Sunday, January 20, 2013

The Unchained Gospel

As of this morning, the teaching pastor and founder of our local church, Revive Church, has announced that he will be moving on to a new church in a new city. This is no small event for our congregation corporately, as 5+ years ago, he faithfully planted the church in his living room. His excellent, biblical teaching has been the glue that has held our body together and led us through times high and low. This is no small event for me as an individual, as his teaching has been a constant stream of grace since my sophomore year of high school. That's right, he's been there for high school graduations, my eventual wife's conversion & baptism, college graduations, a wedding ceremony, dozens of rounds of (mediocre) golf and a few ski trips. Safe to say, this is a huge deal.

There will be an appropriate time for me to "Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith" (Hebrews 13:7). But today, I write a rallying cry for a crying church.

Second Timothy 2:8-10 says this: "Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, the offspring of David, as preached in my gospel, for which I am suffering, bound with chains as a criminal. But the word of God is not bound! Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory."

Briefly, Paul writes from prion ("chains") to a young pastor, Timothy. He assures him with utmost confidence that even though he in his leadership is chained physically, the word of God is not chained. There are circumstances that limit Paul physically, emotionally, and geographically. But he proclaims confidence to Timothy: no matter my physical circumstances, Timothy, God's Word is unchained, unbound, and unstoppable.

I wish I wrote with the same confidence of Paul this morning. I'll try to get there. And I'm not so much writing for my church body as I am for myself. "Ryan, you (and possibly your church) may feel very bound at this moment. You may feel chained emotionally and spiritually. You may feel that the future is chained. But rest assured that God's Word- the same message that your pastor taught you to love- is unchained. Your ministry and growth as an individual and as a church is tied to this word. No imprisonment, no ailment, no pastoral transition can chain this.

If you're reading this, I don't know what your situation is. If you're connected to my burdened church, rally around the banner that God's Word and the ministry thereof moves forward unchained, even as we limp and mourn! And help me to do the same.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Good Daily Reads

Generally, Christians commit or recommit themselves to a Bible reading program in the New Year. This year, I've been referred to a few excellent daily devotional readings, and wanted to pass them along, as I'd highly recommend them.

Solid Joys- This is a daily devotional app from John Piper & Desiring God Ministries. It's a great since, since it takes Piper's rather long discourses and breaks them up into short, daily tidbits. Each entry was not necessarily written as a devotional, but may have been a section taken from one of his books. The best part is that comes in an incredibly simple and convenient app (both for iPhone and Android).

Morning and Evening- I've wanted to read Charles Spurgeon's famous daily devotional for awhile, and the turn of the calendar was a great time to start. I've read few authors with such a way with words as "Chucky Spurg" and each entry- one for the morning, one for the evening- is packed with tidbits and truths that will lift your thoughts towards things above. I am reading this through a decently formatted $0.99 Kindle book.

Everyday Prayers- This work is a collection of prayers written by Scotty Smith, founding pastor of Christ Community Church in Tennessee. He simply journaled prayers for a year, not planning on writing a book. Therefore, his prayers come across as very authentic. They are practical, theological, humble, and relevant. Each prayer takes 1-2 minutes to read. Also nabbed this one via the Kindle store.

In the 2 weeks of 2013, these works have ministered to me. I hope they minister to you as well.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

#YOLO...So now what?

If you're of young blood, you likely have seen the hashtag #YOLO. It's a simple acronym for "You Only Live Once", allegedly popularized by the rapper Drake (who apparently should not be confused with a male duck). Generally, this hashtag/phrase is applied as a reason that someone is doing something crazy, stupid, awesome, or meaningful. For example, someone may say/tweet/post "Spent all my Christmas money on McRibs. #YOLO." Got it? Let's break down what this simple phrase may tell us about ourselves and our beliefs.

On one hand, I totally and completely agree with #YOLO. Why, you ask? Because, in and of itself, the statement is true and biblical! As a matter of fact, each individual only lives once. The Bible teaches that we live and die once- "It is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment." (Hebrews 9:27). "What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes..." (James 4:14). So it's good and healthy for us to realize that we only have one life, and we are not sure how long or short our lives will be.

On the other hand, I totally and completely disagree with how our culture applies #YOLO to daily life. In #YOLO, the truth that we only have one life to live is used as a constant reason to live however we want to live in the moment. Wanna be crazy? YOLO! Wanna be immoral? YOLO! Wanna be daring? YOLO! Our culture preaches "You only live once! Therefore, be your own king and do whatever feels great or whatever feels meaningful to you at any given moment."

You only live once, and that is demonstrably true. This simple truth, however, cannot tell you how to live, whom to follow, or what is truly meaningful. The fact that we only live once should not lead us toward irresponsible or irrational living. No, it should drive us to serious reflection on what truly matters, on the purpose of life, and on the God that created us, the God that loves us, and the God that will ask us to give an account for how we lived our one life.

Solomon contemplated and wrote much on the idea of #YOLO 3000 years before Drake, in the book of Ecclesiastes. And his conclusion?

"The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil." (Ecclesiastes 12:13-14)