About Last Night: Thoughts on the Election Results, and Where We Go from Here

 

Hey, so what’d you do last night? Watch some NBA basketball? Read a book?

No? Oh, like all Americans, you followed the election results, and today you’re in an apocalyptic gloom, thinking that the Mayans are right on schedule?

Like you, many of us on staff at Summitview are still trying to get our heads and hearts around the results from Election 2012. Also, if you’re like me, you’re truly fighting to keep your eyes on the bigness and sovereignty of God in the blinding light of this dawn.

This election has brought us face-to-face with a hard truth: We are not in Kansas anymore. We are now, without debate, living in a post-Christian society. This is a sobering reality, and it was fully revealed – not caused – by this election.

So, we must ask, where do we go from here? What’s the church’s response? How do we, as children of the living God, live faithfully in this time? How do we fight the tendency to throw ourselves a pity party in the midst of moral and spiritual decline? How do we keep a Psalm-46 mindset?

What follows are a handful of links to challenging, encouraging and enlightening articles that can help us begin to answer these questions. They offer useful, biblically weighty insight about the state of our country, the state of Christianity, and lessons the church should take away from this election. We may not agree with every single detail in every single one of these articles, but we believe there is great truth in these resources that God’s people need to take to heart.

Keep in mind, though, that we're all a little emotional about last night. Things will become more clear as time goes on. God will do his thing – he always does. Now isn't the time to despair. Now is the time to pray, to seek the face of the Father, and to get our minds right and full of gospel-centered analysis of this political condition, so that our actions will bring glory and honor to the Ruler of the entire universe. So for now, read on.

“Slow Train Coming” by Marvin Olasky (World Magazine). How did we get here (“here,” as in re-electing President Obama, passing Amendment 64, a handful of states legalizing same-sex “marriage,” etc.)? Olasky provides needed historical perspective.

“Aftermath: Lessons from the 2012 Election” by Albert Mohler. “This deep division at the level of worldview presents President Obama with a daunting political challenge, but a worldview crisis is an even greater challenge for the church.” Mohler’s article pairs well with a tweet by pastor and blogger Jimmy Scroggins, which read, “This election ought to force evangelicals to change identities. Abandon ‘moral majority’ mindset & embrace living as ‘missional minority.’”

“From Me, Yesterday” by Collin Hansen (The Gospel Coalition blog). “If we suffer political defeat like those who have no hope but politics, we do not even commend ourselves, let alone the God who hung the moon and stars.”

“3 Things the Church Can Learn from Election 2012” by Trevin Wax (The Gospel Coalition blog). “If you are seeking to be a missionary presence in your community, you can’t ignore demographics.”

“Seven Post Mortem Principles” by Douglas Wilson. “Rather we must say that Jesus is the Lord of history, and so He is the one who gave this electoral outcome to us. We don't fully know why He did, but we know that He did.”

Maybe you’ll find these reads a blessing. Maybe you won’t. Maybe this entire time you’ve been going through a mental planning list for your pity party. I would encourage you to not be like Frodo, who wished the Ring had never come to him. We all need a good dose of Gandalf-isms in times such as these, and I can think of none more appropriate than this one:

“All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”

 

(Photo credit: Vectorportal)

Post-College Spirituality and the Sweetness of the Word

 

There is a startling drop off in church attendance among post-college young adults. While about 40% of Americans between ages 18-25 attend a church or para-church organization regularly, the numbers drop to nearly half that between ages 25 and 30. Attendance bounces back up again after age 30, presumably due to the perceived need for spiritual input when couples start having children, but between college and kids, there's a remarkable hole in the Christian church.
 
In our young adult ministry, Symbio, we long to see a reversal of that drift and realize that there is an enormous mission field among young people in Fort Collins, most of whom are not necessarily opposed to religious faith but aren't really feeling compelled by it either. We're trying to make intentional inroads into our community to influence those spiritually disconnected young adults.
 
Nevertheless, as we pursue the mission we believe God would have us pursue, we occasionally have to stop and ask ourselves: Is there fuel in the tank? Are we trying to take a hill without any ammo in our guns? Those are the questions we tried to answer this last weekend at our Symbio retreat in Estes Park, and specifically we tried to gauge our relationship with the Word of God.

 

If I were the devil, one of my first aims would be to stop folk from digging into the Bible. Knowing that it is the Word of God, teaching men to know and love and serve the God of the Word, I should do all I could to surround it with the spiritual equivalent of pits, thorn hedges, and man traps, to frighten people off. . . . I should try to distract all clergy from preaching and teaching the Bible, and spread the feeling that to study this ancient book directly is a burdensome extra that modern Christians can forgo without loss. . . . I should lure them into assuming that the benefit of the practice lies in the noble and tranquil feelings evoked by it rather than in noting what Scripture actually says. At all costs I should want to keep them from using their minds in a disciplined way to get the measure of its message. ( J.I. Packer)

 

The battle to maintain a vibrant relationship with God through his Word can be a tough one. As Christians we all know that the Word is an amazing source of strength, wisdom, guidance and joy, but nevertheless our time in the Word seems to constantly wane. Even those of us who maintain a fairly consistent time in the Word can still avoid deep and intentional study of the Bible. Our relationship with the Word quickly resembles the routine of popping a couple vitamins in our mouths before running out the door. And yet when we forfeit long, meditative times of soaking in the Word of God, we forfeit an incredible source of blessing. I love David's heart towards the Word:

 

The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple; the precepts of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes; the fear of the LORD is clean, enduring forever; the rules of the LORD are true, and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb. (Psalm 19:7-10)

 

He speaks of God's law "reviving the soul" and his precepts "rejoicing the heart." God's words are like gold or sweet drippings of honey. Many of us have experienced that sweetness, but the cares of the world can easily distract us and cause us to forget. At this past weekend's retreat, we took a step back and simply tried to build a longing for the Word and an intentional and disciplined pursuit of it. We discussed the dangers of not reading the Word. We talked through the incredible benefits God offers us in the Bible. We were guided through practical study techniques for a detailed study of a passage. We were reminded of practical ways to soak in the Word like memorization, meditation, journaling and even speaking it to one other.

But most importantly, we read the Word. We allowed for several long periods of time to simply read and study the Bible. I must say that those extended times in His Word truly did "revive the soul" and "rejoiced the heart," just like David experienced. May we not forget that. If our church excels at nothing else, may we excel at experiencing sweet communion with God by taking time to unplug from the world and drink in his Word.

Opportunities for Faith in High School



Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. (Ephesians 5:15-17)


Whenever we are in new situations, trying to adjust to the unfamiliar surroundings, there is ample opportunity for us to make the most of them. This is especially the case in high school.

A new charter school, Colorado Early College (CEC), recently opened in Fort Collins. CEC allows students to take high school courses and receive college credit for free. There are many Summitview high schoolers that are currently attending CEC, and this has provided them an opportunity to walk out in faith in this environment. They are banding together every Wednesday morning for 30 minutes, of prayer before the school day, asking God to reach and save their non-Christian friends, and building themselves up in God’s love. Without any announcing or promoting, some weeks there are dozens of other Christian students that join them in seeking God for their high school. Their unashamed love for God is a ray of light and hope into their culture at school, and it gives them even more opportunity to engage in conversations about the gospel and Jesus.

The fruit of their heart and actions was visible at a fun night for Mpact high schoolers. Jim Harrington invited one of his long-time friends, Joseph Parker, to share his testimony with the high schoolers. Joseph shared how God had intersected his life and how he still daily needs his strength and love. One of the amazing things about the night was the number of students that came from CEC, mostly through one girl’s invitation and friendliness. There were probably 20 students from CEC that were able to hear the gospel and Joseph’s story! Many students stayed and talked with Joseph after he shared, and he was encouraging to all of them. We are now trying to follow up with those relationships and continue to put no stumbling block except Jesus in front of them. Please pray for those relationships, and the courage and boldness of the high schoolers to enter those relationships. 

There are many other encouraging stories of Summitview students making the most of their opportunities at other high schools. It’s an exciting journey that God has us all on together. Please pray for these opportunities in front of us and that these seeds of the gospel will sprout by God’s power! 

Throwback Thursdays: Tom Brown Takes the "Hand of the Father"

 

“Throwback Thursdays” is officially a series now. Thanks for checking out our inaugural post – which is a good place to start if you have no idea what this is all about.

For today’s edition of “Throwback Thursdays,” we dig up a powerful testimony from Tom Brown about the glory and holiness of God – “The Hope of Glory.” The message was given in August of 2006. There’s no video for this one, but click here for the audio.

Brown’s teaching starts out rather dark, as he recounts the painful experiences of growing up with an alcoholic father and his failed suicide attempt in high school. But the story doesn’t end there, and Brown eventually finds himself in the holy and glorious arms of God the Father. There are many songs that could go with this teaching, but I felt that Guardian’s 1995 hit “Hand of the Father” fits the tone and the ultimate hope that Brown unpacks so well.

(As a related note, the themes in John Meyer’s blog from this morning dovetail nicely here. Check it.)


Fear and Flooding in Moab: Connecting God's Grace with His Presence in Our World

 

I had forgotten how majestic and breathtaking the view was. As I pulled into the visitor center parking lot I caught a glimpse of it to the left. "My, it looks like the Grand Canyon.” Most of the “God’s Word, God’s World” expedition crew had already made their way down to the edge of the overlook. Miles and miles of canyons stretched out in front of us, and the drop before our feet was perhaps several thousand feet. It does take your breath away. But as I stood looking at the first of our stops in Canyonlands National Park, what spoke to me most deeply was not the view, but the story it told. Before me, bigger than life, was a landscape that could only have been made by a water catastrophe of global proportions. I knew that nothing else made sense, that no other explanation could really fit the reality of what was carved in front of me. And one more time I was sobered by connecting with the truth that the religion I get paid to work in is about a real God who engages with this world.

That chilling, sobering thrill is why I do the “God's Word, God's World” class on the Genesis Flood. It is why I take people to Moab. And it touches one of the most important dimensions of my faith.

I have been reading Exodus in my quiet times. It has been intriguing to think about how the process God has used to initiate relationship with fallen human beings. As God begins to take Abraham's descendants to be a people in relationship with Him, He begins by devastating Egypt. God made Egypt the most powerful nation on earth at the time, and then revealed Himself in history by demanding that Pharaoh let His people go. Pharaoh refused, responding that he did not know Jehovah. But when the 10 plagues were finished he no longer said that. He yielded to a Force outside of himself, one that was real and that did real things which affected his life. Both the Israelites and the Egyptians knew that there was a real God with a mind and a will and a power that could not be resisted. 

From there God led the Israelites to Mount Sinai and made a covenant with them there. He appeared to them on the mountain and it smoked and burned and thundered until they were terrified. God's purpose was to make them very afraid. He then said, "O, that they had such a heart in them that they would fear me always that it may be well with them and their sons forever." (Deuteronomy 5:29)

It seems that as God comes to men, His first step is to make them realize that He really exists, outside of themselves, and that His existence is a cause for Holy fear. God wants us to understand first that He really exists outside of us. I note that because I believe the fear of a real God is what is most missing in Christianity today. We earnestly pursue right doctrine, which is right understanding of God. But we don't see that the basis for that doctrine comes from the actions of God in the history of our world; that God really created a people from the descendants of one man; that God really confronted and destroyed the largest nation on the earth at one time, killing every firstborn son; that God has really judged and destroyed our world with a flood; and that the God who created and who has done these things really came as a man into this world He has made and lost. 

Because of the world's rejection of biblical history, the church has retreated from a God who is here and turned to a message about conceptually loving God. And we seek finding our grounding for God inside us rather than outside us. I fear we understand grace much better than we know the God that is supposed to have granted it. It leaves us making grace more about us than about God. 

I once heard someone say they had been experiencing a lot of anxiety about the times we live in until they remembered God was in control, and then they felt peace. I understand that perspective and I agree with it. But I had just been reading the minor prophets, and my inward thought was, “No, I remember God, and I have a lot of anxiety because I know God judges wicked nations.” He judged Israel and He judged the nations around Israel and His judgments are very severe. We are a wicked nation and if God judges us it will bring circumstances that no human being will want to live in. If we really believe in God we will be very unsettled. But I think very few believers in God really see God as someone who has acted in history. And so we have lost our basis for a fear of God. 

Without a fear of God we will not be able to overcome our sin. And that is exactly what is plaguing the church today. No one will really be changed by a God of ideas. "A servant will not be instructed by words alone, for though he understands, there will be no response." (Proverbs 29:19) We understand. But we don't respond, because we don't believe in a God who has been here.

Or perhaps in all of this I am only describing my own problem. Certainly it is my problem. But I sense I am not alone. I fear that we believe in God the way an average college freshman believes deeply in the importance of studying, but somehow never has the time to get to it. Until he flunks his first test, or his first semester, or fails out of college entirely. At some point, most college freshmen come to believe in studying in a different way; they find a belief that saves them. 

We have a nation of people who say they believe in God. But as I look at my world and my own life, I find myself asking, which kind of belief is it? When God judged Israel, mothers ate their own children. Should our belief in God's sovereignty give us comfort at that thought?

So, as I was saying, I’ve been reading and thinking about Exodus, and asking myself if I see it as the real history of my world. And I go to Moab and take people with me. And I look at really big canyons. And I see God's Word and God's world fuse together and God becomes very near and very big. Even scary. My faith gets a little more grounding in the God Who is There.

The idea of grace all by itself is a wonderful thought. But if the God described throughout the Bible is actually all around me and has extended undeserved grace to me, then there is one thing in all the world more amazing than that grace: the God who has been gracious to us. It is God first, then His attributes. "Without faith it is impossible to please Him, because the one who comes to God must believe that He exists and that He is the rewarder of those who seek Him."  (Hebrews 11:6) May we know the faith of Hebrews 11.

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