The True Test of Faith

Not everything (not even most of the things) I read in preparation for the sermon make it to the pulpit. Here’s a great comment on Matthew 25:31-46 that didn’t make it into the sermon:

Feeding the hungry, welcoming strangers, and visiting the sick are mundane acts. In this sense ‘virtue is not far from us, nor is it without ourselves, but it is within us, and is easy if only we are willing’ (Anthony the Great). The Son of Man does not demand supernatural feats but simple, unobtrusive charity. The former but not the latter can easily be counterfeited (24:24). Charity [Christian love] is accordingly the true test of faith. [1]

[1] Rene Kieffer, “Matthew,” in The Oxford Bible Commentary, ed. John Barton and John Muddiman (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001), 879.

Be Not Afraid

The board of trustees met this evening and one of the topics discussed was the security of the church in light of recent events both in town and in the country as a whole. If you are concerned, please know that the issue is being discussed and will be addressed. Please also heed the words of the angels, a message God is so urgently trying to convey to us: “Be not afraid.” God loves us, God’s providence provides and cares for us every day of our lives, and no matter what happens, God is with us and for us. Do not let fear undermine your ability to live as a faithful disciple of Jesus Christ.

Because God Loves Us

The Christian thinks any good he does comes from the Christ-life inside him. He does not think God will love us because we are good, but that God will make us good because He loves us. — C. S. Lewis [1]

[1] C. S. Lewis, “The Practical Conclusion,” in Mere Christianity (1952).


I’m So Happy to Have Been Wrong

Yesterday, eleven members of the Ring Praise Youth Bell Choir treated both worship services to their rendition of Come, Christians, Join to Sing. It was spectacular. And it reminded me of how horribly wrong I had been when Lisa Divel approached Jenny and me about starting a youth bell choir. I liked the idea of a youth bell choir and I encouraged Lisa in her efforts, but I didn’t think it would work. In fact, I was sure it was going to fail and I just didn’t have the heart to break it to her. My reasoning was that because kids today are busy with countless extra-curricular activities, Lisa wasn’t going to find anyone interested in taking the time to be in a bell choir. Well, I forgot about the Holy Spirit and I underestimated Lisa and the youth of this church. Clearly, it can be done and it can be done well. The eleven members are soon to be twelve. I’ve rarely been so happy to have been wrong.

Fires, Tornados, and Attempted Mass Shootings

I’ve had two people ask me if the church has a contingency plan for an attempted mass shooting. We do not. I do not think there is any real chance that a mass shooting will happen at our particular church. And I’ll admit I’m skeptical as to what can be done given the power of automatic weapons and the fact that we all gather together in one place for worship on Sunday morning. Nonetheless, here are my recommendations for dealing with fires, tornadoes, and attempted mass shootings while at the church.

Fire: Exit the building and call 911.

Tornado: Go to Wright Fellowship Hall, the Wright Fellowship Hall Kitchen (even better the “dungeon” off of the kitchen), or the old nursery room (Room B-9). Use the phone or Wi-Fi in the basement to let someone outside the area know that you are safe and where you have taken cover.

Attempted Mass Shooting: run, hide, take cover, create a distraction, or swarm depending on the circumstances. When you can do so safely, call 911. I would suggest you take a look at the guide provided by The Washington Post in consultation with several security specialists.

In all these circumstances I would suggest you pray (although I’m pretty sure this will come automatically). I would encourage you to take heart in the fact that Jesus Christ went through death and out the other side into eternal life that we might do likewise. This sure and certain hope is an excellent reason to join the gathered congregation on Sunday morning.

A now for the political part you may want to skip: I have avoided talking about gun-control because it is a highly-charged political issue and given the diverse nature of our congregation I try to avoid engaging in too many of those. Nonetheless, I cannot bring myself to write a post about how to respond to an attempted mass shooting without encouraging you to contact your elected representatives and urge them to pass common sense gun control legislation.  (An example would be the universal background checks supported by roughly 90% of Americans.)


Don’t Drag Mary and Joseph Into This

Update: Fixed the Links

Ed Stetzer who holds the “Billy Graham Distinguished Chair of Church, Mission, and Evangelism” at Wheaton College has written a response to those defending Roy Moore by citing scripture. I’m sharing this particular article (as opposed to others) because Stetzer’s evangelical credentials are beyond reproach, he is fully aware that nothing has yet been proven, and the points he makes are irrefutable. We must not let scripture be used to justify child abuse.


We Can Be Taught to Love

No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite. — Nelson Mandela [1]

Mandela specifically names the color of skin, background, and religion, but the words above apply to all the divisions that face us. God made us for love and not for hate.

[1] Nelson Mandela, Long Walk to Freedom: The Autobiography of Nelson Mandela (Boston: Back Bay Books, 1995), 622.

Next Sunday’s Sermon

Hopefully, I won’t come to regret sharing this, but I’m really looking forward to this Sunday’s sermon. I plan to preach on Jeremiah 32:1-15. I believe this is one of the greatest passages on divine and human faithfulness found in the Old Testament, but it takes a little unpacking before one can understand the full scope of what is going on.