being one of those “name it and claim it” churches. Sometimes we don’t think our problems are big enough. There are others with more significant challenges, so let’s not take our eyes off them. Maybe that’s valid.
But I think there’s a different, more glaring reason. 

Pride. Arrogance. Conceit. Egotism.

This might not be the obvious kind of arrogance that immediately sours us when we see it. It’s a much more subtle version. But perhaps it's much more dangerous. It’s the kind of pride that says, “I’m good. I don’t need any help. Life is not too much for me to handle. Don’t worry about me.” Consider the following verses:
"Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall" (1Corinthians 10:12).
"For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked"(Revelation 3:17).
"Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall" (Proverbs 16:18).
"Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; but they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint" (Isaiah 40:31-32).
Independence that avoids asking for prayer is anything but noble. It’s taking the place of God. It’s saying that I hold life together rather than Jesus Christ. In 2 Corinthians 1, Paul describes how he had undergone such trials that he felt the despair of death. But he was refreshed by God’s comfort and believed that he would continue to be refreshed through the prayers of others. He then obligates the Corinthians to continue to pray for him: 

You also must help us by prayer, so that many will give thanks on our behalf for the blessing granted us through the prayers of many. (2Corinthians 1:11)

He also asks for prayer in Ephesians 6:19-20, Colossians 4:3-4 and 2 Thessalonians 1:11-12. He was not shy about requesting prayer — and we shouldn’t be, either.

If you have challenges in your life (which you do!), please let others know and ask them to pray for you. Please don’t think your trials are too insignificant to share. Please don’t think you can muster up enough strength on your own. Please use our address to have our prayer teams pray for you. Or even better, visit one of our prayer meetings and have people personally pray for you.

This past Sunday, I announced a new format for our weekly prayer meetings. Previously, we’ve had a meeting every Friday morning at the church building from 6:30-7:30 a.m.; now, we are going to be having several different meetings in different parts of town on different days of the week. They’re spread around town in such a way that one of them should be fairly accessible to where you live. You can visit to see a map of prayer meeting locations along with meeting times and contact information. Each of these prayer groups will be running through the end of the semester and then reevaluating after Christmas. So for now, it would just be about an eight week trial and not a lifelong commitment.

Would you be willing to commit to joining one of these prayer meetings for eight weeks? And not only would you have opportunity to share your own struggles and receive prayer, but you will be able to join with others in your part of town to pray for your neighborhoods. If we had groups of believers joining together to pray for their neighborhoods, I have to believe that our city will be changed in dramatic ways.

So please, don’t be proud. Ask for prayer. Join with others in prayer. Believe in the power of prayer.

"The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working" (James 5:16b).

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