Making Music

I love music. I tend to only half jokingly tell people Dad raised me on 50s & 60s oldies and Mom on opera & classical music. As a result I have a fairly wide musical interest & tend to be pretty eclectic in my tastes. Right now I could tell you some of my favorite songs from any genre from hard rock to cowboy country to blues to a Baroque aria. I have my more favorite genres of course, and I go on kicks with one or the other. One style of music that I will never tire of is acapella singing. And I don’t just mean on during assembly times, though that is where this post is geared towards. If you don’t think acapella singing outside of church times can be good, check out Pentatonix or Home Free (yes even though they’re not gospel, still good stuff!).

Acapella singing is such a wonderful communion in its own right with God & each other. Its something we truly do all together as a body even if one person happens to be leading it, and often I’m extremely encouraged by hearing all of our voices united in the same song, in the same lyric, in the same thought that lyric is trying to provoke. I hear others singing with no barrier between them & God, between each other and our combined praise to God, and personally feel more connected as a body than at many other times when we’re singing together. In the same way as taking communion together as body speaks to one another that we’re in fellowship in Christ, and that we still believe Christ has been raised from the dead, singing together as one voice the praises of our Creator often does something similar, or at least it can. It can unify a body, open our hearts to what God may tell us that morning, and connect us with the person standing or sitting next to us as we together sing a line that speaks to both of us. Singing is one of the more experiential things we do as a body, and I think that’s correct. Many other aspects of walking in the Light require head knowledge to trump our feelings, for instance believing we’re saved by grace even if our heart tells us we could never be. But singing is a place where truly as we sing the lyrics we can both understand them in our heads and feel them in our hearts. To borrow from Horatio Spafford, “When peace, like a river, attendeth my way, When sorrows like sea billows roll; Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say, It is well, it is well with my soul.” Even as I read these lyrics now and understand them, when sung with my brothers & sisters it takes on new meaning, it feels different, & it means something different when I read alone versus when I sing with the church. Those lyrics came out of a tragic experience that was put to music as the hymn we know.

We all have different experiences in our lives, some that can be shared with others and some that can’t. We all see God through different eyes, perspectives, & see Him working in different ways. We have different joys, different sorrows, different trials and different triumphs. We know this. What we don’t know is how our experiences may affect, may help, may encourage, may admonish, may rebuke, may relate, may connect with others. Hebrews 10 tells us the assembly is for encouraging each other and for spurring each other on to good works. Many people don’t treat the assembly this way, but that’s another post. Here’s my question:

Why don’t we do this with music more? 

OK, what am I really asking?

Why don’t we write music from OUR OWN EXPERIENCES more? 

This last Sunday I had the honor of song leading an original song written by a sixteen year old young lady from our congregation. While this was done with Leadership Training For Christ (at least as a pushing motivation), and used scripture for the lyrics, there is her experience somewhere in this song. It speaks to others inasmuch that they may not have read the same scripture she used & had it affect them the same way as when they sang the scripture along with the notes & the body singing it with them. To sing together “God is our refuge and strength, an ever present help in trial,” giving glory to God while at the same time singing it with the same person who arranged the notes with this scripture was such a wonderful, encouraging experience for the congregation. To be connected not only now by singing the same lyrics and notes, but connected through whatever experience inspired the song writing, to share in that, to be lifted up by it is a unique experience. This is a similar experience as giving- there’s a blessing to the receiver as well as to the giver, possibly more to the giver. There is a blessing to whomever gives to others of their gifts, experiences, knowledge, & emotions as to the people receiving it, whether it be praying, preaching, encouraging, with whatever gift we have been blessed.

Songs are something that connect us to each other & to the principles contained in Scripture on an emotional as well as knowledge level. They’re a way to truly make the assembly experience our own. I’m not saying that the assembly is or should be totally experiential- not at all, but there must be an aspect of that. Scripture does not change. Principles do not change. We won’t be changing the Lord’s Supper. What does change in the assembly? What do we use to help mold each Sunday to this way or that? Our prayers, and our songs. We don’t use other peoples’ prayers to address our own congregation. There’s nothing wrong with that if its appropriate, but often we don’t, why? Because we personalize our prayers to our body & what’s going on with us today, to speak to each other & to God about the interaction between our experiences & the principles of Scripture He’s revealed to us.

Why not do this with songs too? At one point or another every song you’ve sung was new, & written by often very ordinary people out of an experience. Why not write new songs out of our experiences that speak to God from our experiences, hearts, minds, & thoughts, that speak to each other out of the same fellowship it can also encourage?

I know what many of you might be thinking- “I don’t know music!” “I don’t know where to start.” ” I have no musical training.” “I don’t know how.” “It might not be good.” Etc, etc, etc…

Well as far as the “It might…” arguments, I’ll tell you the same thing as I tell my children and happen to believe- for every “It might be bad” thought there’s an equal “It might be good” thought as well- you don’t know until you try, which as cliche as that’s become is still true!

Far as training & experience, well you’ll never get that until you try too. In this day and age of training, knowledge, & helpful programs literally right at our fingertips (he writes somewhat ironically with his fingertips) while it may not be the easiest thing, it is as easy to try and learn as its ever been. There are websites on tips for songwriting, websites that will teach you music 101, and free programs that can help you write notes & lyrics and let you hear how they sound. Those are just 3 things from a quick search, there are thousands of other resources. And this is assuming that you want to go full out and write a four part harmony song.

A hymn begins with a love for God, a few words and a basic melody. You don’t need notes on a screen, a fully developed chord structure and a copyright in order to share your love for God through song. Come up with something, teach it to someone else, and you’re worshiping in and through song, and if it happens to get sung on Sunday morning, praise God. We needn’t write new songs to have them sung on Sunday morning, but we need to ourselves write new songs to continue the tradition through the millenniums of taking Scripture to heart, of grappling with what it means to me, sharing it with others, and enjoying the blessings of God being praised. This is true, by the way, of prayers, Bible study, sermons, & random thoughts we have through the day. God is praised not just & only when we’re at the church building, but when we make Him such a part of our lives that we think on Him, dwell on Him, wrestle with what He tells us, & we must overflow somehow, whether in prayer, encouragement, sermon, or song in His praise. Worship is not something we go and do, but something we orient every aspect of our life to exude- worship is a life orientation. Church is not something we go to, but something we live, something we are, who & what we must be. A song from a heart that belongs to God is always worth singing. So, go for it, and maybe we’ll be singing your song from the next hymnal printing. Or maybe only your congregation will ever sing it. Or maybe just your friend will sing it with you. God be praised.

Grace to you.

 

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The Qualities of Qualification- A Few More Thoughts on Shepherds

Yesterday was the first time I’ve felt truly nervous before a sermon in a long while. I’m not entirely sure why. Maybe it was because I knew this was the last sermon in a series that possibly may shape the future of the congregation for years to come. Maybe it was because the subject matter were texts that have tended to draw strong feelings from many people, that have divided more than united. Maybe it was because due to my own study from the week I’d actually changed (gasp) my views of a few things. Probably it was all of that.

Yesterday I preached on “The Characteristics of Qualification” out of 1st Timothy 3 & Titus 1 (with 1st Peter 5:3 stuck in there too). It was the last sermon in a series on leadership which has apparently been beneficial to everyone, not just our existing or prospective shepherds. This last one was the one in which I finally covered the New Testament “qualifications” for elders. I say it with quotes because I don’t believe they’re so much a checklist, but describing characteristics of a man already serving in that way. A shepherd in title should already be a shepherd in action & motive. Giving him the title of a shepherd is purposefully & prayerfully placing the responsibility of being accountable to that position to God, to his fellow elders, & to his congregation.

You can listen to my sermon from yesterday here at NHCC’s dropbox, and especially if you’re a part of the NHCC body I’d highly encourage you to do so. I’d like to offer three additional thoughts in addition to what I talked about yesterday about leaders & elders, specifically in relation to 1st Tim. 3 & Titus 1.

  1. We must have judgment when we appoint elders. 

There’s a line of thought in the world when it comes to judging. When looking at Matthew 7 the world often see it like this…

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Hopefully you see the ridiculousness of that. We must judge in certain instances. The lesson of Matthew 7 is don’t judge people in the way God does or unfairly, because that’s how then you’ll be judged. Much like the Golden Rule, judge unto others as you would be judged is the lesson. We should judge each others’ actions & lives in love according to Scripture to be able to encourage each other and keep each other walking in the Light. I’m glad that if I do something ungodly that someone in our congregation will judge it so, and let me know about it. When it comes to elders, I preach that we must look at the full measure of a man, & that a sin in itself doesn’t “disqualify” him from shepherding, whether this means at one time or another he was an alcoholic, went bankrupt, or even was divorced. Our judgment comes in looking at how he has dealt with his issues, & judging would this be something that would prevent him from shepherding like Christ. For example, was the divorce of a man “scriptural” (again in quotes because I believe while there are 2 exceptions where a marriage can end in a divorce & one person didn’t sin I don’t believe divorce is scriptural, but that’s another post) and has he proven he can be a faithful husband & manage his household well? Or even if it wasn’t, how does he address what happened? Where has repentance, making peace as it depends on him, prayer, asking forgiveness from God & all involved happened, or has it? Has God forgiven him? If it happened only a few years ago or if these necessary things (not just for being an elder but a Christian!) aren’t evident, maybe being a shepherd wouldn’t be a good thing right now. Same with alcoholism- he may be recovering, but what if it only last year? Judgment is needed, which leads me to point #2…

2.  Spiritual maturity is key in all things. 

It is written he must not be a new convert, which I believe the implication is that he is to be spiritually mature. What does this mean? A lot, but it comes down to has he dealt with his past mistakes, owned up to them, repented & asked forgiveness of God for them, learned from it, and has taken the steps to ensure it doesn’t happen again in his life? For example, if someone was divorced in their 20s, and now even if he’s had a marriage for 40 years to the same woman, if they have had to go to marriage counseling for the 9th time in the last few years we must judge if that is something that may prevent either the sheep from following him or him carrying out his shepherding duties to the fullest of his ability. Don’t hear me saying that marriage counseling is bad-far from it, in fact I advocate certain marriage programs even for healthy marriages- but a shepherd is to be as close to the ideal- Jesus & His picture for marriage & the church- as possible. This is not an issue of sinning or messing up, for we all do that. This is an issue of the maturity to have sinned & messed up and taken the necessary steps to correct & control whatever the issue is, first & foremost with God’s help. This is an issue of spiritual transformation, having been & continuing to be willing to let the Spirit & the Word do their work in transforming him more and more into the image of Jesus. It is again the complete picture of the man & His walk- it is a given that he will have sinned & messed up both before & after his baptism into Christ. What’s not a given is maturing into a more complete man, complete in Christ.

It is not even just an issue of does he currently meet the qualifications- it is a characteristic that the shepherd is to be hospitable, but is simply opening his home enough? Is there a Christlike attitude, a discipling spirit, a warmth & desire for fellowship as well? Is it enough that he’s been married to the same woman for ________ length of time? Has he nurtured her, built her up, loved her & shown her affection, shown that he loves her as Christ loves the Church? I encourage you to reread the characteristics in 1st Timothy & Titus 1 with the complete picture in mind- yes he may meet this characteristic, but is he mature in it? Is he someone that I can emulate & learn from in this category? There is always growing to do, and no mere mortal is the complete picture of Jesus, but part also of maturity is the willingness to mature into that which he lacks.

    3.  Qualities don’t always equal ability

This may sound funky, and it is a bit. Let me illustrate it when it comes to preachers. There are many people who have a heart for God, who love to study, & can communicate the Truth very effectively when in certain venues & situations, say one-on-one or in small groups. These same people may not be able to effectively preach a sermon week after week for a congregation. Why not? The qualities of study, of teaching, the love for God & His Word are all there, what’s missing? Put simply, he hasn’t been gifted the ability to preach. There’s nothing wrong with that at all, it just means he must use his gifts in a different way than someone who is gifted to preach week after week. Same with song leading- a lot of us know someone who has great heart & spirit, who has the musical knowledge & technical know-how, but are simply not gifted to lead a congregation in singing. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that, and I believe it beneficial to sometimes recognize our limitations, either to be aware of them to let others serve in those ways and/or to work on them to grow the ability.

I believe the same applies to shepherding. There may be men who have all of the qualities talked about in abundance who may seem the ideal choice for a shepherd, but turn out to be non-effective leaders. Why? Perhaps its something he never wanted but feels an obligation to do. While this is admirable to an extent, 1st Timothy 3 begins by saying that he who desires the office, meaning who is willing & not compelled, desires a good task. While the qualities may be there the desire to be intentional in using them in seeking out sheep is not, which will doom an eldership from the beginning. Another reason may be that while the qualities are there he is not in a place to devote the necessary time or make shepherding & all it entails enough of a priority in his life & ministry. Is this good or bad? There is a season for all things, and if a man feels his season to shepherd is not here, it is best for him not to serve.

Another instance may be that while again the qualities are there he is unwilling to purposefully exercise them for the flock. This again goes back to maturity as well as judgment. If a man is unwilling to shepherd the whole flock, even “problem sheep” or sheep he freely admits he doesn’t care for, we must judge if the maturity is there to handle the demands of a congregation. A man may be respected among the congregation & willing & able to serve, but he intentionally does not purposefully practice shepherding to someone or any part of the congregation, he ought not to serve as a shepherd. Sometimes he’s just not gifted to lead, & what’s expected of him as a shepherd is simply beyond his ability, which is again not a bad thing, but must be recognized.

I hope that from the sermon series & even this last sermon we can see that there is much more to being a leader, a shepherd of the Church than checking off this qualification or that. It’s about more than did he or didn’t he do or not do this or that. It’s first and foremost about his walk with The Shepherd, & how he strives to first be like Jesus, and then how he can help those in a congregation work towards that as well. There’s a case to be made that that walk should include some things that “normal” people deal with, like anger, bad financial decisions, marital problems, etc to be a living example of what Christ can do in a life. Sometimes the best way to lead is to be able to tell people you’ve been there too, and you know the way out, the way to clean all that up, & His name is Jesus.

As we pray about our future leaders this week at NHCC, let us always strive to be the reflection of Jesus in all we do, & follow those who help us shine brighter into the world.

Grace to you.

 

 

The Inconvenience of Morality

Lately if you’ve been keeping up with the news you may have heard about a series of videos taken undercover that show Planned Parenthood workers talk about the details of abortions, & how they can provide organ specimens for various causes. I would have included a link to it but I couldn’t find an objective article- just type in “Planned Parenthood Videos” into Google and you’ll find all you can handle. The videos reportedly show workers talking matter-of-factly about aborted fetuses, one even exclaiming “It was a twin” while examining a specimen.

I say reportedly because I’ll admit, I have not watched any of the five videos. Nor do I intend to. You see,  I have three marvelous, beautiful children. Having watched my wife’s stomach begin to grow and swell with the baby within, eventually seeing kicks and shakes from hiccups, marveling that this bump did indeed have a baby in it, and being floored on the day of their birth, seeing this little person emerge into the world, holding them, kissing their perfectly formed cheeks, counting their 10 fingers and 10 toes, and trying to make the psychological jump that what I had been seeing, feeling, & praying over for 9 months in my wife’s tummy was now in the world…having seen that I personally cannot even imagine abortion because I always picture my newborn children’s faces being destroyed, them crying out in the womb as foreign objects come to take away their existence, and me never getting to hold them. For me personally this is even stronger as my wife & I have experienced two miscarriages in our marriage- the joy & elation of new life & possibility, gone.

Every time I hear or think of the process of abortion I think of my children that I do have, and then I think of my two angel babies bouncing on God’s knees as He tells them stories of beyond eternity, & as they help Him paint the morning sunrises & evening sunsets, & molds the clouds across the earth. I don’t know if this is how heaven works, but its what I imagine, and it brings me comfort. I can only imagine what parents of children who have been born & have passed on, whatever the circumstances, go through, & my heart goes out to them.

But this isn’t a post about death or loss. This isn’t a post about Planned Parenthood. This isn’t even a post about abortion. This is a post about preeminence.

About whaaaaaaaat?

Preeminence is the noun form, meaning the state or character of being preeminent, which is an adjective meaning superior, surpassing, or being eminent (high in rank or prominent) above or before others. At least that’s what dictionary.com says that’s what it means, but that doesn’t really tell you what it means, does it?

Let’s switch gears & ask a very simple question- what is morality? Simple, but not at all simplistic. I’ll warn you, this is a loaded question, though not necessarily loaded by me.

Our world & society tends to ask what is morality to you. Particularly in America there is pride on being able to define your own set of moral grounds & defend them. There are really two kinds of morality within America at least- majority morality & individual morality. Majority morality is what we think of as laws- a group of people given the power to do so by another group of people. They think of an idea, go “Yes, this is a good idea that people should or shouldn’t do this,” and they pass a law saying so. Thus as good law-abiding citizens we are expected to obey such laws as the moral thing to do. Speed limits for example, or city building or zoning codes. This actually matters because majority morality can be different in different places- chewing gum, or naming your kid a name not on a list for example is against the majority morality, or put simply laws, of other places, but perfectly fine in the USA.

Individual morality is just what it sounds like- deciding what is & isn’t right or wrong for you based (or not) on the majority morality. For example, it’s perfectly legal for me to take the lady who bumped my car a few weeks ago to court for not having insurance, but (again personally) it’s against my individual morality to make such a big deal out of it, not to mention it’s just a hassle. Maybe this is seen in small ways, like whether you help people who are begging for money on the side of the street, or if you help the little old lady across the road. Small, but we all have certain aspects of individual morality that decides our every day actions. Often times this is or has been shaped by the majority- it’s ingrained in many people not to speed, so then if you start driving on the German autobahn where there are no speed limits in some sections there’s a good chance a lot of people still wouldn’t go too fast. Probably just as many people who would put the pedal to the metal because their individual morality isn’t quite as strong on that point.

What about killing someone? (Whoa, that shifted fast!) Why do you not go out right now and kill that someone who just drives you crazy? Is it because of the majority or your individual morality that you don’t? Probably yes (I hope for my sake.) But there are people who have no problem with it- we call them serial killers, & often times there is a disorder involved. Most “civilized” societies universally agree that killing someone, murder, is bad, therefore that is reflected in the majority’s morality as well as individuals. Here’s a question- what if the majority decided murder, which by definition is an illegal killing, was OK?

One may think “That’ll never happen,” and hopefully they’re right, but what about other things that were at one time or another “universally” thought of as legal or moral by the majority? How about majority condoned slavery, and I’m not just talking about a certain ethnicity over another, but the concept as a whole. Slavery was practiced as a way of life for thousands of years, with the majority thinking it a good and moral thing. Just in the USA it took until 1861 for there to be a majority issue about it, the Civil War, & the ramifications from that were still not defined as equal by the majority until the 1960s. There are still slaves around the world today, but the majority now thinks it’s immoral. Throughout history though, there were individuals who thought that slavery was always immoral & fought to be heard. The question is- who was right when? When the majority ruled it moral, & the individual immoral, who was correct, especially in light that the majority eventually came to believe as the individual always had? Or was the individual wrong at the time the majority deemed it moral, & was only correct after the majority said they were?

We’re seeing this same issue in things like homosexual relationships & abortion today. The majority morality has approved while individual moralities do not. Who is correct, who is not? Or is it again a question of when?

C.S. Lewis in his book Mere Christianity  (everyone should be forced to read C.S. Lewis along with G.K. Chesterton…if they want to) talks about this moral dilemma in the very first chapter, and he says things much better than I, thus I shall not try to paraphrase him. He says

“You might just as well try to imagine a country where two and two made five. Men have differed as regards what people you ought to be unselfish to—whether it was only your own family, or your fellow countrymen, or everyone. But they have always agreed that you ought not to put yourself first. Selfishness has never been admired. Men have differed as to whether you should have one wife or four. But they have always agreed that you must not simply have any woman you liked. But the most remarkable thing is this. Whenever you find a man who says he does not believe in a real Right and Wrong, you will find the same man going back on this a moment later. He may break his promise to you, but if you try breaking one to him he will be complaining “It’s not fair” before you can say Jack Robinson. A nation may say treaties do not matter, but then, next minute, they spoil their case by saying that the particular treaty they want to break was an unfair one. But if treaties do not matter, and if there is no such thing as Right and Wrong— in other words, if there is no Law of Nature—what is the difference between a fair treaty and an unfair one? Have they not let the cat out of the bag and shown that, whatever they say, they really know the Law of Nature just like anyone else? It seems, then, we are forced to believe in a real Right and Wrong. People may be sometimes mistaken about them, just as people sometimes get their sums wrong; but they are not a matter of mere taste and opinion any more than the multiplication table.”

Now that’s taken out of context, and you really should go and read the whole book, you won’t regret it. What he’s saying is that somewhere deep down in the crevasses of humanity people are aware of a true Right & Wrong, a Morality if you will that somehow guides them. He says people will get it wrong, and he admits there are exceptions across the board, but overall there must be some sense of truly universal Morality or people wouldn’t agree on anything.

This is an interesting thought. Why do we believe that killing someone is bad? Because it’s a hassle, or because we feel we ought not to, or because the law says it’s bad? Why does someone believe in the idea of homosexual marriage is a good thing, but the next someone thinks not? Which is correct? Well majority morality says depending on the time frame is when either have been wrong or right at a given time. 50 years ago the one who says it’s a bad thing was “correct”, but now the one who says it’s a good thing is correct. This raises another interesting question- does morality shift & change?

If the answer is yes, then there is no true morality is there? Only a majority morality that seems to ignore the individual for the sake of what seems right in this section of history. One day indeed we will be able to metaphorically say 2+2= 5 because the majority morality says that is good. If the answer is no, then we are admitting there is one true morality beyond the majority & individual. If you’re confused, keep reading!

Morality, especially how we’ve defined it in the sense of the majority, is really about authority. Specifically, it is the authority that whatever entity that has it has over your life. The government, who regulates the speed limits, has authority over you in that context in the form of police, who have been given authority to enforce the speed limit. We follow this authority because we don’t want the consequences of authority upon us when we’ve broken the law. But when dealing the Morality of universal implications, what is your authority?

Well it must begin with how you view the universe we live in to have come about, which then affects your view of morality. I was going to go through a list of different religions, and feel free to look up the intricacies of different ones yourself (I may in a future post) but the thing is most lines of thought that ascribe to a higher power, & especially ones that believe that we are created by that higher power believe that it is not right to extinguish any life that we are not the authority of. Meaning, if a higher power created us, I have no right to take your life from you, and if I do it’s a bad thing that I’ll be punished for. Eastern religions that believe in being at peace & harmony with all things call this karma, or “what goes around comes around.” There are exceptions in a sense- some religions call for the death of all those who don’t subscribe to that particular religion, but life within the religion itself is still valued.

This is in contrast to someone who doesn’t believe in a higher power. Evolutionists believe that we all came from the first primordial ooze, and evolved through animals to be what we are now, and morality is one what we’ve come up with to govern ourselves. We ought not to kill because if everyone did it would cease the population growth, not to mention we see ourselves as a higher form of life. The thing is with this view is that there is no true value of life. We evolved by happenstance and the only value placed on life is the value that we place there ourselves, or a lack of value. It is all determined by the majority’s authority & morality, or lack there-of. There is no purpose of life but to simply live, which makes life only as valuable as you deem it to be, or as the majority thinks it ought to be. We saw this in slavery, when an ethnicity was deemed inferior by a more powerful majority, and in Nazi Germany, when Hitler, by his own authority, deemed those who were and weren’t the master race and sought to kill all others. Life which has no value beyond what people place on it lives in danger of easily being stripped of itself. Whether we realize it or not, if we were to deem an ethnicity inferior and enslave them, we are then defining their purpose, & by that their value. You see, purpose is what defines value as given by authority. Purpose is what’s truly debated when it comes to when life begins- is it purposed for life or purposed for a test tube? Life is given value by purpose. Purpose is the true root wonder of creation, & a question all people ask themselves at one point or another.

I’d like to bring your attention to a passage from the book of Colossians. Specifically to chapter 1, verse 16. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. Him in this case is referring to Jesus Christ, who verse 15 just got done calling the image of the invisible God, & the firstborn of all creation. There’s a lot implied there, but I want to focus on the word I mentioned earlier, preeminence. OK, you got me, its not in this passage, but it is two verses later in verse 18-  And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. Look at what these two passages are saying, but go backwards. Jesus is to be the authority, the superior, the higher, in everything, because He is the beginning, the head of those who believe in Him. Check this out- ALL THINGS were created through Him and for Him- stop right there. 

All things. There’s no way around this one- all things. The rock over there- yep. The pesky little mosquito? I don’t know why, but yep. All things. It means what it says. And the beginning of the verse backs it up- authorities, rulers, dominions, thrones- every one of these are SUPPOSED to be serving Jesus Christ. Invisible or visible- everything we can see & everything we can’t see, still made through and for Jesus. In heaven and on earth- well, what else really is there now? Perhaps though the most amazing part of this passage may be the very beginning of it. For by Him ALL THINGS were created.

Put these together and you read all things, EVERYWHERE, EVERYONE, were created by Jesus, through Jesus, and for Jesus, so that in all things He may be the authority, the superior, the highest, simply THE. The Bible expounds this idea, but this passage encompasses the sum of existence as defined by Jehovah God. All things, which include you and me and all other created things, are to live with Jesus as our authority because He created us through Himself for Himself. The more perceptive of you may have noticed I skipped verse 17, but I won’t now. If what I’ve talked about isn’t amazing enough, And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. Pay attention to the end of that- in Jesus all things hold together. I don’t know if that means on a molecular level Jesus is there holding our atoms together, but it might, because remember this says He created us to. He created us through Himself for Himself and holds everything together. I think this passage is enough to go on, but the beauty of the Bible is that it tells us what we’re expected to do, it explains what we need to know about God’s morality, & it shows us the way of fulfilling our purpose.

I mentioned purpose is value defined by authority. If Jesus created all things, then His definition creates whatever value He gives it. If our purpose is to make Jesus the preeminence in our life, then our value is built-in. We were valuable enough to create, we are valuable enough to hold together, & He holds us valuable enough to be the head of those who believe, after deeming us valuable enough to make it possible by the cross. Read Philippians 2 sometime and tell me that whoever Jesus did that for He doesn’t hold valuable. SPOILER ALERT- you can’t do it. The Authority deems His creation valuable to have created, therefore our purpose is then to submit to that authority and by doing so reflect that value on all things that Christ has created.

What I’ve just explained is the answer to the question “What is the purpose of life? Why am I here?” and so very many people don’t understand it, or have even heard about it. It is my deepest belief that if we as a people, as a nation, as a world, could understand this and take it to heart, these morality issues would be easily dealt with.

If we truly understood the meaning of life, we wouldn’t murder the unborn.

If we truly understood the meaning of life, the question of what to do with the elderly or disabled would be easily handled.

If we truly understood the meaning of life, we wouldn’t kill just because the majority morality says not to, nor even that we think we ought not to, but because we would understand the value we have to each other and to our God.

If we truly understood the meaning of life, there would be no question of whether the majority or the individual is correct when debating moral issues, but simply a reference back to what Morality is and always has been.

If we truly understood the meaning of life, we would understand relationships, how, what they’re supposed to be & why they can’t be what they ought not to be.

If we truly understood the meaning of life from He who is preeminent, we would know when we’re on the wrong track as a society and know how & when to get back on.

If we truly understood the meaning of life, imagine how much more fulfilled EVERYONE would be, walking around knowing their purpose, knowing they have value, & showing that to the rest of creation!

But we don’t. At all.

In America at least, Morality has at best become an inconvenience to those who don’t truly believe in it anyway. Possibly those who are picking through the parts of what should have been a flourishing life may wonder “Is this Right?” but then are reminded of the majority, which says it is legal, and cares not for a better definition than that. The inconvenience of Morality is that among those who claim their own or the majority’s there is no center, but only that which best suits the purpose at the time. 2+2 = 5 if 5 is the most convenient answer at the time. It’s merely an inconvenience that it really doesn’t equal 5, which we’ll deal with later, or change back when 5 wears out its welcome. It’s an inconvenience to those who do believe in Morality, & who believe in the preeminence, value & purpose of the true meaning of life, that the reflection of value is dimmed so quickly amid a world so caught up in doing what is legally moral defined by the majority that we have forgotten its very definition along with the One who defined it.

So I won’t be watching the videos. I simply don’t think I could handle it first of all, but the reason is I simply have no desire to yet again see the blatant disregard & redefinition of value we have for what was never ours to define in the first place. I’ll rather go home tonight, see my beautiful daughter’s face in a picture & miss her while she’s visiting grandparents, kneel down & brace myself as my 2-year-old son runs full speed into my arms, and kiss the month-old cheeks of my newborn son as he probably searches for more of his mama’s milk. I’d rather do that, and marvel in humble, gracious thanks at what Jesus has done, is doing, & will do for those who love Him and are called according to His purpose. I’d rather pray for a world which needs redefining not in its own image, but in the image of the Preeminent. And I’d rather imagine all of the hundreds of thousands of aborted lives, never given a chance to be valued, bouncing on the knees of God, Jesus, & all the angels, laughing throughout eternity, secure in the embrace of He who created them, while Heaven looks on wondering just how much longer the majority will continue to try to abort Christ Himself from our world.

Nothing Has Changed

First of all, welcome to Northern Hills church of Christ’s brand new blog page!!! (wild cheers and claps, the crowd goes wild aaaaaaaaaah!). I was tempted to add in some sounds but figured that might be a little much…maybe next time 😉

This blog will from now on be a place where the preacher for Northern Hills, at this very moment (with intent to stay this way for a long while!!!!) is Thomas Pruett (see “About Me” tab [eventually] for a quick bio on the congregation and Thomas) can write some (hopefully) very theologically stimulating posts about everything theological, or funny, or cultural, or social, or just whatever happens to be bouncing around the wide open spaces of his mind that day…don’t read into that too terribly much. Eventually the plans are to redo the website and have this accessible right from there, but one small technological step at a time 🙂

June 26th was an interesting day for the Church (notice the big C there). As nearly everyone who has access to a computer, phone, tablet, or a newspaper has most likely read by now, the Supreme Court of the United States voted 5-4 that same-sex relationships should legally be granted the rights & recognition of marriage across the country. As decisions with wide scopes & consequences have, this has been greeted to a wide mix of reactions across the board. Across the nation, many are celebrating this decision, with the Twitter & Facebook hashtag #lovewins trending, people assembling with groups of like minded people, and same-sex couples availing themselves of this new found governmental right. Those who are in opposition to this decision are just as vocal. Facebook articles of the four dissenting judges’ opinions are circulating, many are commenting on the “messed up” state of our country, and churches across the nation are, at least from my vantage point, grabbing what anchors they can and seem to be digging in for a Revelation-type persecution on the horizon.

Both “sides” thus far have been unafraid to level criticism at each other, and I’ve seen more than one article concerning the impending religion persecution that is then cancelled out by another saying that nothing will happen by simply allowing the state to recognize what is now defined in a governmental as marriage. I’ve seen some more articles guiding the church in our reaction, and just as many preachers across the nation trying to process their reactions, everything from “What do I preach Sunday?” to “Our wedding policy will be reviewed and/or restricted to protect ourselves from lawsuits.”

As a minister and the minister of a congregation, while not a shepherd of the flock preachers are among the spiritual leaders of the group of people that meet there. We are expected to be able to give guidance, advice, & sermons that are convicting, edifying, entertaining, theologically deep, understandable, relatable, applicable, current but not too progressive, admonishing but not condemning, and simple often all at the same time. While I pray many are doing their own personal studies at home during the week, I do realize that many people get the majority of their spiritual meal on Sunday morning during assembly. Because of that, the pulpit should never be used for politics or social or cultural agendas, and while it is certainly appropriate for social issues to be addressed, it should all be done in light of the Gospel, of never-changing Scripture, of The Way, The Truth, and The Life. In all honestly ALL OF LIFE should be lived in this manner, not just things from the pulpit, but that’s another post.

It is in light and view of Scripture which I ask myself how I truly feel about the SCOTUS decision of June 26th, and I firmly believe that you should too. Emotionally I was a little shocked even if I knew it was probably going to happen. Socially I wasn’t surprised as I had a pretty good fix on my Facebook friends’ opinions since before the decision. Spiritually though, I had an insight later in the day that I’ve thought & meditated on more, and I’m more and more convinced is how I truly feel about it.

I really don’t care. 

Underwhelming, yes? Possibly a little shocking. “But how can you as a church of Christ preacher not care about this issue?” The truth is I do care about the issue, but the issue isn’t homosexuality or the rights that group of people feel they should or shouldn’t have. I do care about the issue, but the true issue isn’t marriage. It isn’t equality, it isn’t rights, it isn’t the Constitution, it isn’t any one of those. Those are all symptoms and consequences of the root issue, which is sin. Concerning the sin issue, I’m very much concerned, which is part of the reason I do what I do. I care about the root issue, but in truth I find myself having a hard time caring about Friday’s decision.

“Why?” you may ask, and that’s a fair question.

I don’t care because truly, nothing has changed that’s worth caring about. “BUT THE FUTURE OF OUR COUNTRY…” one may begin, and another may follow “THIS WILL AFFECT YOU IN WAYS…”, or possibly even “IF YOU’RE A CHRISTIAN YOU WOULD CARE!” All those are true in their own certain ways, but not at all with the widespread application many may imply.

I don’t care because as a Christian, I’ve already won THE decision. I’ve already overcome whatever the world throws at me. I’m not really living here even though I am. Not me, you see, by my own actions or thoughts, no no no, but because I’ve died to the world, and live with and in Christ, who has already overcome the world (John 16:33). My decision to be buried into Jesus decided the ultimate decision of am I a sinner or am I a child of God, and has reorganized what I care about from looking around at the world on its level to now looking up and striving to see things from God’s perspective. Not that I do this well all the time, mind you, but by His grace I’ve been saved, which never runs out as long as I keep reaching for it.

I don’t care because the God I know has me in His grips hasn’t changed, and I know won’t change no matter how many decisions of men are made. Men & governments have been deciding things without God for centuries, millennia even, and it hasn’t affected one bit who or what God is, nor what He desires for His creation. We look at the here and now and react because often its the best we can do, and we cry out “Oh now what and what’s next?” but how long does it take for us to remember that God wasn’t shaken, or surprised, or rattled; He’s not hiding in a spiritual room going “Oh no, the SCOTUS has decided my definition of marriage isn’t right anymore…that wasn’t nice, how could they?!” I think He’s sitting there weeping, NOT because of this decision or any other singular decision, but because things are going EXACTLY how He knew they would- sinfully- and Jesus is there holding His hand saying “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

Now hear me correctly- I do care. I realize there will be a conversations to be held about the details of how this particular decision will affect us in the future. I realize this decision will create conversations both positive and negative about the Church and Her values. I realize this, I try not to be naive, whether I succeed or not is another matter. But the point is the sin issue is nothing new. People since Adam & Eve have wanted to do what they previously weren’t allowed, good reasons or not, and it should never surprise us when this pattern goes around yet again.

God hasn’t changed, and what He says in His Word hasn’t changed (despite many attempts to make it change.) Because God hasn’t changed and His Word hasn’t changed, the Church’s mission in regards to the unchanging issue of sin hasn’t changed in the least. We’re still to be like Jesus to all sinners, and show them love to allow God’s seed to be planted, that He may work in their hearts to being them back to Himself. This includes the homosexual, the alcoholic, the addict, the liar, the thief, the adulterer. This includes people who are still struggling with sin WITHIN the Church by the way- speaking of marriage how many divorces happen among practicing Christians? How many Christian marriages are still yet full of abuse, adultery, in other words sin? This isn’t me pointing at a speck in spite of my log, its simply a fact whether we like it or not.

Sin has already ruled in its Supreme Court in favor of itself, and Satan is doing his best to ensure that judgment is carried out in the world. No court or government of men will overcome this until they are overruled by the One who is both defense attorney and jury, who has the ear of the Judge Himself. Maybe this should be the best time to remember a certain passage from Matthew. Let’s even pretend that we are standing outside the Supreme Court on June 26th when the decision was announced. The crowd cheers, and a celebration begins. We look around at our family interspersed in the crowed- Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations,baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” 

That’s why I don’t care about the decision itself. Because what I DO care about hasn’t changed. Nothing has truly changed- men still do what they will, governments give and take what they believe they are able, I’m still just as saved as I was Friday, people that aren’t saved are just as unsaved as they were Friday, the Church has Her mission, Jesus is still Lord, God is still God. The only real thing that should have changed is that we should have been doing what we can to be more like Jesus so that people will see more of Jesus when they look at us. But of course, that shouldn’t have only happened since Friday.

Grace to you.

Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you heard was coming and now is in the world already. Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.They are from the world; therefore they speak from the world, and the world listens to them. We are from God. Whoever knows God listens to us; whoever is not from God does not listen to us. By this we know the Spirit of truth and the spirit of error. – 1st John 4:1-6