Month: April 2015
A few days ago I posted a blog where I asserted that one of the saddest lies of the modern culture is the phrase, “This is the way God made me and I cannot change.”
I made the claim in the blog that God loves us just the way we are. And because God loves us so much he will not leave us the way we are.
That is an absolutely true statement.
However, I think some clarification is necessary.
I am a Korean-American. This is the way God has made me. When I became a Christian, God didn’t change my Korean-American-ness. In fact, what God’s love will do is to help me become the best Korean-American follower of Christ I can be. And if God changed my Korean-American-ness to anything else, becoming or making me something other than Korean-American would be asserting that something was “wrong” with Korean-American-ness. In fact, it would be the same as saying that God had made a mistake in making me Korean-American and God’s love is now righting the wrong of my Korean-American-ness by making me something other than who I am.
That is both preposterous and highly offensive. And, thank God, just flat out wrong.
God will not make me white-American, black-American, or anything other than who God created me to be.
This is an absolutely true statement.
The problem we run into is when we make secondary identifications, primary.
It is true that I am Korean-American and that I cannot be anything other than Korean-American. However, my Korean-American-ness is not my primary identity. My Korean-American-ness does is not dictate what kind of Christian I am. My identity as a Christian shapes and informs what kind of Korean-American I am.
My identity as a child of God is primary. My identity as a Korean-American is secondary.
As a follower of Christ, my primary identity is as a child of God. If I allow any other identity (my Korean-ness, being an American citizen, being Presbyterian, a husband, a son, a brother, a heterosexual, a fan of the Seattle Seahawks, graduate of Pepperdine University, etc.) to become my primary identity, that identification becomes idolatrous and dangerous.
When American Christians make the “American” way of being Christian take priority over being Christians as Americans, such behavior and attitude is both ugly, dangerous, and un-Christian.
When secondary identifications become primary, it is a false and an inadequate understanding of who we are as Christ-followers.
The primary way in which we are to view ourselves and the world is through the lens of having become children of God and followers of Jesus Christ. This reality must be greater than any other reality and identification.
One of the problems with our society and our church culture is that we have allowed ourselves to come dangerously close to making our sexuality a primary identification of who we are as human beings. When one’s sexual orientation becomes the primary way in which we view our self-understanding, that skews our worldview.
The only way we are going to figure out how to be both gracious and truthful in finding a way forward in how we are to live with one another as sisters and brothers in Christ is as we see one another, first and foremost, as brothers and sisters in Christ.
If Jesus is your Lord and Savior, you are my sister, you are my brother.
Regardless of our sexual orientation or any other secondary identification, If Jesus is your Lord and Savior, in Christ we are family.
Now lets figure out a better way to be family together as God’s children than what the world has witnessed thus far.
When surviving becomes the goal of your church, you will fail to made the decisions that will lead to new life and growth. In order to keep who and what you have happy, you will make the very decisions that will prevent you from reaching new people.
What you are currently doing is perfectly suited to keep your current people happy.
But that’s not why the church exists.
The church never exists to keep its current people happy. The church exists to reach as many people with the love of Jesus Christ. The church exists for people who do not yet know they belong in God’s family.
In order to reach people who are not currently being reached, you’re going to have to start doing things that you are currently not doing.
The natural bent of an organization is inward. However, the natural bent of the Shepherd is for the lost sheep, it’s outward…one more lost sheep, one more lost guy, one more lost daughter.
Survival is not the goal.
Kingdom impact, making disciples, growing disciples, reaching as many people with the love of Jesus Christ…that doesn’t look like survival…that’s LIFE!
Ever hear anyone say that?
If this statement is true, it would be the saddest thing in the world.
It is absolutely true that God loves every single human being just the way they are. There is absolutely nothing you and I can ever do to make God love us more, or make God loves us less. God’s love for us is wholly complete and perfect. God loves every single person, regardless of background, orientation, history, beliefs, and baggage just the way we are.
We don’t have to be anything other than who we are for God to love us completely and perfectly.
And…get this…God loves us so much, he will not allow us to remain the way we are.
God’s love for us will always transform us. Each of us, because of the love of God, will become more of who God created us to be. Each of us, because of and through the love of God, will be changed and become more like Christ.
Imagine if God’s love did not change us.
What an absolute shame it would be if racists remained racist even after knowing that God is the creator of all people.
What an absolute shame it would be if bigots claimed, God loves me just the way I am. This is the way God created me. There is nothing I can do to change me. What an absolute crying shame that would be.
What an absolute shame it would be for sinners to claim, sin is what I do.
God loves me just the way I am. I cannot change. God made me this way.
Thank God this is a false statement. Thank God this is not true.
Because no one is yet fully who we are created to be, because no one is yet fully all that we are meant to be, every one of us has the potential to change and be more of who we were created to be.
Because we are all sinners, because we all have areas that need to change, it is absolutely great news that God’s love will transform each and every one of us.
We will be more fully human, fully who we were meant to be, only as the love of God continues to transform us.
Yes. God loves you just the way you are. And, because God loves us so much, he cannot let us remain just the way we are!
Are you telling me that Jesus is the only way to God? How can you say that all the other religions are wrong? How can you say that with my ___________ (Jewish, Hindu, Buddhist, Muslim) friend will not be in heaven?
These are fantastic questions.
The first thing to clear up is that I am not claiming that Jesus is the only way to salvation. The church is not claiming that Jesus is the only way to salvation. Pastor Brad, Katie, Justin are not claiming that Jesus is the only way to salvation.
The person who claims to be the only pathway to salvation is Jesus.
It is Jesus who declares, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6).
The Book of Acts echoes this teaching, “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).
For the Christian who believes that Jesus is the Son of God, the Savior of the world, the exclusivity of Jesus as the only pathway to salvation is not a church teaching, it’s a Jesus teaching. This is what the Bible says.
Either Jesus is God and therefore, everything that he claims are the statements and declarations of God, or these are the crazy rants of a lunatic. There is no middle ground.
One cannot claim Jesus to be a wise and good teacher and at the same time have Jesus proclaiming that he is the Son of God and the Savior of the world. Either Jesus is the Son of God and the Savior of the world, or he’s a raving lunatic for thinking that he is the Son of God and the Savior of the world.
There is absolutely no middle ground.
And if Jesus is the Son of God and the Savior of the world, then his word and his teaching is the truth. We can like it or not. It doesn’t change the fact that it is God’s teaching. Either we will receive all of Christ’s teaching or we will have to reject Christ as a lunatic.
One of the saddest things about this is that while Jesus asks us to proclaim this good news to the world, the church has not done a very good job of proclaiming this good news. The arrogant and haughty, better than everyone else, way this truth has been taught, proclaimed, and shared has made this good news feel anything but good.
For a moment, lets just say that Jesus is God, that Jesus is telling the truth, that Jesus really is the only way for human beings to truly come alive and live the life that we were created to live. Wouldn’t it be absolutely fantastic that we can finally know a way to live life the way it was meant to be lived? Wouldn’t it be good news if we could finally start living live with purpose and passion?
This morning, I stopped by Starbucks before coming to church. In the parking lot was parked one of the most beautiful cars ever made – Ferrari 308 GTS (or better known as the Ferrari that Magnum PI drove). Imagine if the owner of that Ferrari was a farmer and because that was the only vehicle he had he was trying to use that car to plow. The Ferrari would absolutely suck at plowing. It has a terribly low ground clearance. It’s tires have no grip on dirt and mud. It would constantly get stuck. How sad would that be? Here is one of the most beautiful machines ever made, and it would be absolutely horrible as a tractor.
But that’s not what the Ferrari was made for. That beauty was made for a racetrack. Get that car out in the open road, and it will sing!
When we are living our lives apart from God’s will for us, we are like the Ferrari on a farm. We constantly get stuck. We’re not very useful and keep failing at the task before us.
But we weren’t built to be a tractor. When we live our lives the way we were created to live, you should hear us sing!
Everyone wants to live a life with purpose and passion. Everyone wants to live a life that counts and matters. And everyone can. Because in Jesus, we can discover what we were created for.
That’s why Jesus said, “I came that you might have life, and have it abundantly” (John 10:10).
And if Jesus was trying to help people discover their God-given purpose and identities, and Jesus shared with the world how we might come to know who we are in and through him, wouldn’t that be absolutely great news?
Our job as the church is to share this amazing good news in a humble, gracious, loving way to help people discover their place in God’s kingdom. This is good news!
Why small groups? Why FOCUS groups? My life is going fine. Why should I bother joining one of these FOCUS groups?
Those are great questions!
I believe there are good reasons why we ought to be in community, in relationships, in small groups.
Let’s be crystal clear about what small groups ministries can and cannot do:
- Small groups are not the only way a person can grow and mature as a Christian.
However, if you are not in some form of a small group of Christians, you are probably not growing and maturing in your faith. Christian community is absolutely necessary for Christian growth. In fact, it’s impossible to grow and mature as a follower of Jesus Christ apart from being in Christian community.
- Being in a small group ministry will not help you find your soul mate. A small group is not a place where you will be able to share your deepest spiritual thoughts, fears, and feelings.
In fact, if that’s what small groups are, that kind of sounds yucky.
However, there’s a good likelihood you are going to meet some fantastic, quirky, lovely, interesting people through your involvement in FOCUS groups.
- Participating in a small group ministries will not guarantee you will become a spiritual giant. If that happens that would be really great.
The goal of our small group ministries is to have our faiths stretched, challenged, and encouraged through your participation in one of our FOCUS groups.
Why join a small group? Why sign up for a FOCUS group?
Because God created us for relationships. We are better when we are together.
FOCUS groups are a fantastic place to grow in our understanding and love for God. And FOCUS groups are a fantastic venue to put our growing love for God into action as we practice our faith with one another in small groups.
We will be having sign ups for the summer FOCUS groups May 10-June 7.
Don’t miss out on an opportunity to grow deeper in your friendships with folks at LCOP and to grow deeper in your relationship with Jesus Christ.
Looking forward to seeing you in one of our Summer FOCUS Groups!
- How do Christians know who God is and what he did for us in the person of Jesus Christ? The Bible tells us.
- How do Christians know who we are and how we are to live? The Bible tells us.
The Bible is how Christians come to know God, all that God has done for us, and how we ought to live because of all that God has done for us.
We come to know God’s truth and God’s grace because God’s word – the Bible.
Given the central role of the Bible in the life of the Christian, what should be our relationship to the Bible? What should the Christian’s relationship and posture be toward the Bible?”
A study of the New Testament Church and the early church fathers quickly reveals one of the distinguishing characteristics of the church was the reading of God’s word followed up by the exposition of God’s word.
What made the New Testament Church different than the “Rotary” Club of Jerusalem” or the “Lions” Club of Capernaum was the reading and the proclamation of God’s word. There were, and there are, many groups that do good things in the community. But one of the things that makes the church, the church of Jesus Christ, was and is the reading of God’s word and the exposition of God’s word in our gatherings.
When the people gathered and heard the word of God and the exposition of God’s truth, and when their lives, thoughts, opinions, beliefs, and practices were out of sync with God’s word, they did the craziest thing in the world! They adjusted their thoughts, beliefs, opinions, practices, and lives to match God’s word!!!
Can you believe that?!?!
Isn’t that crazy?
No. That’s Christianity. That’s discipleship.
Whenever Christians read God’s word, God’s word begins reading us. And because we are all sinners, the Bible shows us where we are out of line with God’s truth and God’s grace. Not only will God’s word show us where we are out of sync with God’s grace and truth, but God’s word shows us how to get ourselves aligned with God’s grace and truth.
We are told, “All scriptures is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right” (2 Timothy 3:16 NLT).
You see, it’s when Christians stand under the authority of God’s word that God’s truth and grace begins to be understood.
- Unlike other denominations, the PC(USA) is a “connectional” denomination.
- We do things in this way because we value being a “connectional” church.
- We don’t do things like that because we value being a “connectional” church.
- One of our strengths as a denomination is that we are a “connectional” church.
When I hear phrases like that, I can’t help but wonder, “What do we mean by that? What does it mean to be a connectional church?”
If, by connectional, we mean things like:
- That we are a church united by our commitment to Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior of the church
- That we are a church that values discerning God’s call together
- That we are a church that covenants to work and abide with one another as we pursue the mission of Jesus Christ
- That we are a church that agrees to disagree
If that’s what we mean by being “connectional”, how is this a particularly PC(USA) thing? This can apply to our relationship with any Christ affirming church or denomination.
What it is about the way that PC(USA) does “connectional” church that is unique and different for the PC(USA)? How is the way PC(USA) folks and congregations are connected that is different than how PC(USA) folks and congregations are connected to other Christians and other denominations?
The reason why I am phrasing the question this way is because I think this is the way “connectional” often gets used in PC(USA) circles.
What is it in the PC(USA) that binds us, that connects us, that makes us connected together?
I don’t think it’s the confessions – while we place high value on the confessions, when’s the last time we have disciplined one another over confessional matters?While we do not name or define the essential elements of the reformed faith (i.e. the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ, the virgin birth, substitutionary atonement, no other pathways to God apart from Jesus Christ), when we know of colleagues who cannot affirm Jesus, not only as Lord, but as a real person who lived, died, and rose again from the dead and they hold ordained office in the life of the PC(USA), or how can we say that confessions are the glue that binds us in the PC(USA)?
If not the confessions, then what is “connecting” us? What is PC(USA) connectionalism?
It’s polity. It’s the way we have chosen to govern and be governed.
We ought to name that. There is no shame in claiming that.
We can debate if this is a valid reason to be connected, but we need not hide nor be embarrassed to claim that our particular polity is what we mean by being a connectional church that is unique to PC(USA).
There are many reasons why the PC(USA) and denominations like her find herself in such a quandary today is because there are some who are choosing to say, “We no longer want to be governed in this way anymore.”
Our polity assumes continuity. Our polity assumes that those who at one time agreed to govern and be governed in a particular way would continue to do so. That’s been the case for generations. It was never even a question that Presbyterians would function in a “Presbyterian” way.
Recently, we’ve seen more congregations and people who are choosing, or sensing that they cannot in good conscience continue to govern and be governed in the way of the past.
Neither our polity nor our ecclesiology has clear answers for how to handle our recent situations where congregations and brothers and sisters, who at one time agreed to our polity, are choosing not to be governed by that polity anymore.
And that is one of the reasons why I think we find ourselves in such a denominational flux.
What is the connectionalism we PC(USA) folks are talking about when we say that we are a connectional church? We are referring to our polity – how we agree to govern and be governed.
Let’s name that.