“Then those who feared the LORD spoke to one another, and the LORD listened and heard them; so a book of remembrance was written before Him for those who fear the LORD and who meditate on His name.” (Malachi 3:16)
We continue to look at the nature of God in His Word because this is part of what it means to “meditate on His name”. Remember that the name of God, Yahweh, reveals and expresses His character, the essence of His being, which is: “compassionate and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin…” (Exodus 34:6-7). We have already given some thought to the LORD’s compassionate and gracious nature, and have touched lightly upon His mercy and longsuffering. Now let’s consider His overflowing “goodness”.
First of all, it’s important to understand that God does good because He IS good. We tend to reverse this, especially when it comes to ourselves, and think that doing good is what makes one good, and, thus, acceptable to God. NO! Goodness is an inherent quality which is natural only to God. Jesus said: “… ‘No one is good except God alone.’ ” (Mark 10:18; Luke 18:19) Thus, the idea that man is basically good is also false! “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked” (Jeremiah 17:9). “For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells” (Romans 7:18). But Jehovah is intrinsically and infinitely good. “For the LORD is good; His mercy is everlasting, and His truth endures to all generations.” (Psalm 100:5) He always has been good, and He always will be (Malachi 3:6). “The goodness of God endures continually.” (Psalm 52:1b)
But just what is it about the LORD that is good? His goodness is certainly evident in His creation. God could have made the world without beautiful colors, melodious sounds, lovely fragrances, delicious flavors, etc., but He chose to “(give) us richly all things to enjoy” (1 Timothy 6:17), and declared His creation, “very good.” (Genesis 1:31) Old Testament prophets testified that God’s providential “hand” of protection and provision is good, as is His “Spirit” of instruction (Ezra 7:9; Nehemiah 2:8, 9:20). “Good and upright is the LORD; therefore He teaches sinners in the way.” (Psalm 25:8) Solomon prayed that when the people sinned and repented, God would hear and forgive them, so that He “may teach them the good way in which they should walk” (1 Kings 8:35-36); the “good way” being God’s way of righteousness and holiness. Since God’s plan is for us to reflect His good image and character (Romans 8:29), that is what He is teaching us, and what Jesus modeled for us (Acts 10:38). “He has shown you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?” (Micah 6:8) Furthermore, because of His infinite goodness, the LORD is selective in what He remembers and what He does not. “Remember Your mercy, O LORD, and your steadfast love, for they have been from of old. Remember not the sins of my youth or my transgressions; according to your steadfast love remember me, for the sake of Your goodness, O LORD!” (Psalm 25:6,7)
By Collin Zweigle
This summer I had the privilege of going to Belize on a mission trip with Guitars for Glory. The plan was to show up, run a worship camp and teach a whole bunch of kids how to play guitar. At the end of the trip we were going to give all of the instruments we brought with us away to those whom we felt led to give them to.
The first night, the church we worked with was having their Saturday night service and we were waiting for our bus to take us back to the school where we were staying each night. We were standing outside listening to the music. As they played our entire team felt drawn into the church building. It was like the Spirit of God was saying, "Come in. Come in!" They began to play Agnus Dei and that did it! Our whole team walked right into the back of the church, hands went up, tears flowed and God ministered to us as we sang. God was there washing over us through His people in Belize. It was so refreshing. As a music-focused ministry, we are normally the ones playing for worship. We aren’t normally on the receiving end, so being there, experiencing that before we had even plugged a guitar in was exactly what we needed. We felt the passion these people worshipped with and we saw that Belize was exactly where we were meant to be that week.
The rest of the week was incredible. We spent our afternoons training worship leaders. We taught guitar lessons as well as cajón, keyboard, and vocals. These times quickly became our favorite part of the trip. I remember thinking, "I could do this every day for the rest of my life." That thought was echoed by many of our team members. Ever since we started Guitars for Glory it's been our vision to travel and train worship leaders around the world. Our tagline is, “Equipping the world for worship.” For the most part we’ve been doing that by sending guitars to the four corners of the globe, but there is so much more work to be done. The time we spent in Belize showed us the future of what God has for us. We are just seeing the beginning of this, the tip of the iceberg.
By Lynn Metier
“Therefore know that the LORD your God, He is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and mercy for a thousand generations with those who love Him and keep His commandments; and He repays those who hate Him to their face, to destroy them.” (Deuteronomy 7:9-10)
The Hebrew word for “faithful” in this passage is a root word that can also mean, “to build up or support; to foster as a parent or nurse…to be permanent…to be true or certain”. Thus, this adjective describes our God as being “of long continuance, stedfast, sure,” trustworthy, a nurturing Father (“The New Strong’s Concordance”, #539). In a world of continual flux and uncertainty, increasing turmoil and tragedy, Christians need to be anchored in the reality of our faithful God.
Being under the control of the devil (1 John 5:19), the systems of this world are anything but supportive, nurturing, long lasting, or worthy of trust! Even dedicated Christians can prove unfaithful. Why? Because, in spite of our best intentions and sincerest commitments, we really have little control over our own lives and circumstances; and despite our deepest passions and firmest resolve, we often fall short due to lack of knowledge or resources. Not so with God! Faithfulness is part of His very nature because He cannot fail (Job 42:2)! Yahweh has all wisdom and knowledge, all power and endless resources since He is the Creator of everything, and He is sovereign over all things (Psalm 104:1-30). This makes His promises sure and true because He does not change (Malachi 3:6), and He is completely capable of following through on His word. Thus, we can trust Him to always be who He says He is and to always do what He promises to do. Since God is love, and there is absolutely nothing that can separate His children from His love (Romans 8:38-39), we can be certain that ALL things really do “work together for good to those who love God” (Romans 8:28). (But remember, God is the one who defines “good”, based upon His infinite knowledge and eternal perspective, not according to our limited understanding and fleshly comforts.) And God is just as committed to punishing the wicked and rebellious as He is to saving and rewarding the righteous who trust in Him (Romans 2:5-8).
The Bible gives us several scenarios in the application of our God’s faithfulness, not the least of which deals with our relationship with Him in 1 Corinthians 1:9: “God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.” God the Father is unwavering and wholly committed to friendship with believers because of and through Jesus (Romans 5:10, Hebrews 2:10,11).
By Pastor Ray Viola
The fall season and a new school year are upon us. No matter how parents choose to educate their children, there are things that are necessary to be done to get ready. For one thing, school materials, books or electronic data needed for subjects being taken by their children need to be purchased, not to mention clothing and footwear to accommodate their summer “growth spurt”. Then, there is the inevitable need to adjust from our summer mentality to school year mentality. Life is not one long summer of sleeping in, ease and playing. When it comes to preparing for a new school year, if you fail to plan, then you plan to fail. Such is true in the Christian life.
No matter how you choose to educate your children, you cannot forever shelter them from the reality of this fallen world system: its worldview, its philosophy of life, its "coexisting" religious mentality. Until The Lord Jesus returns, the people of God need to be in a constant state of preparedness in order to offset the barrage of the world and the things of the world. How do we respond to the battle that rages against our Christian worldview not only in the world, but in our secular school system? I think we find a key in Moses’ last sermon to the nation of Israel recorded in Deuteronomy 30:15-20: “See, I have set before thee this day life and good, and death and evil; In that I command thee this day to love the Lord thy God, to walk in his ways, and to keep his commandments and his statutes and his judgments, that thou mayest live and multiply: and the Lord thy God shall bless thee in the land whither thou goest to possess it. But if thine heart turn away, so that thou wilt not hear, but shalt be drawn away, and worship other gods, and serve them; I denounce unto you this day, that ye shall surely perish, and that ye shall not prolong your days upon the land, whither thou passest over Jordan to go to possess it. I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live: That thou mayest love the Lord thy God, and that thou mayest obey his voice, and that thou mayest cleave unto him: for He is thy life, and the length of thy days: that thou mayest dwell in the land which the Lord sware unto thy fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give them.”
As told to Israel (Deuteronomy 6:5), the great commandment according to Jesus is that we are to love The Lord our God with all of our heart, soul, mind and strength (Mark 12:30). Through faith in Jesus Christ, we are called into this sweet, loving fellowship with The Father. But in our desire to grow in grace and in the knowledge of Him, the Bible tells us that there are going to be many obstacles, distractions and attractions that will vie for our affections and attention. Peter calls them fleshly lusts that war against our souls (1 Peter 2:11).
How can we stay on course and not become a Christian POW in the enemy’s camp?
May our precious Lord Jesus lead you, guide you, strengthen you and anoint you to be a bright light for Him in this dark and fallen world.
By Collin Zweigle
Summer started out with a bang for Accelerate! This May we went on our annual go-karting adventure. Spirits were high, summer tans were beginning, and good times were had by all. We ended the night with a bonfire and movie outside on a big screen at the Hiwales’ home. That day was one of our most memorable so far. It is an incredible blessing to get to spend time with the young people who call this congregation their church home.
Our go-karting event marked the beginning of summer for us as a group. Sure, many of the students were still in school but the weather had finally broken and outdoor activities (besides skiing, snowboarding, and sledding) were beginning to pick back up again. This season of spring is the transition from cold and snowy to warm and sunny. Here at Koinonia, our church home, we have been going through a transition as well. With the departure of our Worship Ministry Director things have begun to take on a different feel. It’s different when Ilya or I lead than when Pat used to lead. Things sound a little different. Song choices are a little different. We’re learning. This transition has put more of a demand on many of the members of our worship ministry, including the youth band, which has begun playing in the Sanctuary on the fourth Wednesday of each month.
Times of transition are some of the most important times in our lives. Each of us goes through them. Sometimes we handle them more gracefully than others. I am currently transitioning out of being in school and into summer. I have a little more time on my hands and can relax a little bit. Part of summer is having Megan home. When we’re separated because of school we learn to support and love each other in certain ways specific to that situation, like letters and phone calls. Now that she’s home it looks different. There are more date nights and jam sessions. This is another kind of transition. I like to call it a reentry period.
For you transitioning might be getting married or bringing home a new addition to your family. You might be starting a new job, or getting used to retirement. Whatever transition you are in, remember these words; “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” Galatians 6:9 NIV. Remember who your Leader is. He is your Guide. He will ultimately lead you home. “God is a refuge for us.” Psalm 62:8 ESV.
By Domenico Danesi
Study to shew yourself approved unto God, a workman that needs not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. 2 Timothy 2:15
It’s August and we are about to enter into the final turn of summer. Come September we will be attending school programs, getting children on the bus, and packing lunches 5 days a week. Whether you homeschool or send your child to a public or private school, it can be difficult to “get back into the swing of things”. Below is a list of ideas and suggestions to help ease the transition into another school year.
• Set a devotional time for the family. If this is new, try 5-10 minutes daily or every other day for starters. Include a prayer, scripture, and a song. Take prayer requests, ask your children questions about the topic of the day or week.
• Do not squeeze out the things of God. Sunday morning service needs to be a staple for every Christian home. Mid-week service should also be a priority if at all possible.
• Start getting your children to bed earlier. Try 1 to 2 weeks before the school year begins. This will get them into a rhythm before school starts.
• Start preparing your children mentally and emotionally for the new school year. Give them 3-week, 2-week, and 1-week notices prior to the first week of school. The younger the child, the more verbal transition help and notices are needed.
• Get school supplies and clothes at the beginning of August. Save yourself stress from scrambling around on August 30th trying to find everything on the school supply list and the right pair of jeans.
• Buy items in bulk. Go to Sam’s or BJ’s and buy a large quantity of snacks for lunches. Weekly trips require more time and more money. You can stock up for months at these places.
• Use calendars, chore charts, and schedules. Structure is needed in every home if it is to run smoothly.
• Do not over- commit and under- perform. Limit your child’s activities to 1-extracurricular activity per season. Do not go from a 6 or 7-hour school day to a 45-minute piano lesson then on to a 90-minute soccer practice.
Transitioning back into the school year is challenging but necessary. Seek the Lord as you make this transition and He will help you in your daily endeavors. Cast all your cares upon Him for He cares for you (I Peter 5:7). We serve an awesome God, and though our lives are always changing, He never does!
By Domenico Danesi
When picking up your child/children on a Sunday morning or Wednesday evening what is the first question you ask them? I often hear parents asking their children, “Did you have fun?” I honestly cannot tell you how the child responds. This question has really made me think about children’s ministry. Should our 90 minutes together once or twice a week just be about “fun”? Once again we must go the word of God for the answer.
The word “fun” is not in the scriptures but “learn” is mentioned 32 times. Jesus said, “Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.” (Matthew 11:29) Moses in the Old Testament called all the people together and said this: “Hear, O Israel, the statutes and judgments which I speak in your ears this day, that ye may learn them, and keep, and do them.” (Deuteronomy 5:1)
To learn of God, to keep his statutes, his commandments, his word, that was the focus in the Old Testament with Moses as well as the New Testament with Jesus. We must teach our children during service times. We must sow spiritual things into them if we expect to reap them. The Shema of Israel in Deuteronomy 6 says this: “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD: And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might. And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.” (verses 4-7) The function of children’s ministry is a clear one - TEACH GOD’S WORD.
Children do not need to learn to have fun because it is naturally instilled in them by our Creator. Give a child a paper clip, rubber band, fork, or any random object and before you know it they will be using it in some creative way. As Pastor Ray once said, “Children have PhDs in fun”; no need to teach a course entitled - Fun 101. There are times for our children to laugh, play, run, jump, but it must not be consistently throughout a service time. We must use our “small window of time” each week to “train up our children” (Proverbs 22:6). Children must be taught spiritual disciplines of praying, journaling, serving, fasting, and reading God’s word. We want to help parents nurture their children in the things of God as much as possible. Children’s ministry should be a support center for the family in training this generation in the ways of the Lord.
Yes, fun is part of children’s ministry, but it should not be the objective. Let us partner together to raise up a generation that seeks the face of God and touches a lost world for the Glory of God.
By Lynn Metier
“And it will be that when he cries to Me, I will hear, for I am gracious.” (Exodus 22:27c)
Since Satan’s goal is to keep people from God, he deliberately fosters misconceptions about Him, as he did when he deceived Eve into thinking that God was holding out on her (Genesis 3:1-6). Therefore, it is critically important for anyone and everyone who desires a right relationship with God to understand what He is really like. So let’s continue to look at His characteristics.
“But Noah found grace in the eyes of the LORD.” (Genesis 6:8) This is the first Biblical verse where the Hebrew word “chen” is found, which is translated as “grace” or “favor”. It comes from a root word that means “to bend or stoop in kindness to an inferior; (be) merciful, have (show) mercy (on, upon), have pity upon”. In other words, Yahweh looked at Noah favorably, not willing to give him the just retribution due for his flaws, faults, and failures. (“For the wages of sin is death” – Romans 6:23.) And when Noah looked to GOD, he saw in His eyes the willingness to bless instead of destroy; he believed in God’s mercy. And you know the story. Noah and his family were the only eight people saved from the worldwide flood judgment (Genesis 6-8).
Time and again David declared that God is “merciful and gracious, slow to anger” (Psalm 86:15, 103:8, 145:8). He had learned through his own experiences that God was not hot tempered and vengeful; He did not give him the deadly punishment he deserved for his sins, but He extended mercy. That isn’t to say that David didn’t have to suffer the consequences of his wrong choices and actions (2 Samuel 12:9-14); but God was willing to forgive his sins and bestow His favor upon him in spite of his failures. God was gracious. Notice that God, even knowing how badly David would ‘blow it’ in the future with regards to Bathsheba and her husband, still revealed His plan to bestow favor upon David (2 Samuel 7:8,9,12-22), with no strings attached. God’s blessings were not contingent upon David’s goodness or worthiness, so the fulfillment of those promises were not thwarted by David’s sins. (Their completion, however, will not be seen until Jesus sits upon David’s throne in Jerusalem during His Millennial reign – Luke 1:31-33; Revelation 20:6.)
By Pastor Ben Hiwale
Multitudes of people never fulfill the call of God on their lives simply because every time they try to go forward, the devil uses fear to stop them. Is he using fear to stop you? Satan uses fear to keep people from enjoying life. Fear brings torment, according to 1 John 4:18, and you surely can't enjoy life and be tormented at the same time.
I want to encourage you to take an inventory in the fear department. What are you afraid of? Are there any areas in your life that are being stifled because of fear? Satan is always going to bring fear against us at various times. It's one of his major weapons—not a cap gun, but a cannon. Some common fears are fear of lack, death, loneliness, people, authority, commitment, heights, germs, closed-in spaces, airplanes, dogs, cats, failure, rejection, being laughed at, and even fear of being attractive.
Fear is not a component of progression. When we become intimidated by things that are ahead, we put the seed of doubt in our minds. We start to question our decisions, actions, and plans—resulting in procrastination. The ordinary type of procrastination is the action of delaying or postponing something. When fear comes into that equation, the time becomes even more prolonged, resulting in years of delaying or postponing. Years of procrastination can result in depression, worthlessness, anger, regret, and blaming others for our own faults and shortcomings.
It takes a while to walk this Christian lifestyle because we are fearful. One is intimidated by the thought of letting God down by some of their own selfish actions that are not pleasing in his sight. Indeed we are to fear God alone, but this was the type of fear that made one feel as if they were unworthy to step foot on holy ground. They were hurting themselves more than helping. Their conscience convicted them to a point that almost lost their mind. Personally, I was struggling with where God wanted to take me versus where I thought I wanted to go. Anytime that you straddle the fence of living right for Christ and attempting to be validated by worldly conformities, it is always a battle that only you can fight. Fighting with fear leaves an open door for a loss.
There is a thought that you would be judged by other Christians because of the way you talked or the way you lived. It is possible to think that no one would want to hear what you had to say about anything in life when it comes to God because you truly felt unworthy. Your self-confidence and self-esteem were at their lowest in life. You could not offer anything else to God besides what you had in you. You most likely had absolutely nothing.
You were lost, confused, and needing answers, but then He took you in just the way you were. Ephesians 2:4-6 tells us: “But God is so rich in mercy, and he loved us so much, that even though we were dead because of our sins, he gave us life when he raised Christ from the dead. (It is only by God’s grace that you have been saved!) For he raised us from the dead along with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ Jesus.” As much motivation and encouragement as we receive during our Sunday worship at church, they do not mean a thing if we are ignorant to implementing them in our daily lives. Fear prevents some of the best things from hitting the surface of life. Isaiah 41:10 says: “Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand.” Numbers 23:19 tells us: “God is not a man, so he does not lie. He is not human, so he does not change his mind. Has he ever spoken and failed to act? Has he ever promised and not carried it through?”
by Collin Zweigle
Sometimes things are just plain dark. It gets hard to see. These storms roll in and we have flash floods. The rain pours. It comes down so hard. It runs in your eyes and you can’t see anymore. It pelts your face. Your clothes get soaked through. Vehicles zoom by splashing you. Soaking, dripping, cold; this is the life of the poor cyclist caught in one of our summer rain showers that come on way too quickly and often without warning. The other day, I rode to my friend’s house with him and was about to leave. I had checked my weather app and everything, but as I walked out the door it started down pouring. Not fun. Thankfully he had a bike rack on his car and drove me home. Thanks, Matt.
Over the past year I have become somewhat obsessed with the metaphors seen in different modes of transportation. In the city I see all kinds. People running, walking, skateboarding, taking the bus, driving, and cycling. Cycling is an ever-growing alternate means of transport. Rochester has bike lanes on most of its main roads because people ride their bikes everywhere. It’s a great, healthy, fun, environmental and budget friendly way to get around. When you ride a bike you can go anywhere you want. You can swerve around traffic and even hop up onto the sidewalk if you have to. You don’t get slowed down by construction and traffic jams, you simply go around them.
Now, in the day time riding a bike makes perfect sense. It’s quick. It’s fun. It’s good for your body. But what do you do at night time? What if you have to stay late at work and the sun is going down? Well, they’ve made these great things for situations like that called bike lights! I recently purchased some for my bike and they have already come in handy. Some riders buy a little white light for the front and a blinky red one for the back of their bikes, but not me. I bought a headlight. A bright LED that illuminates the road in front of me. The metaphor hit me last night as I was talking with the 7th-9th grade boys in small group. “A light to my path.” [Psalm 119:105b]. God’s ideas, God’s truth, the things God is saying to me, the way He wants me to look at things; these things are His Light to my path. His word, literally what He is saying, and has said, and what we know that He’s said and what He says to us through His people, through dreams and visions, through the Scriptures, through His still, small voice in our hearts; this is our Light. “The Lord is my Light and my Salvation.” [Psalm 27:1]. Literally without that headlight on my bike I wouldn’t see the pieces of glass on the road ahead of me. I wouldn’t notice the pothole left over from the furious winter we had this year. I need that light!
The personal application is simple. If we will allow God to light up the things in front of us, if we will allow Him to change the way we look at things, if we will take a minute and let Him light our path, we’ll see exactly where we need to go. He’ll show us clearly. This is very practical and I’m seeing it more and more as I follow Him, but when I wait a little while to respond to a text message from someone who seems upset or frustrated with me, normally they figure out that I didn’t do anything to hurt them. When I take a deep breath and look at the situation in front of me, that gives me time to respond to it and make a thoughtful decision on what to do rather than just reacting and doing the first thing that pops into my mind. I work with kids. I see a lot of that, but I see it a lot more in adults than most of us would like to admit.
Let’s remember these truths. “The Lord is my Light and my Salvation.” “Thy word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” Just like my bicycle headlight. He is our salvation. He will keep us from popping our tires or flying over our handlebars on the bike ride of life, but only if we are willing to take Him with us. So what kind of headlight are you using? The headlight of your own intuition, or of what other people are telling you you should do, or the headlight of God-breathed truth that is with you wherever you go? Literally, it’s on an app on your phone! He’s all around. Are you listening?
By Collin Zweigle
Rain, waves, water, row, row, row. This would have been the mind of Jesus’disciples as they rowed across the Sea of Galilee. They had just witnessed one of the most ridiculous miracles they had ever seen. Jesus had taken 5 loaves of bread and 2 fish and fed more than 5000 people by miraculously multiplying it, so much that they had gathered up 12 baskets filled with leftovers. Now they’re just trying to get back to Capernaum and they can’t even make it across the lake! It must have been so frustrating! These guys were fishermen! They knew how to sail! This was what they did every day of their lives! They weren’t afraid of the dark. The wee hours of the morning are some of the best for fishing. But seeing a figure walking on the water behind them. Following them. Well that’s just creepy!
On this stormy night the last thing they wanted to see was a ghost! John chapter 6 tells us that they were terrified! These big tough fishermen who knew how to handle the seas and had veins bulging out of their forearms from working the nets and sails for years on end were peeing their pants. Stormy. Creepy. Scary.
You can read the passage (John 6:16-24) yourself, but for the sake of this article I’ll paraphrase. Jesus tells them not to be afraid. He identifies himself and then they seem to think it would be a good idea to let him get into the boat. Then we have the first record of teleportation in the new testament. “Then they were willing to take him into the boat, and immediately the boat reached the shore where they were heading.”[John 6:21 NIV]. Now the Sea of Galilee is 8 miles wide. Verse 19 says that they hadn’t gone more than 3 or 3.5 miles! Then Jesus gets in the boat and automatically they’re all the way to Capernaum! This seems like an even more ridiculous miracle! How in the world!?
This passage speaks of how Jesus carries us through the storms in our life. Literally the disciples were teleported out of the storm and to the other side of the lake. But when did this happen? When, “they were willing to take him into the boat.”Are you willing to take Jesus into your boat today? Do you have room for Him? Throughout the history of the Church there are stories of people who let Jesus get in their respective boats and how He carried them through the storms they were going through. Some of them made it. Some were left with scars. Some died in these trials, but one way or another our Jesus brought them through each and every one of them, whether their Capernaum was a comfy bed at home or the pearly gates. He’s taking us all somewhere. Will you let him lead you? Will you let him climb into the boat with you?
By Pastor Ben Hiwale
I am certain you have heard in the context of your religious upbringing the word “sin”. You don’t hear this word outside of a religious context. People normally don’t say, “You just sinned against your mother.” This word carries with it heaviness. It’s like looking in the mirror and admitting that there is the problem, in ME. So what we have done in our culture is remove the word “sin” and substituted a word that is whole lot easier to bear, and that word is “mistake”. This substitution is terrible. It doesn’t even come close to the gravity the word sin holds. Sin is so condemning and makes you an outcast. How many times you have seen people go on TV and confess they have made a mistake, even though they have destroyed their family, wrecked people’s lives, left companies in financial turmoil? You are listening to this and saying, “No, this isn’t a ‘mistake!’ A mistake is what you make when you checked the wrong answer on a multiple choice test, but this is far bigger than that. A mistake is listening to your GPS and making the wrong turn.” We use the word mistake and dumb it all down.
Evangelical Christians of almost all sorts are a narrative-driven people. Those who emphasize the personal nature of knowing Christ often define following Christ in terms of our past, what we’re leaving behind. But even without a spoken testimony, one can often read what an evangelical is walking away from based on what he’s reacting, or over-reacting, to. For example, whenever I hear a Christian say that we shouldn’t emphasize the imperatives of Scripture (the commands of God), but rather the indicatives (who we are in Christ), I can surmise that this is someone who grew up in a legalistic or rigid environment. By contrast, when I hear an evangelical Christian wanting to build hedges of rules around the possibility of sin, I can usually guess that this person was converted out of a morally chaotic background. The Christian who was converted out of a dead, lifeless church often dismisses liturgy as “formalism” and contrasts “religion” with “relationship.” At the same time, one who was converted despite an emotionally exuberant but theologically empty church will often seek out the ancient roots and structure of a more liturgically ordered church.
What’s true at the personal level is also true in the church at large. We tend to go back and forth between extremes—always seeking to avoid the last bad thing. The religious liberals of the last generation were, in many ways, reacting from some sectors of the “Jesus People” era to the empty consumerism and racism and militarism of the post-World War II religious establishments. The old religious conservatives were in many ways a reaction to the awful consequences of a real or perceived pietistic withdrawal of some in the church as the country veered into Sexual Revolution and an abortion culture. As we move into a new era, the church in America will seek to correct the course from some aspects of the past. We should simply make sure that we correct in the right way. Some will see any reframing of Christian public witness as a “pullback from politics” or a withdrawal back into the enclaves. But this is not the case, for several reasons. First of all, it will be impossible. It is one thing for Christianity to correct errors of the past, but it is quite another to silence or constrict the liberty of future generations.
Total disengagement is itself a privilege of a cultural Christendom that is fast passing away. A church can avoid taking controversial stances on what it means to be human or what it means to be married only so long as the outside culture at least pretends to share the same basic ideals. A church can ignore the culture only until that culture reshapes the church in a way that obscures the gospel itself. And a church can ignore the state only as long as the state respects the territorial boundaries of Mr. Jefferson’s “wall of separation.” A state that sees some aspects of Christian witness as bigoted and dangerous will not long stay on the other side of that wall.
The primary reason I think evangelicalism will not go wobbly on public engagement is the gospel.
By Lynn Metier
One of the unchanging characteristics of the God of the Bible is His righteousness, His right-ness. God cannot speak deceitfully (Numbers 23:19), nor can He err. (‘Oops!’ is not in His vocabulary!) God simply cannot do wrong; He cannot create evil, for He is love (1 John 4:16b), and love “thinks no evil” (1 Corinthians 13:4-7). On the contrary, Jehovah is the Originator and Source of everything that is right and good. “And Jesus said to him, ‘Why do you call Me good? No one is good except God alone.’” (Luke 18:19) “Every good and perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning.” (James 1:17)
It is right that God is good. We’ve all experienced times when it seems like everything goes wrong and, in spite of our best efforts and intentions, things seem to turn out badly. Can you imagine how it would be if the world were deliberately designed to be that way? Although Satan is currently ruling in this world (1 John 5:19b), and many millions suffer under corrupt and oppressive governments which perform his evil will, nothing can prevent the Supreme Ruler of the universe from accomplishing the good He plans in the lives of His followers (Romans 8:28). It is also good that God is right. What would the universe be like if the Almighty Being who created it and was sovereign over it could be wrong? What if God could make a mistake, or fail to do what was just? How could we always trust Him? Thankfully, God must be and do right, because not to do so would violate His very nature. “Your righteousness is like the great mountains” Psalm 36:6.
God is the only one who can always know and do what is right because He is the only one who is always holy and pure, and, therefore, able to determine and establish right-ness. “But the LORD of hosts is exalted in justice, and the Holy God shows Himself holy in righteousness.” (Isaiah 5:16) A dictionary definition of the word “righteousness” includes the following concepts: “virtue, morality, justice, decency, uprightness, rectitude, honesty”. The God of the Scriptures is sovereign and He alone sets the standard for righteousness. “Righteousness and justice are the foundation of Your throne” (Psalm 89:14, 97:2). Indeed, God IS the Standard for what is right because He alone is perfect, and because God does not change (Malachi 3:6), His definition of what is right (and what isn’t) doesn’t change either, no matter what religious leaders may claim, or cultures may pretend to the contrary. Because God is always 100% right, whenever we disagree with what He says or oppose what He is doing, we are wrong. It’s that simple!