Here are a few shots from our service last night. For me personally it was a physically and emotionally draining day, but a good one. I always like this particular service for the mere fact it starts a time of reflection and prayer, which moves our focus toward what’s really the greatest celebration of the year, Easter.
Last night was more about recognizing our own brokenness, our own mortality, and coming in a posture of humility to the Creator with our lives. It is still amazing to me how busy we get, how filled our schedules become, and in that business we often lose touch with the reason for our ultimate existence and why we do what we do.
Today instead of going on the trip to Uganda with the team from last year, I got to see them off to the Atlanta airport. It was a sad goodbye for me personally since I’m staying behind, but I know God is going to work among these eight people pictured above over the next week in Uganda. This team is going to build on so many other teams that have already gone and come back, intent on sharing the love of Christ with others in a culture and context far different from the comfortable life we live in the western world.
You can see a little more about what the trips are like from my previous posts in the Uganda tag, and if you want to follow along with this particular team you can follow April Olive’s blog as she updates throughout the trip. I can’t wait to hear about their trip, it is quite an experienced group of travelers with a heart for the people of Uganda.
We had our second large outdoor baptism celebration last Sunday, and it was an amazing time to see new life rise up. Scripture has a lot to say about believers baptism, the most common probably being Matthew 28:29-30, but this isn’t our only call to baptism, and it isn’t our only example of people stepping out in faith to be baptized. One of my favorite baptism stories in Scripture comes from Acts 8:26-40 when Phillip is explaining a passage from Isaiah 53:7-8 to the eunuch. Phillip “told him the good news about Jesus” and the eunuch’s response was an exclamation point, one where you can almost see him jumping up and down with joy saying:
See, here is water! What prevents me from being baptized? (Acts 8.26)
This shows the joy of following the commands of Jesus in baptism, not as a salvation sacrament, but as a step of public faith in the death and resurrection of Christ that we now share (Romans 6:3-6). That is the joy to participate in the baptism of Christ, and it shows when you look at these faces from our celebration below. I love the expressions on their faces, the joy of Christ radiates through their experience. Each time I watch people raised up into a new life in Christ I recall my own baptism with Deborah in Birmingham, it was one of those events in my life I will not forget, and I’m guessing these folks won’t either.
The full set of images from the day will be posted on our Flickr page soon and I am going to upload several more to my Facebook gallery soon.
I just finished reading the Book of Leviticus this morning for the second time this year on my quest to finish two canonical readings for 2012. In honor of that reading, I have finally published my next list page (see my list of lists), called the 613 Mitzvot Laws or Commandments of the Old Testament, many of which are found in the book of Leviticus.
Leviticus is one of those books that Christians tend to want to ignore, while those in the opposite camp tear it apart Hebrew letter by Hebrew letter. About a year ago I actually debated with another Christian about the worth of even reading this book, and he was convinced there was nothing of importance or worthy in Leviticus for us to read today. This was no uninformed, unintelligent Christian, he has a PhD, is a leading scientist in his field, and has a heart for important social justice issues, but Leviticus was not for him (nor really any of the Pentateuch). At that time I did a lousy job at explaining why this book, and every one of the 66 books of the canon, are all still very important and relevant to read in the 21st century. Since that conversation I’ve never really been able to rectify my lack of knowledge in Leviticus and reasons why it is important to read.
This second go-round I started reading Leviticus back on August 14th and finished up today, August 21st, so reading the entire book does not take that long if you read a little bit each day. I will say, Leviticus is not a very difficult book to read, but it is a difficult book to understand, especially in light of our culture today. We are so far removed from the customs of the sacrificial systems and just overall life during the 13th-15th century B.C., it’s very hard for us to understand, within the proper context, how to apply Leviticus to our life today without reading, study, contemplation, and meditation on these 24 chapters.
So here are a few reasons why all Christians should still read this book today. I’m going to skip the obvious reason of because it is part of the canonical Bible, and go on to others, but this is first and foremost. We should read it, because it is part of the writings given to us by God himself through Moses.
Reasons We Should Still Read Leviticus Today
1. It’s the Enemy’s Favorite Book to Tear Apart (Think Shellfish, Polyester, Tattoos, and Homosexuality)
They, the enemies of Truth, call it a book full of contradictions and hypocritical living. This is generally because they don’t understand the book in context any more than we do, but they can read the obvious to make stupid arguments like Christians still eat pork and wear polyester, therefore homosexuality is not a sin (see Homosexuality, Polyester, and Shellfish for reasoning behind this tired debate).
Apologetically speaking, we should know what this book says, because it is used as an excuse for everything under the sun in the 21st century. The book has a great narrative that is often overlooked by the fact that it is a list of laws. These “laws” range from capital punishment for adultery, to not cutting your hair, to laws on homosexuality, to not getting a tattoo because it follows the evil Canaanite tribal practices. Why is it acceptable for Christians to get a tattoo, or eat pork, but not put adulterers to death? Understanding this book in proper context shows exactly why some laws are historically customary for their culture and time, and why some are moral obligations that transcend time.
2. The Theological Holiness Code Developed in Leviticus is Still Used Today
In 1 Peter 1.15-16 the Apostle Peter says, “but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” That is a direct quote from Leviticus 11.44, which is then repeated several times such as in Leviticus 19.2. In seminary circles this is called the “Levitical Holiness Code” from chapters 17-27. It mainly deals with the idea of sanctification, the idea of holiness affecting how one lives in the covenant community.
For Christians today living in the 21st Century, the New Testament applies to Christians using the same principles of life stated in 11:44, and many of the “holiness codes” still show us what is displeasing to God (cf., 19:11-18, 35-36). On the other hand, as noted above, there are also symbolic aspects of the holiness code we no longer follow such as prohibiting garments of two different kinds etc.
3. To Understand How the Work of Christ Saves the Soul
Studying Leviticus today gives us an extremely important understanding of the sacrifice that Jesus made as the Christ when he died on the cross. The animal sacrificial system may be totally foreign to us now, but this enables the 21st century reader to understand why Christ’s sacrifice is one of salvation.
4. The Festal Calendar of Israel in Leviticus Shaped the Christian Calendar We Still Use
The three main festivals, or sometimes called the national pilgrim feasts of Israel, are the Feast of Unleavened Bread, the Feast of Harvest, and the Feast of Booths. Most of our modern day church denominations from Baptist to Catholic still follow these festivals. These celebrations today find their climax in the corresponding days known as Good Friday, Easter, and Pentecost.
5. Because Without Leviticus the Other 65 Books Don’t Make Any Sense
Every book is intertwined with every other book. This is a huge reason to me. If you are reading Kings or Nehemiah, or one of those other “important” books, you are reading part 11 or part 16, but you never read part 3. Knowing and understanding Leviticus is crucial to understanding any of the other books, just the same as reading and studying Kings is important to reading Matthew.
What sense does Christ being crucified on the cross make without knowing how the sacrificial system works? I understand you can watch the Lord of the Rings or the Star Wars movies out of order and you can still understand them individually, but don’t they make a whole lot more sense as a whole?
So there you have it. Five reasons why Leviticus is important for us to read today. I know these points aren’t developed very extensively, but it that wasn’t really the point.
 Crossway Bibles, The ESV Study Bible (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2008).
Any of you who know me well know I don’t post too often about kids stuff, but today was a banner day for the future of our kids at Cornerstone Church. I have been to a lot of churches over the last 40 years, and I have visited churches who have very little evidence of kids in the building. While I’m not a “kids person” per se, this is a sure sign of a church with a hard future ahead of it, and the Church body itself needs it’s kids.
Over the last 3-4 weeks our kids staff, shown above, along with a host of other people, implemented a plan they had worked on tirelessly over the summer months. Meeting after meeting to go over every painstaking detail transformed the hallways, classrooms, and worship space for every little soul from new borns to our youth, and for kids who haven’t even been born yet. Think about the transformation in terms of a franchise. We love franchises all over the country because they are consistent, stable, and we know what we are going to get when we go into the building. We want our kids at every site to have the same worship experience no matter where they are, to have a consistent, stable, feeding on the word of God, while being surrounded by a community of believers.
In a very fragile time in history for the Church in our culture, this makes me excited for the future of the Church body. Investing in our kids is investing in the future of God’s Church. I’m thankful for these five ladies, and all the other people who worked so hard to make today happen, especially for the kids who have never walked into one of our children’s areas at Cornerstone Church. The future of Cornerstone Church, and the Church body as a whole, is in the hands of these woman above, but it’s also in the hands of every single individual who follows the teachings of Jesus. When you give to a child, you have given it to Christ himself.
This is the last Chick-Fil-A pro marriage homosexual theological chicken eating post, promise… I think… maybe. This above photo was the scene at our local Chick-Fil-A Store #1445 today around 2:45-3:00pm(!), and what an awesome scene it was. There were lines of cars wrapped around the building, out into The Home Depot parking lot, and out into the streets. There was even a line at McDonald’s across the street to get over to the Chick-Fil-A parking lot, now that’s funny. From last word, the Chick-Fil-A in Prattville had to close after they sold out of chicken, and it’s possible ours will too. I love my Chick-Fil-A, and that’s how it feels to me, it’s not “the” Chick-Fil-A, it’s my store. I know people who work at this store, they have the best customer service hands down of any fast food restaurant in town ten-fold, and they have great food.
I have had many conversations with people about this “event” today, for lack of a better word, and it’s all across the board. Some Christians were saying don’t eat chicken today because of this and that, some were saying if you don’t eat chicken today you’re not a “Christian” and so on. From the reasonable to the absurd.
My question here, is, now what.
To be a Christian means to follow Christ, to become Christ-like. We the church body obviously have a huge reserve of people, many of which I think have been sitting on the sidelines, until eat chicken day came along. When we read the book of James we see the example Jesus’ brother gave us, to be people of action, and not just on Chick-Fil-A Appreciate Day, but 365 days out of the year, or 366 days this year. So where are we chicken eating people the other 364 days of the year? I mean here in Auburn, we Chick-Fil-A loving chicken eating people are pretty much the overwhelming majority, so it wasn’t too much of a stretch to eat there again today. Don’t get me wrong, today was definitely about eating chicken, and that was what we good chicken loving Bible Believers should have done today. But what about tomorrow? How do we show the love of Christ, and support uncompromising values and truths of Scripture the rest of the week?
You probably tracking with me so far, but here’s the kickers. Ever since today was dubbed Chick-Fil-A Appreciate Day, we social people (that’s all of us) have been throwing around opinions faster than the news can actually absorb them. Today was a great example of the reason churches should embrace social media, learn it’s power, and use it to point people back to Jesus as the Messiah. While the outpouring of support for Chick-Fil-A seems phenomenal all around the country, it does give the church body a great opportunity to reach out to gay people, to show them the love of Christ.
Scripture has example after example of Jesus eating with “sinners” like tax collector and prostitutes, perhaps we should be sitting down with gay people in our cities and talking to them about Christ as well?
Many tax collectors and sinners came and were reclining with Jesus and his disciples, and when the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, “why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?”
…and Jesus responds by saying these are the people I came here to save (Matthew 9:10-13).
It’s a fine line we walk today. If we are going to make a point to go talk to homosexuals about Christ why not our next door neighbor? The homosexual groups see some Christians as hate mongers, hypocritical people who don’t follow what Christ teaches, and we see them as a people living in perpetual sin. There are absolute truths in Scripture that should not and can not be compromised. But there are ways to follow in Jesus’ footsteps without compromising what we believe. Perhaps this is done by sitting down and having a meal with someone you disagree with on such a fundamental level that the only way to agree is to allow the Holy Spirit to do His work?
I don’t know what today means for tomorrow. Come Friday when the homosexual “kiss-in” is supposed to happen, we may see the reverse of today. When that happens the only thing we may have accomplished will be to really irritate PETA for devouring so much chicken in one week, which is ok by me. If we come out today to buy chicken for ourselves, why aren’t we Christians going to come out Friday to buy lunch for some kissing couple?
There must be something learned by all this. There are theological truths to be learned here. There are opportunities to teach being handed to pastors on a silver platter. And there are opportunities to talk to people who do not know the love of Christ, and the salvation that comes with trusting in the Messiah. Would Jesus have eaten a chicken sandwich today, or would he sit down and eat with homosexuals on Friday, or both? Scripture seems to indicate both, but it matters because this is not life or death, this is eternal life and eternal death.
I didn’t just post a picture of a black square, this is actually my desktop. I love the clean, simple, and yet still very sophisticated… desktop, home screen, written code, verse, prose, lyric, file structure, office, room, company, house, life… etc (could be I like this so much because life in reality is actually very messy). This term, sophistication through simplicity, has come across my desk several times over the last few weeks, and it’s a phrase I have attempted to develop throughout every aspect of my life for years now. The main reason of course is that this really seems to be how Jesus lived out his earthly ministry. Scripture is so complex, packed full of highly technical arguments and situations, yet, the stories of Jesus’ life are simple enough for any child to understand. The verse on my various desktops in the graphic above about Jesus in John 1.14 is one of the most complex and sophisticated statements ever uttered, yet it’s so very simple.
There are so many ways I try to live this out, and one is being very aggressive at keeping my digital life organized, my desk clean, and to only allow those things which are most important to be most visible. That’s one reason why I really love using an Apple product over a Windows PC or an Android device (I have all the above and use all of them for different things, so I’m not totally Apple bias). Apple just makes it so easy to be digitally organized and in our modern day is a secular company that has spent 30 years perfecting sophistication through simplicity, something Steve Jobs took to its extreme. There are many different ways to achieve this, but a disorganized digital life (to me) is no different than a messy living room, or a house full of junk I don’t need.
I can’t think of a time in my life when I have ever been this busy, a time (or season if you will) when I am being pulled in so many different directions all at once. None of those directions are necessarily “bad” so to speak, but I find the busier I get, the more I have to simplify, organize, and focus on specifics. And that’s why I love the concept of sophistication through simplicity. It allows you to stay focused, remove distractions, and focus on what’s important.
Over the past several years of seminary work I have had the privilege of studying the church. There are a lot of different answers to that question (just look how many different churches there are in this country). Yesterday was our first open-air outdoor worship service at our Cornerstone Lee-Scott site. Not because we all wanted to sit in the sun and fry, but because they were refinishing the hard wood floors in the basketball gym where we worship, but it ended up being a fantastic service, and a great reminder to all of us what exactly we mean when we say we are “going to church.” Today our churches can be places that become so internalized with our own events and “church life” we don’t even realize we have stopped living out Matthew 28:16-20. So yesterday, as we sat out in the heat, we got a good reminder that church is not a building, or a gym, or a place to “go,” but a people we serve with.
I think those in my generation and older are still quite set that we “go to church” at a church building, and that was just never the case with the New Testament Church. Our site pastor, Josh Agerton, gave a very appropriate message on this very topic, to discuss what misconceptions we bring to the word “ekklesia.” This word, ekklesia, meaning local church, was established by Christ Himself (Matt. 16:18), and then we see it in action for the first time in Acts 1:12 when Matthias was chosen to replace Judas.
I love that our particular church is willing to do things like worship in a gym, or outside on a hot day, to better reach our community for Christ. Our culture today tends to the Bible with tradition, and personal preference, to create these glorious buildings we can go hide in from cradle to grave in some cases. Clearly, God’s plan is that born again Christians be a part of a local church. Nowhere in the New Testament, after the institution of the local church was established, do you find believers serving God outside the authority or rule of the local church.
So what are a few things the bible says about the church? This top ten list below is no where near a complete and total list, nor is it compiled into any specific symmetry, but it does show what the Bible says about the Church. Notice there are a TON of things the Bible doesn’t say the church should that we have made it out to be (but that is a whole different post).
10 Things the Bible Says About the Church
The Bible is the Sole Authority
There is no only authority for the New Testament church other than that of Scripture for the faith and practice of a True New Testament Church. (2 Timothy 3:16-17; 2 Peter 1:20-21; John 5:39 and many others).
Believers are Instructed Not to Forsake Meeting Together
If a believer is not part of a local church, whatever form that takes today, is in disobedience to God’s word. Scripture clearly teaches we are to meet or “assemble” with each other periodically. When the church meets, we should be there to support it (Hebrews 10:24-25).
Believers are to be Under the Leadership of the Pastor and Church
This is so difficult for us today, especially in the U.S.A. where we are told we are our own authority in everything we do. We are supposed submit to the authority of the church, and be lead by it’s leadership (Acts 20:28; 13:2).
The New Testament Church is Only Made Up of Saved Individuals
This is clearly indicated in Scripture as well. The church body is not made up of secular people as with any other civil club, members are believers, that’s it (Acts 2:41, 47).
The New Testament Church Has Only Two Ordinances
The Lord’s Supper and Baptism, which are not sacraments, are the only two ordinances called for in Scripture (Acts 2:41-42). We have a lot of other traditions and things that take place in the church, but these are the only two ordinances Scriptures calls for.
All Believers are Placed in the Local Church upon their Baptism (Acts 1:15; 2:47)
Believers are to Learn Doctrine in the Local Church
For those of us who love to learn Scripture, here we go, but our culture today is moving more and more towards an anti-intellectualism, which is no more Biblical than forsaking the widows and orphans. This also means the local church is supposed to TEACH doctrine as well (Eph. 4:11-16; 1 Corinthians 12; 2 Timothy 4:1-4; Matthew 16:18; Ephesians 5:25; Acts 20:28).
A Believer’s Responsibility to Missions as part of a Local Church
A believer ought to be a part of supporting missions through their local church. The clear New Testament example is that it was the local church which sent forth missionaries. No church has the authority to delegate this responsibility to anyone else which would include mission boards, conventions, or any agency outside the local congregation (Acts 15:3, 20:38, 21:5, Rom. 15:24, 1 Cor. 16:6,11, 2 Cor. 1:16, Titus 3:13, 3 John 6).
If One Member Suffers All Suffer With Them
The local church is the support center of people to surround the believer in good times and in bad (1 Corinthians 12:26).
Believers are Given the Responsibility and Privilege of Supporting the Local Church Financially
There are probably more ways to get out of this than there are ways to count, but Scripture clearly says we are to financially support our local church, and it says this clearly and unequivocally that we are to give money to our local church, even Abraham did this. (1 Cor. 16:1-2, 2 Cor. 8-9)
On a practical level, what is the church? These shots below are just a very few examples of where our church assembled for fellowship yesterday. But this location at Lee-Scott Academy is not where the church is, the church is dispersed all throughout our city and county, this is just where we met yesterday.
Normall for my Friday Feet posts, which I know has been a while, I like to take a shot of what I was doing out and about during the day. After being outside for about 30 minutes in this heat I realized I wasn’t going back out again. Something that has been on my mind is this notion of being intentional about spending time in God’s word.
I use to get sick of hearing pastors tell me I should be reading the Bible, that is until I actually started reading it for all it’s worth, then I totally understood what in the world they were talking about. The Christian life, our daily walk, must have some component of daily strengthening in our relationship with Christ.
If praying is God’s way for us to talk to him, God’s word is His way of talking to us. How would our relationship with our spouse or children be if we listened to them as often as we listened to God through reading his Word?
Yesterday it hit me when I read this tweet by D.L. Moody (and The Resurgence). Then after that, still yesterday, I received a video from a friend of mine who basically said everything I was already thinking, so I stole his title and wrote my thoughts down as I tend to do.
“Out of 100 men, one will read the Bible, the other 99 will read the Christian.” – DL Moody
While the conclusion Moody was probably making in the tweet may be true, the reality of 1% of men reading the Bible is… alarming, tragic, pathetic, pitiful, ridiculous, or whatever other adjectives you want to use here for us men.
It just made me wonder how can we truly lead our families without being grounded in God’s instruction? This isn’t a condemnation of everyone else, I have struggled with this for years. Every day I pray I have an overwhelming desire to spend time in God’s word.
There is no better time than today, right now, and it has never been easier in the history of the world to read God’s word. We have more access to the Bible and read it less than probably any generation before us. If you are busy, like most of us are, YouVersion’s selection of reading plans is outstanding. As far as online, web, mobile, and Internet resources that give you countless ways to read the bible, YouVersion has no match.
This morning, right before I took the photo above, I finished the Psalms in 31 Days YouVersion plan, which I have read a few times this year. Since going to work for the church in 2008 I had never had a more difficult time trying to stay grounded in God’s word, until I went through a spiritual disciplines study in one of my seminary classes in 2009-2010. Since then, I have been very intentional about spending time in God’s word every day (with a break on a specific routine in Saturday).
This was not something that was a light switch event, it took time, it took effort, and it was far easier to let it slide a day or two here or there, but now it has become routine, and when I miss a day, I really long for that time back. It’s no longer a dreaded, oh now I have to read, it’s a desire that makes me look forward to this time every day. I truly believe this desire to read came from my prayer for God to give me that desire, so prayer to read is important as well.
I am personally a canonical reader, I have a specific personal reading plan to read through the entire Bible each year, and this year I finished that in June, so I decided to just start over. I do this using three different reading plans on YouVersion, one for the entire bible called the Canonical Plan, one for the NT called New Thru 30, and one for Psalms I listed above. I do not use the time frame on the plan, just the order to keep me on track, but there are hundreds of plans to chose from. Trust me, there is one that fits within your schedule. If you don’t want to use YouVersion, there are countless other resources available, just pick one, and create a habit around it.
Anyway, there you have it, I wholeheartedly agree with those pastors who say daily reading of God’s word is important, very important. After all, your wife probably expects you to listen to her today, right? And God is supposed to be ahead of everything. There is no more important time in the day than the time we spend in God’s word. It affects everything else we do throughout the day and into the evening, even if it’s just a short time amount of time at first, it adds up over time.
It may not seem like it at first, but being intentional and consistently spending time in God’s word will strengthen your relationship with Christ, but also with your family, your spouse, your coworkers, and those who still haven’t heard the Good News.
It may not look like it at first glance, but this is part of the hard work that goes into following Christ wholeheartedly, what we call, Leading People to Know and Serve Jesus. I have learned an amazing amount about how the church body functions since I went on staff in late 2008. One of the incredible things about being on staff is the behind the scenes look you get at the visioning and planning process the church body goes through, continually. To see God actively working, guiding his people through the process of being the church, is a great privilege. Today was one of those rare monthly staff meetings where almost everyone on staff was in the room. There are almost as many people behind me in the photo above as there are in front of me, and still we had a few people who couldn’t be there today.
One thing that never stops amazing me is how hard everyone works, not just at my church, but at most all the churches I have come into contact with over the years. There are so many people who make the church body what it is. Countless volunteers who have sacrificed time, and money, to be the hands and feet of Christ. Of the many topics discussed today, one was how to tell the stories of these volunteers and other people who’s lives have been changed by Christ’s work through his church, like some of our seniors going to Uganda last week instead of going somewhere like Panama City Beach for a party.
I’m not really sure why this particular post came to be tonight, this just happened to be what was on my mind as I recalled events from my day. I do know this type of planning and these type of stories, go on endlessly, because God is at work in His people endlessly. If you haven’t been in church for a while, there is no better time than now. Sunday is less than 7 days away, and you aren’t reading this by accident any more than I wrote this by accident. Don’t just keep looking around for that perfect church, there isn’t one. Christ, who built the church out of imperfect people, can change your life forever, and he can use us imperfect people of the church to do it.