Archive for April, 2010

Getting It Right

April 25, 2010

Contributed by Brian Knapp, Elder Overseer of Equipping at Image Church

A few weeks ago as I was listening to Chris speak about Jacob’s polygamous marriage to Leah and Rachel, I was reminded of a discussion some friends and I had previously had years ago. On that day we sat around discussing polygamy, expressing disbelief that some people still practiced such a thing.  In the midst of that discussion, one of my friends shocked us all by stating that he had spoken with his wife about bringing yet another woman into their marriage.  We listened in disbelief as he told us his wife was in favor of the idea, and that they were already looking for this “other woman.”

Putting the question of legality aside, we began to discuss whether polygamy was right or wrong.  However, the more we discussed the issue, the more we argued over whether or not a polygamous relationship would even “work”.  Some claimed it was not possible for a man to truly love more than one woman, and therefore the relationship would fail.  Some stated there would be constant competition for affection between “wives”, and therefore the relationship would not last.  Still others pointed to the confusion the children would have as which woman was truly their mother, which would eventually lead to a dysfunctional family.  

For each argument we presented as to why polygamy would not work, my friend either countered with evidence that refuted it, or challenged us to support our opinions.  He had obviously done his homework, and was much better prepared to debate the issue than we were.  In the end, despite all our best efforts, we failed to convince him that a polygamous relationship would not work.  As a result, he left the discussion feeling even more confident (even empowered) in his chosen course of action.

A day or so after the discussion, as I reflected on my failure, I came to realize the point at which the debate was lost was the point that I allowed it to move from a discussion about what was morally right or wrong, to a discussion of what would or would not work.  This move from morality to pragmatism changed the entire direction of the discussion, and ultimately gave my friend the upper hand.  In the end, all he had to do was be creative enough to solve any of the problems we brought up, which he easily did.

I highlight this failure in my own life to point to a much larger problem that I see everywhere I look; the constant desire to define right and wrong according to our own standard rather than God’s.  In the example above, my friend took an issue of morality and decided the appropriate way to answer the question “should I do this?” was to entirely avoid what God had to say and appeal to his own personal standard.  In fact, in this case he incorrectly decided that the question wasn’t even a moral one at all!  By doing this he never had to answer for himself the question “is this right or wrong” – he entirely skirted the question.

This mode of thinking is more prevalent than might first meet the eye.  Consider the question of abortion.  When presented with the question “should I do this”, what do many women do?  Do they first seek to determine whether it is a moral question?  In many cases they do not.  Some of the most common arguments in favor of a woman’s right to chose abortion are pragmatic.  The arguments of “It will be too difficult for me to carry this child for 9 months” or “there will be nobody to care for this unwanted child once they are born” are entirely pragmatic in nature and completely overlook the morality of the decision.

What about the question of premarital sex?  When presented with the question “should I do this”, again, many ignore the moral aspect and instead head directly to the pragmatic.  The response “it is ok as long as I protect myself from disease” is entirely pragmatic in nature.

How about the question of dishonesty in all of its many forms (bearing false witness, exaggerating, embellishment, etc.)?  Lying is such a pervasive problem with some people that they have long since moved beyond the question of right and wrong, and instead have focused on only one thing – namely, how to ensure they are never found out.  More often than not, it means coming up with a new lie to cover the old ones.

So what is the correct approach to answering the question “should I do this”?  First of all, we must determine what the Bible has to say.  For each and every decision we make, we must consider whether the issue at hand is ultimately moral in nature, and we must look to the Bible for the answer to that question.  God’s word is a moral handbook for us, giving us explicit commands of things to do (and things to avoid doing) regarding a number of areas of our lives.

But just as important as knowing whether something is wrong, is ultimately knowing why it is wrong.  This is crucial because the Bible does not contain explicit commands regarding every moral decision we will end up being faced with throughout our lives.  There is no way it could, considering the variety of ways in which it is possible to sin.  And so, knowing why thoughts and actions are wrong is important to being able to evaluate those things not directly addressed in the Bible.

So what makes something wrong?  Pay close attention, because this is extremely important:

Something isn’t wrong because the Bible tells us it is wrong.  Rather, something is wrong when it offends who God is.

Murder isn’t wrong because the Bible tells us it is wrong.  It is wrong because it is contrary to the nature of God for his creation to destroy that which bears his image, which mankind most definitely does (Gen. 1:26).  Lying isn’t wrong because the Bible tells us not to bear false witness.  Lying is wrong because it goes against the nature of God to lie (Num. 23:19) and therefore for those who bear his image to lie.  Homosexual marriage isn’t wrong because the Bible tells us it is wrong, it is wrong because it is against God’s nature for his creation to establish relationships that are contrary (Rom. 1:26-27) to his created order and purpose (Gen. 2:23-24).  As our ultimate purpose is to glorify God (Rom. 11:36) by pointing to who he is, anything we do that is contrary to or falls short of this is sin – something we all are guilty of (Rom. 3:23).

There is a subtle but important distinction between why something is right or wrong, and how we know that something is right or wrong.  God’s revelation to us, whether the more general revelation of nature or the more special revelation of the Bible, is the ultimate means (Prov. 1:7) by which we know anything at all, especially right from wrong, but it is not the reason why something is right or wrong.  Right and wrong are ultimately founded in the very nature of who God is (1 Pet. 1:15-16).

As I reflect back on the conversation with my friend about polygamy, I can see now how I should have responded to him.  Rather than allowing the discussion to drift out of the moral sphere and into the world of problem solving, I should have kept it on track and held it up to the light of scripture.  Specifically, I should have pointed out the sinful nature of a marriage relationship which runs contrary to God’s created order and purpose, and then left it at that.

I pray that God gives me the clarity of thought in future discussions to do just this, and I pray that he does the same for you.  For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.

Why We Do It

April 17, 2010

Contributed by Toby Ward, Elder Overseer of Service at Image Church

“If you live long enough, life will trash your trophies.” – Dr. James C. Dobson

There was a time in my life where I lived for everything and anything sports-related. I was in the Air Force and was consumed by playing on  high-level base softball and basketball teams. I played golf at Andrews Air Force Base 3-5 times a week. Between the three sports combined with work, that is ALL I did. When I was not working, I was playing a sport.  When I was working, I was thinking about sports.  Sports, sports, sports. I loved them and could not get enough of them. I loved the thrill of competition, the thrill of a cracked line drive in the gap, the thrill of a 3 pointer made, and especially the thrill of a drive well hit. NOTHING in my life gave me more satisfaction at that time.

In 1998, I was on an elite softball team that won many tournaments and received lots of accolades. It was the pinnacle of my softball “career” and ended with a massive tourney win with a huge trophy for me and the rest of my teammates. I cherished that trophy for years and held it as a source of pride. I would display it in my dorm room, and speak of it often when friends were over.  For me, that was the ultimate in life, and I had achieved it.  Sadly however, this is ALL I lived for at the time, even though I was a child of God. I had drifted SO far away and disillusioned myself so much that I did not even realize how far I was from God. God brought me back to HIM in a very humbling way, but that’s for a different blog.

Today, I have no idea where that trophy or any other trophies of mine are. I think some are in a box, and the rest are broken and in a landfill. What once brought me SO much happiness is now trashed, old, and long since forgotten. You see, that’s the problem with working to attain an earthly reward. While they make you feel good for a while ,eventually that fades, and you are off to the next thing that makes you feel good. That’s what we do as humans. We chase things that make us feel good. Why do we do that, especially as Christians? As Christians, we have access to Jesus which can bring us UNSURPASSED eternal joy.

John 4: 7-15  – 7 A woman from Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.” 8 (For his disciples had gone away into the city to buy food.) 9 The Samaritan woman said to him, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask for a drink from me, a woman of Samaria?” (For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.) 10 Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.” 11 The woman said to him, “Sir, you have nothing to draw water with, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? 12 Are you greater than our father Jacob? He gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did his sons and his livestock.” 13 Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, 14 but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. [2] The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” 15 The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I will not be thirsty or have to come here to draw water.”

Jesus Himself used the analogy of water to show that things of this earth will only satisfy for a short time, but HE will provide you a “spring of water welling up to eternal life.”  Call me crazy, but a Jesus-fed spring inside me sounds MUCH better than temporary pleasure or gain here on earth!!! Jesus has promised to give us that joy if we seek Him. It’s really that simple. Jesus above all others.

I was reminded of this last month when I walked into the men’s bathroom and saw the wiffle ball trophy the men won against the ladies at Dive-In last year. That was a great day, as the men DOMINATED on the field and brought home the beautiful Wiffle Ball Cup. 🙂  We were all the rage for the day and the next day during announcements at Image. The trophy was displayed, and stories were told from the game. However, that soon faded, and now that trophy sits in the men’s room with the rest of the waste.  How appropriate, and even symbolic.

As Jesus said if you drink only earthly water, it will pass away. Folks, we need to stay TAPPED into the eternal water and seek Jesus in all we do. Do not work for an earthly reward or praise, but seek first the kingdom of God. (Matthew 6:33)

Why should we live an unfulfilled life when we can have the ultimate fulfillment through Christ?  What drives you and gives you joy?

Follow Me, and Dance!

April 11, 2010

Contributed by Chad Seidler, Director of Ministry/Assistant to Lead Pastor of Image Church

Earlier this week, Russ Perkins (Elder Overseer of Communities at Image Church) shared the following video with our Elder team.  He told us – This is secular, but it’s a kingdom principle, and it’s what we are and need to keep doing, my fellow Christ followers.  Check it out…

I also shared this video with our entire ministry team at our I-Serve meeting this past Wednesday.  It provided for some great motivation, as we kicked-off our meeting.  It was encouraging hearing our people draw insight and direction from such a simple video clip; it was applicable to each of our areas of ministry.  As the week has gone by, I can’t stop thinking about that lone nut dancing in the middle of that field.

Actually, it’s made me focus more on the original Dancer – Jesus Christ.  Think about it – most of the “religious” people during His 3-year earthly ministry thought that He was a lone nut.  He made claims and promises that no human being could possibly make or keep. 

Matthew 4 introduces us to Christ’s early ministry.  It begins by Christ being tempted by Satan.  Upon hearing of John the Baptist’s arrest, He leaves the comforts of His home in Nazareth and moves to Capernaum.  While there, He continues John the Baptist’s radical message – “Repent, for the Kingdom of heaven is at hand.”  Jesus begins to dance.  I’m sure word spread quickly.  Who is this guy?  What is He talking about?  Is He crazy?  How can He make such statements?  Where are His followers?

Jesus’ dance is infectious.  The short version of the story goes like this…  Jesus invites Peter and Andrew to follow Him.  Then He invites James and John.  The dance spreads.  Crowds gather to hear Jesus preach the Sermon on the Mount and are astonished.  The dance spreads.  Jesus invites Matthew, Philip, Bartholomew…   Soon, Jesus is surrounded by 12 crazed dancers.  The dance spreads.  He instructs them to keep dancing everywhere they go, so that others will be drawn to dance too (Matthew 10 & 28).  The dance spreads.  And then the Dancer delivers the ultimate dance – giving His life for mankind’s sins in order to provide a means to an eternal dance through His resurrection – thus ending His earthly ministry.

With the Dancer not physically here to lead, one would think that the dance would quickly end.  No!  In the first few chapters of the book of Acts, we quickly see how the Dancer’s first followers continue the dance through the guidance of the promised Holy Spirit. 

The dance continues with the 12…

…spread to 120…

…then by 3,000…

…then another 5,000…

It is noted in Acts that the dance grew daily.  The dance became a craze!

Is it still that same craze today?  Why shouldn’t it be?  As Christians and followers of Christ, our dancing should be infectious.  People should witness our dancing and be drawn to dance themselves.  We’ve been entrusted and instructed to carry on the dance – “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.” (Matthew 28:19-20).  And it’s not enough to just invite others to the dance; they must be taught the moves…by us.

The dance still continues.  Is your dancing infectious?  Are you inviting others to join the dance?  And are you training them properly so that they can continue the craze?

How He Loves Us, Oh

April 4, 2010

Contributed by Brian Shifflett, Worship Pastor of Image Church

This weekend, Christians all over the globe will gather to celebrate the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  Today, I read a passage out of Philippians that is a reminder of who Jesus really is, and the great depth of love the Father has for us.

Philippians 2:5-11 says:  5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 9 Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.  [ESV]

So Jesus was and is equal to God; He is God.  He chose to take on flesh and live among sinners to serve the hopeless and the helpless.  Take a moment and reflect on that.  The very God who created you and I and is the reason that we are still breathing right now chose to dwell among us!  Verse 8 says that He became obedient to the point of death.  If He was obedient, that means that God the Father told Him to do it.  There has to be a command in order for there to be obedience.  The point of the command was to provide a substitute for sinners whom otherwise would have no way to the Father.  What an expression of love towards us!

Jesus was obedient to the point of death, but the story does not end there.  Verse 9 says that because Jesus was obedient in life and in death, God raised Him up and gives Him glory as the Lord of the universe.  When we confess that Jesus is Lord, the Father is greatly glorified.  I hope this passage serves as a reminder of the significance of Jesus’ death and triumphant victory over death.  God broke the curse of sin that we were bound to apart from Jesus.  So let us praise Him for that and let our very lives reflect His image; so that empty lives see the profound love that God has expressed for us through Jesus.