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Who’s Guilty?

31 Jan

This week I had the blessing of being able to watch our legal system from an incredibly new and unique vantage point. I was called to jury duty. I always thought that since I went to law school, I would be exempt from jury duty. Alas, I was not. While the week I was originally assigned was in a few weeks, I will be assisting in a Bible Quiz at that time and, therefore, I needed to reschedule. I was rescheduled for this week, which wreaked havoc on my schedule for this week.

Jury Duty is a unique experience where you show up and sit in a room with about 800 other strangers. I was amazed that with there being 800 people that live in my county around me, I didn’t seem to recognize anyone. At any rate, the moderator begins to send people to rooms in groups of 25. At about 2:30, my group was selected. Eighteen of us were chosen to be potential jurors. While I was not one of those 18, six were eliminated for various reasons and I was chosen to be on the panel of 18. After various questions were answered, seven jurors were chosen. I was in that group.

Therefore, I was able to see a criminal trial from the perspective of the jury box. This was an incredible experience. I saw that it matters how good your advocate is. The fate of this man was in the hands of a couple of attorneys in many ways. And both of these attorneys were fine advocates. They both did a good job, and they both advocated well. There was a judge who did a wonderful job also. I was actually quite encouraged by the show of professionalism in the courtroom. On a personal note, I thought about if this was something I might want to consider doing in my life. While that may be something to ponder and write about later, I will not let it deviate me here.

Above all of that, as jurors, we were instructed to observe the law. Observing the law, I wondered how many times I had fallen short of the legal standard in my life, both intentionally and unintentionally. While the laws of the state of Florida may be able to be followed, I thought about how much more significant my falling short of the laws of God is. I am chronically sinning. I can’t seem to bumble through a single say without displaying this nature.

The difference between me and any defendant in the legal system is that everyone knows I’m guilty. My advocate has already paid the penalty for that guilt and given me imputed perfect following of the rules. This is something that no human court has ever seen, nor could it work very well. And, for that, I am incredibly happy!

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Soup-er Bowl Sunday

18 Jan

This was originally posted on my church’s website.

Our ministry is centered at a building in, and most of us are pleased to live in, Seminole County. Most people think of this as a relatively affluent county, where people are wise to budget

(for help with that, please attend our Equipping Hour class in the F1, where we have several experts guiding those who come into wiser choices with their budgetary decisions)

but that the average citizen is living in relative comfort. And while I would not dispute this, as compared to the world, when you learn that in our own backyard, there are a myriad of homeless students. There are a lot of children who don’t get food.

Certainly there are many different ways to feel about this cultural and political phenomenon, but at the very least, we are commanded to be generous to those who are poor. We are commanded to exhibit the love of God, wherever we go. One of the very small things we can do, and have traditionally done as a church, is to give a big donation to a local food bank.

We have a historical relationship with the Seventh Day Adventist Church down the street, and we have started donating our collection to their food bank. They have done a wonderful job, and there is no dispute that they are in the same area of ministry as we are. We have benefited from many aspects of their ministry in the past and are pleased to continue a great working relationship with them. The differences we have are certainly less important, in this case, than the fact that we can minister together for the sake of sharing God’s love.

Now, if you are anything like me, you have extra cans sitting around that are stuck from when you were in your fruit eating phase (which lasted about 22 seconds) or from when you decided eating beans would be helpful (which lasted about 36 seconds) or just when you decided that you would buy a Sam’s portion when you had company for Thanksgiving. You want to clean out the pantry to make room for the food you’ll actually eat, and you’d love to contribute to this food drive, but you always seem to forget while looking for your Bible and church clothes.

I’d love to appeal to your sense of competition and see which ministry or community group within the church could have the most participation. Instead, I’m going to appeal to you to have a real shot at attempting to see the hungry among us and offer him food. Do your best to contribute to the solution to a real problem. Do all you can to be the hands and feet of God in our community.

For the next three Sundays, culminating on the same date as the homonym of our event, the Super Bowl, we will be collecting cans. There will be a spot set aside by Paul Hunt, and we can put cans there throughout the time, so if you have the urge to stop by during the week, we can accept cans at that time also. And do your best to contribute all that God would have you contribute!

Sola Scriptura

10 Jan

A version of this was originally posted on my church’s website.

We began our Reformed Theology class in Equipping Hour last week and it was a wonderful time of introduction into what our reformed faith is. Broadly speaking, Reformed theology includes any system of belief that traces its roots back to the Protestant Reformation. Among other things, Reformed theology holds to the authority of Scripture, the sovereignty of God, salvation by grace through Christ, and the necessity of evangelism.

Reformed theology teaches that God rules with absolute control over all creation. He has foreordained all events and is therefore never frustrated by circumstances. This does not limit the will of the creature, nor does it make God the author of sin. Christians are in the world to make a difference—spiritually through evangelism and socially through holy living and humanitarianism.

Of course, the Reformers themselves traced their doctrine to Scripture, as do we, as indicated by their credo of “Sola Scriptura,” so Reformed theology is not a “new” belief system but one that seeks to continue apostolic doctrine. This is a beautiful thing that we should never overlook. Yes, our Confession is fabulous, but all of it can and should be traced to Scripture. The Bible is the inspired and authoritative Word of God, sufficient in all matters of faith and practice.

While we are teaching this concept, we will point out that it doe not rule out human teachers or eliminate systematic theology. The Reformers often cited the works of Augustine, Tertullian, Jerome, Cyprian, Ambrose, and others-ranging from the early church fathers through Aquinas. They didn’t, however, follow any of them slavishly, but they certainly took them seriously. This is the balance we will attempt to strike as we talk about the value of Scripture.

Sola Scriptura means that Scripture alone is the final court of appeal in all matters of faith and practice. It is an affirmation that “the whole counsel of God, concerning all things necessary for His own glory, man’s salvation, faith, and life, is either expressly set down in Scripture, or by good and necessary consequence may be deduced from Scripture” and that “nothing at any time is to be added to the Bible, whether by new revelations of the Spirit, or traditions of men.”

There is ultimately no higher spiritual authority than God’s Word, so “the infallible rule of interpretation of Scripture is the Scripture itself. Therefore, when there is a question about the true and full sense of any Scripture… it must be searched and known by other places that speak more clearly.” But none of that means we’re obliged to discard the wisdom of godly men from ages past and require each man to try to discern truth from scratch by reading nothing but Scripture by himself. This often helps us, as midgets, to stand on the shoulders of giants and see far!

Feel free to follow our Reformed Theology class online!

A Dynasty Like No Other

20 Dec

Apparently there are these things you can use when hunting ducks to call them to where you are. Apparently the people that make these particular whistles are entertaining to watch on television. Apparently there are television stations that eventually notice that their value set is different than the stars of such a show, and when they do, they stand true to their values.

I have a very love-hate relationship with political debates. For much of my formative years, I thought I would eventually run for political office, so I studied a lot about government trends, went to law school, and put together hundreds of stump speeches on a variety of topics, including my bedrock speech about protecting your right to be stupid. This tends to make me think I know everything, which of course, I don’t.

The very unfortunate thing about this is that I tend to slip into these diatribes when political issues come forward. I believe the biggest problem with that is our call to be politically savvy and well educated is not the foremost call in our Christian walk. While those of us who reap the benefits of living in a republic should play a part in upholding said republic, the Bible does not promise us a politically easy life. My inclusion in this chosen race mandates that I live in such a way as to bring honor to my Lord, and He says that I do that by submitting to every human institution.

So, I will (for now) avoid all the political permutations and repercussions of this debate, and just say that I believe homosexuality is a sin. I’m guessing that noone on either side of the issue is surprised that this is the belief of these Duck Dynasty stars.

To paraphrase Joe Wright, Scripture says, “Woe to those who call evil good” but that’s exactly what we’ve done. We have lost our spiritual equilibrium, inverted our values, and ridiculed the absolute truth of God’s Word. We speak to others without love or their best interest at heart. We have endorsed perversion and called it an alternative lifestyle. We have embraced harsh speaking without kindness and called it standing up for what we believe.

I think we need to ask God to search and try us. It’s certainly possible to dialog properly. Many will use examples of Jesus being harsh, like when He warned against hypocrisy, cleared the Temple courts, or identified false disciples. In each of these cases, Jesus was dealing with someone who proclaimed God.

I don’t think this is a distinction we take lightly. Christ was much tougher on those people, than He was on those who made no proclamation of salvation, like the woman at the well or when He was healing.

I think this is a hard line to walk. We need to overflow with compassion when we are speaking to and about sinners. This is more than just political rhetoric, in fact it is different than much of my political rhetoric. I think we need to be kinder than (we feel is) necessary, because the only reason we are not struggling with that particular sin is the grace of God. And if we begin to trust in our own ability to stay out of sin, we fall into the same trap as those who have no hope.

The most wonderful thing about my particular theology is that I am able to easily recognize that I bring nothing of worth to my own salvation. It makes it easier for me to understand why others continue to live in sin. Regardless of what political agenda that may come from it, I find we need to lovingly give truth. Another wonderful thing about knowing theology is it allows you to understand what the truth is and why it is the truth. It allows you to understand what is really important and which dynasty we should have ruling in our lives.

The real challenge in my life is that I tend to get caught up in a political debate about

  • whether the Robinsons have the right to speak their mind or
  • if A&E has the right to fire them or
  • if we have the right to boycott A&E or
  • if we have the right to support A&E more or
  • if we really want the Blaze to pick up a reality show (or whatever we’re calling this type of show) or
  • if we should support either side if we don’t care about the station or the show.

The problem is that in my life and yours, the politics are a secondary concern to living the way we ought. Living the way we ought involves knowing what is sinful and knowing the proper way to deliver that message. That is such a challenge that I will, for now, leave the political debates to others who think that is more important!

Peace to Those with Whom He’s Pleased

14 Dec

This was originally written for my church’s blog.

As I’ve been reading along in Desiring God’s Advent Book, I came to the December 6 devotional. While I find the entire thing to be an excellent resource to go through as a family that consistently points us back to Christ and the true reason that is worth slowing down our lives and celebrating each December, this particular day stuck with me as I was explaining our hope and blessing to my children.

I had heard for years that suicides around Christmas time spiked. It made sense and in light of reading this devotional, it made even more sense. As Snopes will tell you, that is not quite true. However, the biggest 15-day span of suicides in the year are the two weeks immediately following Christmas. There are so many facts about suicide that can make any generalizations about it difficult to either state or affirm, but this much is certain, “Suicide is a decision made by people who have no hope.”

In God’s perfect timing, I read this wonderful piece by John Piper just days before I heard about a few people who actually made this decision of suicide, including someone I knew personally and so did many others who might decide to read this. I feel like this act often exacerbates a problem that we have as humans. We tend to characterize people into one general truth, much like Disney movies. If you think of a villain in Disney movie, you are normally hard-pressed to find one positive characteristic.

This is not how it tends to work in the “real world”! People are nuanced. In just the last ten days, two people have died that have caused a great divide amongst people writing on my Facebook wall. The problem with remembering anyone is that despite the fact that they are created in the image of God, they are born with a sinful nature. It can both be true that he did terrible things and that he helped accomplish great ones. Upon his passing, the part you choose to remember is up to you. I just dubbed this Nuanced Lives.

We all have nuanced lives, and this is why making a quick, snap, black and white judgment call on anyone is difficult. Fortunately, when God judges me, it won’t be the terrible things for which I am judged. It won’t even be on the basis of my accomplishing great things on my own. My only hope for getting a positive judgment in the afterlife is the same as my only hope for having peace while on this earth. hat is something to celebrate and one that most we all hope those we were close to are celebrating right now.

One of the great things that accepting the nuanced life in myself and others is that it will naturally lead to peacemaking. When we realize that we are flawed and others can participate in that same grace that allows us to live redemptive lives, despite our flaws, then we are able to truly grasp what it means to make peace with people. It allows us to build a culture of peace and realize what it means to have peace on this earth, as is suggested in the Luke 2 passage.

I am thankful that I am able to know Peace at this time of year, and really, throughout the entire year. As the devotional says, “The people who enjoy the peace of God that surpasses all understanding are those who in everything by prayer and supplication let their requests be made known to God….When we do trust the promises of God and have joy and peace and love, then God is glorified. Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men with whom he is pleased—men who would believe.

Looking for a Few Good Men in Southeast Orlando

16 Nov

This originally was posted on my church’s website.

There are many services a church provides, and I am happy to be a part of a church that takes all of them very seriously. While every church touts that it teaches, and to some extent they all do, we have a church that attempts to be intentional about its teaching. We have a church that aims to benefit its members and parishoners through everything it does, including the teaching. While this shows up in many ways, many of which you are certainly aware if you attend, I think the most recent example of this is our men’s retreat.

We had a fantastic retreat last year, and that teaching certainly benefited us, and hopefully our men have improved in the area building solid foundations and finishing well over the past year. As we are building on on that foundation, our elders thought the men in our congregation could benefit from putting aside bad habits and replacing them with good ones in a few specific areas.

Three of our leaders have been tasked with teaching in areas, where our habits tend to be bad. We learned tonight how to better handle anger, and we will learn tomorrow how to establish better habits in sexual sins and laziness. We value the fact that each of these things is based in something that can be positive. Being righteously indignant, for example, is a way in which we can mirror the God in Whose image we have been created. Rest is something that God did after he created the world. We do not want to continue to abuse these things, but rather, we want to juxtapose them with good habits.

This is a very practical way that our leaders have decided to give our men a time of fellowship, intimacy, and teaching in the same environment. I’m not sure if everything was planned to turn out the way it did, but up to this point, the setting combined with it being all family has spurred good conversation and many teachable moments. I am tremendously excited about what is happening here. I hope that those of you at home are praying for us.

I know that those who are here are growing closer together, and I pray that we continue to do so. I know we are more unified in our vision. I am thankful that this is something we value, and that our church is so intentional. I again propose, since this annual conference leads us to a greater desire to serve and grow the church, that we should do it every year.:)

An Exploration Into Slurping the Volunteers

12 Oct

This blog was written for my church’s blog.

It is quite possible that I spend too much time on social media. Yet, this week, something extraordinary happened on Facebook. I was sitting by my computer when I saw that Scott Devor wanted to get volunteers for the parking outreach. Oddly, the very next item on my facebook timeline feed led me to an interesting blog about getting people to volunteer for things at church.

The juxtaposition of these two items could not have been completely random, could it? Therefore, I will try to persuade everyone to help with this ministry opportunity. First, you should help because it is an amazing opportunity. It is a real way to show the gospel to people in an everyday environment. There are very seldom times where we get to bless someone with something that they “should” and could pay for and then inform them that they do not have to do so. Occasionally, some might get to do something for free in their jobs, but the reality is most of us need the money enough that we cannot afford to do something kind that often. This represents such an opportunity.

That opportunity frequently leads to the question about why a church would ever want to do such a thing, which led to several encounters of testimony sharing last year. It also has led to our good name in the community. In a completely unrelated business deal, someone was talking to me and upon realizing that I went to church asked where I attended. Upon answering Orlando Grace, the first response was, “Is that the church that gave away free parking last year?” When I replied that it was, he immediately asked me to share why my life was so altered that I would go to a church that would do such a thing. Having a good reputation in the community is not only our call and goal, but it is also something we can achieve through this event.

Next, you can realize that the event takes very little skill. Not only can I participate (that means it is easy), but my 8-year-old (last year) son assisted, and his (now) five-year-old sister wants to help this year. There is little skill involved in moving your arms, waving, and throwing out the occasional smile. We have some opportunities where you have to posses some small skill, but this is not one of those. This is a skill that virtually anyone can do, and I think almost everyone should. However, I was moved by Ron Edmondson’s blog, so I want to answer those concerns.

First, I want to ask as clearly and as blatantly as possible. Please sign up for at least one three-hour shift. It will be fun, rewarding, and if you come during my shift, you can go out for steak n shake with Jake and me afterward! If that is not the proper way to ask, please send me a way to augment my request so that it is more “correct.” We have made it as easy as we know to sign up. Go to the spreadsheet linked above and type in your name, or email Scott Devor, or find anyone remotely in leadership and they’ll make it happen for you.

To be clear, your job will be directing people as to where to park. Dependent upon your introversion/extroversion placement, you will be able to talk to people or completely avoid them. It really is not difficult, I promise. The only concern I have not answered from his blog is the saying thank you factor. So, I will personally thank you on the blog, write you a thank you note, and do whatever I can to make your thanks feel authentic. Since no one is as exited about my prop-giving, I’ll try to get PC to say cool things about you when he returns from vacation.

More than anything, however, you’ll hopefully get someone to say something about how great your God must be, and that is super cool!